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“What do you mean we’ve been hired for another case?” Bronte asked, fork caught halfway between her plate of waffles and her mouth. Her eyes darted between me and Rose. “Did you know about this?”
My cup of water stopped halfway between my mouth and the table. The straw swirled away from me as my eyes darted between Bronte and Rose. “First I’ve heard of it.”
Rose sat back smugly in the breakfast restaurant’s booth. “I got the phone call this morning. Why else would we be out celebrating?”
My eyes dropped to my own plate: the omelet with hash browns. “We’re celebrating with breakfast?”
“I could always make you pay for your own?” Rose suggested.
“No!” Bronte and I both shouted at the same time. The waitress walking by nearly dropped her tray, and the elderly couple in the booth beside ours swiveled around to see what the commotion was about. Immediately, we both slid lower in our seats.
The waitress cast an annoyed look over our table before hurrying off.
Rose watched her go, amused. Then she turned back around to us. “And, get this, it’s out of state.”
“Out of state?” Bronte repeated. “Where?”
I tried to ignore the dreamy way she said that. I wasn’t a sun n’ fun person. Give me mountains and ski resorts and fireplaces any day of the week. Our bohemian chic Rose was the one most excited about the glorious sunshine of California. Though exactly how the sun differed between Texas and California in her mind, I’ll never know. “Where in California?”
Bronte brightened. “The zoo.”
Rose nodded. “The beaches!”
“Comic Con!” I added on a delighted sigh.
Rose picked up her own fork and held it aloft like a conductor’s baton. “But first, before we can enjoy any of that, we’ve got a case to solve.” She lowered the fork and cut into her own omelet.
“What’s the case?” Bronte wanted to know.
“I don’t know the details. We’ll get the full scope when we arrive. Apparently, the owner of the hotel we’re going to is afraid of a media frenzy and backlash. She doesn’t want the hotel to suffer through the court of public opinion judging her hotel before she’s had professionals look at it.” Rose lingered on the word ‘professionals,’ caressing it happily.
“Well, then, what do you know?” I asked.
She took a bite before she answered. “Mr. Gomez recommended us for it. Which is freaking fantastic. Building up our image should be our first priority right now—you know, after solving the case and all that.”
I blinked, my glass once again stopping halfway to my lips. “Mr. Gomez? As in the case from yesterday, Mr. Gomez? The husband-and-father out of town Mr. Gomez? That Mr. Gomez?”
“The one and the same.”
“He’s in California?”
Frowning, I took another bite of my breakfast. Though it made sense—I remember Mrs. Gomez telling us her husband lived away from the family for work.
“That’s fast, isn’t it?” Bronte wondered. “For him to have found us another case so quickly?”
Rose shrugged. “It’s not for him. It’s for a friend of his. Apparently, he recommended us to her and she immediately called—I talked with her this morning. She wants us to come down tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? But that’s in the middle of the week. What about work?”
Bronte mused thoughtfully, pushing around a bite of her waffle. “I could take the time off. I’ve got sick leave accumulated that I need to use before it vanishes next month. I could call in sick no problem.”
I gave her an incredulous look. “You? Calling in sick? Lying about being sick?”
She shrugged. “Well, this woman employing us sounds sick of her ghost problem, therefore it’s a type of sick, and it’s within my power to help. I think that falls within the realm of sick leave.”
I shook my head. “That sounds like something Oliver would say. You’ve been corrupted.”
She smiled as she popped another bite of waffle into her mouth.
“I could get it off too,” I said. “Easily.”
Bronte arched an eyebrow in polite surprise. “Slow at the nonprofit?”
“Slowish,” I amended. “But I’ve been working weekend events so I’m due for some free days.” My eyes fell on Rose and then dropped to my plate as I asked, “And Noah?”
The table stilled for a moment. Then Rose gave an overly lighthearted shrug, which, obviously, wasn’t forced in the slightest—not even a little. “He said he’ll be there. The school district has some substitute teachers they want to get hours for, so if he calls in sick for a few days, it works out for everyone.”
I frowned. “I didn’t know schools did that kind of stuff.”
She shrugged in response.
“And you?” Bronte asked, looking at Rose expectantly.
“It’s fine,” she said quickly, “and I’ve got a surprise for you anyways!”
She set her fork down and dove into the cardboard box she’d brought into the restaurant with us. We’d asked her about it in the parking lot, but she said she wanted a better moment for the grand unveiling. Guess this was it.
Flipping open the lid, she turned to us. “Drumroll please.”
Bronte and I exchanged a quick glance before we both quickly set our utensils down and then drummed lightly on the table. Between the sound of our fingers and the rattling of silverware and glasses, we had a nice drumroll going.
With a flourish, Rose pulled out a jet-black jacket. It was a light fleece jacket, with a collar that popped up and shielded the neck from the cold. As I reached across and felt the soft material in my hands, I caught sight of the logo over the left heart area: a ghost sporting an AI over his chest.
“Ta da!” she said theatrically, then threw the coat into my face.
I caught it before it slipped into my omelet and hash browns. Another one smacked Bronte in the face and though she put in a valiant effort, she couldn’t rescue it before a sleeve dipped into her syrup.
“They’re our official gear jackets,” Rose explained, pulling out a third one. “See, they have pockets on the outside and if you unzip them, they have pockets on the inside too. Perfect sizes for holding our handheld equipment plus notebooks, pens, those sorts of things. Well insulated if we’re out in the cold but light enough to wear indoors. What do you think?”
“They’re wonderful,” Bronte whispered excitedly, already slipping hers on.
I smiled, thinking that Rose would have had to order these long before Bronte’s decision to work with us yesterday. Guess knowing someone for more than half their life lets you make seriously educated guesses.
“Thanks,” I added, following suit.
“The price has been taken out of your wages,” Rose mumbled hurriedly, then brightened and slid hers on. “Aren’t they fantastic? I figure we can use them in California. It’s still cool plus hotels are always cold.”
I rolled my eyes. We hadn’t seen a single cent yet. Not that I was really in this for the money.
Bronte frowned down at her coffee.
“What?” Rose asked, catching her look.
Her frown deepened as she looked up at us. “I just had a thought. If we go to San Diego for a few days—what are we going to do with Oliver and Cyril?”
“It’s not like you need to leave food out,” Rose shrugged. “What’s the problem?”
“They’ll get lonely,” Bronte said.
“We could get someone to house sit?” I thought aloud. “Or leave the pocket watch at someone else’s house?”
Bronte shook her head. “No, I don’t think they’d like that very much…” her voice trailed off as she thought about it.
“Oh,” I thought, suddenly reminded by the way she’d trailed off, “I forgot. You said you wanted to talk about something today. Something important.”
“Oh yeah,” Rose chimed in. “You texted me about that too. What’s up?”
Bronte gave us another dismissive wave, sluggish as if she were still debating about it. Her hand stopped, and for a split second, I saw her about to tell us. But then she sighed and shook her head. “It’s nothing—me just being silly, I bet. Forget about it. I think we should figure out what to tell Oliver and Cyril about us going out of town. They aren’t going to like it.”