Original Works

Chapter 72: The Apple And It’s Tree

clubhouse72

Life went on. For those in the Wilhelm Group scheme, their ship sailed into a storm that nearly brought the company to its knees. Lawsuits after lawsuits, it seemed never ending for the global multi-industry giant. Fortunately for Richard, he wasn’t a part of it. In fact, he reaped a massive cheque from suing the group, the law firm, and the Lees. It was easy money for the unexpected victim.

After Matthias surprisingly agreed to work with Richard, Richard launched his first fashion line. From a rich heir to an orphan, his story made him a celebrity. The day his first boutique opened its doors, hundreds queued around the block, with reporters snapping pictures for their favourable articles. In reality, what people assumed to be a ‘riches to rags to riches’ story was truthfully and simply ‘riches to riches’. Yet no one read between the lines of those biased, and occasionally paid, interviews.

It would seem Richard’s story ended on a high note, unlike the rest of the clubhouse contestants. There was no lost of status, fame, or wealth – only time and perhaps, the truth. For him, time wasted in court wasn’t time wasted at all. But the truth that surfaced during each session weren’t full truths. And the more he realised they were empty shells, the more he found himself questioning his identity.

Everything his lawyer brought to the table was an assumption. What happened to his birth mother? Was there foul play in her death? Where was his biological father? Was he dead or alive? And all attempts to find the answers were futile. Leaving the courthouse with millions in his bank account was great, but no amount of green notes could buy the answers he wanted. After realising how his lost of self held him back, he decided to move on and start over. And that was how his fashion empire began.

A year after the Lees made the headlines of every newspaper in the country, Richard received a call from Guinevere. They didn’t bother keeping in touch, but they did occasionally say hello at galas and showcases. To actually see Guinevere’s caller ID on screen washed a wave of nostalgia up his shore.

“Inviting me to an event, are you?” Richard answered.

“Now that wouldn’t be surprising. But, I’m calling because of something else,” Guinevere said.

“What’s that something else?”

“My brother-in-law has taken over my father’s company, and while clearing old files, he found something you might be interested in.”

Richard made a conscious effort not to be involved in any subsidiary of Wilhelm group. So, he didn’t see how any old file would interest him.

“Are you planning to sell information on my competitors?” Richard joked.

“No. I have information about your father. Your birth father.”

“Wait… what? How?”

“When he worked for your other – the Lees – he was given insurance under the company. There is a family contact with a country code of another… country.”

That was new information. The records of his father and mother in the Lees possession had mysteriously gone missing during the trial. The few local contacts related to his father couldn’t be reached. And there wasn’t a single international contact on the list. It could very much be a dead end, but it was new nevertheless.

“I can send you this document, if you’d like to look into it,” Guinevere added.

For the first time, in the opportunity to find himself, Richard contemplated.

“Give me a minute. I’ll call you back.”

He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. Aside from the fact that he didn’t have the time to go on a wild goose chase, he was afraid of what he might find. Should he try again? Was it worth it?

Just last week, he was invited to an internationally acclaimed fashion event. He could use the lack of time as an excuse to drop the idea. But as his thumb hovered over the dial, he recalled Matthias telling him about Zach. Zach had found a place in a private investigation agency. After all the spying and snooping during their Skypeak days, it seems the man discovered his forte. If Richard really wanted to find his father, he could hire Zach to get the job done. Unfortunately, it was a much tougher decision than he thought it would be.

The thought of completely tossing the opportunity lingered at the back of his mind. Perhaps it was better to ask Guinevere to burn the file. Perhaps not knowing who abandoned him – who sold him off as a puppet – was a smarter decision. What would he say to the man who left him with the wolves? How could he even face him, if he was still alive? And what if he was dead – would that make Richard feel any better?

Still, he promised Guinevere he would call her back. And if there was one good thing Mrs Lee taught him, it was to never keep a lady waiting. Dialing Guinevere’s number, 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 71: A Clean Slate

clubhouse71

He wasn’t ignoring anyone on purpose. He was simply too busy to entertain those he thought weren’t important. Matthias decided to return Zach’s calls once the workload lessened, but after countless went unanswered, he gave in to the ring that particular midnight.

“You picked up,” Zach said.

“I’ve been busy.”

“Don’t worry about it. I need your help with something.”

Matthias contemplated excusing himself. But he ended up feeling obligated and listened to the need instead. When Zach was done explaining, Matthias said, “Give me fifteen minutes. I’ll call you back.”

Fifteen minutes was all he needed. His company acquired insurance from the same agency and had access to their online portal. A boot of the hacking software he’d invested in a year ago would do the trick. And a minute short of fifteen, Matthias had what Zach needed.

“The case number is 763340. Call me if you need anything else,” Matthias said.

“That’s all I need. Thank you.”

With a click, Matthias had done his last deed for Jodie. There was no way he could make up for selling her out, but at least he did what he could to help. With no more rings from Zach, Matthias woke the next morning to a text from Guinevere. And when he tuned in to the morning news, another case was solved.

Neal Cortez was found alive, though unconscious, in the Wilhelm Group owned hospital. The case against Jodie was dropped, and his own case against the Lees had just been made easier. Matthias was certain he could put mama and papa Lee behind bars. Though unfortunately, there was nothing to pin Gabriel to, to lock him up along with his parents. The sly youth would take over what is left of the company, and if he were wise enough to save it in the midst of hostile shareholders, he’d rule the new empire. But Matthias couldn’t be bothered with what happened after. He wanted to move on. If anything, he’d made a good impression with the press in his fight for Guinevere and Wayne’s freedom. That was enough for him to leave his old company, and perhaps leave the country altogether.

A month after the settlement of Guinevere’s case, Matthias handed in his resignation. He then paid Zach his last paycheque, and put in a good word for him with an old college friend. He also signed a blank cheque for his sister to hand to his parents on one of her visits home. No, he still found no reason to reconcile with them. And being unable to sever ties, his only option was to get away. Perhaps one day, in the future, there would be a story to tell about his dark past. But for now, it would remain untold.

As Matthias’ life began to quiet down, he finally resolved on leaving the country. With multiple job offers, he started his search for the soonest flight out of town. But the day he decided to book his ticket, he received an odd proposition for him to stay. Richard had called for brunch, and after what they’d been through, Matthias agreed to the free meal.

“So, what do you say?” Richard asked.

“I don’t know what to say.”

“We’ll make a great team.”

“I kind of doubt that.”

Richard laughed. “We’ve changed, both you and I,” he added.

“I’m still the same. You, maybe.”

“Ah, yes. I had a lot of growing up to do. And I think, now that I’ve matured-”

“You over credit yourself, Richard.”

Now that I’ve matured, starting fresh would do us both good. I’ve gotten talented people on board. And with the world, just waiting to see what I’m about to do next, it’ll-”

“You’ve matured all right.” Matthias chuckled.

“Thank you for acknowledging that. The point is, my brand will sell. So are you in or out?”

“Let me think about it.”

“Take all the time you need, Matty.”

Joining Richard’s company was a shift in the direction Matthias initially aimed for. The creative industry wasn’t his ideal career path. But the change might be for the better. After all, the politics wouldn’t involve as much manipulation, blackmailing, or framing, as in the business world. He wouldn’t cross paths with familiar faces, who could use his past against him too. Perhaps Richard was right. Perhaps he had changed after all, seeing as he was done with dirty work. Replaying the accounts of when he betrayed people for the benefit of his past company, he inevitably reminded himself of Jodie.

Matthias had not spoken to Jodie since his last assist. She seemed to be doing well on her own, as the world moved past the claims of murder. If Matthias were to stay, he could hope they’d bump into each other and he could make amends. Despite living in a large city, the five had brushed shoulders one too many times. And seeing Jodie on the streets wouldn’t be a first. However, if he left the country as he initially planned, there would be little chances of admitting what he did. And seeing as he’d wanted a clean slate, telling Jodie the truth was a great start. Still, it all boiled down to his decision to stay or leave. Should he remain in the city to start over, or should he leave to a new place for a new beginning? 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 69: Plus One

clubhouse69

Jodie held the memory card tight in a fist, as she tapped the up arrow of the hotel lift. She was nervous – more nervous than she needed to be. The atmosphere was unsettling and the air stifling in the marble-themed lobby. Staring straight at the silver doors, Jodie tried her best to ignore the hawking reporters. They’d seen her exchange with the receptionist. And they’d begun murmuring when the receptionist made a call. Fortunately, the hotel guards were diligent that night.

When the lift finally arrived, Jodie slipped in and jabbed furiously at the close button, avoiding the reporters’ gaze. It seems Richard had caused quite a stir. It wasn’t Guinevere or the Lees’ corruption they were after, it was the story behind Richard’s birth – society needed to get its priorities straight.

Upon the arrival ding of the thirtieth floor, Jodie heaved a sigh and turned right to suite #337. A second before her knuckles hit the wooden room door, it swung open.

“Were there a lot of-”

“Yes. Can I come in?” Jodie interrupted.

Richard gestured for her to enter, as he said, “It’s nice to see people care.”

“Oh yea, the youth of this country loves you.”

“Well, that’s no surprise. Have you seen me?”

Richard chuckled, but stopped himself abruptly when Jodie didn’t follow suit.

“I’ve seen you,” Jodie stated.

“Sorry. What do you need me to pass to the detectives?”

There was no hesitation when Jodie handed Richard the memory card.

“What’s in this?” Richard asked.

“Information about Neal’s whereabouts.”

“Oh.”

“It started with you, didn’t it?”

“Is that a ‘thank you’?”

“I guess.”

Jodie couldn’t blame Richard for keeping quiet. After all, his family was involved. And if it weren’t for him, she wouldn’t have discovered Neal being alive either. Though, if she wanted to be precise, Neal was merely existing. There was nothing lifelike being in a coma.

“You’re welcome. I’ll call a detective over. Would you like to stick around?”

“No. I’m afraid if I do, Neal would be gone.”

“What do you mean?”

From the recording, Jodie learned Neal was at the Wilhelm Group-owned hospital, kept under tight surveillance on the eleventh floor. The eleventh floor was a VIP floor for the famous, rich, and royal. Those who visited the floor could come and go without leaving any record of their visit. And after the news about the Lees, the Cortezs might decide to pull Neal out. Neal could disappear like the many others, as though he’d been dead for years.

“You won’t have access to the eleventh floor,” Richard stated. “They won’t give you access.”

“But-”

“You’re not high up enough. Sorry.”

Who was she kidding? Presidents were rumoured to visit the eleventh floor. Jodie grunted, realising she’d overlook that fact. The stress had officially gone to her head.

“But I have an idea. You can’t go alone though,” Richard added. “I can arrange for you to check in with a few fake claims.”

“Does the hospital even know who you are? No offense.”

“Yes. I’m high up enough. I’ve been there a few times.”

“Few?”

“Well, more than a few times. I’ve always wondered why the staff were always so nice to me. I guess it kind of makes sense now. They probably thought I’d be their new boss.”

“But the news is out. You’re not their new boss. You’re not even related to their new boss.”

“Yes, but I can still pull some strings. Pay some people off. Money makes the world go round, Jodie. I thought you knew that.”

“Thanks for the reminder.”

“So, you up for the plan?”

“You have the money?”

“Plenty. The Lees thought they could pay me for my silence. Hah!”

“Then yes, I’m for the plan. And… thank you.”

“Anytime,” Richard said with a smirk. But just as he reached for his phone, he turned and asked, “Who’s going with you?”

“Who’s…”

“Who’s going with you? I’m going to tell them you’re my famous friend who doesn’t want any publicity on your secret illness. And if you’re famous, you can’t go alone. You need at least somebody to go with you.”

What Richard said made sense. She was going to put on a show, and all shows worked better with dialogue. Unfortunately, Jodie didn’t know anyone that could help her pull off the stunt. She didn’t want to involve anyone personal, and her options were limited if not none.

“How about Zach?” Richard suggested.

“Are you serious?”

“I don’t know about his acting skills, but his face isn’t all over the media. For the most part, he’s a nobody.”

“Well.”

“He’ll do anything for you. I thought that was obvious.”

Jodie narrowed her eyes and Richard laughed.

“You didn’t know?” Richard asked, eyes wide in fake surprise.

Jodie knew – she’d picked up on the hints. But as far as she was concerned, it wasn’t something worth responding to.

“So is he going to be your plus one or not? The clock is ticking. Neal might be gone forever.”

Neal might’ve been gone already, but she wasn’t going to assume the worst. Jodie needed to make sure he was there. She needed to keep him there, at least until the detectives arrive. Still, she didn’t like the thought of using Zach even if she knew he’d help. Jodie had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Original Works

Chapter 68: Rumour Has It

clubhouse68

He’d never been this bored in his life. If only he could slip away, he would. All for the sake of show, he sat in the corner attempting to look like he cared. Unfortunately, he was failing at it – acting wasn’t his forte. When the detectives finally called for a break, Richard heaved a sigh and excused himself. He lied about needing to use the washroom, just like Gabriel did ten minutes before him, and exited to the lounge on the second floor.

Richard thought the day wouldn’t get anymore interesting, especially after the Skypeak debacle. But he was wrong. While he filled himself a coned-paper cup of water, the nearby lift dinged. And out from the lift came Matthias and Guinevere.

“What are-”

“Matthias! My man!” Gabriel interrupted.

Richard wouldn’t have known of Gabriel’s presence if not for his false enthusiasm.

“Had a good chit-chat with Guinevere?” Gabriel asked.

“Not that it’s any of your business,” Guinevere snapped.

“I have good ears.”

“I’m sure you do.” Then turning to Richard, Guinevere asked, “Can we talk?”

When Richard didn’t respond, Guinevere walked over and looped her arm around his elbow. She locked him in tightly and pulled him down a hallway.

“What are you doing here?” Richard asked.

“I’m here to save Wayne.”

It was unintentional, but he chuckled.

“I have a plan. A good one. But I need your help,” Guinevere added.

“I don’t like the sound of that. Is that why Matthias is here too?”

“To be honest, it’s Matthias’ plan.”

“Oh, sounds like it’s going to be wonderful.”

“It isn’t. But it’ll work.”

“Reliable as he always is, my good friend Matty.”

Guinevere wasted no time and went straight to what she and Matthias had decided on. The few seconds after she was done, Richard thought she was joking. But when she stared him down, waiting for his response, he knew she was serious.

Repeating the plan in his head, Richard was surprised Guinevere was actually for it. He had nothing to lose, but she did. If she was willing to put her life on the line, it shouldn’t be difficult for him to sacrifice his millionaire lifestyle. After all, it was a very fickle one.

“Alright. I’ll tell the truth,” Richard said.

“You will?” Guinevere’s eyes grew wide, not so much in surprise but fear.

“Matthias is a good lawyer,” Richard assured.

“I know. Shall we then?”

“Ladies first.”

Telling the truth, on that very night, was one of the easiest decisions Richard had ever made. The thought of losing his title and his money was scary, but starting anew was all the more possible if he cut the Lees out of his life. No more parties, no more cars, and no more lazing around, didn’t sound too bad in the light of freedom.

When Richard finally returned to his hotel room, after three hours of confession, three minutes of verbal threats from his father, and three seconds of his mother’s hateful glare, he knew he did the right thing. And for the first time in a long time, he slept without a worry in the world.

The following day, Richard awoke at the cue of his unfed stomach. As he booted up his phone, a stream of messages and missed-call notifications sent his phone buzzing for a good five minutes. Most came from his family, so-called friends, and news outlets. Word had somehow gone out, even before the police could confirm anything. Buried in the pile of information fishing, there was also a message from both Jodie and Zach.

As Richard was about to give Jodie a call, Zach’s caller ID appeared on the screen.

“Good afternoon, Zach,” Richard answered.

“Thank you for picking up. I can’t reach Matthias or Guinevere, and Jodie knows nothing either.”

“Well, to be honest, I don’t know much.”

“I read the news. Did you really tell them everything?”

“Yup. Gave them DNA samples too.”

“So this is it, then.”

“I guess so. You’re in the clear. Go out and celebrate, man.”

“I… I’m not sure about that.”

“They have nothing on you. Unless Wilhelm Group starts making things up, you’re safe.”

“That’s comforting.”

“They wouldn’t have the time.”

“Right. Should we all meet tonight? At the school?”

“You can ask the rest.”

“How about you?”

Richard wondered how much word had gotten out, and if it was even wise to leave the hotel room. A horde of reporters was probably waiting in the lobby as they spoke.

“I’ll get back to you.”

“Alright. By the way, you might want to Google yourself.”

“That should be fun.”

After he ended the call, Richard did as Zach suggested. He looked himself up and found hundreds of gossip sites covering the same news over and over again. Some added their own extreme speculations, while others only used his name as click-bait. But as much as they were ruining his reputation, all he did was laugh.

By the time he was done reading, his stomach had given up growling. Deciding it was time to respond to some of the messages, he recalled wanting to give Jodie a call. And as though the universe was playing match-up, Jodie sent a message a second before he hit dial.

‘Let’s meet tonight. I’ll come over.’

If anyone read the conspicuous message, the Lee scandal would be long forgotten.

‘I need your help to pass some information to the detectives,’ another message popped in.

Richard thought about asking what it was about, but then decided it might be better to hear it from her in person. Still, he contemplated. Zach’s need for a secret meeting to put everyone on the same page felt important. Which should he agree to? 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 67: Coming Clean

clubhouse67

“Why isn’t he picking up?” Guinevere muttered to herself. She had officially left five missed calls.

Was Matthias ignoring her? Did he decide to bail at the last minute? It had been an hour since she’d arrived at the police headquarters, and Matthias had yet to make an appearance. He couldn’t possibly be stuck in traffic. So what was taking him so long?

As she was about to redial Matthias’ number, a familiar car drove past the foyer toward the outdoor carpark. Bracing the chilly night air, Guinevere exited the warm indoors to greet the guest of honour.

“I called you-”

“One too many times,” Matthias interjected.

“Sorry. I was just… worried.”

“Sure. Where are they holding Wayne?”

“I don’t know. None of the police officers would tell me anything.”

“Not surprising.”

As the pair entered the oddly quiet building, Guinevere expected Matthias to flash his card at the reception and demand for answers. But when he gestured her to the waiting area, she frowned and asked, “What’s the plan?”

Matthias cleared his throat and Guinevere stood on tippy-toes, eagerly waiting for his grand idea. But as his lips parted, his gaze shifted toward the second floor. Whatever he wanted to say was immediately put on hold. Instinctively, Guinevere turned to look.

With elbows resting on the railing and a sly smile, Gabriel was watching them. He waved, obviously not to her, but to Matthias.

“What’s going on?” Guinevere asked.

“He wants me to work with him.”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know. Anyway, take a seat.”

Guinevere gave Gabriel a narrow glare, before proceeding to resting her aching feet. But despite the physical relief, a discomfort lingered.

“Can he hear us?” Guinevere asked in a whisper.

Matthias shrugged and sat across her. He didn’t seem to mind sharing his plan within earshot of Gabriel and the other lounging police officers. And for a brief second, Guinevere was afraid – afraid of what he was about to say next. If only he’d asked her to prepare a bag of money, such fear wouldn’t exist at all. If only. Whatever Matthias spent one hour coming up with clearly wasn’t the kind of plan she usually concocted.

“I have to ask this first: will you do anything to help Wayne?” Matthias said.

“Yes, of course.”

“Are you sure of your answer?”

“Yes. Why wouldn’t I?”

“If only you’re certain-”

“What’s the plan?”

“The plan is to tell the truth. The whole truth, from beginning to end.”

“I… don’t…”

Did she hear him right? What he said sounded like a confession.

“You need to tell the police about your family, the wedding, and the clubhouse. You need to tell them everything you know.”

“Are you crazy? I can’t do that. I’ll be throwing my family under the bus. I’ll go to jail. And Wayne… Wayne won’t forgive me.”

“That’s the only way.”

“That’s not the only way. I called you because you don’t do ‘only way’s.”

“Aren’t you tired, Guinevere?”

“Of course, I’m tired. It’s late and I’m stuck here trying to help Wayne.”

“And why are you stuck here trying to help Wayne? The masterminds behind everything are on the second floor buying their way out of their crimes. Nothing you do, no amount you pay, can put them in prison except for telling the truth.”

“Did you hear what I just said, my family and I would go to jail. And Wayne won’t forgive me.”

“At most, your father would go to jail. You and the rest of your family can play victims. As for Wayne, he’d appreciate the truth more than you trying to see him.”

“I… ah. This is ridiculous.”

“Is it? You have a chance to end it all, right here, right now.”

Matthias wasn’t wrong. The scheming had gone on for too long, and she was tired being puppet-ed around. But could she actually tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Was she willing to betray her family and destroy what they’d worked so hard for?

Guinevere bit her lips and clamped her hands. Involuntarily, she shook her left leg. She imagined the whole world quieting down, eagerly waiting for her answer – expecting her to do the right thing. Yet the decision was tearing her apart. She knew what she needed to do, but she couldn’t say it.

“Matthias, what you’re asking of me… it’s…”

“It’s not something you cannot do.”

“That’s the thing, I can’t do it. At least… not alone.”

She’d finally said it. Indirectly. But she said it.

“I can’t do it alone. The police won’t believe me. It’ll be my word against the Lees. And why would the police look into the clubhouse from just my claims alone? I need someone to back me up. Someone to make me look credible, especially after I tell the truth about everything,” Guinevere added. And then she gulped.

The thought of telling the truth was terrifying, but if she could do one righteous act in her life, this was it.

“You’re right,” Matthias said.

“How about you?”

“No. I’m your lawyer. They’ll think we’re scheming something.”

“Well, then…”

There was Zach, who would benefit greatly from coming in. Whatever plans Wilhelm Group had for him would go to waste the moment he worked with the police. Then there was Richard, who would have a powerful statement against his family and access to some of the skeletons in their closet. She would have to rope either one of them in.

“It’s either Zach or Richard,” Matthias said, possibly having had the same trail of thought as she did. “Who would it be?”

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 66: Sleepless Night

clubhouse66

He knew. He pretended not to, but he knew. And when she finally asked, he decided to tell.

“Richard and I believe your business partner, Neal, is alive,” Matthias said.

Jodie frowned. She didn’t believe him.

“Mr Lee spoke to his assistant about it. His assistant was supposedly heading to the hospital Neal is at, so I got Zach to bug him,” Matthias added.

“And why couldn’t you guys tell me this earlier? Why keep it a secret?”

“Because it isn’t confirmed.”

The reason wasn’t a good one, but he simply wanted to have all the facts ready before letting the cat out of the bag. Half-truths did no one good. Unfortunately, Jodie wasn’t buying it. His effort to seem reliable and trustworthy again, especially after he dropped Jodie’s case, had proved useless. And from her expression, at that very moment, he knew he took five steps back from his one step forward. Clearly, he went about it the wrong way.

“Right. So did you learn anything from the assistant?” Jodie asked.

“I haven’t checked the recording. I can-”

“I’ll go through it, if you don’t mind.”

“It’s still running though.”

“I have a feeling the assistant isn’t at the hospital any longer. So whatever that’s been recorded will do.”

Matthias held back a sigh and shrugged. He was curious to know if Neal was really alive, but he was in no position to ask. So he retrieved the memory card from one of the black boxes and handed it to Jodie.

“Thanks,” Jodie said. And that was all she had to say.

When Jodie shut the van door behind her, Matthias inserted a blank memory card into the same black box. If the assistant was with the Lees, Matthias only needed to listen. Deciding to eavesdrop, he flicked a few switches and brought the assistant’s bug to the main screen. It was black – there was nothing to see. But the audio bar peaked, and Matthias quickly reached for the headphones. Just as he was about to slip it on, his phone rang.

There was no name and he didn’t recognise the number. So he ignored it and pressed the headphones firmly against his ears. A second after the ringing stop, it rang again. Deciding to turn his phone off, he turned over and saw a familiar name on the screen.

Briefly leaving the assistant’s left jacket pocket, Matthias answered, “What’s happening?”

“Hello Matthias.”

“Gabriel?”

“It seems you and my brother get along fairly well, seeing as you answered his call and not mine.”

Matthias thought of asking for Richard, but quickly decided against it.

“I don’t have your number in my phone,” Matthias said.

“Even after I gave you my business card?”

There was no point lying then. He didn’t verbally turn down Gabriel’s offer, but he’d already made up his mind being at Skypeak that day.

“Yes. Why? Do you need me for something?”

“Of course, why else would I be calling? So, what do you say about representing my family in this mess?”

“I’d rather not be involved.”

“Really? I thought we could help each other out. You know, clean each other’s messes.”

“I don’t have messes.” As soon as those words left his lips, he regretted it. “I clean messes, not make them,” Matthias promptly added.

“So I’ve heard. I’ve also heard that sometimes the cleaner gets blamed for the missing ring.”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Why do you say that? I’m just looking for an opportunity for us to work together.”

“I don’t work with undeveloped minds. Teenagers especially.”

Gabriel laughed. And then through the line, Matthias heard Richard.

“What’re you doing with my phone?” Richard asked.

“Talking to your friend,” Gabriel answered. “Matthias, I’ll send you the address. Swing by as fast as you can.”

Before Matthias could decline, the line clicked dead. Shortly after, a message beeped in with GPS coordinates. In disbelief, Matthias chuckled. Gabriel’s gameplay was something Matthias had never encountered – perhaps heavily influenced by his age. Proceeding to turn his phone off, another unexpected call came through. This time, it was Guinevere.

Grunting, Matthias was about to shut Guinevere down when she burst into a frenzy of words.

“I need you, Matthias. I don’t trust my family’s lawyers. Please follow me to the station. I need to see Wayne.”

“What makes you think I can help?”

“You know your way around the law. I’m sure you can get me a few minutes with Wayne. Please, Matthias. I know it’s late-”

“Yes, it’s late. Lets do this tomorrow.”

“I can’t wait till tomorrow. What if something happens to Wayne while the Lees are being questioned?”

“He can take care of himself.”

“Just help me, please?”

Matthias sighed and made a mental note to never date a woman like Guinevere. He was sure Wayne didn’t want to see her. But Guinevere wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Still, Matthias couldn’t simply agree to her request. If he did, he’d have to appear before Gabriel, only to show he wasn’t siding with him. Or perhaps he should go and represent the Lees, just to see if he could find out more. He’d also save Wayne from Guinevere’s pestering. Either way, he wasn’t sleeping that night. 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 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 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

clubhouse61

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.