Jodie held the memory card tight in a fist, as she tapped the up arrow of the hotel lift. She was nervous – more nervous than she needed to be. The atmosphere was unsettling and the air stifling in the marble-themed lobby. Staring straight at the silver doors, Jodie tried her best to ignore the hawking reporters. They’d seen her exchange with the receptionist. And they’d begun murmuring when the receptionist made a call. Fortunately, the hotel guards were diligent that night.
When the lift finally arrived, Jodie slipped in and jabbed furiously at the close button, avoiding the reporters’ gaze. It seems Richard had caused quite a stir. It wasn’t Guinevere or the Lees’ corruption they were after, it was the story behind Richard’s birth – society needed to get its priorities straight.
Upon the arrival ding of the thirtieth floor, Jodie heaved a sigh and turned right to suite #337. A second before her knuckles hit the wooden room door, it swung open.
“Were there a lot of-”
“Yes. Can I come in?” Jodie interrupted.
Richard gestured for her to enter, as he said, “It’s nice to see people care.”
“Oh yea, the youth of this country loves you.”
“Well, that’s no surprise. Have you seen me?”
Richard chuckled, but stopped himself abruptly when Jodie didn’t follow suit.
“I’ve seen you,” Jodie stated.
“Sorry. What do you need me to pass to the detectives?”
There was no hesitation when Jodie handed Richard the memory card.
“What’s in this?” Richard asked.
“Information about Neal’s whereabouts.”
“It started with you, didn’t it?”
“Is that a ‘thank you’?”
Jodie couldn’t blame Richard for keeping quiet. After all, his family was involved. And if it weren’t for him, she wouldn’t have discovered Neal being alive either. Though, if she wanted to be precise, Neal was merely existing. There was nothing lifelike being in a coma.
“You’re welcome. I’ll call a detective over. Would you like to stick around?”
“No. I’m afraid if I do, Neal would be gone.”
“What do you mean?”
From the recording, Jodie learned Neal was at the Wilhelm Group-owned hospital, kept under tight surveillance on the eleventh floor. The eleventh floor was a VIP floor for the famous, rich, and royal. Those who visited the floor could come and go without leaving any record of their visit. And after the news about the Lees, the Cortezs might decide to pull Neal out. Neal could disappear like the many others, as though he’d been dead for years.
“You won’t have access to the eleventh floor,” Richard stated. “They won’t give you access.”
“You’re not high up enough. Sorry.”
Who was she kidding? Presidents were rumoured to visit the eleventh floor. Jodie grunted, realising she’d overlook that fact. The stress had officially gone to her head.
“But I have an idea. You can’t go alone though,” Richard added. “I can arrange for you to check in with a few fake claims.”
“Does the hospital even know who you are? No offense.”
“Yes. I’m high up enough. I’ve been there a few times.”
“Well, more than a few times. I’ve always wondered why the staff were always so nice to me. I guess it kind of makes sense now. They probably thought I’d be their new boss.”
“But the news is out. You’re not their new boss. You’re not even related to their new boss.”
“Yes, but I can still pull some strings. Pay some people off. Money makes the world go round, Jodie. I thought you knew that.”
“Thanks for the reminder.”
“So, you up for the plan?”
“You have the money?”
“Plenty. The Lees thought they could pay me for my silence. Hah!”
“Then yes, I’m for the plan. And… thank you.”
“Anytime,” Richard said with a smirk. But just as he reached for his phone, he turned and asked, “Who’s going with you?”
“Who’s going with you? I’m going to tell them you’re my famous friend who doesn’t want any publicity on your secret illness. And if you’re famous, you can’t go alone. You need at least somebody to go with you.”
What Richard said made sense. She was going to put on a show, and all shows worked better with dialogue. Unfortunately, Jodie didn’t know anyone that could help her pull off the stunt. She didn’t want to involve anyone personal, and her options were limited if not none.
“How about Zach?” Richard suggested.
“Are you serious?”
“I don’t know about his acting skills, but his face isn’t all over the media. For the most part, he’s a nobody.”
“He’ll do anything for you. I thought that was obvious.”
Jodie narrowed her eyes and Richard laughed.
“You didn’t know?” Richard asked, eyes wide in fake surprise.
Jodie knew – she’d picked up on the hints. But as far as she was concerned, it wasn’t something worth responding to.
“So is he going to be your plus one or not? The clock is ticking. Neal might be gone forever.”
Neal might’ve been gone already, but she wasn’t going to assume the worst. Jodie needed to make sure he was there. She needed to keep him there, at least until the detectives arrive. Still, she didn’t like the thought of using Zach even if she knew he’d help. Jodie had to choose.
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The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 by Jeyna Grace.
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