Shattered

systemcat

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Forward notes about this story:

In truth a mild piece of the idea behind an aspect of it was come up with back in '16 when I first started incorporating the Carmen Sandiego fandom in the Iron and Steel-verse. I was only thinking of woeics? back then and I could picture Carmen, Zack and Ivy being used along with aspects of VILE since I saw how VILE related to a degree how the Inspector Gadget fandom treats MAD with it's agents. But I couldn't see the over the top capers being in the AU, I also quickly trashed that the AU would have had an AI telling a pair of kid detectives details for criminal cases.

When it came time to expand the CS elements in the AU, when the characters of Cheri and Chester were invented. When knowing another story had to be made to act like a bridge for modern times of the AU. I remembered the old vow of scrapping the AI but knew Chester was now in the equation. Also a tug at memory from '16, the idea of the siblings instead had a human mentor. Now I do realize Leon is a new character in this and a complete OC, but he's not actually active in the story.

What lead to the siblings predicament was thought up first and stayed at a road block of development until I started thinking up the plot involving Carmen and Sarah Nade. When figuring out details to that, then everything fell into piece snuggly. I also tried to do justice to as many characters as it made sense to for fleshing them out. Like for example remembering a comment made about wanted focus on Cheri. That weaves in and out through out the story but you learn more about her in this story than you did with Snake Pit and Vocal Canvases.

While Carmen here is going off the woeics? idea for her down the road. I did a visual cross between that incarnation and the Netflix one. That cross style even appears with her in the comic short where Ivy first appears, to Carmen's outfit. If you look closely at it you can see the Netflix nod to an aspect.

VILE is more expanded on in this story and finally I name yet another global division for them. But the name I doubt will ring a bell for anyone. The name "Todd-Aho" has a oddball underlying reason to how it came about. When working on Smoke, Steam and Mirrors I decided VILE was already nicely established by 1895. I also through it would be a cute joke they were founded the same year "Around the World in 80 Days" was published, 1872. The Todd-Aho name idea came from production note the 1956 movie. Of the Todd-AO 70mm cinematography used for the film.

Google maps was put to use a few times for this story and for the most part you can geographically correctly follow how I make use of street addresses and locations in San Francisco. Even an elevation map was used at one point in the research. Not to Twin Peaks, but the neighborhood idea I have to where Chester's house would be.

This was said in the chat box but I'm going to relay it here too. Sarah's "bagel robbery" was based on a real event in Aurora, Colorado in '01 from an *NCCC base. A team member had clipped tons of coupons for free bagels from Einstein Bagels Bros., from the Westword Newspaper.

Warning in advance. Younger readers beware an aspect of subject matter in this is not child friendly and if you are sensitive of alarming emotional matters, do not read. I re-wrote chapter one a few times to water down words but keep content intact.

Please do not speed read or skim read through this. This took a long time to write.
 

systemcat

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Chapter 1:​

San Francisco home to the ACME Detective Agency, its headquarters since the early 70's. People didn't even really seem to notice the business's existence except the local PD. They're the ones who cared really acknowledge them for their presence and of course those that worked for the agency. Nearly two decades of being located in at the address of 4720 19th street that beside buildings meant for residential purposes, not business. It surprised staff when they gained attention by people not mistaking the place for an unmarked apartment complex.

Somehow a loosely organized organization named HAPPY had spotted them out for being a wanted new added partner to them. They felt a better connection to law enforcement was needed to their body, and everything they knew of ACME sounded splendid for the need. Mainly guesses had been made of how HAPPY had learned ACME decades long track record, investigations leading to countless arrests. The fact they seemed to do a lot of business in San Francisco, all were sure was a big factor in their knowledge to the detective agency. Did HAPPY know for the longest time ACME had been based before in New York City? That question was a minor one Rebecca knew she wanted answered when the next meeting happened with representatives from HAPPY.

When she thought on the fact she couldn't answer how many cases the agency on its whole had handled. That brought to mind other things. What was currently being done to the building she was standing in and else where to ACME's many other offices. Within the United States and other nations, global locales. The updates to its appearance for clientele and staff. New security measures and equipment to keep clientele and staff safe. The reason for that for one, sometimes people sought out the agency to ask for them to help deal with safety matters where lives turned out to be at sake. The client learning an unauthorized weapon couldn't enter the building thanks to soon to be installed metal detectors. The second, the staff. Their fear criminals they knew where they worked and could barge into the building and start killing. The x-ray scanners, camera monitoring system also soon to be installed. Those in the near future would be helping people's peace of mind. Another update but in better definition upgrade. The network ACME had built over time between its offices named "Crime Net" was about to be a true net matter. Meaning something called the internet as she'd heard it called was going to linking together all ACME's computers on a world wide scale.

She didn't know how it worked, she only knew heavy duly computer hardware buying was going on and she felt a little ashamed at herself not understanding more details beyond that. ACME's Chief at this location, an elderly man named Chester Bumpass she'd known for years. He seemed to be better at handling technology better than she did. She Rebecca Lamberton, a detective that had only been working for the agency for a fraction of the time he had, at twelve years. Nothing to sneeze at she knew. But her not being very familiar with computers and the likes that surrounded using the machines? With no ill thoughts to part of her identity. She knew motherhood was to blame at not being on the up and up with technology. Between raising two kids and a full time job. She felt lucky at least ACME was normally a safe place for her children to hang out in and sometimes be babysat by other staff.

It was because the building was in minor chaos today how it was brought to her attention today was a bad day for her to be there. Also for her children. Sure the updates would impress HAPPY if they cared for such things. Currently all the changes did for her nerves was create fear.

Having recently exited a storage supply room, on the third floor, two hallways away from the main meeting room and folder file records room. Soon the meeting room slash central Crime Net server room. Holding the door she'd closed in bracing one hand to it, while with her other hand, holding an unopened box of mechanical pencils. At hearing his voice to her back, she wished she could still be in with prolonging need, in the place she had just left. She didn't want to be anywhere around Bishop Lamberton as he said. "I've been waiting for your answer Rebecca."

She knew somehow he had been keeping tabs on her, on Ivy and Zack as well. Not knowing how that was being done. Having already searched her home for bugs and her office for the same. He had told her that at anytime, he'd hear her give his wanted or unwanted answer. Was his new family ease dropping on her with listening devices from afar? That thought had dawned on her but investigating that possibility. She felt too fearful to try. VILE was more well resourced than ACME. His new family as he called them. VILE if they knew she was looking into how to get their harassment to end of her. Then it might not matter which way she answered her husband's offer. Everyone might die in that case.

She couldn't answer. She didn't want to turn around to face him. She wished things were how they normally were at least in the work place. Then he likely could not have entered ACME's HQ. When things weren't a mess. Before the revamping to it's self had started. The place at least had a reception lobby that was staffed. Any shift during the normal daylight work hours of the place. A receptionist at seeing Bishop wouldn't have welcomed him in even with his presence being a surprise. She or he would have him escorted out of the building. Everyone in the building knew of his rage outbursts and the result of them. The event that had been the cause of his inflicting social abuses in its socially sheltered nature. What had caused it few knew. But the front desk staff knew like everyone else. They knew the knowledge Bishop didn't take kindly to knowing only Ivy shared his genes.

"I don't really have a choice do I?" She replied not turning to face him. Before a moment later when he grabbed her to turn her around for otherwise.

His blue-green eyes showed something in him she couldn't pin down emotionally from just their stare but she knew what thoughts lurked behind them. Want, persistence, drive, loyalty, hatred and love. Plus a further descriptor to his mental state she couldn't say out loud if she felt like it, out of fear, insanity.

Touching her hair, he voiced words she'd heard him say before. Ones apparently she couldn't get him to change his mind about. "Little square pegs in the hole. VILE would not welcome them. I already hate the bastard. She would be equal to him in my eyes and what I've done before, you could count on worse. VILE would aid me in that."

Fear couldn't show. Only emotional deadness. She couldn't let him know. Her plan if she had to pull through with it. But one last try should be made. Her words said with unusual slowness, Rebecca requested. "Leave them out of this. Don't you or the rest of VILE. Don't any of you take action on them because of me."

Grabbing the box from her hand holding it. Bishop grabbed out one of its pencils, smashing the writing device into the wall nearest them both. Only loosely withholding the anger in his tone, he replied. "You truly have no choice. Say your goodbyes to the rats and meet me outside, not out front, the back. You will be taken care of. We are good people."

Forcing herself to directly look at him again and not the broken mechanical pencil, shattered on the floor. A wrongly shaped poppet of herself she felt. She saw him watch her before he let go of her to pause before briskly leaving her sight down the hallway. Today it was to all end she thought as a tear started to form out her right eye, she brushed away. Thinking of what really mattered most right then she started for the meeting room that had been her reason for being in the storage room to begin with. Ivy needed a pencil after her last one had gone missing. Likely the fault of her brother, but sending Zack to the storage room to make up for the act. She knew better than to let him have access to it. Not for fear he'd actually steal directly from ACME. It was just a fear he'd do something creative and unconventional with the wealth of the supplies looming before him.

-----

Yes, he could have paid someone else to do this work for him. But for thoughts to self pride, Chester wouldn't let this matter come to that. After all to really feel he'd earned his prize in the end, he felt it best he learn to deal with computer hardware on top of its coming priority software. Mentally braced and ready to install the memory card to the opened computer tower mainframe. A door shutting jarred his attention out of the task he almost feared doing to what he saw as a high probability he'd mess up on.

Noticing who's just walked into the room, she could act like a further delay to his action. Heck a wanted delay. Although she herself looked like she could use a distraction herself. Rebecca normally didn't look so glum and just dealing with a little mischievous behavior from one of her children shouldn't have been cause for that. Wanting to create pause for his tech work and also maybe help her in whatever was causing the concerned down look on her face. Chester asked, "something the matter? Did one of the FOX men say thing?"

Focusing on the box of mechanical pencils, Rebecca answered. "Nothing you should be concerned about."

Oh something was bothering her; she just didn't want to admit it in front of him. The chief of the San Francisco office knew this but didn't want to press her now for answers. They'd come in time as all answers did. For the moment however it likely would be best she concern herself with her brood. That's when he realized he had not been keeping tabs on her kids for the last ten minutes or so.

Ivy, he felt grateful hadn't moved much at all since last he'd noted her position. Her back was still pressed up almost entirely against a far wall to him. Her positioning choice to a standing lamp recently brought back out into service as the lighting overhead was being re-fashioned. A couple school textbooks to one side of her. One textbook in her lap, keeping her attention. Plus papers set off to the other side of her.

For lack of being able to do her written homework for the afternoon. The sixteen year old was reserved to do what she could of her assignments while she couldn't jot down her answers. The eleven year old as far as his school work was concerned. That wasn't a thought for this moment to Chester. Right now Zack was in the middle of doing an act that to consequence the old detective wasn't sure what that would be.

"Zack, stop what you're going right now!" Chester snapped at the boy. The shaggy haired blond instantly took on a look of supreme innocence noticing the white haired man glaring at him. Not moving the pre-teen eyed the floppy disk in his right hand. His right hand only inches from a drive that could take in the floppy disk. The drive attached to the office's only computer currently in operation.

Without turning to her work superior. Instead with her view focused towards her youngest kid. Rebecca asked, "Chester, you can handle my two well can't you?"

A point easily made, and to stop the more mischievous of the youths he knew of one simple sentence which would really stop him in his tracks to get him to behave. Without moving from his work he was delaying in duo purpose. Chester told the boy, "drop that disk and I'll let you join Ivy and the rest for self defense combat training."

The young man did as told dropping the floppy disc literally to the floor before giving a salute with a broad grin surfacing on his face. Not knowing if the child's reaction was acceptable to his mother. Chester's face showed the barest fraction of a smile on him as he looked up at her from where he was sitting on the floor. Rebecca's reaction to her son's halted antics although was met with relief than scorn the older man hoped to not happen. Oddly calm the elder noted, she gave her judgment call over adult and child interaction.

"That salute, you started doing it because of. Hon, where is your jacket? Also chief that was fine but next time you make a request to him. You might want to clear up the word "drop".

Both man and boy started responding to the mom at once. Zack pointing a finger towards his sister. Why Ivy could be of interest to Zack currently, Rebecca had to wonder until looking more closely at the red haired teen. True, reading a textbook was innocent enough. What wasn't innocent about her just then took a good eye to spot. Something fabric and highly rumpled was poking out from behind her back acting as a light barrier between herself and the wall behind her. That rumpled fabric from what little she could see of it. She didn't want to snap at Ivy even if she knew the big sister had wronged her little brother. Instead she walked over to the high school student. Bent down into a crouch beside her, and gave an accusing look to her. Before motioning for the girl to move so the jacket could be removed from behind her back.

"I'll make sure not to ask him such a thing without true direction again." Was Chester's reply before the adult Lamberton had taken actions to help her son's regaining of a deprived comfort.

No words came from Ivy at the jacket being removed from her keeping but a smile she tried to suppress happening. Glad at giving Zack a hard time but at equal concerned her mom would lay some consequence to her actions at any given moment. Nothing harsh looked to be resulting from the loss of the army jacket as she watched Rebecca drape the too big garment over her brother's shoulders from behind.

Sitting in a crouch, giving a warm smile at her son, confusing him in the process, unsure what to make of his predicament. No punishment for playing with work equipment. No words of defense for him against his mean spirited sister for her cruelty to his prized item. Instead an action making him more wonder what could be going on in her mind. Raising her voice but keeping it gentle Rebecca called over to Ivy, "come over to me my little guppy. I want both of you with me."

Punishment didn't look to be forthcoming. Since that looked to be the case, Ivy felt it non-worrying to set down her social studies book, get up and come to stand in front of Rebecca. Motioning with her hands, the adult Lamberton indicated to Ivy she wanted the girl to lower herself to the same eye level she held with the blue eyed scalp. Once the older of the children took the position, more motioning came from the mom, to group them all into an awkwardly positioned hug.

"Zack, Ivy, know that I love you. Know that I've always loved you and know I'm doing what's best for you," Rebecca said still embracing her children in the oddly positioned hug.

After receiving a pecked kiss on one cheek and noticing her brother gain a kiss like-wise on his nearest cheek to her. Ivy questioned her mom, "we know that. We love you too, is something wrong?"

"Tighter hug you guys, come on I know you can." Came Rebecca's first response that not answering her daughter's question. Was finally answered when both children came into their mother's embrace further, after Zack stated. "I love you too. I'm being crushed."

"It's for your own good. I don't want you getting hurt. I trust Chief Chester; you know I've known him for years. He'll be taking care of you now."

"Mom?" Was all Ivy could think to say now truly concerned whereas before just a little amusing by her mother's behavior. Not in the hug but paying close attention to it, Chester was now concerned too.

This whatever, this was. It was not what felt like a fished for good excuse to avoid damaging computer hardware by accidental static shock he'd been fretting about happening. This was giving him the quick creation of a lump in his throat as worry started rising. Making sure just in getting up from where he'd been sitting, no other form of damage could happen to the computer parts. The chief started making his way over to the younger detective, only stopping short of her position by a respectful distance to her and her kids.

Not noticing she'd gained more concerned attention. Rebecca told the children, looking back and forth to each of the pair but finishing her words focused on the older one. "I love you so much. Help take care of your little brother ok?"

Annoyed by the reminder he was youngest but with a still felt sense of age entitlement due to the fact he was currently enrolled in middle school a year younger than he should be. Zack protested, "I'm not little. Five years isn't a real difference."

"I'll help. Mom, what's going on?" Ivy asked trying to look beyond the warmth she could sense in Rebecca's face. Something else was there which shouldn't normally, that was evident. Sensing movement coming in from behind, the teen turned to notice Chester was almost upon the family's trio position. He looked as troubled as she felt although he seemed to be wearing it more on his sleeve than she was.

Forcing her children in towards her again and nuzzling them both, Rebecca replied. "I can't say. Just know I love you both. I can't say."

Then she kissed both gently before giving a longing look to the pair before finally taking note of her job superior. Taking on a shift in attitude that leaned into stern resolve. The adult Lamberton couldn't completely hide that she'd just exchanged a tender moment with her kids as she shed a tear telling him as she approached him. "Do your very best for them."

Mouth agape, Chester wasn't sure what to say as Rebecca moved passed him and exited the room, shutting its door behind her. Recovery was quick coming to him as to next action to take. She needed to be followed. Everything could be put on hold with the wording she's just given him. Whatever was going on it needed to be investigated and fast!

By the time he'd flung open the door to come into the hallway, to quickly pursue his work colleague, his friend. The lady he'd put his faith in many times and she the like back to him. The copper haired lady from Boston who had decided many years back that if she was going to work the offered job of being a detective for ACME. She only wanted to work for its forefront base and travel across the whole country to do that. The woman that let nothing stop her from finishing a case in getting it solved. He didn't see her. He didn't know which path down the hallway she'd taken, left or right.

Then from the right came a muffled sound. An impact against metal and the sound of another impact, a fall of some kind. The sounds, his only lead, had him press towards where they'd come from. Once he'd rounded a couple corners the old detective saw the lockers used for storing clothes when long hours happened and employees refused to go home. Them opting instead to stay until things were fixed on a case from the comfort of an office work environment.

One locker he noticed didn't look like the rest. Not for its design, it's color, its position to the rest. This locker he noticed had blood coming out from the bottom of it. This locker ... the lump that had formed in his throat now felt unbearable as it joined a pit just created in his stomach.
 

systemcat

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Chapter 2:​


Even after the funeral barely anyone was talking. None of the family. None of the friends and those Rebecca Lamberton had worked with. They weren't sure what to say. What had happened felt like it had come out from out no where. Times had swiftly changed and it was head spinning and emotional.

Everything seemed to crash down at once and matters not concerning the death caused other events to happen. The place where the death had occurred. ACME's San Francisco headquarters halted its changes for a week. Rooftop Elementary & Middle School, Mission High School, both of them had decided two of their students needed a break but temporarily. The home she had once lived in abandoned. It was too painful and filled with memories. The home's other former occupants given refuge in a different home they'd only visited on occasion until now. Chester wasn't sure what to do except try to comfort the pair of siblings. But he knew he needed to do more as in the wee hours of the morning at around two am as he walked into his living room to see the kids sound asleep on his sofa bed.

He needed closure over what had happed. Everyone needed answers even if the children might not be mentally prepared to hear them when they were found. Although him now being their care provider, their support. He couldn't have them by his side during the investigation. That would not be proper even if the case he was assigning himself concerned what had given the children their fate to be with him. Them being with him on the case would be mentally scaring he was sure. Them returning to their schools soon. School couldn't solve the matter. Odd hours would have to be put in and an adult should be there to watch over the kids when he was not present.

But who did the kids trust? Who did he trust? The answer came on him fast. She knew what had happened but had not been able to make it to the funeral. Even close to himself in age at 76, his number at 74. Cheri Thigpen had not slowed down that he was really aware of. Then again he wasn't with her at ACME's New York City office as often as he'd like to be to be witness to her personal and work habits. He couldn't verify what her life was like now day to day. What he did know was on the times she in the past had visited him and while they'd been at the ACME office he was in charge of. When the children had been in that office as she had been visiting. Cheri had acted towards the young Lambertons as if they were family and they were grandchildren to her.

Would he be able to talk her into acting as a sitter for them as he worked to uncover what had led Rebecca to her decision? A guilt trip felt out of the question and wrong for her having not attended Rebecca's funeral. Cheri had been tied up in work duties when things were taking place. Heck, the two ladies had even worked a few cases back on his old stomping grounds. Thinking of work on what should have been obvious when he started trying to think of what reasoning the friend could have to visit outside babysitter. The answer came to him with a clarity as if another had said it aloud to him. An answer that was a cause for shame of it having not dawned on him from the beginning. He was in charge of ACME and despite that rank in job, a string he wouldn't pull with her. He was the person whom any head working for the detective agency had to consult about the changes being under taken in every office across the globe right then. Better yet to this when twisting that logic. Others especially ones that had been with ACME for a long time surly first hand had to give professional on sight input about alterations being made to it's headquarters establishment.

Glancing at the wall clock positioned at the break point existing between the beige colored living room and soft blue toned dining area. Chester noted it was still far too early in the morning to be giving his friend a phone call. That could wait until the morning and bearing in mind how the east coast was three time zones ahead of where he was. It was now around five am to her. Morning yes to her, but he knew better then to call just now. He knew her and her enjoyed routine. At five am was still sleep time. Six thirty was wake up. Seven was breakfast. God, what would she think of him at having memorized her habits to that extent? This he'd try to avoid in conversation with her when next they talked, he hoped at around nine am when she had settled into her office to deal with her work.

Meanwhile he'd better get to doing his normal habit for the time of the morning it was to the west coast. He had better get back to sleep. Being tired when having important matters of many natures needing addressing in his life at this moment. He'd be in the wrong to try and tend to them when with for lack of sleep all his body wanted to do was doze off during the day. Sleep, see the children caught their buses for school, and then make the call. Wait the kids would be leaving for school when Cheri would have already entered her office when he intended to call her? Questioning the hours, starting to feel the time of night press on his body more than it had just a few minutes ago. Chester started for his bedroom, deciding his morning phone call would be while the children were still home from school and ready to start it for the day. He'd just take care not to say the full reasoning behind the request to Cheri while she was on the line and in ear shot of the pair.

-----

If anyone had been in ACME's headquarters just then and had known of what was taking place not far away from it across Thorp Lane to a business now in distress. They would have been not only worried for the damage taken to the all nightclub but also what might the two ladies in secret looking onwards to it, with the SFPD present. What they'd next be doing. If only both were of the same mind right then.

The lights were pretty strobing in and out of red and blue, she thought. Sarah Nade lived for spectacle; in fact her fondness for neon lights had even had her request then fashioned together by people of a different intellect type to her own. A clip she now normally wore where the hair would part on her scalp, that one side of it flaunted a buzz cut while the other side of her scalp, the clip leaned it's presence into. That side dyed in yellow, green and red that almost nested it's self into a purple shade as it met her natural black hair. This personally admired accessory when it was powered up, lit up in glowing fiber optic neon shades. The look that generated against her vibrantly colored hair made it seem to those looking at her she was told. That the accessory made it look like multi-colored thin flexible glow sticks where coming out of her head. The look complemented her outfit she preferred to wear on performance nights. Open shoulders and an over sized drooping collar, shades of pinkish orange and yellow neon given black contrast taking up much of the outfit. The look even had a light up choker in the same dayglow hued appearance to her main ensemble. Currently nothing about her looked the spectacle and that annoyed her.

The clip was turned off as was too the choker. She was wedged and sitting down between a pair of parked cars with her partner. Both doing their best just then to conceal their normal fashion sense. They didn't need attention from the police but they knew they had to stick around just a bit longer to find out where things were leading. Of had in fact a slip up been made that night. She'd been loose with her words in the club, feeling at ease with the pattern of conduct to crime she'd been a part of for the last few weeks. So far at least stable one form of success had come from it. Money and a more fleeting of success, at least a night at a time, people watching her perform. It was just a shame no gig undertaken so far had a follow up at the same place scheduled the next night in succession.

Listening with an ease dropping device the second lady proudly said in a whisper. "No mention so far of an employee seeing our grab coming. Sarah, your mistake. Was it to one of the Electric Night's guests? A patron visiting for fun?"

"Maybe, I'm not sure. I just know it was someone before I got on stage, Carmen." The self proclaimed Goddess of Punk, answered back in low tone.

Carmen Sandiego further held up the hand part of her listening device further before in pressing a button high on the handle to turn off the instrument, before sitting it down to the ground. Feeling a yawn start to be forced on her, she tried to keep it as low as she could coming out. Feeling eyes on her and thankfully not from those elsewhere by a few yards. She as coolly as she could think to diver her thoughts of frustration, said evenly in a low voice. "This is why VILE has me, has us working as we are. That whoever you spoke to had to have been working for the club to be behind stage. Heat will come I'm sure once the shock as worn off about what happened tonight."

Grabbing her hat that had been set to one side of her and putting it on her head, the lady with black hair, with an alteration her fellow Hispanic partner didn't use. Deep blue contact lens to adjust her eyesight to a full 20/20, continued speaking. "We’d better scram out of here before anyone notices us. I'll be informing the mister Godwin about what happened here after we've rested."

"There's no need to inform the Todd-Aho Division manger about this!" Sarah shot back as she braced herself against the car nearest her, to move up, getting into a standing position.

The shout sent panic racing through Carmen as she noticed those she wanted no attention from, now were looking in the VILE operative's direction. In response her first thought was to grab her partner back down towards sitting on the ground again. Her second response thought became the acted on one though. Having been nearly concealed by use of a discarded but luckily found soiled blanket. The long red coat and its wearing occupant shot into view, only seen briefly as with one gloved hand held tightly to recently grabbed hold of close company. They fled the street scene they were now a known part of and wanted to get away from to elsewhere in the city.
 

systemcat

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Chapter 3:​


The offer to give her professional opinions of changes being made to ACME's headquarters which would affect its nationwide and more global offices wasn't to be passed by. Especially when Cheri knew there was underlying reasoning to the request not being spoken of. She had some idea why beyond professional reasoning what was going on. The side reasoning to travel. There had to be more going on with Chester's request of her then simply being present for the kids.

When she had made all the arrangements necessary through her preferred travel agent for her trip to the city by the bay. Getting to it finally happening two days later. With the fact the plane she'd flown in to SFO landed so late in the afternoon, she didn't think it best to leap into work matters known. Instead when delivered at the airport, the rental car to be in her possession for a few days. She dropped off her belongings at the hotel she knew she had a room with before driving to give a surprise greeting of sorts to her oldest friend and those she knew were surely with him at that moment.

-----

If one disregarded the fact Chester's house had a basement, it could be called a one story building. Ivy had been considering paying that part of the house a visit since not long after she had gotten into the ranch-style residence. It was gloomy, dimly lighted, and contained a mess of interesting items most which she never knew the homeowner even had before she moved in. The reason she wasn't there now. She knew many things separated how Zack and she thought. Somehow he'd taken a shine to the basement as a get away as of late and if she entered the space with him. She'd feel the intruder even if the basement was more than big enough for the two of them to be in the space.

She wanted to avoid the world just then and her little brother wanted to do the same thing. The world it felt had its back to her just a tad and she was fine with that. Sitting near the living room's window that looked out to the drive around and parking lot. She couldn't see the setting sun directly; only know it was there behind the obstruction of trees. A species of pine she'd seen a million times in the past but had never cared to learn what its name was.

To whatever it was, the trees lacked trucks as she traditionally saw them. But they looked hardy. They would have to be to survive California. As that thought went through her head, instead of just having light break in from behind them of the sun. Light forged into blaring on them, lit from the front. Turning her head a smidge, suspicion was confirmed a car was pulling up in front of the house. It took center placement before moving to a reverse position across from the home so as to make room unasked for those lived in the connecting residence.

This was an unknown vehicle. Was it welcome? The person who had driven it here? Only Chester knew the answer to this and he wasn't here to note the intruder's presence. He was last that she knew, working but in home. He was going over papers she'd only caught the basic wind idea of what they were about. They had nothing to do with some form of investigation. They had to with some form of technology she'd heard its name said a few times but despite name conveying the idea of what it was, she still couldn't really fathom what it was. Likely her confusion was why he was reading the papers having to do with the all too complex sounding thing.

He was in his bedroom, door still open she was sure from the habit he'd been displaying to her and Zack since they had moved in. The old man had wanted it clear as day he was there for them and nothing was going to block that. When she started for house's only official bedroom. That is when the front door to the house started having its internal faced knob turned. She had failed to watch whoever it was leave their car and they were now being so bold as to enter the home minus knocking.

Anxiety and instinct in a flash took over the teen's mind. Chester had not mentioned he was expecting guests. Nor work associates, repair people for any matter, or even a wrongly directed client who should have known this wasn't ACME's HQ office. This could be then someone wrong entirely who didn't belong and had to be dealt with. Wrong people, those that meant harm to others and did that act in regularity. She'd been training to deal with offenders of that nature.

Moving to place herself directly in the path of the unknown cracking open the front door of the house. Ivy positioned herself ready to strike a blow to the possible legal offender. Hands in upturned stances, rigid, with all fingers tightly pinned to one another. She knew were on the face and sides of the head to hit a person to throw them off balance fast. When the person came into view in the dim lighting of the living room only fueled in illumination from the near of the kitchen. She froze up and stopped all thoughts of harm to the now known guest.

"That is not how I was expecting to be greeted young lady." Cheri commented with one had still on the doorknob, a second holding the handles of a canvas bag loaded heavily.

Taken a back, Ivy moved back a few feet from old lady she nearly saw as family. Hands dropped from their poses of readiness to inflict pain. She stuttered lightly, "so - so sorry I - I. Can I help you with your bag?"

Noting the now offered and friendly hand of the girl, Cheri nodded before lifting up the canvas bag for her to take. Ivy was in shock but a good shock the chief to the New York office thought as she started moving towards the hallway linked into the living room by one side. Looking down the hallway before returning her attention back to the teen. Cheri asked in a low voice, "Chester is in right?"

"Bedroom yeah, work. Cheri, did he know you were coming or did you invite yourself?" Ivy asked, only realizing late into the question connected to the statement, it could by mistake be interpreted as a rude thing to ask.

Shaking her head at the start to replying. An action the high schooler wanted to take for an answer to know part of her question hadn't sounded rude. The elder lady said still keeping her voice low. "He invited me but neither of us was too sure when I'd finally be in fog town. Flight delays, I decided it best I not wait to come by here once settled where I'll be staying. Think he'd mind me sneaking up on him?"

Grinning and looking to give the question mischievous undertones, she was aware the older woman had given in spoken question. Ivy answered now in a lowered voice to echo that of the detective's. "I doubt it. Go ahead, I won't be far behind."

The math hand written in notes to the printed papers, was adding to what felt like it should have been a headache to Chester, reading the printed parts. Did ACME need this sort of thing in place? He could understand the useful nature of the device. The oversized but with good reason oversized machine, correction machines. What they could do to help speed up case handling when employees needed to get from one place fast to another. After reading over the pages for a third time since sit down, he sure as hell hoped it wasn't somewhere written. He couldn't tell. That the engineers who'd invented it and were asking ACME have it, these machines built and installed to various places across the globe. He hoped they weren't expecting if he approved them, he'd have to have a hand in their installation process.

Hoping maybe reviewing things a fourth time the technical mechanics that appeared to be figures on a quantum sized scale. That a read through again would make things seem less confusing. Chester got startled when a voice broke in over his shoulder from behind the chair he was sitting in. "Remember the old days when because of the good work we did it only helped us get the occasional discounted airline or train ticket?"

Not letting go of the papers he was holding, Chester craned back his head to see Cheri as he starred up at her. Smiling he replied, "I don't see anything wrong with the gift well sort of gift since it's a paying contract exclusive to ACME partnered with H & Y Rezeight. I see this thing as useful."

"If this C-C-C-C-C thing didn't scare me. If it was setup maybe I'd have been able to get here sooner." The New York Chief commented back as she took a seat on Chester's bed, while he continued to stay at his desk, across from her.

Entering to standing in the doorway to the room, Ivy made her back comfortable against its frame. At first duly, noting the couple of old friends having already starting into the engagement of a conversation. She sat down Cheri's canvas bag inside the start of Chester's room and turned her attention to him as he replied to Cheri. "Convenient Conveying Current Cab Carrier or Convenient Conveying Current Carrier Cab, not sure because of the language translation going on in the pages detailing it. Unless it's the stuff of nightmares of things gone awry in science fiction movies. Instant transport to go anywhere in the world sounds amazing. I think I'm going to green light ACME getting it."

"Just don't expect me to use it to get back home," came Cheri's response before Ivy butted into the conversation to say.

"Rename it and test it on something or someone to see if it works. I have peers at school who would line up for such a thing. Make sure you guys never have this C-Thing at least act up on you."

Both adults turned to the teen at her comment. Expressions near the same but silently conveying different words to her. What both expressions shared was disbelief the girl truly meant her words to them. To separate notations to Chester, Ivy could tell human testing had been considered but here to this other high school student she was implying, no. To Cheri's expression, Ivy could tell she was shocked the Junior year girl had even been raised to consider such a thing.

Not wanting to say aloud the thoughts she just had about how Ivy had been raised considering Cheri remembered respecting her mom. The old detective verbally then asked, "speaking of people you have questionable morals to. Where is Zack?"

Eyes downcast and pointing a finger down towards the ground is how Ivy started to reply, to then add verbally, "basement."

Confused about why the youth would be there of all places, Cheri kept her attention at first on the teen, but then turned to Chester. He answered tapping fingers against the papers he'd been reading prior to the conversation. "That takes sensitive explanation. Ivy could you head to him down there and we join you? I'd like to talk to Cheri alone for a moment."

Understanding but knowing something was being withheld by the old man. Ivy nodded her compliance before exiting the doorframe and heading towards the hallway to the then wrap around design of the house. The basement entrance awaited her there. She had a positive feeling she knew what it was the two friends were going to discuss. But why she couldn't be present felt like a minor mystery to her. At least Zack's behavior wasn't a mystery to her since she felt it too. Maybe she felt bad to admit, not as strongly as him. To that note in guessing to him, it would explain why he was even sleeping in his prized possession as of late.

His Desert Storm army jacket had been given to him after Leon Benjamin another ACME detective considered a legacy to the company, came back from the war. It was a present to say he was there for the kid even after having faced extreme hardship in his life. Prior to the war the man had acted nice to her little brother because he saw what unspoken in public, was going on in the kid's life. Ivy knew it; her mom knew it and her dad. He couldn't care less. In fact he had never cared and that was the problem. Even before Bishop Lamberton disappeared, Leon had stepped in to try and help.

Surely right now she knew where in the basement the still jacket clad Zack was sitting. Not the most well lit spot but certainly the one he felt most comfortable in. If he was there that meant he had his own extra lighting working on his second most prized item. Batteries were needed for that she bet, and remembering Chester kept a small bin of them on one pantry shelf. Ivy opened the second to the duo door set, and fished out the bin to check it for the batteries for the device she knew was helping sap the electronic life out of his distraction.

AAA, C and D cell batteries were in the bin, no double A-s. She'd have to have that marked to be bought on the next shopping trip when that happened. Hopefully the lack of them wasn't going to leave her little brother in wanting before then. Did Chester own any board games, card decks? Ivy had never thought to ask him that. When hanging around ACME's local office, playing true games had not hit her as something to ask about. She, the scamp and the ACME employees present that would easily socialize with them. There if creative, little games could be invented on the fly with some imagination but that had worked when she was younger. Zack was still at the age games felt important. All she'd be missing while spare double A batteries weren't present was her Walkman.

Noting the open door and starting her venturing down the basement's stairs. She pulled on the light switch drawcord dangling above her head, accessible in reach for the first few steps. The light over head clicked on, showing her the lit path before her of the flight of eight more steps. Going down them thinking about how the light even needed to be turned on, told her Zack had entered the basement not long after he'd returned to the house from school. By nearly four PM it would have still been light enough to see his way into the basement minus powered light. Natural hallway light from the backdoor window spilling down the open door to the basement. Added with light coming in from the petite three windows lining the underbelly of the house had been what had guided him on his journey down.

In the basement she noted he couldn't have been as dense as she felt he was about some things. Seeing he'd at least turned on the two lights positioned in opposite ceiling placement across the basement. He at least knew when it was getting dark outside and he needed some light to move about without by mistake hitting storage boxes & bins. Finding Zack in his favorite place to sulk with needing to be alone. Ivy shook her head about her sibling's thinking ability to other lighting.

He was holding his GameBoy close to his face. His body leaning in towards it as if that helped with the game system's hardware accessory light, only showing the faintest of life coming out of it. Realizing he wasn't alone anymore he hit the start button on the machine to look up at the new company. Ivy didn't look upset at him or even looking like she needed something from him. Taking a guess at her presence, he asked. "Dinner time?"

"No," came Ivy's reply as she bent down to talk to him at his eye level.

Taking a moment's pause to think then shortly into that looking at his game system with frail light reflecting off its screen. He then asked, "batteries?"

"I checked for some, no." She answered him, while a short distance away foot steps could be heard coming down the basement's stairs. More than one person she could hear by the sound of it.

Zack caught that fact too and new curiosity came about to the pre-teen. Not moving from where he was sitting, he swayed about to try and see around his sister. Hoping to catch a glimpse at the new company, positive he was about to be fully aware of. His new caretaker, Chester had to have been one of the ones who'd just entered the basement. But the other? In fear, a thought hit him about his recent days social attitude in school.

His normal outlook to school days were he felt average to most any other peer he knew. Of that get off the bus, go through each period, using his locker when need be in between periods. Try to stay awake, seem to listen, try to listen to the teachers, also try to pay his friends due attention as well. Lunch, more socializing, and then repeat pattern from the earlier half of the day. This had changed in recent days and he had offered no one around him explanation why he wasn't at least being social.

He knew the administrative staff knew something had changed in his life. Nothing out from his mouth, he knew Chester had days back had a sit down with Principal Alcorn and Vice Principal Grice. That talk he knew or at least was very sure of, it had resulted in him changing which bus he was now using to go to and from Rooftop. If they'd discussed anything else he didn't want to think about that idea. If him being withdrawn from his classmates was now beyond his science teacher, Mr. Rossman just simply asking him after class what was wrong. His refusal to say anything of meaning to the question asked. Could Mr. Rossman have asked those he was staff with to come and check in on him?

Just as he could tell the new visitors to the basement were about to come into his field of vision. No longer swaying to try and see around Ivy. Zack now wanted to bury himself into the wall behind him. As if it could somehow shield him from curious school staff and his new guardian, probably wondering why things had come to this with him. When the expected old detective came into view he noticed a second detective was with him. The person was not school staff. An authority figure yes, but not one he'd feel inclined to shy away from.

"Cheri, Chief Cheri!" Zack said, excitedly as he carefully sat his game system on to the floor beside him.

"Nice to see you too Zack. Do you feel up for us all having a talk up stairs?" Cheri stated and then asked, getting into a crouch beside Ivy.

Mixed feelings came over Zack at the old lady's words to him. He was grateful she was Chester's company and not a concerned teacher. Although this, someone he was friends with and looked forward to her visits from the east coast. The fact she wanted to have a few words with him? What did she know? She likely knew ... she had to have known what happened. Maybe she didn't know about how things were with him at Rooftop but he knew Chester had to have told her. That had to be why she was here.

Slumping against the wall behind him, the pre-teen chose not to look at her, Chester, his sister. Just the screen of his game system with its fading graphics. The batteries in it looked to be barely powering the device now. He wished to what he was being presented with at that moment everything was the reverse of what it was. That he was alone in the place once more and again he could play his game. This couldn't be the case and as to answer Cheri. He wasn't sure what to say. He did know however the chief abroad had a canvas bag in one hand and it looked to be a bit weighted down.

Avoiding what he was sure Cheri wanted to talk about on the main floor of the house, Zack asked hopefully, "batteries?"

In disbelief Ivy shook her head to the motion of no and got back up to standing. Watching Cheri and her brother, that she wondered where his head was. She knew the old woman had to be wondering that a little herself with the pause being taken in responding to him. A reply that finally came started with Cheri shuffling forward still in her crouch, towards the boy. Spoken in a gentle tone came the next part of the reply adding in an unexpected part for the high schooler.

When starting to speak, Cheri motioned with her not on the canvas bag for Ivy to join her company again down low. "Zack not a game. How would you, you and Ivy like something more engaging, more exciting?"

Puzzled but feeling good about the words being asked. Nothing like the expected ones. School wasn't going to be talked about. Nor was what had been the root cause of that. This exciting thing. He wasn't sure what Ivy would have to do with it even though his big sister was again getting into the crouched position she'd been in before. Wondering if a fantasy of his was coming true, he asked. "No school forever?"

Frowning, Cheri glanced to the side she was sure Ivy was now on once again, to note how the other sibling took the younger one's guess. Smiling and feeling confused herself, the older Lamberton said. "I think school is important. I'm not with him on his feelings towards it. Cheri, what are you asking?"

Pulling out of her frown and having one side of her mouth tug into a part smile. Cheri trying to address both children at once, asked. "What would the two of you think about being detectives with me on a case here in San Francisco?"
 

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Chapter 4:​


The activities of the night before had at least felt comfortable to Chester. Unlike what he was doing just now. Last night after Cheri had proposed her and the kids investigating a case. When they'd all headed back on to the main level of the house. While his friend and he made dinner with what he had on hand. Along with the kids starting into all too early to be eaten deserts from Cheri's bag, as the proper meal was being cooked. They talked about what sort of case would be ok to start them on. Anything on a major scale was ruled out fast even though both kids had wanted it do be something like that. They weren't trained nor had any form of history dealing with criminals. ACME's large scale cases almost always were international in nature and needed the assistance of government law enforcement agencies & groups connected to them.

Besides feeling the kids weren't ready to take on a case involving multiple nations. Nothing as of late had been brought to his attention ACME was being asked to deal with to that like. Besides not being prepared for taking on such an assignment. He wasn't sure if both or either of the kids had passports. Likely Rebecca would have had them made for the children at some point. But to Chester's knowledge the kids had never gone overseas or even to Mexico or Canada.

Thinking about that notation the kids likely had passports. He started to peer into the records box to look for passports. It felt wrong starting to root around in Rebecca's important documents for them. Now was not the time to be checking into if her kids had their legal i's dotted for travel. As he sat in her dining room trying to find something in the box that could act as insight as to why she'd done what she did. It made him feel uncomfortable.

So far the box had revealed nothing of use to him. Just old receipts dating back as far as her time fresh out of college he noticed. 1974, these records dated back that far and to the dawn of her starting to be involved in law enforcement. So much history aside from the receipts, medical records too. They went he noticed all the way up to why she'd requested time off a few months back. The discovery Zack didn't have chickenpox but had, Chester couldn't pronounce the diagnosis. He only knew she had tend to the child closely during that time and while it wasn't serious whatever it was, it had the boy in bad shape for a time. Nothing medical wise said she had been in any sort of trouble lately. The box's papers related to taxes but more accurately tax filing with professional services. They didn't indicate she was in trouble with the IRS.

Maybe something else in nostalgia to the departed friend slash co-worker would reveal what had happened. Clues of a visual nature. The prospect of that made him feel the same sickness he'd felt when he discovered her body. What if what he found in her photo albums revealed something awful not clear to anyone else who wasn't a detective. If Cheri in her babysitting of the children, really did get the pair into thinking like investigators. Would they too look upon old family photo albums and see things they wished they'd never noticed before? If this route of investigation dug up some truth that was hard to take. Maybe he could get that truth filed away so their eyes never came across it.

Knowing those photos were to be located else where he stood up over the box on the table. Was there a point to returning it to where he'd found it? Politeness as a guest in another's home demanded he do so as to be courteous to the host. But this was an empty house. It would remain an empty house until likely the state and lawyers dealt with it. Not putting away the documents box. That wouldn't disrespect anyone. Still he had respected Rebecca. He was even carrying out her final request of him and that was being caretaker to her kids. While she could never again ask anything else of him, placing the box back where he'd found it felt like the right thing to do.

After he'd finished the task only questioned briefly. He started for the photo albums she had kept on the middle shelf to the bookcase still in the room with him. Ready to reach for them he noticed they weren't there. That fact in observation he should have made the moment he'd entered the dining room. How could he have missed it? The answer to how he'd failed to notice that detail to the place came to him quickly. He was distracted. Yes, he'd lost people he was close to in the past but it didn't happen often. Never before had the cause of death felt to him the need to turn that matter into a case to investigate.

The first death of a co-worker happened so long ago it didn't affect him emotionally anymore even if he missed the person. Patrick Gardener, one of the people who'd hired him to work for ACME. November 1958, it was old age for him. No suspected foul play of death ... death as Rebecca had hers occur. His partner, his equal Jocelyn Deyriès, she passed on a year and a half later. Again nothing of a criminal nature suspected of how she'd died. She was old when she had passed on. She was strong willed and was before women's lib had come to reshape society. Only she and Cheri had been the most driven & feisty women he'd even met. That aside about her personality, he had a bet about her death not said although clear to those who'd known her and had known Patrick. Rarely spoken of in life since it caused her emotional pain to think about it. She had lost a husband shortly before she had moved to the United States. What was more known was the fact she had met Patrick not long after her move from overseas and the two had become friends fast. Best friends in fact, virtually inseparable. His presence filled the void her husband's absence had created. She chose to not marry again, she wanted to honor the man Chester had at one time caught his name had been Floyd Deyriès. Patrick and her, it wasn't a legal marriage. In fact it had never been called a marriage, although their relationship to each other had everything but a shared last name and offspring. His absence in her life. The San Francisco ACME Chief was sure that had played a role in her health and drive for life fading.

He wished more photos existed of the pair outside ones shot for newspaper stories. Chester knew for a fact one time they had even appeared on television on a local channel back in New York City. It had been a news piece of course talking about a recently solved case at the time. The arrangement to give them airtime to talk about the case on WQED-TV had come about though Greg Leeds, the agency's publicist when the case had happened. After wondering whatever had become of the man. Chester's mind went back to the present wondering where the Lamberton family photo albums had gone off to since they weren't where they should be.

To locate the albums became a two part matter. One was found on the living room couch, upside down and open. To how it was open, Chester noticed immediately it was missing a photo. He doubted the change had been made by one of the children. He'd been present the last time they'd been in the house, the day following his discovery of their mom's final act. With police present as well in case unexpected criminal matters were afoot. Both Ivy and Zack had been requested to remove anything from the house they felt they'd be needing at least for the present moment. How long that moment lasted for the pair of siblings wasn't determined. Until everyone felt more in control again of things real and those emotional. Chester bet it would be a while before the kids had removed all their belongings from the house.

If either had removed where a photo clearly had once laid on an album page. He was sure he would have noticed it by now in his house. True, where the children currently kept their belongings was in disheveled piles beside his sofa bed. That he vowed would change as soon as he could force the matter. Not by demanding either kid move their things. His thought was when the first convenient moment arose soon; he'd have two extra rooms added on to the house. The money was there, but the time had to wait a little.

A further thought was even if either kid had felt inclined to take a family photo with them the last time they were here. Why not take the whole album along? Probably why that hadn't happened was because right now things were too painful to bear. That conclusion in guess became more solid in his thinking as he entered Rebecca's old room. A halted hypothesis now. The second part of discovering the whereabouts of the Lamberton family photo albums. Seeing them messily strewn about on her former bed. It took nothing to rule out her children for the albums current state. Neither he could imagine would do something that disrespectful at a time like this.

Sitting down on the bed to flip through the albums found there and in depth go through the one he'd found in the living room. A new detail stood out to him about what he was seeing. Some photos that had clearly been removed. These were ones that by yellowed imprint mark to pages; he knew had to have once been present. He guessed the photos likely had contained images that solely focused on one thing in subject matter. Photos of Rebecca were also non-existent he noticed. Likely those were the ones missing. Another photo missing from the pages was found inside one of the album books. A torn in half photo of the whole family. It was a very old one. Taken when they were all together and seemed happy. Rebecca was standing beside Bishop, both in formal but comfortable ware. She holding Zack in a bundle, in her arms. Ivy standing in front likely was wearing her Sunday best. This Chester bet had to have been the last professionally taken photo the family ever had made.

Bishop had not stuck around long after Zack's birth. When the ACME employee figured out he had no genial connection to the boy, things went down south fast in his relationship to his immediate family. It was five years after that photo had been taken; he's disappeared out of the lives of the three. Good riddance Chester had thought at the time, even through he knew the disappearance had to be hard on Rebecca and Ivy. Zack, he wasn't sure about. Bishop to the ladies. He'd gotten unstable around Rebecca and had barely controlled that problem with his personality on most days. To Ivy, he was her dad, a person who by relation and blood instinct by impression she was supposed to have a connection with deeply. How Bishop's behavior affected her, Chester had only noticed that take the form of avoidance on the man's bad days. How Zack had dealt with the man, was an easy guess. The boy had an urge to have a father, knew in his mind at least it should be Bishop. Although the husband to Rebecca wanted none of that from the youngest kid. He wanted avoidance of the boy and once when Zack had clearly not understood that boundary. When the marks one day were noticed on the kid's face, Chester made sure him and Ivy were in ACME's HQ for more than daycare. When Leon saw the back and blue marks, the soldier on temporary leave from boot camp gave Bishop his own black & blue marks.

No criminal charges were filed against Leon since his reasoning was easily for people to see. That and Bishop had never pressed for charges to be filed against the man. A repercussion of that event had been by Chester acting on behalf of Rebecca, filing a restraining order against Bishop of that he couldn't be within fifty yards of his family for a year. Soon after that had occurred, Leon was shipped out on a temporary assignment by the army. The unofficial protector of the family gone for a time. Not even a year into the restraining order is when Bishop had disappeared. He just failed coming into work. Rebecca didn't talk about him much at all after he had vanished. Looking at one more photo found out of place in the albums, told Chester Bishop might have returned. It might have been him who had disturbed the albums. That second photo out of place had to be pieced back together. Ripped to shreds was Zack's last school taken photograph. Bishop, Chester thought in horror had to have come into the house some time in recent days unseen and he had done this.

Moving more around the house the San Francisco ACME Chief saw more things disturbed than just photos. Things ripped or out of place that had once belonged to Rebecca. More random things that had belonged to her children that looked like they'd been thrown and smashed to pieces. Bishop had returned and with fear mounting as Chester took in sights he felt confirmed that notion. He knew the children very likely could be in danger from him. More than bruises might happen when next decidedly forced former detective for ACME, encountered the children once in his care. Thank goodness for Cheri's presence to them. She'd be meeting with them after they'd gotten out from their schools for the day. Could Cheri protect them from Bishop? Silly question he dismissed fast, of course she could, but she'd also have to be warned about the unhinged man.

Should the children be in hiding now? Bishop had gotten into the house Chester was standing in without comment. Although likely the man still had his own personal key to do so. Had Bishop killed ... no. He couldn't have. The old detective knew for a fact what had happened to Rebecca had happened by her own hand. But Bishop had to have been involved with what had occurred. The Chief knew this but not how. What had happened? The mystery felt deeper now even if one aspect of it had possibly been deduced.

Running into the next room he knew would have a phone. He dialed the number to the Lexington Hotel, to the extension he knew would lead to Cheri's room, nothing. The phone wasn't working. The service had been disconnected and he'd forgotten this fact. Racing outside he looked around only to not see what he was hoping in vain at this point would be easy to spot. The house he'd just been holding an investigation in, it was deep within one the foggy city's comfy suburban-like neighborhoods. Why weren't there any phone booths to be seen, why!? Then it struck him it was his old New Yorker instincts at work. Phone booths were everywhere in New York City. San Francisco just wasn't the same. Not sure what to do next, Chester calmed himself down enough to fumble in one of his pant's pockets to locate the key to his car. Cheri could protect them. The kids were in their respective at grade level schools. The good friend just had to be informed before the kids left their schools behind for the day. He could make it back to either his home or ACME office well before the first of them ended their school day. Ivy left Mission at two thirty PM; he had plenty of time to make the phone call he needed to make.

-----

Both important, both tempting. Stick around after school for the latest lesson from Drivers Ed. or take the bus and greet Cheri to then go to ACME for a case assignment. Ivy wondered if missing a class even one not in the normal school day was a problem. Taking the class to start with was a paid out of pocket as an elective choice. She'd paid for most of it with her mom taking up the rear of the cost. After noticing the pay checks earned through summer work could cover ninety percent needed to take care of the tuition. Currently she'd been told in moving through the classes, she was ready to hit the open road but still needed more guidance and instruction when put in practice.

Honoring her agreement made the night before. That settled the self created argument. Driver's Education classes were held full cycle every semester. She could make up one or maybe two missed classes the next time they came around. The only price she'd pay missing them now would be on a written test covering what she hadn't been present to absorb from the instructor. Could Cheri give her pointers? Could her visiting friend act as a substitute teacher for lessons lost?

Opening her locker to remove her book bag and stuff it with zipped binder & books. She wondered if a step further, Cheri would even let her practice drive the rental car being used by the old detective to the coming assigned case. That would be more than awesome Ivy mused in thought. Maybe not the reality she was hoping for but there wasn't any harm in asking if she could do it.

"You're smiling; I've been hesitant to ask for days. What is going on? This smile after an absence of over a week. Is something better now?" Nora stated and asked not far from Ivy in the hallway.

"Something very cool, ACME." Ivy replied, after zipping up her book bag and shutting her locker. Nora noticing something had happened came to Ivy as a little odd but she appreciated the friend making the observation. The girl was a free spirit, more of one than teachers and likely her parents wanted her to be. School was optional on any day, not just classes that were electives after two thirty PM.

Mentally chiding her own decision lightly to skip Driver's Ed., Nora broke Ivy's thinking from that route, asking. "What about ACME? Your mom got assigned something headline making for a case?"

The question, Nora's assumption. Ivy stood by her locker and couldn't bring herself to make eye contact with her friend. She didn't want to go into what had happened. Hell, she didn't want to act like Zack either and seem to completely want to avoid talking about things all together. The best way to answer? A compromise cross. Looking at her watch and making her body language antsy, she answered. "Moms gone. She's gone. I'm taking a case for ACME. I have to catch my bus now, ok?"

Springing into a run, Ivy without turning her head to address, Nora added. "See you tomorrow; I'll explain things in more depth then."

Outside bus thirty-seven was right were she knew it would be ready to pick her up. Looking down the line of buses awaiting their afternoon passengers was a sight that wasn't normal as opposed to the buses. Cheri standing by her rental car, arms crossed. Grab the bus or discover the likely cause of why the NYC Chief was at her school? This was a no brainer, Ivy thought as she headed to the '91 sliver Ford Victoria and its temporary owner.

Before Cheri could open her mouth to greet the teenager now almost at her location. The girl beat her to the punch, not by a greeting but simply asking, "why?"

"Chester wanted me to pick you and Zack up from school. Save time getting both of you over to ACME," Cheri answered. Shrugging her shoulders and making her book bag in hand move up and down in the process. Ivy watched her peers board their shuttle rides back to their homes. While she liked things in daily life to follow a routine. This wasn't normal getting an escort not given by the school. Then again she had gladly decided minutes earlier not to follow through with her additional needed class just so she could get to play. Play wasn't the right word. She was going to be a detective.

Tightening her grip on the top handle of her book bag Ivy eyed the front of the Ford. The driver's seat. Cheri noticing where the girl's attention was focused, asked. "Either that means you're fine with this arrangement or you're sixteen aren't you?"

Shaking her head to the motion of yes vigorously for a few seconds. Ivy was glad Cheri had picked up on what she guessed the woman had figured out was on her mind. Setting down her book bag to the ground and opening up a pocket on its side secured by Velcro, the high schooler grabbed out her student driver's ID and flashed it to the NYC chief. Asking with pride, "to Zack's school? I know how to get there from here, please? We'll be getting there a little bit early for Rooftop's end of day dismissal. No fast shortcuts I promise"

"It's unlocked, get in the driver's side, I'll be monitoring your progress closely ok?" Cheri commented and questioned, moving to open up the front passenger door to get inside the car.

Beaming with delight, Ivy rushed around the front of the rental car, further taking in the sight of it. As she opened up the driver's side door to scoot into the seat closest offered. After thanking Cheri for letting her do what she was about to do. Along with providing verbal answer she understood she was as if in her Driver's Education class, was about to be watched closely. Once accepting the offered key and pulling out of the bus lane in front of Mission High School. A thought went through her mind only for the briefest of moments. Did Chester have something unsaid by Cheri in mind, why the pickup from the schools was even happening?
 

systemcat

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Chapter 5:​


"They've started working again. Were they already at work and I just haven't noticed not being here?" Zack questioned partly to himself and partly to Cheri and Ivy. As they started to make their way into the headquarters building. Signs the building was active showing it's self as workers grabbing or returning tools to their mobile office trucks. Going over documents, that taking place either on the hoods trucks or standing in front of the building. The second action by the workers causing the trio to shift around them to get into the building's entrance.

Once inside, the lobby Cheri replied, "I wouldn't know. I haven't been here lately and only heard about this work through Chester. He's having these updates done to all the offices, including mine."

Turning to look at Ivy for answers, she didn't offer any. She didn't feel the need to give answers and this bugged him mildly until giving the matter further thought. Why would his sister know about the goings-on at this place as of late? Had she come here in recent days with Chester behind his back and he was left out for some reason? Not told, in the dark. What point would that have served? After all here now was Chief Cheri. She was the one giving the work opportunity, not Chief Chester. He'd only let the work opportunity happen because his life time friend had suggested it and very strongly at that the night before. He had just rolled with the suggestion without any argument while they were getting ready to leave the basement for the main floor of the house. None of them with the exception of the one not present at least here on the ground floor knew when the building updates had started back up again.

Chester, Zack felt for sure knew the answer and he probably was on the third floor in the meeting room. That was where the office's filing cabinets were, containing all information on recent cases put up to ACME's interest. Being put on a case may have been Cheri's idea but considering this office wasn't hers, only Chester could give the final approval. He had to be in the meeting room. Smugly the pre-teen grinned at this conclusion of his. He'd figured something out he was sure the way a real detective would. He was ready for the real stuff.

After Cheri had taken note the building's elevator was in operation, they all stepped inside its carriage box. Ivy taking the initiative by pressing the button to signal it was the third floor they needed to get to. Cheri didn't seem to take notice of the fact but her work charges did. The pair of siblings noticed a makeover had been preformed to the enclosure they were in. The elevator's carriage box no longer had a dated look to it. It no longer looked an ugly shade of pale yellow in tiles. Now it looked modern, dark wood grain panels and black panels with silver looking or simply steel trim lining them. In noting the change, the kids exchanged looks with one another. Feeling mentally dominant over his company after having just reached one conclusion he was sure was fact. Zack stated, "all done earlier today I'm sure."

"It couldn't have just been done in a day, Zack." Ivy said, taking a jab at the boy while the elevator's carriage box doors opened up to the third floor's lift lobby.

The area and beyond it appeared just as it had over a week ago. Everything was the same as the kids knew it that was until stepping into the meeting room. That had changed a little and again for the better. It was now tidier than it had been before. Figuring out who was to blame for that act, since neither child had ever seen a maid or cleaning service enter the building that wasn't standard janitorial staff. Chester was the easy guess to the clean up, they figured.

Sitting in his favorite chair to relax in, he was reading but it was easy to tell he was tense. So much for what could be called a relaxed position. Moving forward some to try and see the words on the cover better, Cheri took a stab at what he was trying to read, asking. "What is "Object-Oriented C Plus Plus?"

Making a dog-ear to the page he'd been reading. Chester then closed the book and set it down on the island table to his side. Getting up to start walking over to the trio but more specifically Cheri, he replied to her. "It's connected to part of the upgrades for ACME. Already earlier today I finally was able to prep up the computers' memory in this place. If I can make an AI to assign cases when personnel aren't present. That could speed up how things are handled. Like for example I have a place I should be right now besides here."

"Bundle of questions, Chess. Still what is Object-Oriented C Plus Plus? What is AI and where do you need to be right now?" Cheri asked, going to the table the friend had sat the book on, to take a better look at the thick paperback.

Neither sibling could stay still as the adults talked to one another. Both of them were ready for action, to be assigned a case. The temptation to start prying open folders sitting on the same desk which had on it the book of Cheri's interest. Zack felt he'd held off as long as reason would allow before Ivy gave a light slap to his right hand as it had started to grab for one of them. Not paying attention to the children, Chester answered. "What I'm trying to learn to create the AI. AI, that stands for artificial intelligence. Call it a fake smart person if you will. By mistake at first I was reading up on Fortran. Not the right language for making the software in mind. Object-Oriented C Plus Plus is more modern and versatile. Also once we've settled on a case to be handled I have to pay a visit to Oakland ASAP."

Giving her friend a look before turning her attention to the folders laying on his desk. Pulling them together to then open them one by one for a passing glance of content, Cheri asked. "Whatever is going on in Oakland, should it concern the kids and me?"

Not wanting to say directly what needed his attention there, Chester replied after a pause not missed on his company. "Old business, hopefully nothing resurfaced. Matters not for novice detectives Cheri."

Making a face that spoke she was now in a playful mood. A coating of wool to pull over the eyes of young ones watching her. The New York Chief commented, "I'm sure these novice recruits for ACME can handle anything but to put your mind at ease we'll just take an easy case for now."

"Hard case!" Zack demanded, giving a salute while being mindful of where Ivy was. Side stepping a swing from her fist intended to hit him in the side.

Mouthing no, was the first reaction to ring to Cheri on how to deal with her youngest work charge. Before sighing and simply staring forward at the pile of case folders in her hands. Breaking the silence, Chester said. "All of the case files you're holding. What information ACME knows on them reported in by local police. They don't seem major, um borderline friendly. Any of them should be ok for you guys."

"Borderline friendly?" Ivy asked, with her arms crossed.

Returning to trying to look the superior to his sister. Zack stated, "the Chief means PG friendly for kids."

Glaring at Zack and then the adults present. Ivy was ready to ask if her sibling was right in his assumption when Chester butt in with, "PG isn't the way I would have put it. These cases, none of them appear to involve any violence."

No objection came from the children or Cheri. Awaiting conformation it was ok what choices he had presented to his life time friend. Chester off and on made eye contact with Cheri while he went over to a chair his jacket was draped over. Car keys in its left outside pocket. He was ready to leave the office for the day, hopefully without further need to return to it at a later hour after his trip over the bridge.

Jacket pulled on, Chester noted Cheri pausing on a file folder opened up. She glanced at him before turning her attention to her work charges and asking. "Do either of you like music?"

"That depends on the band," Ivy answered. Noting the silence from her brother, Cheri added to her questioning, directing it to the boy.

"Do you like staying up late?"

"How late can I stay up?" Zack asked, looking hopeful.

Checking on his keys in his pocket, Chester was in a better mood himself. One of the cases had peeked Cheri's interest and it seemed to be starting to grab the children's interest as well. Sure Cheri knew the underlying reason she was with the kids. She was being a good friend and temporary guardian while he took care of his investigation the kids couldn't be a part of. It bothered him passing the buck like this but what choice was there? At least this case acceptance to the children didn't feel like a forced matter to them and he was grateful for that. Now just to confirm that fact before taking off.

Chester's impatience noted without word, Cheri with her attention at first to Zack but made sure midway through her words to also address Ivy. She stated, "late within reason and far more time awake little owls than he'd let you get away with."

Responses happened all around at almost one on top of another. The mildest of commenting coming from Chester of, "hey!"

Followed close from Ivy with, "will we be needing tickets for the music? I have a friend with good connections for things like concert tickets."

Then shown somehow with more enthusiasm than the rest of the company. Zack questioned, "what's the case? Stolen instruments? Bad music making ears bleed? Oh, bats attacking the band and the band fighting back against them eating them!?"

Disgusted and in shocked disbelief by her brother's words. Ivy questioned, "how the heck do you even know about that Ozzy Osbourne concert?"

Stunned but happy, Zack replied. "Then that really happened? Cool, so much for it being lunch time rumor out of Cory Maliani."

"One bat," Ivy stated shaking her head to the motion of no.

Ready to flick the room's light switch to off, Chester stood by the door to the meeting room. Feeling no direct answer was forthcoming. He tried to prompt one by asking, "this case involving music and late bed times. Is this the case you guys are taking? I can make record of the fact the next time I get back in here?"

It was likely rare to come from them, but both kids seemed to be in non-vocal agreement this is what they wanted. Glad for the agreement, which told Cheri the pair could actually cooperate with each other. An aspect she knew was important when working with others directly on an investigation. Cheri answered back to Chester. "We'll take the case of the vandaled looted late nightspots of foggy town. Although first you better let us leave here before you lock up."

Waving a hand to show he wanted the trio to move on ahead of him. Chester let this occur after Cheri set down the files to table of no interest to her. She adding in her last two cents to him before she had completely passed by her friend. "You be safe. We'll be heading for our work after a small breather to collect our thoughts about how we're going to approach things. I know how to handle things. The kids don't. Keep them safe too; I hope Oakland isn't a problem."

----

Seth Tolbert didn't hear the sound of the car pulling into his house's driveway to then park on the landing. He was absorbed in watching his latest favorite early evening TV show. Drama, love, and crime all rolled into one package. It was a fantasy escape for him after a long day of working and long traffic logged commute back home. The cop spraying gun fire on screen was being done with good reason. A loathsome criminal who'd earlier in the show's season had killed the officer's work associates. The bullets were revenge and no one could get in the way of them happening. Seth's attention couldn't be broken by anything but a commercial break to take his mind off the show. Except an unexpected doorbell ring.

Not wanting to leave den on the second story of the house. He was lucky by the design of the structure; the room's sole window faced out towards the front of the house and below it was a bird's eye view of its main entrance. Lowering the volume of the TV so as to not miss anything heard even if for a brief while he couldn't see what was taking place. He tried to press himself hard against the glass pane of the window to see who was standing in front of his house. The perspective did him no good when looking down. To fix that problem he opened the window and noticed a white haired man patiently standing on his doorstep, awaiting him to answer the door.

Feeling in the mood to be lazy about the unexpected visitor, in not wanting to go the front door to greet him. Seth shouted, "who are you? Do you want something?"

Craning his view to look up, Chester spotted who'd he'd come to see. Mr. Tolbert had aged well since the last time he saw the man and that one earlier encounter had not been long. He'd only seen the house's owner off hand at an investigation site once, when working on a case directly with Rebecca. The man had stopped by to Chester's guess just to briefly talk and give the younger detective a peck on the cheek. The caught sight of the kiss, the chief had tried to mentally downplay until later learning things between Rebecca and Seth were more serious than originally suspected. Given the man no longer remembered who Chester was. That was either because Rebecca had never tried to introduce him behind his back. Or the homewrecker had simply forgotten the one encounter Chester could pin down having been in the same space with the man.

"Chester Bumpass, ACME Detective Agency. I'd just like to talk to you." The San Francisco Chief shouted up to the Oakland resident.

ACME, a number of curse words and fearing thoughts went through Seth's mind hearing the old man identify that as his place of work. He'd had it with ACME. Sure for a time the relationship had been good at least with one member of its employment. That hadn't lasted. Though when things started changing for her. New thoughts towards him he couldn't handle. Such as the claim she didn't think the child she was carrying was her husband's. Instead of facing consequences as the pregnancy had progressed. He had run and made sure it was hard to reach him.

Over a year of skipping town and coming back again for brief stays. Thank goodness for having a job that in description allowed such traveling to happen. He'd never caught sight of Rebecca Lamberton again although Bishop Lamberton, he did. He'd never met her husband until a year had passed in his comings and goings from life in Alameda County. Bishop was hardly what Seth had expected. Not his appearance, that had been caught in random photographs hung through out Rebecca's house. The photos hadn't been hung of an obsessive nature; they did feature more than the husband. They had within them other family members at events that had to have had significance when occurring. In them he'd even caught sight of Rebecca's daughter Ivy. He'd never met the girl since she had always been at school when his intimate meetings were happening. Encountering Bishop had been a fear during those meetings and lucky for him he'd been able to avoid the husband. Seth doubted the man would take kindly to his actions with Rebecca if he knew of them.

When Bishop had showed up and many times after. No place was safe for Seth to run off to. Bishop whether it being since he was a detective for ACME and was utilizing the company's resources. Or using not only them but other unknown resources as well. The homewrecker could always be found; his job wasn't keeping him safe from afar of the Lamberton family anymore. One member of it, the only one who cared to reach out to him. It wasn't the words Seth feared out of Bishop. He feared the physical actions of the man. The beatings were worse than the words and he felt powerless to report to the police what was going on. Because quote un quote the police as the detective told him, the police knew what sort of man he was and he deserved what he got.

Believing those words were a matter he'd felt unsure were true even to today. Bishop was a respected employee of the ACME Detective Agency. They, the employer worked with the law 365 24/7. Local, federal and international. Then again he was only going by one enraged man's words. Could a person with so damaged a perspective on serving justice be trusted to tell the exact truth? When it became clear Bishop had apparently for a time lost interest in pounding his sense of revenge justice into him. He'd made an investment with his work earnings. A top of the line security system bought from the locally established company of LockTech.

Clearly the security system wasn't working as intended. Then again thinking on procedure to its usage, he had not shut the gate at the entrance of the driveway. That first barrier of admittance to his property. Why he'd failed to do close it and activate its electronic lock with not only physical internal latches but also magnetic seals that could be programmed when activation took place. To enforce their normal fields of attraction or when deactivating the lock, have the magnets alter to repulsing themselves to help break their internal seals. His failure had happened because not only was he convinced to a degree ACME no longer had any interest in him. Second reason, he'd been eager to make snacks and sit down to watch his show. Of all blasted things a real law enforcer and if Bishop was to be believed, not a good one. The guy while old, could Seth thought still be carrying a gun. A gun didn't mean anything to age to be used properly. Was his taste in television inflecting his thoughts? No, a pissed off with good reason husband was.

The house's security system control panel was downstairs near the front door. Could he make it to it in time before the old man busted down the door? Busted down the door. His imagination was working in full throttle. Maybe the reason for this mister Bumpass visiting had nothing to do with his past. Now that was true delusional thinking! Hearing a door slam almost made him jump out of his skin at the sound. But lo and behold, not the front door. His unwanted company was still expectantly awaiting him to further continue conversation with him. The sound had come from the TV. He was missing his show.

"Are you carrying a weapon?" Seth asked, a quite reasonable way to start a chat with an ACME employee he thought.

When Chester started to open his mouth, interruption happened, by way of the other man continuing talking in saying. "Hold on for a minute."

Moving away from the window, going further into the room he was in, sitting in a bag beside his entertainment center furniture. Seth grabbed out a still plastic sealed blank VHS tape he'd bought the other day. A precaution to if he thought he was going to miss tonight's season finale. The blank tape meant all he had to do was setup his VCR and have the machine record the show.

"I have a gun but it's in my car and I'd like to think I don't need to use it at all! Listen I need to talk to you about Bishop Lamberton!" Chester shouted, now from the unseen outside as Seth fumbled with the tape in his hands, trying to place it in the VCR's cartridge slot.

Forcing his fingers to work properly, jamming in the video tape. Seth let out a fast sigh in his panic. Programming the machine came next. Hopefully that could be done while the show was still running right? Then, could he do this at the same time? Sure, he could at least he hoped he could. Bring himself to talk about Mr. Lamberton. Was this Bumpass person in league with him? Fear started to pour through his brain anew at that thought.

One thing at a time. Attempting to be calm, he programmed the VCR to start recording. Recording starting at thirty-four minutes into the show he wanted to watch. Cute, he knew some of it had been missed already with thanks to the visitor. Feeling now ready to accept fate as much as he hated that idea. A possible visit to the emergency room, again thanks to an ACME employee. Seth flopped on to his back to stare up at the ceiling as he replied in shouting. "What about Bishop Lamberton? Are you here to aid what he started to do to me? I said I was sorry! What more could you want?! Child support payments?!"

"Has he been by here recently? Has he made any troubling statements to you or threats to your person or others you know? Second, I can cover the childrens' expenses with ease. You're off the hook for that you deadbeat." Came Chester's reply, again shouting at vocal height so as to be heard by the unseen man.

Children, plural he just heard this man from ACME say he didn't need payments to support more than one child. Rebecca had a third child Bishop had not mentioned? He had skipped out on not only one boy but possibly a second or girl, depending on the sort of twins they were? Could the older daughter be being talked about, children? Seth didn't want to know the answer. He also didn't like the fact Bishop was even being talked about. At least there was one good thing in this he hoped.

"I have not encountered that man recently and I hope to god I never do again. Please leave here, leave me in peace. I want nothing to do with ACME," Seth shouted. Before he rubbed his hands up over his face and glanced towards his TV.

Resolution of some sort appeared to be taking place on the show. He'd missed the details of what exactly was happening thanks to his own drama. Sure, drama of his own making thought long behind him. Damn, if she had a second kid that was his he was unaware of until now. Should that make any difference to him? Bishop had never called him a deadbeat but he'd called him plenty of other names, some of them not even in English. A twinge of guilt started to creep into his thoughts. That feeling over a son he didn't know, rarely reared it's self into his conscious thoughts. Normally feeling some sense of guilt to his actions only had happened after encounters with Bishop. Or in the initial set of hours and days after Rebecca had told him, she believed him the father. His unconscious thoughts, his embedded parental instinct after these encounters. They surfaced by way with him through dreams at night just as painful as actions and words taken against him in woken hours.

"ACME's number for its San Francisco office hasn't changed since I think the last I'm sure you know it. Unless you were always dialing her personal home phone. You call if you encounter him or vice versa. I'll want to question you in either case and I can promise you police protection, got it?" Chester shouted, hoping his words had been fully grasped by the other man.

Something unexpected had just taken place between the show's main character and an unknown one. Some plot twist designed to entice watchers to tune in when it arrived, the show's next season premiere. The way the television show was handled was predictable; he liked that fact about it. What was taking place right now in real life, was a different matter. Things off the screen could not be predicted with ease. They could not be escaped by moving a dial. Or even for that matter escaping home for long periods at a time. Before, if Bishop showed up again, he was going to do something to change the baggage he'd created in his life. Not take in the kids, but at least show some sign of support. Sitting up from where he'd been laying down Seth replied shouting, "I got it."

Then low and to himself he continued, "I understand."
 

systemcat

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Chapter 6:​


Crowded outside, the sight of that made Zack wonder just how did the comparison go for the inside of the nightclub named Harbor Moon. Standing with Ivy trying not to move was becoming harder by the moment with people pushing around them. Cheri had told them to keep still and observe what they could see outside while the faintest shreds of daylight vanished around them. This request they were told was happening by way of scoping out details a potential criminal would do to look for vulnerabilities for either theft or escape. Why she wasn't with them had to do with the crowd. Originally finding a parking spot near Harbor Moon. Annoyed guests followed by staff, ordered her to move the car because it was parked where preferred VIPs would normally be.

In the process of now locating a parking spot, unknown to her the children were now on top of the club's entrance. That fact was not missed by its bouncer, eyeing the two youths. Ivy grinned at noticing the tall man's glaze on her. He was rough looking but also dressed to a fashion sense saying he knew he was at a public gathering place, one that was expecting a grouping of people respectable but also potential partiers. Still if the man had come within an 8th mile of Mission High School. People would likely be trying to question him and at the same time wanting to escort him away from the school's area. Although this place being his turf and not hers, he stated. "I'm sorry, but neither of you look age appropriate to enter this establishment."

The man's demeanor apparently didn't faze Zack. Sure he and his sister had been involuntarily pushed to where they were now. A matter they couldn't help. Because of what had been pressed on them and also knowing soon they would be inside anyway. Hopefully they'd be inside? Surely no one would question Cheri's age. If they did, Zack wondered what sort of resulting reactions would occur. To her maybe it would be an insult? He knew women were different in how they took people viewing their age. He just wasn't sure why that was. To him, the age remark. Proud sixth grader. He despite whatever this man thought he wasn't allowed. He wanted to press how mature he was but Ivy halted him saying anything, painfully.

"I can understand him, but me?" Ivy asked, looking stunned her presence would even be questioned.

Kittens, both of them. The bouncer almost wanted to grab them by the scruffs of their necks to move them aside to let age appropriate patrons interact with him to get inside the club. The red head seemed to him at least the sort he was semi-used to seeing come to Harbor Moon. Secondary schoolers were always trying their luck with him and other employees. They were the main reason he had to reply. "Girl, we turn away anyone who looks beneath 21. You don't even look college age and certainly not the midget, who looks like he has a few more years before he starts shaving."

A distinct set of beeping sounds chimed from not far away. Familiar, both kids had heard it a few times before, the last time being a few minutes ago, when Cheri had first locked up her rental car. Hearing them now signaled somewhere not far away the old detective had found a new parking spot and had just locked up again. She'd be heading to where they had been forced to move from soon. Likely a little distressed at seeing them at the door to the club, away from where she'd last seen them. But to clue her into where they were, also to win the right to enter Harbor Moon. Zack shouted without turning around, "Chief?!"

The bouncer's attention found the old woman dressed in a shirt of mellow ginger and goldenrod stripes, with dark rust pants before the children turned to see her. His look of surprise was their true alert she was present. While the staff of the club was feeling confused about the presence of not only the minors in his company. Now a woman sporting a gray afro, who seemed to be far far older then the place's normal clientele. The youngest anomaly in his presence spoke up again. Not shouting this time, but broadly smiling in head twitch attention to the old woman, the bouncer was sure was the one being referred to as "chief". Plus towards the high schooler and himself, the child said. "We're together, she's with me too. You can let us in now."

Wondering what guidelines of job conduct to follow. The bouncer eyed the group, unsure what to do and yet knowing work needed tending to. This group now three was holding up the more normal looking patrons he was used to allowing entrance into Harbor Moon. Splitting his attention between those people and the trio, he motioned for the other clientele to enter. Hoping those he allowed admittance to the club, realized he wasn't talking to them, that instead his words were being directed to one of the oddballs present, he stated. "Madam, this place isn't for kids. Neither of them can enter, I'm sorry."

Breaking the man's attention from the others he was attempting to serve. Cheri grabbed out her identification badge she used for ACME, putting it center in his field of vision. Nearly snapping out her words in an authoritative manner, she told him. "I need to talk with management. This place could easily wind up with you and anyone who works here, as a case file with the SFPD. The kids are with me, they are my assistant associates on case with me."

Law enforcement wanted to get inside the club along with her assistant associates. Were the kids trainees? The youths had to be. Whatever it was the detective needed to talk to management about. He'd better not deny her that chance. Still he'd better do his job too to the best of his ability. With that in mind, sternly the bouncer proclaimed. "Sure the kids are. But neither of them will be served. Our wait staff will know without question they're forbidden from alcohol, no chances taken."

Already advanced in placement to Cheri, Zack and Ivy entered into the nightclub with the town tourist detective right behind them. To Ivy this beyond it being her first case for ACME. This place was a chance she didn't think she'd ever have at least with how she bound herself to her sense of morals, a chance to be in. She knew the man at the door had been sound in his judgment call not to let her into the club. The man's reasoning had to do with peers at her school she didn't feel inclined to hang out with even through some of her friends would pal with them. These peers she'd preferred not hang around? They were the type which gave her age group a bad name pretty much accepted as a stereotype to it. They were the sort who would try to enter this place below age admittance rule, drink whenever the opportunity presented its self and sometimes use street drugs.

Her refusal to be among them had outcast her on a minor level at Mission but she could take that. Those that knew her understood where her sense of morals came from. Being raised around law enforcement tended to create that sense of right and wrong strongly in a person. Further more those choosing to hang out with her, most of them found it interesting and gossip intriguing she had such close ties to ACME. Detective work was not a normal profession to hear about taking place in fact. They enjoyed hearing about the latest case taken on and when resolved the end result. No more were stories coming from her over her father's exploits. When he'd vanished, she stopped talking about them. No more stories were to be coming anymore over her mother's ones. Why that was she knew she had to explain in more depth to Nora, the next she was back in school tomorrow. Plus she was also due to explain what had happened to everyone else she called a friend. Although still the stories weren't going to end now of what she had to say about ACME's activities. Telling her friends the next day about what went down with her tonight. It would keep them allured to her tales, also knowing where she'd been on her first case. That would make them envious.

To Zack entering a place like this had never crossed his mind before. What was the point his brain first told him as he'd stood outside it not long ago? It was a place strictly meant for adults. Sure this place had a default to its hours of operation that in connection to why he was at it. It's time of business activity. They allowed him to stay up way pass his normal bedtime. Outside of that was a different matter. What little he knew of clubs had been him overhearing Ivy talk about the wrong crowd patronizing them. Annoyed he believed just a tad she wasn't with them. Also what he could pick up from fictional media. Dating, drinking, and loud music. At least the loud music might be nice he thought. Music was one thing he could look forward to. Also if he was lucky, soda. Leon's behind the back beer sip in curiosity taste testing had taught him his so far opinion of alcohol. It tasted like crap and those older than him who enjoyed the stuff had their heads on wrong for liking it.

Within respectable distance to earshot, moving into the club. Cheri made one last comment to its door guard. "Could you make sure I speak with the management staff?"

The New York City ACME Chief doubted the man would follow through to word. She knew he viewed the children and herself as unwelcome guests. Not the normal sort he'd normally think to be interacting with at a place like this. She'd encountered that skepticism held by those of position, before many times in the past. It took many forms and could act blatant or subdued. This employee, at least he had acted the latter. Cause for concern but at least concern easily dealt with.

"Sure, yes I'll make sure you get to speak to management." He replied, giving an eye roll when starting out the words. So much for his attitude being completely subdued, Cheri thought further as she caught his unspoken gesture.

Noticing what had transpired. Finding a table with four empty chairs, and away from other guests of the club. Ivy said as she moved out a chair for Cheri and took a seat herself, "I don't think he took you seriously."
 

systemcat

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Sitting down in her offered seat, while Zack took his to the other side of the chief. Cheri replied, "his loss but while we wait and see if he follows through. I'll order us something off the menu so they won't rip any of us for not being patrons and we'll start this case more formal."

You will become wiser the older you get. The pre-teen had heard that comment told to him sometime ago and it had stuck with him. Yes, his sister was older then him but that didn't make her wiser. Ivy was her own person and normal rules to thinking didn't apply to her since she was a sibling. He knew her for the flaws those around her weren't aware of. Those older than her and not related? Wiser normally with maybe the exception of a couple teachers from school. Cheri Thigpen, he'd never questioned her having more knowledge than himself although now he did. Knowing it was flawed what she had just said, Zack told her. "But we aren't allowed to be served."

Resigned to perceived status fate in a place she knew she wouldn't normally belong. Ivy replied, "there is also doubt that guy will let us talk to the higher up staff. I don't think there's going to be a problem."

"How is that not a problem!?" Zack snapped at Ivy, jarring the waitress's attention who'd as she had been making her way to the trio's table. Had failed to notice the sitting down man at four and a half feet high wasn't a man but a boy she now noticed at his voice.

Holding her folded laminated menus she puzzled over not only the middle school age kid present but also the likely under age teenager, too. Serve them? Well they'd made it through the door, they'd gotten in. The evening wasn't shaping up to be anything to the younger kid's liking. Were things like milkshakes on the menu? She'd never noticed before if they were. At least there was an adult with them, and thinking about bills needed to be paid. To hell with thoughts of two of them shouldn't be in the place. She needed tips but she also needed to cover her bases responsibly. Moving towards the adult of the group and setting down one of the held menus in front of her on the table. The waitress stated, "we have French fries, wings and a special sub we call "Apollo Moon Cheese", it's cheddar, swiss, havarti, ham, pastrami and lettuce with zesty Italian dressing dribbled on it. Please tell me your um, children want that or one of the other two mentioned? I could get fired for certain drink menu items."

The young woman wasn't sure how to continue her words eyeing the patrons at the table, breaking the uneasy silence. Cheri didn't feel the need to correct the perception of herself to the children. Her not being their mother. Maybe the waitress believed they were her adopted kids? She didn't want to clear up this for the staff. They didn't need to know such information. Besides stating she wasn't their mother while true, opened up a sore wound freshly made. "We'll have three of those subs and don't worry all of use will drink whatever soda you have available."

"Thank you, what soda-pops you got!?" Zack burst out saying happily.

Serious nose to the grindstone detectives. Ivy wanted to flick Zack against his head a few times for his sense of priorities and grammar. The only things stopping her from the act were his placement across the table from her and knowing it was not the sort of thing she should do in the presence of company she was unfamiliar with. Choosing to play the high road for the moment, instead of saying some words to him. She told the waitress, "any lemon lime soda if you have one, otherwise cola."

Turning her attention to the boy, the waitress only had to wait a moment for Zack to request. "Birch Beer, Fizzy-Aid, or Jolt."

Eyebrows raised, the waitress's mouth was agape for the start of the younger kid's order request. Fear had spiked in her at hearing the second word of it. Confusion hearing the second name, and as for the third item of interest noted. She stated and asked the adult at the table. "I've heard of Bitch Beer but I don't believe we carry it. I don't think we carry this Fizzy-Aid drink mentioned either or Jolt. You let him drink Jolt?!"

"He'll drink cola; I've seen him down that. I'll have orange soda if available, if it's not, I'll have tea," Cheri answered.

The young woman still wondering about boy at the table, in an oversized jacket. Gave him an inquisitive look, hoping maybe he'd be more forthcoming in answering her question. Zack leaning into the table, which aside from getting up from it to move over to the woman was the best way he knew how to get a little closer to her. Answering the question she'd posed to Cheri, he boasted. "I get to stay up tonight. Caffeine is allowed when I stay up late."

"He'll have cola, madam." Cheri stated sternly, as she fished a set of folded papers from her pocketbook and a set of a couple pens from it as well. Setting them down on the table after she'd made her comment.

Acknowledging their orders had been taken; the waitress nodded her understanding to this and almost took away the menu she had placed in front of the adult of the table. Remembering the boy's words, she said before departing their company. "If you're planning on spending the night here I'd suspect you'll want to order more later. We do have coffee in a few flavors."

Getting into a position of easy accessibility. Not caring what others thought of her next action. Ivy flicked her fingers against Zack's head. Having not forgotten his last words before the waitress had spoken to them, plus his way of handling ordering a drink. Speaking to him she added, "I'm sure Cheri has a plan. Also Fizzy-Aid is a made up drink. You can't get it outside the kitchen."

Handing both children the folded pieces of paper she had just placed on the table. That and further more giving them both pens. Cheri stated to both but then questioned Ivy. "Those papers you've been handed and the pens. Write down anything you notice you think is relevant to the case. We need to talk in review before I set you guys lose on it but remember I'm prefer you worked as a team. Second, Ivy what on Earth is Fizzy-Aid?"

Already back into a more normal position in her seat. One not territorially too close to Zack anymore. Ivy replied, "either Ginger Ale or Lemon-Lime soda with Kool-Aid. Chief Cheri, if we're not going to be respected at all here? Plus suspect the staff might not to talk to us after the request you put in. How are we going to get information to help work on the case?"

If only she'd had a mentor when she was starting out as a detective. She started out only a few years older than Ivy was now. No one had presented her with the chance to prove herself. She had decided to start on the work herself in guesswork to performing the job and had silently made a name for herself even if no one knew what she was doing at the time. Cases disregarded for one reason or another by PBS. She'd taken them on when she had started not for the pay. Pay wasn't to be had. It instead was done for the self satisfaction she'd done the work, solving a case needing attention others thought differently about. These kids were lucky they were getting help off the bat.

It had been a few months into the covert work for PBS when she was discovered in her extra job activities. Chester had thought a second time about accepting a case and as she dove into working on it. He had been starting to do the same. Great minds think alike they'd mutually agreed when the discovery was made in their job paths crossing. Now knowing how PBS had gained satisfied customers, minus its namesake detectives working on their cases. It was a relief to finally understand the minor mystery that had been plaguing the agency to its normally acknowledged employees. He took her on as her mentor when the discovery had been made she'd been playing detective. But there hadn't been a real need to. Chester had decided to step into that role in the belief she could use real training.

When working on their first case together. Shifting between what they'd called Y and Z work times. She had shown him on her Y shift there was very little she still needed to learn about becoming a great detective. He had come into her learning experience on the late side. He felt embarrassed for the assumption since she'd had no formal training, she really needed his help. Although when given the opportunity for advancement, when Jocelyn's hours were waning. When the senior ACME employee had decided it best she step down from her work and hand over the job of ACME's head chief to another. She the chief for the New York City office had turned it down. ACME when it was still primarily based from NYC. She had passed over the promotion and handed it to Chester. Yes, she knew she was good at her work but so was he, and he was also a friend who meant the world to her. He also had beyond slightly longer work history. He also had bachelor's degrees in law enforcement & criminal justice, and had also received police training. Those notes helped build confidence with potential clients knowing those things about him in background.

Their bond in friendship, his knowing what being an investigator meant to her. When it had become evident ACME needed to expand further. That a new office was needed for the agency's headquarters and San Francisco for a multitude of reasons looked like the best choice for the relocation. He'd remembered her sacrifice over position years before. Decided then that while ACME needed him out west, she could take up the reins to the NYC office in his place and be its chief.

Every detective needed to start somewhere. Maybe with guidance this pair would prove themselves on the job. Knowing it was time to start putting that theory to the test. Also remembering should if danger arose she had protection with her. Hopefully no cause would come for need of her taser in her pocketbook. Not normally on hand for defense of the youths, but for herself. Trying to make it clear she was addressing both children, Cheri then stated and requested. "I'm aware of that Ivy but first gumshoes let's review what we know about this case."

Feeling like a pop quiz had just been announced from his teacher which required class verbalized answers. Zack was ready to loudly and proudly recite what he remembered from the case file the trio had read before coming to the club. Realizing because the club could in short time become another victim in the deepening mystery. Plus knowing the criminals causing the mystery were as yet to be identified. He might cause a panic to fellow customers and staff. Further more if the criminal or criminals were present causing the problem Chief Cheri, Ivy and himself were present to investigate. How would they react to hearing their old actions spoken of so freely? Would they run and go after another place another night? Maybe even another club in the same night? What if they decided to get violent hearing details about the case they'd created? He was over thinking things he knew, however in acknowledgement to that he knew such deep thoughts were wise to ponder. Because so far each outcome thought wasn't favorable, he closed his mouth and sheepishly looked to Ivy.

Pinching the bridge of her nose, Ivy proclaimed. "His brain is frozen. It does that sometimes. Chief, this is what I remember I think he likely remembers too. In the last few weeks nightclubs across the San Francisco area have been having a series of strange robberies. Shattered glass and damaged electronic equipment always happens in advance of these heists. That is caused by an ear piercing noise from an unknown location. The sound is prolonged and drives out the club's patrons and staff. No description seems adequate to identify the sound. The only common link between these heists is a band that has preformed at all of them. The band has no known criminal background."

Nodding her head in approval agreement. Cheri corrected Ivy over a single aspect of the summary she'd just given. "It's not a band per se. Only a single performer but a bit of a show woman, so the band mistake is easy to see happening with the lady giving elaborate performances."

Checking to see if the performance stage was gearing up to be used. Not noticing anyone who looked to be a musician. Zack asked softly. "Should we question this performer if they've been robbing the other clubs? If they intend to do that here?"

Steepling her hands together and looking downwards, Cheri paused for a few seconds before replying. "We don't have cops at the ready if the assumption is correct this performer is behind the robberies. She might run if flat out suspicion is voiced to her. Don't say she's a suspect. Even the police feel she holds no ties to the damage and thefts. But she is the only suspect. Dance around the crime in talking to her. Make her feel non-threatened. Something might slip if you play your cards right handling the chat."

How long would it take for the subs to get made up and ready to be served to them? Cold cuts shouldn't take long to prepare for a sandwich. Then again the place had a big crowd in it. Most of the people present had come into the establishment before them. It was an easy assumption most of them had dinner plans cooking out of sight Ivy thought, while thinking about her growling stomach and job duly to perform.

Hunger would be what would drive her. Funny how instinct could make reason nearly take a backseat in thought. She'd with uh, Zack as a team, question the solo performer. She had caught the runt eying the stage not long ago. Sure no one was there at that time. Now however there was. A punk looking young woman maybe in her twenties, tuning up an electric guitar. Could that be her and then an "oh duh" moment struck the teen. No band was present gearing up to perform around the woman. The punk had to be the person she and Zack needed to question.

"I think the target is on stage. Cheri, I'm going in." Ivy stated only to have one of her arms grabbed after getting up from the table.

Now standing behind his sibling, giving an annoyed face, Zack knew what had just happened and it peeved him. His big sister and her lagging memory and if not lagging memory, then memory in needing of an adjustment. Letting go of her arm, he pointed out in question. "Us as a team remember?"

Motioning her head towards the stage before returning her attention to Zack. Ivy replied, "I didn't forget. I just thought you knew by default to follow me."

Giving a soured expression, the boy took in his big sister's words. Not only their up front meaning but also what he personally took them for she wasn't privy to. To make her see things to his idea over their situation, the pre-teen bolted in front of his sister and made a beeline for the club's stage. His rapid advancement while catching Ivy by surprise didn't entirely shock her. As she followed behind him as quickly as the crowd moving through the club allowed her to do.

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systemcat

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What was this Sarah thought as soon as she noticed the company that had sprung up to greet her. Greet her? So thrilling, but these two now in her presence. Were they fans? How could they be? They didn't even look like they should be in a place designed for a 21 and over crowd of patrons. Still they didn't look like the sort ready to throw the old fashioned idea of rotten produce at her. A nice change of pace. Maybe they needed help with something? Like locating their parents in the crowd?

Unsure what to make of Zack followed by Ivy, to soon standing side by side. At an elevated level by three feet on the stage. Sarah bent down to the pair to try and find out what was prompting her little visitation. Giving a grin that only reflected part of her mood. The mood hoping the kids were fans. She addressed both of them asking, "are you guys lost?"

Suddenly taking on the role of playing an actor. A forced idea, Zack thought considering he couldn't flat out tell the woman why he was meeting with her. With broad gestures to accompany his words to try and emphasize them, he stated. "Not at all. I, my sis and I. We're fans. We wanted to meet with you. It's an honor for once to get this close. We've been keeping to the sidelines out of sight. Places like this you know?"

Some action had to be taken. Yes, he had handled that right but well? How would the suspect react? Surely she couldn't suspect Zack was up to something. Although if she did. Ivy smiled while mouth shut chewed the inside of her lip. Extending a hand in greeting, hoping for the best. The suspect musician gladly took it to then say. "I've waited so long for people like you two to come along. Fans are, wow this is amazing. Would you like my autograph? Only my manager ever tells me about the talent and potential I have. You're a welcome first outside her."

Removing her hand from the warm shake, concerned, Ivy questioned. "You aren't alone here?"

"Of course not. Carmen books all my shows and talks with the right people. She's likely talking to the main guys of this place right now to get me in another night." Sarah told the kids to only then start to scan out to the crowd beyond the young detectives. Talking to herself under her breath, she added. "You dress almost as eye catching as me. Where are you Carmen?"

"What makes her stand out in a place like this? We're really observant. Maybe we can help you locate her?" Zack asked, before switching around his head, looking out at the throng of people going about their various activities to try and enjoy the night. None of the people looked the suspicious sort to him which didn't help his search. Returning his attention to the solo musician. He tried to give a pleading look that he didn't want sympathy for. Only unspoken understanding, he wanted to know a description of this Carmen person's appearance. It worked because soon after he'd started his silent question in addition to his vocally asked ones. The punk answered at least his first one posed.

"Red, lossa red. Her hat, buts got a little yella in it. A coat that I'm sure she must not wear sometimes of the year. It's almost always with her. Long almost trenchie-style."

Finally spotting the subject of conversation sitting at a different table than the one last seen at. She was talking to a man in formal attire, but formal only for style. The siblings were sure suits weren't normally made in blue slash purple iridescent cotton silk. The lady being referred to as Carmen now stood out to them but her ink black hair. She was talking to the man and neither at the table noticed the kids or their company on stage until, Sarah shouted. "Come meet these guys Carmen, Ms. Sandiego! I got fans!"

Stopping her conversation to make a dismissive hand gesture about what was being proposed. The more senior of the VILE agents present didn't think it was important that the agent with a little less seniority than herself had gotten herself a pair music appreciation supporters. Both VILE agents were now a bit miffed but for different reasons. Carmen for the interruption she'd just gotten for no good reason. Sarah for not getting what she expected of the more experienced agent joining her at the stage by her.

"And she says she thinks she can get me booked for the Metal-Rocks Music-fest '92. I'll be famous by then right?" The punk asked the first half of her statement said to no one in particular. The second half of her address, her question to the pair of kids before her. Only one kid fully paying attention to her. The girl, older of the two. The other kid, the boy wasn't paying attention to anything. His mind looked to be a drift.

Putting her hands on the rim of the stage and trying to come across as having an air of understanding to the woman who looked a little distressed. Also taking note again of her outfit. That aside from its contrasting color scheme. A part of it was glowing and not the fancy clip in her hair. Curious about the neon glow shortly before the lady's head, Ivy said. "I'm sure you will be. Say, that's a neat choker you have. Do the lights and batteries hurt pressing against your neck like that?"

Keeping her focus on the kid not paying attention to her, Sarah replied. "LED lights, they're so small they don't bother me. The electronics they're hooked into. I can take a little discomfort to dazzle-wow people. Say has your companion lost interest in me? I thought you guys might like autographs and stuff."

Nudging Zack, Ivy looked to her bother wondering what was preoccupied his mind. Was their first case and clue hunting interrogation somehow boring him? She had an opinion about his attention span but knew a lot of that thought was simply a fun poke at him being younger and more prone to distraction. The kid could put his mind to things when he wanted to and school was the best example of that despite his protests.

Noting being lightly prodded by Ivy, Zack commented while hooking a thumb away from her and the suspect. "Autographs would be totally rad, sis. Say mind if I skip? I have to take care of something a bit private?"

In a controlled fall on to her butt to the stage, Sarah remarked wide eyed at the boy. "Too much information kid. You take care of what you need to. I'm going to go behind stage and to my dressing room. I've got mugshots & sharpies back there. Sister, you pick the shots you like best and I'll sign them 'k?"

Feeling he'd been given non-verbal permission to leave, Zack started heading away from the stage. Before getting even a few yards away, Ivy noted to him. "Please don't use sis on me and make it quick. Cheri, wants us together remember?"

Now it was his turn to wave off the ladies at the stage. Not a way to treat an important celebrity, Sarah thought in annoyance for getting two brush a ways in the last couple minutes. At least the boy's sister was more polite. Dismissing the younger kid from her sight. The VILE agent righted her positioning on the floor and got up to standing. Smiling, plus hoping her body language wasn't seen in anyway rude compared to what she'd just had happen in disappointment. She didn't want to disappoint the teen still enthusiastic to be in her company, with giving a curtsy motion. Then walking backwards before turning around to face the direction she was heading, she stated. "Wait here. I'll be right back."

Within a few minutes the VILE agent had returned to the stage with exactly as promised. Eight by ten prints, mostly in black and white, plus red & blue sharpie markers and a gold paint pen, all fine tipped. Only mild concern went through Sarah's mind not seeing the boy had returned from taking care of his personal business.

As Ivy started to finger through the photos of the musician in trying to select one photo that she wondered could be converted to being a true mugshot. That thought she knew a bit wrong in the sense she knew the woman on stage was only a suspect to crime unproven as of yet she had committed. She wondered why Zack was taking his time getting back to her.

Had the middle schooler decided instead to return to the table Cheri was at? Their table couldn't be seen well from Ivy's viewpoint near the performance stage. People dining and moving about. Lighting to the place more done for atmosphere than convenience. She knew just before she'd started looking through the suspect's photos, Chief Cheri was at the table with someone but a good look had not been taken in. The person wasn't Zack that was for sure. Maybe the person being met with was of the desired management staff she had asked to speak with earlier?

He couldn't have gotten in trouble. This wasn't the sort of place she had ever considered him wanting to be in. No arcade games or school friends to meet up with. Wherever Zack had gotten off to unless something Ivy suspected was wrong in the men's john. A place she couldn't enter anyway. It was an easy bet he was getting bored and would soon return to being in view again. Otherwise she couldn't picture him attempting to walk back to their new home. She had paid attention in the car how they'd gotten from the house to the club. Major doubt existed he had paid attention the same way.

"Found one you like? I'm sorry some are in B and W. It's only recently money's gotten a bit better for allowing affording things like this." Sarah asked and stated while her body language spoke of something unsaid and eager in movement.

A money situation only recently improved. Lots of people could possibly say the same thing. That wouldn't help to determine if the musician was a criminal. Although still it didn't hurt to file away such spoken information for later thought musings. What about the punk looking woman did strike Ivy as a matter she felt she could freely ask about was her fidgety movements. Picking a photo that had been developed in color showing the suspect looking up, one arm up with its hand in a reaching pose. The woman was in her performance outfit like she was currently wearing although this looked like it could have been used for a mock-up of an album cover. Her reached up hand going for a microphone presumably either tossed up into the air before the shot or having just been dropped from a high position somewhere, ready for her to catch it. Making sure to separate the photo from the pack of other shots, Ivy said. "I like this one the most. It looks like it has a lot of meaning attached to it. Is something the matter? Are you ok? Your movements."

Torn between thoughts of priority as to where exactly she should be just then. Tending to a fan or preparing for grand presentation. Her movements because of that becoming more active. Sarah knowing at least one priority could be wrapped up fast. Quickly scribbled her name in flamboyant cursive across part of the lower half of the teenager's preferred photo of her, using the gold paint pen. Trying to remain fully polite in how she sounded, Sarah answered. "Very fine, it's just I gotta start my show real soon. If I don't wrap this up. You aren't offended right? Like you, like my music? My music it well, it brings in the cash."

"Not offended, I look forward to your concerts. I'll just pop back to the table I should be at. Thank you for the autograph. My brother is going to be so jealous he's missed out." Ivy, replied keeping eye contact with the suspect through the first half of her words. To then turn her attention to finding her way back to her seat next to Cheri. Walking through the club to the seat, she could better see who the New York City Chief was sitting across from at the table.

This person wasn't dressed as formally as the person this manager named Carmen was with. The person Cheri was talking to looked just as well dressed as either the wait staff or the bouncer at the door. Just normal clothes and an ID tag showing the club's logo by the name. Disappointed the old detective apparently wasn't getting to speak with her wanted company. Ivy also acknowledged in dismay a presence missing she had hoped to find at the table. Zack was still not present.

Sandwiches uneaten and drinks almost untouched. Hers and Zack's sitting with ice floating near the rim of the glasses, soda still lightly fizzing. Cheri had decided not to start eating yet, probably in respect to her trainees on duly not sitting with her at the table. Her drink was a different story she had already started into what Ivy was sure had to be her alternate drink choice of tea. If it wasn't tea then the people claiming it was orange soda had major problems of perception in what it should normally look like.

Starting to have a twitch of fear enter her brain wondering where her brother could be as she sat down looking at his uneaten meal. Noticing a break in the conversation Cheri was having with the staff member of the club. Ivy interrupted into the chat with, "Cheri, have you seen Zack around here?"

The pause in talk with the club employee with need now becoming a longer one. Cheri being worried did show on her face by a mild fraction, as she responded calmly. "You should have more faith in him. I'm sure nothing is wrong. At least nothing yet."

Continuing her dialogue with the club employee. She then added, "alert me or any representative of ACME if you see anything of ill suspect happen here tonight. You remember who Miss. Lamberton and myself already believe could be behind those robberies we're investigating?"

Suddenly the lighting dimmed all around the club with a single exception. The performance stage now in addition to white lights bathing it, was now joined with blue and green lights doing the same. Shouting being done into a microphone from an unseen presence. Who was shouting wasn't even a guess. Ivy knew that voice now and so did the club employee at the table. Answering Cheri's question he said. "Harbor Moon's talent tonight. I pray her shouting her introduction to the stage isn't a preview of what's to come. I assume Miss. Lamberton is the underage at the table here. Who is this Zack person? Another under twenty-one?"

Replies given to the question were answered non-verbally. Cheri nodding yes and Ivy not answering the question but thinking about the matter differently than how she was being prompted to say. Having started to unsheathe her straw for her soda, removing the thin sheath of paper wrapping. She pounded the plastic straw against the table to shake it free its wrapping. Zack wasn't present, she was his older sister and therefore it was her responsibility to look out for him. She was all he really had now. Yes, there were other relatives but none close. There was Chester, her new guardian but he wasn't even related to them.

Feeling his time of use to the older detective as at an end. Also certain the teen wasn't to be socialized with as she batted her drink straw against the table. The club employee gave a soft smile he hoped senior ACME employee would take correctly of saying in silence he had to leave her presence before exiting sitting at the table.

Still trying to settle her nerves and ripping off the remainder of the straw wrapper she had freed of it's inter holdings. Speaking to herself but also meaning to address Cheri at the same time. Shouting to be heard over the single singer performance cover of Wardance, Ivy said. "I'm too excited right now to think straight. Zack is likely just mingling among people in the crowd."

-----
 

systemcat

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Listening to what could almost be called singing wasn't helping Zack just then. He was more curious to hear better what noise was taking place at the table he was at. Better stated the table he was underneath. Slipping under the table unnoticed by anyone made him grateful for not only his size, but distracted patrons and the fact the table only had two occupied chairs to it. The unused space from empty seating came as a blessing to him. Not so much a blessing although to the man sitting at the table with the woman of interest. He owned the place from what the pre-teen could tell eavesdropping on him. True the place was packed, this manager by the way he spoke always wanted better, more for his establishment. So empty chairs were likely not a sight he enjoyed. Neither still the lady performing on stage.

The manager to the musician. The suspect's manager, this Sandiego lady. Her whole conversation with the club's manager so far had been nothing but trying to build up her representing talent's image to him. Plus trying to convince him he needed her for more than one night's performance. It wasn't working. The music being belted out was familiar, not original, all covers. Songs he'd heard on the radio over time. All of them sang here in a way he was sure would make his music teacher cringe in horror and issue a grade to the performances lower than a "D".

Empty chairs and what felt like empty promises he was sure that's how the club manager saw Ms. Sandiego's talk of her talent for hire. The man wasn't pleased and as it became apparent the woman was realizing this too. Zack could only hope he was guessing things right not being able to see their expressions. She did something the boy couldn't figure out.

She had reached into her handbag and produced something, placing it, sticking it to the underside of the table. The act had been done intentionally covertly; Zack was sure with the woman's hands and pocketbook beneath the table. With such secrecy used, the club manager had not noticed her actions.

Bringing himself nearer to the object while trying to be mindful of not hitting people's legs under the table. Zack tried to make out what it could be besides sticky, also glowing. Whatever it was either had glow paint on it, infused into it, or was powered by small batteries. It reminded him of gum with its odd compact shape not adhered to the table's underside. The part sticking to the table was smooth. Pretty and strange. No one would fault him for grabbing and pocketing it right? The strange plastic gum-thing glowing. It could be considered evidence of some kind if this Sandiego woman working with the suspect. If both were actually guilty? If it wasn't evidence then maybe a cool souvenir taken home from this night out.

At hearing the noise of one of the chairs near by him being pulled outwards from the table, the boy froze in place. Thoughts of that he'd somehow just been discovered under the table going through his mind. Then were blasted away when he heard the club manager speak. Nothing about a kid under the table about to pocket a glowing object stuck to it. He was talking about having heard enough and that Sarah Nade would have to look elsewhere for regular shows. Reply was given from the singer's manager. Polite acceptance but with a swiping comment to end their chat of Miss. Nade's fame was on the rise and that he would do better not to dismiss her so fast.

Metal sliding backwards across a smooth wooden floor. Zack had no thoughts of panic while the lady got up from her seat. He was sure now neither adult had noticed his presence. Bearing that thought in mind with a little effort to detach the sticky object from the underside of the table. Before placing it in his pocket though he thought it would be wise to exam the thing. It looked like it contained some kind of electronics. To be fastened to a surface out of sight or at least normal eyesight. What a waste he thought. Finally placing it in one of the inter pockets of his jacket. All the better for a glowing thing not to be noticed by curious gawkers. He considered making his presence known.

Not to the second possible suspect or guy he musically sympathized with. Only the company he'd come in with he was sure had to be wondering where he was. Ivy had to have been going nuts with worry for him being in a place like this minus an adult by his side. It was true Cheri was an adult but she was a cool adult who knew to trust him. Although if he got up too soon. If he was spotted by the pair of people who had just left the table. That could bear badly on him. Neither might take kindly to his presence and the fact he'd been eavesdropping on them if they figured that out? Also if one wondered about if he'd discovered the strange object she'd left under the table. The guess it could be evidence of some kind. He didn't what to discover what her reaction might be to that.

He couldn't stay where he was although there was something he could do to fix his predicament. He'd stuck halfway to the location he was in. He'd only ducked out of sight a few yards off from the table he was now hiding beneath. Why not do similar to leave? Do a reverse and stay low & sneaking until he was relatively near the table he had to be at.

Last song sung, silence of music. The atmosphere changed then in the club as he mentally ran through his game plan of table exit. The only thing breaking his attention for a moment was hearing someone; somewhere in the club giving a few claps to the singer he'd met earlier. Also the person who was of interest to ACME. Chief Cheri would be pleased with him for having gotten so close to the new suspect ACME hadn't known about. Now to get to the New Yorker and maybe stop his sister from having unjustified anxiety for his welfare.

Trying to move undetected now felt like a challenge and a dare people he knew from school might try to place on him. With a few notable exceptions to it since circumstance here was different. No admiration from peers for success if he succeeded. No prizes given to the same reasoning as the first. Nah, all he'd get for his effort was relief from fear of being caught. When entering a few steps from the table where he knew his fellow company to be an odd but reasonable thought went through his mind about his secretive journeys. That while he prized his army jacket being worn just then. Why wasn't it in camo colors? The army was big on making clothes that way right? Being camouflaged would have helped him more than once this evening. His trips through the throng of people, twice.

Aside from asking Leon about why soldiers weren't issued standard camo jackets in the Middle East where he'd recently served. Zack also had an idea he knew he was confusing to the idea of what a camo pattern was but thought it was a neat idea to present to the army anyway. What about clothes that made you invisible? That would be a real game changer for the military. But could such a thing even be possible? A thought better left unattempted right now. Invisible clothes sounded like an idea worth investing in but he didn't think it could happen. At least in a practical way.

Jumping up behind Ivy's chair he joyously asked, "miss me!?"

Ivy shook in almost jumping at hearing the pair of words. Her little brother vanished for over twenty minutes now showing up. He was happy he'd caused her distress? Wishing she could deliver some choice words to him about his absence. Remembering how Cheri wanted both children to get along with each other in teamwork. Figuratively biting her tongue. In reply to his question she grabbed his sub and held it up for him. Keeping an even voice she then said, "we should be getting out of here now. Eat it fast; remember Cheri's rental car isn't an eating place. We've chatted about that matter before with her other visits to San Francisco, it still applies now."

"Where were you? I was starting to worry," Cheri asked.

Tempted to reach right over Ivy's shoulders to grab at his paper wrapped sub. Zack chose instead to move around her and snatch it from her hand gripping it. His body leaning into the table while doing the act to then revert to a better standing position once he'd gotten his meal. Starting to work away the tape bound to the paper covering the hoagie. He replied, "close eavesdropping on the new suspect."

It took half a second for it to occur Ivy what had taken place. Although the exact method her little brother had used to eavesdrop without arousing suspicion. That was a mystery to her needing clearing up. His current table manners. To those and the mystery, she then voiced, "we have to go but eat sitting down, ok? Also how did you eavesdrop on this Carmen person? This is a packed house. She for sure would have noticed you staring at her from some chair you would have been lucky to get so close to her."

Not feeling like sitting down upon being prompted. Zack tried to wolf down his sub, almost finishing the task. To then holding the remainder of his sandwich in one hand with a now empty mouth, he said. "Under the table no one noticed me."

Getting the unspoken question answered about the effect of taking in a four inch sub nearly all at once. The New York City Chief saw the boy make his way over to what had been his seat. To then lift up to down a good sized gulp of his glass of soda. Leaning backwards in her chair to then review a slip of paper in one hand. The receipt of sale from the trio's dinning.

She placed the paper on to the table to then take hold of her pocketbook for its purse inside. In the process of counting out the money needed to cover the meal nearly finished, Cheri questioned. "And what did you get from this eavesdropping of Sarah Nade's manager?"

Putting his hands in his outside jacket pockets. One hand from inside the fabric felt for what the pre-teen knew was inside the interior pocket nearest it. Fingering the odd object but with his view focused on the old woman, Zack replied. "Her manager, Sandiego. She didn't make a good case for rehiring Sarah Nade for more performances here. Also I got the glowing gum wad she left under the table."

Neither lady was sure what to say in reply the boy's statement. It wasn't the useful information catching the chief and fellow trainee off guard. It was the gross part as they saw it. Gross and hoping it had different meaning than what her brother had described to it. The flavorless rubbery remainder of a treat that had been in a person's mouth. The high schooler was glad she had a much different thought process then him. She was also glad that when she had been his age, she had done no act as disgusting as what he claimed he had done.

His hands buried in his pockets, one hand maybe fingering around the gum wad. Ivy was grateful for Cheri's newly created distraction as the chief got up from the seat she'd been sitting at. Bill and money placed on the table, the girl hadn't noticed those actions taking place. Her supervising company ready to leave the nightclub. Those things were a good prompt to her to do the same and try to put her brother's newly acquired revolting object out of her mind.

"We're leaving now. Take your last bite and put nothing but fresh food in your gut for the rest of the night. I don't want you making me lose what I just properly took in." Ivy commented getting up from her seat, making sure after doing so to not forget her new autographed picture. Picking it up and giving it a second hard stare from the first she'd given it when it was still unsigned. She thought over her memento of the night. Hers was at least presentable. It could be used by the law somehow if this Sarah Nade person actually was guilty. But if she wasn't. If the singer were innocent, if her manager was as well. Then the photo was just as good a keepsake as the chewed gum. Stage high up, lights, eager onlookers, ready listeners, and a slot of time to show ability. A minute or so of taste indulgence, a flash of excitement across the tongue. Enjoyment for brief periods.
 

systemcat

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Chapter 7:​


There was a chill in the open night air the trio noticed walking through the parking lot of the club. Empty of people now except for them. Zack could be heard shivering as he attempted to conceal the sound from his fellow company as they approached the rental car. Before coming within a yard of the Ford, Ivy broke into the near silence, asking, "can I drive us back?"

Already having her key ready for the door to the driver's side. Cheri eyed Ivy then the key and accompanying vehicle. Once reaching a decision with hesitancy coming out in a sigh before words. The seasoned detective started for the girl to hand her the key, saying. "We go straight to Chester's. No speeding. No stunts."

Accepting the key nodding and smiling, Ivy assured the chief as she made her way to the front driver's side door. While Cheri made her way to the foremost passenger door. "I would never do anything to harm my chances for a full driver's license. It's the runt you'll have to worry about in a few years."

Too caught up in the thought of wanted warmth, pondering in addition why his jacket wasn't doing much to help him. Zack only glared at Ivy as she opened up the car door she needed to enter the rental. The scorn in his look to her, not caught he was sure. She just then only seemed really interested in satisfying her urge to show off driving, or practicing driving she'd openly call it. At least it had a side effect he was grateful for. With a click from inside the door, the senior Lamberton had just opened. She had released the locks on all the car's doors to allow him entrance to the sedan and out of the cool nearly autumn night.

Slipping into the backseat spot he'd used earlier in the car. Buckling his seatbelt, Zack checked his wristwatch for the time by the use of a button he considered handy. That being its function was lighting up the face of the timepiece through a small light positioned at the twelve mark of the face. 11:24 pm it read. A proud accomplishment considering his normal bedtime was nine pm. Aside from it being into two hours past his normal bedtime. Just seeing what time it was caused something other than pride with him. A yawn he tried to hold back so as to not alert either lady in the front of the car, the evening time was having an effect on him.

How those up front in the car were taking the late evening was different. Neither showed signs of needing caffeine. Especially his sister. Ivy seemed thrilled about the opportunity she was being given. Driving a car she normally never had the chance to, also some of that enthusiasm. It had to have been coming off of what he too was being granted the opportunity for. Working a case for ACME.

Remembering the fact uncovering mission he was on. That paired with the time he was now trying to pretend didn't actually matter. While the car they all were in was guided out of the parking by its novice driver. Zack queried, "shouldn't we do some more investigating tonight? Now is when the other robbed clubs are open for business. We could find out facts from their staff not in the case file information."

There was a note unsaid to the question asked and Ivy wanted to give an eye roll about that. Driving the car, and also being mindful not to unsettle Cheri, who was being a step shy of a backseat driver to her without words. She waited until she had gotten on to 3rd street before she felt comfortable enough in her night driving to speak up. "I know you have a test in school tomorrow. I think we've done enough for tonight. Don't you agree Chief?"

No longer concentrating her attention fixedly to the teen's driving she knew she was overreacting to. Cheri attempted to glance the girl's brother in the backseat of the car, which she learned had him well out of her sight. The fact it was Wednesday going into Thursday soon had not dawned on her in the sense she knew it should have when they'd all started out earlier in the evening. The pair of siblings still being school age, what a thing to have slipped her mind. Especially since she had helped pick up both from their respected schools in the afternoon at Chester's insistence.

Oh well she thought smoothing a hand over her seatbelt, felting it to give herself peace of mind to the safety it afforded her. This whole thing she was doing for the kids to their knowledge was a luxury opportunity for both of them to grow. Not babysitting. If either of the children realized that fact to her being with them, neither had voiced that observation. Although still wanting to remind them, at least one of them there was a responsible adult in the car. One whose job to them wasn't just as a work adviser and orderer. Knowing Zack needed a mental nudge towards a matter she had been unaware of until Ivy had last spoken. Cheri asked her, "what is this test on?"

"International geography," she replied while noticing a turn needed was coming up in the drive. Ivy activated the signal light for the right blinker to indicate intent. The New York City Chief again motioned her head towards the boy in the backseat. To then after taking a pause in thought, spoke.

"Advance quiz time Zachary since its good for any detective to have a well rounded education. What is the capital of Canada? Montreal, Calgary or Ottawa?"

He almost slunk into his seat and put his feet up on the backing to Cheri's seat, hearing her. The only thing preventing him from doing so is he knew that would be rude. He was also ticked off Ivy had to go open her mouth about his coming schoolwork. Feeling lucky he'd actually taken an interest in learning information about the neighboring countries. Zack answered, "Ottawa."

"That's good," Cheri replied to then having her next quiz question come to mind. Continuing with that she said, "next question: when was Israel founded?"

Answering that question gave the pre-teen a sinking gut feeling he only until now had experienced in the classroom. He didn't know the answer. Worse yet he was being called out to give knowledge he didn't have. At least he wasn't with his fourteen other peers in an actual classroom right now. The only person who truly knew his embarrassment for lack of studying was his big sister. Israel had not ever been a focus in class before. He only knew it existed in the Middle East and had a strong religious association to it. Jewish right?

Grateful neither woman could see his expression of shame. Knowing he couldn't even grasp at a straw in guessing fact, Zack replied. "I don't know. I'm sorry. Um, next question? Could the focus be on Mexico maybe?"

The next sound wasn't Cheri or Ivy. Not another car or something outside. It came from inside the Ford and it was loud. So loud, ear piercing, uneven and unlike anything he had ever heard. Zack's reaction to it was futilely covering both his ears. Cheri's reaction almost a mirror his, with one hand clapping against the side of her head with her other tensely gripped the rim of the car door nearest her, at where it met the window. Ivy's reaction was a sharp inhale of breath and a near loss of control driving the rental as its windows shattered outwards.

After several agonizing minutes the strange sound that happened without a check to a watch for duration length. It finished its assault. During the disruption caused, the trio had luck that at the screeching of sudden brake use in a swerve to the side of the road, no cars were hit or even the road's barrier. Panting in panic, wide-eyed. Ivy gave a second and longer inhale before a drawn out exhale, this time to relaxing if ever so slightly in panic about what had just happened. Cheri, her expression the same but with hands over her chest. Zack in utter fear, so stunned he didn't know what to do except look at the shattered glass that had managed to fall within the car's backseat. Knowing to avoid touching it, he shouted. "I'm sorry, I don't know the answer!"

Shaken Ivy was now coming to a similar state of mind as her brother. Although not for the same reason. She had been driving. Car accidents happened all the time and only safe drivers could prevent them from happening. Safety first, that was written on a poster in the room where her Driver's Education class was held. She considered herself a good example to that even if being overcautious was something she was told she was doing. Even her teacher knew she over thought driving habits she was trying to engrain into herself. Relax common sense stuff. I'm sure you'll do fine. Words like that had been uttered to her. Here, tonight what had she done wrong? What had happened? The sound, what had happened here?

"I don't what happened! What did I do wrong? I - I did as I sho -," Ivy couldn't bring herself to say she'd done everything as she should. She just didn't know what had taken place. Driving normal. Night driving. She hadn't driven at night before. The latest until now had been entering dusk. Dusk, that drive had happened weeks ago. Could she have missed some important safety measure she had known to follow back then? The sound, what had that been? Something inside the car?

The sound, it had disrupted things. The noise had stirred things up in a bad way. It had also not happened at a business. Shattered glass and an odd high pitched noise. That had happened with the robberies. But how could it have happened here if it were the same thing? Cheri thought on these things before an unorthodox answer occurred to her. A picture was harmless. Nothing was out of the ordinary about that. What the boy had taken away as a souvenir. Now she suspected what he had grabbed, he had only been giving a description to not truly fitting of what it was. But what could it be?

"Zack," Cheri said starting to calm herself. Not even turning her head to the direction she knew he was in. Shifting forward then upturning backwards slightly one hand, moved it towards the boy unseen. She tried to have it inviting to an offering from him.

Tears already having started to form out his eyes, the middle schooler wasn't sure what to do. What had he done was not be able to answer a question. Staring at Cheri's awaited palm, he didn't know what to do and waited for an answer. She'd tell him he needed to study more. That was connected to the outreached hand right? How exactly was his lack of knowledge to blame for what had just happened? Fear kept him from asking and as the senior detective realized what was going on, she continued speaking. "Zack let me see that glowing gum of yours."

Stocked to be asked a request not even remotely close to what he'd been thinking about. So much for reading up for a fifth period test. Slowly he reached into his inside jacket pocket he knew to contain what he'd grabbed while in the club. As he lifted out the object a new detail about it came to light. Light was no longer emanating from it. The thing looked like a random piece of garbage not lit. Also he noticed it didn't seem to have a sticky underside anymore. Was the second observation the result of rubbing against fabric as opposed to rubbing up against hard plastic? He didn't know. He further more was puzzled as to why Chief Cheri wanted the thing from him.

When he had started placing the thing in her outreached hand, he too had a revelation about what had just happened. He had grabbed the thing believing it could if these people Sarah Nade and Carmen Sandiego persons were guilty. It could be considered evidence of some kind. It could he believed Cheri could be believing. It could have been the cause behind what had just happened. Had the thing been vibrating in his pocket during the noise? He'd felt something. Zack wasn't sure. The event had been overwhelming and he was still feeling shaken from it.

Currently the object belonged in the old woman's palm that just taken hold of it. She was grateful it felt nothing like the description the kid had assigned it. The kid, he now wanted it back to study its details but knew that couldn't be on the horizon at least for the moment. As soon as it felt convenient, he'd ask for the thing back from her.

Only Ivy wasn't paying attention to what had just transpired. She was in her own world sitting in the driver's seat and a criminal case being investigated wasn't part of that. Her world just then was reviewing over and over all her actions taken so far in the car. Thinking about every soft touch of the gas or brake pedal. The signs and lights she'd encountered. Other drivers on the road. What constituted her knowledge, her ability to drive a vehicle. What happened, what it said about what she knew. Cheri, what did Cheri think of her now?

Distressed and trying to show the senior ACME employee she could hold herself together better than she had a couple minutes ago. She glanced to the detective sitting beside her. Cheri didn't seem too concerned about what the teen had done. She was trying to closely observe, what was that she was holding? Staring at the dark object held in the chief's hand. Ivy then started to try focusing on part of the picture of now she had not before. Had she heard Cheri ask about Zack's found gum? The old lady was holding gum in her left hand?

Using her right hand Cheri reached up to try and turn on the over head light. It was true Ivy thought the over head light had no place being on while on the road. Then again they weren't moving. Also the light didn't want to seem to cooperate with the New Yorker. It turned on for a split second before turning it's self off. The switch to the light wasn't to blame. What likely was to blame was, oh god. The high schooler thought over again what had just happened. Fear rose when not the absent in working overhead light illuminated rental's interior but red and blue ones flashing did instead.
 

systemcat

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A police car was now on the shoulder of the road with the Ford rental, close up behind it. It's driver stepping out and looking around, then when noticing the crunch beneath his feet approaching the rental. Gabriel Owens grabbed from the side of his belt a flashlight. To turn it on and peer at the car before him & also shards of glass all over the ground.

Ivy wondered if he could tell she felt she had just gone pale at the sight of him. How strong was the man's flashlight? Strong enough it got a reaction the cop was caught off guard by when he was within a couple feet of the car. Motioning with right hand for the officer to more approach her, she asked him. "Could you shine that thing to my hand here? The overhead isn't working anymore."

The senior ACME employee while asking the question changed her right hand motions from the officer. As he the intended focus, to then pointing at her left hand still gripping Zack's souvenir. The cop didn't know what to say to the lady's request. Although for lack of words entering his mind about what had been asked of him, he had noticed in advance she was not sitting in the driver's sit. That was being filled by a teenager looking stunned and fearful. Would she not ask him the unexpected? Remembering normal protocol on the scene of an accident. Further more also remembering the odd thing he'd just been asked to do given an accident had clearly just occurred. Wondering if substances had been taken in, before the accident. The officer asked Ivy, "feeling impaired to the ability to drive this evening? Miss, I'm going to have to see your ID."

Knowing she had to comply with the man's request and feeling her chances of a full driver's license slipping away. Ivy pulled out from her pocket her change purse containing her school in conjuncture with the local state issued paper card ID that showed she had a learning driver's permit. When she held it out to the officer she decided it was best she state. "I don't know what happened. I assure you I was doing everything I learned was right."

As Gabriel examined the teen's ID, Cheri added in fast after her front seat charge's comment. "Officer, we're with the ACME Detective Agency. We were just coming back home from some fact finding to an investigation when a massive disruption happened."

Satisfied with collected information after having jotted down specifics in a notepad. Using a pen he had produced with the notepad from his shirt pocket beneath his badge. To returning the girl's driver's permit ID to its owner. Still feeling unsure about what exactly had taken place the policeman shown his light on the girl, then woman and then sensing there was yet one more presence. He shined his flashlight towards the backseat of the car, hitting Zack in the face, making the pre-teen blink at its high lumens. After making a fast sigh in the contentment the officer was now sure he knew how many people occupied the scene of the accident at its source. He wondered on the truth of what he'd just been told. He had heard of ACME before. He knew fellow officers who had claimed to have worked with the agency before. If the old woman was to be believed, he needed proof with asking, "madam I would like to see your ID too."

Pocketing the odd object not long ago she had been attempting to observe the details of it. She then bent down in her seat to where her feet were and lifted up her pocketbook to be held in her lap. To pull from it the purse it contained. Handing the clutch to him, she said. "You'll find my badge is the first card in there."

Her words had checked out, at least in the sense of her working for ACME. Still feeling skeptical of the older lady's statement, the officer asked. "What sort of massive disruption? The only report I've come across tonight of a disturbance happened a few miles from here and it wasn't involving a vehicle."

Suspicion welling up with thoughts clicking together fast. Cheri's mind leaped to wondering if the Harbor Moon nightclub was the source of the disturbance report. If the assumption was correct about Zack's souvenir. That it was the cause behind what had just split everyone's' eardrums in half, shattered windows, and damaged the car's electrical system some. But suspicion now had doubt mixing with it. How could the trinket have caused damage to the club if indeed that had happened, if the object were here in the car? She wanted to press the cop for details but knew she mustn't. At least not now. Not well inside the eleven o'clock hour. She wasn't working this case alone. The case's other investigators were with her and they should have been in bed by now.

Also she knew Chester wouldn't be pleased and in all likelihood would become even more frightened for the children if he knew what had just happened. Because of the kids and also knowing the San Francisco Chief as well as she did. She knew she couldn't haul them with her to the local police station tonight to try and get answers about the other disturbance. Things could wait until tomorrow. Besides that she knew it was also noteworthy the car no longer had a windshield, or windows or question. She glanced at the mirrors and indeed those too had been fractured from the strange noise disruption.

The car was now unsafe to drive. Letting out a sigh and motioning to the officer she wanted her purse back. She asked, "could you order a tow for the car to the nearest convenient mechanic garage? Enterpass won't be happy with me if I return this thing damaged."

"I'm sorry," Ivy then said as she leaned into the steering wheel to rest her head against its high rim.

He hadn't known before the old woman had mentioned it, the car being driven was a rental. The cop hadn't thought to call into the station to request information on the plates it had. The girl he'd seen her driver's permit ID, she was local. The ACME employee, she was from the other side of the country. The boy he had no clue about but wondered if the kid was connected to the girl. Whatever they had decided to take on for a case had to be in an interesting way worth it to result in the unexplainable as of yet damage to the rental. Further questioning was needed about this whole ordeal, but before Gabriel could say a word, Cheri asked. "Could you drop off both junior members at 2000 Funston Ave in the Golden Gate Heights? Me at the Lexington on Santa Helena Ave, by the airport? I'll answer as best I can any questions you have at the local office for ACME. Just don't talk about this car incident in front of its governing chief, please."

This bunch affiliated with ACME were interesting or at least the one most vocal of them was. The group, they didn't appear drunk, on drugs or both. The driver, the girl had a breakdown but not in a concerning fashion. It was understandable. Gabriel also had an inward bet she'd never on purpose cause an accident. Whatever the senior member of the group was concerned with as to the locally employed ACME chief. The cop was sure had to be a compelling topic for later discussion. Protocol in a position it normally wasn't in. Of under normal circumstance further questioning had to be conducted right then. As to the abnormal things to position. That of a fellow law enforcer being part of the source of an accident reported and needing transport for those she was leading. Knowing at least one further responsibility from him had to be conducted before he dared grant the woman her request, he queried. "Are any of you hurt?"

His flashlight shined on Ivy first. She didn't look at it directly but certainly knew it was there. She was starting to feel slightly better. The officer had said nothing at this point to indicate he was going to get her permit license revoked. He seemed puzzled and concerned. Nothing about how he was presenting himself now to her sounded alarm to bad future actions. Knowing his light on her was a prompt for her to speak up to his question generalized to the three in the car. She answered him with, "rattled, not hurt."

Moving the flashlight on to the chief sitting in the passenger seat. Cheri said without hesitation. "I'm fine but as I said earlier. I doubt the car rental company will be happy about this."

Zack had started to speak up before the flashlight had fully leveled on to him. He was still in shock but that was starting to fade away. It was still forefront in his brain although now he had other things to think about. Like wanting to get back his souvenir to examine it and maybe take it apart. Also if the cop did do Chief Cheri's request, how easily could Ivy and himself sneak into Chester's house. No their house, without Chester noticing the fact they were coming home by. He hoped a cab. Cabs didn't have flashing lights. "Very good, fine. Please if you do help let it be a cab?"

The officer had been guessed that he might follow through with the ACME chief's request. Helping them all out. That was why he'd signed up to the police force to begin with, helping people. These people were victims of something which had totaled all things easily breakable to their ride. Victims needing further questioning and help. Gabriel handing back Cheri's purse with her ID card placed back inside it, stated. "I know a convenience store still open at this hour. I can call a pair of yellow cabs to take you people to where you need to be."

Returning his gaze and flashlight attention to fully being on Cheri, he then added. "And tomorrow at ACME's local office between 10am and 3pm, with another officer accompanying myself. We'll be talking with you madam about tonight. Details are needed about this incident. Cops do not like holes in stories as I'm sure detectives feel likewise to them in needed reports."
 

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