Jason rushed into the company’s premises when he got out of his car. He knocked and entered his father’s office. He showed him the file, panting.
“Good; it’s just about to start. I’ll meet you there in five minutes,” Mr. Archer said.
“Yes dad,” he said and left the office.
Minutes later, the meeting started. Jason’s presentation went fairly well; he was able to impress the board members with the answers he offered to their questions.
“Well done, Mr. Archer. You’ve done an incredible job. Can I have the file?” Gordon said.
“Of course,” Jason replied, handing over the file to him.
“All right; it seems we’re almost done here. So here’s the file with every other detail in it. You may have a look at it,” Gordon said, passing it to a big man in his fifties. He opened it and started scanning through.
“All right; please allow me to excuse myself now that this part is over. I’ve other matters to attend to,” Gordon said, getting up.
“Excuse me Mr. Archer, but a section seems to be missing,” he said as he lifted his head and looked at him. He passed the file to him. Gordon scanned through.
“Section 2.8; you know exactly what it entails.” Gordon glanced at his fellow’s face. He turned to look at Jason who looked obviously confused.
“Where is it, Jason?” Gordon asked in a quiet tone.
“I haven’t taken any sheet out of the file, dad… I mean Sir,” Jason stammered. He felt sweat trickling down his back.
“Please give me a moment gentlemen to sort this out. Follow me to my office, Jason,” Gordon said and left the office with a nervous Jason following him.
“Seriously Jason, you have to display your dirty linen of incompetence and carelessness on a day like today at nowhere else but an important meeting like this?” Gordon asked angrily when he turned to face when Jason entered the office.
“Honestly dad, I’m surprised as you are. Mum called me on my way home telling me she had seen it so I just took it from her. I didn’t check if there were any sections missing.”
“Wait; you said your mum had seen it, what do you mean by that?”
“Um…she saw it on the couch,” Jason answered quickly.
“Well, we’d have to ask her. Because without that section, this deal cannot take place. Damn it, I’ve waited long for this day and I can feel this opportunity slipping through my fingers whiles I look on,” Gordon said desperately.
“No dad; I’ll find it, I promise.”
“You better and you should do so fast or else everything’s over.”
“Yes dad.” Jason went to his office and took his phone. He called his mother.
“Yes Jason; how did the meeting go?”
“Mum, have you come across any stray section of the file you gave me earlier today?”
“No son; why?”
“It’s really important. Could you please check my room for me? Maybe it fell on the floor.”
“I doubt I saw any such thing in your room but I’ll check again. I’ll let you know when I find it.”
“Thanks mum.” He hung up. He sighed as he ran his fingers through his hair. Moments later, his phone rang. He quickly answered it.
“Did you find it?”
“No; come to think of it, it was Jessica who brought it in this morning. Why don’t you call her? Maybe she dropped it.”
“Sure, thanks. I’ve got to go.”
“All right; take care, son.” Jason called Jessica. She didn’t answer her phone.
“Come on Jess, pick up,” Jason muttered as he tried the second time. Jessica answered after the third ring.
“Hey Jay; sorry but this isn’t a good time to talk right now.”
“It’s important. It’s about the file you took from me last night.” Jessica stopped abruptly at the sound of the file.
“Yeah, what about it?”
“A section of it is missing.”
“What do you mean a section?”
“It’s just a page but apparently it seems to be the most important one. Could you please check through your stuff to see if it fell or if it’s mixed up with your stuff?”
“I’m sorry Jay but it definitely didn’t mix up with any of my things. I personally made sure everything was intact. Every page was in it.”
“How many pages were they?”
“Right; so how come one is missing?”
“Have you called your mother? She was the one I gave it to.”
“She was the first one I called actually and she told me to call you since you were the one who brought it.”
“That bitch,” Jessica muttered.
“Sorry; I just dropped something. Sorry Jay but it’s not with me. If you want my advice, go and look for it at home. It’s definitely there. If it’s not among your things, ask your mother.”
“What are you insinuating?”
“That your precious section isn’t missing, Jay. It’s either somewhere in your room or your mother. Got to go, Jay, bye,” Jessica said and hung up. Jason stared at his phone in disbelief for some moments. He went back to his father’s office.
“Mother didn’t find it.”
“Where did you place it before bringing it to the office this morning?”
“In…in my room, dad.”
“So, what do we do? The gentlemen are also waiting for us.”
“Maybe I can rush back home and…”
“No need; I’ll just tell them to hold on and when you find it, we’ll continue this.”
“You think they will understand?”
“I think so. You do what you need to do and let me handle them, okay?”
“Yes dad.” Gordon left the office. Jason threw himself on his swivel seat and sighed. He needed someone to talk to. Who could he talk to? He took his phone and dialed a number.
“Hi Stacie; how are you?”
“I’m good and you?”
“I’m fine. You kind of blew me off this morning.”
“Yeah I’m sorry; I wasn’t in a good mood then. I was planning on calling you to apologize. I’m sorry, Jay.”
“It’s okay. Stacie, I think I’m in trouble.”
“Why, what happened?”
“It’s the file dad asked me keep for him.”
“Don’t tell me you misplaced it.”
“No, I didn’t but an important sheet is missing from it.”
“How is that possible?”
“I don’t know; apparently, when I went to drop Jessica off at her place last night, she mistakenly took it along her stuff…”
“Jessica and you said she did it mistakenly?”
“Could you please hear me out before drawing any conclusions?”
“All right; go ahead.”
“Thank you. I didn’t even know she had it till I realized that it wasn’t with me today. So I was on my way back home for it when mum called to tell me that Jessica had returned the file. And I didn’t check to find out if it was intact. Now I find out that the deal my daddy wants to make solely depends on that section that is missing. I call mum and she tells me she hasn’t seen it and so does Jess. Jessica assured me that she made sure all twelve pages were intact before handing it to mum.”
“So it means, what you’re looking for is in the possession of one of them.”
“Exactly; and I’m in a dilemma. Jessica would definitely get offended if I confronted her about this again and it would be absolutely absurd to confront mum about this too.”
“Yeah, I can see that. So what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know; that’s why I’m calling you. Any ideas?”
“If you ask me, I won’t be surprised if either one of them is deliberately hiding it.”
“Why would any of them do that?”
“Okay; let me rephrase it. Jessica, although I neither like nor trust her, I believe she has anything to gain by keeping it but mum…”
“What possibly could mum gain by…”
“Would you let me finish my statement, please?” Jason sighed.
“Thank you; I told you mum has been acting very weird ever since you got this job so if she really isn’t you getting involved in the family business, then yes, she has something to gain by keeping that section.”
“And what is that?”
“A chance for dad to kick you out.”
“And how would that benefit her? It’s not like we’re competing for any position. She practically knows nothing about dad’s business.”
“Don’t be deceived, Jay.”
“Are you saying she does?”
“Mum is smarter than you think, Jay. She’s got much more up her sleeves than you give her credit for. Okay, let’s see; I’m done for the day. I can rush home and search through mum’s stuff and find out if it’s there.”
“You are planning on ransacking mum’s stuff? Come on Stacie, that’s not right?”
“You’re the one who called me, Jay and we both know why you did. You called me to do the very thing you don’t have the guts to do. If she catches me, well, I can get myself out without raising any eyebrows. So, do I get the go-ahead?”
Jason just sighed.
“The last time I checked, silence means consent. Does it mean, I’m good to go?”
“If you’re caught, I don’t know anything about it.”
“Of course; I wouldn’t want to get you into trouble. So, how’s dad taking it?”
“Well, he’s obviously pissed but he’s keeping it in check. And one thing, he doesn’t know, the file was with Jessica.”
“So what did you tell him?”
“That I left it at home; just in case he asks about where it was at first.”
“Sure; if only mum doesn’t sell you out.”
“Why will she do that?”
“Well, she obviously likes Jessica and she might not see anything wrong telling dad who turned the file in this morning.”
“When she knows dad hates the sound of the name?”
“In case you haven’t noticed, that’s one thing that makes mum tick. Trust me, she’s squirming whenever you make dad mad.”
“Why should this happen to me?”
“Don’t worry brother, you’ll be fine. I’m on my way home now.”
“You’re going to take a cab.”
“Yeah, if I don’t get anyone to take me home.”
“Why don’t you want to drive, Stacie?”
“Oh please, we’ve been down that road before, Jay. I just…don’t feel like it at the moment. I prefer to be driven not drive.”
“You’re just being lazy, you know that?”
“Yeah I know; who can blame me? I’m the only daughter of Mr. Gordon Archer.” They both chuckled.
“All right dear, let me leave you alone before I get you in trouble for making casual calls during work hours. You’re already in hot soup as we speak. I’ll call you when anything comes up, okay?”
“Sure; please be careful. Don’t cause more trouble than what I’ve already found myself in right now.”
“Of course, talk to you later brother, bye,” Stacie said and hung up. Jason exhaled deeply as he dropped his phone on his desk.
When Stacie arrived home, she found the house empty. She dropped her handbag on the couch and rushed into her parents’ room. She began searching through the drawers. She found nothing. She started searching the others too.
Minutes later, Susan arrived home.
“Has anyone come around looking for me?” she asked the maid.
“Okay; get me a glass of the juice I brought home yesterday and some cookies.”
“Yes ma’am.” She sat down. She took the remote control and was about to switch on the TV when she noticed the handbag on the couch.
“Whose is this? I thought she said no one… Grace!”
“Yes ma’am,” she replied as she came in with a tray. She placed it on the center table.”
“Did you say no one has been home since I left?”
“So whose is this?”
“I don’t know; I was in the laundry room; I didn’t hear anyone come in.”
“So would that pathetic words you just spewed out be your excuse if some thief came in here and caused us damage, huh?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am.” A pause later, she added, “It might belong to Miss Stacie.”
“Stacie? She doesn’t come home this early.” Susan opened the bag and saw her phone. She took it and looked at it.
“Yes, it’s her. She might be in her room. Okay, you can go now but please be very careful. The fact that you’re doing something in the laundry room doesn’t mean you should turn a deaf ear to whoever enters the house.”
“Yes ma’am; I’ll be more careful next time.”
“You may go.” She left. Susan sipped her juice and took a cookie. She bit into it as she got up.
“What could make Stacie come home unusually early today? Hope she’s not down with something.” She started up the stairs.
“Stacie?” she called out.
Stacie froze when she heard her mum call her name. She quietly closed the wardrobe and tiptoed to the door. She put her ear to her door. She heard her mum open the door to her room. She quietly opened the door and stepped out.
“Stacie?” Susan called out but she found the room empty. She closed the door and turned around to find Stacie closing the door to her bedroom shut and about to go downstairs.
“Stacie?” Stacie stopped in her tracks and slowly turned around to face her mother.
“Hi mum,” Stacie greeted innocently with a tight smile.
“What…were you doing in my bedroom?” Susan asked, puzzled.
“It’s my parents’ bedroom, in case you’ve forgotten. I can enter anytime I want to, right?”
“What were you looking for there?”
“And what makes you think I was looking for something there, mum?”
“If not, explain why you were stealthily leaving the room and tiptoeing down the stairs?”
“What were you looking for in Jason’s room the other day, mum?”
Susan was taken aback. She stepped forward and grabbed Stacie’s arm.
“What were you doing in there, Stacie?”
“Ouch, you’re hurting me, mum!”
“Leave me alone!” Stacie freed herself from her mother’s grip.
“If you won’t tell me what you…”
“I was looking for my bracelet,” Susan answered heatedly.
“Come on mum; I might be the youngest one in the family but I’m definitely not stupid. We both know it was no bracelet you were looking for.”
When Susan didn’t reply, she continued, “Ah well, if you won’t tell me, then I’ve nothing to tell you either.”
“I will tell your father about this.”
“Oh please, do tell; he wouldn’t be bothered if I told him what I was looking for. I was also looking for my necklace. Remember the customized one dad got me on my birthday?” Stacie said and started down the stairs.
“Did Jason put you up to this?”
“Jason? Why would you think he’d have anything to do with this?” After a moment of an intense stare lockdown, Stacie went downstairs. Susan entered her bedroom and opened a drawer. She sighed when she found everything was intact. She sat on the bed.
Jason’s phone rang. He answered it.
“Did you find it?”
“Nope; and that’s because mum caught me.”
“What? Oh damn it! I knew it was a bad idea. What did she say?”
“What can she say? But she looked quite nervous about me snooping around in her bedroom.”
“Of course it is; it’s mum and dad’s bedroom for crying out loud! What if she tells dad?”
“Don’t worry about dad; I can take care of that.”
“Yeah, I suppose so. So, what do I do?”
“Calm down; we’ll find it. If it’s in the house, we’ll definitely find it; if that means we have to pull down the house to do so.”
“Thanks Stacie; what would I have done without you?”
“Freaking out to the point of insanity, obviously.” Jason chuckled.
“All right; thanks for everything. I’ll be home soon so we can talk, okay?”
“You mean to talk about plan B? Sure; I’ll be waiting.”
“Take care honey; I’ve got another call coming through.”
“Don’t tell me it’s that Jessica woman.”
“She’s my girlfriend, sis; you’ve got to accept that. Got to go.”
“Hey wait; are you cutting me off because of her?”
“She’s the one I’m in love with so obviously, yes. Bye, sis,” he said and canceled the call. He answered the next call.
“Hi Jay; have you found it?”
“Unfortunately no. I think I’m going to get crazy right now.”
“Have you searched your room?”
“No; I’m still at work. Stacie did that for me but she couldn’t find anything.”
“And you’re sure your mum doesn’t have it?”
“I don’t think so; why would she keep it?”
“I’m just saying.”
“Is there something I need to know, Jesse?”
“No, I can imagine how important that section is important to you right now and I just figured that you’d do all it takes to find it.”
“By accusing my mum of keeping it?”
“No, not that; just asking her. All right, I actually wanted us to meet later today but I guess that can’t happen, taking account of what you’re going through right now…”
“Yeah, I’m sorry; I promise to make it up to you, okay?”
“Sure, don’t worry about me. You worry about finding that sheet.”
“I will; thanks for calling, Jessica. It means a lot to me.”
“It’s nothing; take care, bye.” She hung up.
Susan’s phone rang. She took it.
“Why, you want your payment so soon? Are you broke already?”
“What have you done?”
“What are you talking about?” She listened and laughed after listening to what she said.
“Oh no, guess who’s chickening out now? Please don’t tell me you suddenly care a damn about what happens to him. Because we both know what you really care about and don’t worry, you’ll have it before you know it.”
She listened for some time.
“Now you listen, your job is doing exactly what I ask you to and not to giving me lessons on having scruples. That is none of your business, sweetheart. I know what I’m doing and as far as I’m concerned, I’m on the right track. Thanks for the call anyway. I’ll take it that you’ve got my back. You have, right?”
“You wish.” Susan laughed.
“All right; go back to your boring life and leave me alone,” she said and hung up.
In the evening, Jason came home with his father.
“Get me a drink,” Gordon ordered as he sat down.
“Welcome home, darling,” Susan greeted as she leaned down and pecked her husband.
She sat down.
“Is Stacie home?” Jason asked his mum.
“Yeah, didn’t you know?” Susan asked testily.
“No; why would I?”
“Since you two are inseparable nowadays, I figured you knew.” Jason stared at her for a moment and thought it best to let it go. The maid came in with a juice pack with two glasses. She served Susan and Gordon and excused herself. Stacie rushed downstairs excitedly.
“What is it, Stacie?” Jason asked.
“Guess what? I saw your paper!”
“Are you sure? Let me see it,” her dad said. Stacie gave it to her father and glanced at her mum. She was watching her even as she was sipping her juice. Stacie smiled triumphantly.
“Is it the one missing, dad?” Jason asked.
“Yes it is; we don’t have a problem after all.”
“Thank God!” Stacie walked to her brother and hugged him.
“Where was it?”
“In his room; it was mixed up in some of his old files,” Stacie answered.
“Thank God it wasn’t missing after all,” Gordon said in relief.
“Yeah, really thank God for that or else things could have gone worse,” Susan chipped in. They all turned to face her with a puzzled expression on their faces.
“What do you mean things could have gone worse?” Gordon asked his wife.
“Well you see, it was that Jessica lady who actually turned the file in this morning.”
“What? That brat touched my document?” Gordon asked, bewildered. Jason’s heart began jumping in anxiety. Gordon turned to look at his son. Jason swallowed.
“How did it happen, son?”
“Well, you see what happened was that, he was with her last night and Jessica accidentally pick it up with her stuff,” Susan answered.
“Mum!” Stacie cried out.
“I thought you said…you two were over.”
“We were, dad but…”
“I don’t want to hear any more of your lies, Jason. It’s beginning to make me sick. Do you know what damage would have been caused if she didn’t return it?”
“But she did return it, dad. The fact is that, if she brought it intact, how come the one important section of the document found mixed up in Jason’s stuff?” Stacie asked as she looked at her mum straight in the eye.
“Maybe that section was already among his things before he went to meet Miss-you-know-who,” Susan said and sipped her juice.
“No mum; she told me she made sure all twelve pages were intact before handing it over to you.”
“She read through it? I’m so finished!” Gordon exclaimed.
“What are you implying, Jason?” Susan asked Jason.
“Did you take the document from Jesse when she came in or did you let her drop it in Jay’s room?” Stacie asked her mum. Susan cast a serious glare at her daughter.
“Answer the question,” Gordon urged his wife.
“I took it from her.”
“Then how did the missing section end up among my stuff, mum?” Jason asked.
“Are you implying I had a hand in whatever mess you’ve found yourself, huh? You’re going to defend that woman against your own mother?”
“It’s okay, Susie. Let it go,” Gordon said.
“How dare you, Jason?” Susan continued.
“I’m only asking a question so you don’t mind, please answer me,” Jason replied. Susan slapped Jason hard on his face. Stacie gasped. Gordon out of shock gasped and touched his chest. Stacie rushed to her father.
“Are you okay, dad?” Stacie asked.
“He’ll be okay by God’s grace,” Susan answered.
“I think we should call the doctor,” Jason suggested, still touching his face.
“No, he’ll be fine,” Susan emphasized. She helped him up.
“I’m taking him to our room. You guys keep the talking undertone. And as for you, we’re not done,” she said and helped Gordon up the stairs into their room. Stacie and Jason watched as their mother took their father into their room.
“What silly trick was mum trying to pull up?” Stacie whispered angrily when the door closed shut.
“I don’t know; I’m more than convinced that she deliberately hid that section. What I don’t understand is why?”
“If this were to be a movie, it would be because she wants the entire estate to herself.”
“Entire estate? But dad isn’t dead.”
“Yet,” Stacie corrected. Jason turned sharply to look at her.
“What do you mean?”
“Come on Jason; are you that blind? Dad suddenly seems to have such a fragile heart that a trivial disturbing news threaten to make him bedridden. Since when did dad have heart problems?”
“Well, he had this issue…”
“That was years ago, Jay and it was apparently nothing to write home about. This looks serious.”
“What do you suggest we do?”
“Call a doctor and find out what is going on before he dies a foolish death.”
“It’s late now; I’ll do that first thing tomorrow.”
“Okay; goodnight. We’ll talk tomorrow,” Stacie said and hugged him.
“Wait; when I called Jessica about the missing section, she also indirectly pointed out that I find out if mum had it.”
“Yeah; why would she of all people suspect mum?”
“Because she was the one she handed the file to.”
“No; it sounded more than that. I just can’t seem to find words for it.”
“Something odd is going on around here. We need to be vigilant so we are not taken by surprise when something out of the ordinary happens. Go take a shower and get some sleep.”
“I haven’t had dinner.”
“Oh yeah, it’s in the microwave, I guess.”
“Could you sit by me whiles I eat, please?”
“And since when did I become your substitute sweetheart, Jay?”
“You’ve never been a substitute, Stacie. You’re and will always be my sweetheart.”
“Hmmm…guys will say anything to get what they want.”
“Is that what your male friends do on campus?” She made a face and started upstairs.
“Are you leaving me?”
“Go take a shower; I need to make a Skype call. I’ll be done when you’re ready to eat. See you.”
“Who is he, one of your secret admirers?” Jason asked teasingly.
“Shut up, Jay!” Stacie said and entered her room. She closed the door.