“Uh, is this a bad time?” he stammered, gripping the handle of the briefcase a little tighter. “I thought I’d come by and bring Lois that laptop she asked for, but I can come back tomorrow…”
Suddenly he could see her head peeping out from the kitchen. “It’s okay,
“Lois! What are you trying to do?”
“Get a blanket or something… I’ll settle for my jacket! Give me my jacket!”
“Because I’m wearing my sweats, that’s why!”
“So? What’s the big deal?”
A sigh. “The big deal is that my co-worker is standing in the living room with the things I need to dive into Richard’s investigation, and the last thing he needs to see me in is my sweats!”
He took two steps and carefully watched the sisters’ faces. “Uh, Lois, I think I brought the right one. Was your laptop the—“
“Stop right there,
“O-okay, Lois.” Keeping his vision focused on the two girls, he smiled when Lois grabbed her jacket and tried to cover her legs with it. She glared at the obvious bulge were her leg cast was, and then grabbed her sweatshirt. “Lucy, I need a top.”
“What’s wrong with the one you’ve got on?”
“It’s too big!”
“This isn’t the
Lucy stared at her sister for a full five seconds before walking around the corner.
“Um,” he squeaked. “It-it really depends, Lucy. W-what does Lois want to do?”
There was no answer for a moment, and he could feel the once-building tension in the room stall. Risking a glance at Lois, he saw she was looking at the sweatshirt she was wearing. Then she looked up and stared at the briefcase. “That’s my laptop?” She whispered quietly.
“From your desk. That isn’t a Planet laptop, is it?”
She shook her head. “It’s the one from my study. I took it with me that morning to…” she trailed off. Sighing, she looked at Lucy. “Could you get me to the table, please?”
Somewhat warily, Lucy did as she was asked.
Not to let her down,
“I hope you don’t mind,” he started, pulling out another laptop, this one belonging to the Planet, and taking a seat next to her, “but while you’ve been gone, I’ve been looking into the wreckage at the docks.”
“You have?” she said excitedly, typing in her password and tapping her finger impatiently when the system didn’t boot up fast enough for her liking. “What do you have?”
“It’s a scale model of the way the building was before it collapsed. The overall design is a little primitive—“
“It looks like something Jason tried to design out of Legos.”
“—but I think you get the idea of scale and overall appearance. I made some notes while I was at the wreckage site and based the design off that.” Searching through his jacket that he discarded before sitting with her,
“There’s amazing detail put into this,
“I made a note of that here,” he said, typing in a few commands and rotating the building with the courser. The three weaker corners were highlighted. “If you look at the building design, it would suggest that this thing was built a few decades ago, at least in the mid-seventies. Erosion would be one thing, but for one corner to be sound while the others weren’t? A building like this would have been condemned if information like this was known to the public.”
“But how long was the building like that? We can’t say for sure because we just don’t know. I doubt you got a first-hand look at this stuff.” A thought struck her. “How did you know about the three corners?”
He nervously tapped a few more commands into his computer. “Three corners had fallen. Only one was standing,” he squeaked.
When she didn’t answer he risked a look at her. She was leaning with her head propped against her good arm, staring at him curiously. “So,” she began slowly, “you don’t have any actual evidence or anything?”
He froze, completely rigid. Not any evidence I could show you without giving myself away. His shoulders sagged. “Not really.”
She sighed and leaned back in her seat. “I thought not. It was a good idea, though.”
“W-well, let’s not cast this aside. I’ll just save this and we can have another go at it when you return to the Planet.” He took note of the fire that died in her eyes and the way she lazily typed away at her keypad. Desperate to keep her out of her despair, he asked, “What about you? I never got the chance to ask you why you were investigating the docks in the first place. What were you looking for?”
She searched his eyes a moment and it took everything for him not to crumble under her gaze. It was like a veil had been lifted and he was the inconsiderate schmuck who decided to gawk at what was underneath. She looked lost, frustrated, irritated… completely alone and scared. The flash of emotions lasted only for the moment she searched his eyes. Fumbling with her coat, she pulled out the receipt she had shown Lucy earlier. “I found that while in the hanger,” she said, sliding it to him.
“Not at the time. I stumbled across it. I was looking for someone to talk to and found this when I realized the hanger was empty. Actually, the more appropriate term could be ‘abandoned’”
He picked it up and observed it closely. After a moment, he pointed out the date. “This was several months ago. Engine cleaned, oil changed… I don’t see what the big deal is.”
Lois suddenly looked uncomfortable. Looking back into the hallway where Lucy had left them alone, she leaned closer to him, overwhelming him with the scent of her shampoo. “There’s something I need to tell you about this investigation,
Feeling the intensity and hesitancy in her words,
“Much more.” Adjusting herself in her seat, Lois turned and looked longingly at a picture on a mantle. The picture was one of Richard and a man
“Everything leading into my investigation… it all started with a phone call.”