"Okay!" I sit facing Ken, and try to sound important and in control. "Tell me again - who are the suspects, and what motives do they have?"
Ken coughs a little to cover what sounds suspiciously like a snicker and nods. "All right. First is Mimi herself. It's stupid, since her family's rich, but she might want insurance. Or attention."
"Hey, you never know," I add.
"Second is Izzy," Ken continues. "We don't have a motive for him, but the conversation he had with Tai and Matt was fairly suspicious. Those two are also under suspicion until we've discovered the reason for the blackmail."
"And Kari." Ken frowns. "She doesn't have a motive, but she was there. So we can't count her out."
"Damn straight!" I agree.
"Then TK. We haven't got any evidence against him yet, but he is having financial problems, and that puts him under suspicion as well." Ken frowns some more. "And then Yolei… but we don't have a motive for her, either."
"I wish I knew what was so important 'bout Joe's apartment!" I complained. "Why's Izzy being blackmailed for it? And is this a part of our case?" I flop back onto the grass. "This is too confusing - I'm getting a headache!"
"Well, we can't just quit," Ken reminds me. "You're the one who wanted to play detective, remember? Detectives have to deal with a lot of details - and sometimes things don’t always make sense until you do a little more investigating."
"Yeah, yeah." I'm starting to think being a detective wasn't my best idea.
"We still have to talk to Mimi," Ken says, looking at the note paper we're using to keep track of everything. "And if that is Joe's apartment in the picture, we should probably pay him a visit as well."
I glance up at him. "You think?"
He nods. "Yes. I do. Come on, let's get started."
I sigh and get up to follow him. I don't think I'm impressing him much yet.
"Hi guys." Mimi usually cheerful face is sad and worried when we show up at Sora's apartment, where she's staying. "You can come in and sit down," she tells us, and hurries back into the living room. "I look horrible," she mourns.
"Umm…" I'm not sure what to say. Say something nice! Tell her she looks good! Just whatever you do, don't agree with her! "Okay." Damn.
"We wanted to ask you about last night," Ken says, before Mimi can reply to my stupid stuttering. "When the lights were out, did you hear or feel anything unusual happening?"
Mimi shakes her head. "No. I didn't even notice." Her eyes start to fill up with tears.
"Right." Ken moves past that quickly. "So you didn’t happen to realize that your pearls were gone until after the lights had been switched back on - right?"
She dabs at her eyes. "Yes."
"Hmm." Ken hesitates. "Well then - "
He's interrupted by a sudden pounding on the apartment door.
Mimi jumps to her feet. "Oh, now who could that be?" She bounces over to the door, and flings it open.
Yolei is standing there, breathing hard like she's been running. "Mimi, guess what?" she babbles, sounding very excited. "I went back to the school and I was looking around and I looked in the vent, and - look!" She holds up the necklace.
"Oh Yolei!" Mimi squeals happily and throws her arms around the lavender-haired girl, hugging her tightly. "Thank you! Oh, thank you! You don't know what this means to me! Ooh!" She grabs her pearls and kisses them noisily.
I sit there, stunned. There goes my chance to impress Ken…
"Hold on for a just a moment." Ken breaks into Mimi's happy reunion. "Can I see those pearls for a minute, Mimi?"
"Oh - sure." She hands them over. "What for?"
"Well, you never know when…" He looks them over closely, then bites one. "Sorry, Mimi," he apologizes, looking up at her sympathetically. "But these aren't your pearls."
"What do you mean?" She gasps, snatching them out of his hands. "They have to be! They feel just like they did when I wore them to the last dance!"
"Well, they're not," Ken says. "Unless you wore fake pearls to that dance too."
"What!?" Mimi gasps again, putting both hands to her mouth.
"What!?" Yolei echoes, incredulously.
Ken shrugs. "Those pearls are fake."
Wow… I stare at him in awe. Ken's amazing…
Yolei glances from Mimi to Ken, white-faced. "But… I didn't know… I thought…"
I grin. "Looks like the case continues!"
"Yolei's now at the top of our suspect list," Ken says, walking down the stairs ahead of me. "I find it very strange that she just 'happened' to come across those pearls today. Where did she say she found them again?"
"The vent," I supply helpfully, catching up to him.
"Right." Ken frowns. "They couldn't have gotten there on their own in any case. And now we find out that those are fake pearls. Mimi wouldn't have fake pearls - her father can more than afford to buy real ones. Someone had to have switched them."
"Yeah." I nod. "But who?"
"That's what we need to find out," Ken tells me. "That, and whether or not the person who switched them was the same person who stole them."
"How could there be two different people?"
"Suppose that Yolei didn't steal them," he answers. "Maybe it was, say… TK. He hides the pearls in the vent so that he can come back for them later on. Then Yolei searches the school and finds them - and she's got a small fortune right in her hands. So she keeps the real pearls and substitutes a fake set to return to Mimi. From the way she acted just now, I don't think Mimi could tell the difference."
"So you think Yolei did it?" She was acting pretty suspicious…
"I don't think she switched the pearls," Ken says, slowly. "Yolei's smarter than that. If I could tell they were fake, someone else probably could've, too. There's also the possibility that the thief already took the pearls and left the fakes to be found later. And, of course, there could be three people involved - the thief to steal and hide them, an opportunist to switch them, and Yolei the innocent bystander to discover the fakes."
"But you think she's involved, right?" Come on! She's totally suspicious!
"Yeah," Ken admits. "I just don't know how. And I'd really like to find out what Izzy and Joe's apartment have to do with this."
I jump forward and hold the door open for him, and we step outside the apartment building. "Well, then, let's go take a trip now and see if we can get some answers outta Mr. Doctor!"
Joe answers the door right away when we get over to his apartment. He lives alone, so there's no one else there. He looks pretty surprised to see us. "Ken? Davis? I wasn't expecting to see you two."
He lets us in anyway.
"Sorry to bother you," Ken says, sitting down on the couch. "We just have something to ask you about. We're trying to figure out who took Mimi's pearls at the dance last night."
That's my cue. I hold out the picture. "Tai and Matt had this with them. It's your apartment, so we thought you might know something about it. Izzy got real upset when we showed him."
Joe stares at the picture, and his face goes through a complete change. His eyes widen, his face goes red, and his mouth starts to work silently. He looks like he's on the verge of some kind of breakdown.
"Dude," I say, concerned. "Are you okay?"
"Fine. Just fine." Joe's voice is tense. "I don't know what you think this picture is, but it's nothing suspicious. Nothing at all. It's just Izzy coming over to my apartment. And why shouldn't he? We're friends. It wasn't an inappropriate time - there was nothing going on…" He shuts his mouth like he's afraid he's said too much.
Ken raises an eyebrow, and looks totally cool doing it. "All right," he says, motioning for me to put away the picture. Already? I stare at him in confusion for a while, but do what he wants. We're never gonna solve the case like this…
He ignores my stare and gets up. "Davis, let's go. We're not going to get any new clues from him anyway. He wasn't helping with the clean-up." I follow him after a minute, but I'm real disappointed, too. I thought we'd find out more…
"By the way, Joe," Ken says suddenly, one hand on the door handle. "Nice screen-saver." He points, and both Joe and I turn to see where he's looking. Joe's face immediately goes red again.
The screen-saver is a picture that was taken of Joe.
I still can't believe it. Joe… and Izzy?
"That explains some of it," Ken muses, ignoring me. "Izzy would be worried about being outted, I suppose. But he doesn't seem like the type to care too much about what others think of him. Tai and Matt's threat wouldn't have bothered him."
"So… what?" I ask him, sitting down in the grass.
"There's something else."
"Oh." Well, duh! I take out the picture and study it for a few minutes. "Maybe there's something on here." I stare at the background, looking for clues. "Maybe it's the other buildings. Or the clock."
"Clock?" Ken grabs the picture. "Does it say the day as well as the time?"
"Yeah, see?" I point. "Right there."
"It's ten-fifteen," Ken says, slowly.
"Huh?" I check my watch. "No, it's not. It's six-twenty-three."
"No, no," Ken tells me impatiently. "I meant in the picture. It's ten-fifteen in the morning." After a pause, he adds, "on a Friday."
I check. He's right. "Yeah, so?"
Ken sighs. "Don't you remember what Izzy said last night before the blackout?"
I don't, actually. "Uh…"
"He said that he has class at ten o'clock in the mornings," Ken tells me. "So here he is with a secret boyfriend, and visiting him when he's supposed to have a class. This is why he's being blackmailed! His parents would crucify him if they found out!"
"Dude, I think you're right!" I blink then, thinking of something. "But what's this got to do with our case?"
Ken shrugs helplessly. "I don't know."
"What?" I slump back, disappointed. "Awww…"
"Well, we've still got a lead," Ken reminds me. "Remember? Yolei was the one who mysteriously 'found' Mimi's pearls. We're going to have to find out more about what she was up to."
I sit up, interested again. "How are we going to do that?"
"I don't know," Ken says again, frowning. "I'd really like to be able to take a look around in her apartment, just to see if there's anything… what?" He breaks off to give me a suspicious look.
Well, I guess the grin spreading across my face is getting pretty evil…
"This is insane!"
"You wanna solve the mystery, don't you?"
"Of course, but this is going a little too far, Davis!"
I grin. "No way! A great detective can never go too far! Besides, nothing can possibly go wrong."
Ken peers doubtfully at the key clutched in my hand. "How did you get a key to Yolei's apartment, anyway? I can't see her willingly giving you the means to enter her house."
I shrug. "She didn't. I've got a key to everyone's apartment - all the current digi-destined. I made sure of it just in case there's trouble or something. You never know, right?"
Ken looks like he's not sure if he should yell at me or laugh. "You what!?"
I press my fingers together nervously. "Uh…"
"Have you got a key to my apartment too?" he demands, incredulous.
"Heh." I scratch the back of my head, sheepishly. "Yeah, I guess I do."
He puts a hand to his forehead like his head is hurting. "How, Davis? How did you get keys to our apartments?"
"Well…" I try to think. "I swiped Yolei's when she crashed into me in the hallway and dropped all her stuff, got Kari's from Tai, TK's from Tai again - he stole it from Matt - and Cody's when he was doing that Kendo stuff. Then I made copies and snuck 'em all back."
Ken stares at me. "All right," he says, sounding resigned. "I would say something, but I don't think the normal rules even apply to you, Davis. How did you get mine?"
"Huh?" What does he mean by that? I focus on the question instead. "Oh - your mom gave me a copy. She's kinda weird, but for some reason she really likes me. She gave me copies of your schedules for weekdays and weekends, too."
The look on Ken's face is the weirdest thing I've ever seen.
"Dude, what's the matter?"
"Nothing. Just… nothing." Ken shakes his head, then looks up again. "It looks like Yolei's leaving the building now, anyway. Do you think we have long enough to go through with your crazy plan?"
"No problem," I tell him confidently. "No one's home - her parents are at work, and everyone else goes to university or has moved out. Let's go!"
Ken still has a look on his face like he'd rather stand in front of Mimi when she's on a wild shopping rampage, but he follows me anyway. Good. I grin to myself. My plan's flawless, and he's seeing it right up close. He's gotta be impressed.
"I don't see anything, Davis, let's go," Ken says, in one breath.
I grab him before he can leave. "Dude, I just opened the door. Come on."
Yolei's room is close to the front door. I hope she hasn’t got bra's all over the floor or something, is the last thought to cross my mind before I push the door open. Fortunately for me, though, the floors are clean.
But there are a lot of pictures on the wall.
"That's… a little creepy," Ken comments, looking around at the walls with an expression like he's almost afraid. I don't blame him, either.
Every single picture on Yolei's wall is of Mimi.
"Uh… I have a question…" I lean closer to Ken in a pathetic attempt to escape the many staring pictures. "If Yolei worships Mimi this much, why would she steal her necklace."
"Good point." Ken's voice is rushed. "Case closed. Let's leave."
I'm already heading for the door.
Before I get there, though, the front door suddenly crashes open, and we both freeze. "Get all the way there and then find out you forgot your wallet! Oh, nice going, genius!" Yolei's voice is muttering. "I'm so stupid!"
Ken and I turn at the same time, and there's the wallet, sitting on the bed.
I make a run for the closet.
There's no chance to see where Ken got to, so I just hold my breath and sink back behind some coats at the shadowy part to one side. They're long enough so she hopefully won't see me if she opens the closet. But she won't open the closet anyway - she came back for her wallet!
"Hmm… maybe I should wear a coat. It is kinda cold out."
The closet door opens - about halfway before it gets stuck. My heart stops beating. Muttering a few swears under her breath, Yolei starts fishing for her coats - which are right in front of me. I press back against the wall and try desperately to think of something smart and brave that'll save me. Her hand brushes my shirt…
And someone knocks at the door.
"Ugh. Coming!" Yolei pulls herself out of the closet and I hear footsteps across the room.
I can't believe my luck! Hastily, I struggled free of the closet and hurry across the room. Maybe I can find a better hiding place now that she's distracted…
"Oh hi Ken!" Yolei's voice suddenly chirps.
I glance out her bedroom door, cautiously. It is Ken. He must've snuck out while Yolei was searching through her closet. He's a genius! And… he's saving me! Dude! I sneak out of the room, behind Yolei.
"Uh… so. I wanted to ask some… questions." Ken walks around beside Yolei, and as she turns to face him, I get around behind her. Damn, this is dangerous!
"Where's Davis?" she asks curiously.
"He… had to go to the bathroom!" Ken lies, nervously. "But he should be here any minute. Can we go sit down?" He moves past her, and I get ready to make a run for it.
"Let me hang up your coat first." Yolei turns a little, and I cringe back. I feel like I'm going to burst from holding my breath.
"Ah, no!" Ken grabs the coat. "I mean… I'm freezing! See me shivering? Let me keep it! Please?"
"O…kay…" Yolei turns the other way to lead Ken into her apartment. "You can sit down. But make this quick - I've got to go get some things before my parents get home."
I take the opportunity to make my escape.
But I still have to bail Ken out now. I back up a ways, then run down the hallway and bang loudly on her front door. "Hey, it's me! Let me in!"
I'm still knocking when Yolei opens the door. "Yeah, I heard you the first time, Davis!" she snaps, looking irritable. "And so did everyone else in this building. Are you going to come in or - ?"
"Ah, we're about done!" Ken says hastily, from behind her. "Thanks for your time, Yolei. We appreciate your cooperation. Bye now! C'mon Davis."
He grabs my arm, and we take off down the hallway before she can say a word.
"Dude, that was close!" I gasp out, when we make it outside. I remember how he saved me and smile gratefully, hoping I'm not going too red. "Uh, thanks. For bailing me out back there. That was quick thinking."
He looks back over with an answering smile. "It's no trouble, Davis." I wait a bit, but he doesn’t add the 'we're friends and all' bit. Maybe there is hope… He's not looking away, so I try to keep eye-contact. My heart's beating hard…
"Hey Davis! Ken!"
I grit my teeth. Rotten timing, TE!
The blonde walks over with that huge goofy smile on his face, and Ken turns his attention away from me. I glare as hard as I can, hoping TO will get the hint and go away!
"How's it going, Davis?"
"What're you so happy about?" I mutter, instead of answering him.
He doesn't even falter at my grouchiness. "I've got the money for grad."
"Really?" Ken and I glance at each other. Oh, TA's definitely suspicious! And not just because he interrupted us… really. "Ah… how'd that happen?" Ken asks cautiously.
"I'm not really sure," TK admits, too elated to notice that we're not as thrilled as he is. "Matt said he didn't have any money to lend me, but all of a sudden he got some from somewhere, and I didn't ask - I mean, he's lending it to me and - " He stops, and looks worried. "Hey, you don't think Matt took Mimi's pearls, do you? I mean, he's suddenly got all this money, and it's right after they went missing…"
"No," Ken interrupts. I stare at him. What…?
"How do you know?" TK asks curiously.
"Because I know where Matt got the money."
"You do?" TK stares at him.
"You do?" I repeat, totally lost.
"Yeah." Ken shrugs. "Don't worry about it. Congratulations on getting the money."
"Thanks!" TK has brightened up again. "Well, I'll see you guys!"
I wait until he's gone, then cross my arms and glare at Ken. "Okay, now talk! How do you know where Matt got the money? It could've been the pearls for all I know! How do you know more?"
"Davis." Ken's voice is patient, like he's talking to a kid. "Matt was blackmailing Izzy, remember? That's where he got the money. Okay?"
"Yeah, okay!" I'm suddenly mad at myself. Why am I so dumb? How come I can't be smart and impress Ken? "I'm not a little kid, you know!" I was right there - how come I don't get these things?
"Are you okay, Davis?" Ken asks.
"Yeah, fine." I slump a little. "I just don't know how I'm gonna impress Ke - Kari if I'm not even smart enough to figure things out." Whoops! Hope he didn't catch that!
Ken shakes his head. "Davis… it's hard to see how you're going to impress Kari if she's one of the suspects. I mean, she probably wasn't the one who took the pearls, but it's not likely that being 'investigated' is going to impress her."
"Oh." I struggle for a way out of that one. "Uh… darn."
I don't think that worked…
Ken gives me a weird look, but doesn't comment.
"So…" He smiles a little, almost hesitantly. "How about if we go get a pizza or something and talk about the case?" I don’t have a chance to answer, because he hastily adds, "I'll pay - but just this once."
So… is this like… a date?
You're supposed to be impressing Kari, so don't ask! Whatever you do, don't ask! "You mean like… uh… like two people going out and eating pizza and nothing else?" That was innocent enough, right?
"Y-e-e-s." Ken sounds the word out slowly. "That's what I mean."
I grin. Like a date! "Sure thing, dude!"