I've died and gone to heaven.
I'm serious here! I mean, come on - here I am, eating free pizza, sitting in a nice comfortable booth, across from the guy who just has to be destined to be my soulmate. At least, that's what I keep telling myself. He is, though! He just doesn’t know it yet, that's all…
Ken sets down his pizza. "Davis?"
I gulp down the piece I'm chewing and look up at him. "Yeah?" He'll say something cool and meaningful now - something about how much he wants me or how much of a connection we have right now… something to make us both realize just how destined to be in love forever that we are…
"What are you staring at?"
And that's the end of the moment. Geez, and people think I'm dumb! "Nothing," I lie. "Just thinking."
"Oh." Ken nods. "About Mimi's pearls, right?"
"Right." Another lie.
"Me too." He sighs. "I just don't get it. how many suspects do we have?"
"Uh…" I do a little adding on my fingers. "Six. Unless you count Mimi - then that's seven."
"And how many out of those six have been totally cleared?"
"Just Yolei… oh, and TK…"
"TK's not cleared," Ken corrects me. "But Matt and Tai are."
"Huh? How come?"
Ken gives me another one of those I-can't-believe-you-didn't-see-it looks. "Why would they need pearls for money if they were blackmailing Izzy? One would think it'd be Izzy who'd need the money - which is why he's still a suspect."
"No, not that." I wave a hand impatiently. "How come TK's not cleared?"
"Because he didn't know that he wouldn't need the money until today," Ken explains. "Things don't always turn out like you expect. Like - " He stops, and his eyes go wide.
"What?" I ask curiously.
"Yolei!" He snaps his fingers as if he's just said something brilliant that wasn't a girl's name. "Of course! Things don't always - and that would explain why she had those - yeah." A slow smile sort of creeps onto his face. "Yeah, that makes sense."
"Dude, you wanna clue me in?"
"Sorry," Ken apologizes. He doesn't look very sorry, though. "I think I've figured out who took the pearls in the first place - and why."
"Really?" I'm impressed. "Who?"
"Yolei. But she didn't do it to hurt Mimi," Ken explains, before I can protest. "She did it so that later on, she could "find" the pearls, and be the hero. She wanted Mimi to notice and appreciate her. It was probably a spur-of-the-moment plan."
"But what about the fake pearls?" I ask. I'm not about to argue against that. It all fits together - and it means we're that much closer to solving the case. But I still wanna know if he's got that part tied in.
If he does, then that about settles it. Ken Ichijouji is my god.
"I don't know," he admits.
Oh well. He can still be my really cool best friend and soon-to-be boyfriend.
"It could've been anyone, though," he continues, not noticing how close he'd come to god-hood. "Someone had to figure out that the pearls were in the school somewhere, and made the switch."
"Or before," I add, automatically.
"Yeah, before." I wave a hand dismissively. "Before the dance. Before she put 'em on. Someone could've switched them then."
Ken's eyes widen. "Davis…" Then he frowns. "No, that doesn't make sense. If the pearls were switched before, Mimi would've known they were fake."
"No she wouldn't," I protest. "She couldn't tell the difference, remember? She said they felt exactly - " I stop. No way. No way… It couldn't be… Could it? No, she already… But not before… It could… It could…
"Exactly…?" Ken prompts.
"Exactly the same as they did at the last dance!" I jump up. "I did it! I solved the case! Woo hoo!" I start whooping and punching air. "Oh yeah! Davis, you are the man!"
"Mind filling me in?" Ken's voice is baffled.
"Oh yeah. Yeah." I calm down. Sort of. "It's… Remember what Mimi said, about Yolei helping her get ready, and at the last dance…? And that was before she got the… Oh, never mind!" He looks like he thinks I've gone off the deep end or something. "You don't get it!"
"Davis, calm down and explain it to me slowly."
"Dude, just go get the others," I tell him, almost breathless. "Tell them I got the culprit nailed, and I'm gonna wrap this case up. I gotta make a phone call. Meet me at the park at our spot in half an hour - with everyone!" I run off without letting him talk any more.
"Davis!" he shouts after me, but I don't stop.
I've got a phone call to make and a really cool guy to impress!
It's a bit late when I get to the park, but Ken already has everyone there. What a guys! I'm just about ready to grab him and swing him around. But I can't do that. I have to be dignified. Cool. Important.
Five seconds later, I throw that out the window and start running.
"Hey guys!" I say cheerfully, jogging up. "Sorry I'm late! But I found out what I wanted to know, so everything's cool."
"Did you find my pearls?" Mimi asks eagerly.
I grin proudly. "I," I begin, with as much dignity as I can scrape up, "have solved the case of Mimi's missing pearls."
Everyone looks shocked.
"You gotta be kidding!" Tai's voice is disbelieving.
Matt looks skeptical. "Are you sure Ken didn't figure it out?"
"I don't even know what he's talking about yet," Ken admits.
"You solved it?" TK stares at me in astonishment.
This is starting to annoy me. "Yeah, I solved it! Didn't you think I could?"
"We're not doubting you, Davis," Izzy says, in a reasonable tone of voice. "It's just that… well, logic has never been your strong point, that's all."
I shrug. "Well, I solved it. Wanna hear?"
"Yeah!" Tai replies, right away. "Spill it out!"
"Okay! First of all…" I rub my hands together, gleefully. "Tai and Matt. I thought you were involved for a while, since I heard you talking to Izzy about 'how much he'd give you for it'." I talk right over their protests. "Me and Ken went to talk to Izzy, though, and it sorta fell into place what you were doing. You're blackmailing him."
"What!?" Everyone except me, Ken, Tai, and Matt seems shocked.
I hold up the picture. "I got it from this. Ken figured it out, actually." I decide it's probably not a good idea to blab the whole thing - about how Izzy was at Joe's apartment for a secret affair when he was supposed to be in school and all.
Tai's grinning sheepishly, and Matt looks embarrassed. "We're lending the money to TK for grad," the blond admits. "And getting Izzy to lend you anything is like trying to make rocks bleed."
"For me?" TK looks surprised. "But…" He seems at a loss for words.
"It's just a loan," Tai says quickly. "We blackmailed him into loaning us money. We're not keeping it or anything."
Izzy crosses his arms and makes a 'hmmph' noise.
"Moving on," I say, calling everyone's attention back where it belongs. "Yolei." The lavender-haired girl looks guilty. "She found the fake pearls, and said they were real. Me and Ken snuck into her room one time and - "
"What!?" Yolei's shriek could've shattered glass. "You two snuck into my rooom!?"
"It was important detective work," I say defensively. "And we found out a lot. Gotta admit, we were real confused about why Yolei would steal Mimi's pearls when she seems to like her so much."
Yolei blushes bright red at that.
"Ken figured that out, too," I admit. "Yolei was the one who took Mimi's necklace at the dance. She hid it somewhere safe, and went back to 'find' it later on so she could come over and be a hero."
"But why would you do that, Yolei?" Mimi asks curiously.
Yolei's face is still very red. "I just… I wanted you to be impressed with me, that's all," she admits, looking down at the ground. "I know I pretended to like Ken, but I thought it'd impress you more if you didn't know it was you I wanted."
"Oh Yolei…" Mimi doesn't look like she knows what to say, but her eyes shine.
"Thank you!" I interrupt, relieved. "I knew that was a good idea! At least someone agrees with me! So there! It does work to pretend you're impressing someone else!"
"What?" Kari says incredulously.
"What?" Ken repeats, just as incredulously.
The others are staring at me.
"Uhh…" I can feel my face heating. Oh crap… "Well… moving right along!" I change the subject frantically. "I have one more thing to explain. Yolei brought back Mimi's necklace - but the pearls were fake. That meant someone had to have switched 'em with the real ones. We thought it was Yolei at first, but then I got it. Mimi never noticed the pearls were different - because they weren't. They were the same pearls she wore to the last dance."
"But these ones are fake!" Mimi protests.
"And the ones you wore to the last dance were the exact same." I can't help grinning. I'm such a genius. "They weren't switched for the dance or during the robbery. They were switched before the last dance. And the thief…" I pause for a dramatic effect, then point triumphantly. "…was none other than Kari Kamiya!"
"That's not true!" Kari protests.
"Sure it is." I shrug. "You took Mimi's necklace when you were helping her get ready for the dance last time. You knew she wouldn't notice, because she doesn't know how to tell the difference. And you would've gotten away with it if Yolei hadn't pulled that trick to get Mimi's attention."
"But Davis," Ken protests, "Kari didn't have a motive, remember?"
"Maybe not now," I agree. "But she did when she stole the necklace. She needed money to buy her grad dress. That's what she used the pearls for."
Kari stands up, glaring at me. "This is just guessing, Davis!" she accuses.
"No it's not." I face her down. "I called the dress store and asked. The lady said you're making payments on that pretty dress, and she's holding some very valuable pearls as… uh… collater-whatsits. Yeah."
Everyone's silent for a moment while that sinks in.
"Eep." Kari sits down.
"You took them?" Mimi sounds astonished. "But why would you feel like you had to steal them from me? If you told me why you needed them, I would've let you borrow them, Kari!"
Kari starts to cry. "I'm sorry!" she sobs. "I just didn't know what else to do! I had no money, and the biggest moment of my high school life was coming up, and I wanted to look really special… I just… I just borrowed them! I would've given them back when I'd made all the payments, and no one would ever know!" She buries her face in her hands. "I'm so sorry!"
"Oh Kari, it's okay!" Mimi wraps an arm around her shoulders. "I understand the need to look your best! Borrow my pearls for as long as you need! It's for the best of causes, after all."
The rest of us just stare.
"Davis." Tai gets my attention. "How'd you do it? I mean, that wasn't exactly an easy case. How did you manage to solve it just like that?"
I grin. "You can chalk that one up to my amazing powers of observation. There was a whole bunch of stuff pointing to Kari. She was all disbelieving because it seemed stupid for someone to steal fake pearls. And she could afford her dress even though she never had the money. Plus, Ken told me - "
"We need to talk."
Ken turns me away from Tai, purposefully. "Right now. Alone."
"Uhh… okay." Like I have a choice.
"Great." Ken whirls around as soon as we're away from the others. "Start talking!" he snaps, eyes flashing almost angrily. "Now!"
I blink again. "Huh?"
"You told me you wanted to impress Kari!" He gives me an almost accusing stare. "How come you lied? Because you didn't think you could trust me?"
"No!" I really didn't expect this. "I… I couldn't tell you!" I stammer out, stupidly. "I mean… I really couldn't!"
Ken raises an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"Yeah!" I nod. "But I didn't tell anyone else, either. I'll bet I had 'em all fooled!" I grin at that. "I am the master of sneakiness, huh, Ken?"
He doesn't answer that, for some reason. "Why don't you tell me now?"
"Who is it?"
I can feel my face going red. "I… uh… I still can't tell you."
Ken leans against the tree behind me and stares at me intently. "How come?"
"It's a guy!" I blurt out, then wait for his reaction.
He looks kind of embarrassed for a second. "Oh." Then he shrugs. "That's no big deal. I'm… like that too. Not exactly, though… I mean, you like girls, too." He looks at the ground, not at me, even more embarrassed.
"Yeah." I take a chance. "It's… uh… it's you. Okay?"
Ken glances up quickly. "Me?"
"Yeah, you." I shrug, trying to seem casual about it. "Whatever. Uh… wanna go to prom with me?" Okay, secret's out. Now it's all up to him…
I wasn't ready for that. "Huh?"
He smiles. "I said sure. I'll go to your prom. On the condition that you agree to help me avoid mine."
My head reels. "You're gonna go? With me? Like… like as my date?"
"Yeah." Ken leans against the tree and smiles wider. "I like you, weird as that sounds. I thought you liked Kari, or I might've said something - found out if you swung that way, you know?"
So he does like me. "So you do like me."
"Want me to prove it?"
I don't get a chance to answer, because he leans over me suddenly. "Ahh…" is about all I get the chance to say, and then he's kissing me and nothing else matters any more.
"I knew it," Tai brags.
Matt shakes his head. "No you didn't."
"Hey, how do you know? Maybe I just didn't tell you!"
"Yeah, and maybe hell froze over like it did the day you supposedly had all your homework done early."
"Could we focus on me and Ken?" I interrupt. "We're the ones who just became a couple - I think we deserve a little attention here!"
Tai waves a hand to where Mimi and Yolei are sitting close together, talking quietly. "Well, I think they just hooked up too, but you don't see them yammering on about it."
"Hey!" I glare at him.
"What'd I say?"
Matt shakes his head. "Shut up, Tai."
"Nice. Why do I date you agai - mmph!" He's cut off but a very professional kiss. Ken and I watch in awe. "Never mind," Tai says fuzzily, when they break apart.
Now that is art!
"I like the way this case turned out," Ken says, his arm around my shoulder.
I turn a little to grin at him. "Me too." Then something occurs to me.
"So… when do you think our next one will be?"