Actually, Wallace was bragging when he let on to Nic that he had a backup plan. He still did not know how he would approach Yvonne. Which question should he ask first? Or what approach would he use? He couldn’t just blurt out the obvious. Yet how could he not? Nic was right, he had the right to know–regardless. Tammy was his wife–and still is. He didn’t need to sneak around to find answers. He had every right to just walk up to Yvonne and demand an answer, right?

As he was standing there, waiting for Yvonne to come out of her house, he had thought it over about two hundred times already. It made sense. He shouldn’t hesitate. And he knew it was the right decision when he saw Yvonne’s surprised expression upon seeing him as she stepped outside. She had every right to be surprised since they parted on hostility the other day.

*****

While Wallace was confronting Yvonne, Nic was on his way to pick up Angela. And that was when he received a call from one of his clients for an emergency meeting. Tomorrow that person was flying back home so it was then or never. That was business. He called Angela back real quick before heading toward the location. Strangely, that person wanted to meet him at the diner he and Wallace often went to. But it wasn’t like it was opened exclusively for him and Wallace. Others had every right to be there. This time, he picked a spot by a window, providing some sunshine into the place, not the hidden location Wallace usually preferred. The meeting occupied within the hour when the client finally arrived. He was glad to get it out of the way actually. He partially blamed Wallace for dancing with the other party for so long. It was a miracle they were able to sign the contract in the end. Or was Wallace playing one of his games again? Nic had no idea.

After making sure everything was in place and the client left, he got up to take care of the bills. That was when fate intervened because a girl was seen walking toward him. She wasn’t really addressing him or staring in his direction but he knew an accident about to happen when he saw one. Five seconds later, the girl’s folders in her hands hit the floor and that was when Nic scrambled over to help her. Lugging such a big bag over her shoulder and balancing her folders? It didn’t take a genius to predict a mishap from occurring.

“Thanks,” The girl uttered as she was attempting to kneel down as well.

“Don’t,” Nic said, extending one hand out to stop her. “I’ll get it.”

The girl straightened up and let out a nervous smile. She waited for Nic to pick all the items up and hand it to her. However, he didn’t.

“Where are you going?” He asked.

“Um…” The girl mumbled, scanning the diner. Her confusion finally diminished when her eyes reached a spot toward the far right corner. “Over there!”

Nic followed her pointing finger to a table where a cluster of girls was sitting there, chatting up a storm and giggling about something. “Nice group of colleagues you have there.”

“Uh…they’re just busy with the planning so I volunteered to carry the supplies and whatnot.”

They made their way to the corner without any other words being exchanged–though the girl had tried to send him her friendly smiles to show her appreciation for his help.

“There you are,” Nic said, placing the folders on the table corner. He had made sure it was out of the many cups of coffee and food plates so it wouldn’t run into the risk of being spilled on.

“Thanks,” The girl said, extending a hand out to him. “I’m Amber Kuo.”

Nic introduced himself and said a few more words before making his way to the front counter.

*****

Wallace stepped out of his car, feeling defeated. He was sure he cornered Yvonne yet she turned the table on him. How could she make everything sound so reasonable when he was so sure he had placed her in a hard spot? And he had a feeling that he had already experienced that type of reasoning from her in the past. It was just that he couldn’t remember when. It was a feeling, a hunch, an itch that he didn’t even know where to scratch.

“So how did it go?” Nic asked when he saw Wallace entered their shop.

“How did what go?” Wallace asked back, playing dumb.

Nic knew that routine. It wasn’t like he didn’t know Wallace at all. He might be clueless when Wallace played those business games with their clients but he wasn’t clueless when it came to personal matters. Not exactly.

“Confronting Yvonne, what else?”

Wallace booted up his computer, stalling for time as his eyes passed several magazines that were spread on the desk.

Nic moved onto making coffee in the break room. But still kept the conversation at bay, not letting go. “It’s not like you to be quiet, you know.”

Wallace half-wanted to beat Nic over the head with something but resisted the urge. Why did Nic always have to rub it in his face? Then Wallace stopped himself. Nic didn’t know and was just worried. He was Old Nic, what did one expect? Wallace joined Nic in the break room, scanning the room, inspecting it like he had never seen it ever in his life. “How do you explain it when you swear something’s as clear as day and someone comes along and dunks your theory to shreds, leaving you speechless?”

Nic turned his attention from the coffee maker and directed it on Wallace instead, his glare puzzled. “What?”

“Yvonne told me I needed therapy.”

“And?”

“What do you mean ‘and’?”

“You brought out your aggressive, maniac attitude to make her give in and tell you all the answers, right?”

“What did I tell you just now? She turned the table on me. She made it like I’m crazy and need to get some help real quick before I go crazier.”

Nic shook his head, his attention back on the coffee maker, watching the brown liquid dripping down the container. “You’re losing your edge.”

“Tell me about it.”

That was when their conversation ended because their employees were piling into the shop. They did not have to go look to know. All the sounds present were too obvious already.

“All I have to say is I thought about it all night and I don’t know how she made so much sense the whole time,” Wallace concluded, grabbing his cup of coffee. Though that was Nic’s. Nic had given him a look but he didn’t care. Nic could pour another one in no time.

“What did she say exactly then?” Nic asked, not willing to let the conversation end just yet. He had remembered to lower his voice already so the others couldn’t hear them.

“You wouldn’t want to know.”

“Then how am I supposed to help?”

“You’re supposed to help me by being confused.”

“So you need me to stay confused to gain the upper hand?”

“Morning, Boss,” Brian greeted them as Wallace left the room and Nic was still searching for an empty cup.

“Morning,” Wallace mumbled, not sure if Brian was greeting him or Nic. It might have been Nic since Wallace had always kept his cool in the past.

*****

After work, Wallace and Nic stopped at their hideout again. It was about time they resumed their conversation. But that was delayed slightly by Nic needing to give the waiter their orders.

“Well?” Nic prompted.

“What else is there to talk about really?” Wallace returned, though he knew he left Nic hanging this morning.

“What are you going to do now if you’re not going to tell me what happened before?”

Wallace shrugged, reaching for the teapot at the corner of the table. “Search my house.”

“What?”

“You heard me.”

“You meant yours and Tammy?”

Wallace nodded. “Of course. I didn’t really clean it out yet, you know. The answer might be right under my nose all this time.”

Nic didn’t say anything. He was deep in thoughts. It got Wallace worried. Just slightly. Like Nic was caring too much.

“Hey there,” A girl’s voice interrupted their reflection moment.

Both guys looked up to see a girl in shoulder-length hair and casual outfit smiling at them. She was smiling to Nic more than Wallace.

“Oh hey,” Nic greeted the girl, returning her smile.

“I want to thank you again for the other day.”

Nic shook his head. “No big deal.”

“Well, I’ll be over there.”

Nic looked in the direction she pointed. Different group and she wasn’t lugging a large number of supplies anymore. “Off work?”

The girl nodded and smiled again.

“Amber, this is Wallace.”

Just the time since Wallace was wondering when he would be introduced to the girl…um…Amber.

“Hi,” Amber said, turning to Wallace and extending her hand.

Wallace stuck his hand out and returned the polite gesture. “You new in town?”

Amber nodded. “How did you know?”

Wallace’s cleverly mischievous smile clicked on then. “I never forget a face.”

“Except when it comes to your exes,” Nic mumbled under his breath–though it was still audible to Wallace.

Wallace let it slide and continued to focus on Amber. “Care to join us?”

“Actually…I…” Amber stuttered, reaching a hand up to scratch the area near her neck.

“She’s with her friends,” Nic jumped in, attempting to rescue Amber from Wallace’s grasp.

“Then I guess we will have to wait for the next time to chat with this young lady,” Wallace continued in his calm and collected manner, even offering a smile her way.

Amber nodded and scurried to the table where her friends were waiting for her after another friendly smile.

“Nice,” Wallace commented when they were alone again.

“Is she your new target then?” Nic questioned, his eyes probing.

Wallace let out an amused smile. “My wife’s not dead anymore, therefore, irrelevant much? And I was just trying to rattle you. You should’ve seen your face.” He stopped to let out a series of amused laughter before continuing. “I should question you about your new target.”

“And you’re still able to laugh because?” Nic asked, trying to play it cool, like he couldn’t care less. But he had no idea he was failing miserably because he wasn’t Wallace.

“Hey, my wife’s not dead anymore, so why not be happy?”

“You have to confirm your suspicion first.”

“It’s sure as confirmed.”

“Then why couldn’t you confront Yvonne?”

Wallace shrugged, returning to his serious manner. “I don’t know.”

They stayed silent until Angela arrived. It was like an unsaid thing that she usually meets them there. And today, they did not include Yvonne on purpose. It would be too ironic to.

“Waited long?” Angela asked, looking from her brother to Wallace.

“Just an hour,” Wallace lied.

Nic hit Wallace on the shoulder–hard, like a mega-power punch–while Angela gave him the semi-disapproval look.

“Thanks. Now I know why you two are siblings.”

“Yvonne coming?” Angela asked, undoing her scarf from her neck and placing it next to her duffel bag.

Wallace shook his head. “We’re going to talk behind her back now so no need to include her.”

Angela gave him the glare again. But this time, Nic jumped in to confirm Wallace’s words.

“Like seriously?” Angela asked again, still not believing them. “Gossip time, huh?”

“No,” Nic said, though he didn’t sound so convincing.

Angela wrinkled her face then. She recognized the troubled expression on her brother’s face. “What? Something happened at work? Something happened to someone we know? Like Yvonne’s involved in some kind of case or whatever she calls it and it involves someone we know?” Angela knew she was grasping at straws yet she couldn’t help panicking. “Come on, you guys!”

Nic turned to look at Wallace. “Are we really going to include her?”

“Guys!” Angela jumped in again, grabbing onto her brothers’ hands and shaking them. “What are you hiding from me?”

“Calm down,” Wallace spoke up finally. He scanned the diner real quick, just to make sure no one was within earshot. Or at least no one they know. “I think…” He reached toward his face and started rubbing the area between his nose and mouth with the back of his index finger, like he was reconsidering things.

“What?” Angela urged, on the brink of hysterical if they didn’t increase their pace. She knew for a fact that Wallace never stuttered, never, not even the day Tammy died. But now? The stranger thing was seeing how her brother didn’t take the opportunity to tease Wallace about it either. This was serious. Dead serious.

“Tammy’s alive,” Nic took over for Wallace, seeing that Wallace wasn’t speeding things up anytime soon–and that he wanted to relieve his sister of the wait.

“What?” This was not the confused reaction but the shocked one. She looked from her brother to Wallace and back. “You got to be kidding, right? It’s not funny.”

“I saw her with my own eyes,” Wallace finally said.

“But how…?”

Wallace cleared his throat briefly and let out a sigh. Another scan around the diner and he was ready to tell his tale. Angela looked impatient, worried, and confused rolled into one while she was listening yet she did not interrupt. She looked at her brother from time to time, wondering if he’d been in on it as well. Not the one where he actually believed Wallace’s words but the one with the whole staged death–if that was the case as to how Wallace had put it.

“So there,” Wallace said, letting out a sigh of relief instead of the heavy, fatigued one–because he had told it all to her. It was like he did not have to repeat his tale to another person.

“But why would she stage her death–if that’s what’s going on?” Angela asked after Wallace reached for his tea.

Wallace shrugged. “That’s for us to find out.”

“So Yvonne knew all this time and she was just pretending to be sad and all?”

Both guys could see the fury in Angela’s eyes. It was her strong sense of righteousness reflecting on her face, like she needed to right some wrongs really fast–and this was one of those injustices that she needed to take charge of.

“I think she was sad for real…” Nic volunteered the answer.

“How could you be so sure? You only know her for a while. We only know her for a short period of time, remember?”

Nic shrugged, somewhat getting unnerved by his sister’s aggressive mode.

“What are we supposed to do now?” That was a sign that she was in for their plan.

“You’re in?” Wallace asked, surprised that she’d agreed.

“I’ve been deceived too, you know.”

Wallace smiled, almost forgetting that she was more than capable of inflicting pain toward her enemy. Suddenly, he was forced to remember the time she had slapped Sylvie because Sylvie had slapped him when he was off guard. Then his mind traveled back to ponder why it had never worked out between them. Yet he had to shake his head to clear of the thoughts. It was over and done with. The better to end it than make it even more complicated, causing more grief for her. He cleared his throat–as if needed to since Angela was still looking at him, waiting for him to continue–or more like issuing out some orders so they could proceed with their plan.

“I hope you’re not going to slap her when the truth comes out.”

“The truth is already out. We just need to prove it.”

Wallace smiled. “Fair enough.”

“What do we do now then?”

“I’ll stalk Yvonne, you guys search for other evidence.”

“You’re going to stalk Yvonne?”

“I know her better than you two.”

“Just a little less now,” Nic chimed in. Yes, Nic was helping Wallace but it did not mean he would behave.

“Thanks, Old Nic,” Wallace returned, his sarcasm surging high. “And while you guys are at it…” He leaned in closer to the center of the table and forced the other two to do the same.

It was like he needed to ensure the information from leaking out–regardless. Ever heard the old phrase about walls having ears?

© Saturday, July 2nd, 2011

Posted: Saturday, March 24th, 2012

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