Joshua Lords was hard at work, investigating the disappearance of Skylar Randall. The agency cleared his entire caseload so he could devote all of his efforts to the investigation, but this wasn’t the type of case Joshua could leave at the office when his shift was done. Sometimes he couldn’t even sleep a full night anymore.
Clara had been able to acquire dozens of old hard drives from her workplace, AzureCom Industries. The hard drives were dumped in the basement and intended for eventual destruction, but Joshua and Clara filled them with all the files associated with Skylar Randall that they could get from hacking the Intelligence Database.
Their office was beginning to look like an episode of the reality television show “Techno-Hoarders,” but Joshua worried the data could be lost if he didn’t secure it immediately. The agency had a broad spectrum approach to data collection, but lacked the capability to efficiently sort relevant information from all the bits of useless details that make up the day to day lives of ordinary people, let alone distinguish the ordinary people from potential suspects.
It was up to Joshua to sort through all the information that had been gathered about Skylar Randall. Clara’s contribution to the investigation was concluded after they copied all the data, and Joshua insisted that she rest as much as possible. He forced himself to get up two hours earlier than usual every day, to carefully review Skylar’s record.
That morning, Joshua was going through the internet activities associated with Skylar’s accounts in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. “If it was anyone else,” he thought, “I’d just give up and go back to bed with my wife!”
He pushed himself to continue until he read an email that Skylar had sent to the man she was having an affair with. The email was meaningless in its words, but beyond that, it meant all the pain and unanswered questions of a broken family, and Joshua couldn’t fix that. He reminded himself, “I can’t think about that stuff while I’m searching for her!”
Those emotions were a clear sign that he needed to quit looking at the data for a few hours though. He decided to get a little fresh air, and see if there was anything more he could learn about the odd vacant house across the street.
He walked around the neighborhood briefly, and spotted a prominent socialite from Willow Creek. “Hello Bethany,” Joshua greeted the woman politely.
Bethany Riese gave him a look that clearly indicated she had no interest in speaking with him, but Joshua ignored it. “I know you’re very popular among the ladies in Willow Creek,” he said politely.
“Yes, this is true,” she agreed, while continuing to glare at him.
“Well… I’m investigating the disappearance of Skylar Randall,” Joshua explained. “I was wondering if you may have heard something?”
“Heard something?!” Bethany snapped unexpectedly. “What makes you think I heard something?”
“I only ask because you are so popular, Bethany.”
“Liar! You ask because you know I hear voices all the time,” she ranted and began talking in an exaggerated, child-like voice. “Oh, crazy woman hears crazy stuff, blah blah bla-bla-blab.”
“No really,” Joshua tried to convince her that he meant no disrespect.
She kept up her babbling and mocking, talking over Joshua as he tried to apologize, and then he heard her say, “Crazy woman sees moustache man go into fancy house.”
“What was that, Bethany?” he interrupted her desperately. “Did you see someone go into the Randall house?”
“What are you talking about? Leave me alone! You have an ugly nose,” Bethany responded and then walked away.
Joshua let the poor woman go, but she definitely saw something, and now he at least had a partial description of a potential suspect. It was far from a breakthrough, but it was enough to get him fired up again, and focussed on finding the victim instead of reading about the mistakes he wished she’d never made.
Joshua returned home and cooked breakfast for himself and Clara. Upstairs, he heard their daughter, Maribeth, cry for her mother, followed by Clara’s soft footsteps entering the baby’s room. That made him pause and he said out loud, “Watcher, I thank you for all that you’ve given me. Please keep my family safe, and never let them pass from your sight!”
He ate alone, but it gave him time to clear his head. At last, Clara came into the room and was impressed to see the meal and fresh coffee prepared for her.
“Oh, Sweetness!” she cooed. “Thank you for cooking for me!”
“It’s my pleasure,” he replied. He couldn’t help but add, “Wow, Clara, it looks like you’re having twins or something!”
Clara giggled as she sat down. “I know, I’m massive! But it’s not twins.” She rubbed her aching back and explained, “I’m sure he or she is just an athlete or something, and needs lots of room.”
“That could be,” Joshua agreed. “Or it could be twins. It possibly runs in my family, since I’m a twin.”
Clara ignored the latest detail about Joshua’s missing brother and wondered, “Do you really think the Watcher would bless us with twins?”
“The Watcher has been so generous already, but we’ll find out today–wont we?” he reminded her.
“Oh yes, today I get to go to outer space! How could I forget?” Clara sounded obviously nervous about the journey.
“I understand why you’d be nervous about it,” Joshua sympathized with his wife, “but I want you to know it’s safe and the trip is very comfortable. You can relax and take it easy.”
“We wont get all tossed around without gravity?” Clara questioned, imagining herself flailing around awkwardly in Zero G with her huge belly, crashing into everything in the space ship.
“Nope,” he told her. “They actually have simulated gravity, just like in the Tube. It’ll feel pretty much like that, except you’ll feel upward motion instead of forward or sideways.”
“Well, that’s a relief,” she sighed.
“And of course, I’ll be right there with you the whole time,” Joshua added.
Clara laughed nervously. “I thought that went without saying…”
“Yes, of course! I just meant I don’t have to work at the office today. I made arrangements for everything, so as soon as it’s time, we just call in our shuttle and go.” He decided to use a distraction tactic and added, “Oh that reminds me, when I scheduled our shuttle, they gave us a beautiful print as a keepsake. I hung it in our room–I think you’ll love it.”
“Not as much as I love you,” Clara flirted sweetly. “I really do appreciate you taking such good care of us.”
Joshua stood up and kissed Clara on the forehead. He whispered sweet words in her ear and then said, “I have to get back to work now though, I’ve got a lead to run down.”
He headed toward the stairs, and got a weird feeling when he passed by the mirror. “I wonder what Justice looks like these days,” he thought, and continued on.
Clara watched him and noticed his moment by the mirror. She thought he looked exhausted, and figured he might have seen the same. “I hope he can nap before the baby comes,” she thought as she finished eating her breakfast.
She cleaned up the kitchen and went upstairs to cuddle with Maribeth. “How’s my little angel? Today we’re going for an amazing adventure…”
Clara picked up her daughter and promised, “Daddy made everything ready and we’re going to take a trip to the stars! Well, not that far… just to the Space Station, where we’ve never had a chance to hack before!”