Sam rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and blinked several times, trying to focus on the view outside of Glacier Surge’s main window facing the Ice Bridge. She had had a hard time getting to sleep after her emotional chat with her dad, and at 3am, she finally gave up and went for a long, slow walk with her dog through the trails. Still half asleep, she hadn’t noticed that Penelope had walked into the cafe and was now sitting beside her.
“Hey, sister! You have got to see what Drew and I found!”
“Did you find more?”
“Seven more since we chatted, but some are better than others. Something, maybe, from Drew’s video, but it’s like, super shaky-cam footage, so don’t expect National Geographic front page material.”
“Hey, that is what is known as cinematic technique to give authenticity to film. My videos are live and free of artifice, unlike some YouTube stars who take hours of footage and end up with thirty seconds of actual video,” Drew said as he made himself comfortable at the table. Sam looked up and eyed him warily. Penelope had filled her in on their conversation and how Drew had so staunchly defended Wesley. How could she trust anyone who would side with Wesley Black?
Penelope leaned over to Sam to share the screen on her phone. “See? Here’s the video. What do you think? Is that someone — there! Shoot, let me rewind. Okay, there!” Penelope tried to pause the video at the right moment.
“Hmm.” Sam squinted at the image.
“Here, take a look at these images P-lo and I picked out,” Drew said as he pulled an envelope from his bag. Sam took the photos and glanced at Drew. He seemed to be sincere, she thought, but maybe he was just a very good spy.
“Oh hi, guys. Can I get you anything?” The barista had come from behind the counter and was now diffidently standing two feet away from their table, her shoulders and neck rolled forward, making her inches smaller than she actually was. She spoke in a meek voice with her hands clasped nervously in front of her.
Sam blinked and looked at the slight girl with long, brown hair pulled back into a messy ponytail. “Oh my gosh, hi Cara! I didn’t know you worked here.” Sam hadn’t recognized her. She had gotten used to seeing Cara in cracked, hot-pink ski goggles, a yellow climbing helmet, and a duct tape patched green jacket with the hood pulled over the helmet. Maybe if she’d just focused on the tip of her nose, she would have known it was Cara straight away.
“Yeah, umm, I just started today,” Cara said before carefully writing down Sam’s request for a hot chocolate and Penelope’s order for a latte.
“Hi, Cara,” Drew said with a big smile. “How are you? We’re just hanging out here as friends. Samantha and Penelope and I. We’re just friends. And I’ll have anything. Whatever’s easy for you.”
If Drew was a spy, he wasn’t a very good one, Sam thought. He’d already lost focus on the mission and let himself get distracted by love. Maybe he wasn’t a spy at all, then. Maybe, he could be trusted.
“Oh, umm, well. I could make you a coffee, or tea, or cocoa, or anything, really, or maybe a nice—” Cara stammered, her face turning pink.
“He’ll have an espresso,” Penelope interjected. Cara, looking relieved, smiled and scurried away.
Sam looked back at the images in front of her. “Wow! You can totally make out that there’s a guy in the background in these pictures. Look at this, that’s some kind of badge or emblem on his jacket.”
“And it looks like he’s wearing some kind of hat too,” Penelope added. “But there’s something so weird about his eyes. It’s so creepy!”
“Do you guys know what time each of these photos was taken? Look here, there’s a pot on the stove with dinner in this one, but it’s gone in this one,” Sam said, pointing to some of the photos.
“Ohhhhh. Yeah. So that means—” Penelope started.
“That the Creeper was creeping on us for a little while at least,” Drew finished. “That’s what we’re calling him for now. The Creeper.”
“Good thing you explained that, Drew. Sam would never have been able to crack that secret code.”
“These images are good. Now we know for certain that someone was lurking in the trees and bushes around our camp. But it’s really hard to make out any features in these printouts or to see whether Drew’s video might have something we can use. I wonder if we can blow it up and enhance it? Maybe adjust the brightness? And it’d also be good to know exactly what time and how long he was watching us. Are we talking minutes or hours?”
“I’m on it,” Penelope said quickly, typing the directives into her phone. “And you know what? My cousin Claudia, the one I told you about before? She’s getting her PhD at UBC and uses Photoshop all the time to enhance images. So maybe I can ask her for help, or maybe she knows someone who could. She came up for the holidays.”
“That would be amazing, Pips.”
“Nice, P-lo. Should we be taking this to the police? I mean, they’ll have people who can do this stuff way better than we can,” Drew added.
Sam’s eyes shot up at Drew from the photo she was examining. He had both eyebrows raised while his mouth was shaped into a downturned smile, like he was asking for Penelope’s approval. He looked sincere. Drew couldn’t be a spy if he actually had a good suggestion that would help solve this case, she thought.
“I’m going to show my dad, for sure. He can give it to whoever is handling the case.” Sam gave Drew a warm smile and noticed Cara approaching. “Hey Cara! Perfect timing. Come and join us for a few minutes, okay?”
“Umm. Okay, sure. Here’s your cappuccino, Penelope,” Cara said, spilling a bit of coffee and foam on the table. “One hot chocolate for you, Drew. And here’s a latte for you, Sam.” There had obviously been an attempt to make a whipped cream animal on top of the hot chocolate, but it looked more like three oddly shaped mounds of runny poop, since chocolate syrup had been heavily dripped on top.
“First day,” Sam mouthed to Penelope and Drew while Cara wasn’t looking.
They looked at Cara, smiled and thanked her. When she turned to put the tray back on the counter, Drew slid his hot chocolate over to Sam, Sam gave Penelope her drink and Penelope passed the cappuccino to Drew.
Cara returned with a glass of water and sat down beside Sam. “I have five minutes,” she said.
“Hi, Cara!” Drew’s goofy smile had returned and Cara gave Drew a shy smile in response.
“Cara, did you or Wade take any photos during the Challenge?” Sam looked at Drew and discreetly pointed to her upper lip, a hint that he had a little milk foam mustache. But with Cara at the table, Drew didn’t notice Sam’s gesture.
“Umm, well, my phone was broken. But, uh, Wade took a few on his phone.”
“Would you be able to send them to me?” Sam asked.
Cara turned red almost instantly. “Oh, well, umm. I, I’m not sure. I, he… he doesn’t really like—”
“You know what? It’s okay. Don’t worry about it,” Sam said quickly. She felt like what she was asking from Cara would somehow get her in trouble, so she handed her a few of the prints instead. “Take a look at these pictures. We think there was someone hiding in the trees watching us on the first night. And maybe he was there to kidnap Ben.”
“What? Wow,” Cara said, studying the photos. “Is this a lit cigarette hanging out of his mouth?”
“It is! Good eye!” Sam said as she gave her a hug with one arm. Cara smiled and leaned her head into Sam’s shoulder in delight.
“How is Ben anyway?” Cara asked.
“He’s a bit immobile because of his leg. He’s chilling at home. Says he doesn’t want to go out or see anyone right now,” Drew said.
“The Times is on some crazy mission to paint Sam as a mastermind kidnapper, so we’re going to find out who really kidnapped Ben. I mean, I don’t understand how so many incompetent people got to be in charge of so many things. It makes my brain hurt to think about it,” Penelope said, rubbing her temples.
“Hey, so you should join us. We could really use your help,” Drew said to Cara.
Cara’s eyes darted down to her hands, which she rubbed together nervously in front of her. “Oh, umm, I, I don’t know. I mean… sure, but Wade doesn’t really… well, I mean, Wade usually picks me up after work and then we go back to his place to watch TV or he plays video games or something. Anyway, I’d better get back to work now.” Cara got up to leave and Sam noticed a look of disappointment on Drew’s face.
“Well, I have to go and check on my dog.” Sam stood up from the table, slid a napkin over to Drew and tapped her upper lip again. “He probably needs a little walk.”
“Yeah, I’d better get back home to look up those timestamps and find Claudia’s number. My mom has all our relatives’ contact info written in, like, an actual paper address book. It’s hilarious,” Penelope said. “I’ll walk with you, Sam.”
“I’ll be right here if you need me, ladies,” Drew said as he wiped his mouth. “It’s stakeout time for me and this window seat is perfect.”
“Okay, but, you know Cara’s not the target, right?” Penelope teased. The tips of Drew’s ears flushed bright red.
“Alright, alright, you got me there, P-lo. But Cara being here is actually a liability, since my mission is way more dangerous than looking up timestamps and calling cousins. Now I have to consider her safety too, make sure I keep her out of harm’s way. You know that the mission Sam assigned to me not only puts me on the front line, it could pretty much break this whole case wide open.”
“You sure about leaving Drew at Glacier Surge by himself, Sam?” Penelope asked as they walked back to Sam’s home together. “There’s no telling how badly that boy might embarrass himself. Plus, I’m seriously not sure that he’ll be able to do his job and not just drool over Cara the whole time.”
“I’ll probably be back there within the hour. He said that he would text me if he sees anything.”
“If you need any help at all, just let me know, okay? I got your back, sister.”
Sam opened her mouth to respond, but nothing came out. Instead, she stared at a piece of paper taped to her front door. It was a note from Animal Control demanding the surrender of her dog. An order to destroy him had been issued.
Are you enjoying Fool’s Bluff? Please share this with your friends and family who would also like this story!