Original Works

Chapter 65: Betting On The Truth

clubhouse65

“What did he say?”

Jodie strode over to Guinevere, who was sitting by the poolside staring blankly at the deep blue. It took her awhile to find her, and by then, Jodie knew Wayne had long gone.

“Nothing,” Guinevere replied.

“He didn’t say anything at all?”

“He wouldn’t answer my questions.”

“Well, at least we know he’s fine.”

“He didn’t mention anything to you?”

“No. And I don’t expect him to tell me anything unless I’m involved.”

Guinevere looked up at Jodie. Her thoughtful expression replaced with apprehension.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I wasn’t implying anything.”

“I wasn’t either.”

It was true. Jodie wasn’t implying anything, but Guinevere’s sudden defensive response reminded her of the thing she didn’t know about.

“Are you sure? Because-“

“We should check in with Matthias,” Guinevere interrupted. And without another word, she stalked off.

When Jodie and Guinevere arrived at the van, Zach and Matthias were already scrutinizing the footage. They played back the ballroom scene for the two of them and narrated as the seconds ticked by. Jodie had witnessed the fiasco in person. Yet somehow, the scene played out differently from a different angle.

Mrs Lee was seated beside Mr Lee, oblivious to what was about to happen next. She reached for her wineglass and took a sip when the ballroom doors swung open. In came the detectives followed by Wayne and the clubhouse security. Instantaneously, everyone rose to their feet and began their murmurs. Mr Lee demanded an explanation, and the detectives waved their warrant. They reached for Mrs Lee, but she flung her arms in defence. For a few seconds, the detectives and security tussled. Then the detectives took a step back and warned them about resisting arrest. The Lees had no choice and Mrs Lee unhappily gestured for the detectives to take the lead. As she stalked out of the ballroom, so did her entourage.

At the second replay, which Guinevere requested, Jodie watched where Wayne had been. He stood behind and away from the commotion. The detectives paid little attention to him. And that was a good sign. He wasn’t going to lose his position and he wasn’t going to prison. At least Jodie had one less thing to worry about.

“This is all Wayne’s doing,” Matthias deduced.

Guinevere shifted uneasily on her stool.

“Matthias is right. He’s fine. You’re fine,” Jodie said.

“It’s not over yet. Zach is still a target,” Matthias replied.

“Did any of you manage to call Richard?” Zach asked.

Guinevere was the first to retrieve her phone to make the call. A few seconds later, she shook her head.

“It’d be great if kept us updated,” Zach said.

“It’d be great if I wasn’t left out of the loop,” Jodie added.

Before anyone could naively ask what she meant, Guinevere abruptly stood and bumped her head into the top of the van. Cursing under her breath, she shuffled past Jodie to the exit.

“You alright?” Zach asked.

“It’s late and I’m tired. I’ll talk to you guys tomorrow,” Guinevere replied, as she hastily hopped off the van.

“We’re all tired. We should call it a night,” Matthias said.

Zach nodded and excused himself. He left as quickly as Guinevere did. Unfortunately for him, he’d have to sprint to get away from Jodie. That is if Jodie wanted to confront him again. It was at least a twenty-minute walk to the nearest bus stop.

Turning to Matthias, Jodie asked, “We have footage of the main foyer, right?”

“Yes, why?”

“Can I have a look?”

Matthias shrugged and pulled up the said footage while the shareholder dinner was in session. Either he was playing dumb or his brain was too tired to decipher Jodie’s intentions. Which was hard to believe.

“Rewind it to an hour before the dinner,” Jodie said.

“Why?”

“I need to check on something.”

Oddly, Matthias did as he was told. He rewound past Zach’s encounter with Mr Lee’s assistant and only stopped when Jodie told him to. He was obviously not going to confess without being asked.

“Do you mind?” Jodie asked, gesturing at the controls.

“Sure. What do you intend to find?”

“I don’t know.”

As the footage rolled, Jodie slowed it down to when Zach bumped into Mr Lee’s assistant. Zooming in to where the two made contact, Jodie spotted Zach’s hand brushing past the assistant’s pocket. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t at an angle to capture the act clearly.

“What are you looking for?” Matthias asked.

Jodie turned to Matthias and smirked. To think she even had a drop of slyness in her blood was laughable. At least now she knew. Trusting Matthias was impossible, but there wasn’t much of a choice to begin with. The only thing she could do was hope he’s a good person.

“Nothing,” Jodie said. “I’m calling it a night. Thanks.”

“Sure. Goodnight.”

Exiting the van, Jodie glanced at her watch. Zach left ten minutes ago, and Jodie could still catch him before he got on the bus. Would he cave and tell her what she needed to know? Or should she turn around and ask Matthias for an answer? Matthias might lie but he might also see no reason to if asked. 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 64: A New Tide

clubhouse64

“Richard’s in-charge,” Guinevere announced.

“What?”

“You shouldn’t have followed me.”

Before he had an appropriate response, Guinevere hurried out the exit leading to the ballroom. Jodie didn’t stick around either. She gave him a shrug and went after Guinevere. Grunting, Richard took a quick look around, and as though they’d not heard anything, the staff carried on with their chopping and dicing, ignoring him altogether.

“Well, I guess you guys don’t need me then,” Richard said.

It seemed they’d rather not have him around. And honestly, he didn’t mind their cold shoulders either. Turning on his heel, as he was ready to ditch the task he didn’t sign up for, a sudden ruckus rose from the ballroom. Some of the kitchen staff shuffled to the door for a look. When the yells reached an un-ignorable decibel, all of them cluttered by the doorway. Curious, Richard joined them too. Unfortunately, no ordering and demanding cleared a path for him.

Dying to know what the commotion was about, he decided to go the other way around. Exiting the kitchen, he jogged past the whitewashed walls and quickly arrived at the fork leading to the carpeted hallway. There, he ran into Guinevere again. This time however, she wasn’t alone.

Guinevere strode past him, dragging a man with her. They were in a heated conversation, with the man making obvious attempts to get away. Richard watched as he briefly contemplated on what to do next. But the decision wasn’t difficult that night. While the couple bickered, Richard heard the shuffling of footsteps by the hallway. Those footsteps were accompanied by the self-glorified claims of the woman he still called ‘mother’.

“You will regret this. I know people in high places,” she said.

“You have the right to remain silent. You should consider exercising it,” a man replied.

“I have the right to have you fired,” she retorted. “And let go of me, I can walk on my own.”

Looking toward the hallway, he saw a group of men leading his mother to the foyer. He figured they were the ones Guinevere saw earlier. Richard was now, without a doubt, certain they weren’t on the guest list. As he strode to the fringe of the hallway, intending to follow after the clean-shaven detectives, his route was blocked off by men in black suits. Like a procession, the escorts marched after his mother in attempts to prove she was indeed a powerful woman. And to no surprise, they weren’t alone.

There was another group of suited men tailing behind them. These men were part of his father’s entourage. They swept along like an ocean current, forcing Richard to remain rooted. While he waited for them to past, he caught a glimpse of his father and Gabriel. And just as they drifted by, something he least expected happened. The men halted. Followed by a moment of silence. A moment long enough for Richard to wonder if time had actually stopped.

“Am I invited?” Richard asked.

His father remained tight-lipped, while Gabriel turned to him.

“Unfortunately, yes. Try to keep up,” Gabriel said. As though his words were a cue, the procession continued.

“Well, isn’t this fun.” Richard slipped into the group and slowly fell behind. He didn’t want to be part of the escort, nor did he want to walk beside his father. So he followed from the back, as they entered the foyer and exited the clubhouse.

Outside the building was a train of black, tinted sedans. The chauffeur held the first car’s back door open, and his father swiftly entered. As Gabriel took a step after his father, he gestured to Richard and said, “Get in the front.”

Richard chuckled. Being ordered around by Gabriel wasn’t something he could get used to. Even if they weren’t blood related, Richard was still much older. Having decided to decline the offer and move to another car instead, Richard found his plan stumped when Jodie called after him.

Jodie shuffled down the steps, and without bothering to catch her breath, she asked, “Did you – did you see Wayne?”

“Wayne?”

“Guinevere’s fiancé.”

“Oh, that guy? Well-”

“We don’t have all day,” Gabriel interrupted. “Who is this?”

Did Gabriel not know who Jodie was? Richard wasn’t buying it. “Everyone knows who this is,” Richard replied.

“Right. But not everyone should,” Gabriel stated, before slipping into the car.

As the chauffeur closed the door, Richard imagined Gabriel and his father watching – waiting to see his next move. What Gabriel said made sense, if one was playing their game.

“Do you know where he is?” Jodie asked.

Richard was sure they could hear him from inside the car. Even if they couldn’t, the men standing around him weren’t deaf. Was it a good idea to be friendly with Jodie at a time like this? Should he just brush her off? Yes, he did see Wayne. But the odds of him still being cornered by Guinevere were low.

“You know who I’m talking about, right?” Jodie shifted uneasily. He knew, that she knew, he was contemplating.

Seconds turned to minutes. And the longer he thought about his decision, the more questionable it became. 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.

Original Works

Chapter 63: Uninvited Guests

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She said nothing as she accompanied Zach to the loading bay. Once they’d arrived, Matthias gestured Zach into the van while she returned to her job. She gave the list of courses and dishes a run through. And by the time she was done, she had a paper cut and the guests were already gathered in the ballroom.

“We can start serving the appetizers,” Guinevere said.

The kitchen began its scrambling. Seconds later, the service staff entered the ballroom with hors d’oeuvres. In and out they went, refilling their trays, as the chatter of the rich and powerful rushed through the swinging doors. Guinevere was tempted to take a peek, but before she could even get close to the exit, her name would be hollered. Once all the guests had settled down, she gave up.

While a welcoming speech went on in a distance, the grills were fired up and a mixture of smells quickly filled the air around her. It made her stomach growl, but only for a while. Time was non-existent in the kitchen and soon she was calling for the entrées to be served.

Who knew running a dinner service would be this hectic. She always thought reality shows were scripted and she never forgave a slow service. After that night, she still wouldn’t forgive a slow service. However, she did decide to extend her grace period – that was kind enough of her.

After the guests were done with their entrées, there was another speech. By then, Guinevere had lost all interest in the entire agenda. She simply couldn’t wait for the night to end. Knowing there was going to be more speeches and the introduction of the new heir of Wilhelm Group during the main course, she called for a break. To her surprise, no one took her seriously but herself. But that didn’t matter.

Guinevere excused herself to the hallway outside the kitchen, and briefly contemplated on checking in with Matthias. It wasn’t about seeing if he was doing his job, it was simply hoping he’d discovered something new. Why would she put herself through hell if there was no reward? Fingers crossed, she made her way to the loading bay. Seeing as there was enough time, she took a casual stroll. But just as she walked past a connecting hallway, she saw someone that made the seconds rush by.

“Wayne?” Guinevere hurried after the figure. As she stepped onto the carpeted hallway, she was greeted by the back of black coats. There were seven of them and one silhouette was undoubtedly her fiancé.

Guinevere thought of calling his name, but two questions held her back: who were the other six men and why were they headed for the ballroom? If she wasn’t mistaken, there weren’t a group of six men on the guest list. Jogging back to the kitchen, to get a better look from the other side of the ballroom door, Guinevere ran into Richard.

“Whoa, what’s the hurry?” Richard asked.

“Is there a group of six on the guest list?”

“No. Why?”

“I saw a group.”

“Well, they could be here for, I don’t know, a game of golf?”

“No, I don’t…”

Guinevere couldn’t expect Richard to understand where she was coming from. And the more she spoke to him, the more time she wasted.

“Nevermind,” Guinevere replied.

But knowing Richard, he wasn’t going to leave the conversation hanging. He tailed her like a curious cat as she brisk walked to the kitchen.

“What’s so special about the group?” Richard asked.

“Forget it,” Guinevere said.

“Come on, if they’re suspicious, I can inform Matthias.”

“Matthias, that’s right.” Guinevere halted in her steps. Maybe she should visit the van – the cameras would’ve caught the faces of the men.

“That’s what I’m saying,” Richard replied.

“Whatever you’re saying isn’t important right now,” someone else joined their conversation. Jodie had exited the kitchen into the hallway where they were standing. It seems they’d both developed a habit of barging into each other’s conversations.

“What’s the problem?” Guinevere asked.

“A complaint from a guest. Your service staff served her steak when she requested for salad.”

“We’ll just replace her dish. How’s that a problem?”

“It isn’t… for the common men.”

Despite the sting, there was no comeback for Jodie’s remark. Even Richard said nothing and simply shrugged. Guinevere would’ve attempted to justify the pettiness, but on that day, she couldn’t be bothered. She needed to find Wayne.

“So you’re just going to stand there?” Jodie asked.

“I need one of you to cover for me,” Guinevere replied. “Please, just help me handle this.”

“That’s cowardly,” Jodie said.

“No, that’s not why. Just help me hold off the guest for a while. I’ll be right back.”

Neither of them lifted their hands to volunteer. So Guinevere reached for their arms and dragged them into the kitchen. The shock at her sudden brashness left both Jodie and Richard speechless. Guinevere was surprised by her own actions too, but chose not to respond. Her plan was to call out one of their names among the kitchen staff – announce the new person in charge – and leave the scene. As irresponsible as it would seem, she had no time to explain. The simple plan needed immediate execution and Guinevere 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 62: Secrets & Lies

clubhouse62

“I have a job for you.”

“Oh, now?”

It was the weekend. Didn’t Matthias promise not to bother him on the weekends – let alone this important weekend?

“Sorry, I don’t mean a job. More of like a task for today,” Matthias corrected himself.

“Like a task for today’s challenge or a task for work?”

“For today’s challenge.”

“Right. What do you need me to do?”

They’d met at the Japanese garden again. The sky was in an evening shade of orange, and the bustling for the shareholder’s dinner could be heard over the trickling stream. Whatever task it was, Zach didn’t have much time. In a couple of hours, guests would be rolling in in their fancy cars and suits, and he had to be sure the ballroom was ready for them.

“I need you to slip this…” Matthias paused, passing a small, black listening device to Zach. “Into this man’s jacket,” Matthias continued, showing Zach a picture as he did.

“He looks familiar.”

“He’s Mr Lee’s assistant. He might be leaving Skypeak soon, so you’ve got to hurry. I’ll tell you where he is once I get back to the van.”

Zach knew why he was chosen for the side mission. He was unimportant, and perfect to go unnoticed. However, why it needed to be done was a mystery – if the assistant was leaving Skypeak, there really was no need to bug him.

“You’re not telling me something,” Zach said.

“What do you mean?”

Matthias was a natural liar. Everything about him, at that moment, portrayed genuine confusion. But after having worked for him, Zach had developed a sixth sense for when things smelled a little fishy.

“The assistant is leaving Skypeak, so why do we need to bug him unless something else is happening outside of Skypeak.”

“Ah, well, it has something to do with Jodie’s case.”

“You’re off her case.”

“Well, yea. But Richard overheard something that might be Jodie’s get out of jail card. Where the assistant is heading might confirm our suspicion.”

“And what suspicion is that?”

“We really don’t have time. Plant the bug first and I’ll tell you later.”

Matthias gave Zach a hasty pat on the shoulder before jogging off. Grunting to himself, Zach returned to the clubhouse foyer. He wondered if he should do as he was told. After all, that was what he was good at. When he heard Matthias over his earpiece, he decided to just go with it.

“You’re in a great location. The assistant will be down shortly. A little bump will do the trick.”

“Easy for you to say.”

“His lift is arriving.”

There was a click in his earpiece. Then, the lift went ding. Zach turned and strode in its direction. Once the assistant was in sight, he stopped and pretended to reach for his phone. A millisecond after the man brushed past him, Zach jerked his hand out of his pocket, elbowing the assistant in the arm.

The intentional jab sent the assistant stumbling off course. Zach reached for him, dropped the hearing device into the man’s jacket, and asked, “I’m sorry. Are you alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine,” the assistant replied. He gave Zach a look, as though he’d recognised him, before excusing himself.

Zach watched as the assistant exited the foyer and hopped into a tinted, black sedan. Why he was leaving without Mr Lee made Zach all the more curious.

“Did you do it?” Matthias asked.

“Yea.”

“Great. Come to the van and I’ll fill you in.”

Trying to look like he wasn’t just talking to himself, Zach casually slipped down a hallway. Then wondering if the information was worth the hurry, he took a shortcut and ran right into Jodie.

“Oh, sorry.”

“What was that?” Jodie asked.

“Sorry, I really didn’t see you.”

“No, I mean, you elbowed that man on purpose,” Jodie stated, so confidently as though she was the mastermind behind it.

“I… well… it was that obvious?” Zach asked. He wasn’t sure if he should say anything. He wasn’t sure if he should even mention he was doing it for her.

“From where I’m standing, yes,” Jodie replied. “What are you up to?”

“I’m not sure…”

“We have enough secrets as it is. If it concerns any one of us, I should know.”

Jodie was right. Secrets, lies, and deception made the foundation of this game. Setting up more secrets in the attempts of revealing the truth didn’t seem logical. Zach was about to tell Jodie everything, when he heard his name being hollered down the hallway. The familiar sing-song voice and clicking of the heels made both him and Jodie sigh in unison.

“I need your help, Zach. Can you lend me a hand?” Guinevere asked, as she joined them.

“I’ll be with you shortly, I just-”

“Matthias is by the kitchen too,” Guinevere interrupted. “He said he has something to tell you?”

Guinevere gave him an overly friendly, never-before-seen grin, which only meant she was there to rescue him.

“Tell him what?” Jodie asked.

Guinevere simply shrugged in response.

Zach had a choice then: he could either follow Guinevere and learn of the secret first, or he could tell Jodie what he was up to. Either way, the clock was ticking and time was of the essence. Zach 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.

Original Works

Chapter 59: Waiting On Table 9

clubhouse59

“Guinevere!”

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the daily kitchen service, running alongside the dinner’s preparation, she heard her name in a harsh whisper. It was a talent of hers to catch the mention of her name even in the noisiest environment. It meant few people could get away with gossiping behind her back.

“Guinevere!”

Turning to the door where the voice had come from, she saw Zach gesturing her over.

“What?” Guinevere asked, as she slipped past the preparation table. “What is it?”

Zach pulled her out of the kitchen into the corridor, and said, “Your parents are here. They’re dining with the Lees in the restaurant.”

“My parents? With the Lees?”

Suddenly, she had a crazy idea to spike their orders with laxatives. As childish as it was, it seemed like the best kind of revenge for the people who ruined her happy ending.

“Yes, they’re having a luncheon. I just thought you should know.”

Nodding her head, Guinevere thanked Zach before returning to the stoves and knives. No, she wasn’t going to spike the food, but she was going to serve them.

Heading to the expeditor on duty, she demanded the orders of the Lees’ table and insisted she would take the dishes to them. As she had expected, the kitchen staff put up quite a resistance. It was only after threatening to call her parents into the kitchen did they give in. But of course, she was never planning on doing so. It was the element of surprise that she wanted.

“Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing,” Guinevere assured the headwaiter, before picking the plates and stalking to table nine.

Table nine was at the far corner of the restaurant. She had plenty of time to run through all the words she planned on saying upon her service. But ten feet before the table itself, she caught her mother’s eyes.

There was a brief moment where her mother hesitated to call her out. So helping her mother make the decision, she announced her presence instead.

“Mother? What are you… father?” Guinevere feigned ignorance.

“Guinevere?” her father asked with brows furrowed.

“I’m just helping the service staff. I’m also on duty for the shareholder’s dinner tonight,” Guinevere said with a wide smile.

Her mother responded with mutters under her breath. If it were a few decibels higher, Guinevere would’ve gotten an earful on having not dropped out of the clubhouse challenge yet.

Ignoring her parents’ obvious discomfort, she turned to the Lees and placed their dishes down. “Mr and Mrs Lee, I believe these are your orders,” Guinevere said.

“Thank you. Guinevere, is it?” Mrs Lee asked.

“Yes ma’am. The one and only.”

“We’re sorry to hear about your engagement,” Mrs Lee added.

“Oh, please don’t. I hear Wayne’s set to be in trouble. I wouldn’t want to be a part of the politics. Neither does my family.”

“Guinevere,” her mother snapped.

“Yes, mother?”

“The rest of our orders have yet to arrive.”

“Oh, right, let me go check on them.”

Guinevere gave another smile before stalking back to the kitchen. She still had three more chances to instigate some tension with four more dishes to serve. If that plan failed, she could always try to seat herself with them. Why were there only three couples having lunch? She really wanted to know.

Once in the kitchen, the headwaiter grudgingly handed over her parents’ dishes. But just before Guinevere could return for round two, the back kitchen door slammed open. There were a few ‘hey!’s and ‘what are you doing?’s before she saw the culprit storming toward her.

“Richard, wha-”

“I’ll do it,” Richard replied, as he snatched the plates from her hands.

The headwaiter gasps and attempted to take the plates back, but Richard swerved out of his grasp.

“Wait,” Guinevere said. “Wait!”

She managed to pull at Richard’s collar before he reached the door. And as he stumbled backwards at the sudden force, the headwaiter swooped it and took the plates from him.

“This isn’t how we run this restaurant,” the headwaiter scolded.

“Shut up and hand me the plates,” Richard replied, giving Guinevere a glare as he rubbed his throat.

“Hold on. You don’t want to go out there,” Guinevere said.

“Why not?”

“Because your parents are out there.”

“I know.”

“Are you trying to make a scene?”

“Weren’t you trying to make a scene?”

“No, I was just-”

“Oh please, stop with the act.”

“I have a good reason.”

“What makes your reason more important than mine?”

“OK, what’s your reason then? Do you think showing up would put your name back in the family registry?”

Guinevere never thought she would be fighting with Richard. Out of the five, they had the most in common. If she ever had a verbal war, it was more likely to be with Jodie. Yet there they were, brawling over who should send out the dishes.

“No. Then – then what’s yours? Don’t say you’re doing it for any of us. That would be a lie too.”

“It’s not a lie, I can find out-”

“Stop.”

“Stop what?”

Richard turned his head toward the other kitchen staff, and it was only then that Guinevere realised how quiet it was. The whole kitchen had their eyes and ears wide open, witnessing their rather bratty quarrel.

“What are you all looking at?” Guinevere asked.

“Let me serve the dishes,” Richard said calmly.

“I don’t think…”

Everyone was still listening.

Hating the sudden attention they were getting, Guinevere contemplated on letting Richard serve. At the end of the day, they all had issues to solve. Perhaps she should give Richard his chance. The only problem was, would his appearance affect her status? What would the Lees think if she’s associated with their disowned son? Guinevere 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 58: In Pairs

clubhouse58

Twenty screens were stacked against the wall of the security room. Every five seconds, they flicked to a different angle. As though a robbery was rumoured to occur, ten pairs of eyes watched them fervently. When Zach saw what they were up against, he lost most of his confidence.

“Can I have your attention?” Matthias asked.

Matthias was in the lead as they entered through the steel door. But who went first didn’t matter. Neither of their presence stirred a positive response. In fact, the men looked annoyed at having to attend the impromptu meeting.

“Zach here will brief on the agenda,” Matthias said.

With a lack of response, Matthias began rounding up the men – particularly those tasked to stare at the screens – and grouped them in the centre of the room. They seemed reluctant, but they obliged.

“It’ll only take a while,” Zach said.

When Zach heard a few grunts, he began.

With his file in hand, he kept his gaze on the text and tried his best to not look suspicious. He read off it, adding unnecessary details to prolong the session. While doing so, he took quick glances at the screens. But being that there were twenty of them, he didn’t know where to look. So by the time he was done with the briefing, he wasn’t even sure if Jodie, Richard, and Guinevere had successfully completed their task. It was only after he and Matthias had left the room, did he receive confirmation.

“Thanks. It went well,” Matthias stated.

“It did? I didn’t see-”

“That’s the point.”

“Right, of course.”

“I’ll let you know if anything comes up.”

Matthias then excused himself and Zach had to take his word for it.

It was already noon when they’d completed the mini mission.There were a few more hours to make sure everything was set, and Zach didn’t want to dilly dally with his remaining tasks. As he headed to the ballroom to check on the decorations, he passed the foyer and spotted a familiar looking pair.

Having read through all the files Jodie furnished him, he knew almost immediately who the couple was. The Italian-suited man and the diamond-adorned woman were the Lees. The man was to give a speech that night, and the woman had requested a special kind of water during the dinner. They were also Richard’s ex-parents – if there was such a term to begin with.

As the couple strode toward the restaurant, the front desk manager hurried to their side. But before she could offer her services, she was shooed away. Apparently, they didn’t like having an escort, which was surprising to see in Skypeak, let alone from such people.

Shortly after the important pair disappeared, another pair walked in. This pair however, Zach didn’t recognize. Once again, the front desk manager attempted at her job. And once again, she was excused. Curious as to what was going on, Zach headed to the front desk itself.

“Is there a meeting or something?” Zach asked the other staff on duty.

“I’m not sure,” the man replied, flipping through a logbook.

Before Zach could probe any further, another couple entered the foyer. Unlike the couple before them, he’d seen this pair before. But because they weren’t on the agenda for the shareholder’s dinner, he wasn’t sure how he knew them.

“Who’re they?” Zach asked.

The man looked up from the book and said, “The Dae’hans.”

“Who?”

“The Dae’hans of Dae’han Insurance.”

“Guinevere’s parents?”

“Yes. Ms Guinevere’s parents.”

Zach was amazed at the man’s visual memory, but it wasn’t the time to be giving praises. When the front desk manager returned to her spot behind the counter – after being rejected for the third time – Zach excused himself but lingered around. He wanted to see if there were more couples arriving. But after ten minutes, it was confirmed the three pairs were having a private luncheon.

With nothing more to witness, Zach began his stroll to the ballroom. Every step he took, curiosity nibbled at him. When he neared the double door, he halted in his steps and curiousity won. Zach wondered if he should inform Guinevere and Richard about their parents’ early arrival. It seemed strange only three couples were meeting. It was even stranger they were ‘related’ to two contestants.

Before the clubhouse challenge, Zach would’ve minded his own business and ignored what he saw. After all, he didn’t care what others were up to, as it didn’t concern him. Now that he was being set up, he couldn’t close an eye. If possible, he wanted to stir up trouble too. Perhaps then, he could unravel the truth. The question was, who would make a bigger fuss to the secret meeting?

Since Guinevere was in the kitchen, she’d be on to them immediately. But would she make a scene? With the one that caused her engagement in sight, she just might. Richard on the other hand, was a natural at getting attention. Simply showing up, without having to utter a word, would be enough. Zach was planning to tell them both, but who should be the first to know? He 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 57: Who’s Watching Who?

clubhouse57

Matthias hated last minute jobs. The fact that he had to set up the ballroom, backstage, and main hallway, with expensively obtained micro-cams the morning of the dinner, caused unnecessary stress. But he never once regretted taking over security. If they were going to uncover anything, he was going to be the one to do so – not so much for his ego, but to find a way to return to his old predictable life.

Out of the five, Matthias was the least affected by the strings of Wilhelm Group. Sure, there was the time where they blackmailed him. But there was no lawsuit, no family ties, and he wasn’t a scapegoat to any devious crime. Picking up his bags and leaving was easy. Unfortunately, he hated the idea of starting over. So to save him the trouble of running away or working with the enemy, he planned on exposing them. And in such a task, he knew he would do a better job than Richard.

“Matthias, you should get going,” Jodie said.

The five of them assembled at Skypeak’s foyer that morning – Jodie had just ended her briefing on the agenda. The shareholders will start rolling in at 7pm, before the welcoming speech at 8pm. The kitchen had begun their preparation for dinner scheduled to start at 8.30pm, and the decorations were being set up as they spoke. The only thing left to do was to set their eyes and ears in place.

“I’ll need help,” Matthias stated.

“Zach and Richard can oversee the ballroom. Why don’t you make a round backstage to see if everything is in order?” Jodie replied.

“Sounds like a plan,” Zach said.

Nodding, Matthias gestured to Richard and Zach while slipping them each a small black pouch. Then he made his way to the open space behind the ballroom, where excess chairs and decorations were stored. There were two security personnel making their rounds in that area. So Matthias gave them the task of informing the rest of the team about a briefing in an hour’s time. Their immediate absence freed him to put all cameras in place. And when he was done, he made a call.

Richard’s ‘friends’ were a hired team of professionals. They’d planted themselves among the staff, and had set up station in a delivery truck at the loading bay. Calling them confirmed every camera was live, but calling them didn’t mean his task was done. There was still one important location free from their intrusion, and it was the hallway leading to the grand event.

That carpeted walkway was decorated with expensive China, indisputable renaissance paintings, crystal chandeliers, and imported velvet couches. It was perfect for bugging, except for the many red, blinking eyes that watched from above. Pretending to lend Guinevere a hand, Matthias slipped into the kitchen where he met one of the hired men acting as a waiter.

“We can mess with the cameras for a few minutes, but the security team would know. You’ll need to take all eyes off the screen before we do so,” the man whispered.

“I have a meeting with the team in half an hour.”

“Can you handle them all?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Then take someone with you,” the man said, before dropping something into Matthias’ pocket.

Once out of the kitchen, Matthias headed to the washroom where he slipped on the given earpiece. He then texted the four to meet in the Japanese garden. It was the safest place, as it was outside the four walls of the main building. And within minutes, everyone had gathered by the trickling stream.

“I’ll make this quick. I need help setting up the hallway outside the ballroom. We can get it done quickly if all hands are on deck.”

“Sure,” everyone replied.

“The hallway cameras will go out for a while, giving us some time to get the job done. But in those minutes, we can’t have the security team watching. So, I need one of you to follow me and be a distraction.”

“I’d volunteer, but it would be suspicious, wouldn’t it?” Richard remarked, clearly still upset he was pushed to guest duty.

“Doesn’t makes sense for me to follow you,” Jodie stated. “I’ll set up the hallway.”

“How about I do it? I can buy time briefing the agenda,” Zach said.

“No offense Zach, but I think I should be the one. I can visit the security team with drinks and snacks,” Guinevere suggested. “As you can see, I’m wearing red today.”

“It’s certainly difficult to not see you, even if we wanted to… not see you,” Richard stated.

“Exactly.”

“But wouldn’t it be strange for you to show up without reason?” Jodie pointed out.

“No. I’m just being thoughtful. Those men have a long day ahead, and they could use a boost in morale.”

“That’s very nice of you.”

Guinevere took the sarcastic remark with a smile and nodded. “Yes, it is. So, is it me or Zach?”

Being easy on the eyes was an advantage, but having no real intention wasn’t. It would’ve been convenient if Guinevere was in-charge of the agenda from the start. Unfortunately, she wasn’t. Still, maybe she was a better distraction than Zach.

“You don’t know what they’re like. They might not buy your… red dress,” Zach stated.

“Red dresses always work, Zach,” Guinevere replied confidently.

Matthias had watched the way the security in Skypeak work, and Zach’s statement made sense. They took their job very seriously – too seriously for that matter. Bringing Guinevere might not help at all, but it was hard to tell. Either way, the meeting was in fifteen minutes and 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 56: Whose Eyes, Whose Ears

clubhouse56

Jodie was the earliest. She sat in the silence thinking about life in prison. How horrid could it be? After days of discussing with Wayne’s recommended lawyer while trying to run a now scandalous publishing house, she found herself oscillating between accepting her fate and fighting for justice. Perhaps it was better to escape the world behind bars. It seemed less stressful.

When she began her imagination of prison food, she heard a series of click clocks. The moment it stopped, there was Guinevere taking a seat across her. They were told to meet in the clubhouse restaurant at 9a.m. Guinevere arriving a minute before the designated time was unusual.

“You’re early,” Jodie said.

“Well, I wanted to get this over with.”

“Whom did you vote for?”

“You.”

“Why?” Jodie asked, failing to hide the horror in her voice.

Of all people, why did Guinevere have to vote for her? She didn’t want to be team captain. And the only reason she showed up was the possibility of discovering something new during the shareholder’s dinner. Being team captain would make it impossible to snoop around.

“Why not? You make a good leader.”

“Thank you. I’m so glad you think so.”

Guinevere shrugged as Matthias and Zach made an appearance. Jodie thought of asking them whom they voted for too, but was afraid they had chosen her as well. So they sat in silence until Richard came strolling in with Ms Leona a few feet behind.

“I’ve tabulated the votes,” Ms Leona said, without joining them at the table. “And surprisingly unanimous, your team captain is Jodie.”

Jodie dropped her gaze and held back a sigh. Ms Leona proceeded to briefing them about the dinner that was happening the following day, before placing four files on the table. The labels read, ‘Security’, ‘Food’, ‘Guests’, and ‘Agenda’.

“The team captain will assign each of you a task. Do it to the best of your ability. As you know, all eyes will be watching,” Ms Leona said. She then turned on her heel and stalked off in a hurry.

“Dibs on security,” Richard immediately said.

“I don’t mind handling the food. I rather not see anyone at the dinner,” Guinevere stated.

“I’m fine with anything,” Zach muttered.

When Matthias didn’t voice his preference, everyone turned to him. He responded to the attention by unfolding a paper napkin and scribbling three words: Let’s meet tonight.

He then pushed the napkin toward Guinevere and offered her the pen. She wrote ‘okay’ and forward the napkin to Zach. He added the alphabet ‘K’, before sliding the napkin to Richard who scribbled ‘Ok’.

Just before it was Jodie’s turn to reply, she nodded and said, ‘Richard can do security, Guinevere the food, Zach the agenda, and Matthias the guests.”

“Great!” Richard snatched his file and flipped it open. He was the only one excited about the event, as the rest sluggishly got to their feet and excused themselves one by one. Jodie left Richard last, returning to her thoughts of orange jumpsuits.

On most Saturdays, Jodie would be in the gym or at the clubhouse taking some time off work. That Saturday, she was at home waiting for night to arrive. There was nothing she needed to do and nothing she wanted to do. So she stared blankly at the television until her stomach signalled dinner time.

Without bothering to change, she headed to a roadside stall for a quick meal before making her way to the abandoned institution. She parked her car at the same spot she did the last time, before strolling toward the haunting school grounds. It was no longer as hair raising of an experience, as she had left her mood to be adventurous at home.

After three flights of steps up the soulless building, Jodie entered the classroom where they had met previously. There, she found the other four.

“We were about to call you,” Zach said.

“Sorry. So-”

“So, we all agree that we’ll use the dinner to scour for information, right? Guinevere interrupted.

“Of course. I’ve contacted a friend of mine who’ll help us,” Richard said.

“What friend?” Matthias asked with an eyebrow raised.

“A friend. He’ll bring his team to set the clubhouse up. Then during dinnertime, we’ll have eyes and ears on every table.”

“That’s a good idea,” Guinevere stated.

“I’m not too sure about that,” Matthias replied.

“Why not?” Zach asked.

“Well, Ms Leona said we’re being watched. And it is extremely suspicious for Richard to still be around, especially after his mother told him to leave,” Matthias said, gesturing to Richard. “In case you forgot, your brother is the new head of Wilhelm Group.”

“And that’s why I’ll do security. I’ll be in the shadows,” Richard assured.

“Let me do security,” Matthias said. “I’ll handle your friends.”

“And how is taking care of the guests any less discreet?”

“I suggest you don’t show tomorrow.”

“And miss out on the fun?”

“Well, this isn’t about fun, Richard,” Guinevere snapped. “None of this is fun.”

“Whoa, just so you know, you’re not the only victim here,” Richard replied.

“Why don’t you tell me what makes you a victim?” Guinevere challenged.

“My life being a lie? Do you think I’d sit around and let the Lee’s pretend I don’t exist?”

“Oh you’re such whiner.”

“Both of you are,” Jodie finally spoke. It was frustrating to see how the two most privileged individuals in their group threw a pity party around themselves. “Of all the victims in this room, you two have the least to worry about it.”

“Whatever,” Guinevere muttered.

“Look, I’m the man for this job. I’ve done it before. And I’m not going to sit out on it,” Richard stated.

“If you aren’t, then take up the guests task. It’s far from discreet but you won’t draw suspicion. Use your presence as a distraction. That will help,” Matthias replied.

Richard said nothing and turned to Jodie. Matthias did the same, while Guinevere sulked and Zach watched. Matthias made a good point. Richard would draw attention no matter what position he’s in. But in the case of letting Matthias take over, could he be trusted? 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.