*I can't believe I agreed to leave my computer at home.* Koushiro "Izzy" Izumi hurried away from his friend Tai Kamiya's house, anxious to return to cyber-space. *They're all just totally cruel. Next time, I won't agree.*
Izzy pushed his feet into his bike peddles, carrying himself away from the "gathering" at his older friend's house. *Well, it was nice to see everyone again. We do tend to get out of touch.*
He turned down an alley shortcut. *I know this isn't the safest place to be riding, but it's mid-afternoon and really busy out. So what could happen?*
"Hold it right there, or I'll shoot!" Izzy brought his bike to a halt and looked around, heart pounding. Nothing.
"Easy, Eddie, it's just me."
"Goddamn it, Mark, you nearly gave me a heart attack." From around the corner, Izzy heard a loud clatter. "Got the money?"
"Yeah." A hoarse laugh followed. Izzy discarded his bike and crept toward the corner. Concealed in a niche on the other side was a grungy sort of living space -- like some place a homeless person would occupy.
"They never suspected?" The first speaker was tall and burly, with a days' growth of beard on his face and light hair. *He looks mean,* Izzy thought uneasily.
"Suspected who?" The other man chuckled. He was trimmed and tidy, in a neat suit. "A respectable teller like Mark Turner? He'd never rob a bank. It must've been someone else."
*Bank robbers!* Izzy backed away, feeling his heart pound even faster. *I've got to get out of here before -- * He slipped on a wet spot and fell back, slapping the rough pavement as he landed. *Oh no!*
"Hey!" The tall man looked up and spotted him. "Kid! Get back here!"
Terrified, Izzy grabbed his bike and scrambled onto it, hoping he could get out of the alley before the man could catch him. *If I get into the crowd, I'll be safe.*
A hand grabbed his collar and lifted him up. "You should learn respect for your elders," the man said calmly. Izzy felt himself being thrown, and slammed into a wall.
Head spinning, too dazed even to talk, he sank to the ground. The tall man loomed over him. "Maybe after this you'll remember your manners..."
* * *
The phone rang at Tai's house, right in the middle of one of the movies he'd rented.
"Tai, your phone's ringing," Sora said, not taking her eyes off the screen.
"Better get it," Matt muttered, from his sprawled-out position on the armchair.
"Darn it! MO-OM!" Tai yelled. "Can you get the phone?"
"Why not?" Mrs. Kamiya smiled, and picked up the phone. "Hello? Oh, Mrs. Izumi...No, he left over an hour ago...just a minute."
Tai felt a tap on his shoulder. "What is it?"
"Mrs. Izumi is on the phone, Tai," his mother said quietly. "Izzy isn't back yet -- did he say he was going to stop somewhere after he left?"
Tai frowned, impatient at being interrupted in the middle of trying to find an inconspicuous way to slip an arm around Sora's shoulders. "No, he wanted to get right back to his computer."
Dutifully, Mrs. Kamiya repeated her son's words. "No, I don't know where he could be...I wouldn't worry about it...no, he probably got distracted by something on the way home...all right, I'll let you know. Good-bye."
Tai blocked the conversation from his mind and turned his attention back to the movie -- and Sora.
* * *
The ropes bit into the skin on Izzy's wrists and ankles, but he kept silent. *One wrong word, and it could be my last.* In the next room, the two men were arguing over what to do with him.
"We can't let him go free -- he's seen us."
"Yeah, well, we can't take him with us, can we? Unless you're thinking of taking a nice little family trip."
"Ha ha. That only leaves us one option, doesn't it?"
Izzy shivered, and struggled against his bonds. It was no use -- he'd been trying to break free for the past 15 minutes, with no luck -- but he was desperate, and dangerously close to panicking. *They're going to kill me! I have to get free!*
"Forget it, Eddie! I was in when this was for the cash, but there's no way in hell I'm adding murder to the deal."
"Come on, Mark, show some bawls for once. No one's gonna know."
Closing his eyes, Izzy let out a low moan -- muffled by the gag over his mouth -- and fought back tears. *What good will crying do me? I've got to think of some way out of this! Think, Izzy! You're the brainiac, remember? Think!*
"He's a kid! I'm not killing a 3rd-grader, Eddie!"
*5th grade!* Izzy wanted to tell him, though why he was worried about his deceptive height at a time like that was beyond him.
"Fine, fine. We'll take him along. But you're the head babysitter, pal. It's not my job to make sure the brat's still alive when we get there."
*At least they're not going to kill me!* The alternative, however, was nearly as bad. *Who knows where these two creeps are taking me! I'll probably never see my parents -- or my friends -- again!* This time his eyes did overflow, hot tears spilling out over his cheeks and soaking the rag that wrapped around over his mouth.
"Hey, calm down, kid." The man in the suit -- Mark -- bent over him, holding out a messy-looking sandwhich. "We're not gonna kill you." He hesitated. "I have to take that gag off if you want to eat, OK? We're in a warehouse 5 miles out of town, so nobody'd hear you if you screamed. Got that?"
Izzy nodded, not taking his eyes off the sandwhich. He was starving; even trapped in a nightmare like this one, he couldn't ignore his hunger pangs.
Mark untied the gag. "I'm going to untie your hands, too, but I wouldn't try escaping. Eddie's got a nasty temper."
"I won't run." Izzy's voice wasn't much more than a pitiful whisper, but he ignored it, gaze locked on the food in Mark's hand. "Escape is improbable at this stage."
Mark barked a laugh. "Improbable at any stage, I'd say," he commented, untying the sharp cords on Izzy's hands. "You use big words for such a little kid."
"I'm older than I look," Izzy told him, grabbing the sandwhich. His speech was spoiled only slightly by his chewing. "I'll be 11 this October."
"Bet you're one of those genius kids, huh?" Mark grinned. "You know, I used to beat up kids like you when I was 11."
Izzy frowned. "But when I'm your age, I'll bet you all that money you stole that I won't have to rob banks to make myself a fortune."
"If you make it to my age." Mark raised an eyebrow. "Rate you're going, I'm not so sure."
Izzy's chewing slowed, and he looked up at the man with wide eyes. *Probably not, since I'm chatting idly with a bank robber whose partner wants to kill me.* His mouth felt suddenly dry. "I-I don't think I can eat the rest of this," he said, in a bit of a queasy-sounding voice.
"Hey, don't let me freak you out." Mark held up his hands. "I was just kidding. If you do whatever we tell you, nothing bad will happen. OK?"
"Except being taken away from everyone who matters to me," Izzy responded bitterly. He looked down at the floor, feeling a lump rising at the back of his throat.
Mark shrugged. "Can't help that. Look, kid, I gotta go. Take it easy, huh?" He left the room.
*Sure.* Izzy pulled his knees up to his chest, sobbing softly under his breath. *Take it easy. Right.*
* * *
"Hello?" Tai looked up from the video game match between Kari and TK as his mother answered the phone. "No, I -- What!?...he hasn't called or...no...no...we haven't seen him since he left...no, I'm sorry...hold on, I'll get Tai on the phone."
Noticing him watching, Mrs. Kamiya beckoned to Tai. "What is it?" he asked quietly.
"Izzy's mother is on the phone," she explained. "He hasn't come home yet -- I thought maybe you could tell her where he might've gone."
Tai took the phone. "Hello?"
"I'm sorry to interrupt you, Tai," Mrs. Izumi's upset voice said over the phone, "but I'm worried sick. Izzy's never been so late before -- I'm sure he would've called."
Tai felt a faint prickle of worry himself. "How about if I walk over to your house and look for him on the way?"
"Oh, would you?" Her voice sounded grateful. "Thank you so much, Tai. I really appreciate this."
"No problem, Mrs. Izumi." Tai looked over at the others after he hung up, and found he'd gained an audience. "What?"
"We should be asking you that." Matt crossed his arms over his chest. "Who are you going out to look for -- and why?"
"Izzy never got home after he left," Tai reported.
Sora looked at the clock, with real concern. "That was more than three hours ago! He could be in serious trouble!"
"You don't really think something happened to him, do you?" Mimi clapped both hands to her mouth, eyes wide.
"This is terrible!" Joe groaned. "I'll bet he's lying dead in a gutter somewhere!"
"That wouldn't really happen, would it?" TK asked, eyes wider than Mimi's.
"Of course not," Matt assured him. "I'm sure he's fine."
"And just to prove that, I'm going to get out there and find him," Tai said firmly, heading for the door.
"Yeah, well, just try and leave us behind!" Sora retorted, following. The rest of the group hurried after them.
* * *
Izzy lay in a strange sort of state, not really sure if he was dreaming or awake. He'd been moved from the warehouse to a huge van, and had suffered through the whole trip. Then he'd been moved onto a small plane, where the ropes that had bound him were removed. He'd been given some kind of drink before they'd boarded, which he suspected was a sedative, and it left him feeling hazy and confused. The whole thing felt like some horrible nightmare.
"Where to now?" Mark asked, once they were off the plane and safely through airport security. "Aren't we hopping the next plane out of here?"
Eddie shook his head. "Not from here. Get us a rental car. We're going to the next little nowhere town and taking off from there."
"Yeah, yeah." Mark hurried off.
It wasn't until they were in the car and traveling through the city -- wherever it was -- that Izzy's head started to clear. He hadn't been tied this time, since whatever drug he'd been given was obviously supposed to keep him calm.
*Maybe if I act like I'm still out of it, I can escape somehow,* he thought, a faint glimmer of hope shining through the darkness over his mind.
"Hey, Marky boy!" Eddie's voice was slurred with drink. He was sitting right next to Izzy in the back seat, and the smell was overpowering. "Pull over and grab me another beer , will ya?"
"You think we got time?" Mark's voice was contemptuous. "We have to keep moving, idiot."
"Come on, pal, it's just a dumb drink." Eddie leaned forward. "Just stop off downtown, we'll find one."
"We haven't got time," Mark answered firmly.
"Fine." Eddie settled back. "Well, as they say in prison, you make do with whatever entertainment you got." He turned and leered at Izzy, who shrank back into the corner between his seat and the car door.
"You're a real jerk, you know that." Mark frowned. "Leave the kid alone, Eddie. He's scared enough as it is."
"Who are you, some kinda saint?" Eddie tossed his empty beer can out the open window behind Izzy. "He's gotta learn to cope with life's little hardships."
"Don't even start," Mark said, a slight edge in his voice. "He's a kid."
Eddie reached out and grabbed handfuls of Izzy's shirt. "He's a target that's within reach, and I AM a jerk; you should know that by now." He grinned evilly, pulling out a switchblade.
Izzy tried to break free of Eddie's grip, even though his movements were still sluggish. "Hey, stop!" he yelped, feeling something akin to panic. "Get off! Stop!"
"Cut it out, Eddie!" Mark yelled, from the driver's seat. "All right, I'll pull over and get you a beer! Leave the kid alone!"
"Too late." Eddie flipped the switchblade open, and Izzy recoiled, trying to break away. "Shoulda found one five minutes ago."
Desperately, Izzy kicked down with both legs. His shirt ripped, and he fell backwards, out of Eddie's grip -- and right out the window of the car.
"Shit!" he heard Eddie swear, and then he was falling, hit the pavement with a loud smack, and rolled wildly away from the car.
Frantically, Izzy tried to stop himself, but he was rolling way too fast. His head hit against the curb with a sickening crack, and everything went black.
* * *
Tai lay on his bed, staring at the bunk above him. It was ten o'clock in the morning and still Mrs. Izumi hadn't called to say that Izzy had been found. *I can't believe this. It's something that would happen to someone else, not a friend of mine.*
He thought back to last night, when they'd found Izzy's bike in that alley. The look on Mrs. Izumi's face when he and the others brought it up to her front door was something that would continually haunt him.
"Tai?" Kari peeked into the room, almost hesitantly. "Sora's here."
"Oh." Tai stood up and walked out of his room, shutting the door behind him. "Did you find anything?" he asked, without bothering to say hello first.
"No, but Mrs. Izumi got a call from the police," Sora reported. "I stopped by her house earlier, and she said they've asked her to come in and hear a report. She asked if we wanted to come, too."
"Try and stop me!" Tai grabbed his coat. "Mom, I'm going to the police headquarters!"
"Just what every mother wants to hear," she murmered.
It was a tense trip, with Izzy's parents on the subway. Mrs. Izumi stared blankly ahead, and her husband watched her worriedly. Tai and Sora tried to pretend they weren't uncomfortable, but it was pretty hard.
Mrs. Izumi only seemed to come back to life when they got to the police office. "Where's my son?" she cried, as soon as they were through the doors.
An officer glanced up. "You're Mrs. Izumi?"
"Yes! Have you found Izzy?"
"Not yet." The statement was a huge disappointment. Mrs. Izumi leaned back against her husband, looking drained. "But we do have a clue." The officer indicated that they should follow him.
In a back room, a man in a rumpled business suit sat. "This man and his partner were apprehended outside of a small town just a few hours ago, for bank robbery. His story is very interesting, though; I think you ought to hear it."
The officer leaned over the other man. "Tell these folks about the kid you picked up, Turner."
The man -- Turner -- looked up. "We didn't mean to abduct anyone. It was a mistake."
"Yeah, yeah, get on with it."
"All right." The man took in a breath. "We picked up the kid in an alleyway by our hide-out. Eddie wanted to kill him because he'd seen us, but I talked him out of it. So we took him with us."
"And why wasn't he with you when we picked you two up?" the officer asked persistently.
"He fell out the car window when we were passing through a city somewhere." Turner looked away, obviously uncomfortable. "I don't know what happened to him. He was laying still; could've been dead or just unconscious, I think."
Tai stiffened, and heard Sora gasp beside him. Mrs. Izumi looked directly at Turner, until he gave in and returned her gaze. "My son fell out the window of a moving car?" Her voice wavered.
"I don't know if he was yours." There was guilt in Turner's voice, despite his words.
Silently, Mrs. Izumi reached into her purse and took out a picture. Turner glanced at it, then looked down. "Yeah, that's him."
With a sob, Mrs. Izumi buried her face in her husband's chest. Tai took over. "Where did he fall out of the window?"
"I don't remember," Turner answered. "We went to lots of cities. It was just another place."
"How can you not remember?" Mrs. Izumi cried. "My son is out there somewhere, and he's hurt and lost, and I can't go to him because you don't remember where he is!"
"Sorry, lady," Turner mumbled, eyes downcast. "I can't help it. I didn't want this to happen."
Mrs. Izumi began to cry again. Sora patted her back comfortingly. "It's all right, Mrs. Izumi. We'll find him."
"Yeah," Tai added. "Izzy's a trooper. He'll survive."
Secretly, though, he had to wonder...
* * *
Cait Keller ran across the street, and bent over the still form of a red-haired boy. "Holy crap, is he dead?"
Nope, he was breathing. "Whoa, what happened to you?" Tentatively, Cait rolled the boy over so she could see his face. There was a huge, ugly lump just above his forehead. "Yikes! That must've hurt!"
"Cait! What are you doing?"
"There's a kid lying unconscious on the sidewalk, Mom!" she yelled back. "But it doesn't matter; let's just walk on by like nothing's wrong!"
"What!?" Cait's mother joined her. "Oh my god! What on earth happened to him?"
Cait looked at her flatly. "That's right, I hid in the shadows and witnessed the whole thing. It was the 23rd of June, your Honor, and -- "
"Don't be a smart aleck." Mrs. Keller started to lift the boy off the sidewalk. "Help me out, Cait. We've got to get him inside and fix him up."
"For once, we agree," Cait murmured, bending to help.
* * *
A throbbing pain in his forehead was the first sensation he felt. Hazy images slid across his mind, elusive and fleeting. *My name is... I live at...* The statements remained unfinished.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. The room was not familiar -- but then, he wasn't sure anything would seem familiar at that point. "Where am I?" He sat up, looking around, then closed his eyes. "And while I'm at it, who am I?"
A brown-haired girl wandered into the room, then stopped short. "Oh good, you're awake."
"Uh -- who are you?" he asked, hoping he didn't sound too much like a rambling idiot.
"My name's Cait Keller," she answered. "Now tell me who you are -- and where you came from."
He blinked. "You don't know me?"
"All I know is that I just peeled you off the sidewalk an hour ago." She frowned. "What's the matter -- having a brain lapse or something?"
"I -- I -- maybe." He leaned forward and hugged his knees to his chest. "I can't remember who I am, where I came from, or what I'm doing here. I was hoping you knew."
"No such luck." She frowned. "Damn! This makes things a lot harder. And my computer's down, too, so I can't check the net for anything."
"Computer?" That jogged a memory. "Hey, let me take a look at it. I'll bet I can fix it."
She laughed. "You'd have to be a computer genius to fix a mess like this one! Not likely!"
* * *
"I don't believe it," Cait said, for about the 12th time. "How did you do it?" Her computer was in perfect working condition. "It's impossible!"
"Mmm..." The boy was already asleep again.
Shaking her head, Cait turned back to her computer. "Well, now that it's working, maybe I can take a shot at finding out just who you are, Computer Genius Boy."
SUBJECT: Found -- One Lost Boy
Hey guys, Cait here. This is not a joke, OK? This is dead serious. Pass it on to everyone you know who lives in Japan.
I found a kid outside my house this morning, and wondered if he might belong to someone out there on the world-wide web. (And, for those of you who are wondering, he seems to have amnesia, so no, I don't know his name.)
If there's anyone out there who's missing a red-haired boy with black eyes and who's about 10 years old, contact me at:
PS: Oh yeah, and if you do know who he is, please tell how in God's name he managed to reprogram my computer in 20 minutes!
*That ought to do it.* Cait grinned, filling in the addresses of all of her online friends from Japan, and clicked "send". *Now we wait, and see what comes up.*
* * *
SUBJECT: Fwd: Found -- One Lost Boy
Check this out, Stan. I think she's serious.
NOTE: Forwarded message inclosed
SUBJECT: Fwd: Fwd: Found -- One Lost Boy
What do you think? Joke or chain letter?
NOTE: Forwarded message inclosed
SUBJECT: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Found -- One Lost Boy
Keep it going -- it might be serious.
NOTE: Forwarded message inclosed
* * *
'You have mail'
"Huh?" Matt frowned. "Great, it's probably another dumb chain letter. Why do people send me these things?"
SUBJECT: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Found -- One Lost Boy
Matt rolled his eyes. "Yeah right." Despite his skepticism, however, he clicked on the message.
Hey Matt. Take a look at this. Some people have WAY too much time on their hands.
"I'll bet." Matt scrolled down. "Another stupid -- " He stopped. "Wait a -- " His eyes widened. "For real! I don't believe it!"
Moving to "Compose", Matt started to type.
* * *
SUBJECT: Re: Found -- One Lost Boy
Are you for real? If this is some crazy joke, it's freaking me out. A friend of mine went missing a couple of days ago and he fits that description exactly. Ask him if he remembers the name "Koushiro Izumi" -- it's his. We all call him Izzy, though, so that might work better. Send a reply and tell me what's going on.
Yamato "Matt" Ishida
PS: About the computer thing, it's normal. Izzy's kind of a genius, so don't let it bother you.
* * *
"Take a rest, Computer Boy." Cait grinned. "You've been on that thing all morning. You're still on the 'Injured' list, you know. Besides, I need to check my e-mail."
"All right." The red-haired boy yawned. "None of this is helping to jog my memory, anyway." He left the computer and crawled back into bed.
'You have mail' Cait grinned. "Well, it's about time. Hopefully, it's somebody responding to my e-mail SOS." She checked. "Oh, excellent. Hmm...Da Man?"
Hastily, Cait skanned over the message. "Interesting... Izzy, huh? Well, let's test that."
She crept over to the sleeping boy. "Hey Izzy!"
He stirred. "Hmm...?"
She grinned. "Iz-zy?"
"Never mind -- go back to sleep." She turned back to the computer as he grumbled a bit, too tired to openly complain.
"We have a name..." Cait reread the message. "A joke, hmm? Well, we'll have to respond to that one." She turned from the computer and snatched up a camera off her desk.
"Say cheese, Izzy," she smiled, and snapped the picture.
* * *
SUBJECT: Izzy Izumi
Nice to meet you, Matt Ishida. Lighten up; this isn't a joke -- and I think I've found your friend. Answers to the name "Izzy" -- how many of those can there be? Anyway, in case you doubt me, here's a picture I took about 10 minutes ago.
* * *
Tai picked up the phone as it started to ring the second time. "Hel -- "
"What took you so long?" Matt's impatient voice said. "Listen, meet me at the station closest to your house in 15 minutes -- we're going to Izzy's house."
"Wha -- But -- " Tai was talking to the dial tone. "Great. He could've at least told me what was going on." Despite his tone, Tai was already halfway out the door.
Matt was waiting at the station when Tai got there. "What kept you?"
"Held up in traffic," Tai answered sourly. "What's this all about, Matt?"
"Only this." Matt held out a computer print-out.
Tai looked at it. "That's a picture of Izzy."
"Great detective work, Sherlock," Matt said sarcastically. "The point is, this one was taken just half an hour ago, by a girl from out of town."
"But that means..." Tai trailed off.
"Exactly, Einstein." Matt grinned. "Come on, let's go see Mrs. Izumi. She'll want to see this."
* * *
"Oh my god!" Izzy's mother had tears running down her cheeks. A hysterical burst of laughter escaped her. "He's alive! Oh my god, he's alive! Thank heaven!"
Matt grinned at her response. "I've got this girl's e-mail address, so it won't be hard to contact her. Just say the word."
"Please." Mrs. Izumi was almost incoherent. "Tell her I'll pay for her and Izzy to come here -- and I'll reward her, too, when she gets here."
"Right." Matt hesitated. "But -- there's one thing I forgot to mention. She said he lost his memory. That's curable, right?"
Mrs. Izumi closed her eyes. "Just get my little boy back to me," she said softly. "That's all I want."
* * *
Thanks for the picture, Cait. You should've seen the look on Mrs. Izumi's face! Some people are just way too emotional. Anyway, try these names and see if he remembers anyone:
and, of course...
Oh yeah, Mrs. Izumi said she'd pay for tickets so you and Izzy can fly back here -- and she's planning on getting you a reward, too.
Send an e-mail when you've booked a flight.
* * *
The name struck a familiar chord, like all the others, but it was one that Izzy couldn't place. He shook his head.
"Matt Ishida -- he's the one who sent the e-mail."
Izzy sighed and shook his head. "I know they're all people I knew, but I just can't remember. It's so close... I think if I see them again, it'll all come back to me."
Cait grinned. "Well then it's a good thing we're going to be seeing them, soon. Mom booked our flight for tomorrow. I sent Matt an e-mail, and he said they're all going to come meet you at the airport."
"That's good." Izzy looked down. "I really miss them -- especially my parents. I mean, I don't remember any of them, but it's like part of me does, you know?"
She gave him a sympathetic look. "No, I've never had amnesia -- but it's got to be harsh."
Izzy shrugged. *I just want everything back to normal.*
* * *
The plane landed at the airport just a little too soon for Izzy's liking. *Great. What if I don't recognize them? Will they have to put me in one of those re-habilitation cells?*
"Off -- the -- plane." Cait grabbed his arm and shoved him toward the exit ramp. "No wasting time allowed. Your family and friends will all be worried about you."
Izzy's stomach felt queasy. "What if I don't recognize them?"
"You will." Cait was unrelenting. "If you don't, I'll knock you out myself and see if that works."
"Great," Izzy groaned, letting himself be dragged along.
"Hey, let's all go for pizza after!" a voice called out, from somewhere beyond the covered exit ramp.
Izzy grinned, almost unconsciously. "That's Tai..."
Cait looked at him strangely, but another voice cut through before she could say anything. "Why do we have to stand? My feet hurt; I need a chair."
"Mimi." Izzy's grin widened.
"Stop leaning on me! Geez, somebody get her a chair before she puts a dent in my shoulder."
"Matt." This was like a taste-test.
"What if something happened? What if he doesn't remember us? Suppose he got lost on the way here? What if -- ?"
"Calm down, the plane only just arrived. He'll be here."
"Joe. Sora." Memories were starting to flood back into his mind, at a rate that was almost alarming.
"Dear, what if something went wrong? I couldn't bear it if we lost him again."
Izzy stopped in his tracks and blinked rapidly.
"Don't worry, nothing's going to -- "
"MOM! DAD!" Izzy ran out of the exit ramp, nearly colliding with an overweight woman who was moving too slowly. "Sorry."
"IZZY!" Mrs. Izumi hurried forward and grabbed him, sobbing. "Oh, thank god! I was so afraid!"
There wasn't much time for an emotional reunion, because 7 hyperactive kids suddenly crashed into them, and everyone started talking at once.
"Hey, I thought you lost your memory!"
"So what'd it feel like to fall out the window of a moving car?"
"Be quiet, Tai, he doesn't want to think about that!"
"I was just asking!"
"What on earth are you wearing? Is that a new fashion statement?"
"What'd those bank robbers do when they caught you?"
"Can we go for pizza now?"
"Just asking, just asking -- ow!"
"So where's that girl, Cait?"
"Sitting off to the side, watching you guys make idiots of yourselves." Cait wiggled her fingers by way of a greeting. "At least now I've got faces to go with those names -- even if I don't know which face goes with which name."
"Oh right -- I forgot." Izzy ran her through the introductions.
"Thank you, Cait." Mrs. Izumi shook the girl's hand. "I'd like to reward you." She smiled. "So I'm taking you to the mall to buy anything you can find that you want."
"Ooh! The mall! Can I come too?" Mimi asked eagerly. "I'll help you pick out some clothes!"
"We'll all come," Tai said lightly.
"Great." Matt rolled his eyes, not really all that displeased. "The whole group of us, at the mall together? THAT'S cool."
"You know it." Tai grinned. "Hey Sora, want to take in a movie after?"
"Sure," Sora smiled back at him.
Izzy looked from her face to Tai's and back again. "I go away for a few days, and... How long has this been going on?"
Joe sighed. "Don't look at me. No one ever tells me anything."
"Since 5 minutes ago," Matt said, in answer to Izzy's question. "Quit it with the 'eyes' bit, you two. We're going for pizza, remember?"
"Oh yeah. Pizza!" Tai snapped out of his trance. "Try and stop me!" He raced for the exit.
The others just shook their heads and laughed.