Catburglars, Inc.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Mystery and Crime  |  House: Booksie Classic

Becky continues her investigation into the Alfonsi criminal racquet, and needs to go to her friend Isabella for help. Meanwhile we meet Amaya, with Catburglars, Inc.

Amaya lay on her bed, wishing the rain outside would drown out her parents' shouting match.

Unfortunately, the big mansion was too well insulated for that. Eighteen years old, first year at Manchester University, and why the hell did she agree to come home this weekend? Her parents had invited her to have a supposedly nice, relaxing time at home. It had all started at dinner. Her ka-san(Japanese for 'mother') had begun accusing her tou-san(father) of transferring company funds for a mistress he had. It was all bullshit, and ka-san knew it. Everyone knew tou-san was too busy being the president of Quaker Product to even have sex. Her father had gotten upset at the accusation, and her mom started arguing with him on several other points as well. Amaya finally decided she'd had enough and went up to her room.
Her parents fought constantly, and Amaya was happy enough to leave the house for college. Even if it was still close by.

She lay on the bed, staring at a poster of Spiderman Far From Home taped to the ceiling. She loved American superheroes, much to her father's consternation. He always insisted that she look to the samurai for inspiration, but Amaya liked the fictional Avengers better. Another rift between her parents. Amaya refused to follow any Japanese customs, which her and her parents constantly argued about. They had hardly paid any attention to her growing up, too busy building a financial empire, and Amaya always felt slighted whenever she looked at small children playing happily with their parents. A little girl holding her daddy's hand while they crossed the street. A young boy giving his mother a trampled daisy, but the mother beaming at her son like he'd given her a boutique of flowers. She felt a little depressed, then scowled. Amaya did have a surrogate Aunt and Uncle of sorts, but they were a mess. Rolling over in bed, she checked the clock. It was only nine.

She closed her eyes and dozed off...

Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep.

Amaya jerked awake, smacking her hand down on the off button.

It was time.

Jumping out of bed, she slid into some blue jeans, followed by a lime green tee shirt, followed by a sport jacket. Yellow socks and white tennis shoes were next. She quickly brushed out her short, silky black hair and checked the mirror. Not that she would be needing makeup where she was going tonight. Lastly she snagged an old looking suitcase from under the bed.

Amaya opened her bedroom window.

It had stopped raining, but a cool breeze chilled her, and she shivered. The wind was in the process of blowing the storm clouds away, revealing a full moon. She crawled out the bedroom window, then shut it and began to walk quietly across the roof. Reaching the lattice, she scaled down it one handed. Landing in a crouch, she straightened up. Amaya Takahashi stands about five feet, four inches tall. She could simply walk out the front door, but this is good practice. She walked casually to the driveway and crawled into her Aston Martin she got for her eighteenth birthday. She had wanted a Ferrari.

Driving along the highway in silence, Amaya pondered several things. The rising crime in Manchester meant there was competition. The Alfonsis were said to be in nefarious activities, but no one, least of all the police, seemed able to find any evidence of it. Those two were slick, that's for sure.
Another thing was this vigilante/supposed do gooder, the so called, 'Outlander'. A man dressed in black who had broken up a drug lab, stopped two muggings, and saved a dog in the past two weeks. The all black intrigued her, because-

Her phone began ringing, playing Katy Perry's Firework.

"Be there in five," Amaya hung up the phone, irritated at the unnecessary call.

It was closer to ten minutes actually when she finally pulled into the parking lot of her destination. An old red brick schoolhouse was before her. It looked to have originated in the forties, and it always creeped her out a little. Entering the building, Amaya darted into the girl's locker room. Ancient, but empty. Laying her briefcase on a bench. She dialed the correct locking combination from memory then pressed her thumb in the right place. With a hiss of compressed the lid opened, revealing its contents. An all black leather suit lay before her, folded perfectly. A black domino mask rested on top. The suit fit like a second skin, but at the same time loose enough it didn't chafe. It was Amaya's pride and joy, and she would never part with it as long as she lived.

She dressed quickly, not out of shame, Amaya was very proud of her trim frame and dressed scandalously, at least from her parents' point of view. She shrugged off their opinions they had drilled in her head for years. Amaya Takahashi was eighteen now, an adult, and they wouldn't tell her what she could and couldn't do. Rather, it was cold in the barren locker room, and a tad creepy. She finished zipping the suit, glad for the warmth it provided. The domino mask came last, and she positioned it just right on her face. It had opaque lenses she would add later, but for now a person could see her pretty brown eyes. The band around her head was stretchable, and fit perfectly. As well it should. Amaya had spent close to three grand on this custom suit. Tucking her gloves under her armpit, she strolled out of the locker room, taking her time.

Coming upon a large room with half glass double doors, she swung them open and announced her arrival by raising her hands up in the air in a theatrical manner, carefully catching her gloves as she did so. A long conference style table lay before her, with around a dozen people sprawled in various casual positions. Some were drinking coffee, others eating cereal, most were doing both. An old leather office chair creaked as its occupant twirled around, and a premature silver mane with a strong face greeted her.

"Welcome, Amaya. We're glad you finally arrived," Allan Trombone said warmly.

Amaya had just entered Catburglars, Inc.



**********************************



Darkness.

Becky couldn't move, couldn't talk, couldn't hear.

Terror.

She was back in a suitcase again, and her silent screams reached no one. She felt like crying at her helplessness. Becky twisted and turned uselessly.

No escape.

She screamed in anger at her captors, then paused to listen.

Voices. Marta and Violet.

Suddenly the suitcase was unzipped and Alice, her lookalike was leering at her and-

Becky jerked awake, heart racing, back wet with sweat. She wiped a hand across her damp brow. It was a nightmare, nothing more. Her experience traveling to freakin' Oklahoma in a damn suitcase would not be forgotten soon, but she was a Carter, and Carters always persevered. Especially her. A quick glance at the alarm clock told her it was half past three in the morning. It was too early, she had planned on being there at five, but she might as well get up.

Coffee. She needed coffee.

Dressed in light pink Hello Kitty pajamas with pink socks, (so she was still a little young at heart, so what) she padded softly across her bedroom, then down to the kitchen to the Keurig machine. Fifteen minutes later she was back in her room with some fruit and a steaming mug of coffee as she sat at her small writer's desk.
Powering up her laptop, she checked Facebook, and smiled when she saw her new found friend Erin's post. The redhead looked adorable posing in a Daphne costume, apparently trying it out for an upcoming Halloween party. The candy and costume filled holiday was coming up, and Erin had one picked out by the looks of it. She thought of her friend, and the case they had worked on together. Erin was a competent reporter, that was for sure.
She blushed as she thought of the rather uncomfortable position they had been tied together in, and the bomb they'd had to diffuse. Thank god for Steff and that knife. Cass never let her forget about her and Erin being stuck face to face, much to her slight irritation.

After she finished with Facebook, she pulled up video footage on YouTube of a British reporter who was interviewing, of all people, Lorenzo and Marta Alfonsi. The Italian ambassador and his wife had spent some time in England before making the jump across the pond. She figured there should be some financial records, maybe even property purchases during their time in England. A follow-up would definitely be in order. The interview was several years old, but Becky's hope was that she could glean something from it. Becky leaned forward, right hand cupped around her chin, her pretty features in a slight frown. Her grey eyes analyzed the interview, missing nothing. The reporter wasn't very good, Becky didn't mean to be critical, but several good follow ups blew over her head. Lorenzo thought the UK reporter was pretty, Becky could tell. Marta seemed bored, and she answered only a few of the questions. She wondered how Marta was exactly before she met her, and spent several hours bound, gagged, and at this woman's mercy. Maybe there could be a clue in the Alfonsis' past somewhere. The England lead would need a follow-up, fortunately she was pretty good at internet research. She thought of the picture Marta had sent. Becky had locked it away in a safe deposit box, as it was the only tangible evidence she had. Even though technically there was nothing linking it to Marta, at least according to police.

Her eyes narrowed as she thought of the drawing and note. That was why Cass wouldn't be coming tonight. It was too risky. There was no way she'd risk taking her best friend anymore. Things were getting serious. Becky loved her friends, and she could never live with herself if Cass, Maggie, or Isabella disappeared like some of Marta's former employees. A chill ran down her back as she thought of Lieutenant Cooper's words about the one and only witness they had arrested, but was released on bail, 'I haven't seen such a clean vanishing in Manchester for a long time.'

She pursed her lips, nu-uh. That was why Cass wasn't coming tonight, or this morning technically. Maybe never again if Becky could keep her snooping secret. Granted, Cass didn't know what she was up to, otherwise her blue haired bff would have protested and tried to come along. No one knows what I'm doing tonight.

Becky finished her coffee, than closed the laptop. Time to go. She pulled off her jammies, revealing a black sports bra and matching underwear. It was cool tonight, so she pulled some thicker charcoal nylons over her bare legs. The woolish fabric felt a little itchy in the warmth of the house, but Becky knew it would pay off in the autumn chill outside. That was followed by a short black denim skirt that came scandalously(in her mind) over halfway up her calves. Becky has always been more of a conservative dresser, if anything goes above her knees she usually wears pantyhose, with the exception of summer bathing suits and shorts, but even the thought of those almost always make her blush. Which is kind of funny, in a way, as she is very bold, brash, even, when it comes to reporting. She isn't a prude about it though and is cool with how anyone else wants to dress. Becky's just more shy about showing off her body, to which Cass and Maggie say she should show it off, because it looks so great. Isabella, though, her advice was for her to follow her heart. Becky does just that.

It was all black tonight as she slid into a tight long sleeve black cardigan sweater. Pulling her left sleeve up, she slipped her leather watch on her wrist, an expensive lady's watch, a gift from her late dad. She wears it wherever she goes. Lastly, an extremely thick charcoal hoodie, with dark furry trim around the edge and ruffles on the sleeve ends. As she pulled it up, she glanced in the mirror. Her slightly curly blonde hair and freckles were framed prettily by the fur edged hood. Warm grey eyes surveyed her look. Dark enough to blend in the shadows, hopefully. It was a simple retrieval job anyway. Lastly she pulled on brown suede mid-calf boots with zippers on the sides and wedge heels. Hey she wasn't Cass, she didn't have every particular item of clothing in a shade of black. A girl has to look stylish in different colors, right?

Becky grabbed her car keys, purse, and a flashlight, then headed out, careful not to wake her mom and Dakota.



***********************************


"You're late," Mrs. Calder, who taught school over at St. Paul's, a private boarding school, sneered, "And you hung up on me when I called."

Amaya couldn't stand Mrs. Calder, who, back in the day was said to have been a pretty damn good cat burglar. Now she does bookkeeping. And calling to annoy Amaya, apparently. Amaya ignored her, instead going over to the breakfast bar, grabbing apple juice and some cereal.

"We were just discussing about how the funds at CI have been drooping perceptibly," Allan said from his chair.

CI was an acronym for Catburglars, Inc. It was an organization founded by the Trombone brothers, Allan and Rob. The two brothers' relationship with each other was as long and schizophrenic as their criminal careers. Growing up, they both had a childhood obsession with Star Wars. They took their love for the franchise very seriously. Collecting action figures, video games, boxed movie sets, toy lightsabers, and cosplay. Allan was the undisputed leader, and could often get the neighborhood kids together to reenact some scene from the movie. Their life had not been easy, and the brothers had turned to crime, burglary as a matter of fact. It turned out to be successful, as both brothers were fairly athletic and intelligent. Allan hired several people to help them, and with Rob doing the bookwork, they prospered. However, that had all changed after May 19, 1999. That was the day Star Wars Episode 1 released. Amaya couldn't remember for sure, but the feud between Allan and Rob had started over some stupid disagreements over the new movie. She wasn't positive, didn't really care either, but Jar Jar Binks was said to have been a contributing factor to kick start the argument. That and Darth Maul's death. Rob apparently wished he had lived. After that they quit working together.
When Episode 2 came out they agreed to try and work out their differences by going to the movies together. However it was said that Rob, halfway through the movie, made an insult about Obi-Wan Kenobi, and how Darth Maul should have lived instead. He also called it a 'soap opera' and that George Lucas had been coerced into 'making it the biggest disappointment of the Star Wars franchise.' Today Allan admits he overreacted, but at the time he didn't take kindly to the insult about Obi-Wan as that was his favorite character. A shouting match ensued, and they came to blows. After being escorted off the premises by security, the two brothers became sworn enemies.

Amaya poured frosted flakes into her bowl. All for a damn movie franchise. There was more drama to it, between the two families, but that's how it initially started. And she thought her parents were psychos. Allan was a fair employer though, and very kind to his employees.

Rob disappeared from the public eye, and Amaya had only seen pictures of him at the annual CI celebration, when they went over the organization's history, and talked about the future. Rob went by a new moniker, 'The Urban Professional.' A notorious crime boss, said to have a nervous voice at times, then other times he would order people's deaths out of the blue. Whatever suited his fancy. And he still had the same obsession with Star Wars.

What a freak. He was Allan's biggest competition.

Until now.

"The Alfonsi Crime Family has once again returned to Manchester," Allan announced, as Amaya finally took a seat, "And I'll be damned if we let them ruin us. It's not like the old times, where true criminals have honor. The Alfonsis' are very unscrupulous, especially since Marta became involved several months ago," He looked grave.

"I heard of Marta Alfonsi," Amaya interrupted, "I might have to pay her a visit. It would be fun to teach her a lesson or two."

"You will not go anywhere near Marta, Amya. That woman is bad news. So is Lorenzo, even though he appears to be a gentleman."

"Are we gonna take them out?" someone asked.

"For Hell's sake, no! We do not kill. I may be one of the few honorable criminals left, but I will not bend my standards" Allan stated flatly. He went on, "Of all the criminal families I've known, Nathan Norton was one of the best. The original Mr. White, he did a most excellent job and has had a large impact on the criminal underworld."

"Mr. White?" Amaya asked, her mouth full of cereal. She had heard the name before, but nothing more than that. And the occasional odd rumor.

Allan looked disapproving of her manners, then went on, "For another time."

Amaya raised an eyebrow.

"But Catburglars, Inc, will not be bested by anyone, will we?" Allan raised a fist.

A hearty chorus around the table agreed.

Amaya chewed her cereal.

"However there's been a reporter snooping around, I think she knows of our existence. Though she doesn't have our name. Yet."

Everyone stared at Allan.

Amaya took a sip of OJ.

"It's not that she's actively looking for us, but she has been asking questions, at the police station, homeless people."

"How the hell are people finding out?" a middle aged man asked, "Surely not 'them'."

Allan sighed, running a hand through his hair. "We all know Owen and Violet wouldn't keep it a secret forever, not after what they did," he looked pointedly at Amaya.

She felt a little sad, "Of course, before you ask, no, neither of them contacted me." Amaya grew distracted as Allan went on about money and how they needed to up their game. His voice droned as old memories stirred, taking her back years....



Eight years ago.

"Daddy! Can we go to the movies tonight?" Ten year old Amaya asked.

Her dad glanced up from the bowtie he was fastening around his expensive shirt. "No honey, you're ka-san and I must go to this important charity ball tonight. We must keep our reputation up." He frowned at her, then spoke in Japanese, "It's tou-san."

Amaya stuck out her lower lip, she was only ten but she knew the way her parents were, it wasn't like most kid's parents. They never paid any attention to her, and it bothered her. "But tou-san!" Amaya pouted.

"Amaya." Her father said sternly, "Stop whining or I will not allow any tv tonight. No American superheroes, only samurai movies." He glanced sideways at her from the mirror, "Emika will take good care of you."

Emika was the family maid, a pretty young Japanese woman who dressed in a traditional black and white maid's outfit. She usually took good care of Amaya, but Amaya wanted something different tonight. She knew better than to argue with her father however, so she left the room, a solemn and sullen little girl. Fifteen minutes later her parents left, barely noticing her as they told Emika what all Amaya required. As if Amaya couldn't take care of herself. She sighed miserably, what a boring evening. Then her face lightened at the thought of a game she could make Emika play.
What fun indeed, to play cops and robbers to achieve another goal.

"Amyaf, lllef mi go!" Emika demanded.

The Japanese maid was tied to a chair, arms tied securely enough to the chair arms, several thin dog leashes kept her wrists and forearms secured.
Expensive cords used to hold enormous window drapes back held her ankles fast, and a long thin dinner cloth napkin was tied off tightly between her lips, thus resulting in her garbled speech. Getting Emika to play the game was easy enough, Amaya was only ten, right? What could a ten year old kid do, right? Well, Amaya let people underestimate her, it's how she always came out on top. Knowing Girl Scout knots in this case certainly helped.

"I'll see you later, Emika!" Amaya chortled.

Emika shook her head, pleading with her eyes and grunts for Amaya not to take off. Her gag was tight enough her lips met, folding over the cloth.
It would probably cost Emika her job, but Amaya didn't care, and she was sick of her parents not paying attention to her. Besides, she smirked to herself, Emika couldn't do anything about anything.
Amaya left through the front entrance of her mansion home, stepping out into a ritzy neighborhood in Manchester. Street lamps brightly lit the street, and she took off in a run. She was running to where? Amaya didn't know, but somewhere someone would care about her. And some new adventure would help. She thought of some of her favorite superheroes. Spider-Man and Spider-Woman. They climbed buildings! Amaya would go high. Hailing a nearby taxi, (she always had one of Daddy's credit cards with her) she convincingly told the driver she had to go uptown.

Arriving in downtown Manchester, Amaya found the closest building with a fire escape, and excitedly clambered up it. Once up top she looked out over the city. It wasn't a high building, but she was above everyone on the street so that counted for something. Up here she could feel a slight breeze, reliving the oppressive summer heat of the day. Amaya imagined swinging from building to building like Spider-Man. What fun that would be! Everyone would notice her then. No more annoying little Amaya, she would make them listen and respect her. Who? Her parents, for starters. Except it would never happen. Her mom and dad had no time for her, and the prospect of getting bitten by a radioactive spider was ludicrous. Things like that didn't happen. A sob racked her throat, and tears began to spill from her eyes.

"There, there girl, don't cry. What's wrong?"

Amaya whirled around in abject surprise. A man and a woman stood before her. It was a white guy and a black woman, standing very close to each other, in a way that Amaya knew to be lovey dovey with each other. What was surprising about them, was the fact that they were in black clothes, with domino masks and beanies. The black woman's beautiful purple hair spilled out from under the beanie, while the man's was mostly hidden.

Amaya wiped her eyes, "What are you guys, cosplayers? Or burglars?"

The man, who had spoken earlier, grinned while the woman leaned her head on his shoulder. They were about the same height. "Second guess, though I suppose it's pretty obvious. We do this for a living. Now I ask you again, why are you up here crying?"

Amaya was surprised how nonchalant he was about announcing their criminal career, but decided to answer his question. Strangely enough, she felt no danger from these two. "I'm running from my parents. They don't care about me."

His grin faltered, "Well kid, been there done that. What say you spend a night running around with us? We could use a small person sometimes."

"Stealing? Isn't that bad?" Amaya asked.

"It's a grey area." The woman said smoothly, "We only steal from the rich, never the poor people."

"So you're like Robin Hood?"

They both looked at each other and laughed, "Heaven's no," the woman said, "We keep it for ourselves. Like he said, it's a living."

Amaya thought about it, here she was wanting something exciting to do, and here it was.

Here it was......



Present Day.

Amaya jerked out of her reverie, Allan was still talking.

"So here's the list of names of new clients" Allan pointed to a whiteboard with his erasable marker.

Amaya scanned the list, "I want that one, Isabella Rodriguez."

"No problem." Allan grinned at her, "Hope she has something worth stealing. She's a teacher at St. Paul's. Mrs. Calder knows her."

"I would like that assignment," Mrs. Calder spoke up from her desk.

"Absolutely not. You already tortured the poor woman enough. Besides, your work is now purely secretarial," Allan stated, leaving no room for argument.

The subsequent YouTube video of the teacher who had been tricked into getting tied up had been hilarious to watch, Amaya had enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately Isabella's friends did not find it amusing, marching down to the principal's office and demanding Mrs. Calder be fired, or they would write up a story on it. The principal hadn't given in to that, but he had put Mrs. Calder on two week's leave, no pay. The old lady was still angry about it, and wanted to lash out. It was all simply funny to Amaya.

Mrs. Calder turned up her nose, and Allan went back to handing out names to other people at the table.

Amaya always got first pick, because she was the best at what she did. Each member was expected to bring in a weekly haul for CI, then the person would get their cut, 30%, gear, training which included lock picking, martial arts, and safe cracking. Learning how to leave no evidence behind was the most crucial training, and taught very well. Additional benefits included paid health insurance, and early retirement. Allan went on to incorporate catsuits, masks and gloves to better hide any evidence. Members are supposed to wear watch caps or ski masks as well, thus lowering the risk of being caught by any loose strands of fallen hair at a burgled home. Unfortunately Catburglars, Inc had as of late fallen on hard times. CI members were sworn to secrecy, never using the name to members, and above all, never admitting that it existed. Amaya drummed her fingers on the table, annoying several people. She was the last member to join CI eight years ago, no one had since. They were very picky with who they allowed in their ranks, and if it hadn't been for Owen and Violet vouching for her, Amaya never would have had a chance. Of course, those two had been the newest recruits before her. Since their betrayal of CI several years ago, stealing a sizeable chunk of money from the vault, then simply disappearing, Allan was very skittish at the prospect of getting new blood into the organization.

"Allright, well, if everyone has their assignments for the week, you are given permission to leave whenever." Allan said, than got up to get his own bowl of cereal and coffee. It was a tradition that he and Rob had started, a midnight snack to eat while they talked over plans and such like.

Allan's personal secretary and treasurer, entered the room carrying a box.

"You're late Bernie," Allan sounded displeased, then noticed the box. It had R2D2 and C3PO wrapping paper on it.

Amaya felt a twinge of nervousness, surely not.

"No," another person said.

Bernie was visibly sweating, "I found this at the doorstep upon my arrival, sir." he had a British accent, "I ran a metal detector over it, and there's no metal contained.

"What about biological?" someone asked.

"Not his style." Allan snapped, "Set it here."

Bernie set the box down on the table, and Allan ripped open the wrapping paper, revealing a plain cardboard box. Opening the lid, he and Bernie peered inside.

"Oh my god!" Bernie screamed, backing away.

Allan collapsed into his chair, looking grim, but said nothing.

Unable to contain her curiosity, Amaya was the third person to take a glance inside.

She stared in confusion and horror.

A Darth Vader helmet rested inside, half the faceplate missing. And inside, a human head, half visible, with one blank eye staring up at Amaya.

"No. Way."



**********************************



When Becky pulled up to the old warehouse, it was 4:42 A.M. It was an ungodly hour, and she hated mornings, but this was the best time to gather the three voice recorders she had planted at this warehouse. It spoke of her dedication to the craft of investigative work and snooping in general that she put aside her dislike for early mornings to come here. Through a stroke of research luck Becky had discovered that this warehouse was owned by an Italian company which in turn just happened to have money invested in them by the Alfonsis'.

Maybe she could get some solid evidence here. She parked her two door hatchback and crawled out of the driver's seat. Her boots hit wet leaves as she briskly walked to the warehouse. Her wool tights felt a little itchy on her legs, and she scratched her right thigh absentmindedly. A long fingernail caught in the fabric. She jerked it out, ripping only a little of the material. Good thing they were casual tights. She had purposely worn old ones for this warehouse snoop. Coming up to the window she had purposely unlatched after picking the lock to one of the many doors, Becky crawled inside.
It was pitch black and she waited in the darkness, listening for any voices. If her guess and surveillance were correct, the thugs that came here should be long gone.

The bright beam of her light cut through the inky blackness. The young reporter made her way carefully along the hallway, pausing and listening on occasion. Satisfied she was alone, Becky's hooded form moved much more quickly now, and she gathered the recorders she had strategically placed where she thought these meetings might take place. In due fashion she rounded up two of the recorders than went to a large break room in the warehouse where she had put the last one. Coming up to the door, she saw it was shut. Dim light spilled out from underneath it and Becky flicked off her flashlight.

Was there someone inside?

Pulse pounding(snooping always got her adrenaline pumping) she saw the crack might be large enough to see a little bit inside, at least floor level.
Kneeling down on her hands and knees, she put her hooded face on the cold tile floor, grateful her cheek didn't have to feel it directly. Her left eye peeked inside under the crack.

Nothing but chair and table legs bathed in weak light.

Shoot, Becky thought, how am I going to tell if anyone's inside?

An idea hit her, a dangerous one if the room was occupied, but a solution nonetheless. Getting up off the floor, she now knelt on her pantyhose clad knees, grateful now for the thickness of it.

She blinked her flashlight in the crack, one, two times then listened with baited breath.

Nothing.

Hmmm, she thought, now what?

No sound at all, chair scrapes, nothing.

To heck with it, she thought impatiently. She flung the door open, flashlight on and in one hand, the other hovering above her small shoulder purse.
The room was empty. A small lit lamp lay on it's side, casting weird shadows about the room. Becky breathed a sigh of relief as she knelt under the table and peeled the tape away that held the recorder.

She was ready to get out of this creepy place. Besides, with how filthy it was Becky felt like a change of clothes and a shower might be in order.

Out in her car she played the last recorder she had retrieved, then realized it would be better to take it home and remove the SD card to analyze the recording. It would be much quicker on her computer.
All in all a successful mission, Becky told herself as she pulled out of the warehouse parking lot, I finally feel like I'm getting the hang of it. It's been awhile since I was caught snooping, so maybe my luck is changing. Of course, the crowning jewel would be enough evidence to put Marta and Lorenzo behind bars.

She was hoping so much that there would be something, anything on one of those recorders.

At least one small lead, please, Becky begged the universe. She was pragmatic enough to know that there would most likely not be enough on there to get a long prison sentence for Marta or anything, but at least something to go off of. The last while she has had the feeling that someone was following her. Becky couldn't quite catch the person, but they always seemed to be on the periphery of her vision. It was more of a nagging feeling than any actual evidence, but the blonde reporter had learned to trust her instincts, and her intuitive nature. Right now, thankfully, she didn't feel like she was being followed.

Becky felt tired. The last two weeks since getting the painting from Marta had left her stressed out and worried. Mostly for Cass, Maggie, and her mom and sister. As the oldest child, she felt a particular responsibility for Dakota, and her mom, in a way. Adeline Carter was a strong woman, what with having to endure her husband's unexpected death. Just as smart as her daughter, Adeline was a lawyer, and a damn good one at that. She was one of Becky's heroines and role models. However mom and her sixteen year old sister Dakota did not always get along, and Becky was the linchpin in the family. Dad had been, but since his passing Becky felt she should take up the job. Her love for her family was part of the reason she was still at home, having graduated from college six months ago with her bachelor's degree majoring in English and Elementary and Kindergarten education.
For a minor, Journalism, of course. She had wanted to either teach a kindergarten class(she loves little kids) or do what she was currently doing. After graduation, a job offer as a secretary at MDT had been offered, she accepted, as it had been hard to find a job(a girl's gotta eat, right?) From there she had worked her way up to her present job of doing investigative reporting, which sadly seemed to be going out in the age of smartphones and everything getting posted in a matter of minutes after it happened. Thankfully though, Becky was good enough at her job, not to mention passionate, that the editor considered her a valuable asset to the team at MDT. She finally pulled into her driveway, tired but happy with the results of her snooping.

Once back in her room, this time with a steaming caramel latte to keep her company, Becky analyzed the SD cards on her laptop. She had shucked what she jokingly referred to as her, 'ninja clothes', and taken a shower. Now refreshed, she was in a blue v-neck tee shirt and was wearing a light grey turtleneck sweater over it, the soft cashmere fabric complimenting her slim form, white tights with Merino fabric and a dark plaid blue skirt that came to her knees. And her usual black leather banded lady's watch with a square face.

She enjoys trying out different outfits and colors. Hey, fashion statements were everything on a girl reporter. Back to the present matter at hand She told herself. She had places to go, interviews, and articles to write.
Stocking feet resting on her furry carpet as she skimmed through the first two, Becky was disappointed to find not a single one had any voices on it. She didn't have time to play the whole thing, rather skipping through each recorder for now. The last one, however, at around six hours in, had something. There were three voices speaking, for roughly around thirty minutes. Becky was extremely disheartened to discover that it was Italian, which seemed to be the language of choice these days. She thoughtfully touched her chin with a finger, an app could possibly translate it, but the speech was garbled at some places. It was a very distinct possibility that it would be mistranslated.

Becky snapped her fingers. Isabella! Her friend Isabella knew several languages, in fact was quite gifted with them. She pulled her sweater sleeve up, checking her watch.

Shoot, Isabella is probably already at school. Guess I'll have to wait till later. As it is though, I need to get work too.

She gathered up her things then headed downstairs to the kitchen. Mom had already left for the office, and Dakota was still in her PJ's, eating a pop tart. Out of their family, Mom is the only one who's a morning person. Becky wasn't feeling too sociable, after all, she'd only had about two hours of sleep last night. She started the Keurig.

Dakota's reddish blonde hair glistened, it was the same color as Mom's.

"Hey Beck," Dakota croaked from her position on the counter. A Pepsi rested beside her.

Becky raised an eyebrow, "That looks healthy."

"Just as much as coffee!" Dakota snapped.

"This is organic, courtesy of Isabella."

"Leave me alone Beck! Why do you have to mess with me in the morning?!!"

Becky felt her ire get the better of her, "I'm just looking out for you, Dakota! Pepsi is the worst possible choice you could have for breakfast. Why you don't try eating healthier?"

Dakota stormed out of the kitchen.

Becky felt a little bad, she usually was really good with her kid sister. Not this early though, and with so little sleep.

I hope both of us have a good day.


**********************************


Amaya stared at the half-face.

It was a perfect rendition of Allan, made with artificial materials, and it had scared the crap out of Amaya, until she realized it was a fake. She glanced at Allan, just to make sure his head was where it belonged.

Allan looked a little pale, scared, and a tad pissed off, "The fucking Urban Professional found us," He sighed, "Damn it. Now we have to move on top of everything else."

"Why would he warn you?" Amaya asked, "I mean, he hates your guts, right? Why not plant a bomb?" It was rumored but unproven that The Urban Professional liked bombs.

"Do not say such a terrible thing Amaya!" Mrs. Calder shouted from her desk, "You have no idea what that man is capable of!"

Amaya flipped her the finger. She absolutely hated that woman.

Allan appeared worried, "I don't think he would, although we haven't spoken in three years since-"

"Boss!" Bernie had recovered from his shock, and now pulled an old fashioned cassette recorder from the box.

"Play it," Allan commanded.

The old cassette player whirled to life.

Heavy breathing that was unmistakable to anyone familiar with sci-fi movies sounded over the reel. "Hhhhaaaawwwww. Brrrrrrrrrrrr."

Really? Amaya thought, he's doing a Darth Vader impression?

This went on for an agonizing two minutes, then finally a voice came over the line. It was not a voice of strength like Allan's, rather it was a voice of timidness, "He-hello Allan. Thought I was going to play that forever? Naaaa, you know me. And I know you. The gggggame is up Allan, you can't hide your little wannabe badass Catburglars Inc." The Urban Professional's voice took on a new tone, with more strength to it, "I give you one year to start a new business, and shut down CI, tell your people to come work for me, and start a new life, big brother. I hear some of your workers are really good, especially one Japanese girl in your employ."

Amaya's heart skipped a beat, but she did her best to make sure her face remained neutral. She doesn't like showing her emotions in front of other people. Amaya certainly hoped The Urban Professional didn't know her name. He had a creepy voice.

The voice went on, "Have you ever told her, Allan, or any of your people for that matter, what happened that night with Owen, Violet, you and I? My voice gets all choked up thinking about it. From what I understand the two lovebirds are separated these days." he let out a sigh, "A damn shame. But back to you, do as I ask, and no harm will come to anyone, including your wife and daughter. Had to throw in that predictable tidbit." He laughed a little, "And have you heard the Alfonsis' are back in town? Of course you have. These two look to be a real pain in the ass. Marta has been bitten by a bug or something, what with the active role she's currently playing. Unconfirmed rumors suggest, that after a close encounter with the third kind, reporters, to be precise, Marta discovered the joys and thrills of being a dominant woman in her little bondage games. Had two girls stashed in her house till they were rescued. Bet you didn't know that either.
You like bondage, don't you Allan? C'mon admit it. Maybe you and Marta should hook up." He chortled, then stopped. "Anyway, someone will have to take them out too, unless they bow to me. I would end this tape with a Star Wars line, but I'll just say I'm always available for another battle with our old toy lightsabers. We all know who would win. Enjoy the present, it's totally you baby!"

The reel ended, and clicked off. Allan's face was purple with rage. He had his fists clenched, and he spoke through gritted teeth, "Go. Do. Assignments. Now."

"What was he-" Amaya started to ask

"GET OUT EVERYONE!!!" Allan thundered.

Amaya got up to leave, Allan wasn't going to talk, she might as well do her assignment, though it would have to wait until tonight, since it was an hour before daybreak. Amaya Takahashi had class to attend in a few hours. What would become of Catburglars Inc? Amaya hardly saw Allan giving in, but what options did they have? The Urban Professional sounded serious.

Well, Amaya had a job to do this week. She always loved tying people up.



**********************************


Isabella Rodriguez unlocked her apartment door, stepping inside with an armful of groceries from Whole Foods Market. She took the items to her kitchen, then went into her living room, first shucking off her white winter coat, then flopped down on the couch, exhausted.

It had been a trying day.

Twenty-five years old, a pretty latina woman of Cuban descent, single status, with long, soft brown hair and large brown eyes.
She's wearing a light green cardigan over a white tank top, with tight, stylish blue jeans that are washed out light blue in color. Sensible white and pink tennis shoes adorn her feet. Her lush eyelashes fluttered and her cheeks reddened slightly as she thought of St. Paul's, a private school she taught at. Today had been Mrs. Calder's first day back after a two week suspension. It had been roughly two and a half weeks since Isabella had been tricked into getting tied up by her students. She had been helpless, bound, gagged, with no way to wriggle free. Thank God that Mr. Young had come back, albeit two hours later, to untie her. She couldn't stand him for not rescuing her the first time he came, but was still grateful that he at least didn't leave her tied up all night. No, it had been her friends who had done the real rescuing. Becky, Maggie, and Cass had all been very concerned when they heard the story. Becky's temper had flared up, and she had marched straight down to St. Paul's to talk to the principal about firing Mrs. Calder. Maggie and Cass had followed her down there as well. The best the principal would offer was a two week's suspension, with Isabella getting Mrs. Calder's pay. She had been happy with the extra money, but her reputation had taken a plummet since her afternoon welded to a chair had gone viral. Thank God for her friends. They had all been very supportive, especially Becky. She had been the one leading pack and Isabella was very touched by Becky's passionate defence of her.

She sat up off the couch, realizing she was starving. She is a terrific cook, and her friends are always up to come over to sample her cooking.
Even her being a vegetarian didn't stop Cass, who could eat like a horse, from gorging herself on Isabella's fine dining. It was about time to have them over again. She should eat, but first she peeled off her orange and white polka dotted socks, massaging her tired feet, happy to be barefoot. She likes things natural, not in an obsessive way, just as green as she can go. Isabella got up and padded softly into the kitchen to wash her hands. She's five feet three inches, slightly lower than the average American height, with a slender and graceful form that attracts stares wherever she goes.

Going through her groceries, she decided to try a bean burrito, with organic goat cheese and a pinch of cilantro washed down with a glass of all natural grape juice. A light meal, but sufficient for her flat tummy. She smiled as she realized she used the word, 'tummy' instead of 'stomach.'
Isabella was very much at home with children, and even Maggie, who was the hardest to impress, admitted she'd never seen anyone as patient as her. She blushed as she thought of the compliment. Raised the youngest in a large family, Isabella was supposed to have been the spoiled rotten brat most people thought of when they thought of the youngest. Instead a sweet, sincere and very naive girl had grown into a fine young woman. Isabella can think of herself in these terms, because she has no exaggerated pride in herself. Sure, she has dignity, but there's a difference between the two.

Isabella started putting food in her cabinets, as she softly hummed a Spanish tune she remembered from childhood.

"Don't. Move."

Icy cold fear raced up Isabella's spine and the hairs on her arms stood up as something cold and unyielding pressed against her slim neck.

"Wh-who are you?" She gulped nervously.

"You'll see. Hands behind your back."

Isabella obeyed.

What else could she do?

*****************

Isabella knelt on her own living room floor, as her arms were yanked upwards, creating a 'v' shape behind her back. The intruder would not let Isabella see her face, having tied a dishrag over her eyes, subjected her to mostly disorienting darkness.

"Owwwwww!" Isabella yelped softly, as her arms were pulled close in the uncomfortable position. She does do yoga with Becky(the reporter had just started, Isabella was teaching her) but she hadn't tried anything like this yet. Besides, she didn't know if there was anything quite like this pose in yoga.

"Quit your whining, sugar," A young female voice said.

Isabella felt her thumbs, of all things, being cinched as her hands were pressed palm to palm together in a praying gesture. "Why my thumbs?" She asked calmly. No sense getting upset.

"Because last victim I did the pinky fingers, pretty teacher," the voice giggled suddenly.

"Hhh-how do you know I'm a teacher?" Isabella's voice trembled slightly. Was Mrs. Calder behind this? Had she done something to make her angry? Isabella tried to be nice to Mrs. Calder, not because of fear, but because she believed in forgiveness and moving ahead with things in life. Even though now she was a tied up celebrity on YouTube.

"A little nervous now, are we?" the voice said haughtily, "Don't worry though, I won't hurt you, just restrain you and take a few things." The girl fastened rope around Isabella's wrists and forearms, taking pleasure in making it cruelly tight. The rope felt soft as it dug into her smooth medium tan skin.

"Please! Does it have to be that tight?" Isabella grumbled in her light Spanish accent.

Suddenly her blindfold was ripped away and Isabella was staring at a girl, of all things. She couldn't have been more than nineteen if a day. Her short silky black hair, and skin color, suggested to Isabella she was Asian. A black domino mask and a leather catsuit? Must be some kind of burglar. The girl grinned down at Isabella, enjoying her obvious discomfort.

"Honey, I suggest you quiet it down a tad, or I'll have to do something about that lovely protesting voice."

"How about you let me go, and I won't call the police?" Isabella put as much authority in the question as she could. She really did not want to get tied up again and left helpless for hours.

A snicker was met with her comment.

Isabella sighed, but said no more as the catburglar folded her legs and ankles against her thighs, then looped more rope around her chest and arms, forming a type of 'harness', similar to one of those safety harnesses her brother wore while roofing.

"What exactly are you doing to me?" Isabella kept her voice even, hoping that reason would work on her.

"Tying you up," the black clad girl snorted, "What else?"

"No, I mean why like this? If you're just here to rob me, than why not tie my hands and feet, take my valuables, then leave?"

"Oh this is all part of the fun, dearie," the burglar finished tying the teacher's legs, then straightened up, looking around. "Besides, you enjoy yoga." As if that explained everything.

Isabella sighed quietly, there had to be a way to reason with this girl. She thought of something, "If it's money you want, for food, clothes, or whatever, I can get some out at an ATM. I know what it's like to need things."

To her surprise, the catburglar began laughing. She sat down on the seat of Isabella's couch, shoulders shaking, her right hand pressed against her stomach.

Isabella watched her for a moment, than began trying to wiggle away, albeit in a frog march.

Immediately the catburglar was off the couch and right up in Isabella's face. No mirth was on her face at this point.

Isabella could see the girl had brown eyes. She stared right back at her, wanting to gauge her reaction.

"That's a naughty thing for an esteemed teacher to do, trying to escape. We're just getting ready to have some fun. You can call me Amaya, it means 'night rain' in Japanese," she stood up again, and backed several feet away to grab something.

"I always wanted to learn Japanese, but I did not get the chance," Isabella glanced down at the ropes restraining her, realizing they were her exercise jump ropes. "Those are my training ropes," Isabella stated.

"Yes they are," Amaya smirked. She ripped the dish towel that had been Isabella's blindfold, than tied a large knot in it. "I think you've said enough, I hope this dish towel is organic, 'cause looking around, you're definitely a health nut."

Isabella frowned at the slam, but obligingly opened her mouth. Amaya appeared almost..... disappointed at her lack of response? Isabella almost smiled as the knot was unceremoniously crammed into her mouth. She had no choice but to bite down on the rougher material, at least, compared to the ropes. Isabella grunted softly as she felt the knot cinched behind her head.

"Iiissssss dissshsh nesssceserrryyy?"

"I think it's a perfect fit for you," Amaya giggled, back to being the playful sounding burglar.

Isabella politely shook her head, hoping for one last chance to reason with her.

Amaya casually picked up a pillow, and went into the kitchen.

Isabella raised an eyebrow, what was this girl up to now?

The diminutive Japanese girl returned, holding a knife.

Isabella gave a startled yelp. What was she going to do?


**********************************


A high rise building in downtown Manchester.

The man known to many as The Urban Professional stared out the spotless glass window of his building.

His building. Known to many more as Robert Trombone, he was quite a respected businessman in the city. He eased back in his wing tipped, leather back chair in brooding contemplation. Yes, he owned many businesses, yes he had his fingers in various aspects of the criminal underworld, and yes he was greatly respected and feared in said criminal underworld.

He wanted more.

The Alfonsis' were his main competition these days, a fact that both annoyed and disturbed him. His idiot brother still attempted to run that Catburglars, Inc operation that had turned into a failure years ago. And now, thanks to some intel, he found the place. Allan would have to move. He grinned, his fleshy face stretching into a wide grin. Allan had to love the Star Wars themed message he sent. There was a hidden message in there, anyone familiar with the franchise would catch it. Robert Trombone was without a doubt intimately familiar with Star Wars. He shifted his bulk in his chair. He is five feet eleven inches, and two hundred fifty pounds. Most of its muscle, but there's a fair amount of excess stuff that no dares remind him of. The last time someone had done that, Rob had laughed nervously, then ordered the guy who insulted him to be encased alive in concrete.
A close enough comparison to carbonite. Except this guy would never be waking up. Fucking Han Solo.

He glanced at some papers that had been delivered earlier to him. A summary of recent happenings in Manchester. His balding pate gleamed in the recessed lighting of his luxury office. Beady eyes that looked black sped down the pages. He could read thirteen hundred words a minute. JFK had nothing on him. His fat lips smacked together in contemplation.

Shit was going to hit the fan, and it wouldn't be his fan.

The Outlander. Some new do gooder who dressed in black and ran around like he was a private eye/vigilante type. Rob didn't know much about this asshole, but he sure wasn't worried about him. His men would find him soon enough, whoever this 'Outlander' was, he had a name, and Rob would find out.
Becky Carter. A fairly new reporter at MDT who was up and coming, and was apparently investigating the Alfonsi family. As long as she didn't go near him, he would leave her alone. Not many people outside the criminal underworld knew of his Urban Professional moniker. According to sources, Miss Carter did not know.
He smiled. That meant Maggie Swift had kept her mouth shut. Good. All was as it should be on that front. Let this upstart reporter take on the Alfonsis'. Maybe she could bring them down, doubtful, but if she did it would be to his advantage.
And his big brother Allan. Holy hell was he tired of him. And yet he wasn't. Allan was a blood relative after all. Still, it was time for big brother to step down and let the big boys play. If you can't run with the big dogs then stay on the fucking porch. He might have added a word or two.

Those were the main players, unless somebody else decided to join the party. He really only considered the Alfonsis' to be the real threats.

Ahh but the city. Rob twirled his chair, and gazed out the window. Manchester was coming to life, as was its custom toward early evening. Street lamps lit up, people were walking around, appearing to be no more than ants from his position. Ahh, this city.

His city.


*********************************


"SSSSSTTTTTMMMMMMMMMMMM!"

Isabella squealed, giggling so hard her sides hurt. She clenched her eyes shut, trying to will the ticklish feeling away.

Amaya had used the knife to cut open the pillow, pulling out its soft stuffing, and the catburglar made a makeshift feather out of it, explaining that she wanted to try tickling some of her captives in the future. Duct tape had been wrapped around Isabella's mouth and head, over her knotted gag to muffle her cries better. Probably for added insurance so the neighbors wouldn't hear. Thankfully most of it had been kept out of her hair.

Amaya finally paused from running the soft, fluffy texture against Isabella's bare feet. The teacher moaned in relief, a break!
Her arms were extremely sore and Isabella felt cramps coming on. Even her thumbs hurt..

"Cccnnnnnnnn ooooommmmmm ppppppllllsssss sssssstttttttmmm?" the Hispanic woman once again tried to reason with her. Isabella was as diplomatic as they came, at least her friends always told her so. She looked hopefully back over her shoulder at the catsuited burglar.

Amaya grinned back, holding up the roll of tape now.

Isabella frowned, her cheeks turning red. She did not want more tape stuck on her. It felt so sticky and the tape was ruining her perfectly applied skin cream, not to mention what it was doing to her lips. A few rising streaks of anger coursed through her.

"Nnnnnnnnmmmmm!" She commanded in what she hoped was an authoritative voice.

Amaya approached her, it looked like she was going to put it over her eyes! Isabella grunted angrily, not her eyelashes! She took so good care of her body, it was an insult to her to be treated thus.

"Amaya," A calm, even voice, with a tone of greeting.

From Isabella's vantage point, she saw Amaya's face. The catburglar looked as if she had seen a ghost. Her face was white as a sheet.

She dropped the roll of tape.


*********************************


Amaya turned around, hoping against hope it was him.

It was.

"OWEN!" Amaya screamed at the top of her lungs. She darted forward, wrapping her arms around the black clad figure.

"Amaya!" Owen wrapped her in a vicious bear hug, sounding really happy to see her.

Amaya herself fought back tears, unusual for her, as she buried her face in his shoulder. Owen was just about the only friend she had. Amaya wasn't exactly popular girl crowd material, and the fact that her family is so filthy rich isolates her from most people in society. That and Owen had taken her in, Violet too.

Her mind took her back again, as it had been doing several times in the past forty eight hours, to memories......

Three years ago.

"Are you ready Amaya?" Owen grinned at her, his form looked more muscular than it actually was in the catsuit. He wore a black beanie, covering his dark brown hair. A black domino mask hid part of his face.

Amaya's smirk was so wide she figured her face would split. She was out on the town with Owen and Violet! The two people who took her in when she needed it most. Her surrogate Uncle and Aunt. Who also happened to be the best burglars at CI, or, Catburglars, Inc. Allan Trombone, the president of CI had tasked them with doing a job on this mansion that made the Gates look like they should have sold Microsoft years ago, and do whatever these people were doing. The security was high here, and there were guards. However two of them were trussed up and gagged, courtesy of Violet.

The African-American woman held tightly to Owen's hand, clad in a leather catsuit that showed off her body. Her long, silky purple hair fell loosely around her shoulders, with a black watch cap on her head. Her face was concealed by the trademark black domino mask. She leaned in close to Owen, and their lips met.

"Awww come on you guys! You really gotta do old people stuff right now?!" Amaya was dressed in similar attire while she gestured at the second story window she had to reach.

They broke away, and Owen grinned crookedly at her, "Old people stuff? I'm twenty-four, Kidd."

He always called Amaya 'Kidd.' Adding that extra 'd' for emphasis. She secretly loved it, but pretended not to.

"Uh-huh. Old man. Anyone over the age of twenty-one is old to me. And it's 'Amaya'."

"Yup. Well, Kidd, if you hadn't eaten that double strawberry malt before we came, maybe you wouldn't have the energy of your boyfriend Spiderman," Owen smirked.

"Spider-Man, he gets a hyphen, dork. You make it sound like a surname, which is an insult. And he's a fictional character, so he can't be my boyfriend. No superpowers in the real world."

"I think you, childish Amaya Takahashi, still secretly wish for them like that first time we found you on the rooftop," Owen said in an announcer's voice.

Violet stirred off Owen's shoulder, "Can we get a move on? There's more people that need to be tied up," She said dreamily, then smiled a little.

Violet was usually the more sober one. If Owen and Amaya kept teasing and trading insults, they would be at it all night. Amaya loved both of them for who they were.

"Sure honey," Owen and Violet clasped hands together, then knelt on the ground.

Amaya knew what to do. She backed up a couple feet, then darted forward at full speed. She gracefully put one foot on the clasped hands, then leapt simultaneously as Owen and Violet pulled upwards with all their strength. Amaya flew through the air, a moment of weightlessness, a feeling of freedom, and her hands reached out, and grasped the brick molding below the window. She went over the numbers in her head as she picked the window lock. Roughly twenty feet in two stories, Amaya was a little over five feet, Owen and Violet got her about ten feet in the air, between their height and force momentum. That meant she had to jump a little less than five feet.(her outstretched arms helped. It took all she had to do it, but they had practiced many times, and all three of them worked well together as a well oiled machine.

Exactly seven and a half minutes later they were in the master bedroom of the couple, who were in their thirties.

They were tied hand and foot, with ripped up bed sheets that had been twisted into thin, strong cord. Violet was excellent at improvising, and had then gleefully stuffed a huge ball gag into the woman's mouth after finding it under the bed. Seems they had a few secrets. Owen made the man tell them the safe combination, and any other hidden places for valuables, then wrapped a golf ball up in a small pillowcase, and gagged the man with it.
While Owen and Violet did their restraining work, Amaya had gathered up anything of value in a small waterproof sack every CI member carried. She came back into the bedroom, only to find Owen and Violet passionately kissing while the couple moaned angrily at being treated in such an undignified manner. They picked uselessly at each other's bonds, while Amaya stared at Owen and Violet.

She cleared her throat.

Owen jumped, pulling away from Violet. Violet stared at Amaya like she spit on their shoes.

"Hey Kidd, back already?"

"Yeah, are CI members supposed to be kissing and getting distracted on the job by their undying love for one another?" Amaya asked sarcastically.

"Weeeellll, it's a grey area, and truth be told, Violet and I have been thinking of moving on from CI. We're ready for some new adventures," Owen blurted out.

"WHAT!?" Amaya shouted, her heart sank. Not her two favorite people in the world! They had taught her everything, her martial arts skills, thievery, and just about every other survival skill a burglar needed to know. How to avoid leaving evidence, such as wearing gloves, caps over the scalp, no hair, no DNA, etc. And they had helped her when she needed it the most. Now they wanted to leave?

"Owen!" Violet reproved, "I thought we weren't going to say anything?"

Owen glanced at his mate, "I can't not say anything, my southern belle. Kidd is like the kid sister I never had."

"I'm going with you." Amaya stated, folding her arms across her chest.

Violet smiled almost tenderly at her, "I don't think you can go where we're going, Kid."

"AAGGGGGMMMMMMFF!" The woman screamed into her gag from the bed.

Amaya ignored everything as she got a surreal feeling. They were leaving?

No, they couldn't, she--


Present Day.

Amaya pulled back from Owen, and slapped him hard across the cheek. "And you just left!"

Owen's face was covered with a black bandana tied across his face, complete with a plain baseball cap, leather jacket, black tee shirt, cargo pants, and tactical boots. All of it was black in color. Amaya could tell the slap didn't hurt him as much as her words did.

"It wasn't that simple, Ama-"

"Yes it was!" Her voice rose hysterically, "You and Violet abandoned me! Do you have any idea how that feels? Do you?" She demanded.

Owen raised his hands, then quickly caught Amaya's wrist as she tried to slap him again. "Listen to me, Amaya, there was a lot going on at the time, between Allan and his brother, myself and Violet, and a ton of other problems."

"Yeah, speaking of which, the Urban Professional sent us a message, 'get the hell out, or we'll all die'!" Amaya was feeling the stress, with the events from the last couple of days. In truth she was glad to see him, she really needed someone to talk to. And she missed him! Many conflicting emotions coursed through her.

"Mmrgssffmmpp!"

Amaya's attention was diverted as she saw Isabella had fallen to the floor, trying to wiggle away.

"Oh no you don't!" Amaya casually pressed her petite foot on the small of Isabella's squirming back. The beautiful teacher moaned.

Owen watched her, his face unreadable behind the black cloth tied over his mouth and nose.

"So I heard you've been busy, busting up drug rings, taki-"

"Hold on Kidd." Owen raised a hand, "Shutting down a two man meth lab is hardly a 'drug ring'. I'm one man, and I can only do so much. It was dangerous enough, lucky for me one of them was doped up."

"Always the false modesty of an old man," Amaya couldn't help herself, old habits coming back.

Owen held up both hands, "How many times must I tell you, Kidd, twenty-seven is hardly old."

"Anyone over twenty-one," Amaya was so happy to have him around again, she let the 'Kidd' remark slide.

"What are you going to do with her?" Owen gestured at the still squirming Isabella, who was moaning in pleading tones.

"Leave her. Someone will come along. Let's go somewhere to talk."

"LLLLLLMMMMMMGGGGGGGMMMMMMMM!" Isabella screamed unhappily, as she desperately shook her head.

Owen nodded, but seemed hesitant, "You sure you shouldn't make her a little more comfortable? She didn't do anything after all."

"Nah, she does yoga, and it won't kill her. You getting soft on me?" Amaya chuckled.

Owen simply nodded again, silent.

Amaya frowned, this was new. Owen almost always had a quip. He seemed more sober, subdued even.

She stepped lightly on Isabella's back, making the woman let out an undignified squeal.

Amaya giggled, not able to keep it in. "Then let us be off!" she pointed an arm outwards, as if she was some explorer. Amaya thought she saw a hint of a smile behind Owen's eyes, but it vanished.

"Byeeee, Isabella!"

Isabella shook her head again, not wanting to be left helplessly bound and gagged.


**********************************


"So where the hell is Violet? Why the fuck did you leave? Do you know how much trouble I'd get in if CI found out you're around, and I knew about it?" Amaya blurted out all the questions that had been burning in her mind since seeing him.

They were sitting on the roof of a six story building, on the ledge, side by side, legs dangling over the edge. The both of them were used to heights.
Owen had pulled down the bandanna now it was just the two of them, and Amaya yanked her domino mask down around her neck. He had a beard, which made his face look less thin. His hazel eyes were dark. Owen sighed, and Amaya felt his shoulders slump from his position next to her. "I think Violet killed someone."

His words hit her like a bucket of ice water. Violet? Kill? No way. She glanced sideways at him, "Not Violet. Not a chance."

Owen nodded, "I used to think the same thing, but after we left-"

"And cleaned out CI of some major valuables," Amaya interjected.

He smiled a little, a bit of the old, carefree Owen returning. "That remains a matter of debate, since we were the main ones responsible for getting it there in the first place, Kidd."

"Dorky old man with same jokes." Amaya said in a thick Japanese accent.

"Yeah. Right. And you're the Kidd I found on a rooftop holding your palm out like you were going to shoot a web from it."

"Not true!" Amaya spoke with emphasis, "That is not how it went down."

"That's how I remember it." Owen grinned, then his face sobered. "Back to Violet, I can't remember what happened around that time, it's like a big blank spot. Around three years ago."

"That's an eloquent way of putting it," The cat suited Japanese smirked.

Owen didn't smile back, "Listen to me, Amaya, Violet is here in Manchester. Working for the Alfonsis'."

"Violet's here too?" Amaya's brown eyes widened, "Can I see her?"

"No. I wouldn't recommend it. She's different, Amaya. Not the quiet, fun woman who used to love tying people up. Instead she's a quiet, and very possibly insane merc for hire running around. All she cares about is money," Owen picked at some lint on his black trousers.

"I still have to see her. She's part of my family too. How do you even know she killed someone?" Amaya looked earnestly at her surrogate uncle.

"She says I did it." Owen wouldn't meet her eyes, "And I can't remember."

"No fucking way," Amaya said flatly, "Don't listen to that. I'm sure you two just overdosed or something and it's part of some drug induced fantasy." She finished hopefully, desperate to keep the two people she loved the most as she remembered them.

"That's not all of it. Violet kidnapped a reporter from here, in order to impersonate her with another person for some fucking wild west scheme. I heard about it through my chain of contacts, so I managed to track Violet down."

"What happened?" Amaya was intrigued at the thought. She idly wondered if she could pull something off like that.

"Violet had the girl stuffed inside a fucking suitcase, trussed up and gagged so well the girl couldn't do a thing. I freed the girl and left Violet hogtied beside the car. I should have stayed to make sure she didn't escape," Owen's fists were clenched, "She broke out of that county jail like it was a cardboard box. I should have known better, not been so stupid."

Amaya shook her head, then thought of something, "Becky Carter, right? There was a write up in the paper about it. I may know her, actually. Though she doesn't know me."

Owen raised an eyebrow, "How?"

"Watch this." Amaya giggled, pulling her slim phone out of a side pocket on her thigh. She held up a video in front of Owen's face and hit play. It was footage of the time Amaya had posed as a traveling tape saleswoman, trying to earn money for college. A blonde girl in professional attire sat duct taped to a chair, with varying colors of tape used to subdue her. Owen chuckled when the camera panned up to the girl's angry red face with Caution tape wrapped around her head. She was trying to say something but it was all muffled grunts and moans. The clip ended and Amaya pocketed it.

"She was a blast to get a reaction out of," Amaya smirked.

Owen just looked at her.

"Wasn't that funny?"

Owen shook his head slightly, "In a way, but I had a dream about her on my way up. You know how I feel about dreams, I think they come from too much pizza from the night before. But Violet had kidnapped this Carter girl, and was about to put a bullet through her brain."

"Damn, that is dark. You probably had that dream as aftereffects from the western trip you took," Amaya tried to console him.

"Yeah. Except when I got here, I was doing some surveillance on Miss Carter, and-"

"So now you spy on girls?" Amaya couldn't resist the urge to poke a bit at her former mentor.

Owen shrugged, unashamed, "It was a feeling I had, which was vindicated, if you'll let me finish."

"Violet was following her? Why?"

"I don't know yet. I know Violet is working for the Alfonsi family, and there's some history there between Mrs. Alfonsi and Miss Carter. I'm sure Violet knows I'm in the area."

"Oh yes, your former 'southern belle' knew all along," a sarcastic voice stated loudly.

Owen immediately ducked to the side, hitting the gravel roof and rolling with the momentum. Amaya rolled flipped on her left side and came up in a crouch. Violet stood twenty feet away, dressed in tight black jeans, a black tee shirt, fingerless leather gloves, and that old leather jacket Owen had given her for Christmas a few years back. Her long purple hair was slicked back off her forehead. She looked tall, but Amaya was certain part of it was the wedged heels on Violet's tall leather boots.

"Violet!" Amaya had been startled at first, but joy overcame her as she stared at her friend. She darted forward.

Violet held out her arms and they embraced warmly. Amaya pulled back to look at Violet with shining eyes, "It's been so long!"

"Yes it has," Violet said crisply, her lips had purple lipstick.

"Violet," Owen raised a hand, "Step away from her."

The muscular black woman smiled coldly, "What are you going to do, arrest me?"

Amaya stepped away from Violet, placing herself between the two, "Let's just get along, maybe have a few beers, talk about old times?"

Owen and Violet paid no heed to her, just staring at each other.

"Owen"

"Violet"

Both of them said it almost simultaneously, but Violet was a little quicker.

Owen started across the rooftop towards her, then Violet pulled a gun out of her pocket.

"VIOLET!!!" Amaya screeched, unbelieving of the sight before her.

Violet finally looked at her, but she kept the gun on Owen. The niner had a silencer screwed into the barrel. "Amaya," Violet began crisply, "I might as well tell you, things are not the happy little world you remember. Owen is a murderer, and he needs to be put in jail. Or put down. Join me in working for the Alfonsi family, you won't be disappointed. CI is on its way out, the big players are making their move, and you need to be a part of it."

Owen was silent from his position.

It was a no brainer to Amaya, but she was still crushed. She had always dreamed about their reunion, fantasized of it, and now this. This huge fucking disappointment. At least one of them seemed sane enough. Amaya casually walked in front of the gun barrel.

"Amaya!" Owen shouted.

Violet's eyes widened only slightly, her whites visible in the moonlight. Her gaze remained steely. "Amaya, don't be stupid."

"You're not hurting him." Amaya felt anger boiling up inside her, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

Violet just shook her head, "Consider this a warning." She moved the gun up and to her right, then pulled the trigger.

The gun went off, a clipping noise, and Amaya heard Owen gasp. She whirled around, then screamed.

Owen was clutching his shoulder, and blood was streaming out between his fingers.

"Nononono!" Amaya was at his side, checking the wound. She glanced back, Violet was leaving.

"No!" Amaya ran forward and threw a kick at Violet. Her foot was snagged in Violet's strong fingers, and she twisted Amaya's foot, causing Amaya to leap with the twist so her ankle didn't snap. A sweeping kick with her leg upon landing failed to knock Violet down, who simply jumped back, then leaned in to graze Amaya's chin, knocking the Japanese girl silly. When the bright spots of her vision cleared, Violet was gone.


**********************************


Becky Carter was actually running late. She had told Isabella she'd be there around eight, but it was eight thirty, and here she was, rapidly walking her slender form across the sidewalk in downtown Manchester. She had parked her car in a parking garage several blocks from Isabella's apartment complex, and her pump clad feet padded softly on the pavement, reminding her she should have worn sneakers. Her feet were killing her! Becky had done a lot of walking today, and while her grey pumps with red ribbons were adorable, they offered little support. Time had gotten away from her for once, and she was running late! Her word meant everything to her, if she said she'd do it, Becky meant it.

And here I'm making my good friend wait.

She was almost beside herself with irritation and impatience. A text to Isabella earlier informed her Hispanic friend that she'd been delayed, but she hadn't gotten a text back. Oh well, she was almost there. Becky was in a denim miniskirt, with snug black tights that kept her long legs warm in the crispy air. Her soft grey turtleneck sweater clung to her athletic body, hiding Dakota's summer green tank top she had 'borrowed' from her little sister's dresser. Dakota would be ticked, but Becky needed one and they were close in height and weight. Becky wore cute little matching grey gloves that matched the sweater. Her leather wristwatch was on her left wrist, and a quick pull of her sweater sleeve told her she was more behind schedule than ever. Her medium blonde hair was long and loose from its normal French bun, cascading around her shoulders. A blue beanie was tucked in her black leather purse, she was just a tad hot from her swift walk.
Becky's soft grey eyes analyzed her surroundings, unusually wary, but after this morning's investigation, she was a little apprehensive. Okay so I'm very apprehensive. Becky thought, It's not everyday I take some recordings in my purse to my friend's house to get them translated to bring a crime family down. And it's also not every day I feel like I'm being followed. Or stalked. No! I just have to focus, I'm almost to Isabella's place.
Her brain can go into overdrive with her thoughts when she's nervous, and her tongue can move with a mind of its own. Thankfully she's managing to keep her inner dialogue to herself, can't have passing pedestrians seeing her talking to herself, they'd probably think she's crazy.
If there were any pedestrians out. It was quiet and no one was around where she was walking. Her stomach churned a little as she came up to an alley that had the streetlight in front of it burnt out. It looked dark. I can't let my overactive imagination get the best of me, it's just an alley, just an alley. I'm almost to Isabella's, and then I can find out what exactly is on those recordings.

Just an alley she repeated it in her head like a mantra.

As she approached the dark outline, a figure stepped out in front of her, arms on his meaty chest. Her heart almost skipped a beat, and she let out a small yelp. Becky's hand slipped inside her purse as her adrenaline spiked, the guy was ten feet away. He had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. The man smiled at her with gold plated teeth.

"Hey there little lady, a certain woman sends her re-uuuuugggg."

A crackle of electricity struck his chest as Becky darted forward with the taser she bought off Amazon. The man screamed as he fell to the pavement, twitching spasmodically, then lay still.

"Oh my god!" Becky knelt down next to the man, worried she'd killed him. "Oh my gosh oh my gosh!" she carefully stared at his chest, noting it rose and fell, albeit in shallow fashion. Becky sighed in relief, she had never tased someone before, and was relieved that the guy hadn't kicked the bucket. No one deserves to die. She was kind of stoked though, truth be told, on kicking this bad guy's ass. Becky had decided to carry a taser after the Oklahoma debacle, getting kidnapped and stuffed in her own suitcase was an experience she never wanted to repeat. Self defense classes had taught her how to use one, and she was glad for it right n-

"Mmmmmfff!" Her thoughts were interrupted as a strong, gloved hand clamped over her mouth, and her right wrist was seized in a viselike grip.

There was another person! Becky screamed in anger, fear, and desperation as she bucked wildly in her assailant's clutches. She reached desperately with her left hand to grab the taser in her right, when the hand was released from her mouth, trying to snag her wrist. Becky moved her left elbow up and jabbed it into her attacker's shoulder.

"Ahh! Damn!" another man.

Becky was spun around suddenly and face to face with him. He was wearing a billcap low over his eyes, and a black bandana covered his face. Her eyes took in the stranger and paused her fighting momentarily. He removed his hand from her mouth.

"Calm down Miss Carter, I'm not here to hurt you."

"Wha-" Becky sputtered, "What are you- help! Hel-mmmmppp!"

The man clapped a gloved palm back against her mouth. Her eyes were wide as she once again began fighting back.

"Calm down! The man in black, remember? Oklahoma train tracks?" he was a perfect calm to her panic, as if he knew it would sink in eventually.

Becky nodded, and the man relinquished his grip. "What are you doing here? Who is this guy who attacked me? Why are you in Manchester? Have you been following me? Why the mystery man act? Pull down your mask. Are you a good guy? Or a vigilante?" she said all of this in one breath, her brain in overdrive, discarding ideas, coincidences, and connections in nanoseconds.

"Whoa, whoa," The man in black said, "Easy Miss Carter, my mind isn't as sharp as yours."

Becky glared at him, still untrusting, "Start explaining mister," She waved the taser.

"Okay, okay." He held his hands up with the slightest laugh. "But can we go somewhere out of the streets. I know you don't trust me, but there may be more, and my shoulder is bleeding again. He gently lifted his coat, revealing a dark stain.

"Ohmygosh! Did I do that?" Becky felt a little worried.

"This? Nah. Sumbitch."

"Alright," Becky weighed her options, this man wasn't attacking her or tying her up, thank God, and there could be more around. She could call Lieutenant Cooper, but he would only send her home, and there was the fact that this guy had saved Raine and herself from a speeding train. Above all else there was her curiosity. She was burning to know what he wanted to talk about, and she had a ton of questions.

"Ok," She said suddenly, "Lead the way, but I'm keeping this taser on your back, and one wrong or stupid move and I'll tase you."

"Sure thing Miss Carter," was it her imagination, or were his eyes twinkling? Like he thought her antics were cute or funny? Well she'd show him if he tried anything.

He led her in an alley and into a rusty side door of an old building. Once inside, he flicked on a light.

Becky stared.

A cat suited burglar sat in a reclining position, legs stretched out, arms behind her head. Becky always said she never forgot a face, and domino masks didn't do the best job. Amaya. The Japanese girl who taped her to a chair for trying to do a good deed. Becky glared at the casual, smirking form, her normally soft grey eyes expressed anger and fury.

"You! You're that girl who taped Maggie and myself to chairs! How dare you show your face! What the hell is this? I'm calling the cops!" Becky turned to the man in black.

"If you would give me five minutes, Miss Carter, and please stop talking for a little bit, I'll explain everything," the man in black said calmly.

Becky nodded wordlessly, but remained standing. She wasn't going to get her clothes dirty. The place was filthy, and the chairs looked dusty enough to permanently discolor her tights and cute denim miniskirt that she literally just bought.

"Fair enough." The man in black seemingly noticed her glancing around at the dirt.

"Hiyeeeeeee Beckeeeee!" Amaya giggled from her chair.

Becky folded her arms across her slim chest, and eyed Amaya with a dangerous stare. She flipped Amaya off, then turned to the man in black.

"Let me start off by saying how I got shot," The man in black began.


**********************************

Owen's shoulder was sore from the bullet, but he had known how to stitch, and it was only a flesh wound. No need to go the hospital. Miss Carter had jarred it, but nothing too bad. Owen carefully gauged Becky's reaction to the story as he related it. He left out a few need-to-know details, such as CI, and The Urban Professional. No need to endanger the reporter with knowledge she did not need to be aware of. He focused on Violet, and the Alfonsi's, which he and Amaya knew almost nothing about the crime family. Becky filled in some pieces with events that had transpired since her first meeting with Marta, though she had yet to meet up with the woman again.

After they finished, she was visibly shaken up to see Violet was more than likely the following her and had probably deliver that stupid painting.
Really Violet? Owen thought, Following innocent young ladies and trying to intimidate them?

"I never want to get captured by Violet again. That was horrible," Becky put a finger to her chin, contemplating, "And you" Becky pointed at Amaya with a long slender finger, "Are part of some organization that is comprised of professional thieves. I don't know the name yet, but I'm aware of your existence. I'm taking you down too."
.
Owen was flabbergasted she knew of CI, though not in name. He resisted the urge to grin. Telling Amaya she would get taken down was not the best thing to do.

"I'd have you on the floor and hogtied in a hot minute, an-"

"Nope," Becky smirked, waving her taser.

Amaya's face turned red, "You think that would-"

"Miss Carter, Kidd." Owen said, he was trying to keep everyone focused. He admired Miss Carter's tenacity. She seemed quite capable of continuing this investigation. It wasn't a bad idea really, he and Amaya could use some help. "If we can continue."

"I want to know your name," Becky announced, staring at his covered face, "And your bandanna needs to come off if I'm going to trust you and if we're going to work together."

"Sorry, bandanna stays on, and the name is Outlander."

"I'm not calling you that." Becky and Amaya said simultaneously, much to each one's apparent disgust.

Owen sighed, that name never seemed to catch on.

"It's Owen" Amaya stated, giggling, "Or old man."

"Amaya!" Owen was relieved though, Amaya seemed to be ok after their encounter with the psychotic Violet. He looked at Miss Carter. "You can call me Owen too."

Miss Carter nodded, and she checked her watch. "If that's it, I guess we'll be in touch? I have a friend that I've kept waiting way too long."

Amaya smirked, "Yeah, she might want to get untied. I hear forced yoga positions can be quite tiresome after awhile."

Owen was confused, Amaya hadn't told him Miss Carter knew Amaya's latest victim. Fuck, everything was about to be unraveled.

"What did you do to Isabella?" Miss Carter said emphatically.

"Weeeeellllllll she may have been part of my assignment." Amaya drawled.

Miss Carter turned to Owen, "You condone this? That's one of my best friends! Ugh!" she started for the door.

"Miss Carter!" Owen called out, "I promise I'll keep a tight leash on Kidd here, and won't let her tie up your friends!"

She slammed the door.

"That could have gone better," Owen stated glumly.

"Relax! We don't need her anyway, right?" Amaya jumped up and did a handspring.

"Amaya," Owen said somewhat soberly, "With just the two of us going against Violet and the Alfonsis' we'll need all the help we can get."


**********************************


Becky ran.

Her cutie pumps threatened to fly off as she sprinted. She was grateful her tights kept her legs warm as a chill breeze blew in from the ocean.
There'd probably either snow or rain tonight.

Amaya. That bitch.

Tying up my friend?! she thought furiously, Isabella hadn't done anything! And after her ordeal at the school! Even more than her own concern, everyone loves Isabella. Cass, Dakota, Mom, even Maggie. She was as nice, sweet, and polite a person as one could meet.

Becky finally reached the apartment complex and dashed inside. Isabella's apartment was on the sixth floor. The elevator ride was interminably long, and her impatience grew with each passing floor. She checked her watch, 9:16. How long had Isabella been tied up? Becky looked at the mirror in the corner, and adjusted her skirt. She glanced over her tights, they seemed ok, and she tucked a long strand of blonde hair behind her ear, though why she was worrying about her looks was beyond her. A diversion from the matter at hand. Once the elevator dinged at the sixth floor, Becky hurried out of it, and made her way to Isabella's apartment. She paused outside the door, what if Amaya was lying? What if someone else was in there?

To hell with it, she decided. She knocked once, then impulsively used the spare key Isabella had given her.

She came inside and noticed right off that her friend's normally spic and span house was messy. Becky heard an all too familiar moan from the living room, followed by a grunt. "Isabella!" Becky saw her friend, tied in an unusual manner, gagged with duct tape. That tie looked to be the most uncomfortable tie she had ever seen. It almost looked like a praying gesture, "Hang on, I'll have you out in a jiffy. That has got to be killing your wrists."

"Ttthhhggggnnnnnnsssss," Isabella moaned gratefully.


Thirty minutes later Becky and Isabella were curled up on a big couch, each with a steaming cup of organic coffee. Isabella didn't look too bad, but there were rope burns on her wrists and forearms, and Becky had massaged Isabella's arms for ten minutes, just in order to get some circulation back.

Isabella smiled gratefully at Becky, "Thank you so much for rescuing me."

They had just brought each other up to speed on the happenings of the evening, with Becky concluding the tale of how these two criminalish do gooders wanted to help.

"Well, they didn't hurt me at least." Isabella said in her soft Spanish accent.

Becky was amazed at how calm Isabella was. She took it like a champ.

Lieutenant Cooper arrived then, his large bulk, bloodhound eyes, and gruff mannerisms apparent as ever. There were old coffee stains on his uniform. He went over the scene with Isabella. There wasn't anything he could go off, so after a few words of, 'We'll do all we can' he left.
Shortly after, Becky finally got to show Isabella the recordings, with a hell of a time getting them here, she was going to find out what was on them, no matter what. Isabella listened carefully, her pretty eyebrows frowning in concentration. She jotted notes down, as it played.

Finally, Isabella turned off the recorder. "Becky" she intoned quietly, "There's not much I was able to pick out."

Becky couldn't help feeling disappointed, So much for high hopes.

Isabella held up the paper, then handed it to Becky. There were a few words written in a neat cursive.

She took it eagerly, scanning the sheet. Six words. Bulldozer. Bob. Professional. Shipment. Italy. Docks. "Hmm, that's more than what I had." Becky smiled at her friend, "Thank you so much! You're the best person I know with languages."

"Thank you," Isabella smiled shyly. "I am so happy it might be of some help."

"I can check out some of these angles," Becky stretched her long, tights covered legs.

Isabella frowned a little, "Becky, why didn't you take Cass with you? You two have been inseparable since childhood."

It was Becky's turn to frown, "Ever since I got that painting, I've had this feeling I'm being watched, and I'm not going to endanger Cass, or anyone else when I go snooping around looking for leads."

"But Becky, you can't solve this case like that, going out on your own. What if you get caught? You have friends that care about you. I care what happens to you," Isabella played with her long tresses.

Becky shook her head stubbornly. Out of her friends, Isabella was usually the one she went to for advice, but she wasn't looking for it this time. "I'm sorry Isabella, I'm not putting anyone else in danger. Just tonight I was attacked, like I told you earlier."

Isabella smiled sadly, "I'm more than willing to go out checking leads with you, but it's up to you dear. At least do go out and have a good time sometimes, whether it's with Cass, Maggie and I, or start dating someone."

"Now that you mention it," Becky smiled, "I have been seeing this guy."

"Yes!" Isabella clapped her hands together, "Who?"

"His name is Ethan, and he's a doctor. We've only gone out a couple times. Twice," her smile got a little bigger.

"Oh I'm so happy for you!" Isabella squealed, she rushed from her end of the couch and gave Becky a hug. Becky embraced her friend, grateful for her support, not just with a boyfriend, but everything. Isabella accepted her, nosy snooping, stubborn nature, and everything else she was, just like that. A great friend to have.

"You're a good friend, Isabella."

"And so are you, coming down to the principal's office and making him put Mrs. Calder on leave without pay? Who would be able to get that accomplished?"

"I can be quite persuasive when it comes to my friends."

The two of them settled back down on their respective places on the couch. Becky would be staying the night with her, and they decided to watch a movie. Becky curled up, legs tucked under her, arms on her knees, hands wrapped her coffee. Her turtleneck sweater kept her nicely warm, and her skirt with tights made her feel downright cozy. Isabella sat Indian style on the couch, and had traded her coffee for a mint tea. She wore loose yoga pants and a yellow tee shirt. Her lengthy thick hair hung loose around her shoulders.

They both settled back for the evening, pleasantly comfortable. Becky had some new leads, and at the very least new contacts with Owen. Maybe she could get finally get somewhere in this case.

 


Submitted: May 27, 2020

© Copyright 2021 ScottGrisham. All rights reserved.

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