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Secret Triplets

By:Holly Rayner

0s range. So, I printed out the list, picked up my blue ink pen, put on my best telemarketer voice, and began calling.

My premise was simple and involved a bit of white lying and a lot of being hung up on, but at this point, what did I have to lose?

“Hello there. I’m calling from ScarTronic, a new scar skin care cream, and we wanted to offer you a free trial. Could I get some information about you first?”

And so my scar-cream selling, tracking-down-Brock-Anderson campaign began.

For some of the Brock Andersons I called, it only took a few words for me to determine that I was talking to the wrong Brock: their voices had 50 years of smoking in them or the drawl of a bored teen. These I escaped with a quick “sorry, wrong number!” before I even made my scar pitch. For others, however, ruling them out took a bit more sleuthing, like asking questions about current and former professions and scar location.

And so I slogged through the list, through Brock Anderson after Brock Anderson, old and young, in their 30s and 80s, who had “no scars” or “one birthmark on my butt,” who was “born and raised a farmer and will die one” or who was on welfare but just for the “past coupla years, is all.”

When one Brock Anderson admitted to being a former marine with a scar on his eyebrow, and I was all but ready to go over and meet him before he admitted that he was actually an old woman with a young man’s voice who had an uncanny psychic ability and had taken advantage of my miscall. She had lied because she was lonely and wanted someone to talk to. I agreed to meet Ms. Mabel, which was her real name, for coffee next week before hanging up with dismay.

My list was now a series of crossed-out entries. I had gone through every last Brock Anderson. There were none left. Meanwhile, the clock had sped ahead without my even noticing. It was now 10 p.m. It smiled at my shock while my belly groaned.

I got out my phone and immediately found myself ordering pizza. I told the pizza boy, who sounded like it was his first day, that I wanted a medium pepperoni, hung up, and then got to work.

Now that I had scoped out all I could about this so-called Brock Anderson online, I moved on to the only other lead I had on him: Russell Snow. My creepy client probably hadn’t counted on me searching him out too, but if his name was as fake as I thought, I probably wouldn’t find anything anyway. Searching “Russell Snow” turned up 36,000 hits, notably a lot of business professionals and even more pictures of snow plows in every color of the rainbow. By the time my phone rang, I had just typed in “Russell Snow Boulder.”

Although I told the pizza boy on the other end that I’d be right down, I couldn’t help but click the search button before I dashed off. The boy at the door was as expected: a stammering, pimple-faced, mustache-attempting teen who held my delicious Pizza Nova medium extra-cheese pepperoni pie in shaky, disproportionately large hands.

I accepted the box, handed him the cash with a kind smile, and ran up the steps two-at-a-time, though it wasn’t just my stomach that was eager to return to the office. It was my mind too, which internally sighed at the computer screen that awaited me: no results found.

As my mouth devoured pizza slice after pizza slice, my gaze stayed on the disappointing screen. Meanwhile, my mind hardly noticed the cheesy goodness entering my mouth.

The realization was literally staring me in the face. Russell Snow was not as he seemed, and this job was looking to be my most difficult yet.

It looked like I had gotten what I’d wished for: a job, though what a job it was.





Chapter Three





I woke up to red. Red, oozing liquid that smeared as I jerked away in horror, my low moan becoming a sad laugh.

Pizza sauce. I had actually fallen asleep on top of my pizza.

I put my fingers to my cheek, and they came away with red and white goo. Clearly, I had gotten a nice sleep mask of pizza.

I staggered out the door and down the hallway to the bathroom, where I cleaned off my dismal-looking face, and then stumbled back to my office and into my computer chair.

My cell phone screen displayed some worried messages from my friend Tiffany (hey! how are things??) and my mom (Haven’t heard from you. How are you?). The latest text I stared at for a good minute, trying to collect my thoughts. How was I, really?

My gaze flicked back to my now-blank-screened computer. It was a good summary of what all my harried searching last night had produced: nothing. From the scant information that ‘Russell’ guy had given me, I’d gotten nothing, and now I had nothing more to go on.

I switched back to Tiffany’s message and suddenly knew exactly what to do.

Kyle picked up on the first ring. After all, he was a good friend. He had to be, since he was married to my best friend.

“Alex, it’s early. How are you?”

The smirking clock read 7 a.m. Whoops.

“Ha, yeah, but I’m glad you’re up,” I said. “I’m okay. Finally got a client, but this one’s a real head-scratcher. Could you run a search for me?”

“Yeah, sure. But, Alex?”

“Yeah?”

“Have you thought about what Tiffany said?”

“Yeah, I…” My voice trailed off as my gaze did too, settling on the art print Tiffany had gotten me a few weeks ago.

It was on my wall. Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. It was as big as the original, bigger than my windows, but not too big. It was just big enough to suck me into the subject’s soulless stare, her somber-painted dissatisfaction.

“Come on, Combs, you love art, you love me—this is perfect!” Tiffany had declared when she’d given it to me, along with the job offer to work at her gallery.

And she had been right, almost. I did love art, and she was my best friend in the world, and yet her job offer wasn’t perfect. Any job where I wasn’t a private investigator, sleuthing out clues, unearthing secrets, couldn’t be perfect.

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