Original Works

Chapter 70: No Coincidences

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“Are you sure it’s here?” Zach asked.

“That’s what Richard said.”

It was close to 1a.m – the city quieting after its bustling day. At the wheel of Richard’s car, Zach accelerated toward the lowest basement carpark. He thought it strange the access to the eleventh floor was in such a remote location. But he’d experience enough to not rule out the possibility either.

Once parked in a random lot amidst a handful of cars, Zach exited and strolled over to the passenger seat. With blinking cameras watching their every move, the acting began. Zach ushered Jodie out of the car, before looking for the grey elevator. Richard said it was at the right corner of the floor, almost obscure. But there was no need to look for it, as it would open on its own. And, he was right.

Just as Zach glanced past the foyer of the main elevators, a wall parted at the far corner. Orange light streamed into the basement, and he pointed to it. “Over there.”

Jodie spotted it too and took the lead. In a long cloak and big, round shades, Jodie was unrecognizable. Contrary, Zach wasn’t in such a thick disguise. And perhaps that was why she needed his help – no one would do a double take even in his minimum makeover.

As they entered the elevator, the doors shut on their own. There were no buttons, not even an open or close, but there was a camera. Once the elevator began its ascent, it only took a few seconds to reach its designated floor. And when the doors reopened, a nurse strode over to greet them.

“Welcome. Kindly follow me for registration,” the nurse said.

“I don’t want to register,” Jodie replied.

“Rest assured, we only need a few details of which we will not store after your visitation.” The nurse smiled as she gestured at the main counter.

The eleventh floor lobby was alike a 5-star hotel. One wouldn’t be called naïve for thinking otherwise. A crystal chandelier hung above the waiting area, the floor glistened from daily polishing, nurses attended to every guest with tablets, and a bar stood offering free drinks.

As Jodie began to fill the simple form, Zach thought through their plan. Richard had handed him a pendrive capable of stealing information off a nurse’s tablet. All Zach needed to do was pluck it into an unattended device and the records of patients staying on the eleventh floor would be theirs. Being that all the names would be aliases, they’d have to look for the one that described Neal’s condition the most. Once they found the correct room, they must forward the information to Richard for him to send it to the detective. But before all that, they needed a distraction.

“Where’s the washroom?” Jodie asked, after submitting the paperwork.

“This way,” the nurse said.

The pair followed the nurse, turning down a corner from the foyer toward the washrooms. They weren’t far from the midnight crowd, but the distance would buy them enough time. Crossing gazes, they executed Plan A: a fake faint.

Jodie collapsed to the floor and began mumbling about feeling light-headed. The nurse propped Jodie against the wall, placed her tablet down, and pulled out a mini torchlight.

“Can you follow the light for me?” the nurse asked.

“Light?” Jodie questioned in convincing bewilderment.

Crouching beside them, Zach swiftly slid the tablet to his side. Then as discreetly as possibly, he plugged the pendrive and waited. It was the longest wait in the shortest amount of time. When Jodie pretended to lose consciousness, the nurse told Zach to stay while she went to get help. With the tablet out of the nurse’s sight, she forgot to take it with her. A minute later, the nurse returned with a gurney and a few others. Zach instantly unplugged the pendrive and stood out of their way. It was now up to him to decipher the records.

As Jodie was wheeled away, Zach excused himself to the washroom. Safely inside a cubicle, he transferred the data to his phone and began scanning through them. Both Zach and Jodie knew nothing about Neal’s condition. Aside from the fact Neal was supposedly brain dead, there were no other information to help him with his search. The records had more than one comatose patient, and thinking of the number of rooms he had to search without getting caught was perturbing.

“Why did I agree to this?” Zach muttered under his breath. “We could have all met at the school first to talk things out.”

In the midst of ‘what if’s, Zach spotted a similarity between the patient files: all the patients liaised with the same insurance company – Guinevere’s father’s company. Was that a coincidence? No, there were no coincidences in regards to Wilhelm Group. But, there was hope.

Zach could get Guinevere to check the company files to see which belonged to Neal Cortez. However, they were pressed for time. If Guinevere wasn’t home, the trip back together with the search time, would take too long. So the only other option was Matthias. Matthias was good with a keyboard, and if he knew what to look for, he could obtain the information quicker than Guinevere. Even though neither of them would answer his call, Zach had to try. But before he did, he needed to choose.

Next Chapter >
(For the chapter list, visit here.)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 by Jeyna Grace.
All rights reserved. No part of the series may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from Jeyna Grace.

Original Works

Chapter 69: Plus One

clubhouse69

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.”

“Oh.”

“It started with you, didn’t it?”

“Is that a ‘thank you’?”

“I guess.”

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.”

“But-”

“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.”

“Few?”

“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…”

“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.”

“Well.”

“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.

Next Chapter >
(For the chapter list, visit here.)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 by Jeyna Grace.
All rights reserved. No part of the series may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from Jeyna Grace.

Original Works

Chapter 61: Follow or Furrow

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Redemption. Self-redemption of a crime only he knew he committed – Matthias saw it as that.

“What do you mean?” Matthias asked. He needed to be sure he wasn’t assuming wrongly.

“I mean he’s not dead. That is if we’re talking about the same Cortezs, which I have a gut feeling we are.”

“Let’s not go with gut feelings.”

Matthias pulled out his phone and did a quick Internet search. It wasn’t difficult finding the faces involved in the most gossiped about case. In fact, it only took Google 0.95 seconds to compile about 108,000,000 results, with the first one being a family picture of the Cortezs themselves.

It was a fairly recent picture, dating right before Neal Cortez supposedly died. The dashing young man stood between his father and mother with a wide smile on his face. His mother – whom he got most of his features from – beamed at him, while his father proudly wrapped his arm around his shoulder. They were a seemingly happy family, and perhaps they truly were. After all the research Matthias did for Jodie’s case, the Cortezs were low-key people and barely made the news. He was genuinely surprised when their accusations caused such a buzz, but now it all made sense.

Turning the screen toward Richard, Matthias said, “Confirm your gut feeling.”

“I didn’t see them. How am I…” Richard started off. But then he leaned in for a closer look and his eyes widened again. “They were just here. They were having a luncheon with my parents and Guinevere’s parents a while ago.”

“They weren’t on the guest list for tonight though.”

“I think we should tell Jodie.”

“No. Not yet. Let’s try to find out more. You could have heard your father wrong.”

“Of course, my ears are always deceiving me.” Richard’s sarcasm came with a false grin.

“No offense, but I’m just playing it safe. I’ll try to find out more and keep you updated.”

“We can all trust Matthias to get the job done.”

“Hey, you told me, remember? I didn’t force it out of you.”

Richard shrugged and waved him off. “Have fun playing detective.”

Playing detective wasn’t fun. But having done it one too many times, Matthias was good at it. It was part of his day job to begin with. Aside from it being his forte, he also wanted to atone for his sin of secretly betraying Jodie. He hated being puppet-ed by Wilhelm Group and for once, he wasn’t going to be the devil’s advocate. The only problem now was not being able to be on the field itself.

His company was part of Wilhelm Group. Wilhelm Group threatened him. And then Wilhelm Group offered him a job. Matthias hated to admit it, but Wilhelm Group probably knew everything about him and was keeping an eye on his next move. It was impossible for him to snoop around under such tight surveillance, no matter how careful he was. He needed somebody else to do the job for him and he only had two options. But before he even considered them, he needed to make a quick check.

Matthias made a beeline to the delivery truck, interiorly remodeled as a surveillance room. He got the hired men to rewind the footage captured by their planted bugs to see if the Cortezs had left the clubhouse. As he’d expected, they exited the building right after lunch. Then scanning the cameras for Mr Lee, Matthias found the man on the golf course. He hadn’t left Skypeak yet. However, his assistant seemed to be bustling about and Matthias had an inkling he wouldn’t be hanging around for much longer.

“Watch this man. If it looks as though he’s about to leave, let me know.”

He then excused himself from the humid truck to gather his thoughts. The fact that Matthias didn’t have much time to concoct a plan made it harder to think of one. There was so much to consider, so much room for error, so much…

“So much for gathering information.”

“Huh?” The growing colossal mess in his head crumbled under the intrusion.

“Aren’t you supposed to be our eyes and ears?” Guinevere asked with brows narrowed.

“It’s hot in there,” Matthias replied. “I just came out for a breather.”

Guinevere chuckled. “Relax, I’m not chastising you. I haven’t managed to get any information either. There was this couple though.”

“The Cortezs.”

“You know who I’m talking about?”

“Yea. Do you think you can get your parents to talk about them?”

Suddenly, he had an idea.

“I don’t know. They’ve been secretive about a lot of things. Who are the Cortezs anyway?”

Matthias decided to fill Guinevere in on what Richard had discovered. Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea, but Guinevere wasn’t going to do anything without knowing.

“Well, it’ll be a first – sticking my neck out for Jodie,” Guinevere said. “But I have a better idea. And I’m not saying this because I don’t want to help her.”

“What?”

“Send Zach to follow Mr Lee’s assistant. If Neal Cortez is alive and awake, they’ll be checking up on him soon.”

“I thought about that. But following someone while we’re all being watched is too risky.”

“Then bug him.”

Suddenly, there was more than one idea. But neither him nor Guinevere, neither Richard nor Jodie, would be suitable candidates to approach the assistant without raising suspicion. Zach was the only option. Zach could plant the bug, or Guinevere could source information from her parents. Which plan would most likely succeed? Matthias had to choose.

Next Chapter >
(For the chapter list, visit here.)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 by Jeyna Grace.
All rights reserved. No part of the series may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from Jeyna Grace.

Original Works

Chapter 60: A Father-Son Moment

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“Medium-rare, just how you like it.”

Neither of them had seen him coming. And the expression on their faces, the moment they recognised his voice, was oddly satisfying.

“Am I wrong?”

His father responded to the question with a grunt, while his mother fidgeted in her seat. Richard was tempted to apologise for making an appearance, in front of the two oblivious couples, but then decided to keep the truth as a trump card.

“If you don’t like it, I can return it to the kitchen,” Richard offered. Turning to Guinevere’s parents, he added, “I’m just trying to be less of a disappointment.”

Guinevere’s parents didn’t respond, and their silence quickly grew awkward. It went on for a few seconds before his father grunted again and started his meal. That was Richard’s cue to leave. He knew he would be hearing from his father soon. Ten minutes after his departure, his phone rang.

The voice on the other end belonged to his father’s assistant. He spoke in the same distant manner, telling Richard to be at the private bar in an hour. Apparently, his father wanted to talk and Richard was more than happy to oblige. At a quarter past three, Richard headed for the private bar on the third floor. There, he found his father on an armchair with a glass of whiskey in his hand.

“Finally, a father-son chat,” Richard said.

“It is you who have been avoiding me.”

Those words were unfortunately true. Richard was promised a conversation at home, after their encounter at the airport. But since then, he never returned home. He avoided the whitewashed mansion in fear of reality. Now having finally accepted it, it was easier to navigate its unpredictable waters.

“So you sent mother to buy me off?”

“I let her do what she thought was right.”

“But she failed. So what are you going to do now?”

“What do you want, Richard?”

“I don’t know, you tell me?”

“I’m not going to play childish games.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know my life was a childish game.”

“If you don’t know what you want boy, what do you plan to do then?”

“You tell me.”

“Come home.”

“Are you serious? I thought I was disowned.”

“We can change that. Come home and help your brother at the firm. He’ll have more responsibilities once he takes over Greengrass, and he could use your help.”

It seems the shareholders meeting was going to be more than just food and annual reports. The prince was officially ascending the throne and only God knows what would happen after he does.

“That’s what’s happening tonight?”

“Yes.

“You do know I can ruin it by revealing my true identity. Is this the best you can offer?”

“What more do you want? Your inheritance?” his father calmly asked. The man never once raised his voice. He was scarily placid. Richard could only imagine the mechanics in his brain, churning out evil plots to get rid of him.

“No. It wouldn’t look good if you went back on your word, would it? Tell you what, I’ll be the disappointment of a son you’ve always wanted, if you do something for me in return.”

“And what is that?”

“I want to know everything. All your plans. I want to be part of your schemes and I want to reap the benefits.”

When his father responded with a laugh, Richard realised how stupid he sounded.

“That’s not going to happen,” his father replied. “If I don’t have confidence in Gabriel, why would I have confidence in you? So, let’s make this simple. You think about my offer and you let me know your decision. You might not have anything to lose, Richard, but once you denounce this family’s name, this family won’t be here to protect you any longer.”

The final statement sounded like a threat. No, it was a threat. If Richard decided to sink the ship, he would have to go down with it. Was he ready for that?

His father didn’t wait for his response and rose to his feet. Richard remained seated as he watched the man stalk to the door. But just before his father left the room, his assistant hurried to his side.

“He’s awake. Should I inform the Cortezs?” the assistant whispered.

“I can hear you,” Richard stated.

“No,” his father replied. Then turning to Richard, he added, “It doesn’t matter. You can add this to your collection of useless facts.”

The father he once pretended to be loving and kind gave him a smirk. And when the back of his cashmere suit disappeared out the door, Richard had lost the game. For a while, he actually thought he had the upper hand. Staring at the floor, wondering what he should do next, Richard didn’t realise Matthias had entered the bar until he spoke.

“I heard everything,” Matthias stated.

“What? Wait, you were eavesdropping?”

“You’re wearing the earpiece I gave you. It’s not my fault you didn’t take it out.”

“So you heard everything?”

“Pretty much. What’s your plan?

“I don’t know. What would you do?”

Matthias shrugged. Then deciding to expand his knowledge on the newfound fact, and to briefly take his mind off the daunting decision, Richard asked, “Have you heard of the Cortezs?”

“I only know of one family with that name.”

“Who are they?”

“They’re the ones running the trial against Jodie.”

“The couple of the dead partner?”

“Yes.”

Did Richard hear him right? Yes, he did. At the revelation, his jaw hung open and his eyes grew wide in shock. Unfortunately for his father, the new fact wasn’t useless after all.

“Why? What do you know?”

“You didn’t hear?”

“No. Tell me.”

Richard wasn’t sure if he should disclose it. He wasn’t even sure if giving Matthias the information would be of any help. Perhaps Richard should tell Jodie himself and be the hero of the day. Or perhaps he should play it safe and just let Matthias deal with it. Richard had to choose.

Next Chapter >
(For the chapter list, visit here.)

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2016 by Jeyna Grace.
All rights reserved. No part of the series may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from Jeyna Grace.