They arrived at the designated location the next morning. It was before sunrise. Yvonne had calmed down already and was back to her strong self. She called Rick up while the others were standing by waiting. Soon, she led the way up to Rick’s room.

“Hey,” Rick greeted them with a smile. Yet his smile faded when he spotted Nic and Angela. “Who are these people?”

“They wanted to come with us and I couldn’t stop them,” Yvonne explained.

“Let’s close the door before we talk,” Amber said, gesturing toward the half ajar door.

Rick nodded and gave way for the rest of them to pile in.

“Okay, here’s the deal,” Rick said when they settled down on some furniture already. “I managed to narrow the list of possible suspects.”

“Who won the grand prize then?” Amber asked, her smile suggested she was joking.

“From one of the old cases,” Rick answered. “You don’t know, Kid.”

“Who then?” Wallace asked, suddenly anxious again.

Rick let out a smile. “Tammy’s ex-husband seems high on the list.”

Nic and Angela couldn’t help but look at Wallace–to see if he’d remembered any of that detail. It seemed like he hadn’t recovered that bit yet.

“I don’t think it’s him,” Yvonne spoke up, shooting Rick down. “This is bigger than some sore ex-husband. He’s targeting every one of us.”

Rick’s teasing smile faded then. “What? What happened?”

“There was some intruder at my place. Then Wallace’s shop just got blown up.”

“Our shop,” Wallace corrected Yvonne. “Nic’s part owner too.”

“There’s no time for technicalities here,” Rick interfered. “If he’s targeting all of us and I’m apparently quite lucky, that would mean it’s either me or that person’s going to get me soon.”

Yvonne shook her head. “I don’t know, but the address book at my house is gone. That might be how they got to the shop.”

“So somehow that dude just managed to plant a bomb there without us knowing and we could’ve triggered it anytime by exiting through the back door?” Nic asked, gesturing his hands–still not believing it.

Yes, Wallace had called Nic back earlier when they were on the way here and disclosed some more details of the explosion and how he’d managed to jump out of there in time.

Rick looked like he was thinking over what Nic just rattled out in a jumble before nodding. “Yeah.”

“Stop talking nonsense already,” Wallace interrupted them. “Now, how do we save Tammy? Where is she at? She still in New York somewhere and got captured or…”

Yvonne shook her head. “We were back here already but she was in the process of getting relocated to the new place before it happened.”

“When you were gone to get Wallace, I got this far,” Rick jumped in again. “Here, this could be it.”

Rick had laid out a map in the middle of the table for them to see. The others scurried around to check it out.

“How about we divide up to search for her?” Angela asked, having seen more red flags on the map than she expected, thinking Rick had narrowed it down to at most three choices only.

Rick shook his head. “No way, more risk of getting blown up. I already contacted one of the contacts to spread the words to narrow it down even more. We have to wait for their words.”

“Then what are we doing here then? Gawking at the scenery and worry?”

“You didn’t have to come, you know,” Amber sabotaged again.

Nic had stopped trying to figure Amber out on the way here. He wanted to focus on trying to help with the Tammy situation. But now? He couldn’t help pondering why she was so different from the person he’d first met. And he still refused to believe she was so manipulative like the rest of this agency. Even Rick seemed too suspicious, talking in codes and all.

“Ge,” Angela called out with much injustice. She had grabbed onto Nic’s arm. “Why are you letting her bully me?”

Nic didn’t know why. But upon seeing Angela’s expression, he turned to Amber.

“Like I’m wrong,” Amber attacked before Nic could start.

“Come on, Amber,” Yvonne said, getting up from her spot and tugging on Amber’s arm. “Let’s go rest first. We haven’t slept all night.”

Rick, as if reminded by Yvonne’s words, got up from his place. “Good news, I booked some rooms already. But some of you will have to share rooms. Like one of you guys stay here with me. And it doesn’t matter if you two don’t seem to get along, Kid, go with her.” Rick meant Angela and Amber will have to share a room. “Wallace, yours and Yvonne’s room is next door.”

“What?” Angela exclaimed in disbelief.

It was hard to blame Angela for her outburst. She couldn’t believe that even this Rick guy was siding with Yvonne and allowing Wallace to sink deeper into the infidelity well.

“I’m going to share the room with Amber,” Yvonne said quickly before Rick could say anything. “Wallace and Nic could stay here with you. Angela can take the last room.”

Rick didn’t respond but just looked at Wallace. It was like he didn’t want to acknowledge some information that was given to him previously. “He still doesn’t remember?”

Yvonne shook her head and dragged a very reluctant Amber out the door.

“Wait, why are you wearing Tammy’s wedding ring?” Angela blurted out as Yvonne and Amber passed her by.

That was when Wallace realized Yvonne had been wearing a ring. Not just any ring, but it was the one Tammy had wore in the old wedding photo–and then later when he had unknowingly gotten married to her again.

“It’s Yvonne’s ring,” Amber said, giving Angela another evil glare. “She lent it to Tammy, okay? Drop it.”

“What?” Rick asked this time, his turn to be confused.

“She saw the old wedding photos from seven years ago,” Yvonne clarified before dragging Amber out of the room altogether.

Rick had on a smile then. “Oh, that one.”

Just like that, Angela was not only confused but her anger had cranked up several more notches. She turned to Rick since the other two girls were already gone. “What in the world is wrong with you people? Trying to protect the other woman?”

Rick had on a confused look. “What are you talking about?”

“Wallace and Yvonne…” Angela gritted. “They…”

Rick relaxed then. It seemed like he thought it was no biggie. “Come on now, he doesn’t remember, but we remember, okay? Wallace and Yvonne belong together in our book, okay?”

Angela’s face couldn’t get any more wrinkled than before. “What?”

“They grew up together and almost got married if it wasn’t for the agency’s recruitment. After that? Things happened. But we’re back on track now. It will be a matter of time before he remembers her.”

“It doesn’t make a difference to you that Yvonne’s going to separate Wallace and Tammy?”

Rick had on the confused look again. “What? You got it backward, girl. Tammy was the one who got in between Wallace and Yvonne. But she could never replace the spot in Wallace’s heart if she tries.”

Angela’s face was so scrunched up with confusion that it was harder and harder to believe. “What? So to you, just because someone knows someone first, they should end up together? Not even acknowledging that someone else had already moved on and that you shouldn’t interfere with their lives by encouraging unfaithful behaviors.”

Rick was back to being confused but he glimpsed at his watch real quick. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but we’re wasting time here. Get some sleep, we’re moving tonight.”

Rick turned to Wallace after Angela stormed off–with Nic rushing after her to make sure she wasn’t going anywhere dangerous. “Now I believe Yvonne that you’re still in the not knowing. Because if you remember, you wouldn’t bring senseless people to the operation.”

Wallace was still numbed and confused and numbed and confused. It was just too much. So he and Yvonne grew up together? And almost got married? Was that why Yvonne was so unwilling to let go hence even sinking herself so low as to indulge in such unfaithful acts with him? He couldn’t believe–even if Rick had said everything with a straight face. Yet if it was true, he didn’t like his past self so much. How could he allow himself to leave Yvonne just like that and chase after Tammy? Then after he was successful in winning Tammy’s heart, he broke her trust by going behind her back with Yvonne. Or was his past self so greedy that he didn’t want to let go of either girl so…

Seeing that Wallace was in no shape to talk, Rick decided to let Wallace off. Or he looked like it. “Fine, go rest. We’ll talk later when we’re done figuring out who took Tammy and all.”

*****

That night, like Rick promised, they set off to another destination. Rick didn’t say where but he joined Wallace and Yvonne in their car instead of going with the other three. He had taken Amber aside to whisper something into her ears beforehand so it seemed like he was giving her directions. Although Amber and Angela were still at odds, it was strange that Amber didn’t volunteer to switch with Rick. Nic, on the other hand, gave up on figuring out the girls altogether. He wanted to put it off a little more, knowing he should worry about Tammy’s well being and see how he could help when they got there.

“Where are we going exactly?” Angela interrogated somewhere along the way.

“You’ll know when we get there,” Amber answered, her attitude still passive.

“I could see that you’re just like a machine like the rest of them,” Angela attacked, changing tactic and hoping she could get to Amber thus causing Amber to blab out the answer to her.

Amber wasn’t offended by Angela’s words though. She turned on her intimidating smile instead. “Just because I’m able to stay calm and not let you get through doesn’t mean I’m a programmed machine. At least I’m not operating on some twisted morality that forced those who loved each other to be apart.”

“Huh,” Angela retorted. “Now who’s the one operating on twisted morality?”

“Girls, please,” Nic said, at last, not being able to take it anymore.

“Your sister initiated it,” Amber pointed out, giving Nic a side glance, not backing down or threatened by his attempt to break up the argument at all.

“And I don’t know why I even congratulated you in the first place,” Angela snapped. “Seems like you just got brushed with major bad luck.”

“Angela, it’s not really time,” Nic interfered, knowing his sister was bringing up another awkward subject, especially in his direction.

“What?” Amber asked, turning slightly to look at Angela. Then she seemed to get it–mostly because Nic’s discomfort vibe was hard to miss. “Oh, you meant your brother and I? Don’t worry, he won’t be harmed in any way.”

Angela scoffed. “He’s already involved in this madness, can you guarantee?”

It was Amber’s turn to feel amused. “May I refresh your mind that you were the one who wanted to tag along? Though Nic didn’t say anything, would he had let you go without coming along as well?”

It was then that Nic understood why he was thrown into this turmoil yet he didn’t even volunteer to go. He wasn’t having mixed feelings toward Amber’s instability anymore. But he realized she was thinking from his point of view. And somehow, she had thought ten steps ahead before him. Like how Angela wouldn’t dismiss the whole idea of coming with Wallace so easily. That also meant he, Nic, would have to come along.

“Thank you,” Nic suddenly said to Amber–before he could stop himself.

Amber also understood that those words were for her so she turned to face front again, even sending him a smile. A rare gentle smile since last night when he discovered her secret identity.

“What are you thanking her for?” Angela asked, feeling disgusted.

“She’s right,” Nic clarified, knowing Angela was too upset to figure it out on her own. “Would you have let Wallace go like that?”

Angela scowled into the mirror, making sure Nic got the message. “How could I let him go alone with these people? And why are you siding with her?”

“She has a point,” Nic said. “And I’m not just saying that.”

“Just because she went on several dates with you, you let her bully me?”

“Sis, calm down. You’re not thinking straight.”

“If you’re still sore about Wallace, then forget it,” Amber interrupted the siblings’ feud. She turned around slightly to look at Angela again. “There’s a longer line ahead before you came into the picture. And you still don’t know everything about it so you shouldn’t assume so fast about who’s right or wrong.”

Angela wasn’t about to give up on her principles. She stared right back at Amber, not showing any trace of fear. “At least, we know right now that Wallace’s married to Tammy. He told us he remembered that part. I don’t think he could forget his wife just like that. So you could stop your tricks. In fact, you and that Rick. And even Yvonne.” Angela let out another disgusted shiver. “I can’t believe I let her trick me into thinking she’s…a friend.”

Amber had on another amused smile. “He was hypnotized; he didn’t remember what he thought he remembered.”

“But when those silly girls said the word ‘elixir’, he seemed to have broken out of a trance. That meant that he’s no longer in control. It’s up to the matter of time before he remembers everything, and then he would put a stop to all your silliness.”

Amber’s intimidating smirk was still on. “You think you know everything, don’t you?” Amber paused a little before continuing. “But you’re right about one thing, he’s going to remember soon. And that’s the day when you will have to apologize to me.”

Angela scoffed again, crossing her hands. “Sure, I’m counting on it.”

Amber didn’t care to attack anymore. She turned to face front again, leaving Angela still seething inside. Yet the person Angela was even madder at was her brother, who had failed to defend her since yesterday’s madness.

© Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Posted: Sunday, July 7th, 2013

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