Original Works

Chapter 47: No More Secrets

clubhouse47

Staring at the ceiling of Matthias’ apartment, Richard decided he had enough of the day. After the dinner with Ms Leona and the other contestants, he found himself mentally drained. Throughout the entire meal, nobody said a word. Everyone but him looked preoccupied and showed little interest when Ms Leona began handing them their cards. Richard thought he had serious problems, but the rest must have had worst. After all, why would they give up the chance to win Skypeak so easily? It felt strange and he spent the entire meal deciphering their behaviour. Even the news of having to run the clubhouse day care did not bother him as much.

“There’s always something I don’t know,” Richard concluded, before shutting his eyes and forcing himself to sleep.

The following morning, Richard woke before Matthias did. He had to knock on Matthias’ door to learn that he was still asleep. It was the first time Richard had ever witnessed Matthias being late for something.

“We’re supposed to be in at nine. It’s eight-thirty,” Richard shouted from outside the bedroom door.

“One minute,” Matthias merely replied.

When Matthias finally exited his bedroom, Richard waved him to the door in hopes he would pick up pace. It was as though the two had switched bodies overnight.

“Why the hurry?” Matthias asked.

“We’re going to be late. Have you forgotten what day it is?” Richard asked.

“No. Let’s go,” Matthias replied.

Richard would have offered to drive, but he knew Matthias wouldn’t let him. So, he held his tongue as they cruised to Skypeak. By the time they clocked in, it was close to ten.

“Don’t worry so much. Ms Leona won’t say anything,” Matthias stated, as they strolled into the building.

“Easy for you to say. I want to win this,” Richard responded.

“Don’t we all,” Matthias said with a chuckle, before excusing himself.

They were each given a ‘department’ to manage for the day. Matthias had to run the in-house café, Jodie the gym, Zach the golf course, Guinevere the spa, and Richard the day care. Richard had never been fond of children, but he was not given a choice. So hoping not to start his task on a bad score, he hurried to the day care centre.

“Good morning,” the staff at the registration counter greeted.

“Morning. Where are the kids?” Richard asked.

“Not here yet. It’ll be a busy day, mind you,” she said.

“Great.”

“Oh look, a parent,” she stated cheerily.

Richard put on a fake grin and turned to see their first customer. A second later, his grin disappeared. It was not a customer strolling up to them that morning, it was Gabriel in a light blue suit.

“Are you checking-in a child?” the staff asked with a wide smile.

“Oh, no, I’m just giving this place a look,” Gabriel replied.

“Would you like me to show you around?” she offered.

Before he could answer, Richard said, “I’ll show him around.”

The staff nodded and Richard gestured for Gabriel to follow him. When they were out of earshot, Richard stopped and asked, “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you, Richard,” Gabriel replied. “I thought I should introduce myself.”

“Mother has taught you well.”

“Yes, my mother has. I’m not too sure about yours,” Gabriel said with a smirk.

“What?” Richard asked, as he narrowed his eyebrows.

“It’s funny how you know nothing.”

“I know enough,” Richard stated confidently .

“I doubt that. Want to know a secret?” Gabriel teased.

“If it’s a secret I already know-”

“Oh, you don’t know this one,” Gabriel interrupted.

“Well, go ahead then,” Richard said.

As much as he hated looking like a clueless fool, his desire to know the truth was overwhelming. Perhaps it had something to do with the way Gabriel acted. The smug look for knowing more than Richard, tempted him to throw a punch.

Wearing a childish grin, Gabriel answered, “We’re not related. What a relief, isn’t it?”

Richard parted his lips for a reply, but no words were spoken. Gabriel looked too confident to be lying, and the truth he was offering made sense. Still, it was hard to grasp at that moment.

“We’re not even half-siblings. So don’t bother coming home, Richard. There’s no family for you there,” Gabriel added.

“How do I know you’re not lying? Where’s the proof?” Richard asked.

“Isn’t there enough already? Or would you like a blood test too?” Gabriel chuckled.

Yes, there was enough. The question was raised to see if Richard still had a chance of survival in his faux family.

“I would suggest you sell your stocks and start over. My father will dismiss you from the firm tomorrow,” Gabriel spared him the extra details.

“I’ll do as I see fit,” Richard simply replied.

“I’m sorry, Richard. I was hoping we could still pretend, but my parents don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Don’t apologise. You did nothing wrong,” Richard did not hide the sarcasm in his voice, as he turned on his heel.

He was done with Gabriel. But more importantly, he was done with his family. The truth stung and he still found it difficult to accept, but at least he was no longer bounded by ignorance. As he strode toward the exit, he felt relieved. But then, Gabriel robbed him of that too.

Gabriel called out and said, “By the way, this whole clubhouse challenge is a fake. You won’t win. I just thought you should know”

Stopping just before the door, Richard replied, “Good to know.” He spoke without thinking and a second later, he realised it was far from ‘good to know’. Relief was gone and anxiousness returned like an old friend.

Gabriel’s words were a double-edged sword. Somehow, that truth was more damaging than the previous one. A part of him also felt betrayed for being left out of the loop. As he walked out of the day care centre for a breather, he spotted Jodie and Matthias parting ways. Richard was tempted to approach one of them about the secret they knew. But before he gave in to temptation, he had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 46: A ‘Special’ Task

clubhouse46

It was the oddest business card Zach had ever been handed. There was only a logo along with the address. He triple-checked with Matthias if it was correct, but was still not convinced after. Zach didn’t want to go to the wrong place, especially when Matthias requested him to make the trip on Saturday morning. Even though his job did not require him to work on the weekends, he knew he would eventually have to.

“It’ll be a quick drop, I hope you don’t mind,” Matthias said.

Matthias arrived at Zach’s house at close to 12a.m. It seemed like an urgent matter and Zach wondered why Matthias could not do it himself. Unfortunately, that was not the kind of question one would ask their boss.

“Sure,” Zach replied.

“I’ll leave the car with you. You can take it to Skypeak tomorrow,” Matthias said.

“OK.”

“Thanks.”

Matthias patted him on the shoulder before entering the taxi that was waiting for him. After the taxi drove out of sight, Zach groaned. He weighed the heavy brown envelope in his hand but was too tired to speculate its contents. Pulling himself to bed, he hoped there wouldn’t be an early call time tomorrow. Did it even matter if he showed up at the clubhouse on time? Zach’s eyelids shut before he had an answer.

The next morning, he received a call from Ms Leona. Right before he could start the engine of the sedan, she was ringing for attention. Zach hesitated for a moment, before deciding to answer it out of courtesy.

“Good morning,” he greeted.

“Good morning. You’re up early. I’m surprised,” Ms Leona said.

“Yea. What time do I have to be at Skypeak?” he asked.

“Dinner time.”

“OK. I’ll be there then,” Zach said, and heaved a silent sigh.

But before he could hang up, Ms Leona added, “I’d like to meet with you earlier, Zach. Will that be alright?”

“What for?” Zach did not hide the suspicion in his voice.

“Something special. I’ll tell you when I see you. What time is good?”

He wasn’t surprise. Zach was the ‘special’ one after all. He was the most important pawn. Unfortunately, he did not know what his job was.

“After lunch, I guess.”

“Great. How about 3pm at the east lounge?”

“Sure.”

“I’ll see you then.” Ms Leona ended the call before he could say another word.

Aside from leaving him a time and place to meet, she left him worried as well. Zach had previously contemplated on dropping out of the challenge entirely. When he told Matthias, he was reminded of the contract he signed. The only way to escape was to first discover the plan of his captors. It shouldn’t be too hard with all the gossipy wives at Skypeak, but somehow it was.

Deciding to think about Skypeak later, he typed the address on the business card into the GPS and began following its lead. It was not a long journey, but it was a questionable one. After ten minutes, he was directed into a narrow alley that led him off road. He was amazed to find a hidden forest in the city, but became more hesitant to continue on. Five minutes into habitat of trees, he pulled the handbrake and reached for the envelope.

Zach held it in his hands and contemplated opening it. After what felt like an hour of thinking, he decided not to. It was sealed tight and it would be obvious if he had torn it open. Shaking his head, he stepped on the gas. Shortly after, he drove into an open area where a wooden cabin stood, isolated from the world.

Smoke rose from the chimney, indicating someone was home. Getting out of the car, he strode to the front door and gave it a knock. A second later, the door opened and a man stepped into the doorway.

“Are you lost?” the man asked.

“No. I was told to give this to you,” Zach said, handing the envelope over.

The man took it and tore it open. He pulled out the thick stack of paper and flipped through the first few pages. Then, he smiled.

“Thank you. Tell Matthias his sister says ‘hello’,” the man said.

The way the man said it felt odd, but Zach merely nodded his head. The man remained standing at the doorway, as Zach hurried to the car and drove off. Once Zach made it back to the main road, he sent Matthias a text. Matthias’ no reply was the least of his worries. He now had to meet with Ms Leona and face her special ‘something’.

Arriving at the clubhouse, Zach handed the car to the valet. It felt good being able to do that, but the feeling only lasted awhile. The east lounge was a short walk from the foyer and he soon found Ms Leona.

“Busy morning?” Ms Leona asked.

“Not really,” Zach replied.

“Don’t worry. This week’s challenge only starts tomorrow.”

“Ah, I see.”

“But for this week’s challenge, I need your help.”

Zach held his tongue as he watched Ms Leona place five cards before him. Each card had an image: a knife, a ball, a dumbbell, a baby, and a towel. He gave each image a good look before asking, “What are these for?”

“I need you to tell me which card to give which contestant.”

“Why me?” Zach asked.

“Why not you?”

Her question was the answer – there was an audience that wanted more action from him. Zach imagined cameras zooming in on him right then.

“Fine,” Zach replied.

Zach decided to match the cards to the first name that came to mind. Knife for Matthias, dumbbell for Jodie, ball for himself, and then he paused.

“Ball?” Ms Leona asked surprised.

“I play sports,” Zach simply stated.

“I see.”

Her interruption caused him to ponder, not on his own pick but on whom the baby card should go to next. Neither Richard nor Guinevere came to mind at the sight of the baby. They both fitted the towel card more. Will it matter whom he gave it to? Whether it did or not, Zach had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 45: It’s Your Turn

clubhouse45

Matthias hated to admit it, but he knew immediately what was going on. The moment Guinevere told him the story, his mind came to a quick conclusion. Based on what she said, someone needed a scandal to weaken Wayne’s position in the bank. A divorce, due to a false claim of infidelity, would do the job. After which, Wayne would be thrown under the bus with another false accusation that had already been set up. Once Guinevere left him, he was done for.

“You’re the start,” Matthias told her.

“Thank you,” was all Guinevere said over the phone.

Guessing from her reaction, she wasn’t a dirty player after all. He had assumptions of her, but they seemed to have changed. Matthias was surprise that she entrusted him with such private information. But the more he thought about it, he began to realise how all of them had grown comfortable with sharing secrets. He briefly wondered if he would share his own. Even though he couldn’t be certain, he was glad people found him trustworthy.

After Guinevere ended the call, Matthias began to ponder over the extra information she shared. She confidently stated that the clubhouse challenge was manipulated. His first belief of it being a show was debunked. There seemed to be something more devious going on and he wanted to find out what. He needed to know if he was going to be played too. Unfortunately, he did not need to do much digging.

That Friday morning, Matthias was called to his boss’ office. He expected a secret meeting with a few directors, as they schemed to out a fellow director they disliked. But when he entered the leather-scented room, he found no one. His boss was missing from his desk and only the Newton’s cradle greeted him from it.

Finding the situation a little odd, he cautiously took a seat among the armchairs. He patiently waited for the office door to open, but after an hour, no one came. Wondering if he got the message wrong, he decided to double check. Just as he got to his feet, the heavy wooden door finally pried open. And in came his boss and a man he had never seen before. The man and his boss exchanged smiles before turning to Matthias.

“You’re here,” his boss said.

Matthias nodded. He was about to greet them both when his boss added, “I have something to do.”

“Should I come back later?” Matthias asked.

“No, you stay.”

Without an explanation, his boss turned on his heel and exited his own office, leaving Matthias with the stranger. The man gestured for Matthias to take a seat before joining him.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Matthias. I’ve heard a lot about you,” the man said.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you too, Mr…” Matthias trailed off, hoping the man would finish his sentence.

“Never mind how to address me. I’m just here to chat,” the man replied.

“I see.” And indeed he saw. Matthias had a sinking feeling that it was finally his turn. Everyone else already had theirs, and now it was his.

“I heard your sister has taken a trip outside of the country,” the man stated.

“Yes,” Matthias simply replied. Maddie had followed her course mates on a class trip. She wasn’t going to go initially, but the sudden scholarship fund made it possible for her to join in. At the reminder of that, he saw how everything was put into place. Matthias knew the man wanted something, and he wasn’t going to sit around playing dumb.

“I heard she’s having trouble returning home,” the man added.

It was an obvious threat. Matthias had not heard anything from Maddie. In fact, he had not heard from her in awhile.

“How do I help her get home?” Matthias asked, as he kept his cool composure.

“The personal case you’re working on is doing very well.”

“And?” Matthias prompted. The only personal case he had then was Jodie’s.

“It must be tough work. Perhaps you might want some help?”

“From you?”

“Yes.”

He saw where the conversation was going. Matthias was making good progress on Jodie’s case. With all the inside information, he could actually help her. But it seemed somebody did not want to lose, and they were resorting to blackmail.

“Send the information to me and I’ll make everything run smoothly,” the man suggested.

“Everything,” Matthias repeated.

“Everything,” the man confirmed.

Matthias didn’t know how serious he was, but he didn’t need to question it. If the man got to him through his boss, he was dealing with a big gun.

“Let me think about it,” Matthias said.

“Don’t think too long,” the man replied. He then reached into his jacket and pulled out a name card. After handing it to Matthias, he left without a word.

As the day continued, Matthias thought over and over again about his decision. The choice seemed to be an easy one – Maddie was family and Jodie was not. It shouldn’t be difficult to choose his sister, but he had a conscience too. Despite having done things for his boss he was not proud off, the victims of his actions were not people he knew personally. Matthias was not sure if he could betray Jodie.

When night finally came, he needed to make a pick. Whoever the man was working for probably had little patience. After attempting to call his sister and failed, Matthias took it as a hint that he did not have a lot of time. So, he placed the name card and his phone before him. He was going to do one or the other: call Jodie to tell her about what happened or send Zach with the case files to the address on the name card. Matthias had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 44: Losing Is Winning

clubhouse44It was strange to be having a meal with Jodie. But Guinevere kept her thoughts to herself, as it was Wayne’s dinner party. Besides, she didn’t dislike Jodie as much as she used to. So there really was no harm being a little friendly.

When dinner was over, everyone moved to the living room. Guinevere was hoping to gossip with Felicia over some wine. But before she could join the rest, Jodie pulled her back.

“We need to talk,” Jodie said.

“We do?” Guinevere asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes.”

Jodie gestured toward the hallway and Guinevere reluctantly followed. When the chattering of their friends was out of earshot, Jodie said, “I’ll get straight to the point. Why do you want to win Skypeak?”

The question was odd. So Guinevere asked in reply, “Why would I not want to win Skypeak?”

“That’s not the correct answer.”

“Oh, so now I have to give you one?”

Yes, they weren’t friends, but Guinevere thought they were growing more tolerant of each other. Jodie’s questioning was taking their relationship backward.

“Yes. This is more than a game, Guinevere. I’m curious if you’re really serious about winning. Are you faking it or are you really trying?”

Guinevere chuckled and shook her head in disbelief. Who was Jodie to judge her?

“From my point of view, you don’t need to win Skypeak. You have everything. So why bother unless for show?” Jodie added.

“For show? Do you think my life is a show?”

Guinevere was trying very hard not to raise her voice. She attempted to laugh off her growing anger but it wasn’t working.

“You seem angry,” Jodie calmly stated.

“Oh, no, I’m in a jolly mood.”

She had no idea what was wrong with Jodie. Why on earth was she suddenly picking on her?

“So you know nothing about the challenge being rigged?” Jodie asked.

“What are you talking about? Are you drunk already?”

Jodie did not respond immediately. She simply stared at her for a few seconds, as though deciphering her expression, before saying, “Thank God. I would’ve seek revenge if you did.”

The words that Jodie spoke made no sense and her anger was quickly replaced with confusion. When she wanted to ask for clarification, Jodie willingly explained.

“Zach said not to tell you, but from the look on your face, you’re most probably innocent.”

“Thank you?” Guinevere replied.

“The Skypeak challenge is rigged, just so you know. You’re not going to win, no matter how hard you try.”

“What? You’re talking rubbish.”

“Ask your family. I’m sure they know what’s going on. And when you find out the truth, consider sharing it. Our lives aren’t shows either.”

Jodie left the conversation there and strode off. Guinevere stood frozen in place, digesting everything Jodie had told her. Was it true that the challenge was set up? How was her family involved in it? Her parents would not standby and watch her degrade herself for a game she could not win, would they?

When the night ended, she headed home and went straight to her father’s reading room. He was a busy man, so he rarely went to bed early. That day, she found him with his reading glasses and a file on his lap.

“Guinevere,” he greeted, without lifting his eyes to meet hers.

“Father. I don’t mean to bother you, but I need to ask you something.”

“Sit.”

She placed herself in the armchair across his, and waited for him to move the file away. The moment he took off his reading glasses, she asked, “Is the Skypeak challenge rigged?”

Her father responded by merely clearing his throat. He was a man of many words, but few left his lips that night.

“Has a winner already been chosen?” Guinevere continued. “Why didn’t you tell me? I’ve been trying-”

“We all have a role to play.”

“What do you mean?”

“You don’t have to try so hard. Your inheritance is my company, not the clubhouse.”

He was clever with his answers. Even though they weren’t ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Guinevere knew what he was implying. The revelation made her lost for words, and they sat silently as the ticking of the wall clock grew louder. Finally, when silence had gone on for too long, her father cleared his throat once more and said, “There’s something you need to do. Since you know, I might as well tell you now.”

“Tell me what?”

“You’ll have to file for divorce after the wedding.”

Guinevere’s instinct convinced her she heard him wrong. She tilted her head sideways and gave him a bewildered look. That day, she was wearing her emotions on her sleeves.

“This is part of the plan,” he said.

“What plan? Why must I divorce Wayne? You don’t like him?”

She could not understand what her father wanted her to do. Did he really ask her to leave the man she tried so hard to win? If not for the chase that stripped her of her pride, Guinevere genuinely liked Wayne. He was a good man.

“You must in order for our family to survive.”

“How does divorcing him save us?” Guinevere needed to know, so she could convince her father otherwise.

“The bank needs a new CEO. Wayne needs to be removed in order for us to work with them.”

“How will our divorce affect his status?”

“Use your imagination, child.”

“I don’t want to imagine. This is not fair. I really like Wayne.”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to stop liking him,” her father replied as he got to his feet. “I’m tired. We’ll talk more in the morning.”

He did not wait for her to reply as he exited the reading room. Guinevere was left alone again, with another revelation. She knew her family played dirty from time to time, but they never used her to get the job done. With so many secrets, what else was her father hiding from her?

Guinevere wanted to demand for answers, but her mind shifted from her own fate to Wayne’s. As much as she wanted to use her imagination, she could not. There were plenty of ways to topple a leader, but why must she be involved? At that question, she thought of Matthias. He probably knew of more schemes than she did. After all, he worked with people like her father. She could consult him, but was it worth sharing her family’s secret with him? Guinevere had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 43: A New Game Of Chess

clubhouse43

Jodie had met Zach at the gym a couple of times. The last time they spoke while running on the treadmill, he told her he was ending his membership. Without a job, he could not afford to pay for it any longer. When she saw him walking in that Wednesday evening, it was both expected and unexpected. After all, he was now working for Matthias.

“I thought you said…” Jodie trailed off.

“Yea. I decided not to terminate my membership,” Zach answered.

“That’s good. Not a lot of work today?”

Zach always came in after dinner. He was early that day.

“I took half the day off. I had to collect my new Skypeak card.”

“Oh, right.”

Zach nodded and folded his lips. He looked like he had something else to say, but he seemed to be contemplating his words. Jodie wanted to prompt him, but before she could, he made up his mind.

Leaning in, he said, “I need to tell you something.”

“What is it?”

He gestured to a booth by the juice bar and took the lead. Once they were both seated, Zach whispered, “I overheard a conversation at the clubhouse.”

“What about the conversation?”

“I didn’t get a look at the ladies that were conversing, but I heard them loud and clear.”

“OK. What were they saying?”

“Well…”

Jodie knew where he was going, and her guess was right. Zach told her everything he heard by the poolside. But by the end of the storytelling session, she didn’t know what to say. Learning that the entire challenge was rigged did not bother her as much as discovering that she’d been set up. It was worrying to think of the scheme that affected Zach, but it was infuriating to know someone got her into her current state.

“They said Guinevere’s family is a part of this?” Jodie asked for confirmation.

“Yes. I’m not sure if she knows though.”

Whether Guinevere knew about it or not, Jodie wanted to find out. She wanted to suggest adding Guinevere into the loop, but Zach had read her mind this time.

“We cannot tell Guinevere,” Zach stated.

“Why not? She might know something.”

“If she does know something, then whoever is behind the plan would know that we know. We can’t risk that.”

Zach made a good point. Jodie didn’t want to admit it, but she was thinking of herself that entire time. The lawsuit could ruin her and it was only natural to solve her problems first. But her conscience pricked her. Shifting gears, she turned to the possibility that Zach might be in hotter water.

“How about Matthias? He has contacts. If he knows we’re being set up, he might be able to help us.”

“That’s true.”

“Though, I still think Guinevere could help,” Jodie said, this time from the view point of Zach’s predicament. “I don’t think she knows about the challenge being rigged.”

“You sure?”

“Quite sure. If she did, why would she bother putting up with each task? She wouldn’t play a game if she knew she was going to lose.”

“I don’t know,” Zach simply replied with a shrug.

“Let me find out.”

Zach did not say anything. She wanted to assure him that they’ll work things out, but she knew it would be a lie. When playing with the big boys, you lose more than you win. It was a good thing Zach discovered about it when they still had another month to go. It should be enough time to find a trump card. And if there weren’t any, they could use that time to play defense. But whatever the plan was, it would be better to concoct with more brains.

After they parted ways, Jodie returned home to find Matthias and Piper still in conversation. She had left them discussing about Piper’s testimony in court, but now found them chatting about something completely different. Deciding to let them be, she headed to her room. The silence helped her think better.

Jodie first thought about Guinevere. In the past month, she had grown to tolerate her. She still thought Guinevere was after Wayne’s money, but she could not help but wonder if Guinevere was also a pawn. There was a high probability that she was. From what she had heard, it seemed like all of them were. Coming from an upper class society did not automatically make Guinevere the queen of the chessboard.

Then she thought about Matthias. All along, he believed that the challenge was a game. And someone was watching and enjoying the show. He was right, except that he didn’t suspect that they were being used. If Jodie shared the information with him, Matthias might be able to pull all he knew together and come up with a solution.

The more heads the better, but too many cooks will spoil the broth. Jodie had two plans but she only had time for one. Either she dug a little deeper to find out if Guinevere knew something, or she told Matthias everything and used his brain to come up with a good plan. Jodie had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 42: Rigged

clubhouse42

Finally, he received the call. It had been a week since he last spoke to her. The lady on the line told Zach to visit the Customer Service Center to pick up his new card. They were extending his free one-month membership, since he needed access to Skypeak for the challenges. So that Wednesday, he took half the day off for that errand.

After having delivered a document for Matthias, he took a bus to the town neighbouring the clubhouse, and walked fifteen minutes to the front gate. The guard verified his temporary card and let him in. It was around midday, and a few shiny, branded cars rolled right past him. Each one of them hooted for him to walk closer to the curb. They obviously thought he worked there. Why would a member walk? It wouldn’t even surprise him if they filed a complaint about the staff that hogged one foot of the wide brick road. After all, it was only the ‘normal’ thing to do.

In the past month of being a member at Skypeak, Zach never found a moment where he fitted in. Despite the different classes among the members, they all seemed to belong. When Zach was given his new card with the extended expiry date, he wondered if it could change his status. If he won Skypeak, he would be able to roll in in his sleek red Ferrari and not one would hoot past him. But even if that was just a dream, he could still make use of his current membership – part of the perks was free drinks.

When Zach entered the poolside area, he found the bar and sat himself in front of the bartender. He ordered a Cuba Libre before recalling the exchange between his ex-colleagues last Sunday. Even though he stayed in the café to eavesdrop, the pair did not share any new information. Still, he gathered enough to know something was up. Just when he was about to mentally lay out all that he had heard, a group of noisy ladies walked across the pool and took seat at a poolside table. They shouted their orders to the bartender before continuing their conversation.

Zach would have ignored them, but they chattered at high decibels. He contemplated on leaving, but then he heard his name… again. A month ago, it was not a habit of his to listen in on people’s conversations. These days, it seemed like everyone was talking about him and he needed to know why. So, with his back against them, he halted his thoughts and listened.

“Who won last week?” one of the ladies asked.

“Zach, of course,” another replied.

“Did he do a good job?”

“He sure did,” a different lady answered.

“You’re on the Zach bandwagon too?”

“Obviously. Aren’t we all? It’s nice to see an underdog win.”

“Then lose.”

“Yes, that is quite unfortunate.”

“We shouldn’t be talking about this,” a new voice joined in.

“There’s no one here.”

Suddenly, all the ladies fell silent. There was indeed no one else there aside from Zach and the bartender. When he noticed the silence, Zach pulled out his phone and pretended to be texting. That was enough to convince them he wasn’t listening. They did, however, lower their voices as they continued.

“You sound like my husband.”

“We have to be careful. This could ruin the bigger plan,” that one lady insisted.

“Oh please. There’s no evidence. Us talking about the challenge won’t ruin the bigger plan. When Zach wins, no one would blink an eye.”

“Except for the press.”

They began to mutter and share their dislike for the press for a while. When they were finally done, one lady asked, “You know, I’m curious. Why did they choose Zach?”

“It’s easier with him. He’s a nobody.”

“Oh, did you hear? Zach wasn’t the first pick.”

“He wasn’t?”

“Then who was?”

“Jodie. But they seemed to have found another way to get to her.”

“Oh, right. The lawsuit.”

“I kind of wish Guinevere was chosen though. I loathe that woman.”

“What is it with you and her?”

“She doesn’t belong here.”

“But her family is part of the plan. They hold quite a lot of shares in Greengrass Global.”

“We all do.”

“Speak of the devil.”

Instinctively, Zach turned to look at the entrance. Entering the area was Guinevere. Not wanting to blow his cover, he got up and decided to leave. But just before he could slip out, Guinevere saw him and gave him a wave. He thought about returning it, but his legs were set on escaping. So, he ignored her and strode into the building. Little did he know, Guinevere hated being ignored.

In her yellow bikini, she followed after him and yelled, “Hey! Didn’t you see me waving?”

Zach turned a corner, safe from the sight of the group of ladies, and waited for Guinevere to catch up. The moment she did, he said, “Sorry.”

“That’s it?”

“Yea.”

“Why do you look so worried? I wasn’t going to eat you.”

“It’s nothing. I’m just in a hurry.”

“You looked free a moment ago. What’s up? Did those ladies talk about me? What did they say?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t listening.”

“I’m sure you were. They were definitely talking about me. Hurry up and spill,” Guinevere demanded.

For a brief moment, he contemplated on telling Guinevere everything. She might have a different perspective to the information. Then again, the ladies did say that Guinevere’s family was involved. Maybe he should only entrust the information with Jodie. It was either he lied or spill the beans. Zach had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 41: Open To Suggestions

clubhouse41

It wasn’t something he could store and look back. The information that he acquired was now a memory. Jodie gave him just enough time to read the snapshot of Wayne’s journal before she deleted it. It was barely half a page and there wasn’t much to digest – it was pretty straightforward.

Richard’s father changed his will to include Gabriel and to remove Richard from it. His father also transferred ten percent of the company’s shares to his brother. Should his father die, Gabriel and his mother would be in power of the law firm. With Richard’s measly three percent, he could attend shareholder meetings but hold no seat. It was safe to say he was done for.

After learning about his possible future, he had no idea what to do. He found himself seated on a park bench till the day ended its shift. The strangers around him were a blur, as the world continued to rotate without him. It was only at the sight of the very two people he hated that brought him back to earth.

Across the city park was the up-class shopping district. Exiting their family’s regular tailor shop, his mother stopped outside and adjusted Gabriel’s new suit. Richard watched as she beamed proudly and said what he assumed to be praises. It seemed his brother was being prepared to make an official appearance. Why else would he need such an attire?

The sight of the pair left a horrid taste in his mouth. He hated his mother for leaving him for his brother. He hated his brother for suddenly appearing and stealing his birth right. He hated that the two had a relationship he never got to experience.

Richard wanted to confront them just then, but he hesitated. He had a lot of questions he wanted to demand an answer for, but he didn’t know where to start. He needed suggestions. He needed a plan. Richard thought that if he knew what his father had done, he could finally move forward. Unfortunately, he remained lost. So instead of heading home, he returned to Matthias’ place.

It was a good thing Matthias wasn’t asleep yet. Richard knew he wouldn’t be too happy if he woke him up. The moment Matthias pulled the door open, he asked, “So, what did Jodie tell you?”

“She didn’t tell me, she showed me… the end of the world,” Richard replied.

“Did you lose your inheritance?”

“Yes. It’s not black and white, but I’ve been disowned,” Richard answered and let himself in.

“What do you plan on doing?”

“I don’t know. But don’t worry, I won’t stay here forever.” He managed a chuckle as he slumped onto the sofa.

“Want a suggestion?” Matthias offered.

“Sure.”

“Go home. And I’m not saying this because I want you out of here, I mean, I do, but it is also the best way to get answers.”

Richard didn’t know what to say. Was he going to admit that he was afraid? His family did not seem to care that he had not returned for days. Will they still welcome him?

“Think about it,” Matthias said, before retreating to his bedroom.

Alone again, Richard continued with his staring. His eyes were wide open, but his mind was blank. It was as though he was sleeping and awake at the same time. When the sun rose the next morning, he thought he was dreaming.

“You’re up early,” Matthias said, as he excited his bedroom. When Richard didn’t respond, he asked, “Did you even sleep?”

“I’m not sure,” Richard muttered.

“Have you thought about what I said?”

Richard shrugged in reply.

Matthias nodded and added, “When Zach arrives, send him to my room.”

“Sure.”

He had no idea what time it was and how many minutes ticked by before the doorbell rang. Dragging his feet to the door, he allowed Zach in and gestured to Matthias’ room. But just as Zach was heading toward it, Richard asked, “What would you do if your brother, that you never knew existed, came into your life and took everything from you?”

Zach turned to Richard and narrowed his eyebrows. It was a reaction he had expected. His question seemed a bit weird, especially when Zach knew nothing. Still, he wanted a second opinion. And maybe because of the way he worded his question, he received a different suggestion.

“What would you do?” Richard prompted, when Zach remained silent.

“I would talk to my brother.”

“Why?”

“Because without him, I would still have everything,” Zach answered.

“Thanks.”

“Is this the thing Jodie was helping you with?”

“Still curious, are you?” Richard managed a smirk.

“Never mind.”

“Thanks for the suggestion.”

“You’re welcome.”

Richard waved him to Matthias’ door before returning to the sofa. He now had two suggestions. Was it smarter to go with Matthias’ plan and return home? Should he ask his father to clear things up first? Or was it better to meet up with his brother instead? Will Gabriel be better at telling the truth? Richard had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 40: A Game of Relay

clubhouse40

Jodie pulled into a parking lot the moment she got Zach’s text. It was a quick grab-and-go errand. She told Piper she would buy their lunch on the way back. They’d planned to stay in that Sunday, yet somehow she had a feeling that her plan would change.

Entering the coffee house, she spotted Zach staring blankly into space. When she finally stood before him, she had to wave her hands in front of his face to get his attention.

“Earth to Zach,” Jodie said.

Returning to reality, Zach replied, “Sorry.” He then reached into his pocket and pulled out the USB drive.

“What were you thinking about?” Jodie asked, as she took the drive from him.

“Nothing,” he simply replied.

“I doubt that,” Jodie said.

She took a seat and called a waitress over. After ordering two sandwiches to go, she asked again, “What were you thinking about?”

Zach was easier to read than the other contestants. Maybe because he seemed more open toward her. Jodie knew he was not residing in his ‘nothing box’ when she arrived. His eyes were focused – a clear indication that his mind was occupied.

“Nothing important,” Zach answered.

“Right. Well, if you do need to tell someone, I’m all ears.”

There was no point pushing Zach, so she left it as that. But Zach seemed to have a change of heart.

“I think there’s something going on behind the whole game,” Zach stated.

“Did Matthias get into your head?” Jodie asked with a chuckle. “You’ve been spending too much time with him.”

“He’s my boss,” Zach said with a shrug. “But seriously, I feel like it’s all a set up.”

“A set up for what?”

That I intend to find out. I don’t want to sound paranoid, but in the past few weeks, I feel like I was given a free pass for some of the challenges. And the strange thing is, the people involved know who I am.”

“Of course the people involved know who you are. How else can a challenge be executed?”

“These are Skypeak members. People who should not know about my existence, but are now well aware of my identity.”

“You think of yourself too lowly. It’s no surprise they know you. They probably envy you for the opportunity.”

Jodie did not know where Zach got the idea from, as it seemed unlikely that Matthias would be able to convince him of his theory. At the same time, Matthias had an intuition none of them possessed. Perhaps Zach was right. She didn’t want to discredit his thoughts right away.

“Maybe…” Zach trailed off.

“Maybe something is going on. I’ll try to see what I can find out. Just don’t jump into conclusion so quickly.”

“Thanks.”

The waitress returned to the table with Jodie’s packed order. She handed the waitress her credit card and told her to include Zach’s bill. Zach was quick to refuse the treat, but Jodie insisted. She didn’t give him time to argue and excused herself the moment the bill was paid.

On the way to her car, she contemplated further on Zach’s words. She’d never really given thought to any conspiracy theories surrounding the challenge. Having to deal with her upcoming case, she didn’t have the time to go on wild goose chases. Yet somehow, she knew that there was a possibility. And if there was a bigger plan at play, one of them was going to be a victim.

By the time she entered her car, she already had a mental checklist. Out of the five, Zach was the most likely. After all, he was the perfect candidate as a scapegoat. Still, she could not shake off the feeling that he would not be the only one. Just when she was about to expand her mental checklist, the abrupt knocking on her car window, along with the ring from her phone, startled her thoughts away.

Turning to the passenger side window, as she simultaneously reached for her phone, she saw Guinevere waving from outside. Her muffled voice said, “Let me in.”

Jodie hesitated and took a glance at her phone. Richard was calling and most probably about the information she had retrieved – no, stolen – from Wayne. Ignoring Guinevere for a brief moment, she answered the call.

“I know what you want,” Jodie simply said.

“Great, when can we meet?” Richard asked.

Before she could answer, Guinevere knocked on her window again.

“Hold on,” Jodie said to Richard.

Annoyed at how frequently she and Guinevere crossed paths, she winded down the window and asked, “What?”

Instead of a reply, Guinevere reached in and unlocked the door. She did not say a word, as she pulled the door open and took a seat.

“What are you doing?”

“Let’s go. You’re going to meet Richard, right?”

“Are you stalking me?” Jodie asked in disbelief.

Guinevere gave a false laughter. “Please, I have better things to do. I just happen to be here, that’s all.”

“Of course. What other reason is there?”

Jodie returned to the phone call, as she could hear Richard’s ‘you still there’ through the speaker. She decided to deal with Guinevere after.

“Sorry. Somebody hijacked me,” Jodie said.

“No worries. So, can we meet now? I don’t want to drag this out.”

“Sure, it’s just that…” Jodie trailed off.

Guinevere’s eyes were staring intently at her. There was no doubt that she knew who Jodie was speaking to. Was it wise to bring Guinevere along? Or was it better to chase her out? Jodie had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 39: A Snowflake Made Special

clubhouse39

“I need a favour. Will it be OK to meet tomorrow?” Matthias asked over the phone.

“Yea, sure,” Zach replied. His boss was asking for a favour, how could he say ‘no’?

“Meet you at Axis Mall? There’s this coffee house at the main entrance.”

“Sure.”

Zach didn’t know why he answered the call. He could have pretended to be asleep. It was already four-thirty in the morning after all. Still, he was not the kind to avoid phone calls. Having agreed to lunch with Matthias, Zach set his alarm before hitting the sack.

The following morning, he was awakened by an early phone call. Prying his eyelids open, he grunted at the sight of his bedside clock. It was just beeping 9 a.m. For a brief moment, Zach contemplated on ignoring it. But despite his desire to return to dream world, his hand reached for his phone.

“Hello?” Zach answered dryly.

“Still asleep?” the familiar voice asked.

“Yea.”

“Do you know who’s calling?”

Zach took a quick glance at the screen. The caller was his ex-colleague.

“Yea. What’s up, Josh?” Zach asked.

“Want to have lunch today? Andy and I are meeting up.”

“I can’t. I have an appointment.”

“Ah, another time then.”

After the line clicked, Zach attempted to return to sleep. Unfortunately for him, it only made him more sluggish. Deciding it was better to get the day going, he pulled himself out of bed and got ready.

The coffee house was a popular joint. But it was merely a blur in Zach’s peripheral vision whenever he visited the mall. That Sunday afternoon, he found it full of people. After finding Matthias in the crowd, he had to slide between chairs just to get to him.

“Oh hey! I ordered for you already,” Matthias said.

Matthias had a habit of ordering in advance. It was a good thing Zach wasn’t a picky eater.

“No problem. What do you need me to do?” Zach asked.

“I’m supposed to meet Jodie after this. I need to hand her something. Could you stick around longer and give it to her instead?” Matthias asked while he took out a flash drive.

“Sure,” Zach said. He did not bother asking what was in the drive and pocketed it.

Shortly after, their food arrived. Zach wondered why it was necessary to have lunch over a simple request. It was not that Zach didn’t like Matthias, it was because Matthias was his boss and fellow contestant. Spending time with him outside of work felt strange. Didn’t Matthias feel the same way? They weren’t friends.

“So, what do you think about last night?” Matthias asked.

“Tiring,” Zach replied with a chuckle.

“I agree. Did you meet the hosts?”

“No. Who were they?”

“The Rogers of Rogers Talent Agency. You know them?”

“No.” Zach had not even heard of them.

“Well, they seem to know us. They even recognised me.”

Zach nodded. It did not dawn on him how strange it was, until Matthias continued.

“I heard them talking about you. Mrs Rogers said she wanted to meet you.”

“Why?” Zach asked. What made him so special?

“I don’t know. She talked about how Mrs Dune gave you a free pass as well.”

“Yea, that was a bit strange.”

“Mrs Dune gave me a hard time after you left.”

Recalling that day and what Matthias said about Mrs Rogers, there was something similar between those two encounters. Both ladies not only knew who they were, but they recognised them too.

“She knew us,” Zach stated.

“Coincidence?” Matthias said with a raised eyebrow.

Zach shrugged. He wanted to tell Matthias about his conversation with Mrs Dune, but then decided it was better to hold his tongue. If it had something to do with him, he wanted to be the first to know. And with that, the topic came to a close. There were several times when Matthias tried to bring it up again, but Zach was quick to end it. Perhaps that was why Matthias wanted to have lunch.

When they were done with their meal, Matthias said he would tell Jodie to meet him in the coffee house. Zach was fine with the plan and ordered himself a cup of coffee while he waited. During that time, he thought about what Matthias had said. Almost immediately, he had a sinking feeling. The only thing that managed to pull his attention away from the newfound knowledge was the conversation behind him.

The voices at the table behind his sounded familiar. After hearing the guffaw and the tsk-ing, he knew it was Andy and Josh. Zach wanted to turn around and greet them, but then they began talking about him.

“I know this sounds weird, but someone called me asking for information about Zach,” Josh said.

“Oh…” Andy simply replied.

“They said they would pay me.”

“I got the call too.”

“You did? I turned them down, of course.”

“Yea.”

“Who was that person, though? Should we tell Zach?”

“No! I mean, Zach doesn’t need to worry about this.”

“What do you mean? If someone is digging information about me, I want to know.”

“Well…”

“You didn’t.”

“What?”

“Tell me you didn’t betray our friend.”

“He isn’t really my friend,” Andy immediately replied. “Look, it’s not like I know a lot about him anyway. What could I say that would hurt him?”

Zach had the urge to confront them and find out more. What was the stranger’s name? How did the stranger sound? He could not find himself being angry with Andy at that moment. He was more curious and he was also afraid.

As he struggled to come to a decision on his next action, his phone beeped. Checking the message, he found Jodie asking if he was at the coffee house. Should he ask her to come over or was it better to meet her someplace else? Zach had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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 38: Who’s Watching?

clubhouse38

In his schooling years, Matthias used to imagine what it was like to be one of the elite. He wondered what kind of friends he would have, and how many parties he would be invited to. As he entered the adult world, he began to realise that it was actually better to earn a million dollars than to inherit it. After all, the immature men acting like boys were a good example why.

When he finally managed to escape the noisy bunch, he heard his name being called. Up ahead was Guinevere, waving him over. The moment Matthias hesitated, she jumped to her feet and walked over to him.

“What is it?” he asked.

“I want you to meet somebody,” Guinevere said.

“Why? We’re working,” he stated.

“You love networking, don’t you? I’m giving you a chance.”

Guinevere did not wait for his reply as she held onto his forearm and led him to a table. There, a man in his late 60’s sat beside a woman many years younger than him.

“This is Mr Rogers and his wife. He’s the founder of Rogers Talent Agency,” Guinevere introduced.

He placed the food plate down and quickly extended his hand for a shake. Mr Rogers greeted him with a smile, but before Matthias could introduce himself, Mrs Rogers said, “Matthias, right?”

“Yes, how did you know?” he asked in reply.

“Oh, you know, word goes around,” she simply said.

Matthias was not sure if that was a good or a bad thing. What kind of words got around? Sure, almost everyone in Skypeak knew about the competition, but was there a weekly report? Were some people informed on who ranked better than who? He knew the whole thing was a game, but he didn’t know who was watching.

“You know the ladies, they love getting together to gossip,” Mr Rogers said. “What do you do, Matthias?”

“I’m a lawyer at Auctor Automobiles.”

“Oh, that’s right. No wonder she recognises you,” Mr Rogers replied, giving his wife a nudge.

“Oh?” Matthias simply responded. As far as his memory served him, his company had nothing to do with a talent agency. They were in completely different industries after all.

“Now I remember. Your company needed talent for an advertisement. The person in-charge pointed you out,” Mrs Rogers said.

“They did? What was their name?” Matthias asked.

“I can’t remember.”

The pair’s cover up was the worst cover up anyone could have done. It only made Matthias even more suspicious. He wondered if Guinevere spotted it too, so he decided to end their little meet there.

“I don’t have my name card on me, perhaps I could give it to you later?” Matthias said.

“Oh, sure. Here’s mine,” Mr Rogers replied, as he handed Matthias his.

“Thank you. I wish we could talk longer, but I need to get this plate refilled,” he added.

“Please, don’t let me stop you.”

Matthias gave a nod. He wanted to ask Guinevere to join him, but she was quick to say, “Me too. Let’s go.”

As they walked out of the pool area and into the hallway, he decided to raise his suspicions, “It’s strange, don’t you think?”

“What is?”

“The two of them recognising me. Skypeak has thousands of members, even if they know my name, why would they know my face?”

“They said they were doing an ad for your company, weren’t you-”

“We have never done an ad with that agency.”

“Maybe no one told you about it.”

“I would know.”

Guinevere shrugged and pushed the door to the kitchen open. Once inside, the headwaiter took their plates and handed them another. That was the end of their conversation.

The whole evening continued on the same way. Matthias would serve the food and dishes on plates and trays, and then get them refilled. He did not speak with any of the guests unless spoken to, and he did the job as best as he could… all the while bouncing different theories in his head.

By the time the party ended, it was way past midnight. He finally got to rest his feet around three in the morning. None of the five said much when they handed their uniforms in. Richard, who was following Matthias home, did not say a word about the task either. Just as they were making their way to the car park, Matthias heard a voice.

“We should have left earlier. My back is aching,” Mr Rogers said.

“I don’t want the boy getting into trouble. He won’t do nonsense if he knows I’m watching,” Mrs Rogers replied.

The couple was at the lobby, waiting for their car. Matthias would have walked right by, but what they said next made him stop.

“I wish we could have spoken to Zach,” Mrs Rogers added.

“You know that’s not allowed.”

“They used our party as part of the challenge. What were they expecting?”

“They were expecting you to keep your mouth shut.”

“Oh please, Mrs Dune spoke to him. She even gave him a free pass.”

Matthias remembered that day clearly – the day Mrs Dune let Zach off the hook but would not give in to any of his own solutions.

“Do you think this is a game?” Mr Rogers scolded. He looked furious, and then he whispered a series of inaudible words.

“What is it?” Richard asked, when he noticed Matthias glued to the spot.

“Nothing,” Matthias replied.

He did not stick around any longer and left before the Rogers discovered him eavesdropping. Once home, Matthias felt the need to share his thoughts with someone. He told Jodie about his theory when they first met, and he wondered if she would have a better insight to the new information. He also wondered if it was better to ask Zach if he knew what was going on, since Zach seemed to be the person of interest. In order to fall asleep, Matthias had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 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.