Meanwhile in Ashland
Emily closes her eyes and focuses on her other senses: The heat of the sun against her face, the sounds of water and ducks fighting over the crusts tossed by tourists and the smell... She frowns.
"What are you thinking?" Zander asks brushing her hair back from her face.
"I was just realizing-- this is what green smells like."
"A color has a smell." Zander grins.
Emily rolls over on the picnic blanket and leans up on one elbow. "Lay down and close your eyes."
"Emily." Zander protests.
"Oh it won't kill you." Emily waits and watches as Zander reclines back and closes his eyes. He tucks one arm under his head. He sighs heavily as if totally put upon. Emily waits until she sees the tension ease away from his face. Then she whispers, "What do you smell."
"Sunshine. You." Zander opens his eyes and with his free hand reaches out to caress Emily's jaw. "We should check out the town, see if we want to stay here or keep going to Portland." Glancing down at his watch, he realizes something. "Your parents know you are gone by now."
Emily's eyes grow sad. "I know."
"Em, you should call them."
"I will in a couple of days. When everything is set up. Right now they would just treat this as me taking the scenic route back to PC and not me knowing my own mind." Em insists.
Zander sits up. It had been great to laydown, standup after all the hours in the truck but now he really needs to stretch the kinks out. "You want to wander around the downtown a little, see what we can see?"
"Yes, please." Em pops up like a jack in the box reaching down to give Zander a hand up. He leans over and grabs the blanket folding it up and tucking it over his arm. They stop by the truck and drop the blanket off. The whole downtown area of Ashland coordinates with the Shakespearean festival with Elizabethian fronts to the stores. Set in a valley the main street divides the town.
Coming from Lithia Park, the right side climbs up the hills and the left side slopes down. In the distance you can see I-5 the main corridor from Canada to Mexico. One block up from the park is the buildings of the Shakespearean Festival with it's three theaters, the outdoor Elizabethan, the Angus Bowmer and the intimate Black Swan. First thing, Em and Zander go through the bookstore attached to the complex. Em picks up a copy of Taming of the Shrew one of the plays being performed this year.
As she is paying for her purchase the person behind the counter starts a friendly banter. "Are you just arriving in town."
"Today." Emily answers reaching into her bag for her wallet.
"You should take in a play it's quite the experience. It's like going back in time. At the elizabethean everyone brings a blanket and a picnic." The clerk sees Emily biting her lip not knowing if she wants or needs the expense at this point. "Even if you don't hit a performance straight away you can see the Renissance dancers. They perform before every play out there in the courtyard for free." The clerk nods toward the door. "And if you're a student at Southern Oregon University then you can get rush tickets to the performance at a great discount."
Emily doesn't quite know how to answer that one. Zander comes up behind her. "What time do the dancers start?" At the clerk's answer, Zander nods and escorts Emily from the store. "Do you want to check it out?"
"Sure why not." Emily agrees. She strings an arm through Zander's and they continue on their walk. Window shopping and people watching, there are no real big businesses in the downtown, just small unique shops, gallaries, restaurants. "This place is so cool." Emily rubbernecks checking out somebody with more piercings than she'd ever seen before. There is a mix of tourists, accents and nationalities.
"You just spent most of a year in LA." Zander reminds her.
"But this is different, it's managable. LA is just overwealm." Emily looks at Zander. "It's like you can be anyone here and nobody cares." As they come back down the other side of Main after hitting the end of the downtown area, Zander pulls her into a candy store. He doesn't even bother stopping at the custom chocolate area but goes to the wall where the hard candies are stored.
"Hmm, not seeing any."
"Oh but they have something just as good." Emily purrs. Going to the counter. "Shaved ice please. Grape."
"I'll have one too."
"Oh wait a minute. You'll eat shaved ice but you won't try a pixie stick?!"
"I know what's in shaved ice." Zander pays for the two treats and then they continue down the road finally coming to a stop at the fountain at the other end of town back where they had started. The fountain that predates the park and actually gave Lithia Park it's name. Seems that for the longest time crazy people would drink the water from the fountain and get less crazy. It wasn't until later that the people had discovered that there was a little bit of lithium, the same thing they gave to people with bipolar disorder, in the water. Nibbling on the shaved ice, they continue people watching.
Emily happens to look up above the set of shops. Some of the windows are curtained. Some of the stores are two story and have merchandising all the way up. But on one end of the block of stores is a small sign. Apartment for Rent. "Zander, look."
"You want to check it out?"
"Oh yeah. Come on!" Emily drags Zander along to the store right below the apartment. Walking up to the older woman behind the counter, she politely inquires about the apartment above.
The woman dressed comfortable in her all cotton clothes and birkenstocks her greying hair pulled back from her face, eyes the couple carefully used to seizing up people quickly trusting her instincts. She hits the no sale on the register and pulls a key from the drawer. "Lets go look at it." She walks out of the store putting out the sign that says she'll be back in ten minutes and locks the doors. Walking around to the back of the building, she starts up the stairs. At the top, she unlocks the door and then with a push of her shoulder opens the door to the two bedroom apartment. "It's partially furnished. Electricity is included." The apartment has a broken down charm. There are hardwood floors, fiftyish fixtures and avacado colored appliances.
"I don't know, Em." Zander looks around. It wasn't good enough. Not nearly. Emily was used to living in a mansion with servants a butler, a gardener.
"Are you kidding it's great!" Emily gushes. "It's right in the middle of everything." She checks out one of the windows. "You've got a great view of the park." She opens up the doors to the bedrooms. "Plenty of space. Six months ago one bathroom would have been a deal breaker but I've been living with 20 women sharing the same bathroom."
"Dorm living eh?" The woman interjects. She recognizes a student when she sees one. "SOU?"
"A school down in California." Emily replies while checking out the kitchen. She looks over at Zander.
Zander nods and then turns to the woman. "What do you need from us?"
"First, last, deposit and a one year lease. I really don't want to do this again during the school year." The woman shudders. "No pets, no parties and no offstreet parking."
"We don't have a car anyway." Emily shrugs. "I don't have any references."
"Let me see your hand." The woman takes Emily's hand and flips it over starting to trace lines. She looks then deep into Emily's eyes. "That's what the deposit is for. You'll find the breathing space you're looking for here." The woman adds cryptically. "How soon do you want to move in?"
"Now." Zander suggests.
"Then lets get the paperwork done. I have to get back to the shop." The woman leaves the couple alone in the apartment.
"That woman is a nut." Zander tells Emily in a low voice. "She was reading your palm. Who believes in that kind of crap?"
Emily laughs. "You do. Or you wouldn't have stuck your hands in your pockets as soon as she took my hand."
"I don't believe in it." Zander lies defensively. "I just didn't want to encourage her."
"Umhmm." Em murmurs not buying any of it. "Which room do you want?"
"Which room are you going to be in?"
"Zander." Emily shakes her head reprovingly. "Slow remember."
"I'm a guy; I had to try."
"You don't have to try so hard. You're still the only guy who's ever seen me nekkid. And I plan on keeping it that way."
"Agreed." Zander holds out a hand for Em to take. "Let go take care of the paperwork and then get the truck unloaded."
"If we time this right we'll be done intime to see the Renaissance dancers."
"You really interested in that kind of thing?"
"I have no idea." Emily shrugs. "I've never seen it before."
Back in Los Angeles, Alexis sighs collapsing back on the hotel room bed. "I thought they would never leave."
"Yeah." Ned pulls out his address book.
"Who are you calling?"
"The private detective. He should be able to track down someone here in LA to use."
"Ned, we already know what is going on. We were lucky to catch that girl on Em's floor before she left for the summer. Emily moved out two days ago. A guy fitting Zander's description loaded up her stuff into a rental van."
"Yeah, and maybe the rental people can give us a clue of which direction they went."
"It's Los Angeles. Hundreds of people probably rent trucks every day. We don't even know what name he used."
"Do you have a better idea?"
"Not better just different. Let me borrow your phone." Alexis places a long distance phone call to Luke's Place back in PC. "Roy Diluca, please." Alexis can hear Claude calling to Roy in the background.
your dime. Roy answers.
"Roy, I need to get intouch with Zander Smith."
Alexis? You know that's impossible. He entered the witness protection program three months ago. Zander doesn't exist anymore.
"Your daughter is in the FBI; she has connections. Roy, the invisible man has company now-- Emily as of two days ago."
There is a long silence on the other end of the line. Why am I not surprised?
"I don't think anyone is surprised, or should be. I don't think that the Q's have put it together yet-- just Ned and me. We need to find Zander, Roy."
I'll talk to Hannah. Maybe with Sorel's death the lips won't be quite as tight. And if Zander contacted Emily he violated the program and is out of it anyway. Where can I reach you?
Alexis gives him the number and then hangs up. "It's a long shot, sweetheart. But we have to have whatever name he's using to track him down."
"I know you're right. Come on lets go back to the school. Maybe there is still someone there. Someone who knows how long this has been going on... in the works."
"If I were to guess I'd say at least..." Alexis shrugs. "I have no idea. Were they planning this from the time Emily was sent out here? From the time Zander entered the WPP? Ned, they could have as much as a six month head start on us. Planning this all along."
Hauling the last box in, Zander groans and then drops it next to the door. He collapses onto the couch. "That's the last."
"Perfect timing." Em grins. "I just called for pizza it should be here anytime. Dinner delivered. Stuff all in. It's been a very good day. Now all we have to do is unpack." Zander groans again. "It could have been worse can you imagine if we actually would have had furniture instead of just boxes?" Emily laughs.
"I'm going to have to return the rental truck tomorrow." Zander reminds Em. "There was a place right out of town out by the highway. So anything you want to get done while we still have a vehicle...."
Em frowns. "I don't know. Maybe a big grocery trip get the staple things out of the way. Probably not the time to admit this but the last time I actually cooked anything I was eleven or so? I haven't stepped foot in a kitchen since I moved in with the Q's. Well that's not quite true-- the staff went on strike a couple of years ago. But we mostly dined out after Grandfather blew up the microwave."
"Blew it up. That thing about putting metal in a microwave... totally true. Definite no-no."
There is a knock on the door. From habit Zander looks around to make sure that Em is out of sight before going to answer it. He checks the window first. The familiar red polo and cap of a national pizza chain stands at the door carrying a pizza box. Zander answers the door taking the pizza and paying. "Thanks." He shuts the door. "Dinner is served."
"Great I'm starved." Em clears off the coffee table in front of the lumpy couch. Zander slides the box onto the table. The conversation is general while the pizza is quickly scarfed down. Emily leans back against the couch when the pizza is gone. "Dang, none left for breakfast." She laughs. Glancing down at her watch, "You want to go to that dance thing? We can unpack after."
"Sure." They both grab light coats and leave walking the one block up and one over to the theater complex. Already a crowd is gathering. Finding a seat on one of the brick planter boxes they wait for the show to begin. Soon comes the sound of a steady drum beat with some kind of whistle or fife accompaniment. Emily cranes her neck to see what is coming.
A troop of musicians and dancers in old time garb make their way to the courtyard square. They banter with the audience staying in character. The dancers come in all shapes and sizes, young and old, skinny and fat. The musicians who'd been keeping up a quiet background procession type tune break into a song. The dancers pair up as if at an old country dance and form into lines. They're steps are intricate but the dancers seem to be having a good time. There is an element of flirting and showing off. It wasn't just the dance or the music, it's like a mini play in itself. The observers are soon clapping along with the music. The show goes on for about half an hour. And then when they are finished the musicians and dancers procession into the opened doors of the Elizabethan theater followed by the patrons with tickets.
Zander wraps an arm around Emily hugging her close. The day had turned to dusk as they watched. Em looks up at him. "That was amazing."
"And they do that everyday?" Zander wonders.
A passerby on his way into the theater answers the question. "Every day there is a performance."
"I think I'm going to like this place." Em sighs. "I have got to get a job here." She looks around the theatre complex. "It would be too fun and close to the apartment."
"Come on, Lets head home." Zander suggests.
"I like the sound of that." Emily agrees.