Let the game begin...

(( reserved for Jade and Jacob))

Roughly a month later, to the day, on a quiet night when SHUSH janitors finally chased out the last few late night people Jacob would be in for a surprise.

If gut churning panic could be compared to surprise.

His lovely Jag, the one he had foolishly let a pretty little thief set her eyes on... Was gone.

From the SHUSH parking structure no less.

But there was something there, in the spot that Jacob had so carefully parked in. At first it looked to be a crumpled piece of paper, but if he approached he would discover that it was a dried, long stem gardenia.

There was also a small pile of tracers. Seems someone had learned her lesson and got her little hands on a nice, juicy bug detector.

Oh and look... A note...

It read simply... "Check your phone."

As if she had some sort of divination ability, the cell phone in his pocket vibrated. When he checked his phone, he would see a new photo incoming. When he opened it, he'd meet with a pair of playful bright green eyes, blowing a kiss to the camera, and in the background a tell tale yellow color... She was laying on the hood.

A text followed, "Let's see you find us now."

    • DarkwingPsycho
      DarkwingPsycho

      The agent in question moved tiredly down the marble SHUSH steps.  It had been ages since he had worked this late, but he had been absorbed in the specs for a few of the new gadgets Dr. Bellum was working on.  He had also been trying to subtly plant the seeds for the good scientist to work on a dimensional travel device, since he already knew she had solved the problem of time travel.  (That was something to consider, too.)  But unfortunately, said scientist was a bit too flighty to catch on.

      He rubbed his eyes and mindlessly wandered in the direction he knew he had parked his beloved yellow Jaguar.  The one that had been gifted to him decades ago and he'd kept in pristine condition.  His memento of the glory days, his prize possession, his baby.

      His blood ran cold when he realized the parking lot was deserted.  The car was not where he had left it, and he had received no notifications from its internal security that anyone was tampering with it.

      "What the devil?" he murmured agitatedly.  In the dim lighting of the lot, he could see a mass of objects in the spot the Jag had been, and he moved toward it quickly, all traces of exhaustion gone from his now alert, stern face.  Jacob was rarely serious, but when it came to his baby, he was all business.

      He knelt down, relying on his good leg for balance against his cane, and recognized the flower.  His eyes moved next to it and narrowed.  Someone had pulled all of the security devices he'd implanted from the vehicle and piled them up in a cruel prank, as if mocking his attempt to protect what was his.  His grip tightened on the cane as he remembered where he had last seen that flower.

      Then he noticed the note.  He snatched it up angrily, already gritting his teeth, and as his blazing eyes passed over the words, his phone buzzed.  He crumpled up the note and tossed it aside, then reached inside of his suit jacket with a steely glower to pull out and flip open the phone.  The hard expression puckering his aged face relaxed, and the longer he looked into those glittering green eyes, the more he softened.

      Then a chuckle escaped his throat.  "So...it's a chase you want.  Well, little duck...be careful what you wish for."

      • Piper/ Jade
        Piper/ Jade

        The game would become much clearer over the next few hours... A photo usually came with a warning, instruction, or hint.

        A buzz and a photo. This time she was eating a burrito in the car. No napkin... That he could see. Jade was a lady. "The longer I have the car, the more at home I make myself." The hint being that she allowed the name of fast food joint show.

        Jacob would have to use his connections... And good old fashioned detective work to find her.

        Another buzz, and a photo two hours later. She was filling up the car... And with a wicked grin, was pointing to the unleaded fuel button. "Told ya!"

        Half an hour later there was a buzz and her face showed, in an adorably curious expression. The inside of the car clearly visible, and a text-- "I wonder how fast this thing can go?"

        • DarkwingPsycho
          DarkwingPsycho

          The pictures weren't so adorable, as she teased that she was not taking care of the Jaguar.  Racing it and driving it around were one thing, but filling it with - gulp - unleaded and carelessly getting crumbs everywhere?  That showed a lack of respect that Jacob had a hard time tolerating.  Part of him knew he had it coming, as he had not respected her privacy, but that didn't stop him from grumbling to himself as he poured over security cam footage of the city streets looking for signs of the vehicle using the photos as landmarks.

          She was cute, but if she destroyed that car, he was bringing her in.  Game over.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

          It was true she probably meant no malice, but she didn't know how much that car meant to him.  How much he had been through in it.  It was practically a part of him.

          He followed her trail, but seemed to be steps behind her at every turn.  Using one of the SHUSH vehicles, he tuned in to the police scanner to see if there were reports of a Jaguar with his current plates speeding.  Not that she would be careless enough to get caught in a stolen car, but he had to use what resources he could.

          • Piper/ Jade
            Piper/ Jade

            It wouldn't be that easy... Mostly because despite the threat she wasn't speeding.

            She had more sense than that.

            And since the car was pretty stand-outish, she was sticking to less populated areas. Or parking for long periods of time in car garages. At one point she fancied the idea of a drive in...

            So she took a picture and sent it to Jacob, with a snarky text reading "at least the car won't leave me during a movie."

            But as dawn drew closer her photos and texts dwindled down. She was getting tired, and as such, had driven herself to that little secluded area he had taken her to talk only a month ago.

            She sat back, looking at the steering wheel and wondered. Why was she still messing with the old man? Her work was done... And Negaduck was in jail. She didn't have to do this anymore...which reminded her.

            She pulled out her phone and texted quickly, "so how long were you going to wait before you told me that Negaduck was in jail?"

            • DarkwingPsycho
              DarkwingPsycho

              He couldn't enlist anyone he knew in law enforcement.  Despite his aggravation at her handling of his baby, he didn't want her in jail.  Not unless she deserved it.  The gadgets and resources he had available to him could lead him to her, but it would take time.  More time than Jacob wanted to spend.  He wanted that car back.

              Each buzz made him dread that he hadn't caught up to her yet.  What shenanigans was she up to with the Jaguar?  The next photo gave him pause.  Had she been hurt that he had let her sleep?  She probably didn't know how her question had cut him.  And she wouldn't.  Still - he felt a twinge of guilt.

              Then he remembered the situation, and it evaporated.  He pulled out a card and dialed in a number, his last resort.  He just hoped Harou wouldn't mind the late call and the fact that Jacob had been in need of his services so often of late.

              Thankfully he didn't, on both counts, and Jacob admired how quickly and efficiently the Network worked - faster than any technology he had at his disposal.  Harou was a powerful ally, and he knew he had to be careful not to damage that relationship.

              He'd have to figure out a way to pay Harou back later.  Right now, he had another relationship to address.

              The nondescript SHUSH car eased to a stop some distance away from his intended destination, and it took him a little while to make his way down the curved road toward the spot overlooking the bay.  Interesting that she had chosen this spot...why?

              He moved carefully in the shadows, inching along the few park trees and behind benches until he was able to glide along the side of his beloved car.  He was thankful there didn't appear to be any dents or chips in the exterior, but he'd have to do a more thorough evaluation of that when he got the Jag home.

              He stood and in a swift movement, pulled the passenger door open and slid in next to the thief.

              "If you wanted a ride that badly, all you had to do was ask," he said calmly, eyeing her with a slight smirk.  "Although I have to hand it to you...stealing it right out from under SHUSH's surveillance..."

              • Piper/ Jade
                Piper/ Jade

                She jumped when the car door was thrown open and she was reaching for her electric baton when it settled on her who she was looking at.

                Jade quickly smoothed her expression and fixed him with a suspicious eye. How has he found her this time? She'd been careful... Very careful.

                "You cheated." She accused, folding her arms over her chest. It was the only feasible explanation. She then snorted, "and SHUSH security is easily fooled by a fake badge and a disguise." A nod to the back seat where she had stashed her get up.

                Then she continued on, "you also never replied to my question." Yes. Redirection.

                • DarkwingPsycho
                  DarkwingPsycho

                  "If by 'cheating' you mean tracking you down the old fashioned way, then yes," Jacob responded coolly.  All the while his eyes were raking over the dash, the floor, the interior to see if there was any overt damage.  "I'll have to talk to Director Hooter about the security detail.  I know you're right about that one, which is why I had the extra security.  Seems even that failed me..."

                  He cocked an eyebrow at her last statement.  "You made it pretty clear the last time we spoke that you didn't want anything to do with me anymore.  But I'd be less worried about that and more worried about what will happen to you if anything is damaged in this car."

                  • Piper/ Jade
                    Piper/ Jade

                    She shrugged. "Find damage." A challenge. "Although I did move your seat forward and adjust your mirrors for optimal safety. Oooo, such a bad girl." All sarcastic. She even slapped the back of her own wrist.

                    "And I had every right to be miffed with you." She said, meeting his gaze directly. "You invaded my privacy. I showed you that much respect, and you didn't even try to return it. Even Negaduck didn't go that far... Although I suspect that was more from laziness than anything."

                    A pause. "And for the record, you were the one who continued contact. Which was more of a reminder that you know my true identity and adds to that insecurity."

                    • DarkwingPsycho
                      DarkwingPsycho

                      "I told you why I did that," he said insistently, "and I already apologized.  There's not much else that can be done.  That flower was..."  He trailed off.  What was it for, exactly?  He had felt compelled to leave it there for her, but why?  "I don't know.  It wasn't meant to hurt you."  His voice was quiet and even, and his eyes were on the bay.

                      "Why do this, with the car?  Some kind of revenge?  Why come here?"  His black eyes were back on her, but they weren't stern or accusatory.  They were curious.

                      • Piper/ Jade
                        Piper/ Jade

                        "Dunno. Figured it would get your attention." And it did. "And I came back here because I trust your opinion on secure locations." She fiddled with the steering when a bit.

                        "Figured I could wait here and not worry about being spotted until I could figure out what to do next. Though if it had taken you any longer, I was planning to go park it in a dump. Or paint it rainbow colors. Or do a sudsy car wash montage on it."

                        So many possibilities.

                        • DarkwingPsycho
                          DarkwingPsycho

                          "Hmm...the last one might have made up for it," Jacob said slyly.  "Now that you have my attention...what do you want with it?"

                          • Piper/ Jade
                            Piper/ Jade

                            "You to answer my question. Why didn't you tell me Negaduck was in jail?" Nope, she hadn't forgotten. 

                            • DarkwingPsycho
                              DarkwingPsycho

                              "I figured the media would tell you before I did," he responded.  "They were circling the whole scenario like vultures."  He sat back.  "Is that all this is about?  Negaduck?"  He was miffed his car had to suffer for an insignificant item like that.

                              • Piper/ Jade
                                Piper/ Jade

                                She shot him a look, then lowered her eyes a bit. "That, and a bit of sport at your expense and the spying thing." She said stubbornly. "Both of which were important to me." Truth... Negaduck being locked up removed a huge weight from her shoulders. She thought Jacob, of all people, would be excited to tell her personally.

                                No more impromptu acts of 'I'm gonna kill you's.' Yaaaay!

                                She was silent for a moment and then reached over to pull the door handle. "I'll leave you to your car then."

                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                  "Wait," he said, laying a hand over the wrist nearest him.  Not a grab, just a gentle cover.  "After all that, you're leaving?  I thought sport was important to you.  The day's only beginning - but then, you did have quite an adventure.  Just when I didn't think you could impress me any more, you prove me wrong."

                                  His hand raised up a little, and his fingers caressed the back of her hand slowly.  "There may be other ways to make up for the 'spying thing'..."

                                  • Piper/ Jade
                                    Piper/ Jade

                                    She looked down at his hand, then looked up at him squarely. Was he playing a game now?

                                    Well to be fair, she had too... "I frequently impress. Why everyone is so quick to underestimate me is a mystery."

                                    Then she smirked. "Make up hm? Going to let me see where you live now?" Technically that would make them even Steven.

                                    But she highly doubted he would agree to that. However the fact that she settled back in the driver's seat indicated that she was willing to listen to what he had to say.

                                    • DarkwingPsycho
                                      DarkwingPsycho

                                      "While I'm sure you know I can't do that, you obviously went to a lot of trouble to get me here," he said, pulling his hand back but leaning in.  "I've chased you all night.  And I've caught you...again.  So, what do I win?"

                                      • Piper/ Jade
                                        Piper/ Jade

                                        She had to think on that. "Aside from your car back in its prestige condition?" Which really was a bonus for him... All things considered.

                                        She sat back, running her fingers along the circle that made up the steering wheel. "The pleasure of my company. Unless you'd find that dreadfully boring again and you'd just end up wandering off...?"

                                        • DarkwingPsycho
                                          DarkwingPsycho

                                          He chuckled.  She really hadn't liked that, had she?  "You, my dear, are far from boring."  He put his fingertips under her bill and lifted it a little, looking at her squarely.  "And my purpose with you was not to hurt you."

                                          Then he sat back a little farther in the seat, regarding her for a few moments with a somewhat coy look.  "What is your purpose with me - now?  With Negaduck in jail..."  He let her finish the thought herself.

                                          • Piper/ Jade
                                            Piper/ Jade

                                            "Same as before." She said with a shrug. "Protection and someone to be a general nuisance to. Only less of the former, since the matter has been settled for now."

                                            Because she was not stupid enough to believe Negaduck wouldn't figure a way out eventually.

                                            "I want to enjoy my freedom though. I can go anywhere and steal anything." Smile. "Gonna turn me in?"

                                            • DarkwingPsycho
                                              DarkwingPsycho

                                              Jacob shrugged, and eyed her out of the corner of his eye.  "Who knows...?  Maybe you like getting caught."

                                              His gaze turned toward the sunrise as it crept over the mostly-sleeping city, and his expression was unreadable.  "What's the one place in St. Canard you've always wanted to go to but never could?"

                                              • Piper/ Jade
                                                Piper/ Jade

                                                Her expression betrayed her. He'd gotten it right. She did like being caught, because she knew in her mind that it meant someone was rising to her challenge.

                                                But luckily he followed up with a question that required some thought. "I've either broken into, or been invited most everywhere." Again... She knew she was spoiled.

                                                "Never had a chance to go to the botanical gardens." Oh how cheesy... But she missed foliage and woods. She'd grown up around them after all. "Hard to get the timing right between school groups and... Well, closing time." A testament to her third shift life.

                                                • DarkwingPsycho
                                                  DarkwingPsycho

                                                  "The gardens, hmm?" he responded.  Then he settled back into the leather seat - enjoying the irregularity of sitting in the passenger side.  "Drive to the interstate.  No questions."

                                                  He continued giving her directions, wondering to himself if he hadn't regained at least a bit of her trust if she was willing to do as he asked.  Some part of her feelings of safety with him hadn't been destroyed.

                                                  He pulled out his phone as they moved into the mountains, on the opposite side of where they would normally go toward his home.  "Laura," he said graciously.  "How are you?  ...Fine, listen - could you have the suite cleared out in, say, twenty minutes?  Hector owes me one.  ...Thanks."

                                                  • Piper/ Jade
                                                    Piper/ Jade

                                                    She did as he instructed, mostly out of curiosity. She didn't mind driving at all... in fact she quite enjoyed it. She simply could not afford a car.

                                                    So it was a treat to head into more forest-y areas. Now and again she would tease him with a bit of revving, but she never even went above the speed limit.

                                                    When he pulled out his phone, she gave him a sideways glance wondering-- without really meaning to-- who Laura was. And who Hector was and how he owed him.... Her mouth twisted a bit and she returned her focus to the road. No sense worrying about it now she supposed. 

                                                    Once he was off the phone she ventured a guess, "So you're taking me to a cabin?"

                                                    • DarkwingPsycho
                                                      DarkwingPsycho

                                                      "You'll see," he said cryptically.

                                                      Although externally he appeared relaxed, internally he was paying very close attention to the way she drove his car, and it made him tense a little each time she teased him with flooring it.  Not that he couldn't handle it, but it was new not being the one in control.

                                                      "Left here."

                                                      It was a secluded drive, and the edges of the road were lined with tall honeysuckle vines.  Their scent wafted through the vents, and Jacob rolled down the window to let more of it in.  The path wound up toward the peak, then opened into a huge resort.  The parking lot was barely full.

                                                      Bayard Grove

                                                      "Here we are."  He unbuckled himself, then moved around to her side to let her out.