It had been around four years since the day Lynne felt like her life changed. She stopped in front of the small house that would seem quite welcoming if she wasn't so nervous. She pulled out her notebook to double check the address knowing she was stalling and took a deep breath. It would be fine. Even if Alma hated her she could disappear again from her life and move on. One way or another this would be done and she hoped she'd feel a little better for it.

Right, one foot in the front of the other. Walk to that door and hope she could keep everything she wanted to say straight. She had this. She marched across the lawn, squared her shoulders and knocked. At least knocking was her intention. Instead, she leaned forward to do so, the door flew open and she nearly fell forward into a tall man in a long white coat. One bout of wild flailing later she clung to the door frame for balance and stared up at the man.

"Now this is a surpriiise," he said cheerfully.

Understatement. Oh gods, was it the wrong place? "Is there an Alma here?" she blurted out. Not a good start.

"That there is."

Before he could elaborate further a woman's voice sounded down the hal. "Is someone at the door?" She came into view and the man stepped aside with a small bow and sweeping gesture.

"And heeere she is," he announced.

Who the heck was this guy? However all thoughts of him were shunted aside as Alma gave Lynne a curious look.

"Can I help you?" she asked.

"Oh! I uh…" Why had it seemed so much easier in her head? And now Alma was giving her a puzzled look while the man watched with an easygoing smile and it was only getting harder.

She took a deep breath and lost it in the rush of words that tumbled out. "My name is Lynne. I really don't know how to put this, so I was the girl in the park. Four years ago." She inwardly groaned. Real specific there, Lynne. Smooth. Way to explain yourself. What if this wasn't even the right Alma? Except Alma's eyes widened and her mouth opened.

"Temsik Park," Alma breathed. The man's smile faded and his stare grew intense.

Lynne nodded and refocused on Alma. "Yeah, that was me, the hostage. Detective Jowd saved my life that day and I didn't even get to say much to him. I just… after all this time, I wanted to find you. And say… If I hadn't been there then maybe… and I'm sorry and," she stammered to a halt. This was not how it was meant to go, but it was too late to back out now.

Alma's eyes softened. "Oh no. You were only a child. I'm sorry you had to go through such a thing."

"I don't really remember a lot of it. I've tried not to remember much," Lynne said. "Except Detective Jowd… he was, still is my hero. Wish I could have said more to him…"

"I always wondered what happened to you, hoped you were well," Alma said softly. She took a step back from the door. "Would you like to come in? We can talk more."

Lynne backed up a step, waving her hands. "Oh, I wouldn't want to intrude."

"Not at all."

"Um… okay."

Alma stepped back to let her in and glanced at the man. "You had better get going, shouldn't you?"

"It can wait," he replied easily, but his gaze remained fixed on Lynne to her growing discomfort. Maybe she should have left.

"Then I suppose introductions are in order," Alma said. "Lynne, this is Cabanela. He was a close friend of Jowd's and a close friend of mine."

"Pleeeasure to meet you."

"You too," Lynne said awkwardly.

Alma led them to a kitchen where a table and chairs stood off to one side. Lynne found herself watching Cabanela as he swung out a chair and twirled it once before slinging himself into it. He seemed to overshadow the whole kitchen, or at least he did until a small girl ran in.

"Mooom! String?"

Alma paused in the middle of setting out cups and a pitcher of lemonade to look at the girl. "What do you need string for?"

"Secret!" the girl exclaimed, her cheeks puffing out.

"All right, all right. There should be some in the drawer by the phone."


The girl ran back out before any further words could be said and Alma shook her head with a smile. "My daughter, Kamila," she explained.

"She's cute," Lynne said.

Alma poured lemonade and took a seat. "So, Lynne are you still in high school?"

"I'm graduating this year. Then college and the academy. I want to make detective one day."

"Deteeective hmm?" Cabanela asked.

"Yeah, it's been my plan since… well, since then." The conversation was steering back to both where she didn't want it to go and what she desperately wanted to get off her chest. She took a quick gulp of her lemonade. "After Detective Jowd saved me I knew I wanted to be a detective. Maybe pay him back somehow and do for someone else what he did for me. I want to help people. I want to help make sure there aren't more people like me or him."

"Inspirin' the youth. Who would have thought?" Cabanela suddenly flipped out a card and tossed it to her, so it landed neatly in front of her. "If you ever need some advice swiiing on by or give me a buzz."

She looked down at the card. Elegant lettering spelled out his name and title. "Private investigator?" she asked eagerly.

Cabanela grinned. "That's riiight. If you decide you ever want a career change, baby."

"She hasn't started anything yet," Alma scolded, but sounded as though she was trying not to laugh.

"That is really cool," Lynne said. "But I've made up my mind. I have to. It's all I've wanted since then." She stared into her cup and the words she'd long kept to herself spilled out. "I passed out shortly after that man grabbed me," she said quietly. "When I woke up, Detective Jowd was on the ground. I was scared. I went to him. There was… so much blood, but he was still conscious. He asked me if I was okay, told me he was a police detective. On the ground dying and asking if I was okay, telling me I was safe now."

Lynne swallowed and reached into her pocket, pulling out a worn toy badge and laid it on the table. "He told me I was very brave and gave me this. All I could think was he was everything I thought a detective should be. After he gave me this it was all I could think of.

He was a hero, my hero. He had to be okay after doing that. It wasn't until later that I found out he died…"

She looked up. Alma's eyes were closed and her mouth thin. Cabanela stared at the badge, his expression unreadable.

"I'm sorry," Lynne said.

Alma shook her head and looked at her. "No. Thank you. He… never regained consciousness in the hospital. I didn't know what his last conscious moments were like until now."

"Quiiite the hero," Cabanela said. "Just like him."

Lynne shot him a look. He sounded cheerful, but his gaze was still fixed on the badge and she noticed Alma's hand over his.

Cabanela abruptly slid his seat back, unfolding all at once off of it. "Nooow I'm afraid I do have to go, baby. Can't keep the work waitin' forever!" He bobbed his head to Lynne. "Like I said feel freee to stop by if you need any tips. Toodle-oo!"

He whirled out the door leaving Lynne blinking in confusion. Alma stood, casting a worried glance in the direction he left.

"Excuse me, Lynne. I'll be right back," she said and followed after him.

Lynne shifted uneasily in her chair. Had she said too much? She looked around the kitchen in an effort to distract herself while waiting. It was a clean and homey room. A window looked out into the yard and sunlight warmed the table. If she wasn't worried it'd be quite comfy. Even worried and in a stranger's home it was hard not to feel some comfort here.

Kamila entered then and stopped dead at the sight of only Lynne at the table. "Who are you?"

Lynne gave her a friendly smile. "I'm Lynne. Hi!"

"Are you mom's friend?" Kamila asked while approaching slowly.

"We only met today. I just needed to talk to her about something."

"Are you uncle Cabs's friend?"

'Uncle Cabs?' Lynne grinned. "Nope. Just met him too."

"Oh." Kamila shuffled her feet then cocked her head and gave Lynne a very serious look. "I'm making something."

"Ooh, what are you making?"

"A surprise but it's cool. Do you wanna see it when I'm done?"

"I'm sure it's super cool, but I have to go soon…"

"Oh..." Kamila perked up. "That's okay. Next time!" Before Lynne could say anything she spun around and ran back out of the room. Did they all leave so quickly?

Alma returned shortly after Kamila left. "Sorry about that," she said as she took her seat back.

"Did I upset him or…?" Lynne asked.

Alma gave her an understanding smile. "No, it's nothing to worry about. It's just his way," she explained. "He meant it about the help though. If you're serious about joining the police he knows his stuff."

"Was he a detective before?"

She nodded, her smile taking on a sad edge again. "Yes. He was."

"Did he leave after Detective Jowd…?"

"Something like that."

"I'm sorry! I shouldn't pry."

"It's all right." Alma chuckled. "He'd probably approve, but that's for him to tell if he chooses."

Lynne frowned at her now empty cup. She really needed to get back home soon to her seemingly endless pile of studying and homework before her evening shift. Ergh. Staying put and seeing what Kamila was up to or hearing more about Jowd sounded a heck of a lot more appealing.

"Is something wrong?" Alma asked.

"Oh no," Lynne said hurriedly. "Just remembering the pile of homework I have. I should get going."

"Of course. Don't let me keep you here." Alma leaned over the table and pulled over Cabanela's business card. She flipped it over and wrote a phone number on the back. "If you need to talk more you can call anytime."

She passed the card back as they rose. "Thank you for coming to speak with us. It means a lot."

"It feels good to finally tell someone about that day," Lynne said and brightened up. "So, thanks for having me!"

"And you're more than welcome to stop by again," Alma said as she walked her to the door. "Take care Lynne."

Lynne wondered how often she'd seen Alma without knowing it. Now it seemed she spotted her – and to a lesser degree though never easy to miss, Cabanela – on a regular basis whenever she was out or on her way back from school. They often passed each other with a quick greeting or stopped for a small exchange before continuing on their business. It was comforting in a way. She never knew when it might happen but it was welcome when it did. She hadn't realized how much she harboured a silent fear of Alma hating her for her role in the park.

It was Cabanela she next ran into unexpectedly.

Lynne leaned against the store counter and tried not to drum her fingers on the countertop, at least not obviously so. Come experience the fast paced life of a bustling convenience store. Work at Morty's. Uh huh, she thought. She'd really been feeling that excitement lately.

She watched someone walk by. Come on, come in, you know you want some snacks. No? Pick up some item you forgot. Come ooon. Oh well.

She ran a hand over the badge in her pocket. Soon, this would all be over and a distant bad… well, dull at least, dream.

The door opened startling her out of her thoughts. It was nothing compared to the start she got at seeing Cabanela swoosh in looking utterly out of place.

"Cabanela?" she burst out as she straightened against the counter.

"Lyyynne! Fancy seein' you here, baby."

"I work here," she said still staring in surprise.

"So I seee. I'll be with you in a jiffy!" With that he sauntered toward the back of the store. Wasn't that comment supposed to be the other way around?

Lynne craned her neck trying to see where he was going, easier to spot at his height, and he appeared to make a beeline for the restroom. Hopefully that would be followed by buying something or a chat, she thought as she settled back into her bored lean against the counter.

Longer than she expected passed and just as she was wondering whether or not it would be weird to check on him, he exited and came back down the aisle to survey the candy rack. He tossed a chocolate bar onto the counter and leaned against it companionably while Lynne rung him up.

"Plannin' to work here over the summer?" he asked.

"Yeah." She lowered her voice. "I mean probably. I want to find something else, but money's money."

"Maaaybe so." He straightened up, slipping the chocolate into his coat. "Give me a buzz tonight at my office. I maaay just have a little something for you."

"What?" Lynne asked, confused.

He turned on his heel with a jaunty wave. "Have a looovely day!"

Lynne stared at his retreating back. What did he…? He couldn't mean... She glanced at the clock and groaned. Still too long to go before her shift ended and now she had curiosity to torment her on top of the boredom.

The endless shift came to an end. Lynne rushed home, dove into her drawer to dig out Cabanela's card and waited impatiently for her mother to get off the phone. Her fingers near flew around the dial and the phone was answered after a single ring.

"Office of Cabanela, private investigator. Whaaat can I do for you?"

"It's Lynne."

"Heeey baby. How's it goin'?"

"Er, fine. You wanted me to call?"

"That's riiight. How would you like a new job over the next few months?"

Lynne's heart skipped a beat and she gaped at the phone. "You're joking!"

"Nope," he said cheerfully. "Only temporary. Alma's going to be busy for the next while and I couuuld use an extra assistant."

"But I… seriously? I have no experience."

"Have to start somewhere, baby! Alma can guide you. I don't neeed an answer just yet. Why don't you stop by the office tomorrow mornin' and see how we do things?"

"Uh, sure," Lynne said breathily. Was this really real?

"Come by any tiiime after 8."

"I'll be there."

"Lookin' forward to it. Niiighty night."

Lynne grinned widely at the phone as she hung up, feeling jittery. Not spending her days behind a counter. Getting a taste of that world. So it wasn't exactly the same as police work, she told herself but he was a former detective. Talk about head starts.

Lynne jumped out of bed as soon she woke up and hurried through getting ready. She left the house with a hasty "Going out!" and made it to Cabanela's office at around nine. As she approached the entrance a car pulled up and Alma stepped out.

She noticed Lynne and hurried over with a smile. "Good morning, Lynne! Wonderful timing. This way."

Alma led Lynne to the entrance of the building and into a narrow hall. They went part way down it when a man's wail pierced the air from behind a nearby door.

"No! That won't do at all! Terrible! Wrong! This is a nightmare; what insanity dreamt up this monstrosity!"

"Who is that?" Lynne muttered.

"We share the building with an event planner. At least we think that's all he does." Alma stopped by the door. "Is everything all right, Vincent?" she called.

"No!" His voice dropped into a more normal tone and volume. "But it shall be soon, never fear. As always your concern is appreciated my dear!"

"I sometimes think this building attracts eccentrics," Alma said lightly as they continued down the hall. "During our first year here we had a fellow who was apparently a paranormal researcher and whom we swore had a parrot yet we never saw any sign of it."

"Wow," Lynne said. "And then Cabanela."

Alma laughed. "Now I would say you shouldn't say things like that about your potential employer," she said. "But in his case it's entirely warranted." She opened a door at the end of the hall revealing a well-lit room within and said potential employer sitting with his legs propped on his desk, a mug in one hand and a paper in the other.

Cabanela looked up with a grin. "Mooornin' ladies."

Lynne looked around the room. She realized she was expecting some pokey dim room, the sort she found in her noir detective novels. Instead, while it felt like it should be cramped with two desks, a small table against one wall bearing a coffee pot and tea kettle and all the additions, a sofa against the other wall with another table in front and free wall space eaten by shelves and a filing cabinet, everything was tidy, comfortable and appeared well-organized.

Cabanela rose from his desk and joined them in the centre of the room where he granted Lynne an elaborate bow. Lynne bit her lip against a giggle. Cabanela rose and tossed himself onto the couch gesturing for Lynne to join him.

"I've never liked talkin' over a desk," he said as Lynne took a seat beside him.

"Would you like some coffee or tea, Lynne?" Alma asked from the table.

"Coffee, please, thank you," Lynne said with some relief. She'd left the house in such a hurry and while she buzzed with excitement and nerves the caffeine was welcome.

Alma brought her the coffee and tea for Cabanela before settling at the second desk.

"So what exactly would I be doing here?" Lynne asked.

"Bein' my assistant. Handling the paperwork, invoices, filing away past case documents and contracts, takin' calls while I'm out. Alma will show you the ropes.

Some of my clients require a higher level of confidentiality, but I can let you sit in on meetings where appropriate."

"What kind of cases do you take?"

"Fraud, counterfeit, missin' items and people. Now and then a defence attorney needs assistance gathering evidence. Anything people don't trust the police with whether they don't think their problem will get the attention it needs or they don't trust 'em or simple embarrassment."

"And we always make sure our clients are aboveboard," Alma added. "Vetting goes both ways."

Lynne nodded. She nearly jumped when Cabanela suddenly took to his feet.

"I have some business to attend to but I leaaave you in Alma's capable hands."

Now? Lynne thought as Cabanela donned his coat and scarf, flung open the door and disappeared into the hall. Alma smiled at her.

"Rule one of working here. Get used to the abrupt arrivals, departures and outbursts. Come on over. Pull up Cabanela's chair."

Lynne pulled over his chair, heavy but incredibly comfortable when she tentatively took a seat. Alma had a collection of papers in front of her. Lynne tried to pay close attention and not blur the many documents together – samples of invoices, samples of contracts, her scheduling system, meeting notes, and lists.

"Don't worry," Alma said. "You won't have to deal with some of this for some time yet if ever. But it's a good idea to get a general overview. I'll be here for a while yet to teach and guide you and I'll still be in and out afterward. Cabanela may prefer to avoid this end of things as much as he can but he knows it. You'll never be alone."

Lynne nodded. "It's just all a bit overwhelming. But exciting!" she quickly added.

Alma smiled warmly. She pulled out more documents going over her pay, "You'll be in training for now, but paid just the same." And possible scheduling "Let us know what works for you. I've kept your time low. I know you don't have much left, but school comes first. We'll change it up after you graduate."

"So," Alma finally said, folding her hands together. "Are you interested?"

"Yes!" Lynne blurted out. "And ready as soon as you'll take me."

Alma blinked. "Are you sure you don't want to give it a bit of thought first? I promise you we're not expecting an answer right away."

"Are you kidding? This or the convenience store? No contest."

"Yes…" Alma said her smile fading to a frown. She quickly shook it off before Lynne could question it. "Well, Cabanela will be pleased and I have to admit I'm relieved as well. I got more involved in this than I ever intended and need to phase out some of my duties to my other business. I'm afraid my next few months are going to be very busy training my replacement and getting Kamila ready for kindergarten. Thank you, Lynne."

"I should be thanking you. I never expected anything like this. Figured I was doomed to retail for now."

"Nooow we can't have that!" Cabanela whirled in. "How's it goin'?"

"Lynne's agreed," Alma replied. "I have her set to come in next weekend to get properly acquainted and more regularly after she's able to quit her current job."

Cabanela grinned. "Welcome aboooard."

"I can't wait," Lynne said. This was happening, this was actually happening.

From that day on Lynne's days passed in a blur of activity that went anywhere from curious learning, to heady excitement to times of tedium (times to which Cabanela seemed to agree with but it was 'aaall part of the package baby'). And, long talks spinning out stories from past cases or his academy and detective days sprinkled with tidbits of advice and tips, and on to conversations that touched on his days with Detective Jowd:

"Why did you leave?" Lynne asked during one of those times. "Was it too hard to stay without him?"

Cabanela surveyed her silently before giving a short laugh. "One miiight even say impossible, baby!"

Were they that close? But why did it feel like she'd missed some joke?

Such conversations never lasted long before he spun off to other topics entirely such as neat little places that he knew of around town and places useful for reconnaissance and a restaurant with the best pasta in town, and so on as they talked long into the evenings, until Alma stepped in to point out that just because Cabanela functioned off air and light some people still needed to go home to relax and rest, and no Lynne this is one particular habit you shouldn't pick up from him. Lynne would depart reluctantly and Alma would drive her home and it would all start over again the next day.

And so it went on and Lynne loved it with the one exception of starting to get restless and hoping to go out with him on a case. The closest she got was being taken to client meetings outside the office and one long boring stakeout that went nowhere. She tried not to complain, but she could handle a little risk couldn't she? Surely she would be safe with him anyway. When she tried to broach the subject he only shrugged her off.

"I'm not riskin' our hides on Alma's wrath!" he'd declared cheerfully, yet Lynne had a weird feeling there was a little more to it. Unfortunately she'd come to learn she'd have better luck getting the walls to talk than getting him to spill the beans on anything he didn't want to talk about and that was that. Lynne resolved to be grateful for everything she did have even as she kept an ear and eye out for anything strange.

Lynne entered the building one morning and silently laughed at the sounds of elations from Vincent's office; clearly something went well and it was nice to hear after the apparent despair of the previous day. She cheerfully approached Cabanela's office and froze at the sound of low voices from within.

"…connection to Morty's," Alma said.

"Of course I don't knooow, but my gut says yes."

Morty's? What did that have to do with anything? Connection to what?

"Too many similarities," Cabanela said. "Someone's gatherin' information and they don't care how they get it or who gets hurt on the way."

Information? People getting hurt? To do with the corner store? She had never seen Cabanela there before and then he stops in and offers her a job on the spot? Lynne frowned at the door. What was going on and what were they hiding from her?

"Be careful," Alma said. "If these two are connected others could be as well. There's no knowing how big this actually is."

"I wouldn't have gotten this faaar if I wasn't careful, baby. I'll be fiiine."

They fell silent and Lynne remained still, heart hammering in her chest. It had to have been her store. He'd been gone for a while before coming back out… he effectively got her out of there. How much danger was she in? What was she unknowingly involved in?

And now what? Eavesdropping seemed a sure-fire way for them to lose trust in her. Could she just let it go and pretend she knew nothing about it? Take a guess, Lynne. Hint it's not a yes.

She shuffled her feet, trying to shake out the tension before entering and forced a smile before opening the door. Alma glanced toward her midway through putting on her coat and Lynne couldn't help but notice she looked a bit harried.

"Good morning, Lynne. I'm afraid I was just heading out. Hectic day ahead of me." She shot a look and nod at Cabanela who stood at the table pouring himself tea, before she hurried out the door.

The rushed start turned to a slow morning. Cabanela seemed more intent than usual on the scattering of paper across his desk – Lynne still couldn't figure out if these were messes or if there was a method to his madness – and Lynne set to work filing away the previous case's paperwork, taking down a client appointment and trying not to get distracted by her thoughts on what she'd overheard.

She should let it go, she thought. Things were going so well. It's not as though she was there anymore. But she was here for reasons she still didn't quite understand. Now the seeds of doubt were planted and she couldn't shake them. She sighed.

"Whoo-whee that was quiiite a hefty sigh," Cabanela said, looking up from his work. "There a world on those shoulders I should knooow about, baby?"

Shoot. She hadn't meant to do that let alone within his earshot. Now or never, she thought to herself and traced circles on her desk with a finger. "Why did you offer me this job?"

"I needed an assistant and giiiven your ambitions you seemed like a good fit."

"And that's it? I can already see how important it is that you make sure everything is just right and nothing goes wrong for your clients. I'm fresh out of high school with no experience behind me."

"You're a quiiick study. I trust in my choices."

"But you wouldn't have known that!"

Cabanela leaned back in his seat but fixed her with a piercing stare. "All riiight, what's really eatin' you?"

Lynne slid her hands together and forced herself to meet his gaze. "I overheard you and Alma talking. Something was going on at Morty's convenience store, wasn't it?"

"Nothin' you need to worry about."

"I worked there! I think it has everything to do with me. If I was in danger or could have even been dragged in or…" She leaned over planting her hands on her desk. "I never saw you there before. Then you just happen to show up and take ages in the restroom and you can't tell me that was stomach trouble and then out of nowhere you ask me about my work and offer me a job that conveniently takes me away from there! Don't hide this from me!" She gasped for breath and that she just yelled at him sunk in. Oh gods. She swallowed.

Cabanela's eyes sparkled. "We'll make a detective of you yeeet, baby. Though I beliiieve I would be remiss if I didn't point out that eavesdroppin' is rude. Best to use the information you get from such things in other subtler ways baby."

Lynne sagged in her seat. "You're not mad?"

"Naaah. My fault for not bein' more careful."

"Was I in danger? And please tell me the truth."

He tilted his head slightly and she felt like she was being studied. "It wasn't a risk I was willin' to take."

"Then… did you only take me on to get me away from there?" Did she want to know?

"Heeey, if I didn't want to hire you I would've found another way to get you out, baby."

She breathed out and now relieved that he both did want her and wasn't angry at her prying, she gave him a curious look. "What was going on? What did you find there?"

"Now that is confidential." His tone was light and he looked relaxed but she'd learned to recognise when he wouldn't budge and this was one of those times.

Lynne nodded, reluctant to let it go but knew she was pushing her luck. Cabanela rose then with mug in hand, and passed by her desk, whisking away her mug as he did so, only to return it shortly refilled with coffee and he settled back into his work all without a word. She took a grateful sip and found herself watching him, wondering what had him so occupied. She had a feeling it had to do with his conversation with Alma, and Morty's she added to herself. Some connection. Unfortunately no answer was forthcoming and in the early afternoon he had to go out leaving her to man the office.

She eyed the filing cabinet. Was it possible? Before she could hesitate she was on her feet and opening the drawers. Her search yielded nothing. She sighed. She should have known. He was haphazard about what got written down – seldom taking notes himself. He'd even laughed one time when she had her notebook out, speaking of how it reminded him of Detective Jowd, but had never been his style. Besides she thought, chiding herself, if there was something he didn't want her to know about he wouldn't leave it where she had easy access to, would he?

With that thought her eyes fell on his desk and before she knew it she was standing behind it facing four drawers. She eased one open: pens, a couple of foiled wrapped chocolates (was there anywhere he didn't have them stashed?), a bottle of aspirin that looked unopened with a worn note in Alma's handwriting – 'just in case' – she wondered how old that was, a small box of his business cards and for some reason she couldn't guess at, a spool of thread. A folded piece of paper caught her eye and she hesitated. Not her business, unlikely to have anything to do with it. But what if it did? She carefully unfolded it and was met with wobbly writing in crayon.

'Thank you Mr. Cabnela. I hop your good. Daddy is veree happy now and I'm so happy fluffbun is bak. Do you like candey? I love it and daddy let me get you a lollipop there is 1 with this not.


Lynne let the paper fall closed with a smile, wondering what the story behind that one was. Her smile quickly faded. She shouldn't be doing this. This was going too far. The filing cabinet was one thing; she had to go in and out of it herself regularly, but his desk. The other drawers faced her enticingly; there could be… no. No.

Lynne forced herself back to her desk and buried her face in her hands with a groan. Here she'd been worried about eavesdropping and now she'd just invaded his privacy. No more. If there was something she had to know she'd be told. Don't screw this up. No more snooping she forcefully ordered herself and settled into a quiet afternoon until Cabanela whirled back in appearing chipper and bearing donuts and the day slid into its normal rhythms. And that was that.

Days and weeks passed split between a majority of time spent working with Cabanela and when she could come in, Alma. Lynne refrained from searching anymore and to her slight annoyance found out nothing more about what transpired at her old workplace. Her time and energy however were quickly consumed by other matters and while Cabanela still kept her off cases directly, he sometimes challenged her for her input.

Some of her other time was spent visiting their home and looking after Kamila for brief periods as needed. The girl quickly grew attached to Lynne through sessions of play, the occasional gift of candy and other treats, storybooks that Lynne read to her, and Kamila showing already convoluted contraptions that Lynne couldn't believe came from the girl at such a young age and baffled her. Kamila asked if she was going to keep working for her 'Uncle Cabs' and was sad when Lynne said no, but perked up when she told her about how she planned to be a great detective. Lynne started to feel as though the three were becoming extra family.

The time passed quickly but felt so full she couldn't believe it when it came to an end. Autumn curled in, changing the leaves and chilling the air and Lynne was preparing to leave her final day at the office. She felt caught in a whirlwind of emotion – anticipation, trepidation, sadness at leaving and excitement at pursuing the next step in her goal.

Now the afternoon drew to a close and she tidied up the day's work for the last time and pulled together the odds and ends of her own she'd left scattered through the office. She looked around the room she'd spent so much of her last few months in. It wouldn't be the last time, she reminded herself. She could always stop by.

Alma hugged her tightly before stepping back her hands still on Lynne's shoulders. "I'm proud of you. We'll miss you around the office. You will come for dinner sometimes. I know what campus food life is like."

Lynne grinned. "Thanks. I don't think Kamila would forgive me if I completely vanished either."

"If you ever neeed it you've always got a place here baby," Cabanela added.

"Thank you." Lynne drew herself up. "And when I'm done, if you ever need a police contact, you'll have one."

"I'm countin' on it!"

Lynne flung her arms around Cabanela in a tight hug. "Thank you for everything."

His arms settled around her. "My pleasure. Looking forward to seein' how faaar you'll go, future detective Lynne."

She pulled back smiling. "I'll be there before you know it!"

Lynne turned and with a last glance at the office room, exited toward the next step.