• Chapter Six
    Saturday, July 11th, 2010. Asher Home.

    The next morning I wake up from the first good night’s sleep I’ve had since Del disappeared. I yawn and look over the side of the bed to see if Del is there. She is, with Raleigh fast asleep next to her. I smile, just glad to know that she’s back.
    I yawn again, then throw the covers off and climb down from the top bunk to get something to eat. I manage to slip out of the room without waking Del, but Raleigh decides to pad after me into the kitchen. As I walk into the kitchen I look around and realize that no one else is home, just Del and Raleigh and me. I grab the dog food for Raleigh and a granola bar for myself, then slowly walk back into our room. I watch as Del slowly rolls over and smiles up at me.
    “Hey Phoenix,” she says sleepily.
    “Hey Del,” I say, sitting on the bed and handing Del a granola bar.
    “Thanks,” Del says, opening the granola bar and munching on it slowly.
    We sit and eat in silence for a few minutes while Del wakes up slowly. She always seems to take longer than me to wake up.
    Raleigh, who has now finished eating, comes into the room and hops onto the bed between Del and me. We both start petting him, more out of habit than anything.
    “So, what’s the plan?” I ask suddenly. The question even comes as a surprise to me. I didn’t really want to ask, but I know I can’t avoid it. And, somehow, a part of me does want to know; to figure out this puzzle.
    Del yawns again, sitting up. “Well, we need to start by getting more information. So far we don’t really have anything to go on.”
    I smile slowly. “Yes we do.”

    A few minutes later Del and I are both sitting on the bed, looking at our laptop screen. Looking at the Araus Inc. homepage.
    “Phoenix,” Del says, looking at me. “You are a genius.”
    “I know,” I say jokingly.
    I click the ‘meet our specialists’ page and point out Bret Araus in the picture.
    “So that’s the guy you met?” Del asks. I nod slowly not being able to keep myself from shuddering. Del puts her arm on my shoulders and just like always the momentary silence breathes so much more than words can say.
    “But wait, how do we know that this Araus guy has anything to do with everything?” Del asks.
    “We don’t,” I respond. “But it’s the only thing we have right now. And I have a feeling that he is playing a part in all this.”
    Del nods, silently agreeing. “Alright, so we have the lead, now we need the plan,” Del says, bringing us back to the task at hand.
    We sit in silence for a few minutes as Del searches the website a bit further. She checks the ‘About Us’ page and as she scrolls down she smiles slyly.
    “Here we go,” she says, pointing to a picture of the outside of the jewelry cleaning factory on the screen.
    “This is the plan?” I ask, feeling myself becoming doubtful again.
    “Yeah!” Del responds, getting excited now. “We can sneak into the factory, check it all out, check out Bret Araus and…”
    “Hold it, hold it, hold it,” I say quickly, standing and holding my hands up. “There is no way that we can sneak into this place. I mean, they store all kinds of jewelry; there must be security and stuff. It’s just impossible.”
    Del looks disappointed, and I realize that I am too. Not for the first time I remind myself that I do want to solve this mystery.
    “But,” I continue, “Maybe if we went to check it out first we could find a way in.”
    Del smiles. “Like, a weakness, something they’ve overlooked…”
    “Exactly!” I respond excitedly. We both smile, finally having something to go on. It still seems like something out of some messed up TV show or a super spy movie or something like that, but at the same time it’s so exciting that neither of us seem to notice how absolutely absurd it is!
    Oh well, it’s likely to kick in soon enough.
    After finding the address of the Araus Inc. factory, Del and I both shower and get ourselves ready then head out. With Del still getting used to her crutches the going is slow and the factory is a little ways away, but in about an hour it’s in sight. There aren’t any houses or anything near here, nothing to use as cover, so I take out the city map that I carry in my bag with me and I pretend to look it over while Del pretends to look around. Meanwhile Raleigh sits at our feet, ever smiling.
    “I can see the building, but it’s a ways back,” Del describes softly. “There’s a chain-link fence with barbed wire on top all around the area- maybe eight, nine feet high?- with evergreen bushes all around. They’re trying to make them look like decoration by coming out the driveway. It’s kind of hard to see inside except through the gate. It looks like inside it’s all tar with a ton of cars and trucks roaming around until you get to the factory.”
    I snicker lightly.
    “What?” Del asks.
    “Am I the only one who’s noticing how completely ridiculous this is?” I respond, laughing. “You’re talking like someone out of a spy movie!”
    Del laughs. “I know, I know. This whole thing is like something out of a spy movie! Maybe spying is something that just comes naturally to me,” Del says, flipping her hair jokingly. We both crack up.
    When we finally stop, I ask, “So how much security is there?”
    Del starts snickering again until she realizes that I’m being serious. “Oh, uh… Well, there’s one gate in the fence and there’s a little security both there. I see some people walking around inside they might…
    Suddenly Del stops. “What?” I ask worriedly.
    “I… I think…” She swallows loudly, then says, “I think one of the guys inside the fence is carrying a gun.”
    I stop short also, still looking at the map. I want to look up and see for myself, but I know I can’t.
    “You know what you said about this being like a spy movie?” Del says slowly.
    “Well, I think you were right.”
    Raleigh senses our tension and whines softly below us. We both pat him on the head and look at each other.
    “Raleigh’s right, it’s time to get out of here,” Del says, and I of course agree immediately. So we set off back home, now more sure than ever of the involvement of Araus Inc. How it’s involved is a whole other issue.
    We get back to the house in record time, both of us obviously going faster than normal even with Del’s crutches. We’re silent the whole walk back, both of us just rushing to get away from the danger behind us. But somehow I have a feeling that it’ll be almost impossible to get away from it.
    Finally we stumble into the apartment and both of us collapse onto the bottom bunk with Raleigh at our feet.
    “Well, I guess that answers the question of whether Araus is involved or not,” I say, smiling weakly.
    “I guess so,” Del responds. “But I feel like we still need more information.”
    I nod, knowing what’s going through Del’s head. “We need to go back and do it again,” I say.
    Del looks up at me and smiles. “You got it. But this time we need to get closer, get inside if possible. Then we can really see what’s going on.”
    I nod again, but suddenly I realize there’s a slight problem with Del’s idea. It’s the ‘we’ part of it. There’s no way she can get in while still tied to her crutches.
    “Phoenix?” Del asks. “What are you thinking?”
    “Me,” I say slowly, “It’s going to have to be me. We can’t go together this time it’s going to just have to be me.”
    Del puts her hand on my shoulder. “No, I won’t make you do that! I’ll come with you, we’ll figure something out…”
    “No way,” I say, standing up. “You can’t sneak around on your crutches, and even though I don’t think anyone saw us today, if they did see us and then they see you again with your crutches then they’ll get suspicious! No… no it’s going to have to be me.”
    Del looks down, realizing that I’m right. “Do you think you can do it?” she asks.
    I look at the floor. That’s the question that I’ve been asking myself for so long. Can I do it? Can I do something that I never thought I could do before, never even dreamed of doing? Can I fight off my fears and rely on myself for once to get the job done? Can I do it?

    That night I slip silently down the road. I’m dressed in a black shirt, black beanie, black shoes and a pair of Mom’s old black work-out pants that she hasn’t used in forever. I figured since that’s what the spies in the movies wear it should work. I feel so untrained at this!
    Well, I guess I should.
    With Raleigh at home with Del I feel so alone as I travel down the darkening road. By the time to get closer to the factory the sun has disappeared behind me over the horizon.
    Slowly the factory starts coming into view. I see the high chain link fence and the barbed wire that look so much more ominous at night, I see the tall bushes that hide the truth of what’s going on, and I see the main gate. That’s where I need to be.
    So I creep along through the darkness, looking for anyone outside the fence that might see me, but there isn’t anyone. All the security must be inside the fence.
    I slip closer and closer to the fence, just waiting for someone to start shouting and the whole factory to come down on top of me.
    There I go again, being so optimistic! I wish there was a font for sarcasm…
    Anyways, nothing happens. I make it to the row of evergreen bushes and dive to the ground. The green comes down to a couple inches above the ground, so it’s easy enough for me to see into the complex but almost impossible for someone to see me. Perfect!
    I crawl along the line of evergreens until I make to the main gate. Here the bushes turn and go up both sides of the driveway, so I settle myself in the corner so I can see the main gate and the inside of the complex. It really is perfect.
    I lay here for a long time. After the first rush of adrenaline is gone, I realize that nothing is happening. But my heart starts pounding again when I see a guard walk by on the inside of the fence right next me holding a machine gun. I don’t even dare to breathe. The guard stops for a moment and I get ready to run, but then he just continues on his way.
    And things like that keep happening. The guards patrol the entire area, and every once and a while one will pass by, but then it’s back to nothing happening again. This is ridiculous! I think to myself, stifling a yawn. And it is. I never realized that spy work could be so boring!
    I rest my head on my arms, wishing something exciting would happen. Before I know it I’m fast asleep.