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“Can you keep a secret?” Jessica asked, rocking in a chair with a book in her hands.

She sat in a bedroom. Her back was to a wall of shelves and a built-in desk. A turned-off light with a ceiling fan whirled some of the Nevadan summer heat away. The morning sun cast shadows of the semi-opened curtains on the carpet floor.

“It matters,” Steven answered. He laid on the bed with his head at the foot. A book of his own was leaning against the footboard.

“What kind of answer is that?” She jumped to the edge of the chair.

“It means what it means.” He sat up. “If you want to tell me you’ve secretly wanted to destroy those window treatments, then I can keep that and agree with you. But if you tell me you're doing drugs or plan to harm someone or yourself, then no, I can't. And if you tell me you finished off my ice cream again, I will not resist the childish urge to proclaim as loud as I can that you are an ice cream thief!”

“I haven’t eaten your ice cream. Not recently.” She leaned back, bringing a copy of Pride and Prejudice to close to her chest. “I think I’m serious about Rylee.”

He irked as if punched in the gut. “I don't know what to do.”

“What does that mean?” she cried.

“I'll keep your secret, but you shouldn't.”

“What are you reading?!”

“The Da Vinci Code.”

“No wonder you’re talking nonsense. Let’s go get some ice cream.”

“Therein lies the problem, I doubt there’s even a bowlful left in the fridge.”

She stared at him, with a frown tugged at the corners of her mouth.

“Rylee’s last case was hard on both of us.”

“Then, there’s no better reason to go get s’ more.”

He put his book flat on the bed against its pages. “Okay… you didn’t move my bookmark in that, did you?” he asked, gesturing to the book she sat on the rocking chair.

“Come on, let’s go before your brother gets back.”

A man ran down Main street. He crossed in the middle, not caring about the traffic. A few cars cut him off from the people chasing him. 

In his lead, he ducked into a shop. He stuck tight to the wall by the door as the men ran past. With a breath, he looked around. He was in a small market. 

The shop owner was behind the counter, reading a newspaper. Above his Nevada State cap was a radio on a shelf, playing soft jazz. 

The man moved from the door. A squeak came from the floorboards. 

“Howdy,” the shop owner said.

“Howdy?”

Without looking up from his paper, he said, “There’s a sale on canned foods.”

“Thanks?”

He walked to the back of the shop. He opened a box of Ziploc bags. Fishing something out of his pocket, he shoved it in a bag. After surveilling the room, he dashed to the first freezer, pulled out the first thing he saw. He hid the rolled-up bag in and put it back. 

Walking back to the counter, he picked up something randomly and placed it on the counter. 

“Is that all you want?”

He looked for the first time what he grabbed. A small box of frosted animal crackers. “Yep.”

“A buck fifty.” 

He looks through his wallet. The smallest thing he had was a twenty. 

The shop owner stared at him. He snapped up the bill, with a huff. “What a receipt?”

“No thanks,” he said, taking his change and his crackers.

On the man’s way out, Jessica ran into him. “Excuse me.”

“My fault, Miss,” he said, waiting for the two of them to pass.

Making his escape, he rounded the corner of the building. He immediately was thrust into the building’s wooden siding. “Where is it, Washington?”

“Howdy, Jed,” Steven said.

“Hey, kids!” He put his newspaper on the counter. “How ya doin’?”

“Not bad. Just in for more ice cream,” Steven said heading back to the freezers.

“You know I have more than that. Though I did just sell out of animal crackers.”

“Even the frosted ones?” Jessica asked, coming up to the counter.

“Yeah, that weird gentleman.”

“His fault indeed.”

“Sprinkles?” Steven called out.

“How old do you think I am?” She sniped.

“I'm taking that as a yes.”

A smile crept across her face. “Good.”

Steven bumped into her arm as he dropped his cargo. The rainbow sprinkles nearly rolled off. With everything sturdy, he went over everything: sprinkles, waffle cone bowls, caramel, and - most importantly - their trail mix ice cream.

“How's Tod doing at State?” Steven asked.

"He loves it there. His teaching classes are going well. And he asked if he could bring a friend over for Sunday brunch.”

“Exciting. How much do we owe you?” Jessica asked, taking out her wallet.

“Rylee overpaid his tab last month. It takes care of it.” He packed their groceries.

“Thanks, Jed. What's the news look like today?”

“Rain later. The Wolves lost again. Your boyfriend's latest case on page two. Awful picture though.”

“See you later, Jed!” They said.

“Bye kids.” He went back to his newspaper.

When they walked through the door, they heard Rylee yelling in the dining room. They V-lined for the kitchen. Grabbing the old container, Steven prepared their bowls at the breakfast nook.

They ate, trying to tune out Rylee. His voice carried through the whole house. Even over the radio on the nook table. 

The whole street knew when his phone call ended. There was a ringing quiet though noises played on. 

Rylee burst through the accordion doors between the dining room and kitchen. His cheeks were red. He didn’t say a word as he took the seat next to Jessica. 

“What was that about?” she asked, pecking him on the cheek.

“Montgomery just canceled my vacation.” He wiped his hand over his face.

“Isn’t he the one that ordered you to take after our last case,” Steven asked.

“Apparently dealing with a P.I. is more important.” 

Rylee picked up an ice cream bowl.

“I thought you didn't like our ice cream,” she teased.

“Right now, I'll take anything,” he shot back as the doorbell rang. “I'll get that.”

He went out the side door to the foyer. A silhouette skimmed across the shade covering the window next to the door. The doorbell rang again.

“I'm comin'. I'm comin',” he exclaimed. Between his phone call and a third ring, he opened the door with his usual peek through the peephole. "Yes?" He hissed.

“Excuse me,” the man from the store said as if he didn't expect Rylee to be the one to open the door. “I'm looking for two kids. Teenagers. A boy and a girl.”

Jessica and Steven leaned in the kitchen doorway as Rylee asked him who he was. “Ryan Washington,” the man announced, pulling out his wallet, “P.I.”

“Of course you are-” he opened the door farther - “Agent Rylee Ross, come on in.”

Jessica and Steven scurried back to their seats.

“Your Director told me about you.”

“Yeah, he does that. Now, why are you looking for these two?”

“I thought I followed them here,” he explained, as Rylee escorted him to the kitchen. “They're in a smidge of trouble-.”

Ryan's eyes were wide when Rylee started gesturing. “Ryan, this is my little brother, Steven, and my girlfriend, Jessica. Now, should I thank you now or later for putting them at risk?”

He stood up straight, making himself bigger. “Why do you think I-.”

“I know they can get into trouble. And they usually don't need any help. But they’re never a smidge in trouble. They go big or go home.”

“Okay, some group followed me from Carson and saw me bump into… Jessica was it? And they think I hid evidence in her possession.”

“Did you?” Rylee asked, crossing his balling fist.

“Did you?” Jessica asked. Her hands bolted to her lap jean pockets.

“No, I hid it in that rinky-dink grocery store of yours.”

“I’m glad I’m not the only one that says rinky-dink,” Steven chimed, with a giggle.

They looked at him. His smile faded into a cocky panicked smile. “I said that out loud, didn’t I?”

Jessica nodded and Rylee leaned over the table. “I think that’s enough ice cream for you.” He stepped on the trash can pedal and dropped in the ozzy ice cream and the bit soggy bowl. 

"Why don't we talk in the dining room. The sooner we get this over the better."

Rylee sat at the head of the table with his back to a wall of windows, facing the living room. His shadow engulfed half of the table.

Ryan sat to his right, a seat away. 

“Which one of my cases do you think is connected to your’s?” Rylee asked as Steven and Jessica rounded the table on his right to a stand-alone bookcase.

“Teagan bank robberies.”

Steven pulled out a large book and placed it on the table. When he opened it, he revealed a hollowed-out book. He started flipping through the packet he retrieved. “Teagan bank robberies, 2003, 16 branches in Clark county were robbed Hollywood style before the first or third of the month. After the 13th, they hit an Octagon file truck and we were thrown on the case with the FBI.”

“Why do you think your case is connected to one solved four years ago?”

“Excuse me one sec-” he ran his hand across the table and pointed at Steven- “you said we.”

“Yes,” Steven enunciated, nodding his head. 

“Montgomery didn’t explain. He does that,” Rylee exhaled. “Steven’s my partner. For the last two years since my last one retired.”

“Wait, how old are you?”

“17,” Steven answered. After Ryan laughed a bit, Steven straightened and crossed his arms. “I have a bachelor's degree and I’m a Princeton student free ride. I’ve been a consultant since I was 11 and an intern since I was 15.”

Getting his smile slapped from his face, Ryan shifted towards Jessica. “And you are.”

“19, but I’m just along for the ride.”

“Jess was a witness to one of my cases last year. She stayed around for Steven’s book collection and to complete our Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys mysteries,” Rylee added. “Now that that’s over can you get on with this.”

“I was hired by Teagan bank last month after the second robbery in Carson. I found the original case files and surveillance video to find that they were the exact same robberies.”

“That might be enough for Mongomery, but not for me. They are such things as copycats. The Teagan robberies were plastered all over the TV for three years and on the anniversary of the court case.”

“When I say exact, I mean exact, and I mean even the things that were left out of the media.”

Rylee gave an eye roll.

“Only six of the seven original crew were caught in Las Vegas,” Steven added.

“I’ll believe it when I see your so-called evidence.”

“This will go by faster if we work together.”

“How about a ride to Jed’s. It’s faster than walking."

"I guess that will do, " Ryan said under his breath as he got up.

Walking half to the door, Rylee turned. "You two stay put."

"We're not dogs, Rylee!" Steven said.

"Just stay here, Steven, and don't answer the door."

"Come on, Steven, you owe me a rematch."

He crossed his arm. "Fine."

"Thank you.” He leaned their way before leaving.

Walking down the path away from the house, Ryan asked, “Is it always like that?”

“Let's get one thing straight. You turned my first vacation in months into a four-year-old rerun.

After the door closed and Steven heard Rylee’s Jeep clunk over the speed bump near their house, he went back into the kitchen. 

“Where do you think you’re goin’?” Jessica called after him.

“Gettin’ a new bowl of ice cream. I barely had any,” he said pulling the ice cream box out of the freezer.

“Not too much,” she pulled the stepladder chair in front of the fridge and jimmied the lock to open the cupboard,  “you heard Rylee.”

“And you know what Rylee says about eating those sweets.”

“And we both know neither of us will tell him.” She cared down two candy bars: a value-size Hershey for Steven and a regular Milkyway for her.

“Bribery…” he spat. “I’ll take it.”

He started dishing out his ice cream again. However, he soon stopped. “What’s this?” he said, holding up a ziplock bag.

Jessica took the bag and opened it. A USB drive fell into her hand. “It must be Ryan’s evidence.”

“Let me get my laptop,” he said, running out of the room.

“I’ll call Rylee.” She stood and picked up the landline on the near-by counter.

As Steven walked back from his room, he noticed the front door was ajar. He placed his computer on the dining table. “Jessie?” His teeth chattered a bit.

Two gloved-hands reached around him. One to stop him from saying anymore and another hoisted him off his feet.

Jessica was waiting for the dial to go through. “Yeah, Steven!”

After a second, she called out again. She turned and dropped the phone. “Who are you?” she stuttered to the man in black.

He only walked closer to her. The only part of him showing were his eyes and red circles from what looked like binoculars.  

She bumped into the table as she backed up. The table flipped with all of its contents spreading out on the floor.

Rylee’s voice rang out from the phone. “Jess, you still there? Jessica!”

A gloved hand put it back on the hook. It swept down towards the floor.

Jessica was sprawled out on the tile. Her hair laid in every direction. Being lifted from the ground, she groaned but didn’t wake up. 

With her in his arms, the man walked into the foyer where the other man stood with Steven over his shoulder. “Our secret’s save, now.” 

With all of their neighbors at work, They walked to their van, with ease. Two men sat in the front and another set opened the sliding door.

The only thing left of their van when Rylee and Ryan got back to the house were tire tracks. 

August 21, 2020 23:46

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1 comment

Kira Krieger
01:16 Aug 29, 2020

I used this prompt to start the story of Agent Rylee Ross and Steven getting thrown into a new case. With the help of a P.I., the Ross brothers and Rylee's girlfriend, Jessica, are tossed into the deep end.

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