Original Works

Chapter 74: Descending After A Climb

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She hit reply. Then tossing her invite into the bin, she typed, ‘Sure.’

Jodie had received the beige envelope too. But despite the surprise, she decided to go. Guinevere had proven to be more than a gold-digger when she stood for the truth. And the least Jodie could do was acknowledge that. Knowing Zach made good company, she agreed as his plus one. Honestly, it was a relief when he asked – she preferred seeing a familiar face than none. Little did she expect, there were more than one.

After Jodie’s case with the Cortezs resolved, she spent most of her time in the office. Due to the scandal, her company took a financial hit. Stabilising it required arduous hours of work. There were never-ending meetings with investors, partners, and staff. She had little to no life outside those concrete walls. And the almost non-existing friend’s list shortened even further.

Mentally visioning the list, Jodie realised the only person she still met was Zach. Wayne hadn’t responded to her text message two months ago. Neal was on life support. And Piper… well, Piper’s life only made her envious. Piper didn’t run a publishing empire, and had the time to travel the world. Those pictures on social media, garnering thousands of ‘likes’, tempted Jodie to take a sabbatical.

“That’s a good idea,” Piper said, during her phone call from the ruins of Machu Picchu. “We can see the world together.”

“That sounds fun, but I can’t just pick up and leave. The company needs me.”

“The company needs you?”

“There are still-”

“Jodie, I know you. The company doesn’t need you. You need the company.”

“Well, I do need to survive.”

“Oh, please. You have more than enough.”

“Not for the rest of my life.”

“Your company will still be there when you get back.”

“That all depends.”

“Even if it isn’t, you can always start another. Perhaps it’s even better to do so without Neal involved. Bless his soul.”

“Too soon, Piper.”

“We’ve grieved him. His parents are only dragging it out for money. By the way, do you have the contact of that lawyer friend of yours?”

“Which lawyer friend?”

“The one that helped with your case?”

The call ended with Jodie giving in to Piper’s request for Matthias’ phone number. She also promised to ‘seriously, seriously, seriously consider the sabbatical’, as how Piper worded it. Despite the denial, Jodie knew Piper was right. She needed the company. She needed how it made her feel – powerful and influential. Nothing was holding her back, except for the fear of losing the glory that came with the crown. But how long could she keep it up? Jodie opted to rethink that life decision after the party, which arrived sooner than she’d like it to.

“Do you think she invited Richard and Matthias?” Zach asked, as he rang the doorbell.

“She might have.”

As Zach parted his lips to add to his thought, the door swung open. Instantly, the melody of a classical piece, accompanied by a pastel yellow beam, escaped the white-walled bungalow. And there, standing by the doorway, was Guinevere in her favourite colour – red.

“I’m so glad you two made it,” Guinevere said.

“You have a neat house,” Zach replied.

Guinevere chuckled. “You’ve not changed a bit, Zachary.”

“Actually, it has always been just Zach,” Zach corrected.

“Zachary sounds better. Come on in.” Guinevere stepped back to make way. “Oh, Richard and Matthias are here too. You should go over and say ‘hi’.” Guinevere pointed to the staircase where the pair were chatting.

“You go ahead,” Jodie prompted. “I’ll be right over.”

The moment Zach left, Jodie turned to Guinevere with a smirk. “You’ve not changed either.”

“Well, I have. A little. But yes, I’m pretty much the same.”

“I’m surprised you invited me.”

“I’m surprised you showed up. And, as Zach’s plus one.”

“Why? We’re friends.”

“Of course. Was I implying something else?”

“I’m glad we’re on the same page.”

“For once. But honestly, I’m glad you’re here.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I’d like us to be friends. I know I didn’t make a great first impression, but I’m not as horrible as you think I am. If you must know, I really did have feelings for Wayne.”

“Did you invite him tonight?”

“I dropped the letter at his office myself.”

“But he’s not coming?”

“I didn’t hear from him. So, no. But that’s fine. I understand.”

“He’s just busy.”

Guinevere nodded with a thin smile. “Now if you don’t mind, I need to make sure the kitchen is ready.”

“Sure.” Jodie waved Guinevere off, before retrieving her phone.

Whether they could be friends, Jodie didn’t know. But seeing how Guinevere was making an effort, she thought she should do the same too. Despite it being out of character, she considered giving Wayne a call. Perhaps she could convince him to show up. Still, Jodie hesitated. Helping Guinevere meant stepping down from her ivory tower – the self-made empire that defined who she was. And in that consideration, she noticed its uncanny resemblance to her outside world. The simple act of calling Wayne wasn’t going to change her life, but it could affect the way she approached it moving forward. With Wayne’s contact at her fingertips, she had to decide. Jodie had to choose.

 

Final 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

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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 70: No Coincidences

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“Are you sure it’s here?” Zach asked.

“That’s what Richard said.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“This way,” the nurse said.

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

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

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

“Light?” Jodie questioned in convincing bewilderment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Original Works

Chapter 69: Plus One

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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 66: Sleepless Night

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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 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 33: Too Quick To Answer

clubhouse33

For the first time in her life, she was not going to clock in to work. That Monday, she decided that her company could run itself. Jodie had to prepare for the worst after all. If things go badly with her case, what she had built would not crumble in her absence. But taking the day off was not just for the sake of testing her company’s independence, it was also to get Piper ready.

Jodie woke up pretty late that morning. It was a rare occasion for someone like her. When Piper knocked on her door around lunchtime, she decided she had enough of lazing around. Piper had gotten a lot of things done in the hours Jodie wasted, including preparing lunch.

“You don’t have to do this,” Jodie said. “You’re my guest.”

“And that’s why I have to. You know me. I hate freeloading,” Piper replied with a smile.

“You’re not. Let me-”

“No. Let me. Just relax while I’m here. You have enough on your plate already,” Piper interrupted as she placed two plates of stir-fried noodles on the dining table.

“Yes, definitely enough for lunch,” Jodie replied with a chuckle.

Piper smiled and took her seat. When she gestured Jodie to follow suit, she said, “I still can’t believe Neal’s parents. I remember meeting them once and thinking they were such a nice couple.”

“Trust me, I sometimes wonder if they’re the same people.”

Piper nodded. “Never mind about them for now. I’m curious about something else.” She placed her chopsticks down and asked, “Who’s that guy at the airport?”

Jodie smiled and shook her head. There was nothing to hide from Piper, so she said, “One of my competitors from the clubhouse competition.”

“Oh, you guys close?”

“You’ll be surprise. Suddenly, all five of us are best friends.”

Piper raised an eyebrow and Jodie added, “I’m joking. Our lives just seem to cross paths after we started the whole clubhouse thing.”

“How’s that going? The clubhouse competition.”

Jodie shrugged. She did not know how it was going. Was she doing well? Is she in good standing because she completed all her tasks? How was she being judged? Jodie had no idea and the conversation she had with Matthias on day one came to mind. Yes, it certainly felt like someone was playing with them. And just when she decided to share that thought, the doorbell rang.

“Must be Matthias,” Jodie said.

“Oh, good. I’ll clear up,” Piper replied.

“No, just leave it,” Jodie responded, even though she knew Piper wouldn’t listen.

Hurrying to the front door, Jodie took one quick look around her living room to make sure it was organized. Finding nothing to put in order, she welcomed her guest… Or should she say, guests.

“Hey,” Jodie greeted, and then immediately, she asked, “what are you doing here?”

“Wanted to see where you live,” Richard answered with a grin.

Jodie turned to Matthias and he answered on cue, “I couldn’t leave him at home. I don’t trust him with my things. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t cause any trouble,” Richard added.

Reluctantly, Jodie pulled the door wider and gestured for the two to enter. When they did, Piper exited the kitchen. She first had a wide smile on her face, but shortly after, she gave Jodie a questioning look.

“Oh hey, remember me?” Richard asked.

Piper nodded her head.

“How can she forget?” Jodie asked on her behalf.

“I made quite an impression, eh?”

“I’m sure you did,” Matthias stated, before heading up to Piper and shaking her hand. After introducing himself to her, the two headed to the sofa.

“You want anything to drink?” Jodie asked.

“Water is fine,” Matthias answered.

“I’ll get it,” Piper said as she jumped to her feet.

“No. Sit. He needs to brief you on my case, ” Jodie immediately responded.

She did not wait for Piper to argue as she headed to the kitchen. Least expecting to be followed by anyone, she almost had a heart attack when she found Richard quietly standing by the kitchen door.

“What?” Jodie asked.

“You didn’t ask me what I wanted,” Richard answered.

Jodie sighed. “What do you want to drink?”

“Water is fine.”

Nodding, she retrieved three glasses. While filling them up, she saw Richard walking toward her from the corner of her eye.

“I need to ask you something,” Richard said, stopping at the kitchen counter.

“Go on.”

“I need a favour.”

“What kind of favour?”

Jodie did not like beating around the bush, so if he needed something, she rather he told her. Whether or not she said yes, that was another question altogether.

“I need your help to get some info for me. You see, your friend Wayne-”

“You want to know what Wayne is doing for your family?”

“Well, more of like, what my family needs him to do. I’m stuck in limbo right now, and I need info to help me take the next step. If you know what I mean.”

She knew what he meant. But was she going to do it? Wayne was never going to hand over confidential information to her, but she did know where he kept them. Not knowing why, she found herself agreeing. Perhaps it was because she felt completely useless at the moment, and helping Richard would mean otherwise. Or perhaps she just wanted to even the score.

“OK,” Jodie said.

“Wow, I thought I would have a hard time convincing you.”

“You’re in luck today.”

“Thanks, I owe you one,” Richard said, as he picked up the glasses on the table.

“No, we’re even,” Jodie corrected.

“Oh, that’s right, I almost forgot.” Richard gave her a smile and a wink, before heading out.

Rolling her eyes, Jodie remained rooted to the spot. She grunted at the thought of what she had to do, before wondering why she agreed to do it in the first place. What was she thinking? It was too late to change her answer.

Knowing that Richard’s request was not going to be easy, she pulled out her phone ready to call for help. It was either Zach or Guinevere – Zach because she trusted him, Guinevere because she could be of better assistance. Jodie had to choose.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The Clubhouse © 2014 – 2015 by Jeyna Grace.
All rights reserved. No part of the series may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from Jeyna Grace.