“Now what reason would a teenage boy and girl come to Fairview Cemetery at twilight and visit the grave of a recently deceased woman, whose death is still part of an ongoing investigation?” Jules dragged out each syllable as he looked out for their tiniest reaction to his words.
So that’s where she heard the name McGinnis from – it was mentioned on GossipNews a few weeks ago. The news anchor had described the couple’s death as a crime of passion. According to the waitress, Saanvi McGinnis had accused her husband of adultery, prompting Manuia McGinnis to shoot her then himself in the heat of the moment.
“Mr Ellis, isn’t the case closed? Everyone says it’s a murder-suicide,” Athena said. “I overheard Marques in school saying he met the murderer that day and that he was a violent man.”
“Yes, Marques Goddard and his father have submitted their statements,” Jules replied. “I cannot discuss case details outside work. What I can tell you is that I’m the lead detective of this case, and I find the idea of two teenagers laying flowers for the deceased of my case to be quite- curious.” Jules emphasised.
“I understand how this looks, sir. But we have a reason for coming here, even if it’s a silly one.”
Athena and Jules turned to Curtis. Jules gave the teen a once-over.
“What’s your name, son?”
“Curtis. Curtis Michael.”
“Michael? That’s your last name.”
“That’s uncommon,” Jules remarked. “Do you have a driver’s license on you?
Curtis withdrew his wallet and passed his license to Jules.
“A motorbike license. What model do you ride?”
Jules raised an eyebrow and shook his head. “Rich kids and your luxury purchases. Make sure you keep to the speed limit.” Rich? Was it just his assumption? Athena will have to silence her questions for now.
“Always do sir.”
Jules returned it after verifying Curtis’s name and noting down his age and address.
“So, what’s the reason for you two being here?”
Athena nervously shifted her eyes to Curtis. Curtis clearly knew a lot more than he let on. Would he divulge what he knew to Jules?
“We came here,” Curtis paused and made a guilty face. “on a dare.”
“We were hanging out at the promenade waterfront,” Curtis said. “I got her those flowers from there. After we left, I dared her to come with me to the cemetery and camp out here until midnight. We were looking for a good spot when we saw the grave and remembered the murder. We checked it out, paid our respects, then you came.”
Maybe she should practice an emotionless look in front of the mirror every day from now on, Athena thought as she kept a straight face for the umpteen time that day. Why did Curtis lie?
“Anyone I can speak with to check out your story?” Jules asked.
“We made a mess at the Strawsome Smoothie café, and the owner of Alami Potted Plants should remember us since we were his last customers,” Curtis replied.
“Most people wouldn’t remember such detail,” Jules exclaimed in alarm. “They usually say that smoothie shop, or that nursery. But your remembering the names of these places does make my job a lot easier.”
Curtis shrugged. “Just being helpful, sir.”
As Jules wrote in his notebook, he simultaneously processed their responses. Athena was how many teenagers would react when being questioned by an officer, jumpy and worried. Her friend, however, is surprisingly calm and composed. Even the ones who were guilty usually displayed some form of agitation or snide. Regardless, they were both compliant and cooperative, even if he did detect the girl’s eyes widening for a split-second midway during Curtis’s explanation. Maybe he should check out their story.
Jules tucked away his notebook and began a lecture. “Alright. Get going now. I don’t know what is it with kids and the need to test your nerves, but you don’t need me to tell you it’s a bad idea. Ms Renteria, crime statistics have consistently proved that women are likelier targets for all sorts of petty crimes at night.” He looked at her sternly. “I hope I don’t find you doing such foolish acts again, especially when you are a good friend of Kian’s.”
They left with Jules’s gaze hanging over them like a forbidding cloud. He looked over the yellow bulbs on the grave before returning to his unmarked car.
Kian glanced up at the mention of his name. “Trev! Your usual?” His classmate took a seat at the bar and caught the eye of Kian’s manager. As Trevor greeted him with an upwards nod, the manager lifted his hand to the top of his head and made a downward gesture, as if motioning Trevor to hide his face. Trevor smiled and waved him off.
“As if anyone would notice that I am underage. I’m only a few months away.” Trevor remarked.
“Can’t blame the man. He’ll get a hefty fine, and I’ll lose my job,” Kian said as he placed a Sea Splash in front of Trevor. “Your dad entertaining clients again?”
“You know how it is in business,” Trevor drank his beverage. “Loosen them up with some fine dining, a little wine, maybe a few girls and suddenly, that billion-dollar partnership sounds like a sweet deal. Except I think my dad’ll be the one to get loosened up tonight.”
Kian shook his head and smiled. “Who’s the high-profile client?”
“No clue. All I know is that she’s beautiful! I’m supposed to network with her tonight. That’s why my dad brought me along. But her bodyguard didn’t allow me to enter so here I am.” Trevor sighed. “Such a shame! I’d charm her off her feet like how I do his other clients, whisper sweet nothings, reignite her passions doused by the calamity of marriage and by the end of the night, dad will get his partnership while I,” he paused and smiled. “What’s life without a sprinkle of sugar?”
“Whatever rocks your boat. I’m glad you found your ‘calling’.” Kian jested.
Unbeknownst to them, there was another meeting being held in the private rooms of Babylon Club that night.
“I say Fisheye really killed himself. He always was an emotional nut. It’s a murder-suicide from every angle. There’s motive, eye-witnesses and phone records.”
“No. My men told me the lead detective is refusing to close the case. It’s possible they found somethin’. Y’think someone’s out to get us? How’d they find out about Fisheye? His record’s clear enough to rub shoulders with politicians! Now we lost our imports and laboratories in Oasis Springs!”
“Perhaps it is not his record, but his character that made him weak.” The man with the dragon tattoo and heavy jade rings spoke in a low slither. He turned to face them who ruled the streets of SimCity. “As Bane pointed, your late fifth member is a disorderly, rabid dog. It is possible that he made enemies of his own and paid with his life.”
“You– Who the plum are y’callin Fisheye a dog and interrupting us like that!? Y’come in here for the first time and you think you’re better than us or something? Who the plum’s this guy?? Y’don’t even speak our language!”
The circle grew silent, waiting for the man to respond. Masato didn’t, choosing to study Bowser who dared challenged him.
At the opposite end, Vincent spoke.
“I understand your apprehension towards our guest, especially since this is your first meeting with him – in addition to such turbulent times when we’ve lost a member of our circle.” Vincent spoke patiently. “Everyone, I’d like you to meet Masato — my guest tonight. His generous resources and supplies contributed to the monopolisation of the eastern market for over than 20 years now. His organisation has contributed greatly to my – our – position in SimCity. I can vouch and assure you that his expertise will be of assistance to us all. Do welcome him and treat him as one of us.”
“20 years…!? We’ve.. I’ve been plummin’ running this city with you for 6 years now and I’ve never even heard of this! Why the plum don’t I know about him until today!?”
Bowser didn’t realise that Masato had moved towards him. It must have been deliberate, for he was forced to lift his head at an awkward angle just to face the man.
“Simple,” Masato said as he looked down at him. “Your plans are unworthy of my time, nor can you afford my services. Your vision is small. You cannot even control the street gangs under your authority.” Masato gave a sly smile. “I heard the patrols have become so frequent that you’ve ceased operation in one of your territories. Unsurprisingly, one of your gangs had its members arrested soon after – Ricky and Devon under Steve’s command. Will they betray you? It would be no surprise given your lousy direction.” Bowser’s face grew redder and redder while the others cleared their throats awkwardly. “Perhaps Vincent,” Masato addressed his host, “You should consider cutting your losses before the entire ship sinks under the weight of one man.”
“Sit down, Bowser!” Daemon put a firm hand on him to prevent Bowser from creating a scene. Bowser did as he was told, though he was visibly seething. Whoever this man was, he was well-informed. Even Bowser himself didn’t know all the names of the small-time delinquents in his gangs. He usually conversed with only the leaders. How does this outsider know?
“I’d like to stay, but my time is limited.” Masato paced the room. “I would like to present a temporary solution to your dilemma.”
“Go on,” said Vincent.
“You’ve had a huge loss in men and goods. Fisheye’s laboratories are no longer secure,” Masato stated. “I have a contact from Shang Simla who possesses the quality and amount you need for the scale of your operation.”
“How soon can we meet your contact?”
“Arrange a private jet, and you can ensure a full stock as of tomorrow.”
Vincent gave a nod. “Very well. Notify your contact.”
Masato diverted his gaze to Bowser. Though his face remained stern, Bowser swore there was a sneer in his eyes. The man was laughing at him. “Let it be clear that these Shang Simlarians are not my men. You are free to negotiate whatever terms at your own discretion. Of course, I expect compensation.”
“That is no matter. My p.a. will contact you shortly.” Vincent replied.
Masato nodded. “I assume you want me to look into Fisheye’s death?”
“Yes,” Vincent exclaimed. “Find out everything you know about him – family, friends, mistress and crew – Goddard, for instance. We need to know if he really was assassinated, who did it and why.”
Vincent turned to Bane. “Use your connections to have all police investigations halted. We don’t want them to discover Fisheye’s connection to us. Duplicate the evidence reports and send them to Masato. He will takeover the investigation.” Bane nodded.
“If nothing else I shall take my leave.”
Masato checked his watch as the hostess guided him to the stairwell. Exactly 10pm. Right on cue, the sound of footsteps and muffled speech were heard descending from the connecting stair above them. The hostess stopped Masato. “I’m sorry sir. For the privacy of our guests and yours, please let them pass before using the stairs.”
As Kirino neared the concealed archway that led to the second floor, she could hear the chatter between a guest and his hostess as they wait behind the curtain. She deliberately paused at the archway and turned to her client. “I’m glad we see eye-to-eye Mr Jeong. May we have the most fruitful partnership for many years to come.”
“The feeling is mutual and please, call me Dwayne,” the owner of the largest telecommunication chain replied. “Trevor should be in one of the lounges. I’d like to at least introduce my son to you before we part. He is the heir of my empire. Someday, he will continue the partnership between our companies.”
Masato smiled, pleased at the competency of his own men as he made his way to the ground floor and blended into the crowd.