Naomi leaned forward in her office chair. “Are you sure she was talking about the same Dominic?”
“Yeah. Can we be sure it’s our Dominic?” Angelina yawned. “Sorry. It’s time for bed here.“
Naomi wasn’t sure, but she thought it was past midnight in Italy. Angelina sounded much less peppy than usual and her sleepiness seemed to be making her accent more pronounced. Her webcam image was dark and grainy, and the light from her screen cast an odd glow over her face.
“No, I’m not sure.” Chelsea crossed her legs and rested an elbow on the arm of the chair she’d pulled up to the computer. “But it is weird. She said he was in Australia.”
Lachlan turned around from where he stood shirtless, brushing his teeth a few feet away from his webcam.
“Issa big country—esscuse me,“ he said with his mouth full of toothpaste. He leaned into a doorway, presumably one leading to a bathroom, and spit. “It’s not like there’s only one guy called Dominic here.”
“If it was just the name Dominic I’d chalk it up to coincidence but there was more,” said Chelsea. “She said his last name was Davis, which seems like it could be a mishearing of Davies.”
“Still, they’re both common names,” said Lachlan.
Angelina yawned again. “I think we need more informations.“
“Information,” said Lachlan. “Not ‘informations’.”
“Sorry,” said Angelina. “I knew that. English is harder when I’m sleepy. I do more mistakes.”
Lachlan leaned forward, using his webcam image as a mirror as he ran a comb through his dirty blonde hair, which was sticking up in all directions. “So run along to bed and leave the grown-ups to talk.“
Angelina made a face with her tongue stuck out. “I’m older than you.”
Lachlan rolled his eyes. “And clearly, you have the maturity to prove it.“
“Be nice, Lachlan,” said Chelsea.
“Nah.” Lachlan turned away from the camera to rifle through one of his dresser drawers. “So assuming this guy was actually talking about the Dominic Davies, bassist extraordinaire and general legend, do you think this could have anything to do with our falconine friend?”
“Falconine?” Angelina rubbed her eyes. “I don’t know that word.”
“I’m not telling you what it means.” Lachlan selected a black band t-shirt and pulled it over his head.
“It just means falcon-like,” said Chelsea. “He’s talking about Falcon.”
“Thanks, C,” said Angelina. “Where is he, anyway?”
Naomi turned the webcam over to the couch where Falcon was fast asleep, tortilla chip bag still in his lap.
“He’s all jet-lagged out, it looks like,” she said.
“It might have something to do with Falcon, actually,” said Chelsea. “Mr. Clyde said someone in Brisbane, possibly Dominic, stole something from the company and brought it to the airport.”
“And Dominic’s friend just flew in from here to Naomi’s sleepy little neck of the woods,” Lachlan said. “I think I see where you’re going with this.”
“I wouldn’t call it sleepy,” said Chelsea. “Smaller than Brisbane or Toronto, maybe but it’s a big enough city.”
“Naomi’s lively and bustling neck of the woods, then,” said Lachlan. “I was under the impression that the point of this conversation was whether Naomi’s harboring a criminal, not the size of Naomi’s city of residence.”
Naomi glanced at Falcon again. He shifted in his sleep, sending a few chips falling onto the floor. Seeing him lying there snoring softly, it was hard to imagine him stealing from a multi-billion dollar business.
“You think Falcon’s a thief?” Naomi said. “And you think Dominic could be complicit?”
“I don’t know,” said Chelsea. “For all I know, this is all just one big coincidence. But this whole situation is just weird.”
“Falcon can’t be a thief,” said Angelina. “He’s super nice.”
“One can be nice and still be a thief.” Lachlan picked up a piece of toast that was lying on his desk and took a bite. “But I agree he doesn’t seem like the thieving kind. Nor does Dominic for that matter.”
“Yeah, Dominic’s too cute to be a thief,” said Angelina.
Naomi tried to suppress her eye-roll, and Lachlan didn’t bother suppressing his.
“Even putting Angelina’s impeccable logic aside, I’ve hung out with Dominic many times. He’s a great guy. I can’t see him being involved in embezzlement, or whatever this is.”
“Not embezzlement,” Naomi said. “They don’t work for the company and it doesn’t sound like it was money they stole.”
“Whatever,” Lachlan rolled his eyes again. “Close enough.”
“It’s worth mentioning the barista had some pretty damning stuff to say about the Clydes,” said Chelsea.
Lachlan took another bite of toast. “Damning stuff such as…?”
“They mistreat their employees,” said Chelsea, “and she even said she suspected they were involved in a murder. They may not be the victims here.”
“Falcon did say he was scared for his life,” Naomi said.
“Dominic and Falcon could be trying to stop these people from doing something corrupt or illegal,” said Lachlan.
“Exactly,” said Chelsea.
“It still doesn’t make sense, though,” Naomi said. “Why would Dominic and Falcon be involved at all?”
“I have a lot of questions too,” said Chelsea. “I can’t imagine we’ll get any answers unless we talk to Dominic or Falcon.”
“It’s only about 8 in the morning here, so Dominic is probably not awake yet but you could go ahead and send him a message now if you felt like it,” said Lachlan. “Speaking of which, this has been fascinating but I have to make like a falcon and fly away. It’s almost time for work in Lachlan-land.”
Lachlan disconnected from the video call.
“I should probably leave too,” said Angelina. “I’m so sleepy. Let me know what you find out?”
“Of course,” said Chelsea. “Good night, Angelina.”
“Good night, C. Good night, Naomi.” Angelina disconnected from the call.
Chelsea and Naomi looked over at Falcon sleeping on the couch, then looked at each other.
“Want to get started on that message to Dominic?” Chelsea said.
Dominic wasn’t sure how long he’d been awake. He had tried pacing around the room a few times throughout the night in an effort to calm his nerves but it had only made him feel worse. Now, he sat on the stained couch with his laptop on the coffee table in front of him, watching and waiting for a message.
He tapped the touch pad to make sure the monitor didn’t go to sleep, then got up and made his way to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and reached for a beer, then stopped as he noticed the light streaming in from behind the curtains. He glanced at the clock on the oven–7:55 AM. He shut the fridge and began brewing a pot of coffee.
“Mate, you look like utter shit.”
Dominic jumped, splashing a bit of water onto the floor. He turned to see Melanie standing in the kitchen doorway. Her blonde hair stuck up from her head at different angles and she had dark smudges beneath her eyes from yesterday’s mascara.
“Yeah.” Dominic poured the water into the coffee maker and pressed the button. It made a loud whining sound, then began to burble noisily as coffee dripped into the pot.
“You’re up early.” Melanie pulled a chair back from the kitchen table and took a seat, resting her feet on the table.
“I’m up late.” Dominic sat down beside her and rested his head in his hands. “Couldn’t sleep.”
“Yeah, I didn’t sleep much either.” Melanie leaned her head back and closed her eyes. “Then I heard you crashing around in the kitchen and figured I might as well get up.”
“Crashing? I was just making coffee.”
“Making coffee real loudly.” Melanie stretched her arms over her head and yawned.
“Sorry.” Dominic tried to stifle his own yawn. “Didn’t mean to wake you.”
“Any word from him?” said Melanie.
“Not yet,” said Dominic. “I’ve been watching the computer all night. He should be there by now.”
“I don’t know what you thought was gonna happen, Dom. You send him off to the other side of the fucking world, give him the name of some rando, and expect him to contact you right away?”
“You’re still mad at me.”
“Of course I’m still mad at you.” She opened her eyes and frowned at him. “What in fuck’s name were you thinking?”
“I didn’t have a choice, Mel. You know that.”
“No, I don’t know that. You didn’t bother discussing it with us. You just went ahead and made your rash decision without even talking to me or Jessica.”
“I didn’t have time to talk it out. They would’ve killed him, Mel. I had to protect him.”
Dominic felt someone flick the back of his head hard. “Ow! Fuck.”
He hadn’t even noticed Jessica coming in behind them. She had dark circles under her eyes and her shaggy, chin-length black hair was even shaggier than usual. She poured herself coffee, then sat across from them at the table. Melanie took her legs off the table and moved over a seat so they could all see each other.
“You’re still mad too, then,” Dominic signed.
“Yes. Obviously,” signed Jessica.
“Like I was telling Mel,” he signed, “I didn’t have a choice. I had to do something fast. I couldn’t let anything happen to him.”
“You didn’t have a fucking choice? Why was it your choice to make?” signed Melanie. “What about us? We should have all talked about this together and decided what to do.”
“What about him?” signed Jessica. “You–both of you–keep talking about him like he can’t make his own decisions. He’s not a child.“
“You’re right,” signed Melanie. “I’m sorry. But my point still stands. Dom, you had no right to make that choice for him.”
“I didn’t make the choice for him. He wanted to go.”
“Did he? Did you actually ask him if he wanted to go?” signed Jessica.“Or did you just shove him in a car, take him to the airport, and tell him which plane to get on?”
“I was protecting him,” signed Dominic. “He never said he didn’t want to go.”
“It wasn’t your job to protect him,” signed Jessica. “Of course he didn’t say he didn’t want to go. He was scared and confused, he adores you, and he’s used to obeying orders without question. Did you even consider that?”
From the other room, the computer dinged. Dominic and Melanie jumped out of their chairs.
“What?” signed Jessica.
“Dominic just got a message,” signed Melanie.
Jessica jumped up and followed them into the living room. They sat on the sofa with Jessica in the middle, and Dominic and Melanie leaning in to see the screen.
Unread Messages (2)
From: Naomi Wada (Block User | Add to Friends)
To: Dominic Davies
Date: Tue 30/6/2009
Subject: Your friend
I hope you are doing well. This is Naomi Wada. I assume you can guess why I’m writing you. I am really sorry to bother you so early in the morning but I didn’t know what else to do and I was hoping you could clear up a few things.
Falcon told me you said I could help him but I’m not entirely sure what he needs help with or why he’s here. We have a bit of a communication barrier, but based on what he’s told me I’m a bit concerned he may be in danger. I’d like to help your friend if I can, but I’m kind of at a loss here, so I’d appreciate it if you could provide some clarity.
To: Dominic Davies
CC: Melanie Graham; Jessica Thompson
Date: Tue 30/6/2009
Subject: I’m okay
It’s me. Just letting you know I’ve landed safely. Thanks for everything. Write back soon.
It was early enough in the night that there was still a faint purple glow on the horizon but the town of Palmer was already dark. Other than the airstrip, the only light came from a few scattered windows and porch lamps.
The darkness did nothing to ease the oppressive June heat. The air weighed down on Billy and Lily Clyde as they left the hangar and made their way home. A fish-scented sea breeze ruffled their clothes but provided little relief from the temperature.
“It’s good to be home.” Billy sighed and threw his shoulders back.
“It smells like shit and dead shrimp,” said Lily.
They walked the rest of the way to the mansion in silence. Lily climbed the steps to the porch and stopped to wait for Billy near the front door.
“Are you coming in?”
“I’m going to stop by the office and check on Sarah.”
Lily looked at the row of houses beyond the airstrip. Most of them were dark but a small yellow house had one illuminated window. “Looks like the light in her office is still on. Do you think she found anything?”
“I certainly hope so,” Billy turned toward the yellow house. “You go on in. I’ll let you know what I find.”
When Billy opened the door to Sarah’s office, she was so focused on her computer she didn’t notice him coming in. He knocked on the inside of the open door and she looked up.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t even see you, sir.”
“That’s quite alright, dear.” Billy took a seat across from her at her desk. “I’ve told you you don’t have to work this late. Not anymore.”
“Yes, sir.” She turned away from her computer screens to look at him. “And I appreciate the thought. I really do. I’ve tried to relax, like you said I was allowed to do but it feels wrong. I wasn’t made for that.”
“I know, kiddo.” Billy nodded. “It’s part of what makes you so valuable to us.”
“About my being valuable–” Sarah began.
Billy sighed. He knew where this conversation was going.
“Sarah, I know what you’re going to say and I’m afraid it’s just not possible.”
Her face fell. “Sir, with all due respect, I can probably do the work of ten of your normal employees. I’m not asking for much, not even minimum wage. But don’t I deserve some compensation for everything I do?”
“It’s not about what you deserve. It’s more complicated than that.” Billy sighed again. “Listen, kiddo, running a business is complicated. There’s a lot of red tape involved. Lily and I are still working on figuring a way to compensate you for all your work, but it’s still out of the picture for the time being.”
Billy nodded. “Someday.”
They were silent for a moment and Billy took pause as an opportunity to switch to a less difficult subject.
“So have you found anything?”
“Maybe,” said Sarah, turning one of her monitors in his direction. “I’ve looked at the flights leaving Brisbane Airport that correspond with the time Mr. Gibson saw the resource.”
“There were two flights to Melbourne, which I think we can safely rule out, given the resource originally came from there. There were also two to Sydney, one to Hobart, one to Perth, and one to Hervey Bay.”
“What about international flights?” said Billy.
“You think he could have left Australia?”
“I wouldn’t rule it out. This Dominic fellow could have given the resource his passport or something. It could be anywhere.”
“Let’s see.” Sarah scrolled down on one of her monitors. “There was one to Denpasar, one to Port Moresby, one to Vancouver, one to Charlotte, and two to LA.”
Billy frowned. “So it could be any of nine different places.”
“Yes, but I was able to narrow it down.”
“Really? How so? And more importantly, what was it narrowed down to?”
“I created a temporary email and messaged Dominic Davies impersonating the resource.” She smirked. “He wrote back almost right away. Too easy.”
“Well, don’t keep an old man in suspense. What did he say?”
“For one thing, the resource is calling himself Falcon now for some reason,” she said, “but more importantly, Dominic mentioned the resource was with someone named ‘Naomi Wada’.”
“Who?” said Billy.
“I’m getting to that,” said Sarah. “An online search for just the name ‘Naomi Wada’ turned up way too many people to be useful, but an online search for ‘Naomi Wada’ and ‘The Goldfish Technique’ only turned up one.”
“The Goldfish Technique, huh? I assume this is the rock band and not the sales technique.”
“You assume correctly,” said Sarah. “I found a Naomi Wada who talks about the band on her MySpace page. And guess where she lives?”
“Where?” said Billy.
“Charlotte, North Carolina.”
Billy nodded. “One of our nine possibilities. Good work, kiddo.”
“Thank you, sir.” Sarah smiled.
“So,” said Billy, “how would you feel about a little business trip?”
“I’d love that.”
“I’ll have Lily fly you to Charlotte tomorrow,” said Billy. “It’s a shame we didn’t figure this out sooner; I just flew in from there, you know.”
“I’m sorry, sir.” Sarah’s smile faltered a little.
“Oh, don’t be sorry, dear. You’ve done great work on this,” said Billy. “Hey, tell you what. You take care of this unpleasant little situation for us, and I’ll see about paying you a real wage.”
Sarah’s smile grew wider. “You really mean that?”
“Of course I do. It wouldn’t be much, of course–“
“That’s fine. I don’t need much. Oh, thank you, sir!”
Billy chuckled. “Don’t thank me yet, now. You still need to destroy the resource first.”