A/N: Yay! I got this chapter done. I had a lot of fun with Veronica sleuthing like old times.
A/N: So with each chapter, I am aiming to take turns with POV between Mac and Veronica. Veronica's turn is now, and next chapter will be Mac.
The phone was ringing as Veronica let herself into Mars Investigations, and she rushed to answer it. Her dad could be heard in the other office, on the other line. Picking the receiver up, she said, "Mars Investigations."
"Hey, V, it's Mac."
She set her purse down and perched on the edge of the desk. "Hey! I was just going to call you once I got settled. I talked to Mrs. Sinclair and she says tonight is Madison's Pole Cardio Class at The Ten" She snickered, " Vertical Limit which is the same class she canceled on Wednesday night—the same group meets Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays at five o'clock. I was thinking to head over there just to see if anyone has anything interesting to say." There was silence on the other end, and Veronica paused. "That is unless you found something out?"
She heard Mac sigh. "Well, I found something, but it has nothing to do with Madison."
Alarmed, Veronica sat up straight. "What are you talking about?"
"Turns out County had a John Doe come in last night with semi-minor injuries but with alcohol poisoning. They found him on the beach passed out in his own vomit." Mac cleared her throat. "It was Dick Casablancas. I identified him as soon as I realized he was here. He had no ID on him, and he was at some beach not too far from here, all alone."
Veronica felt the beginnings of a headache. "You have got to be joking." She pinched the bridge of her nose. "Logan asked me last night if I had seen Dick lately, which I haven't, but I don't usually see him…Logan told me not to worry too much, but this is not good. How long will he have to stay there? Have you talked to him?"
"He's still out. He's a mess, honestly, Veronica. They had to pump his stomach and he has tubes running all over, his arm is broke…"Veronica heard muffled voices coming through the line. "I called the surf shop to see if they could fax over his insurance information and maybe find his emergency contact…well, he has two emergency contacts, one's at sea and the other is dead—it was Gia. He must have never changed his contacts when all that stuff went down. The staff finally relented and gave me some of the information, but I was hoping that Keith might come down and throw his weight around? He knows how to charm his way into getting what he wants," There was a pause as Mac began speaking to someone else for a moment. "Would you have him come down here? I know you're busy with the Madison thing-who, by the way, no one here has seen. I left her picture at the front desk and ER."
"What's your plan then, Mac? You gonna sit with him till he wakes up? " She looked into where her dad sat at his desk. He had hung the phone up and was busily writing something on a legal pad. "I'm sure Dad would be glad to help out. Where should he meet you?"
"He's in the exam room four in the ER, but they said he's stable and they need to move him. I can't leave him like this, all alone. The staff at his shop can't come down…" Mac hesitated, "so yeah, I guess I need the day off."
"You're taking the day off. For Dick Casablancas." Veronica couldn't even form the words into a question. "If I were there I would just leave him. Unidentified."
Mac chuckled lightly. "Sound as tough as you want, but you would be holding his hand, too, and you know it. You're a marshmallow."
While Keith went to County to meet Mac, Veronica kept plugging away with the Sinclair Case. She hated thinking about how she was going to tell Logan about Dick, so she set that problem aside for the afternoon. She had been able to finish up most of the other open, pressing cases that morning, and this afternoon was dedicated to finding and following leads regarding Madison.
The list of friends that Mrs. Sinclair had given her made her wince with dread. Many of them were high school besties, like Shelley Pomroy. No boyfriends at present, but she had broken up with a Patrick Muldoon about two months previous. According to what Elizabeth had said, Madison only saw Shelley about once a month and so Veronica felt justified in putting that interview off for a while. She made a few phone calls, and then headed out.
Her first stop was Madison's apartment. Mrs. Sinclair had dropped a key off that morning before she had gotten to the office, telling her dad that she wanted Veronica to go there to see if she saw anything strange. The complex seemed quiet, and as Veronica parked and headed up the steps to the front door of the building, she noticed how at even two in the afternoon, there seemed to be a lot of people milling about. Certainly someone would have seen something on Wednesday if it had happened here. She let herself in, heading down the hall and stopping at apartment 16A, mentally preparing herself to come face to face with Madison as she knocked.
That didn't happen, however, and so as Veronica looked up and down the hallway, she pulled the key from her pocket and let herself into Madison Sinclair's living space. She glanced into the living room and kitchen, seeing that they looked relatively normal. She then headed into a hallway and to the bedroom and bathroom, to see if she could spot anything out of the ordinary.
It was hard to tell, since she had never been here before, if there were clothes missing or not, but as she entered the bathroom, she noticed right away that the toothbrush holder was missing the toothbrush, and that there was no makeup or hairbrush to be seen. It looked slightly like Madison had left on a trip of some sort.
Entering the living room again, Veronica circled the couch, looking at the pictures that hung on the wall or sat on end tables. There was a family portrait, Madison the only blond sitting amongst her parents and younger sister. A few pictures taken on vacations: a cruise, Disneyworld, and an exotic beach location. Nothing out of the ordinary. The drapes to the sliding glass door were shut so she went to see if it was locked, looking out to where she could see the road that she had turned off and into the parking lot. Mrs. Sinclair must have seen that Madison's apartment lights were off when she had pulled in from the road.
She roamed over to the bar that divided the kitchen from the living room. She thumbed through a stack of mail, taking note of what was there. She opened the fridge; saw a half gallon of milk, fresh produce, and leftovers in containers. It was a little odd that someone going on a trip would leave food to spoil unless planning to return soon. Looking in garbage, she saw that it had yet to be emptied, which was peculiar, also, but Veronica wondered if there was a maid that might come in. Certainly, growing up, Madison had hardly done manual labor such as taking out the trash or doing dishes, which were also stacked in the sink.
A little disappointed, she let herself out of the apartment, pulling out her phone to call Mrs. Sinclair. Stepping out into the fresh air, she put the phone to her ear, waiting for Elizabeth to answer. As soon as Veronica heard her voice, she greeted her and then reported what she had found.
"So you found a bit of evidence supporting that Madison might have left on a short trip?"
Veronica pulled on her sunglasses, squinting into the sun light as she answered, "Yes, and not much else. Do you know if a maid comes in to clean?"
"She has a maid service, but it's not every week. I'll look into it and get back to you," Mrs. Sinclair promised.
" There seems to be a lot of neighbors home right now, so I'm going to ask around and see if they have any information. Thanks for the access into her apartment. I'll keep you posted." As she hung up, she noticed a car pull into the space marked 17A, so she waited as a young woman with bright red hair to get out and make her way towards the apartment, her arms full of grocery bags. Veronica sidled up next to her. "Hey, you look like you could use a little help! Can I take one of those?"
The woman looked at her in obvious appreciation. "Please! That would be great!"
As they juggled the bags, they kept in step with each other, closer to the entrance, and Veronica quickly opened the door with her free hand. "Which door is yours?" She asked, even though she knew. No need to alarm an innocent with too much personal information, however.
"Just that one, up there on your left, 17A," the woman had her key already out so when they got to the door, she had it unlocked and opened in less than a minute, "Just this way." She motioned Veronica to follow her into a cookie cutter replica of Madison's across the hall. "I'm Katie, by the way."
"Veronica." She followed Katie into the kitchen, where they set the groceries on the kitchen counter. "Wow, you live right across the hall from Madison!"
Katie paused as she began to unpack the groceries. "Oh, yeah…I guess I do." She turned quickly to put the eggs and milk into the fridge. "You're friends with Madison? I haven't seen you around."
"Well, it's been a while. We knew each other way back when, you know? Anyway, I found her on Facebook! She told me to look her up if I came back to Neptune and here I am!" Veronica leaned back against the counter. "I wanted to surprise her, so I stopped by the fitness center, you know where she works? She wasn't there so I thought I would try here." She made a disappointed face, "It doesn't look like she's here though, either."
Katie looked back at her, "No, I wouldn't suppose she would be. I ran into her earlier this week and she said she was heading out for the weekend. You probably should have called first."
Veronica's ears perked up and she tried to not seem too eager as she asked, "When was that?" Seeing the expression on Katie's face, Veronica quickly added, "We Facebooked the end of last week and she talked about how she was teaching classes all this week and was looking forward to a big birthday bash for our friend, Shelley, tomorrow night. That's why I'm in town, actually." She grinned, laying it on thick, "The big three-oh, at the 09er! I've only heard about that place, I can't wait!"
Shutting a cupboard, Katie stopped and turned to look at her. "I think it was Wednesday morning, actually. I go to the Community College and was headed to my accounting class when I ran into her in the hallway."
"Huh. Well, I wonder where she went. I wouldn't have thought she'd miss Shelley's party for anything." Her eyes widened and she smiled conspiringly. "Maybe she has a secret man, huh?"
Katie crinkled her nose. "I don't know anything about Shelley's party, or a new guy, but Madison doesn't tell me much of anything." She rolled her eyes. "Madison and I don't really run in the same circles."
Huh, well, welcome to the club. "Oh, well. That's too bad." She looked at her watch, feigning surprise. "Oh, wow, I've got to go! Hey, if you see anyone around here looking for her, would you mind texting or calling me?" Grabbing a pen and paper from her bag, she wrote her number down and then stuck it to Katie's fridge with a magnet. "I really would love to see her before I leave next week. You said she said weekend, huh? Maybe I'll try back Monday."
Veronica left the building ten minutes later, eyeing the parking lot. Her time with Katie had caused everyone to disappear that had been out just an hour ago. She stopped at the guard shack, where the guard had been forewarned by the Madison's parents that she would be stopping, to request a copy of the recorded times of cars in and out of the facility from Wednesday at noon till Thursday night.
With that complete, she headed to the restaurant where Mrs. Sinclair had last seen Madison. She interviewed the wait staff, with enough just enough time to get to The Ten Gym or The Ten, as everyone called it, where Madison had her classes. She rushed in at four-thirty and went straight to the check in desk.
"Hi!" She said cheerily to the woman behind the desk, who was dressed in a tight black spandex track suit, showing an absurd amount of cleavage, with a name tag that read 'Candy' pinned at her chest. "Wow, so I'm like, supposed to do some," she air quoted, "'research' about the Pole Class thing for my boss, she's too embarrassed to try it out herself." She rolled her eyes. "I think she wants to impress her man, if you know what I mean." Pulling out her wallet, she asked, "Is there any way I can just pay for the class just for tonight so she doesn't fire me tomorrow?"
Candy pulled out a form and thrust it at her. "We just need you fill this out and sign at the bottom that states that your liable for your own injuries, and the cost is at the bottom of the form."
"Oh, of course." As Veronica began to write, "So I've heard this instructor is phenomenal! Have you ever taken the class?" She handed over cash, grateful she had had time to stop at an ATM on the way over. The Ten took a lot of pride in their classes.
"Well, actually, tonight we have a substitute instructing Vertical Limit." She handed back Veronica's change. "But I assure you it will be just as much of a workout." Candy leaned forward to whisper, "And hopefully you have a boy toy at home, because trust me, you'll want to try out the moves later. It will impress him, for sure." She winked.
Veronica's smile froze, her thoughts going to Logan for a moment, how his brown eyes would darken at the thought of her pole dancing. She felt a secret smile play at her lips, looking forward to the time when she had the chance to show and tell. "Well, I'll have to pay attention then."
The class was small, less than ten women, so Veronicafound an empty pole and stood there, a little unsure. The woman next to her was a bottled-blond, wearing short designer hot shorts that were cinched at the sides, with a only a sports bra to contain her special-ordered breasts. Veronica felt a little awkward in her normal workout wear, black capris and a tank. Apparently you were supposed to dress like a stripper to use the poles here at The Ten.
The woman smiled at her, and Veronica took the bait, saying, "Hi! I'm Amber! This is my first Vertical Limit class. What about you?"
The woman looked her up and down. "I see that." She turned to face the front, stretching her legs and arms. "I've been coming here for a while, since Madison started the course. I love it. Gets my heart rate up, keeps my abs from drab."
"Well," Veronica eyed her, "you have nothing to worry about in that department." She looked up to the front. "So you like the instructor, what did you say her name was, Michelle?"
"Madison." Just then, another woman came in, heading to the front of the class to face them. The woman next to Veronica grunted in dismay. "Looks like she's not here again, though."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, Wednesday we get here, and apparently Madison didn't cancel the class until ten to five, so we were all here and waiting while they looked for a replacement." She gestured to the new instructor. "Nancy here ended up last minute doing the class, but she is so not as good as Madison. I just ended up doing my own workout."
Veronica widened her eyes. "What was her excuse for not being here?"
"They said she was sick I guess."
"Huh. Is that normal, her missing? I mean, twice in row, is that like her?"
"She never misses. I mean, I've seen when they've forced her to go home when she's sick, but never by her own choice."
"Ladies!" The instructor in the front clapped her hands to get their attention. "I'm Nancy and I will be your instructor this evening. Everyone to your poles!"
Veronica watched uncertainly as the women around her approached their poles and began their workout. Feeling a little like a fish out of water, Veronica gamely began copying their moves, gyrating and swinging to the music.
"Okay, everyone, crucifix climb!" Nancy called out, as hooked her leg around her pole and began to pull herself up to the top of it, "and hold!" After a few seconds, "and slide out of it!"
The routine went on like this for the next fifty minutes while Veronica tried desperately to keep up. The moves were unfamiliar but a little empowering, even though she missed half of them. Soon it was time for cool down and everyone was packing their bags up to leave.
Waiting until most of the class had left the room, she approached Nancy, who was busily packing up her own bag. "So that was great! Thank you so much! This was my first time."
"Ah, a Vertical Virgin, huh?" Quickly glancing at her, Nancy kept her attention on her chore. "You did really well for your first time."
"You must not have been watching very closely." Veronica grinned, "I think I fell off the pole four times. Now I know why they made me sign the release form. So, I was wondering if I sign up permanently for this class if you're the instructor. The ladies around me made it sound like maybe not."
Nancy slung her bag over her shoulder. "I'm just here for tonight, actually. Madison is the regular instructor for Vertical Limit. I teach the Zumba and spinning classes regularly."
"That's too bad! So she'll be back at Monday's class? I might have to try her class out and see what the differences are."
"You might want to call ahead on Monday, she's taking an undetermined leave of personal time. If you want to get a real feel of what her classes are like, having us substituting won't tell you a lot. We all teach it a little differently. And Madison's….intense. I am more of a beginner instructor in Cardio Pole."
Veronica blinked. How much more intense could it get? "Maybe I should stick with Jane Fonda," she quipped weakly. "But really, undetermined personal time? Man, I wish my job would let me just take whatever time I needed off. Doesn't the management care?"
Nancy rolled her eyes and leaned in close to Veronica, saying softly "Management doesn't care because Madison's dating the owner's son, Mark. She gets to do whatever she wants." Straightening up, she continued, "But you didn't hear that from me. Word is we're all going to be working extra classes till she gets back, though, taking over her classes as we can." With that, Nancy pointedly looked at the time. "I have to get going. Hopefully see you around!"
Later that night, Veronica sat at her desk at the apartment, going over the information that she had gathered that day. She felt confident that she was getting somewhere with it all.
It was looking like Madison had just left on a secret romantic getaway with her newest lover, Mark. No one apparently knew about him, which supported the theory that it a secret trip. The question was why and where. Why was it a secret to her family, and not her coworkers? And where did she go?
As she was mulling over these questions, her phone rang. She checked it and saw that it was her dad and she answered it quickly, "Hi, how is it going?"
"It's all good news, honey;" he started right away, "First of all, we're still at County. Dick woke up about an hour ago, mad as hell. Seeing us there calmed him some, but it was interesting for a while. Tore all the tubes right out of his skin and throat."
She gasped. "That's good news?"
"Well, they were going to take the tube out anyway, so it's…okay news, I guess. And they're working on releasing him, so there's that. But you know how long that can take."
Leaning back in her chair, she asked, "Have you been there all day, too?"
"No, I came back to bring Mac some supper, and as we were coming back to the room he woke up, so I've been here most of the evening. " He hesitated. "Don't you have a key to Dick's beach house? Mac was wondering if you would go over and pick some clothes up so he doesn't have to leave here wearing only a hospital gown. All that's left from last night it a cut-open wet suit."
"Oh, yeah, I bet so. Logan gave me a key to the house with the set of car keys I have, so yeah, I can go grab Dick some clothes. I'll have to bleach my hands afterwards though." Checking the time, she replied, "I'll leave right now and be to County probably in an hour and a half."
A/N: Next chapter will flash back to Dick awakening and realizing who is there, Mac's POV.
I really hope you like where this is going! Thank you for all the reviews, follows, favorites, and encouragement! I am super excited about this story, I love all the input you are all giving me. Thanks again! By the way, all your reviews make me work even harder. I hope I am not disappointing expectations, I want to know if I am. Throw me a line if you have the time!