A/N I finally revised this chapter. I will be working on the rest soon. Thank you for all the comments, I need to respond to them and I haven't yet, so apologies! Thank you for all the follows/favorites, hopefully this chapter revision whets your appetites.
"What is it about sunny days that make it impossible for you to concentrate on mundane things like paperwork?" Veronica grumpily asked, coming through the doorway of her office and into the reception area, where Mac sat, busily working at her desk. She scrunched up her face and scowled. "You look way too content."
Mac grinned, looking up from one of three computer monitors. "I hadn't noticed any sun."
Veronica rolled her eyes and gestured toward the window behind Mac, "It's out there, beyond the world of ones and zeroes." Sighing, she sat down heavily into a chair that sat in front of Mac's desk, reserved for clients. "Although, to be honest, I'm probably the one lacking Vitamin D myself. This is California! I should be exceeding the maximum allotted amount of it and instead I'm not even hitting the minimum. When did I start working so hard?"
"We both know why you're working so hard. Thirty-five more days, right?" Promptly changing the subject, Mac opened a folder that was sitting in front of her, turning it so Veronica could see it. "I found the info you wanted on the Haldwell case. I got into his email and found the correspondence you were looking for. Just printed it out."
Leaning forward, Veronica grabbed the folder and looked closely at it. "Bingo! We got him. I'll call the insurance company now. Thanks." She stood, tucking the folder under her arm.
As Veronica turned to head into her office, the front door opened and an attractive, middle-aged woman stepped in. She was wearing black tailored pants with an expensive-looking cream colored top, her long brunette hair pulled into a simple pony tail, and large sunglasses covered her eyes. Veronica stopped. "Welcome to Mars Investigations. How can we help you?"
Mac sat still, shock coursing through her. Veronica obviously did not recognize the woman, but Mac certainly did. It had been many years, but there was no way that she could have forgotten. She remembered the day she had been inside of this woman's house and an unspoken moment of clarity between them.
The woman hesitated at the threshold, and then stepped further into the office, shutting the door firmly behind her. Mac watched as she came closer to where Veronica stood, saying quietly, "I was hoping to speak to you about a missing person's case."
Veronica glanced at Mac and then back to the woman. "Absolutely, we can help you with that, but first of all, have you contacted the police? "
The woman let out a trembling breath, pushing her sunglasses up into her hair. "Yes, we have contacted the police, but they say they can't do anything yet, that it hasn't been long enough." She shook her head. "It's my daughter who is missing…they're saying that since she's an adult and that we've been receiving text messages that we have to wait."
Mac's breath caught and felt her eyebrows shoot up. She cleared her throat. "What makes you think she's missing?"
The woman turned to look at Mac, conveying no surprise to see her there, although she hadn't acknowledged her previously. "The text she's sent, they're just not what she would send. I don't know how to explain it, just call it mother's intuition."
Mac felt a hysterical laugh bubble up and she quickly tamped it down. From the corner of her eye, she could see Veronica looking at her strangely. Ignoring her friend, Mac stood and came around the desk to join them. "How long has it been since you've seen her?"
"It was yesterday at noon. We were supposed to have lunch downtown, but when I got there, she was rushing out, saying she would call me later. She never called, but text me at about five, right before one of her aerobic classes was supposed to start, saying that she had cancelled it and was heading home for the night." The woman looked between both Veronica and Mac. "Please can you just look into it?"
Veronica nodded, and said, "We can do a little digging. First, we need to get the basics, you know, her name, age, maybe a picture? We'll need access to a lot of information. And of course," she paused, Mac recognizing the effect as 'sympathetic Veronica', "we'll need to discuss the form of payment."
Cringing for what was about to come, Mac held her breath.
"Of course," the woman said, nodding, digging through her purse, "Her name is Madison Sinclair and she is 28 years old, here's a picture of her."
Mac saw the look of abject horror flash instantly across Veronica's face and the almost imperceptible eye flick in Mac's direction. "Why don't we take this into my office," Veronica said, gesturing toward the open doorway. "We can sit down and go over the past twenty-four hours, and see if there is anything we can do for you."
The two other women left Mac then, going into the inner office and shutting the door. Rattled, Mac felt herself beginning to pace, and she had to physically reach out to grab hold of the tall filing cabinet to keep herself from doing just that. What a day for Madison Sinclair to go missing. Mac had been going about her business, keeping her nose to the grindstone, and now this.
Twelve years ago, when she had found out that she and Madison had been switched at birth, it had been impossible to ignore the temptation to find out how the other half lived. She and her friends had crashed an 09er party at the Sinclair's house, and that was an evening she would never forget. That was the day she had met her sister, although Lauren didn't know who Mac was to her. Later that week, Mac had had to return and that was when she met Madison's mom, her birth mother, the woman who was presently sitting in the next room over, talking to Veronica about Madison's disappearance. There had been something that day, the way that Elizabeth had stared at her, an emotional tremble in her movements that told Mac that she knew exactly who Mac was. Even later still, when Mac had seen Elizabeth around, their eye contact had spoken volumes. Mac had been certain that there could be a relationship there, but then life had gotten muddled, and any hope of the two of them becoming anything more to each other had never happened.
Seeing Elizabeth Sinclair was enough to make her remember her younger, insecure adolescent self, trying to make sense of her family and life. Seeing her here looking for Madison brought up thoughts of the Casablancas boys, which was what Mac had been avoiding thinking of all day as it was. Because it had been ten years ago today that Cassidy had left her naked in a hotel room, gone to the top of the roof, tortured Veronica, and then jumped to his death. Mac had purposely been keeping busy today to keep her mind off of that fact, with the intent that tonight she could have a drink by herself to toast the memory of his better times, and to a life that was only missed by probably her and his brother. Veronica had obviously flushed the memory of it; they never spoke of that period of time. Really, Mac had little to complain of, since Cassidy had only left her in that room; Veronica had almost lost her life. But every once in a while, Mac would feel a certain loss that was tied to him and today was one of those times that she felt it the whole day through.
Later, as Elizabeth Sinclair exited Veronica's office, she turned to smile at Mac. "Thank you for your help. I appreciate it so much. I remember that you both went to high school with Maddie. I don't think you ran in the same circles?" She glanced back to Veronica, who was following her out. "Anyway, I'm sure it can be a little strange, working on a case regarding someone you knew…"
Veronica kept a straight, kind face as she responded, "We have worked a lot of cases that are personal, it's the nature of the business in a place like Neptune. Secrets are safe here; the investigation will be done as quietly as possible, unless we find that some sort of law has been broken. You have our word."
Standing to walk her birth mother to the door, Mac said nothing. She didn't trust her voice to sound impersonal, especially after Veronica's comment about secrets. Veronica stayed back, giving them a small amount of privacy.
As Mac held the door for her, Elizabeth turned to look Mac in the eye. "It's so very good to see you again, Cindy. It's been many years , I don't know if you remember once at one of Maddie's parties you had forgotten your purse and had to come back for it…"she shook her head, embarrassed. "Anyway, I'm sorry that it's because Madison is missing, but it's great to see that you seem well." With that, Mrs. Sinclair turned and left.
"We don't have to take the case." Mac said as soon the door latched. "We can call the Sinclair's and tell them…I don't know, we can just say it's a conflict of interest or something."
Veronica looked up and met Mac's gaze. "Mac, as much as I hate Madison with all my fiber, I can't make that call. That was your mother just now, asking us, no, you, for help. There is no way that you can convince me that she didn't come here because of you. Everyone in town knows that you work for us now. She needs help and she's reaching out to you. The question is can you bear to help her, when she obviously is not admitting that you are her own flesh and blood."
Mac sat down heavily next to her on the couch. "But do we even care about where Madison is?"
Veronica gave her a look. "It's Madison. She probably got lost at the mall, locked in a dressing room or something. It will be probably be an open and shut case." She rifled through the notes that she had jotted down. "For whatever reason, Mrs. Sinclair believes that the four texts she got from Madison between five o'clock last night and noon this afternoon were strange enough to start looking into it. I wonder what constitutes as strange. That they were spelled correctly or that they sounded too nice?"
Veronica set the paper which she had written down the aforementioned texts onto the coffee table in front of them. They both leaned over to get a better look at what the texts had said:
4:45 p.m. Madison: Cncled class, hdng hm with a headache.
5:08 p.m. Mrs. Sinclair: Take it easy and have a good night. Love you!
No texts until the next morning, which read:
8:56 a.m. Mrs. Sinclair: How's your head this morning?
9:42 a.m. Madison: Taking day to slp. Will ttyl
9.44 a.m. Mrs. Sinclair: Can I bring over soup later?
10:05 a.m. Madison: Pls no, just going to slp. Love you.
10:06 a.m. Mrs. Sinclair: Let me know! I can drop by to check on you.
10:07 a.m. Madison: I prob will be asleep. TTYL. Love you.
10:08 a.m. Mrs. Sinclair: I love you. Let me know.
"They don't seem all that weird, except that according to Mrs. Sinclair Madison seems a little adamant to be left alone in these texts. And then she said when she stopped by Madison's apartment, there were no lights on and her car was gone." Veronica eyed Mac, "Is this too weird?"
"Hell no." Mac smiled feebly. "Weird would involve smoking guns and two-way mirrors. This is just….a slightly awkward new case to dive into." She pointed at the notes in Veronica's hands. "I can hack into her email if you want."
Looking up at the clock on the wall, Veronica shook her head. "I think we should make some phone calls first, maybe see if there is a Jane Doe in the drunk tank or maybe that was brought into the county hospital. Although Mrs. Sinclair checked St. Mark's, she only checked to see if Madison, under her own name, had been admitted. Very likely that Madison got plowed last night, lost her ID and has been stuck somewhere without her Black Amex to bail her out." Standing, she looked pointedly at Mac. "Someone might have gotten a hold of her phone and is just playing with her mom. If you want to start with the hospitals, I can call over to the Sheriff's office; see if Norris has seen her. He can at least keep a look out for her, and I can give him a description of her car and plates, just to put some feelers out." Starting back towards the inner office, she groaned. "I need to finish up the Haldwell case, too. Once all that is done, if nothing turns up, we need to start on that list of Madison's BFF's, and then hack the email account, I guess." She frowned. "I think though, let's not go past closing hours. As much as Mrs. Sinclair is worried, it hasn't really been that long yet. I have a Skype date with a certain someone that I can't miss."
They both went to work, wrapping up the little bit of paperwork and phone calls that Mrs. Sinclair had interrupted, and it wasn't until well after four o'clock that Mac was able to start on the calls to the hospitals. There hadn't been any Jane Doe's brought in at all that week, let alone in the past few hours, which was not surprising. With a promise from the information desk to call if any unidentified patients were brought in, Mac hung the phone with her last call at five o'clock.
The honks and yells of impatient drivers could be heard through the opened window, and Mac was not overly eager to join the rush hour traffic. Gathering up her phone and purse, Mac could hear Veronica on the phone in her office, and was interested to hear what she might have found out, so she tapped lightly on the door and stepped in. Veronica looked up, office phone to her ear, holding up one finger as if to silence her. Mac waited patiently as Veronica wrapped up her call and hung up.
Leaning against the door jam, Mac asked, "Any news on your side?"
It was Veronica's turn to gather up her things, grabbing her messenger bag and stuffing in her IPad and cell phone. She shook her head. "Not really. Norris said he would call if he sees her though. That was Dad just now, he should be back tomorrow." Coming around the edge of her desk, she continued, "I'm headed back to the apartment, are you headed to kickboxing?"
About a month before, the two of them had decided to move in together. It had been getting a little cramped at Keith's once he had been getting back on his feet, and Veronica had started to get the crazy eye of an adult child living at home. Mac had been considering a roommate to help out with the cost of rent, so when Veronica had desperately asked, she had readily agreed.
"Kickboxing and then I probably will be home a little later. Don't worry about me for dinner or anything. I'll just grab whatever. What time is Logan supposed to call?" Mac wasn't sure why, but she didn't really want to talk about her real plans for the night. This was Mac's dark night, one that didn't need accompaniment by anyone, especially Veronica.
Veronica smiled a bright smile. "He said eight. I think we actually might be able to make this date tonight. He seemed pretty optimistic when he asked if tonight would work. We're almost to under a month!"
Mac rolled her eyes and slugged her lightly. "Yes, and when the Skype calls turn into Booty calls, I may just have to kick you out for the honeymoon period."
Veronica widened her eyes in mock horror. "You would do that to a friend? I'm crushed." Heading towards the front door, she continued, "Seriously though, if you kick us out, our next option is Dick's, because Dad's place is not on the table at all."
Mac laughed, following her. "I think Logan could afford to find another option if he is desperate enough. And believe me, I am not joking when I say, if you disturb the neighbors you are outta there for at least the first month."
A/N I found on Mars Investigations Page the date of June 3 as the day Cassidy jumped. Therefore, that is why I am going with that date. And from all the reading I've done, Logan is set to return in early July. Lots more to come! Thanks in advance for your reading this!