Nicole’s office has undergone a major makeover since Waverly officially moved in. The first addition was a desk for Waverly, tucked in right next to Nicole’s so they can work side-by-side.
On the wall next to Nicole is a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling map of North America (with a little step stool folded away so Waverly can reach the top if necessary).
The wall next to Waverly has a large smart board that Jeremy installed. Nicole was hesitant about this at first. She’s not adverse to technology but she didn’t think she would get any use out of it since she usually likes paper and ink over digital data. But she now uses it constantly to organize files, blow up pictures, and watch videos while looking for minute details. She also likes being able to zoom into a map of the area she is focusing on rather than using the map next to her.
On one side of the door is a large file cabinet with her “murder board” on the other side of the door.
All items, from the door to the office itself, the computers, cabinets, and even doors for the murder board and a pull-down screen for the map are locked with a fingerprint scanner that only allows Nicole and Waverly access.
But their favorite change in the room is tucked in front of the break between their two desks. Laying on a small cushion is a black and white puppy wrapped around a tiny orange and white ball of fluff. When they originally discussed getting a pet, Nicole explained that she was a cat person while Waverly had always wanted a dog. It was one of the few things they disagreed on. So when Waverly heard about a big adoption event in the Big City, she begged Nicole to go with her “just to look”.
When they got there, they were walking along the cages and spotted a cage that others seemed to be ignoring. A volunteer explained that the puppy and kitten were found together, were bonded, and had to go home together but most people weren’t looking for both a dog AND a cat. But Waverly thought it was a kismet, the perfect compromise.
So a stack of papers and several hundred dollars later (seriously, animals need a TON of stuff!) , Bernie and Calamity Jane were officially part of the Haught-Earp household. And their humans couldn’t be happier. And surprised. Nicole found an almost-perfect jogging partner in Bernie, although she was still working on teaching him that he didn’t need to pee on every leaf and blade of grass he saw. And Waverly enjoyed staying warm in bed cuddled with CJ.
But the two furry friends were rarely apart and the family often went on walks around the neighborhood, which thrilled the kids nearby, who would run out to see the playful puppy and laugh at the kitten who wasn’t excited to be on a leash but also didn’t want to be left behind at the house.
Waverly had taken Rosita into Chearp Robotics and added animal handling and animal training to her programming as well. So she was in charge of feeding and taking them out when the ladies were working and got distracted.
Nicole almost lost it when she walked into the kitchen to find Rosita trying to tempt Bernie and CJ into sitting for a treat. She was impressed when Bernie’s rump hit the floor, although his tail was still going a mile a minute. But her jaw actually dropped when CJ followed suit and sat as well.
The two are now able to do a handful of tricks that Nicole, Waverly, and Rosita all reinforce. Nicole didn’t think CJ would continue to learn ALL the tricks that Bernie would but she had to admit that if anyone could make it happen, it seemed to be Rosita.
Nicole had to fight her superiors hard to get Waverly access to her work. When Nicole explained how she helped in the Juan Carlo case and was fluent in several languages and could significantly cut down on any translation and research work, Lucado went to bat for her. She underwent every background check they could think of and is now officially listed as a need-to-know consultant.
Waverly and Nicole are working diligently at their desks when the call comes in. Waverly answers as she stands and walks out the door so as not to disturb Nicole’s work. “Hey Sis.”
When she doesn’t return and Nicole’s alarm sounds indicating the end of the day, she goes in search of Waverly. She finds her at the stove in the kitchen. “Hey. What’re you doing? Where’s Rosita?”
Waverly looks over her shoulder. “Well, see, Wynonna called and asked if she could borr…”
Nicole shakes her hands. “Nevermind! Brlbrlbrlb. I didn’t ask. I didn’t ask!” Waverly smirks as she turns back to the stove. Nicole stands back to admire the view in front of her. Waverly is wearing one of Nicole’s extra long flannel shirts, long fuzzy socks, and an apron. Nicole assumes she’s also wearing short shorts that are covered by the flannel.
Waverly looks over her shoulder again and notices Nicole checking her out. She raises an eyebrow. “Can I help you?”
Nicole’s eyes jump back up to meet Waverly’s. “Nope! Anything I can do to help?”
Waverly stirs whatever is in the pot in front of her. “No, everything’s good. I’ve missed cooking.”
Nicole drops her eyes again. “And I’ve missed watching you cook.” She clears her throat. “So, we have the house to ourselves tonight? Any ideas on how we should spend our time?”
Waverly shrugs. “Maybe play a board game?”
Nicole steps closer to the woman in front of her. “Bernie ate the pieces.”
Waverly tilts her head to the side as Nicole brushes the hair away from her neck. “Hmmm, watch tv?”
“Bernie ate the remote.” She kisses the side of Waverly’s neck.
“Read a book?”
“Bernie chewed them up.” She places a kiss on her shoulder.
“All of them?” Waverly says with a giggle.
“Listen to music?”
“Bernie chewed through the speaker cords.”
Waverly turns around and pushes Nicole away slightly, pointing into the living room with the spoon in her hand. “Nicole! The stereo is up on a shelf! How did he get up there?”
Nicole follows the spoon to look into the living room. “Okay, maybe that one was CJ.”
Waverly puts her hand on her hip and taps Nicole on the chest lightly with the spoon. “So you were trying to blame MY dog instead of YOUR cat?”
Nicole smiles widely at her and holds up a hand with her thumb and index finger nearly touching. “Maybe a little.”
Waverly turns back to the stove and turns it off before turning back around. “I mean, I guess we could just go to bed.”
Nicole looks at the clock. “It’s kind of early to be going to sleep.” Waverly reaches up and pulls the apron loop from around her neck, letting it drop to reveal that the flannel shirt is open and she isn’t wearing anything underneath. Nicole gulps. “And I’m not really tired.”
Waverly unties the apron from around her back and lets it drop to the floor showing she isn’t wearing shorts (or anything else) beneath it. She steps closer to Nicole and loops her arms around Nicole’s neck. “I didn’t say anything about going to sleep.” She says huskily before pulling Nicole down into a quick, passionate kiss. Nicole tries to wrap her arms around her and Waverly pushes her away teasingly. “After we eat.” She grabs two bowls and starts spooning up the stew she made.
Nicole reaches for her. “How about you eat that and I eat what your mom made?” She says, cheekily.
Waverly gives her a disbelieving look. “Really, Nicole? That was the worst line I’ve ever heard.” She grabs the bowls and heads into the dining room. She turns her head to see Nicole just standing there, checking her out once again. “Oh, and you’re in charge of walking the kids tonight. Unless you want me to get dressed to take them?”
“Nope! I got ‘em!” Nicole looks down at Bernie, who is sitting at her feet, wagging his tail. “Oh, like you’d choose differently if you were me.” She murmurs as she crouches down to be closer to eye level with the pup. “You better be quick tonight, Bud! Mama’s got plans.” She ruffles his fur before standing back up and heading to the table.
Nicole is thankful when she and Bernie return from their morning run to find Rosita in the kitchen making breakfast. Does she just leave when they’re done or does Wynonna kick her out…Nope! Don’t want to know!
She leaves Bernie and CJ in Rosita’s capable hands, grabbing two cups of coffee to help wake Waverly following their exhaustive but very pleasurable evening.
Several hours later, Nicole and Waverly find themselves in their usual routine, working in their office on their respective jobs.
Nicole’s phone rings and she checks the caller ID. “Hey Boss.”
“Agent Haught.” Lucado responds in a no-nonsense voice. “You will be receiving a new case file tomorrow.”
“But I’m already in the middle of a case. You know I don’t take on more than one case at a time.”
“This is not a request, Agent. Agent Holliday is already on his way. His plane should be arriving in two hours and he will assist you for the duration of the investigation.”
“But…I don’t do current cases. And since when do I need help? Why is this falling into my lap?”
“We need to catch this guy ASAP. And you are the best. Plus, we feel that your…’consultant’ may have inside knowledge that will need an outside observer’s touch.”
“Waverly? What does she have to do with this?”
Waverly turns away from her work at the sound of her name and looks at Nicole questioningly.
“That’s what we need to find out. Holliday will catch you up on the details when he gets there.” The phone goes dead.
Nicole looks at it and slowly puts the phone in her pocket before looking at Waverly.
Waverly looks at her in confusion. “What’s going on?”
“I have no idea. But it doesn’t sound good.” She stands up and Bernie jumps out of his bed, sending CJ tumbling onto the cushion, and runs to the door. “Doc is on his way. I’m going to go pick him up at the airport and hopefully get some more information.” She bends over and kisses Waverly’s cheek. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Waverly looks at her nervously. “Drive safe.”
Nicole winks at her and walks out the door, closing it behind her and in the face of an excited furball.
Waverly calls to a disappointed Bernie and he bounds over to her on his unstable puppy legs. She bends down to pick him up for cuddles as CJ jumps onto the back of her chair. “I don’t know what’s going on, guys. But hopefully we’ll find out soon.”
Nicole arrives at the airport just in time to see a mustachioed man dressed in his typical cowboy attire walking out to hail a cab. “Hey, Doc!”, she yells through her open window.
He waves at her and heads to the car, tossing his bag into her backseat before getting in the passenger side. “It is good to see you, Agent Haught.”
Nicole leans over to give him a quick hug. “You too. Although I wish it was under different circumstances.”
Doc settles in as Nicole pulls away from the airport and onto the freeway. “Yes, this one is a doozy.”
“So, tell me about it. Lucado didn’t give me any details other than they were VIPs and Waverly is somehow involved? What the hell is going on?”
“Agent Haught…Nicole, no one thinks your sweet Miss Waverly is at all involved. Not even Lucado. If she had, she would not have brought you in on this case. There is just some…evidence that she may be able to help us identify.”
“And you’re here because…”
“Lucado insisted. While Waverly may not be directly involved, someone at her company might be. If it is deemed necessary, Lucado wants me to sit in on the interviews of any employees you might bring in to question.”
“None of this is making any sense.” Nicole says, exasperated.
“It should all become clearer when you and Waverly see the file. But that will wait until tomorrow. For tonight, I would like to catch up with my friend and that beautiful…fiancee’ of yours?”
Nicole shakes her head and laughs. “Just girlfriends, Doc. I haven’t proposed yet.”
Doc throws his hands into the air in an exaggerated shrug. “And what, pray tell, are you waiting for?”
Nicole sighs. “We haven’t even been together a year. And our relationship didn’t start off in the most traditional way. I’m sure we’ll get there eventually but I don’t want to rush things. We did just get a dog and cat together though.”
Doc looks at her in surprise. “But, Haught, you do not like dogs. You have always been much more of a pus…cat person.” He corrects before he says something completely inappropriate.
Nicole catches the slip but doesn’t say anything. “I don’t NOT like dogs. And her entire life, Waverly’s always wanted a dog. And I want her to be happy. So we got one of each and now we’re all happy.”
“But you don’t want to rush things with a ring. Rather just skip all that stuff and go straight to the perfect little family.”
“Didn’t say I didn’t have a ring.” Nicole mumbles under her breath.
“What was that?”
“Nothing! Can we just, like, change the subject away from my non-existent pending nuptials? Fill me in on the team gossip. Or your own lovelife, maybe.”
“Well, I cannot talk about that which does not exist. But I can give you the scoop on Dolls and Eliza.”
Nicole looks at him, intrigued.
I completely forgot to post a new chapter last night - bad author!! So I guess you'll get two today. This one is utter pointless fluff/smut before we get into the nitty gritty of the story...
After stopping at the house to get Waverly and going out for dinner, Nicole, Waverly, and Doc head over to Shorty’s to relax and get a few drinks. Doc saunters up to the brunette at the bar. “Whiskey. The good whiskey. Neat.”
Wynonna gives him a once over and grabs a bottle and glass from under the bar. “Hey Cowboy. A man after my own heart.”
“Well then, pour one for yourself as well. On me.”
Wynonna grabs a second glass and pours the amber liquid into both. She lifts the glass in a toast that Doc returns before they both drain their glasses and she pours another healthy shot into each. “Haven’t seen you around before. What brings you to our quaint little town?”
Nicole steps up behind him and puts a hand on his shoulder to get his attention while Waverly grabs an empty table. Wynonna nods at her. “Haughtstuff.”
“Doc, Wynonna. Wynonna, Doc.” Nicole motions between the two while making introductions. “Doc is an old friend from out of town who decided to pop by as a surprise. And Wynonna is the owner of the bar. And Waverly’s older sister.”
Wynonna hands her a beer and glass of wine. Nicole nods in thanks and takes her and Waverly’s glasses to their table while Doc leans against the bar. “Really? You are the owner of this fine establishment?”
Wynonna picks up a rag to wipe down the bar. “Well, co-owner. With Waves. When our Aunt Gus wanted to sell the place, we decided to buy it to keep it in the family. I handle the front of house stuff while Waves deals with the accounting and paperwork. And our town full of drunks keeps us afloat.” She grabs a few bottles of beer and drops them in front of a guy who has stepped away from their game of pool before he even has a chance to order. He grabs his beers and heads back to his friends and the game without a word being spoken. “See?”
Doc watches the entire interaction. “Very impressive.” They both empty their glasses. “But as the owner, should you not be buying drinks for me instead of the other way around?”
Wynonna smirks at him. “Tell you what, you go sit down and I’ll bring out the next round. On me.”
Doc tips his hat and retreats to the table. Wynonna checks him out, spending a bit too much time staring at his ass, before she hands off drinks to everyone at the bar. She pours another round for the table and heads over to join them for a break.
After several hours spent with some of her best friends in the world, far too many drinks, and laughing at the back-and-forth flirting between Doc and Wynonna, Nicole has pretty much forgotten about the case looming over their heads and Waverly’s possible connection to it. She is sitting back, daydreaming about where her night is heading due to the way Waverly keeps touching her. Oh, she isn’t touching her in any obscene way. Just a gentle squeeze of her arm or a hand rubbing her thigh. Nothing that should have her feeling the way she was. But she couldn’t help wondering how she could convince her girlfriend, future wife? , that they should say goodbye and head home.
Doc pulls her out of her thoughts by standing up and announcing, “Well, it’s high time I check into my hotel.”
Wynonna looks up at him, a little unsteady from all the whiskey they had consumed. “Why a hotel? You should stay at the homestead. Plenty of room.”
Waverly looks at her in disbelief. “Wynonna! You only have one bed!”
Wynonna smirks at Doc and throws him a wink. “Yeah, like I said, plenty of room.”
Doc lifts an eyebrow. “I’d be much obliged of your hospitality. I will just get my bag from Nicole’s vehicle. Ladies.” He tips his hat at Nicole and Waverly and heads out the door.
Wynonna stands up, watching him go, and leans over the table. “Would you guys mind if we borrowed Rosita?”
“NO!”, they both shout back at her.
She stands up, hands held up. “Okay, okay.” She starts to walk away before turning back around. “Wait, was that a ‘you wouldn’t mind…’”
“Get out of here, Earp!” Nicole says, pointing at the door. “And leave Rosita where she is!”
Wynonna smirks at her. “So, you want us to go back to your place?”
Wynonna drains the last glass of whiskey on the table and walks briskly out the door.
Waverly lays her head on Nicole’s shoulder and Nicole kisses the top of her head, playing with her fingers and enjoying some quiet time together. Waverly starts whispering in her ear, Nicole closes her eyes to appreciate the truly indecent things coming out of the brunette’s mouth. Waverly ends her whispers with a nip to Nicole’s earlobe and Nicole opens her lust-filled eyes. Then she notices a line of people standing at the bar. “Um, Waves?”
Waverly looks away from their hands, where their fingers are still entwining, steepling, and stroking, and looks at Nicole. “Hmmm?”
“Who, umm,” Nicole gulps. “Who’s manning the bar?”
Waverly looks quickly at the queue at the bar and then at the door. “Dammit Wynonna!!” She jumps up and rushes behind the bar to help customers.
Nicole drops her head to the table with a fake sob before standing up and collecting the glasses from the table to drop off at the bar before joining Waverly to help.
After getting their last patron out the door and locking up, Nicole is sweeping up while Waverly closes out the til. She is sweeping around the pool table when she accidentally kicks something and sends it skittering across the floor. She bends over to pick it up. “Hey Wave?”
Waverly responds without looking up. “Yeah?”
“Why is there an inflatable chicken under the pool table?”
Waverly finally looks at her. “It’s not a chicken! It’s a roasted turkey. It’s a decoration for Thanksgiving.”
Nicole looks at it and then back under the pool table. Looks like a chicken. “So, why was it under the table?”
Waverly sighs. “Wynonna likes to throw it at people when they annoy her.” She motions her hands in a ‘give me’ gesture.
Nicole drops it and lightly taps it with her foot, sending it right into Waverly’s arms, who stuffs it under the bar. Nicole lifts her hands in triumph. “And Chicken Kicker scores!”
“It’s a turkey!” Waverly huffs out.
Nicole shrugs. “Maybe, but ‘turkey kicker’ sounds stupid.” Waverly chuckles and shakes her head as Nicole grabs the broom and finishes sweeping. She collects all the garbage and takes it to the dumpster out back. When she returns, she hears Waverly give a screeching yell and she spins around to see the brunette trying to turn off a tap that is spraying at her. “I didn’t know Shorty’s had wet t-shirt competitions. You alright?”
Waverly, having shut off the tap, nods. “Yeah. I keep telling Wynonna to fix that darn tap.” She pulls her shirt away from her skin before letting it drop back down. “Look at me, I’m sopping wet.”
Nicole saunters behind the bar. “Here, let me help.” She slowly grabs the bottom of Waverly’s shirt and peels it over her head. She drops her lips to Waverly’s shoulder while reaching behind her to unclasp her bra and toss it away.
Waverly looks down when she feels Nicole’s fingers unbutton her pants. “Uh, those aren’t wet.”
Nicole stands up straight and gives her a smoldering look. “Let me see if I can change that.” She husks out before swooping down to press their lips together.
The redhead spins Waverly around and lifts her onto the bar. Waverly lets out a shriek and jumps down, pushing Nicole back a few steps. “Nicole!”
Nicole looks and sees that she had set her right onto the wet rag she had been using to wipe down the bar. She looks over Waverly’s shoulder at the wet spot now on her pants. “Whoops!” She tries to look chagrined but her lopsided smile says differently. “Not exactly what I had planned but the results are the same.” She reaches for the brunette’s pants once again.
Waverly pushes her away gently and walks past, grabbing her shirt. “Or, we can go home where we have a nice, soft bed.”
Nicole grabs her arm. “Wait, wait, wait.” She pulls her back so they are back to front. She takes the shirt from her hands and tosses it back on the bar, then wraps her arms around her waist, rubbing her thumbs against her bare stomach. “Look around you.” She whispers in her ear, her thumbs moving up a bit higher. “When else are we going to have this place all to ourselves.” She kisses behind Waverly’s ear and moves her hands up so her thumbs are running along the underside of her breasts. Waverly groans and leans her head back against Nicole’s chest. “Think of all the dirty things we can do here in Wynonna’s bar.” She kisses her temple and moves her hands to fully cover her breasts and give them a little squeeze. “All the things you wanted to do while you were teasing me tonight.”
Waverly stands up straight and looks over her shoulder. “Teasing you?!?”
Nicole pulls her back. “Um hmm. With a brush of an arm or rub of a leg.” She leans down to bite at her earlobe. “Or when you whispered that you wanted to take me into the bathroom and fuck me until I screamed your name so loud the entire bar would be able to hear and know what we were doing.” Waverly smirks. “And now we don’t have to hide in the bathroom. Think of all the places we can christian that we haven’t before.”
Waverly scrunches up her face. “Well…”
Nicole stands up straight. “Wait, seriously?”
Waverly spins around and loops her arms around Nicole’s neck. “What? I practically grew up here! And all the nights I spent closing up.” She moves her hands down and begins to unbutton Nicole’s flannel, pressing soft kisses to the skin that is exposed. “My first apartment was right upstairs. Hell, I lost my virginity on that couch right over there.” She nods her head to a couch at the back of the bar.
Nicole looks at the couch and back to the woman in her arms. “Okay, so the couch is off the table.” She tightens her arms in a hug before running a hand to the back of the brunette’s head to keep her close. “But we’ve got the bar…”
“Not without a MAJOR cleaning job first.”
“Way too uncomfortable!”
Nicole takes a small step back to glare at Waverly. “The stairs were YOUR idea!”
Waverly shrugs, pulling her close again. “Maybe someday. After we’re apart for a while and we need each other so badly that we couldn’t make it to our bed.”
Nicole leans down to kiss Waverly’s shoulder as the smaller woman pushes Nicole’s shirt off. “So, you don’t need me that badly right now?”
Waverly reaches for Nicole’s pants. “Different kind of need. But for now…” She tilts her head back. Nicole looks over her shoulder.
“Pool table.” They say simultaneously.
Nicole pushes Waverly back, lifting her onto the edge of the table. Waverly leans her hands back to keep her balanced on the raised edge and lifts her hips as Nicole drags her pants and underwear down and off her legs. She runs a finger between Waverly’s thighs, gathering the moisture there, and sucks it into her mouth. “THIS was what I had planned.”
Waverly laughs and shakes her head as Nicole lowers her head to drink right from the source. Her laughter turns into a moan as Nicole runs her tongue up and down, flicking at her clit and teasing her entrance, working her up higher and higher. Waverly reaches one hand out and puts it on Nicole’s head, holding her still for a few moments before urging her back up. Nicole lifts her head and they exchange a fierce, passionate kiss.
Nicole reaches down and pushes her own pants down as Waverly moves further onto the table. The redhead climbs up and lays down fully on top of her, slotting one leg between her thighs as Waverly lifts a leg to push against Nicole. They rock against each other, kissing intermittently until they run out of air and move down to suck on necks, shoulders, or any other body part they can reach, but never ceasing the rhythm below.
Nicole pulls one of Waverly’s nipples between her teeth while thrusting her hips hard and Waverly comes with a long, drawn out moan of her name. Nicole travels back up to rest their foreheads together as she comes down from her high. “God, I love you.”
Waverly pulls back as much as she can from her position and looks her in the eye. Nicole pushes herself up onto her arms to give her more room. She runs her hand down between Nicole’s legs. “I love you too.” She pushes two fingers inside and Nicole drops her head back with a moan. “So much.” She curls her fingers forward to focus on the area on the front wall while brushing her thumb over her clit. “More than I ever thought was possible.”
Nicole’s arms start to shake. “Waves. Waverly.”
Waverly begins to move her hand faster inside Nicole. “I’ve got you, Baby. Just let go.”
Nicole drops onto her elbows and begins moving her hips, thrusting against Waverly’s hand in uncoordinated, jerky movements. The fingers inside her are clamped tight as she comes, dropping down fully on top of her girlfriend. Waverly removes her fingers, sucking them one by one into her mouth as Nicole catches her breath, hot air puffing against her neck. Waverly wraps her arms around Nicole’s back and shifts her legs slightly so they are tangled together once again.
Nicole rises up and places several quick kisses on Waverly’s lips before she rolls half off, wiping her hair from her face before leaning her head onto her propped up arm. She gives Waverly a tired, goofy smile. “So, where to next?”
Yep, two chapters in one day since I forgot to post one yesterday. Now I'm back on schedule ;)
When the doorbell rang the next morning, Rosita made it to the door just before Waverly. Doc is standing at the door with Wynonna hovering just off the porch. Doc looks at the unknown woman in surprise. “Well, hello. And who might you be?”
Doc holds out his hand. “And I am John Henry Holliday. But you can call me Doc. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Waverly opens the door a little further and peaks her head out. “Doc, Rosita’s a robot.”
Doc drops his hand. “Oh.”
Waverly turns her head towards the bot. “Rosie, why don’t you go get us all some coffee.”
“Sure, whatever.” She turns and heads towards the kitchen.
Waverly turns back to Doc. “She’s an…acquired taste. Come on in. Nicole will be out in a minute.”
Doc walks inside as Wynonna motions to Waverly to come outside. Waverly steps out, closing the door behind her, and crosses her arms over her chest. Wynonna steps closer. “So, Doc and I made a stop at Shorty’s this morning on the way over here. Really, Baby Girl? You and Haughtsauce just had to defile my bar last night?!”
Waverly glares at her, clearly still annoyed. “Oh, you mean after you and Doc went to do all that and left me to run and close the bar for you?!”
Wynonna looks over Waverly’s shoulder at the closed door. “The man is a stallion. And he can park in my stable anytime he wants.”
Waverly slaps her shoulder. “Ewww, Wynonna! Besides, how do you know what Nicole and I did at the bar?”
Wynonna reaches into her pocket and pulls out a bra that she dangles off her finger. “You left this under the bar.”
Waverly reaches out and twists it around. “That’s not mine.”
“Fine, then it’s Haughtpant’s.”
“Nope, not hers either. It has a rhinestone donut on it.”
Wynonna twists it around, sees the jewels, and stuffs it back into her pocket. She reaches into the other pocket and pulls out another bra. “Wrong pocket. Here.” Waverly grabs it from her hand. “And I just need to know where you all got dirty last night so I can disinfect it.”
Waverly smirks at her. “Better get an industrial-sized jug of cleaner then because we were all over that place last night.” She turns to head back inside.
Wynonna gapes at her. “I don’t know whether to be disgusted or impressed.” She mutters under her breath. She runs to the door just as Waverly is about to close it. “Wait!”
Meanwhile, Nicole and Doc are standing and talking in the living room with Bernie barking and jumping at their legs to get their attention. Rosita walks into the room and hands them both steaming mugs of coffee.
Doc tips his hat. “Thank ya, Ma’am.”
Nicole smiles and shakes her head at him. “Thanks Rosita.”
Rosita looks down at the yapping pup. She puts her lips together and blows. Doc looks at her confused but Bernie immediately plops his butt on the floor, tail still wagging a mile a minute. Rosita turns and walks back into the kitchen.
Doc turns to Nicole. “What was that?”
Nicole kneels down and gives Bernie scritches on the head in praise. “Oh, she can basically be a dog whistle. I have a real one around her somewhere and she’s taught us the tones, along with the hand signals and the command words. She’s a lifesaver!” She gives the pup a kiss and releases him with a sharp “Go!”. He streaks off after CJ and a chase around the house begins.
“What else does she do around here?”
Nicole stands back up. “Besides taking care of the ‘kids’,” she mimes air quotes, “she cooks for us, keeps the house clean, and basically keeps us on schedule. She makes sure we can have lives outside of work.”
“And, beg your pardon, but does she aid in any more intimate matters?”
Nicole scrunches up her face. “Doc, eww, no! Waverly and I don’t need any help in that department.”
Doc holds up his hands in surrender. “It’s just that she is a beautiful…errr, and it wouldn’t really be cheating, would it?”
Nicole shakes her head at him. “I don’t know the morals behind it but we don’t use her that way. Now, Wynonna, on the other hand…”
Doc raises an eyebrow. “Really?” He looks towards the front door and then towards Rosita.
Nicole mumbles. “Unfortunately…”
Waverly steps inside the house with Wynonna right on her heels. Wynonna slides up to Nicole. “Red Haught, you and I’s gotta have a talk about appropriate behavior at a person’s place of business.”
Nicole shoots a look at Waverly. “You told her?!”
Waverly walks up and slaps the bra into her hand. “No, you left this under the bar.”
Nicole looks at it. “This is yours.”
“Yeah, and you’re the one who left it under the bar. The one I took off is…oh, shoot.” Her face cringes. “Still in the pocket of the table.”
Wynonna looks back and forth between them. “Really?!? The pool table? Have you two no decency!”
Nicole slings an arm around Wynonna’s shoulder. “You should try it sometime, Earp. There’s a lip on the table that you can wrap your toes around to give you really good leverage and traction.”
Wynonna slaps the arm off of her and steps away while Doc watches on in interest. “Ewww! I don’t want to hear about the stuff you do with my baby sister!”
Waverly chuckles at their antics. “Wynonna, could you…?”
“Yeah, I’ll clear out the pockets before I open today. But what are we all going to do until then?”
Waverly looks between Wynonna and Nicole and Doc. “Uhh, we’re working.”
Wynonna looks at them confused. “What about Doc? Isn’t he on vacation? If you two need to work, I can show him around. Make sure he has a good time.”
Doc speaks up. “Alas, I must decline your generous offer. I will also be working here for the foreseeable future.”
Wynonna looks a bit deflated. “Oh.”
Nicole speaks up. “But I’m sure there’s more coffee. And Rosita’s making breakfast if you want to stick around a little while.”
Wynonna perks up immediately and yells out “Dibs!” as she rushes to the kitchen. “Hey Rosie! How’s tricks?” She slaps the bot on the ass as she walks by.
Waverly just shakes her head and wraps an arm around Nicole as they and Doc walk to the kitchen at a more leisurely pace.
Once breakfast is done and they have shooed Wynonna out of the house with a promise that they would meet her at Shorty’s after dinner, they head to the office. Nicole unlocks the door and Doc follows her in with Waverly bringing up the rear, wheeling a desk chair in for Doc. Bernie and CJ dodge the base of the chair and run into the room before they can be locked out.
Nicole opens one of her murder board cabinets, carefully removing the poster board and placing it in a filing cabinet so she could resume work on it later, before putting up a new board for the new cases they would be working on.
Doc looks around the room and lets out a low whistle. “Agent Haught, you certainly went all out on this room. I do believe the security in here is stronger than our own offices.”
Nicole takes a seat at her desk and begins booting up her computer. “Yeah, well, everyone at the office is vetted. We need to be more stringent in this house to keep everything from prying eyes.” Once the computer is ready, she pulls up the fingerprinting program for all the locks. “Waverly, can you..?” She indicates the computer.
“Oh, yeah, sure. Have a seat, Doc.” She pats at the chair and Doc sits down. She pulls out a small scanner and connects it to the computer. “Finger, please.”
She notices that he hasn’t responded so she looks over to where he is sitting. Bernie is in his lap and currently trying to nip at his mustache and Doc has his head tilted back as far as he can in order to avoid the sharp puppy teeth. His hat tips off and falls to the floor and before he gets the chance to pick it back up, CJ has already made it inside, curling up and falling asleep.
Nicole steps forward and grabs Bernie from him. “Okay, Bud, time to settle down so we can work. Go to bed.” She points at his cushion and he begrudgingly walks over and lays down. She picks up CJ from the hat and puts her on top of Bernie before grabbing the hat and putting it back on Doc’s head.
After being relieved of his attackers, Doc reaches his hand out to Waverly and she presses the scanner to his finger several times until the system beeps. “There, now you have access to the room and everything in here.”
“Thank you kindly, Miss Waverly.”
Waverly looks at him, a bit confused. “Doc, may I ask why you are the way you are? What’s with the old fashioned look and speech?”
Nicole rolls her eyes. “Oh, geez, here we go!”
Doc glances at the redhead. “Hush now, Agent Haught, the young lady asked me a question.” He addresses Waverly. “Well, you see, if family legend is to be believed, I was named after my great, great, uh, many-a-great grandpappy, John Henry “Doc” Holliday. Upon acquiring that knowledge, I read every book and watched every movie there was about him. He was my hero. I learned his mannerisms and studied his style until they became a part of me.”
“It did not make me very popular with the other children in the schoolyard. So I spent a lot of time alone, just watching the people around me. I learned how to read lips and faces until I could see everything going on around me without hearing a word.”
“I spent all of my free time practicing with my pistols - learning how to properly care for them, how to outdraw anyone I could, and hit a bullseye from 800 yards.”
“When I was about to be done with school, I needed to decide what to do with my life. And I felt that I only had a few options. I did not get the grades to be a dentist. And the idea of waking up with the roosters to be a cowboy did not sit well with me. So when I learned that the US Marshals were setting up a cross-border division, I jumped at the chance to prove myself. And I guess I did, as I was quickly hired on for my skills.”
“When Agent Haught here told me that she was dating a young lady by the name of Waverly Earp, I thought the stars had aligned. I hoped for the opportunity to meet and possibly even befriend the kin of my grandpappy’s best friend, Wyatt. And here we are.”
Doc finished his story, tipping his hat towards the brunette with a flourish.
Waverly gives him a big smile. “Seems to me that you’ve done more than ‘befriend’ my sister. Maybe fate has more in store for the two of you than you ever imagined.”
Doc sputters and blushes. “Well, I don’t know about that, but destiny can make strange bedfellows.”
“So, why do you always call Nicole ‘Agent Haught’?”
Nicole turns from her computer and gives him a smirk. “Oh, that’s just how he likes to address his superiors.”
“Well, now, that is patently untrue. We are partners, equals. Neither of us is ‘superior’ to the other.”
Nicole winks at Waverly and says in a loud whisper. “We let him think that so as not to bruise his ego.”
Doc glares at her, lifting an eyebrow. “Would you prefer I call you Nikki?”
Nicole grimaces and points menacingly at him. “Try it and you’ll be on the first bus back to the airport.” She drops her hand. “Are we done with storytime? Can we get to the case now?”
Doc sits up a little straighter, slipping into his professional persona. “Yes, of course.”
Waverly gives her a small smile. “Sorry, Sweetie.”
Doc moves his chair closer to Nicole’s screen. “We will have to huddle close together to read the files and be able to see the pictures.”
Nicole opens her emails and downloads the case files onto her computer. “No problem, Doc. Just look at the screen on the wall.” She swipes the case files onto the smart board. “There you go.”
Doc stands up and walks closer to the board. “Well, I’ll be. We need something like this for our office!”
“Sure, Doc. I’m sure Lucado will find room in the budget to have one in every room. This one is all Waverly’s doing.”
Doc lifts a hand and touches the file folder on the screen and it opens like a book. “This is impressive.” He drags a picture, dropping it outside the folder, and swipes two fingers to zoom in. “Mighty impressive, indeed!”
Nicole looks at Waverly with pride. “Yeah, it’s been a real lifesaver. So what’s the deal?”
Doc spends some time adjusting the files on the board, opening each one so the basic details are onscreen. “We’ve got three deaths so far. Annie Bouffard, a 21-year old white female, Karin Howell, a 59-year old black female, and Dev Jyothi, a 32-year old middle eastern male.”
Nicole nods. “And what is their connection?”
Doc moves a post-mortem picture and drops them below their corresponding folder. All three look eerily similar. “Only connection is in death.” He zooms into each, showing a thin mark on each of their necks. “They were all garroted with an extremely thin wire.”
Nicole stands and moves next to him to study the photos. “Okay, but that could be a coincidence. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this. Professionals have used this M.O. for longer than I’ve been alive.”
“That is true, Agent Haught. But there is one other thing that connects these cases.” He pulls out another picture from each file, dropping them on top of the corresponding photo. “We have these fingerprints.”
Waverly stands up and rushes to the board. “No, that’s not possible!”
“I assure you that it is.”
Nicole looks closer at the photos. “What are you two talking about? That’s not a fingerprint.”
Doc looks at her dramatically. “Not a human fingerprint, no.”
Waverly looks closer at the screen. “It’s a robot’s.”
In case it isn't clear, I am NOT an engineer and know nothing about robotics. Allow for artistic license in all of this ;)
Nicole looks closer at the pixelated box on the screen. “What are you two talking about? It looks like one of those codes you scan with your phone.”
Waverly nods. “A QR code.”
“Right. So how is that a fingerprint?”
Waverly sighs and sits back down in her chair. “When Jeremy and I were first discussing the design of the robots, we knew that we needed something on their fingers and toes for traction. But I was uncomfortable with the idea of the usual spirals and whorls of a human fingerprint. Each person’s fingerprint is supposed to be unique. But we couldn’t guarantee that we wouldn’t accidentally copy someone’s print when designing them. So Jeremy came up with the idea of using a QR code.”
“He spent weeks developing a substance that would be indetectable and non-toxic that would be released any time a robot touched anything. But if it was processed like a fingerprint by law enforcement, the code would appear.”
Nicole looks at the code once again. “Are all the codes unique?” Waverly nods. “Okay, so we can scan the code and find out which unit these belong to. Easy.”
Doc points at the photos. “Go ahead and scan it.”
Nicole pulls her phone out of her pocket, brings up the photo app, and scans the code. A message appears on screen. ‘Patent - Chearp Robotics.’ She looks at it confused. “Wait, so that’s it? That’s all the information it can give us?”
Waverly nods again. “The codes are logged into our system with the unit and purchaser information but it can’t be accessed by anyone else.”
Nicole puts her phone away. “Great, so you can pull up the information we need.”
“Um, no I can’t. I don’t have access. The only people with access to that information are our legal team. And they won’t give it out without a warrant. And even then, they may fight it depending on how broad the warrant is and the laws surrounding the request.”
Nicole looks at her, incredulously. “But you can ask them for the information. You own the company. Won’t they just give it to you?”
Waverly shrugs. “Possibly. But I won’t. I stay out of the legal side of things. That’s what we pay them for. It keeps us and the company in the clear.”
Doc nods. “All right then, we get a warrant for the information and track this thing down. All we know at this time is that the perpetrator is one of your machines and we need to stop it.”
Waverly shakes her head and stands up and begins to pace around the room. “But that’s not possible! One of our robots couldn’t have done this! It goes against all their programming.”
Doc points at the board. “And yet, we have it right here in black and white. The prints are all identical, so by your own admission, we are looking for only one robot. They were found on or near the body with no other prints found in the home except for the victim’s or anyone else who might live there.”
Waverly waves at the chairs. “Okay, let’s sit down and I can explain a few things.” They all sit and turn the chairs so they are sitting in a small circle, facing each other. “When Jeremy and I started talking about the company, we came up with five rules that could never, ever be broken. We agreed that under no circumstances would we so much as bend them.”
“Number one - all the robots would have adult features. We knew that there would be some rich parents out there who would want to buy one for their kids or, worse, people who had lost their children and would want to buy one as a replacement. We didn’t want to get into the psychology behind grief and risk making their pain worse. And we didn’t want to even contemplate any more insidious reasons someone might want a pretend child. So we just nixed it from the beginning.”
“Number two,” Waverly glances at Nicole before focusing on Doc, “We would never make a robot that was meant to mimic someone else. We knew that there would be tons of people who would want their own Beyonce or Justin Timberlake. And we also knew there would be a multitude of lawsuits that would follow. We’ve even had celebrities offer us huge sums of money, I’m talking enough to allow everyone at the company to retire, to make them a duplicate of themselves so they could get some privacy, but we turned them all down. So when we get an order in, the avatar that is created is run through several facial recognition programs and any matches get sent to a department who reviews them and decides if we can go ahead with the order or contact the purchaser for changes. People always say that everyone has a duplicate, so they do sometimes allow them to go through after researching if it is just a coincidence or if the purchaser does actually know the person they are copying. But, let’s face it, if someone in the US wants a robot with pale skin, long, curly red hair, and green eyes, someone in Ireland is going to pop.”
“Number three - we will not mass produce the robots. Every unit is made-to-order. We have some skeletal or electronics pre-made, but we don’t have a warehouse full of robots just waiting to be delivered. And we will not take orders for large quantities from companies. We never wanted a robot in every home or for one to replace people in the job market. We wanted them to help in a way that a human might not be able to. The idea was for a family of someone who needed 24/7 medical care to have somewhere to turn. Or for security or in cases of an emergency where a human would be killed, like a nuclear powerplant meltdown. But none of those instances need twenty or thirty robots on standby. So we only allow people to buy one or two at the most.”
“Number four - we will never work with the government. We knew that as soon as they came out, we would have governments clamoring for a robot army. And why wouldn’t they? They could send them into a warzone and they could be replaced when necessary. They would basically be unstoppable. But which government would we sell to? If we sold an army to the US, what happens when Russia or China come calling? Or we sell to a small country and make them a superpower? We weren’t going to be in the business of picking sides.”
“And, finally, number five - and this one is pretty much the Prime Directive. Our robots cannot kill a human being. I had initially fought for it to be any living being, but Jeremy was logical about it. If we had someone purchase a unit to work on a farm, they might need to humanely euthanize a sick or injured animal. Same if they worked at a veterinarian's office. And it was completely impossible to have a robot that couldn’t accidentally step on a bug outside. They would look like they were glitching while staring at the ground, trying to avoid ants. But it is in their programming that they cannot kill a human. If necessary and legal to do so, they can restrain until law enforcement arrives. But not killing outright. They are even programmed to administer first aid or CPR to anyone in need and to intervene if they see a person about to kill another person. They will step in front of a bullet or restrain the attacker, no matter the circumstances.”
“So, you see, what you are suggesting just isn’t possible. We cannot have a murdering robot on the loose. It would go against everything they have been programmed for.”
Nicole reaches out and places a hand on Waverly’s leg. “Okay, but Babe, couldn’t someone have just reprogrammed her? Like you did with Rosita when we got Bernie and CJ?”
Waverly shakes her head. “There are only three people in the company who have access to do something like that. Jeremy and myself and our two longest running employees. Mattie is a wiz at metal work so she came on to help us with the skeletal structure and her sister Gretta is a nurse who helped us with the anatomy. Greta didn’t want to be involved in the programming aspect of things so Mattie will now travel to clients if they need an upgrade. But the port for both the USB and the on/off switch are covered by fingerprint access, just like this room. And only the three of us have our prints on file in order to open it.”
Doc chimes in. “Could someone within your company have made their own robot without that programming? You said you were being offered a lot of money. Could someone have not approached an employee to do this without your knowledge.”
Waverly shakes her head once again. “Our security wouldn’t allow something like that to happen. Every new hire is severely vetted with background and credit checks. And most believe in our company policy. There have been a few who have been approached and they either came straight to us to let us know what happened or their coworkers found out and told us and they were immediately terminated.”
“But even if that wasn’t the case, there is only one person who could make a robot from start to finish, and that’s Jeremy. Chearp Robotics is highly compartmentalized. Each department has strict security access that only allows authorized people to enter using fingerprint, password, and voice verification. Each doorway is equipped with degaussers that will erase any electronic device brought into the room. So employees can’t even bring in their personal cell phones or laptops so they can’t take pictures or videos inside the room. There is no wi-fi and the computers aren’t networked within the facility either. And the data on the computer screens vibrate so that film pictures come out blurry.”
“We look at building them almost as if we were building a human body. When an order comes in, the dimensions are given to the metalworkers, who enter them into the computer and get a blueprint of the skeleton. Once that’s built, it goes to another department who put in the electronics, kind of like the organs, and wiring, similar to the circulatory system. Then to the chemical department for the ‘bodily fluids’. Then onto the department that covers the skeleton with an inner metal covering before heading over to the department that does the outer skin, hair, nails, eyes, all of the visible parts. Then it goes into programming, where it gets the basics that they all have - how to speak English, how to do basic cooking and cleaning, CPR and first aid, ummm…” Waverly blushes a little at the next one and looks at the floor, “human sexuality, et cetera, et cetera. Plus anything the purchaser specifically asks for like another language, or being able to drive, child rearing, whatever it might be. Last step, it comes to Jeremy, Mattie, or myself, who review everything and make sure that the programs are all correct using checklists as well as programs that check for specific codes, like the ‘no killing’ one before one of the three of us flip the switch. And, again, the switches are all programmed with our fingerprints, so no one else can turn a robot on.”
“There is only one copy of the entire robot schematic from start to finish, which is on a hard drive and locked in a secure vault off-premise and it takes both Jeremy and I to get in. No way could someone just ‘make their own’ robot”.
Doc takes a deep breath. “Alright. So what stops someone, maybe from the government, from buying one of your machines, taking it apart, and reverse engineering it?”
Waverly looks at him. “It will self-destruct.”
Nicole shoots her a surprised look. “What?!?”
“If someone intentionally damages a robot or tries to reprogram it, it will self-destruct. That’s the reason the skeleton is covered in metal. At the first sign of tampering, it will release a highly caustic substance that will immediately destroy the electronics and quickly cause everything inside the metal to disintegrate. By the time they got inside, everything would be gone. That’s the reason we ask what the robot will be used for. If it’s going to be used for security or something dangerous, we will reinforce the outer skin to try to make it indestructible. But if anything gets to the metal, the robot basically dies.”
“It’s all listed in the fine print of the sales contract. We are notified when a robot self-destructs by a special alert so we can go collect the remains and see what happened. If it’s determined to be intentional, the purchaser is blacklisted from ever buying another one. And, yes, we’ve had people try and then try to get their money back. But our legal team made sure that the contract was air-tight and no one has ever succeeded.”
“Believe me, we’ve thought of everything. So I can’t see how it’s possible that someone got through our security.”
Nicole reaches out and places a hand on Waverly’s knee. “You know we’re going to have to talk to Jeremy.”
Doc leans forward and leans on his legs. “And Mattie.”
Waverly sits back heavily with a sigh and runs her fingers through her hair. “I trust Jeremy 100%. He didn’t have anything to do with this. And Mattie…” She shakes her head. “No way. The robots are her babies. She…isn’t a fan of people. She wouldn’t risk the company to do something like this.”
Nicole looks at her with sympathy. “I believe you. But we have to be sure. It’s our job.”
Waverly nods her head. “I know.”
Nicole stands and walks back over to the smart board. “Alright. Let’s review the victims and see if we can find a connection. Doc, what do you have?”
After several hours of reviewing the files and researching the victims, there is a knock on the door. “Yes, Rosita?”
“Wynonna said to let you know when it was time for you to meet her for dinner. It is time for you to meet her for dinner.”
Nicole turns back to the group. “Okay, let’s put this away for now. We’ll go out and have dinner and some drinks and we’ll get started again in the morning. Sound good?”
Doc and Waverly both nod.
After dinner, Doc and Wynonna head back to the homestead, with Wynonna oblivious to the obvious tension around her. Nicole and Waverly are getting ready for bed when the redhead turns to her girlfriend. “Wave, can I ask you something?”
Waverly pulls her shirt off before rummaging around in her dresser. “Of course.”
Nicole sits on the edge of their bed. “You said the rules were absolute and that they were never to be broken.”
Waverly looks at her, knowing what’s coming. “Uh huh.”
“But you broke rule number two when you made the Waverly bot for me.”
Waverly pulls her sleep shirt on and sits next to her on the bed. “Yeah, that was…a mistake.” Her eyes widen. “Not the outcome, obviously! I just mean, Jeremy accidentally signed off on the order while everything else was happening between you and I. And when it was completed, it went to Mattie and she saw that the boss had okayed it. She thought Jeremy was playing a prank on me or we were playing a prank on Wynonna. She went along with it without knowing the truth. And when we brought the bot back to be reconstructed into Rosita, she just thought the prank was over and we never corrected her.”
Nicole nods slowly. “So you and Jeremy are the only two people who know the true story.”
Waverly places her hand on Nicole’s cheek with a loving gleam in her eye. “Yeah, and I pinky-swore him to secrecy, which is as serious a promise as it gets. No one knows the truth about any of what happened except for us and anyone you might have told. And it will stay that way.”
Nicole leans forward and kisses her gently. “Not that I’m ashamed of what happened. Or, well, not the outcome at least.” She winces. “But if anyone else knew, that would put a damper on all your rules, which could look bad.”
“So, it stays our secret?”
Nicole lays her forehead against Waverly’s. “Definitely.” They kiss again before standing from the bed. They withdraw to their own sides of the bed before climbing under the mountain of blankets and meeting back up in the middle. Waverly cuddles up against Nicole’s side, her head on her chest with Nicole playing with her hair as they drift off to sleep.
Nicole and Doc step into the lobby of Chearp Robotics the following morning and walk up to the receptionist’s desk. The blonde woman sitting behind it smiles at Nicole and greets her with a cute British accent. “Hello, Ms. Haught.”
Nicole’s lip twitches before she schools it into professionally neutral. She holds out her badge. “Agent Haught and Agent Holliday to see Mr. Chetri, please.”
The receptionist stares at her badge, eyes wide in shock. “Ummm, do you…do you have an appointment?”
Waverly steps out of the hall and behind the desk, placing her hand on the receptionist’s shoulder. “I’ve got this, Stacey. Thanks! Agents, this way please.” She motions them down the hall towards the elevators.
They follow with Doc tipping his hat with a polite “Ma’am” at the receptionist. Waverly leads them to the executive elevator, which opens immediately. They step inside and she hits the button for the administration floor. After the elevator moves for a few seconds, Nicole hits the emergency stop button. The alarm starts to sound and she reaches into the phone alcove and taps a hidden button that silences the alarm. She looks at Doc, who has his eyebrows raised in surprise. “Don’t! Don’t ask!”
Doc nods, his lip turning up in a smirk. “I will not…for now.”
Nicole closes her eyes and groans, knowing Doc won’t let it go later and will question her on how she knows how to turn off the alarm. She really doesn’t want to have to explain the kinds of debauchery that she and Waverly have gotten into in this very elevator so she’ll have to come up with a convincing lie later. But for now, she turns to glare at her girlfriend. “Waverly, you can’t be here for this.”
Waverly crosses her arms in front of her chest. “Yes, Nicole, I can be. If this investigation is going to involve MY company, MY family, my life, then I have every right to be here while they’re being questioned.”
Nicole rubs at her forehead. “Waverly…”
The brunette holds up a finger to stop her. “Nicole, you know Jeremy. If you and Doc go in there to question him, he will get all flustered and start babbling, and will probably confess to whatever you ask him just from nerves. He has the right to a representative.”
“Sure, he’s entitled to a lawyer.”
“And if that’s what he wants, we will call legal down. But it’s his decision. I’m not going to leave my partner, my, well, my BROTHER to face this alone. No way.”
Nicole looks at Doc, who’s looking at the ceiling guiltily, trying to stay out of the fight. Nicole rolls her eyes at him. “Thanks for the support, Doc.”
Doc looks at her and shrugs. “If Miss Waverly wishes to observe and advise her friend, I see no harm.”
Nicole throws her hands up. “Okay, fine. Have it your way. But you can’t mention the case in any way. You are only there to keep him calm and focused.”
Waverly nods and lifts up on her tiptoes to plant a kiss on the redhead’s cheek before reaching over and starting the elevator up again. “Oh! And if you want to see Mattie, she’s leaving this afternoon on a business trip. But I can see if she will talk to you.”
The elevator bings and the door slides open. Nicole motions for Waverly to lead the way and Doc brings up the rear. Waverly stops in front of a door and knocks. “Mattie? There are some federal agents here who would like to speak with you.”
Mattie opens the door a crack and peeks out, looking first at Waverly and then behind her at Nicole and Doc. “No.” She slams the door shut.
Waverly knocks again. “Mattie, c’mon.”
Mattie speaks through the door. “Do they have a warrant?”
Doc speaks up. “No, Ma’am. But we could get one.”
“Well, when you do, you can contact my lawyer to set up a meeting. Now, go away.”
Waverly looks at them with a sheepish half-smile and shrugs. “Told ya. Not a people person.” They start heading down the hall towards her and Jeremy’s office. “But she’s a wiz at metal. When she’s here, she’s always trying to make it stronger, lighter, and more durable. I swear, sometimes I think she’s a witch with what she can make it do.” Waverly chuckles under her breath.
When they arrive at the office door, Waverly spins around and implores, “Please be gentle with Jeremy. I’m sure he’s not involved in this in any way and he’s very…sensitive.”
Nicole gives her a frustrated look. “We didn’t exactly bring the rubber hoses with us to question a possible witness.” Doc lets out a quiet laugh. “I promise we know what we’re doing.”
The brunette nods and turns back to the door. She places her finger on the reader, punches in a passcode, and whispers a password before they hear the locks disengage. She waves them in and closes the door.
Jeremy is sitting at his computer, shaking his head at the monitor, and motions her over without looking. “Waves, you have to see this order!”, he says laughing. She walks over to stand next to his chair.
“Look at these measurements! I mean, how does this guy think the bot is going to be able to stand being this top heavy?”
“I think we need to put mins and maxes on the website so we don’t have to keep dealing with…”
“Jeremy!” Waverly almost shouts to try to get his attention.
Jeremy jumps and looks at her. “What?”
She motions behind him and he spins his chair around. “Nic…”
Nicole walks over and puts a hand on the brunette’s shoulder. “Mister Chetri. I’m Agent Haught and this is Agent Holliday.” She indicates Doc. “We’d like to ask you some questions.”
Jeremy jumps up, forcing his chair into his desk before it bounces back into the back of his legs and he stumbles slightly. He looks between Waverly and the two agents several times. “What? What about?”
Waverly gives the redhead an exasperated look and puts a hand on the young man’s arm. “Jeremy. Nicole and Doc are working on a case and they’d like our help.”
Jeremy points at the mustachioed man. “Wait. Doc Holliday? THE Doc Holliday?”
Doc stands up a little straighter and puffs out his chest. “Now, don’t be ridiculous. He was my great, gr…” Nicole jabs him with her elbow and he deflates. “He was kin.” He mutters, rubbing at his sore ribs. He takes a step forward. “Jeremy. May I call you Jeremy?” Jeremy nods quickly, gaping at Doc. “Jeremy, we would be very much obliged if you would be willing to speak with us regarding this case.”
“Uh, yeah, sure! Anything I can do to help!”
Doc nods. “Thank you kindly. Is there somewhere more private where we might go?”
Jeremy points at a boardroom across the room before looking at Waverly. “Are you coming with?”
“If you want me to. Or we can call legal…”
Jeremy shakes his head. “No, no. As long as you’re there.” Waverly gives him a small smile and the group head towards the conference room.
Jeremy and Waverly sit on one side of the table while Nicole and Doc sit on the other. Nicole had figured that since she already knew Jeremy that she would be taking the lead. But the two agents notice how the young man kept glancing at Doc and blushing, and after giving each other a look, Doc speaks up again. “Now, Jeremy, as we have said, your name came up during an investigation.”
Jeremy looks a bit shaken. “I haven’t done anything.”
Doc holds up a calming hand. “We do not believe that you have done anything wrong. Just that you might have some information.”
Jeremy takes a deep breath and nods. “Okay, sure, maybe.” He glances at Waverly who smiles at him, comfortingly.
Doc pulls out a tape recorder and looks at them both questioningly. They nod and he hits ‘record’. “Alright. Agent Haught and I have spoken with Miss Waverly and she has given us some information regarding your business here.”
Jeremy shoots a look at Waverly and whispers, “You’ve talked to the feds? About Chearp? What about rule number four?”
She whispers back, “Just about this case, Jerem. This is important.”
Doc starts again. “As I was saying, we’ve spoken to your partner here. About the security that is in place both at her home and here. We need to know about your security as well.”
Jeremy shrugs. “It’s the same as what Waverly has at home. My office and computer are set up the same as hers. Both require a fingerprint to get in.”
“And does anyone but yourself have access?”
Jeremy shakes his head. “No. I mean, except for Waverly. We both have access to each other’s systems in case of an emergency. But no one else can get into this office or my apartment.”
“And have you had anyone in your apartment who may have been able to sneak in?”
“No. Waverly and Nico…Agent Haught…” His eyes dart to the redhead.
Nicole gives him a smile. “Nicole is fine.”
Jeremy sighs, glad that they are back on a first-name basis. “Waverly and Nicole have been over for dinner or game nights a few times. And I’ve been to their place. Or we meet at Shorty’s. But no one else ever comes over.”
“And have you ever used your computer at an unsecured location? A coffee shop? Or hotel?”
“No, I would never trust the wi-fi in a place like that. Any work I do is always here or at home. And I never go anywhere, so I’d never be in a hotel…” He trails off.
Waverly looks at him. “What is it?”
“It’s just, I did go somewhere about six months ago. That robotics seminar, remember?” Waverly nods. “And I brought my laptop since I was giving a presentation and the Powerpoint was on it. But I never connected to the internet.”
Doc puts down the pen he was using to take extra notes. “Tell us about this seminar.”
Jeremy shrugs. “Typical boring conference. I was the lead speaker since Chearp is the leading robotics company at the moment. A lot of people want to know what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. But Waves and I have agreed to keep a lot of it under wraps. So I answered their questions as vaguely as I could while still giving them a little push in the right direction.”
Doc nods. “Anything else happen?”
Jeremy blushes. “Well, I did kind of meet someone.”
Waverly looks at him sharply. “What?! You never told me that!”
“Because nothing really happened! I mean, this guy came up to me after my talk and was just gushing over me. He was really sweet and…” He starts picking at a non-existent spot on the table. “Kind of flirty. He asked me if I wanted to have dinner and I suggested a place around the corner, but he said he’d rather we order room service so it would be quiet and we could be alone. That kind of thing NEVER happens to me, so why not, you know?” Waverly nods. “So we go up to my room and have dinner and a few drinks, all the while talking about our hobbies, likes and dislikes. He was the only one there who didn’t ask me about work. And then we started to…” He starts motioning with his hands but does his best not to make any obscene gestures. “And then he started to…” He again trails off with a blush and Waverly gives him a reassuring smile. “But I couldn’t…I guess the events of the day started to catch up with me and I was suddenly exhausted, so I tapped out. But I still count it as half, hey oh!” He raises his hand for a high-five. Waverly just shakes her head at him while the agents try their best not to smirk and he drops his hand. “Right, timing Jeremy! Sorry! Sorry sorry sorry!”
Doc leans forward. “So then what happened?”
“We fell asleep.”
“Well, yeah. And when I woke up the next morning, he was gone. I was really bummed because I had hoped maybe we could have breakfast together. Or, you know, continue where we left off. I hadn’t even gotten his phone number. But I knew he had a flight to catch back home and I had slept kind of late, so I guess he couldn’t wait any longer.”
Waverly holds up a hand. “Wait. YOU slept in late? You never sleep in!”
Jeremy tosses his hands up in the air. “I know, right?!? I’ve always been an extremely light sleeper. I get up several times a night. And yet, here I’ve got a guy in my bed for the first time in…ever, and I sleep like the dead!” He sits back, looking dejected.
Waverly lays a hand on his arm and rubs it gently while glancing at Doc and Nicole. They both look at each other and back at the young man.
Doc picks his pen back up. “Did you happen to get this man’s name?”
“Yeah, Robin Jett.”
Waverly looks at him again. “Wait? Did you say Robin Jett?”
Jeremy nods. “That’s what he told me. Also said he was from here in Purgatory but doesn’t live here anymore.” He watches as Waverly pulls out her phone and starts tapping away. “Why? Do you know him?” Waverly pulls up her old high school yearbook from the Purgatory Public Library and pulls up a picture. She shows her phone to Jeremy and he nods. “He’s cute. Who is he?”
Waverly turns the phone back to check the picture to be sure it hadn’t changed and turns it back around to Jeremy. “That’s Robin Jett. I went to high school with him.”
Jeremy glances at the agents, back at the phone, and once again at Waverly. “That’s not the guy I met. But I guess there could be more than one Robin Jett in the world.”
Waverly looks at the phone once again in confusion. “But you said he said he was from Purgatory? There’s not more than one Robin Jett from around here.”
Jeremy’s shoulders droop. “So I didn’t even get a real name? Why steal the identity of a guy I don’t even know. Man, I should’ve known it was all too good to be true.” He lightly slaps the table with his hand in irritation.
Doc and Nicole have a whispered conversation while Waverly tries to console Jeremy. Doc sits back. “Jeremy, we would like to have our tech people take a look at your laptop.”
Waverly and Jeremy both shake their heads. “Nope. Sorry, not happening. I have confidential and proprietary information on that computer and we are not going to share it with anyone, much less the government.”
“We could get a warrant.”
Jeremy sits up straighter and says confidently. “Go ahead. And you can send it to our legal team, who will bury you in paperwork. Look, if you think someone hacked into my laptop, I’d be more than happy to take a look for you. But I’m the only one who has access and that’s not going to change.”
Waverly nods and faces the agents. “Sorry, but I agree with him. And I really think he’s told you everything he can.”
Realizing they pushed too far and were unlikely to get any more for today, Doc reaches over and turns off the recorder before putting it and his notes in his pocket. He pulls out a business card. “Alright, if you think of anything else, please give me or Agent Hau…Nicole, a call.” He stands up and hands Jeremy his card. “And please don’t discuss any of this with anyone else. And, yes, that includes Miss Waverly.”
Jeremy picks up the card and looks it over. “But I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be thinking about. You never said what this case was in regards to or how my name came up.”
Doc puts a hand on Jeremy’s shoulder and Jeremy looks at it longingly. “The less you know right now, the better. We may require further assistance if you would be amenable to that?” Jeremy nods and licks his lips before looking up at Doc. Doc tips his hat at the young man with a half smile. “Then I hope you have a fine evening.”
Nicole rises and walks over to Waverly. “I’ll see you at home?” The brunette nods and Doc and Nicole walk out of the room.
Waverly looks at Jeremy. “You okay?”
Jeremy glances at her. “Yeah, I guess.” He is turning the business card over and over in his hands. “Hey, do you know if Doc is single?”
When Waverly arrives home, Doc and Nicole are already holed up in their office. She unlocks the door and peeks her head in. “Am I still consulting on the case or…?”
Nicole looks up at her with a smile. “Of course.”
Waverly steps inside and lets the door close behind her. “I just wasn’t sure. I’m sorry I went against you guys. You know, with the whole laptop thing.”
The redhead waves off her apology. “We knew it was a long shot when we asked. We need your help translating and researching what we just learned. And you know Jeremy best.” She taps a chair with her foot. “C’mon. Have a seat and let us know what you think.”
Waverly rushes up to the chair and sits down. Nicole and Doc turn their chairs to give her their undivided attention. “First thing is that I think the guy pretending to be Robin drugged him.” The agents nod. “Jeremy is shy and awkward around people, especially flirty people. If they got as far as his bed, it wouldn’t matter how tired he was from his day, there’s no way he would stop. Unless the other person asked him to, of course.”
Doc sits back. “That was our thought as well. The drugging part, not the…ummm, intimate activities.”
“And as Jeremy said, he is a super light sleeper. It used to drive me crazy at college. He wouldn’t have overslept if there was a chance for them to continue unless he had help.”
Nicole grabbed her notebook. “It seemed like you knew Robin Jett. Tell us about him.”
Waverly nods. “We went to high school together. He dated my friend Chrissy all through junior year. That is, until he came out. But they were able to remain friends so we all still hung out together until we all went off to different colleges. But when I showed his yearbook photo to Jeremy, he said that wasn’t the guy he met.”
Nicole taps the notebook with her pen. “So we need to figure out who stole Robin Jett’s identity and why. I guess it’s a lead, although not a great one.” She turns her chair back to her desk, tosses her notebook aside, and boots up her computer. Waverly wheels her chair over to her desk to do the same.
After a short time of Doc rereading the case files and moving information around on the smart board while Nicole and Waverly are quietly typing away on their computers, Doc’s phone rings. He looks at the unknown number before answering. “This is Agent Holliday’s phone.”
“Uh, hi, Doc. I mean, uhhh, Agent Holliday, sir. I mean…” Jeremy stammers on the other end.
Doc smirks and puts the phone on speaker. “Good afternoon, Jeremy. I was not expecting to hear from you again so soon.” Waverly and Nicole turn their chairs to listen.
“Yeah, well, I did some digging into my laptop, like you asked. And I noticed something odd. My history shows that I logged into it the night of the conference. You know, the one where imposter Robin and I…”
“Yes, I know the day of which you speak.”
“Right! Anyways, it shows that I logged in that night and made some updates to the system. Mainly, that I added another fingerprint as a master user. But I was asleep and never made these changes.”
“And what would a ‘master user’ have access to, exactly?”
“Everything! Any and all rooms in the building, access to the robot’s programming. The only thing I don’t think it would work for would be mine and Waverly’s offices here or at home. Those have extra security or are on a separate network.”
“I see. So you have a major security breach on your hands.”
“I’ve got the computer running a facial recognition program on our security feeds versus our personnel files, so I’ll let you know if it comes up with anything. But one of the other strange things is that the fingerprint access has only been used once. On Robot number 2.”
“Robot number 2?”
“Yeah, it was a prototype that we built when we were first getting started. Literally the second one we ever built.”
Waverly slaps her forehead as if remembering something. Nicole swipes her hand at her throat, indicating to Doc to end the call. “Thank you, Jeremy. You’ve been a great help.”
“Sure, sure. Ummm, you wouldn’t happen to, like, wanna get a drink sometime? Maybe? With, ummm, with me?”
Nicole slaps a hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter and Waverly rolls her eyes while Doc’s eyes widen in surprise. “Well, now, I will have to let you know later if I will have time before returning home.”
“Great! I mean, yeah, just, you know, let me know!”
“Thank you again, Jeremy.” Doc hangs up the phone before dropping it as if he’s been burned. Nicole drops her hand and laughs loudly until Waverly joins in. “Did that young man just…ask me out on a date?”
Waverly nods, still laughing. “Sorry, Doc! I may have told him you were single and he decided to take a chance. I would’ve warned you but I never thought he’d actually get the courage to do it!”
Nicole pats him on the shoulder. “You just have to face the fact that you’re a heartbreaker of all genders.”
Doc stands up a little straighter, puffing out his chest, his ego sufficiently soothed, before looking back at the ladies. “So, Miss Waverly, what is it that you remembered before that rather embarrassing incident?”
Waverly shakes her head and becomes more serious. “Oh, right! Robot number 2!”
Nicole looks at her. “What about it?”
“Robin’s dad had it!”
Nicole looks surprised. “Wait, so you know what it looks like?”
Waverly deflates slightly. “Well, no. When we were first starting out, we made three prototypes. Very basic. No real features or genders. Just to test their capabilities. Jeremy, Mattie, and I each took one to put through its paces and tweek its programming. Make sure it could control its strength and speed, it could speak properly, that kind of thing. Then we sent them to the other departments to practice their crafts. I was busy trying to keep the whole company afloat financially when they got through with their esthetics. Then, we offered them for free to test them in the real world with the understanding that we needed reports back very regularly on their progress. Kind of like a beta test. Two went to nursing homes in the big city but one went to Mr. Jett. You see, Robin had gone off to college and Mr. Jett was extremely sick but refused to leave his home. So he needed help with activities in daily living, which was exactly what we were building the robots for. So he agreed to let us use him as a guinea pig so Robin could stay in school and he could be taken care of. I believe we did regular testing until Mr. Jett’s death about a year ago.”
Nicole looks at her, confused. “But I thought we had decided that the person we’re looking for isn’t Robin? Do you think Jeremy was wrong about the photo you showed him? Or maybe he’s covering for him?”
Waverly shakes her head vehemently. “No! No, Jeremy wouldn’t do that.” She grabs Nicole’s hands. “I know him, Nicole. He’s my best friend. He wouldn’t be involved in something like this, I just know it!”
Nicole squeezes her hands. “Okay, I believe you. So maybe Robin has an accomplice?”
“I just can’t believe Robin would be involved in something like this. He was so sweet and kind in high school.”
Doc looks at her with something akin to pity. “People change, Darlin’.”
Waverly sits back in her chair and lets her head and shoulders drop. “I guess so.” She looks back up hopefully. “But maybe someone DID steal his identity. Maybe they knew his family had a robot and they stole it and are framing him.”
Nicole shoots a glance at Doc before looking back at her girlfriend. “Anything’s possible. I guess we’ll just have to keep researching and see what we can find. Waves, you said Mr. Jett didn’t want to leave his home. Can you see if it’s been sold since his death? I’m going to search for Robin and see if I can find anything. Doc…” He turns to look at her questioningly. She grimaces. “You do whatever you do.” Doc smirks and winks at her.
Waverly stands up and shakes her phone. “I’ve got a better way to get information on this town than the internet. Be right back!” She skips out of the office.
Doc looks at Nicole in confusion. “What was that about?”
Waverly sits down on the couch and dials her phone. It rings a few times before someone picks up. “Hey Chris!”
“OMG Gurl! It has been TOO long!”
Waverly smiles. “I know, I’m sorry. Work has been crazy.”
“Uh huh. And I’m sure that girl of yours has been keeping you pretty tied up as well.”
Waverly can hear the innuendo in her friend’s voice and replies with a devious smirk. “Maybe a little.”
“How’s it going with the two of you? Getting serious?”
“Yeah, pretty serious. We live together. Have a couple of kids.”
“WHAT?!?” Chrissy shouts into the phone.
Waverly laughs. “Kidding, Chris! Well, mostly. We DO have a dog and a cat though.”
“Do I hear wedding bells in the near future?”
“I don’t know about the NEAR future. She hasn’t asked yet.”
“That’s the beauty of dating another woman! YOU can ask HER!”
Waverly stops and thinks for a second. “Huh. Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right. And we have GOT to get together so I can meet her!”
Waverly nods. “Soon, I promise.”
“This Friday. That’s more than three days away so you can put it on your calendar, Little Miss Planner.”
“Okay, I’ll check with Nicole to make sure she doesn’t have to work and I’ll let you know.”
“Well, if she does have to work, then it’ll just be the two of us. I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
“So, what were you calling me about? Or was it just to brag about your love life?”
“Hey, you brought it up! But, yeah, I was calling about something specific.”
“Have you talked to Robin lately?”
“No, not since before his accident.”
“Yeah, he was in a pretty serious one, oh, about two years ago, I guess. I don’t have the details, but I do know he was in a coma for several months. That’s why he wasn’t at his dad’s funeral.”
Waverly gasps. “Oh my god! That’s terrible! I haven’t heard anything about it.”
“Yeah, I ran into the guy who’s living at the house and he told me but asked me not to spread it around.”
“So, has the Jett place been sold?”
“Not that I know of. I haven’t seen any signs or a moving van. I’m not sure if Robin’s renting it out or if he’s living there with a guy and I just haven’t seen him. But someone’s living there. Why the sudden interest? Oh my god, Bitch, were you looking to buy it? We could be neighbors!”
“Yeah, until you finally move out of your dad’s place.”
“I’m going to. Soon.”
“You’ve been saying that for five years.”
“Well, why should I? Free room and board. And with our schedules, it’s not like we ever really see each other. I’m just going to wait until my Prince Charming comes along and sweeps me off to his castle where I can live the rest of my life in luxury.”
Waverly laughs. “Well, at least you have standards.”
“You betcha.” Chrissy pauses. “Waves, I’ve gotta get back to work.”
“Okay, see ya Chris.”
“Friday! Go put it in your planner!”
Waverly chuckles. “I will! Bye.”
The phone disconnects and Waverly drops it into her lap for a moment while she ponders what Chrissy said about Robin. Her phone dings a moment later and she looks to find a text from Chrissy with a calendar invite for Friday. She laughs as she accepts before heading back to the office.
When she steps inside, Nicole and Doc both look at her. “Who were you calling?” The redhead asks.
“My friend, Chrissy. Who we are having dinner with on Friday if we’re not busy.” Nicole nods in agreement. “If you need town gossip, she’s the one to ask.”
“And she said someone is living in the Jett house but she doesn’t know who it is. But she hasn’t seen Robin in a while. She says he was in a very serious accident a few years ago but didn’t have any details. That’s all the new tenant would say.”
“Hmmm…” Nicole turns back to her computer. “I didn’t find anything about an accident when I Googled him, but without knowing details like where it happened, it might be tough to find.”
Doc stands up. “I do believe we should go speak to the gentleman currently living in the house. Maybe he is the one pretending to be this Robin fellow.”
Nicole turns and stands up as well. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. Waves, can you send me a picture of Robin from the yearbook, in case we see him?”
Waverly goes over to her computer to pull up the picture and sends it to her. “If it is the guy, Jeremy would be able to tell you. Maybe you could take a discreet picture and send it to him?”
“Another good idea.” Nicole bends down and kisses Waverly on the top of the head. “Why don’t you take a break for a while? Maybe we’ll have more to go on once we get back.”
Waverly smiles up at her. “Good ideas all around. Be careful!”
“Don’t you worry, Miss Waverly. I will keep your girl safe.” Doc tips his hat and walks out of the office. Nicole dramatically rolls her eyes at the brunette and follows him out.
As I said in the tags, I'm VERY sorry for this!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
As Doc drove them to their destination, Nicole called Jeremy, “Hi Jeremy.”
“Hey Nicole! What’s up?”
“Doc and I are going to interview a person of interest in the case we are working on and we were hoping you could take a look at him and see if you recognize him from anywhere.”
“Sure, of course!!” The young man said excitedly. “Do I get to be apart of a sting operation? Should I meet you somewhere? Should I wear all black? I’ll wear all black!”
“Jeremy!” Nicole interrupted. “I’m just going to put you on FaceTime and point the camera at the person.”
“Oh, right, yeah, that makes sense.” He sounds completely deflated.
“But if this goes anywhere, we would definitely need you to testify in court. Maybe even do a lineup?” Nicole tells him, hoping to make him feel better. And from the tone of his “cool”, it works. “So, I’m going to hang up and I will call you when we get there. Once we’re there, just ignore anything I say over the phone and let me know if you see anyone familiar. Got it?”
“Yup, got it!”
“Okay, I’ll talk to you soon.” Nicole hangs up and looks over at a smirking Doc. “Oh, shut up.” She grumbles before looking out the side window.
When they pull up to the house, Doc gets out of the car and starts up the walk while Nicole FaceTimes Jeremy. She switches the camera so it is facing the house and she starts pacing along the sidewalk.
Doc rings the doorbell and pulls out a notebook and pen. The door opens to reveal a young, brunette man. Doc puts on his most professional smile. “Good afternoon, Sir. My name is Agent Holliday, and this is…” He motions to his side and pretends to be surprised when Nicole is not next to him. He looks around and sees her still pacing the sidewalk. He calls out to her. “Uh, Agent Haught?” She stops, the camera facing the door, and waves him off angrily. He turns back to the man in the doorway. “I do apologize for that. She is apparently on an important phone call. As I was saying, I am Agent Holliday and I was hoping I could take up a few moments of your time.”
Meanwhile, Nicole listens as Jeremy exclaims, “That’s him! That’s Robin! Or, well, maybe NOT Robin, but the guy who called himself Robin when I met him.”
Nicole interrupts him. “Great, thank you.” She hangs up and walks confidently up to the door, giving Doc an imperceptible nod.
He gives her a quick wink back in acknowledgment before continuing his conversation. “Ah, here is my partner, Agent Haught, Mister…”
The young man switches his attention from the redhead back to the mustachioed man. “Uh, Robin. Robin Jett.” He says with a smile.
Doc taps on the notebook with his pen and it slips from his fingers. The young man in the doorway bends down to pick it up, stepping outside onto the porch. As soon as he does, Doc grabs his arm. “Well, Mr. Jett, or whatever your real name is, you are under arrest for identity theft and grand larceny.” He spins him around to handcuff him.
Robin twists in his arms. “Wait, what?!?”
Doc reads off his Miranda rights as he walks him to the car and places him in the back seat. Once the door is closed, he addresses Nicole. “Do we have somewhere we can take him to be questioned?”
Nicole nods. “I spoke with Sheriff Nedley a while back and he said we can use his interrogation room if we ever needed to. Didn’t think we ever would though. What are the chances of one of our cases leading us here?” She shakes her head as she rounds the car and Doc holds his hat as he slides into the driver’s side.
When they arrive at the police station, Doc leads Robin inside with Nicole right behind him. Nedley walks past, holding his newly filled coffee mug, and Robin calls out to him. “Sheriff Nedley! Can you please tell these people who I am?!?”
Nedley stops to look back at them all. “Ummm, I’m sorry son, but who are you?”
Robin’s shoulders drop. “I’m Robin Jett. I’ve lived next door to you my entire life.” Nedley looks at him in disbelief. “I know, I know I look different. I was in an accident, but I can prove I am who I say I am!”
Nedley glances at Nicole and Doc and then gives Robin a quick head nod. “All right. Let’s have it.”
Robin looks a bit excited. “I dated your daughter Chrissy for a year in high school!”
Nedley shakes his head. “Everyone at the high school and around town knew about that.”
“Uh, okay…” He thinks for a moment. “Oh! You and my dad used to go fishing at least once a month before he got too sick to go. The two of you took Chrissy and me once but Chrissy caught mono and I was too squicked out by the worms to even touch them. So you left us with Curtis and Gus McCready after that until we were old enough to stay home by ourselves.”
Nedley looks unsure at this memory. Yes, it was all true, but he was trying to reconcile the information with the fact that the young man standing in front of him was NOT the Robin Jett he had known for the past twenty plus years.
Doc takes a small step forward. “I apologize, Sheriff, but we do need to speak with this young man alone if you wouldn’t mind. I understand this may all be a big misunderstanding but it is procedure.”
Nedley steps out of their way and motions them past. “Of course.”
As they walk past, Robin twists his head. “Wait! You took my fingerprints when I was a kid in case I ever went missing! You could take them again now and compare them to prove who I am!”
Doc marches them down the hallway towards the interrogation room and Nicole hangs back for a moment. “Sheriff Nedley, I understand this is confusing. I’m confused too. If you would like to fingerprint him in a little while, we would be happy to allow you to. Just give us a little bit of time with him. As a professional courtesy.”
Nedley gives her a gruff nod and she follows Doc into the dreary, white room with a single table and four chairs. Doc has already put Robin into one of the chairs and hooked his handcuffs to the table. She sits down across from him and pulls out the tape recorder, setting it to record, before also pulling out her notebook. Doc remains standing behind his own chair beside her.
Robin holds his hands palm out in front of him as best he can. “Look, I can explain everything. But I really AM Robin Jett.”
“Because you have identification saying as much. Those can be forged, you know.”
Robin drops his hands. “No, I don’t have any ID.” He sighs deeply. “Like I said, I was in an accident and no longer look the same as I did. I’ve been trying to get through a lot of red tape but it’s not going well. I had surgery in the states and then they LifeFlighted me back here so I didn’t get a new passport before coming back. Which has only made things that much harder.”
“Surely you can ask the surgeon who did the procedure to testify on your behalf?”
“I’ve tried but he is taking a leave of absence. Something about a death in the family.” Nicole is busy writing notes but Doc sees the tiny smirk that briefly appears on Robin’s face at the mention of the death.
“You believe that is funny? You take joy in other people’s pain and loss?”
Nicole looks up in confusion at Doc’s statement and watches Robin’s face shift as if a switch had been flipped. Gone was the scared, confused boy and in his stead was a cold, angry man. “And why shouldn’t I? No one cared about my pain and loss. Not for over a year. He got what he deserved. They all did.”
Robin leans forward with an evil half smile on his face. “How many have you found?”
Doc leans over the back of his chair, placing his arms onto the table. “How many are there to find?”
Robin lets out a hardy laugh. “Ahh, so you want my whole story, do you?” He looks around the room, glancing at the walls, two-way mirror, and the clock before he shrugs. “Sure, I’ll tell you what you want to know. There were seven in total. Well, so far.”
Nicole’s grip on her notebook tightens and she breathes out a soft, “What?”
“Didn’t know about them all, huh? How many did you link back to me?” He waves them off. “Doesn’t matter. You want my story? I’ve got to go back to the beginning, so you better get comfy.”
Doc sits down next to Nicole and Robin leans back in his chair, looking at his captive audience. “My dad was sick. MS. I was away at university, so the doctors suggested he go into assisted living but he refused to leave his house. Chearp gave us a robot to help take care of him but I had to get a job to pay the bills since he couldn’t work. Well, there weren’t many options near school that would pay me what I needed and would work around my school hours, so I got a job at a chemical plant. It was the only job besides professors, farmers, and fast food places in the small town so they were basically given carte blanche. The place was a nightmare. They cut corners on safety to increase productivity in every department. My manager just told me to keep my mouth shut and do my job. I made several complaints to OSHA but they were all dismissed or swept under the rug.”
“One night when I was working, there was an accident. Or so I’ve been told. I don’t remember what happened. I just remember waking up in the hospital and being told that six months of my life were gone, as well as most of my face.”
Nicole sits back with a gasp. Robin nods. “Yeah, some kind of chemical explosion. It burned away the skin and some of the bone. It also got into my brain and caused some frontal lobe damage. Right after the accident, I was taken immediately to the emergency room nearby. But my injuries were too severe so they airlifted me to a major hospital. I was placed into a medically-induced coma and basically treated like a guinea pig. They debrided my burns, did what they could with my skull, and then gave me a face transplant. All without my consent.”
Doc sits forward and looks at Robin in disbelief. “They did it to save your life. You cannot possibly fault them for that.”
“Of course I can!” Robin shouts. “They could’ve let me die. Should’ve let me die! It took me over a year to recover enough to be able to walk and talk again. My father died alone because I couldn’t leave the hospital and they wouldn’t transfer me somewhere else because I was too important to their ‘experiment’.” He mimes air quotes. “Yeah, they actually told me that. And they said that following through with their demands was the only way any of my medical bills would be covered. I guess the chemical company fought the workers comp claim, saying the entire accident was MY fault. That I was somehow negligent and they wouldn’t pay for any of the treatment. The insurance company fought the hospital and won due to their deep pockets. So the hospital let the med students use me for their grant work to be sure the bills would be paid. That was one of the reasons I was kept in the coma - so I couldn’t refuse treatment until it was too late. Then, when the research was over, they sent me back here. Like I said, I didn’t have a passport or any money, and was just barely able to walk, so I didn’t have a lot of options except to come back home.”
“Luckily, my dad had willed the house to me and, since I was technically still alive, it was held in trust until I returned. His life insurance helped pay the bills while I wasn’t around and it gave me a place to come back to. The robot was still here so it was able to help take care of me until I was able to get around on my own. And that’s where I’ve been ever since until you two showed up and brought me here.”
Nicole glances at Doc and then back at Robin. “So, how did that little story result in seven people being killed?”
Robin shrugs. “That’s the story you REALLY want, isn’t it. Okay. The idea started while I was still in the hospital. Like I said, I couldn’t leave because I didn’t want to be bankrupt due to medical bills for the rest of my life. And that was all the chemical company’s fault. THEY should’ve been paying the bills, since they were at fault. I tried to tell them about the safety issues but they didn’t care. It was all about profits to them. They didn’t even see me as a person. And the hate for them grew inside me until it was all I could think about. I hated them, I hated my doctors who had used me, I hated everyone I came into contact with. But I didn’t have the strength to do anything about it.” Robin gives them a giant grin. “But the robot did.”
“But I quickly found out that she was programmed to not kill humans. So I started doing some research. I found out that the founder of the robotics company was going to be doing a seminar so I went to meet him. Just my luck that he was gay so I was able to convince him to go up to his room fairly easily. I slipped a little GHB into his drink and waited for him to black out. Then I was able to use him to access his computer and give me programming privileges to my robot. He even added my fingerprint into the system so I could access the internal components without risking self-destruction.” Nicole looks at him in surprise and Robin gives her a sharp nod. “Yeah, he told me all about that too. So once that was all done, I was able to make the robot do whatever I wanted.”
“I started with the parents of the woman whose husband’s face I now wear.”
Doc stands up suddenly. “Why them? Why attack someone who gave you a gift?!”
Robin slaps the table. “It wasn’t a gift! It was a ploy! While I was in the hospital, she found out who I was and asked if she could come for a visit. I was usually pretty lonely beyond doctors and nurses poking and prodding me, so I said it was okay. She started crying as soon as she saw me, said that her husband had come back to her and that we could now be together. When I told her that I was gay, she had a complete meltdown. For a minute, it looked like she was going to rip off my new face with her bare hands. She said that if she had known, she never would’ve agreed to the transplant, that I was going to hell, yada yada. She was screaming and cursing so loudly that security eventually came and dragged her away. I never heard from her again.”
Nicole just shakes her head in disgust. “But why her parents? Why not just go after her.”
Robin gives her a hateful glare. “That’s too quick. That doesn’t hurt the people who hurt me. They need to feel the pain! Just like I did. Kill them and it’s over like that.” He snaps his fingers. “Kill someone they love? Now that’s pain!”
Doc spins his chair around and straddles it heavily. He rubs at his temples. “Enough of these games. Just give us the names.”
Robin looks disappointed, like he had just lost at his favorite game. “Well that’s no fun.” He sighs. “But fine. Joanna and Kevin Lutz were the parents. Annie Bouffard, the daughter of the CEO of the chemical company. He knew all about the safety issues and wouldn’t do anything to fix them. Andrew Picard, the son of my manager at the plant. Heard the boss couldn’t handle losing his son and offed himself.” He shrugs. “No loss there. Anyway, Karin Howell was the wife of the face transplant surgeon. He never treated me like a human being, just a plaything for his own amusement. And, finally, Dev Jyothi, the husband of the ER doctor. I was told that I did wake up and told the doctor to let me die, but he just laughed and patted me on the shoulder before knocking me out. I’ve seen videos of my burn debridements and I was screaming in agony. And they just let it happen. They could’ve put me down as a DNR when I asked but they refused to listen to my request and went ahead with torturing me.” He tries to throw his arms up in the air but is restrained by the handcuffs. “And there you have it. That’s my story. But before you get too excited, I’ll have you know that I’ll be going for an insanity defense due to my brain damage. The shrinks in the hospital told me that I would have problems with impulse control, judgment, and emotions.”
Doc leans forward. “That was before you admitted to us on tape that you were angry and planned it all out, including seducing Jeremy and using a robot to do the dirty work. You’re going to spend the rest of your miserable life rotting in jail.” He tips his hat at the furious man in front of him and sits back in his chair.
Nicole looks at Robin confused. “Wait, you said there were seven victims. But you only listed off six.”
Robin glances at the clock on the wall and sneers at her. “Well, by now, there should be seven. It’s a real shame too. Jeremy was such a sweet guy. But he knew too much. I couldn’t take the chance that he would point a finger my way. But it looks like I was too late on that front.”
“But Jeremy doesn’t have any family.” Nicole says, frustrated.
“Sure he does. Family isn’t always about blood. He has a ‘sister’.” He makes an air quotes motion. “You’re Waverly Earp’s…friend, right?” He clicks his tongue and gives them a vile smirk. “That’s too bad.”
Dun dun dunnnnnn!
Waverly is sitting on the couch, playing with her phone, when the doorbell rings. She sets the phone down on the table and jumps up to answer it, finding a tall, beautiful black woman wearing a light gray turtleneck and black skinny jeans standing in her doorway.
The stranger gives Waverly a timid smile. “Hi. I’m very sorry to bother you but my car just broke down, and, of course, my phone is dead.” She waves her cell phone. “Would it be possible for me to use your phone?”
Waverly looks at the woman, who seems vaguely familiar, then looks towards the street to see a car with the hood open and smoke coming out. She turns to glance at the phone on the table. “Umm, sure.” She gives her a smile. “Just one sec.”
She steps away to retrieve her phone, not noticing as the other woman steps into the house, closing and locking the door behind her. Waverly picks up the phone and turns, finding the stranger standing right next to her. “OH!” She jumps back, startled. “Sorry, wasn’t expecting you there.” She tilts her head. “Do I know you? You look really familiar.”
The woman looks at her with a smirk. “I don’t think so. But I know you, Waverly Earp.” She pulls a thin wire out of her pocket and lunges at Waverly, who stumbles backwards quickly, falling over the coffee table. The woman starts walking towards the brunette on the floor, who quickly kicks the table into her path. She sidesteps it and keeps walking with Waverly scrambling to get away. Within the blink of an eye, too quickly for anyone to even see, she is straddling Waverly’s legs, wrapping the wire around the fingers of her two hands.
Waverly’s eyes go wide. “You’re…” She gulps. “You’re a robot. You’re THE robot!”
The stranger nods. “You can call me Katalin.”
Waverly knows there is no way she can fight the robot off. She is too fast and too strong for a human to beat. So she takes a deep breath and screams. “RO-SI-TA!!!!”
Rosita walks into the room. “What?” She sees a stranger straddling Waverly, reaching out with the wire towards her neck and rushes over to pull her off her person.
Waverly jumps up, standing behind Rosita, while Kate begins walking forward again. “She’s a robot and she’s trying to kill me! You need to stop her!”
Rosita glances behind herself at the brunette. “That does not compute. Robots cannot kill humans.”
Waverly points at Kate. “This one can! I need you to get me access to the back of her neck so I can disable her!”
Rosita nods. “Sure, whatever.”
Kate snarls at Rosita as they stalk towards each other. She holds the wire up and Rosita quickly brings a hand down, snapping it in two. Kate once again rushes at Waverly, but Rosita grabs her arms and yanks them behind her back, bending her forward. Waverly runs over and pushes the collar of the turtleneck down, seeing that a piece of metal has been fused over the port entrance, before Kate bucks up into Rosita and pulls away.
“Fuck, fuck, FUCK!!” Waverly knows the two of them are equal in speed and strength. Rosita has no specialized security or martial arts programming, but she has no idea what extra programming Kate might have. She runs quickly to her office door with Kate a second behind her and Rosita fighting to stop her. She places her finger on the lock pad. “Hurry!” She hears the door unlock and she pushes her way in, slamming it closed just before Kate reaches the door and starts banging on it.
Waverly, with shaking hands, opens her contacts on her phone and presses one, holding it to her ear. “C’mon, c’mon! Pick up, pick up, pick up!!!”
“Hey, Waves. What’s up?”
“Jeremy! There’s a robot at my house and it’s trying to kill me!”
“Jeremy! Shut up and listen!!! I’ll explain everything later, just trust me! How do I shut it down?” The banging is getting louder with the metal of the door starting to dent inward.
“Just open the port and flip the switch.”
“The port has some kind of metal fused over it. I can’t get in!”
“That’s not possible…”
“Right, sorry, sorry! Uhhh, you can try to use the emergency override command.”
Waverly’s eyes go wide. “What emergency override command?!”
“Oh, I put one in just in case something went terribly wrong. You just need to state your name, ID number, and password. Only problem is that you have to be within sight of the robot for it to work.”
Waverly looks at the door, which is getting more dented by the second. “So, I have to leave my office and go out by the robot that’s trying to kill me in order for this to work?!?”
“I’m sorry! I never thought of this as a scenario where you would need to use it!”
Waverly takes a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves just the tiniest bit. “Okay. Okay!” She takes another deep breath. “Rosita! I’m coming out! Do whatever you can to get her away from the door.”
“Sure, whatever.” She hears a crash and thud and rushes out of the door. Kate is on the broken remains of the coffee table, bucking widely, while Rosita tries to hold her down.
Waverly quickly starts speaking just as Kate pushes Rosita away and they both start moving towards her. “Waverly Earp. 0-9-0-8-9-5. Magic Rainbow Unicorn!” Both robots freeze immediately, heads dropping down as if suddenly powered off. “Oh, fudgenuggets! Not you, Rosita!” She lifts the phone back to her ear. “Jeremy, how do I reverse the override?”
“Uh, you can’t. It’s basically like a factory reset. Only way to reverse it is to reprogram the bot.”
“So, Rosita just lost all her memories? You could’ve told me that!”
“Sorry! You didn’t give me all the information!”
Waverly shakes her head. “No, no, you’re right. It’s fine.” She hears whining coming from the kitchen and races to find Bernie and CJ locked in the kitchen pantry. She holds out her arms to the shaking pup. “Oh, c’mere Buddy!” The nervous puppy rushes into her arms and she picks him up, cuddling him to her chest while the kitten runs out of the closet and into the bedroom to hide under the bed. Waverly walks back into the living room and Bernie paws at Rosita with a whine. “It’s okay. We’re going to reprogram her and she’ll be right as rain. I promise.” She gives him another comforting hug.
Just then, Nicole and Doc bang open the front door with guns drawn. Waverly jumps and spins, tightening her grip on the once again shaking puppy. “I’m okay! I’m okay! It’s disabled.”
Nicole hurries over to Waverly and pulls her into a tight embrace. “Oh god, Baby! Are you sure you’re okay?” She pulls back slightly, grasping her face, and looking her up and down for injuries.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Rosita saved me.” Nicole looks over at the frozen robot and looks back at Waverly questioningly, who shakes her head. “I’ll explain everything later.”
Nicole pulls her back into a tight hug and Waverly sinks into her arms.
We are at the end of the story. I'm not sure if I will continue with this universe in the future or not. For now, I'm working on something COMPLETELY different. Have no idea where it's going to go or when it'll be ready (since I don't post until the story's complete), but it'll be out there at some point (hopefully, LOL!). But for now, here's a fluffy ending! KEEP EARPING!! #E4L
Waverly is relaxing on the couch, her feet tucked up next to her, with a book in one hand while stroking CJ, who is curled up in the crook of her lap, with the other. The door opens, letting in a blast of cold air along with Nicole and Bernie. Waverly looks over her shoulder. “Did Doc make it to the airport okay?”
Nicole takes off her coat and hangs it on the wall hook and kicks off her shoes, placing them on the mat by the wall. “Yeah. He’s taking Robin to headquarters to be processed. And he wanted me to thank you again for letting him have the Kate robot.” She laughs and shakes her head. “I just hope he doesn’t tell me what he wants her for!”
Waverly chuckles as she turns back to her book. “I’m imagining it’s for the same things we use Rosita for and keeping everything else out of my head.”
Nicole retrieves the special collar she made before kneeling down next to Bernie. She wraps it around his neck, making sure that the rainbow bowtie is centered on his throat, before taking off his harness. “Go see Mommy!”
She realizes she had made a mistake and forgotten to check the clock a second too late - it’s time for zoomies. The pup bypasses the couch and takes off into the kitchen, running around Rosita’s legs as she cooks dinner. Knowing what time it is, CJ jumps off the couch and Bernie runs back into the living room to pounce on her, before she gets away and jumps onto a bookshelf and makes her way onto the mantle to escape.
Nicole rushes into the living room, her sock-clad feet sliding on the hardwood floor, as she tries to catch him. “No, c’mere, you goof!”
Bernie, sensing a new game, crouches his front legs down, leaving his back end up and tail wagging madly. He waits until Nicole gets to within an arm’s length before taking off again, running around the new coffee table. She tries to trap him, going one way while he goes the other, but he makes a mad dash back into the kitchen while she slides across the room, trying to catch up.
He runs around Rosita’s legs once again and she simply steps over him while moving between the stove and sink. Nicole waves her arm at him. “Rosita! Little help here?”
“Sure, whatever.” The robot reaches down and snags him before he gets away once again. She hands him off to Nicole and goes back to her cooking.
Nicole walks back into the living room to find Waverly fighting back tears of laughter. “Couldn’t you have given her a slightly nicer personality?”
Waverly wipes away the tears. “Nope! It’s a part of her charm.”
Nicole adjusts the collar that had gone eskew during his run and drops the wriggling furball into the brunette’s lap. “Here!” And she falls onto the other side of the couch in a huff.
Waverly holds him up so he is standing on his hind legs so she can admire his new accessory and says in a sing-song voice, “What did Mama get you? Huh? You got a shiny bowtie? Do ya?” She pulls him into a hug, snuggling her face into his soft fur, and runs her hand from the top of his head heading down his back when she is stopped by a bump on the top of his collar. She moves him away and sets him on her lap as she examines the mysterious object. Her eyes go wide as she spies a small ring box attached to the top of his collar and looks over to find Nicole on one knee in front of her.
Waverly’s hands fly to cover her mouth and Nicole just barely grabs Bernie before he can make another escape. She unlatches the collar before letting him loose once again with a tap on his butt. “Get outta here, you troublemaker! Should’ve used CJ! This is why I’m a cat person.”
Waverly laughs, her eyes glistening with tears. “Except CJ wouldn’t go where she was told either. At least, not until she was good and ready.”
“Very true.” She takes Waverly’s hand in her own. “Waves, I’ve known since the first moment we met,” She shrugs with a smirk. “Officially,” Waverly laughs again. “That you were it for me. The one person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But I didn’t want to rush things. I didn’t want to pressure you. But then, I thought I’d lost you and realized that tomorrow is never guaranteed. And I couldn’t wait anymore to start the rest of our lives together. So, Waverly Earp,” She opens the box and pulls out a ring with a large green gem in the middle flanked by two diamonds. “Are you gonna marry me or what?”
Waverly smiles widely. “Yes please!”
Nicole’s dimples pop as she smiles. “Yeah?” Waverly nods and Nicole slips the ring onto her left hand. Waverly pulls her onto the couch and kisses her deeply. Bernie runs over and jumps at them, licking at their faces. They pull away from each other and Waverly pulls him into her lap with a laugh, where he curls up happily. CJ notices he has calmed down and runs over to curl up in Nicole’s lap. Nicole leans back on the couch, wrapping an arm around Waverly, as they both stroke the furballs on their laps, enjoying a bit of quiet time with their family.