by on May 17, 2015
I never guessed that selling the farm I inherited could bring consequences that would land me in that very town in the middle of no where, trying to discover and arrest my rival's near killer. (SkyexReader)

Cat and Mouse

Chapter 1: Pieces of the Past

"You couldn't shoot me..." His words rung truer than anything. "You won't hurt me," he knew it, it was so frustrating, he knew it so well. "You won't arrest me and you won't call someone else to do so in your place." His icy eyes were filled with a confidence that was most infuriating, yet I couldn't look away from them. "Because you love me." My heart told me he wasn't a killer, that he was falsely accused, but the proof sang a different tune and he was such a skillful liar... Yes, he was a killer, perhaps not the killer my investigation required me to find, but his eyes, his oh so attractive eyes, would be the death of me.

It had been an encounter like so many others that shouldn't have happened. Occasions like that were, not only illegal given that he was a criminal and I was an officer of the law, but they were also wrong, just plain wrong. I didn't believe him, I couldn't believe him, and yet every time his lips touched mine, I found myself doubting my logic and wondering if I could ever love a thief. This night, this quiet night that hides such forbidden intensity... It is nothing like the day when I arrived in Mineral Town, and yet I find myself remembering it...

xoxox xox xoxox

The sun is hot overhead, a soft breeze blows and it's a beautiful day, superficially at least. Yet at the heart of this little town in the middle of no where, everything is in turmoil. I should be used to turmoil by now, I'm a detective after all, but I would be lying, and badly at that, if I didn't admit I'm a rookie. A detective, a rookie, a city girl, that's another thing I am. I can't help it but to wonder if I'll be able to keep a shred of sanity in this place, in Mineral Town, the town where conflict and tragedy where unheard of until now. The town where the worse that could happen was a clumsy farmer forgetting to feed their animals, wild dogs ruining crops or preying on livestock, or petty thievery. But not murder, never murder, the word is almost alien to these people, bizarre, unfathomable.

Well, to be precise, it wasn't a murder as much as it was an attempted murder, but still, it shook the citizens of Mineral Town to their very core. I'm not a psychologist, I'm a detective. I'm not here to console them, I'm here to find answers and right now, everyone is a suspect. Albeit it is irrelevant to the case, as I stand here in front of what could have been my land, I can't help it but to think about why it's not and unwillingly remember why I detest thieves. But I don't want to think about that, so I try to think of something else. Something that will make my blood boil a little less.

Going back further still, that day a few years ago I was going about my business as usual. I was a law student then, a failing law student. As I wondered the university halls everything reminded me that I got in through a favor from my uncle, the head of the law department and what can only be described as a miracle. Though I was probably invisible to them, I felt as if they were judging me as I headed for my uncle's office. I knocked and a gruff yet friendly male voice granted me passage.

The office was simple in decor, white walls, polished wooden furniture including a large desk and abundant bookshelves, and leather chairs. Not the kind of cheap chairs that squeaked either. "Sit, miss, we have much to discuss." I could tell from his grave tone that his initial greeting was only a pretence to try to cheer me up. My grades were less than stellar, I was failing law school.

"I..." The words died on my lips. What excuses could I give?

"About the curriculum," he turned all business like, his face reminding me of my father. I suppose executives and lawyers aren't all that different. "Are you sure you don't prefer business administration?"

"No," this was a topic we'd addressed before. I let my eyes roam over the many titles of the texts stored in his bookshelves. All of them were law books of course, all of them quite thick and complex.

"I see," the pause stretched infinitely. Business, law, it was all Greek to me. As for my reason for choosing law rather than business? It was because I had no choice. No one pushed me into it; I ran into this curriculum head first to get away from the man I love. No, it wasn't academics, it wasn't about a career, but for a girl my age, anything hardly is about anything other than love.

Charles, the image of perfection from his smooth red hair to his intelligent blue eyes. That was the conceited narcissist that stole my heart, and everyone else's. The students either admired him or lusted for him, or both. The professors were in awe of him. He was rather self absorbed, but he could back it.

The stupidly simple event which turned my existence upside down happened when I was studying administration. My father graduated from that department and they expected me to be a business prodigy like him. In a few words, I wasn't. Still, I managed to hold my own fairly well, musing in retrospect that business is far easier then law, or maybe I'm just better at it, though still not stellar, not note worthy, not good enough.

That time, I was paired up with Charles for a group project. He was double majoring in administration and robotics, genius that he was. It was a dream, or so I thought. He didn't acknowledge me much as I couldn't academically compete with him, but then again, no one could. With a look that told me he expected disappointment, he divided up the work, taking the most complex and extensive portions for himself and giving me the relatively simple parts of the research.

The project was centered around a situation that happened with a company. I have forgotten the details by now. The point is that it had a lot to do with the laws that governed the business world. Though I went above and beyond to do my best, it wasn't good enough for him. He wasn't rude, but I kind of wish he had been. I can handle rejection, but not a total lack of acknowledgement. He took my pages of hard work and offered to compile the project. We got an A, but only because he did the whole thing as I found out when the project was returned and I flipped through it before Charles snatched it away. "Where's my part?"

"You didn't need to bother." His eyes told me not to make a scene as he headed back to his seat, yet his voice was so professional, so impersonal. I was fuming.

I met him outside the classroom after class had ended. "Charles," a few girls gave me nasty, looks as if I shouldn't have the privilege to address him, but I ignored them. "What did you do with the pages I gave you?"

"We got an A, be thankful," he was letting me off easy, but I insisted. He looked at me in the eyes as if I couldn't help it but to be inferior to him. "Your analysis was flawed. Law is not your forte." Then he walked away. He didn't sound spiteful and his neutral politeness was infuriating.

Okay, so maybe saying that I had no choice but to change my college curriculum was going too far. It was an impulse, something crazy; I wanted to prove him wrong. I wanted to become a great lawyer and be acknowledged. Until then, I didn't want to take any classes with him, so the business and robotics departments were off limits.

My uncle's voice woke me from my thoughts. "Are you listening?" I nodded absentmindedly; it was obvious I had not been. Without scolding me, but instead letting out a weary sigh that spoke volumes, he repeated the question I had missed. "How do you feel about criminal justice?"

Was that a trick question? Was it a test to my conviction as a hopefully future lawyer? "I would like to enforce the law." I stated blankly.

"Then why don't you switch? The electives you took for the law curriculum which are also related to criminal justice will be validated of course; you did rather well on those." That's when it hit me what he was trying to do, attempting not to be to direct so as to not startle me into stubbornness. He wanted to coax me into switching to a major where I wouldn't embarrass myself too badly, because if I did, I would embarrass him too.

Criminal justice... That wasn't related to business or robotics at all. What could I prove with a degree in that? Yet if I stayed in law, I would only make myself look stupid. I'm not stupid; prosecuting just isn't my talent, but maybe legal investigations could be. I never imagined how similar they could feel when my voice later held the power to condemn a man's life, even if I was a detective rather than a prosecutor.

I shrugged; I didn't want to make a fool of myself. I needed something, anything on which I could thrive. "I think I will make the switch.

xoxox xox xoxox

Turmoil, that was what it was like. That week years ago when I joined a classroom full of wannabe detectives. It was turmoil, and yet thinking back on it, it was nothing. This is turmoil, this thing, this unknown thing that I feel when I'm with Skye. Yet the doubt is always with me, because he has every reason in the world to use me.

On that very week when I joined the criminal justice department in my student years, I received a devastating blow. Grandpa passed away. I yelled, I cried, I threw a fit and then I sold the farm he left me. He was my grandfather on my mother's side and since she passed away when I was barely fourteen, I remained as the only other direct heir. She had no siblings and neither did I. I didn't visit the farm, I didn't want to cry at the memories of playing there as a child, running around with Ann, Karen, Rick and Popuri. We would have such fun times picking on him.

I sold the farm to a company called Fun Land. I heard they were going to turn it into a sort of mini amusement park. There was a battle with the town, I found out thanks to Karen's angry letter. They didn't want a torrent of tourists ruining their quiet little paradise. Yet I, a city girl at heart no matter how much I enjoyed my childhood summer visits to Mineral Town, didn't understand. Who wouldn't want to have an amusement park in walking distance of their house?

Yet now, in the present time, years after Karen, Popuri and Rick decided they didn't want to talk to me again, as I stand here where the farm once was, the empty plot of land devoid of life seems sad. The construction was halted because the CEO was almost murdered. I finish my studies and I'm a detective now. The badge in my pocket and the gun strapped to my torso beneath my jacket are proof of that.

The door of the office next to the construction site that was once grandpa's home opens and my heart aches. Then I see him. "Charles?"

"Detective?" His face is distraught. I never thought I would see him again, let alone like this. I don't think he remembers me at all. "Please come in."

I nod and follow him inside where an older man is filing paper work while sniffling into a handkerchief. "Compose yourself Renton, the detective is here."

The older executive nodded, despite his age, I got the impression that Charles was higher ranked. "I... I..."

"You can be excused if you don't feel up to talking about the investigation." I sounded professional, but I wasn't.

Renton moved his head in slow affirmation and looked at Charles who dismissed him. "Thank you, I'm... I'm sorry..." He hurried outside sniffling.

It wasn't consideration for the poor soul that made me excuse him. It was wanting to be alone with Charles. Yet as he motioned for me to sit across from him in the small meeting room, I had never felt so out of place in my life.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 2: The Detective is on the Scene

"I'm glad you're here." At that very moment, sitting in the little meeting room that was once grandpa's room, I felt like I would burst into tears. I couldn't even take Charles' words and twist them around to mean something else, something more romantic.

"Please tell me the whole story." And by all means take your time, because I can't talk when my voice feels all choked up.

He nodded and began his tale. "This plot of land was sold to Fun Land a few years ago. We intended to buy the nearby town to construct an amusement park, but the locals refused to sell it." That was different from my initial perception of what happened. Then again, Karen's letter had been so full of spite that I could barely interpret her message beyond the traitorous accusations. "The project was halted and eventually changed. We decided to build a sea side hotel instead and market Mineral Beach. Everything was set in place for the construction until this happened. Alice, the CEO, was attacked when she was out on a walk one evening." Charles continued, serious, grieved, and guilty. "I had thought nothing of it, the villagers were resigned, this place was peaceful and she had gone on walks to clear her head before. I wish I had been with her."

I wanted to cry out now for a different reason. He cared about this Alice girl, it was written all over his face. I thought I was over Charles, but I wasn't. I gave up a stable job along side my father in his boring yet secure business consultant firm for him after all. If not for Charles, the chain of events that turned me into a detective wouldn't have happened. It also makes me realize that if not for me, this wouldn't have happened. If I haven't sold the farm, none of this would have happened. "And?" I prompted.

"Alice always walked by the river, she was wet when the Harvest Goddess rescued her, so she must have been thrown in." Charles explained with bitterness, his perfect face marred with anger towards the unknown attacker.

"The goddess?" I questioned.

"I don't know who or what she is or claims to be. A lady with green hair and a flowing blue dress who wears flowers in her hair," Charles explained. I didn't need to hear that, I knew who the goddess was, I was just surprised. "Alice was taken to the clinic in a fragile state. Elli, the nurse there, heard something and when she went down stairs she saw the goddess who apparently disappeared soon after." I'm guessing he's interpreting 'disappeared' as 'left' but I know she could literally disappear. "I was called and rushed there. I don't know who did this, but I suspect the villagers, all of them. Detective, please avenge Alice!"

This man was not the cool, calm and collected Charles I remembered. I pushed myself to be strong because he really didn't need my weakness in the middle of his crisis. He was acknowledging me, counting on me, but it felt so bitter. "How is Alice?" I asked curiously.

"In a coma," Charles frowned.

"At the clinic?" I half assumed.

"No!" The offense was evident in his voice and I shrunk back on my chair. He took in a deep breath, he didn't mean to yell, I could tell, but he obviously didn't trust the villagers. Now he was giving me a look as if I were stupid. "Of course not, she's here, upstairs," in the second floor that wasn't there the last time I visited.

"May I see her?" Distrusting as he was, I wondered if Charles would deny my request. Yet he didn't. With a silent nod he led me upstairs and showed me the room where Alice was.

The room had fine carpets and various paintings on the walls. The furniture was of high quality and there, in the center of it all, there was an intricately carved wooden bed with pristine white sheets where sleeping beauty rested. This was Alice? This was the CEO? She was so young... Her silver hair rested on the pillow, her face serene and peaceful. She was beautiful and she must be a genius too... and rich... and perfect... unlike me.

"Are you finished?" Charles' impatient voice woke me from my thoughts and I scurried out of the room. I didn't even walk too close to the sleeping woman anyway, not that a patient stuck in a coma had anything to testify. Yet I couldn't help it but to notice how protective and territorial Charles was.

My memory jumped started and I remembered hearing about a Charles who was second in command next to Alice. Those names, I had read them, but my mind went blank as soon as I reached Mineral Town. Of course, I never thought the man in the report was this very same Charles; it was a common name after all. I had tossed theories around in my head before, wondering if the mysterious Charles could be the attacker, searching to climb the corporate ladder. There's one theory out the window.

"I need to talk to the mayor." There's a lot more that I should be asking Charles, but I'll do that later. Right now, I just want to get out of here.

xoxox xox xoxox

As I walked to the mayor's house, receiving curious looks from those who didn't recognize me and angry looks from those who did, I thought again of why I hate thieves. After I sold the farm I put the money in my bank account, naturally. Then one day, as I tried to get money from an ATM after a study session late into the night at one of my new classmates' house, an unknown man pressed cold metal against my back. I felt it through the fabric of my shirt, I felt it on my spine, I felt the gun and my life flashed before my eyes.

I had two choices, give him my debit card or be killed. He stole my purse too and with it my phone and car keys. He took my car and I was too panicked to do anything, I would have been killed if I did. He sped away in my car with my IDs, my money, my property. I ran until I found help at a gas station in another street. I later called the bank and alerted them. At that time immediately after the event it was past closing time, I didn't know what number to call and I was scared senseless. By the next morning it was too late.

My account had been all but completely drained. They cancelled my card to prevent further purchases, but what was taken from the ATMs was gone. It was a trying process afterwards. I had to secure my identity, get a new license and start getting used to taking the bus. What little of the money that came from selling the farm I could salvage went to pay for my degree later on. Father said he'd gift me my education, yet he was so upset at my stupidity, lowering my guard and keeping all my money in a single account so easily accessible through a card, that he took it back. Maybe he was just shaken that my life was in danger, yet I still wanted to be a detective.

I suppose I should have made a separate account, a certified account, and made it so that no cards were attached to it, keeping only a portion in my checking account for easy access. But I didn't think of that, and it was too late. I was just glad to be alive anyway, though the loss of the money, more so because it was grandpa's final gift, still hurt, a lot. I decided then that I hated thieves and for the first time I really wanted to be a detective. I wanted revenge. Maybe, if I jailed enough criminals I would one day, even without realizing it, catch the one that did that to me. I never saw his face, but if I had, I would pound it in if I ever saw it again.

I knock at the door to the mayor's office and the familiar chubby short man opens it. He's balder than I remember and smaller, but that's just because I'm a fully grown woman now, no longer a child. "Mayor, I'm the detective assigned to the case of miss Alice." I showed him my badge.

"Yes," he fidgeted nervously at the door before stepping aside. "Please come in."

xoxox xox xoxox

Talking to the mayor was not productive; all he did was attest to the innocence of all the villagers. I interrogated them too. They weren't happy and sometimes, when they realized who I was, they tried to turn the interrogation around, asking me about why I sold the farm. They claimed not to know anything about the attack, of course. It was all too predictable.

As I sit here at the first floor of the inn where I'm staying, staring into my glass at the bar, my theory is that one of them is guilty. I saw them as trust worthy people as a child and don't like to think this way, but what else am I supposed to think? They all testified that aside from Alice, Charles, Renton and the construction crew that has since left, no one else was here save the local residents. Charles isn't the killer. It's unlikely that anyone from the construction crew could possibly harbor a motive. Renton seemed to care about Alice perhaps as a niece or daughter even if they're not actually related. That leaves the locals... my childhood friends, the people I once felt such appreciation for.

I sigh and down my glass, paying the tab and leaving. Ann, the inn keeper's daughter, has been avoiding me after my questioning. I was going to greet her with something other than an interrogation, but she greeted me with an accusation so I decided to get down to business.

I leave the inn, walking around town. It is almost evening by now and I don't think Charles will appreciate me interrogating him this late. I'll do that later, maybe in the morning, or when I feel brave enough to face him again. For now I just want to clear my head and forget about the hostility in town. They were looking at me as if I was the killer. I sold the farm, I brought Fun Land and Fun Land's CEO brought disaster. But she was the victim and she had, still has, legal rights over that stretch of land that was once my grandfather's farm.

My feet carry me further away from town, past the halted construction site and towards the river, the scene of the crime. The distance must have been greater than I remembered. I'm at the river, but the sun is now setting. I thought I could make it here, look around and go back before sundown, but I was wrong, very wrong. If my memory failed to judge the distance, maybe I shouldn't trust myself to find my way back in the darkness of the night. Yet a figure at the bridge catches my attention.

I approach the man standing there curiously. He has silver hair and blue eyes. "Hey beautiful," he smiles and I'm taken aback.

Beautiful? I chuckle bitterly, for a moment wondering if he was speaking to his reflection in the waters below, but he was looking at me. After a long ferry ride and an exhausting day with little to no sleep the previous night, I'm sure I look like a wreck. "Would you mind if I ask you a few questions?" I try to push his obvious charm to the back of my head and go into detective mode.

He smiles, apparently amused. "My name is Skye, the Phantom Thief," he winks and I blush. I hate thieves, but took his statement as a metaphor. What real thief called himself a thief outright?

In return for his introduction I stated my own name and showed him my badge. He took a seemingly involuntary step back when he saw it. I assume he was surprised to realize that I wasn't trying to flirt, but rather, conducting an investigation. Then his eyes met mine. For a short second I thought something, I'm not sure what, would happen. But he seemed to reconsider whatever it was he intended to do and smiled once more. He suddenly took my hand and kissed it, "a pleasure to meet you."

It took me a moment too long to pull my hand away from his gentle grasp. My face was rosy and I was acutely aware of the feel of his lips on my hand even after they had been removed. This was going to be a long interrogation.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 3: Under the Stars

"Do you live in Mineral Town?" I started off with a simple question as Skye and I stood at the bridge and the sun further sunk in the horizon.

"No, I'm just visiting the town," he smiled charmingly. "How about you?"

"If you don't mind," I forced myself to put on a serious face even if it was also inevitably a red face. "I'd like to conduct an interrogation, rather than make casual conversation."

He grinned as if he knew something I didn't. "Certainly."

"Right..." I paused and inhaled. "When did you arrive in town?"

"Not long ago," his reply was ambiguous at best, as if he was cautiously testing the waters. Seeing my disapproval, he continued. "I haven't seen you around, so I take it you must have arrive recently too."

I ignored his attempt at conversation and asked for the specifics. "Could you give me a specific date for your arrival?" He was charming and he was out of my league. I was still heartbroken over Charles; some random stranger wasn't going to charm me like he did.

The main difference between Skye and Charles, I muse as the silver haired man smiles, is that Charles wasn't trying to charm me. No alarms went off in my head with him like they do with this guy. "Yesterday."

I let out a breath. No one in town mentioned Skye. He couldn't have arrived today or else I would have ran into him in the near empty ferry. But if he arrived only yesterday he could have escaped the town's notice and not be mentioned in my earlier interrogations. Or at least that's what I would conclude if I were anyone else. Yet I lived part of my childhood here and I know that there are no secrets in Mineral Town. "How come no one in town mentioned you?"

"I'm just a traveler," he doesn't lose his cool, though the look in his eyes slightly increases his charm. "I don't really know many people here."

"Suspicious," I mutter under my breath. "This is Mineral Town, even the smallest variation in its predictable routine is news!"

"Really?" He gave me an innocent look. "This place is that predictable? The atmosphere didn't feel that way to me."

"Well, not lately..." I have to admit it. There was a heavy tension in the air in town and perhaps the talk of an attempted murder, something unheard of in this town, had made people miss the arrival of this silver haired stranger. Yet a part of me feels that I am being led to think that, logical as it may be. "Why have you come here?" I try to regain my stern tone.

"To visit," he reiterates, "as a tourist. I heard Fun Land was building a hotel, so I thought I'd beat the crowds."

Other than simply being there, I could find nothing to accuse him and that wasn't enough. Besides, if his story held true and he did arrive yesterday, then he wasn't here on the night of the attack. Maybe I was just trying to blame someone other than the villagers, holding on to my childhood image of them. Yet they had their mean side, their rude remarks proved that to me today. "Thanks for your cooperation," I reluctantly released him from the interrogation. "Sorry for the trouble."

"It's no trouble at all, princess," another charming smile. "Now that you're done working, do you mind if we do talk, rather than conduct an investigation?"

I huffed, "I have no time for that." This man, no doubt about it he only wanted a heart to toy with and I wasn't willing to offer him mine. "Goodbye," I turned tail and ran. I don't know what I was running from. I was the detective, the hunter, not the hunted, but I still ran.

Yet my legs were no longer used to the uneven ground of the countryside. The pavement and concrete of the city was leveled, with a balance of smoothness and traction that was just right. The grassy ground here wasn't. "Ah!" I tripped and fell, frantically throwing my hands to the ground to save myself from face planting. "Ugh..."

I gasped startled as someone suddenly helped me to my feet. "Are you alright?" He held my hand in his for the second time tonight.

"I'm fine," I stammered in embarrassment, he must think I'm a joke. "Thanks..." I want to run away again, but my knees are still sore from my last failed attempt.

"You're welcome," he examined my knees with concerned that I somehow doubted. "You're bleeding." Producing a handkerchief from his pocket, he started to clean the scrapes on my knees. I wince as my pants rub against the wound, their delicate black fabric not meant to resist something like this. I should have worn thick jeans, but no, I just had to look like an elegant detective from a movie.

"Stop, that's not necessary and you're ruining it." I pointed at the white fabric that was stained with drops of red.

Skye shrugged as if he didn't care about the stains. "This is more important." He pointed at the scrapes.

"I can take care of myself," I argued like a child and began to march away. If I had met this man during my student years, I would might fallen for him like I did for Charles, but I'm not so naive anymore. Yet I'm still helplessly in love with Charles, because he's so much more than a handsome face. He's a genius, he's amazing, he's... unattainable. The thought makes me frown.

"You must be in pain," Skye observes. Why can't he just go away?

"I'm fine," my replied is clipped and final. I am in pain but not because of the scrapes on my knees. That's just an annoyance, not a big enough wound to cause serious pain, even if it is a constant discomfort as the ripped fabric of my pants brushes my tender skin with every step I take.

xoxox xox xoxox

I walked all the way back to the inn in silence. Skye walked with me, much to my dismay. I wanted to tell him to get lost, but then I remembered that Doug's inn offers the only lodgings in town, at least until fun Land's hotel is complete, if they ever manage to finish it. Naturally, Skye must be staying there, where else would he go? Thus I respected his right to transit the sidewalk that I walked upon and let him walk with me to the inn.

Once in front of the inn, I was surprised by the lack of light from within. Wasn't the bar open at this time? Sure enough the old faded sign that detailed the facilities' schedule testified that it should have been, but it wasn't. I tried to open the door and it wouldn't budge. I tried again and again, but it was locked. "Ann!" I shouted angrily, but no one answered. I reasoned that she heard me but didn't care. "Doug!" I'm so mad right now! "I can't believe this!" I fumed. "They locked me out, how much resentment can they have for me? This isn't my fault!"

Skye's eyes shone with interest at my outburst. "Resentment is indeed a cruel thing. Maybe this town isn't so friendly after all."

I grunted then sighed. "Not for me." I couldn't help it, I let it all out. "I sold that old farm to Fun Land. They think I'm a traitor, but it was my property and I could do whatever I wanted with it!"

"Indeed," Skye agreed.

I knew that I wasn't going to get that door open that night. "Looks like we're locked out." My fury was still present, but it was tinted by resignation.

"I know where we can go," Skye offered.

"Where?" I asked curiously and somewhat hopeful.

"Back to the hill to sleep under the beautiful stars, with the most beautiful star right here on earth beside me. Will you accompany me, princess?" I wanted to slap him.

"Get lost," I growled.

"Alright, alright, I see you're not in the mood for my company." He waved his hands in front of him as a sign of surrender. "Perhaps another time..." With those words of parting he left. The way he runs is so agile and yet so quiet it's almost unnerving.

I sigh, I'm not going to sit out here all night; I won't give the villagers that satisfaction. I'll ask Charles if he has a free room tomorrow. I'm doing this for him after all... for his Alice.

xoxox xox xoxox

I head on out of town again, past the construction site and back the way I went before. I keep going past the river and beyond. Then finally, after a long walk, I reach it, the top of the hill. The view here is beautiful. My gaze is so fixed on the stars that it takes me a moment to see him, Skye. He sits there watching me, quiet as a phantom. Perhaps the name suits him.

"So you've decided to join me, fair maiden." He smiles and I frown. What should have been a question sounded far too much like a statement, like an assumption.

"No," I stated firmly. "I didn't know you'd be here," or rather I wanted to asume he wouldn't bother returning to the spot after my rejection. Yet he seemed harmless enough. I suppose I could enjoy the view, the stars and more so the man, as long as I didn't let myself fall for his tricks. I sat down beside him, self consciously keeping the gun under my jacket on the side opposite to him. I hugged myself pretending it was just the Fall chill setting in and felt the cold metal of the holster's content with the tip of my fingers. If he tried anything... inappropriate, he would find himself dodging bullets.

"I'm here, so I might as well keep you company," he smile and I raise an eyebrow.

"Just what do you mean by company?"

"Anything you want it to mean, fair maiden," he winked.

"Just company then," I let out sharply.

He chuckled, "of course."

A silent pause followed until I had to look away from his handsome face. "Skye... why do you call yourself the Phantom Thief?"

"Because I am," he grinned.

"So, what do you do for a living? Rob people?" I laughed almost teasingly.

"I steal," he suddenly leaned in close to whisper in my ear, "hearts."

With embarrassment that should have been disgust, I shove him away. But we were too close to the edge of the hill and he tumbled down. "Skye!" I screamed in a sudden panic as I bolted to my feet and looked over the edge.

His silver hair peeked out and then his smiling face. "Aw c'mon princess, you don't have to be so rough." He had the nerve to laugh after he scared me like that!

"Idiot!" I growled, but none the less hurried to help him up. The pull of his hand in mine, the weight of his body, it all made it seem as if I was really helping him up. Back then I didn't realize he was fully in control of his motions and let him self pretend to fall to get a reaction from me.

The rest of the night was spent with ambiguous conversations. Skye had been all over the place and he had plenty of stories to tell. He didn't talk too much about himself as a person, about his morals and beliefs. Yet he spoke about things he liked, like food, scents and seasons, so I didn't quite realize how little he was telling me at the time. Neither did I realize that by adding anecdotes and opinions to the places I mentioned I was telling him a lot.

xoxox xox xoxox

Eventually we lay back on the ground and though it felt strange not to be on a bed, I fell asleep listening to his voice. When the sun came up, Skye was sleeping peacefully beside me, respecting my personal space for the most part, save for the fact that somehow my hand was in his. My heart beat rapidly and I told my naive side to shut up, then I ran again. Unknown to me, Skye had woken up first and set up that whole sweet and innocent scene. There were a lot of things I didn't know about him back then, but I would soon find out, starting on that very morning.

I marched to the inn with a sure pace. I let myself in stomping my feet and went upstairs. I had not asked Charles about the room, but it didn't matter. I wasn't going to stay there. I showered and changed after finally gaining access to the room I was rightfully paying for. I dragged my luggage down, paid my bill and before I left I glared at Doug who stood behind the counter. "I hope you're happy," I spoke loud enough for Ann, who was sweeping near by, to hear. "It wasn't just me you locked out, but Skye too. So much for that hospitality you claimed to be so proud of!"

The serious look never left his face as he replied, "I don't know of any Skye." I knew he wasn't lying. Somehow I knew. Yet if Skye wasn't staying at the inn, where was he living? Outside? He didn't look like that much of an outdoors person despite how at ease he had been last night. I hated to admit it, but I was curious.

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Chapter 4: Suspects

First things first, I went back to the office next to the construction site and knocked on the door. Charles let me in, surprised to see me with my luggage in tow. "Do you happen to have an extra room?"

He considered my request for a moment before complying. "Yes, I wouldn't want them to try to kill you too."

I couldn't reply to that. I didn't think Doug, or Ann, or anyone from Mineral Town would hurt me, but I didn't know who else was out there. Who could have frightened those people into silence? What if Skye had only been a clever actor? I would be dead. Well, at least I can rule him out. If he wanted to kill me to keep me from finding out the truth, he had his chance. I realized that I was doing it again, hoping that the villagers were innocent. One of them has to be the killer, or rather the almost killer; there is simply no one else.

After depositing my luggage into a room, I followed Charles downstairs, back to the little conference room. "Your room used to be Renton's room," he stated, to break the silence. "I sent him back to HQ. Since the construction is halted, there's not much that he can do here." I guess my timing was lucky then. Lucky... that word feels as if it shouldn't fit the situation at all, or my life. "About the investigation," Charles' handsome face turned critical.

I realized that he expected me to have made progress in the investigation and what little I had found was mediocre at best. I hastily threw a list together in my head. Then, resting my hands on the table and lacing my fingers with a forced look of confidence, I began. "My main suspects are Zack and Doug." I threw in Doug because I expected him to be more mature than Ann about locking out paying customers and also, because I didn't want to leave Zack alone in that list. He showed me, and I thus assume showed Charles, the most anger because of how the stress of all this was affecting Lillia, but I know he's harmless, or at least I think I know.

"What about proof?" Charles glared at me, but I knew the glare wasn't for me, it was for the culprit.

"Insufficient as of right now," I tried to sound professional. "But I'm making progress," that was such a lie.

Charles nodded and for a moment his expression became thoughtful. "Thank you, detective, I knew I was right to have chosen you."

His statement filled me with curiosity. "Why exactly did you choose me?" I didn't want to sound as if I was doubting my own abilities, but in all truth, I'm a rookie.

"You were the one who sold Fun Land the farm, thus I concluded you understand progress. You wouldn't sympathize with the villagers; you would be on my side." I wanted to be on his side, but in a different way, by his side. "The detective who took the case before you had an impressive resume, but not enough sense. I knew he took pity on the villagers, I couldn't trust him. When his investigation went cold, I fired him."

Even if that other detective took pity on the villagers, I don't think he was incompetent, the case is just hard. There's no proof and if it existed, it must be gone by now. Even if I somehow manage an arrest, everyone will have an alibi, or more like a town full of them. Then I remembered what he said before about the goddess. "What about the Harvest Goddess?"

Charles looked frustrated. "The would-be star witness is gone without a trace. They say the conflict drove her out, frankly I'm suspicious, though it wouldn't make sense for her to half drown Alice then let her live. Maybe she wasn't involved at all; maybe the whole river story is a lie. I doubt everything now. It's so frustrating; I've never had problems figuring things out before. I've never thought to rely on another, except Alice's business skills that is."

"It's okay, you can count on me." There I go, making promises I can't keep.

"Sorry," he straightens and looks serious again. "I didn't mean to lose myself like that."

Shocking myself more than him, I reached across the table and took his hand. "Leave it to me." He doesn't resist, as if he's simply too tired to do so. This time, he feels that he really has no choice but to count on me and I don't want to let him down.

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After my talk with Charles, my heart was left pounding. I bitterly reminded myself that I was hunting for my rival's near killer. The only reason Charles was so uncharacteristically open was because he was so stressed and worried for her, for Alice. It would be bad for me to think about moving in when the one who managed to open his heart is laying unconscious waiting for me to avenge her, right? Probably...

Charles gave me an odd look when I emerged from my new room in overalls. I had put on another detective suit for our little meeting, but now it was time to strategize. "I'm trying to blend in." The look of horror upon the lack of brands recognizable to him in my attire finally left his face. Then I left, off to do some serious investigating.

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A short while later I found myself at Mineral Beach. Before I had the chance to say anything, Zack approached me with an apologetic face. He rambled his apology, stumbling on his words. He's a softy, just as I thought. Which means I should be planning to arrest Doug now, but bitter as he and Ann may be, I don't think he's a killer.

Before leaving the beach, I inquire, "did you have a passenger named Skye recently?"

Zack looks both curious and foreboding; it reminds me of when I arrived on the ferry. It was the calm before the storm, the cold shoulder before the rage. Except there was no more anger left, just frustration and a detached, "no."

"I see..." This doesn't mean that Skye was lying. He could have come from the path beyond the mountains that leads to Forget Me Not. A person from the city wouldn't go across a bunch of small towns just to get here. The ferry is faster, but a tourist on a pleasure trip wouldn't be in a rush. Perhaps he came from Forget Me Not after all.

A Chinese man walks across the beach towards Zack's house. I don't think I've seen him before. "Hey Won," Zack greets. How were your ventures in Forget Me Not?"

"Alright," the man replied as he eyed me with the predatory look of a merchant, which I simply knew he was. "From what I've heard, a lot has happened while I was gone. It's too bad the construction was halted, but it looks like that hasn't stopped some tourists from showing up. May I interest you in a souvenir apple, young lady?"

"Won!" Zack growled exasperated. "You know that construction is a bad thing! How could you think of getting more customers out of this?" He pouted.

"Well there is no point in arguing about it, since the matter is out of our hands anyway, right?" Won tried to calm Zack. He turned his greedy gaze back at me. "I have quite a variety of apples here-"

"She's a detective," Zack interrupted. "She's not a tourist, she's here to find the culprit and..." he paused in deep thought. "Even if she was the one that sold the farm, maybe we'll have to count on her. Fun Land brought the threat of noisy tourists if their hotel is completed, but that person," his whole body shook with frustration, every muscle tense. "That person brought something worse, an attempted murder and the death of the fields. Everyone is stressed, the produce is waning and maybe justice is the only thing that will bring her back."

"Her?" I question, my curiosity has been sparked by his serious tone.

"The Harvest Goddess," Zack replied gravely. "No doubt, it was the negativity in all this that made her leave. The land must be cleansed of the culprit and then maybe she'll return."

Yet the goddess herself could be the star witness, but I don't think she wants to be this closely involved in the affairs of humans. That also explains why the town was so rude. It's not just a matter of me selling the farm; it's the stress in their minds. They want all of this gone to get their goddess back, but right now, they need to know, like Zack realized, that I'm the one who will bring justice and possibly bring back the goddess... maybe. It's a lot to carry on my shoulders and the burden will only be heavier if more people actually start counting on me.

I begin to walk away and Won stops me, "what about the apples?"

"No thanks," he frowns in disappointment, but doesn't follow me.

Then, as I'm prepared to leave Mineral Beach, Skye comes down the stairs and gives me a brilliant smile. "There you are; I had wondered where you ran off to."

Suddenly I feel self conscious of what I'm wearing; overalls are not exactly the most flattering of outfits. Yet the look seemed to work on Zack's subconscious well enough as I didn't look too much like an outsider. "Skye... You came from Forget Me Not, didn't you?"

"Yes," he admitted, not losing his smile over the question that came out of the blue. I nodded and prepared to walk past him, but he offered, "would you like something to eat?"

I blinked and stared. Was he asking me out? "Excuse me?" No, that had to be my wishful thinking. Oh wait, no, no, no, he's a flirt, a player; I don't want anything to do with him.

"I'm managing the little shop over there for a friend. How about some delicious food, beautiful? It's on the house." I followed his gaze to the small white structure, the Snack Shack. I had no idea that his story about managing it for a friend was a lie. But he knew that Kai wouldn't be back until summer and he could make himself at home there pretending to be his friend, linking himself to Mineral town until his continued presence there was no longer suspicious. He couldn't leave yet, not until his job was done and his alibi was in place.

Truthfully I was hungry; I haven't had any food since yesterday. "I guess..." I follow him to the Snack Shack and as naturally as can be, he produced a key from his pocket and opened the front door. I had no idea at the time that it was the very key he stole from Kai at Forget Me Not, just to have a convenient hideaway in Mineral Town.

"What would you like, fair maiden?" Skye asked with a smile, taking his position behind the counter while I sat down in front of it.

I shrugged, it's not like I was familiar with the menu. "What do you have to offer?" His Cheshire cat grin made me add, "to eat."

"Let's go see," he invited me to follow him to the kitchen where he rummaged around. "Pardon me, fair maiden, but I haven't quite gotten settled in yet and have not passed inventory."

"It's okay," then something stood out to me. "Wait a minute..." My detective side activated. "You said you were visiting as a tourist, but now you're managing a business for a friend?"

"Yes," he remained relaxed at my question. "I didn't know how long I would stay, but I guess I became curious about this town and called up Kai about it. It was a last minute thing, but he won't be here until summer anyway, so he's lending me this place." It was fall and by summer, Skye expected to have worked his magic on me. I didn't realize at the time how tricky he was and he didn't realize how hard to crack I was. He found some pancake batter and held it out triumphantly, "how about some pancakes?"

I nodded as my suspicions subsided for the time being. "Sounds good to me."

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Chapter 5: Business

Skye started to make the pancakes while I hung around the kitchen, making small talk with him, despite knowing that I shouldn't get too close to such a flirt. I was focused on my inner debate about if I should start avoiding Skye or just stay on my guard around him when a peculiar detail came to my attention. Skye had no idea what he was doing. I was certainly not an expert in the kitchen, but I at least knew how to make half decent pancakes. "Um... Skye, have you ever taken care of your friend's business before?"

"Not really," he admitted. "Why do you ask?"

"Because the concoction that you're making, I am sure, will be in no way fit for human consumption, but certainly fit for putting this place out of business when your customers get poisoned." There was a moment of silence after my statement and I wondered if I had offended him.

Then he laughed. Apparently, my critique had not bothered him much after all. "May I be so bold as to request your guidance, fair maiden? I wouldn't want to put Kai out of business after he so kindly lent me his shop."

"Sure," I agreed and started over with the pancake making process.

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After breakfast, I tried to show Skye how to cook a few simple things. Yet it all seemed too simple to make the business shine. This place, the Snack Shack, it wasn't here yet during my childhood. I'm not sure what kinds of things it normally served and Skye's most accurate description was to say "summery foods," but we're not even in summer right now, we're in fall.

"How about cakes?" I suggested. It seemed like something a shop should have, albeit I had never baked a cake before.

It was too late to point out that bit of information, as Skye gave me the most adorable pleading look. "Please, princess, show me how to bake a cake." He would need that knowledge if he was going to keep up a convincing front, but I didn't realize that at the time. Those who knew Kai, knew he wouldn't simply lend his shop to an amateur chef, but I had not yet met Kai at the time.

"Um... well..." I shifted uncomfortably and wondered if it was truly too late to take back my words. Then again, I didn't have to, I was a city girl and I held the full extent of the world's knowledge at my finger tips. "Alright, let's choose a recipe." With more confidence now, I pulled out my iPhone. If the piece of information in question has at some point in time been discovered by the human race, it can be found with Google.

I frowned, I had no signal. I guess roaming doesn't reach the middle of no where. I could still text and may call, but the signal wasn't enough to have internet access. Then the phone picked up something else, two wifi signals, one labeled Fun Land Private and the other Fun Land Public. The private one was encrypted of course, as I assumed it was for administrative use only. The public one was, as the name logically suggests, open to the public. The hotel might still be under construction, but the mercies of the Fun Land satellite already shine upon this secluded place.

After Skye and I settled for a chocolate cake and checked to make sure we actually had the ingredients, the process began. With a little help from You Tube videos embedded into the cooking site, we were baking like expert chefs and Skye didn't even realize that I too was learning alongside him.

Soon, the cake was safely in the oven, baking to perfection. "That wasn't too hard, right?"

"You are a talented teacher, princess," Skye complimented. I smiled, momentarily forgetting that I wasn't supposed to allow myself to be tricked by his charms. What was I doing here helping him learn to cook anyway? I had an investigation to conduct! "You have cake batter on your face." He pointed out and before I could reach for a kitchen cloth to wipe it off, he kissed me on the cheek, licking off the batter. "Delicious!"

My face went scarlet as the echo of a loud slap resounded across Mineral Beach. For a few seconds after my automatic and purely instinctual act of defending my personal space, we were both locked in stunned silence. He was as much in disbelief as I was. I don't think any girl had ever slapped him like this, or in any other way actually. It's almost like a crime to hit his perfect face, which now sports a red handprint in the accusing shape of my right hand.

"Sorry..." We both chorus, finding our quiet voices simultaneously.

I had to shake my head to clear it. Why was I apologizing? Because I hit him? Because it was too much? He deserved it! He was a flirt who was trying to cross the line with me and I was entitled to some respect. I huffed, I wasn't sorry and I allowed my angry face to take back my hasty words.

Skye rubbed his face and sigh. A look of determination crossed his features and his eyes were locked with mine. I remember something similar to this happening before and just as that time; he seemed to think better of it and looked away. "Will you forgive me, beautiful?"

I wasn't sure what to say. It would be rude to say no, right? Had he learned his lesson? "I guess so," I stammered.

"Then allow me to make it up to you, fair maiden." He offered and if he intended to ask me out as a form of compensation I was going to slap him again. I had to be weary of him, he would only break my heart and I knew it. "There will be a horse race tomorrow," he explained. How come I didn't know that? "I've heard it's not on the usual date, but the mayor planned it to help calm people." It was amazing how well informed Skye was for someone who technically arrived in town pretty recently. It was as if he observed the town unnoticed from the shadows more often than anyone could imagine. But that was silly; silly and impossible, or so I thought.

"What of it?" I didn't feel like going with him or anyone to watch the horse race. Except maybe Charles, not that he would actually invite me anyway. I could use the opportunity to observe the villagers and get some clues though.

"I will race and win you a price!" Skye gave me a big grin.

"You don't have to," I insisted. "Just behave yourself and we'll get along just fine."

"I must insist, fair maiden; I can't have you feeling anger towards me, not even the smallest drop." I could tell then that I wasn't going to convince him.

"Do as you wish, I can't stop you," I finally voiced.

"Kai? Are you here?" The sudden female voice coming from the front of the establishment caught our attention.

"If the villagers see me here, they won't buy anything from you," I whispered in warning. "You can't publicly associate yourself with me."

"Like a secret affair?" He joked.

"I'm serious," I growled.

"I understand; I can keep a secret. I'm actually very good at keeping secrets." That was the most straightforward truth he ever told me. Then he exited the kitchen while I hid there listening. I peeked out and saw him speaking to a pink haired girl whom I recognized as my childhood friend Popuri.

"Oh... hello..." She smiled shyly at Skye, obviously not recognizing him.

"Greetings, fair maiden, my name is Skye and I will be your server this fine day." He gave her a charming smile. It's just as I thought, he's such a flirt. He treats all girls like that. Why am I fuming if I already knew it?

"Skye," Popuri repeated and it took her a moment to regain herself. "Sorry, I thought Kai was back, I guess not." Disappointment crept into her face.

"Do not be sad, princess, my dear friend Kai isn't here, but I am at your service," Skye offered.

Popuri blushed and giggled. "So you are Kai's friend? Are you going to be taking care of the Snack Shack until next summer, or are you just here for the fall?"

"I have not yet decided for how long I'll be here, but I will probably be on my way before summer. In the mean time, I hope I can prepare delicious food for you." Skye winked, the nerve of him, not that it's any of my business anyway.

A lot of giggling followed as Popuri flooded Skye with questions about Kai and himself. Then before I knew it more people started to come by. There was only one way out of the small structure and if I went out through the front door, the villagers that gather there to answer to their uneasy curiosity would see me. I could hear Rick expressing his distrust in a loudly rude voice just because Skye was supposedly Kai's friend... supposedly...

I don't know why I should be concerned with his business, or lack there of. Maybe I should march out and have the villagers label him as an outcast. Then another thought occurred to me. Skye was charming and other than Rick no one else seemed to dislike him. If I helped him out, let him get the villagers' trust, then used him to get information out of them, it might be exactly what my investigation needs! Besides, there's a certain satisfaction in thinking I can actually play the player. I grinned mischievously.

Thus I spent most of the day at the Snack Shack's kitchen while Skye took care of the front counter and played waiter. It was a waste of time at a glance, but I kept telling myself that it was an investment of trust that would later pay off.

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That evening, Skye said he had to go get his horse. I was curious about where he kept it and asked where the horse was. "She is at Forget Me Not," he answered with a smile.

"Forget Me Not!" I exclaimed in disbelief. We were still at the Snack Shack, but the place was closed for business for the day. "Do you have any idea how long it'll take to get there on foot? Unless you have a car around here somewhere, which I doubt. Not even Charles brought a car, since the roads aren't proper for their use."

"I will walk there and return by morning," Skye informed.

I was about to tell him he should have gotten the horse when there was still daylight if he was serious about entering the race, but my cell phone alerted me of an incoming text message. Charles had my number of course, since he was technically my client. He was asking me how the investigation was going. I sighed and motion for a pause while I replied. 'Making progress... I will give you the full report when I return.' I neglected to say specifically at what time I would go back. But then, what could I do except go back to my room?

"Do you want to come with me?" Skye offered with a smile, though the remnants of a thoughtful expression on his face made me wonder if this wasn't a spur of the moment offer after all. Did he give it careful thought, why would he?

Then the fact sunk in that he had asked me a question and he didn't have an answer. It was a ridiculous question really. A question with an obvious negative answer attached to it, except that's not what came out of my mouth. "Okay," I reluctantly agreed. I wasn't ready to face Charles empty handed just yet. I didn't want to disappoint him and I needed time to come up with some theories to share concerning the investigation. Maybe even a clue so ambiguous that it would catch his eyes, but it wouldn't affect the case that it's made up.

"Really?" Skye didn't look like he was expecting that, but after my nod he recovered quickly. "Then let's go. I shall be your escort tonight, fair maiden."

I huffed, but not too sternly, it was more of a joking tone, really. "As if I need an escort." A guide I would perhaps need, since I had only ventured out from Mineral Town to Forget Me Not once, in the company of my grandfather when I was a child, and didn't think I could remember the way, but certainly not an escort. My gun was the only escort I could ever need, but he didn't need to know I had it.

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Chapter 6: A Prince Upon A Horse

Skye and I left towards Forget Me Not right away, but of course, no matter how quickly we moved, the walk would take a while. "This way, princess," Skye motioned in a direction away from the marked path. I couldn't help it but to give him a suspicious glance. "It's a shortcut," he assured.

I shrugged and decided to follow him. What did I have to fear anyway? I was alert, armed and fierce.

After a lot of walking, the area got darker and darker until I stumbled, only to be caught by Skye. "Be careful, beautiful, I wouldn't want you to get hurt again."

"Are you sure we're not lost?" I responded to his apparent concern for my wellbeing rather harshly.

"I know precisely where we are," Skye insisted. "You need not worry; your knight will protect you."

"I don't need a protector, I need a GPS," I voiced in returned.

He chuckled lightly and took my hand, "I'll be your GPS then." I didn't pull away. It only made sense that he guided me, since he seemed oddly accustomed to the darkness, like a cat.

We had been walking hand in hand in the darkness for a few more minutes when we reached a clearing. Without the trees to obstruct the view, the stars and moon shone dim light upon the area. But the pleasantness of having found light was cut short as a roar was heard. The source of it, a big wild brown bear, rapidly approached, apparently set on making us its meal!

I felt Skye pulling my hand to run away, but I slipped my hand out of his and wielded my gun. Bang! Bang! Bang! Three shots might have been overkill, but when one is in mortal danger, the thought of conserving bullets is not one's biggest concern.

Skye just stood there; jaw askew, as I placed my gun back into its holster, hidden in my overalls. "You're armed," he finally voiced.

"Yeah," no kidding captain obvious. "So, shall we continue?"

Skye nodded his head and tried to regain his metaphorical footing as he offered his hand for me to take. We would have to walk out of the clearing and traverse the darkness again. To avoid getting lost, I took his hand and we continued on.

"Have you taken this route before?" I asked after a long silence.

"Yes, you need not worry, I'll get us to Forget Me Not soon," Skye assured. His voice was once again charming and sweet, it seems he's over the shock of learning I have a gun and I'm willing to use it.

"How would you deal with the wild animals?" I inquired with curiosity.

"If I encountered any beasts such as that one, I would run like the wind, my dear warrior princess," he laughed. "I carry no weapons but those of the heart." He didn't mention that he did have a very peculiar weapon, though it was something that was part of his very being, something that hid in his eyes. Albeit that would only save him if the bear happened to be female.

"You must be a fast runner then," I mused aloud.

"I am," he confirmed with that alluring voice of his.

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Finally, after some more walking, we arrived at Forget Me Not. The town was asleep as it was late into the night. I followed Skye to a farm where horses slept in a fenced in area padded with grass. "My good friend Jack, who runs this farm, must be sleeping, so I'll just leave him a note and take my horse." With his quick dexterous hands, Skye wrote a message, "I shall borrow a horse tonight. -Phantom Skye PS: I'll return her later."

I'm not sure why he wrote borrow if he had claimed the horse was his. But at the same time, I didn't give it too much thought. If Jack took care of the horse long enough, it was only natural that the farmer would start to feel like the horse was his. Skye folded the paper and slipped it under the door of the little house next to the farm's fields. Then we approached the pen where the horses slept.

Skye jumped over the fence with ease, which made me marvel at his cat-like movements. He approached a white mare and woke her from her slumber whispering in her ear and stroking her mane lovingly. I couldn't help it but to think he looked really sweet and was tempted to snap a picture, but decided against it since I didn't want to explain it to him.

The white mare didn't appear to recognize Skye at first, which I assumed must be because of their time apart. He began to climb on her and she seemed a little startled. He jumped off with his cat-like agility and soothed her once more. Then he looked into her eyes and something happened. I don't know what it was, but suddenly the horse was very still. Then finally, she nudged Skye affectionately as if he was her beloved master of always.

Once again, Skye mounted the white mare and this time she offered no protest. Despite being awakened from her slumber, she seemed happy to be with Skye, to have him ride on her. I assumed that it was because Skye was the real owner of this horse after all. I thought nothing more of that instance when his eyes met the mare's and didn't realize just how powerful it was.

Skye guided the horse to back away from the fence, then had her speed towards it and jump magnificently. It was amazing, seeing that. I'm sure my face was awestruck as Skye extended his hand to me like a prince from a fairytale. He really did look exactly like a prince. I took his hand and climbed on behind him, then we were off, the horse running out of Forget Me Not and rushing through the path to Mineral Town.

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For the benefit of the horse, we took the main path lit by the moon and stars, away from the abundant trees that covered the shortcut. It was a longer route, but this way the mare could see where she was going and run as fast as she pleased. I held on to Skye to avoid falling off, it had been years since I rode a horse. The magnificent creature took us back to Mineral Town in no time.

Once in town, she slowed to a trot. "Shall I take you to the inn?" Skye inquired.

"I'm not staying there anymore, but it's kind of late," and I didn't have a key to the Fun Land office. "I wonder if Charles will be mad at me for waking him this late..."

"So you are staying with your client?" I nodded my head in an affirmative reply to his question. "I'm sure an executive such as him is quite busy," he theorized. "Why don't you just stay at my place, I can set things up like a slumber party."

"If that's okay..." Why not? I mean, it's not the first time I've slept near him and I was just fine before.

"I'll be happy to have you over, princess," Skye welcomed me.

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"Here we are," we reached Mineral Beach where Skye jumped off the horse with ease. He helped me off to ensure that I didn't fall off and I was silently grateful for that.

"What's her name?" I finally asked. The horse seemed to be enamored with her master, which I assumed meant that Skye must have taken good care of her.

Skye paused for a moment as if in thought and finally replied, "Diamond. So, do you think Diamond and I stand a chance at the race?"

"Definitely," I answered truthfully. "She's amazing!"

After Diamond got cozy on the sand next to the Snack Shack, Skye and I went inside. Diamond wasn't tied or fenced in, but I didn't think she would run away. She seemed so eager to be near Skye, as if attracted by a mysterious magnetic force.

I soon realized that the accommodations were more slumber-party-like than I imagined. The place was only a little shop with no real rooms or a bed. Skye did manage to produce a pair of sleeping bags and pillows from a closet though. "Sorry that the accommodations are not quite fit for a princess, but if you'd still take this humble peasant's hospitality, I would be honored."

I couldn't help it but to giggle. "I'm thankful that you're letting me stay here," I reminded. We got comfortable in the sleeping bags and were soon overtaken by a peaceful slumber.

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When the next day came, I drowsily dragged myself to get up to the sound of my cell phone's alarm clock and was pleasantly surprised by the aromas emanating from the kitchen. Looks like Skye certainly got the hang of making a good breakfast.

Soon after, we took our separate ways, so that I wouldn't give him a bad reputation among the villagers that still held bitterness towards me. I didn't want them to ban him from the race or something.

I blended in with the crowds at the Mineral Town Square, where they shifted uneasily at my presence, though not as much as when I actually looked like a detective from the city. The races began with people placing bets. I withheld my bet until the final race was announced, which included the late entry, Skye, who was introduced as a visitor from Forget Me Not. I decided to bet on him, confident as he was, I found that he had also betted on himself, though no one else aside from us was willing to put their money under his name.

When the race started, the horses sped like rockets. Skye rode expertly as if he had experience with narrow get aways and emergency escapes, though I'm not sure why such things came to mind. Maybe it's because he looked like a movie star; his white horse matched his hair really well too. As the race went on, it looked like it would be a narrow finish, but during each jump, Skye moved forward, more and more. Finally, Diamond bolted forward for the final stretch of the race and took the undisputable first place.

Those who had lost their bets grumbled while I cheered. Skye took a vow, like an actor upon a stage, and he was soon surrounded by fan girls, meaning every female in the premises. The mayor interrupted my cheering to begrudgingly hand me my price and I went to exchange the medals for a gift. I pinned the broach to my overalls and thought it gave the otherwise plain outfit a nice touch.

After he was finally able to get away from the fan girls, though they still followed him, Skye walked over to claim his price. I knew he had betted on himself, but I didn't know how much, though I soon realized that it must have been a pretty big amount. The big price this year was a pair of diamond earrings, which Skye handed to me in front of everyone.

I was speechless and so was the crowd. Yet soon enough the conversation continued. The majority of Mineral Town couldn't hate Skye. He was the charming champion and even though the town's bachelors might be more than just a bit jealous, the ladies adored him and the married men commended him for raising such a fine horse who clearly loved him. Then I realized that he was helping me become accepted by the villagers using his newly gained positive reputation. I accepted the earrings and put them on with a smile.

From that point on, the day's festivities went more pleasantly than I imagined. The townspeople had brought an abundance of food over for lunch and there was music and dancing. Skye asked me to dance and I couldn't help it but to agree. It felt like a real date and perhaps at some point in time that I couldn't quite precise it had become so.

That evening I went back to the office exhausted from the day's activities and the little sleep I got the previous night, though Sky seemed to be as energetic as ever. We parted ways a short distance away from the Fun Land territory where he smiled mischievously and gave me a peck on the cheek before running off wishing me "sweet dreams." My dreams, I knew, would be sweet indeed, because they would all be dreams of him.

To be Continued

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Cat and Mouse

Chapter 7: Assistant

Charles is getting impatient with my progress so I decided to do some serious investigations. I tried throwing some flowers at the goddess pond, but she didn't answer my calls and the relaxing nearly magical feeling of the place was gone. I tried looking at the scene of the crime again, but found nothing new. That didn't surprise me since it's been so long since all of this happened. Then I went to town to have another talk with the doctor. On my way to the clinic, I stopped at the super market due to some yelling coming from inside.

"It's all too much for him! It's a heart attack!" Sasha screamed as she half dragged and half tried to carry Jeff. Manna is running around in circles in front of the counter, yelling nonsensically.

I rush inside without thinking and offer, "I'll carry him." Sasha doesn't trust me, but she's too panicked to think about who's helping her. She only knows that someone is helping her. Jeff is a short man; I throw his limp arm over my shoulder and manage to get him to the clinic, which is thankfully very close by.

By now Manna's yelling has made half of Mineral Town gather in the street in front of the clinic while I pass the limp Jeff over to Dr. Trent. "Is he dead?" Karen arrived on the scene and jumped to conclusions. "My father's dead! It's all your fault!" She points at me.

"I didn't do anything!" I yell back. "I helped carry him here!" The angry Karen and the rest of the town look like they want to kill me and I instinctively back away. There's too many for me to physically fight and since they are civilians who have yet to be proven to have committed a crime I can't point my gun at them. I look back at Elli who seems ready to slam the door shut and throw me to the wolves.

Suddenly, Skye arrives on the scene and walks over to Elli. I'm looking at the angry Karen, bracing myself in case she decides to pounce and Skye is facing Elli, with his back to the rest of the villagers. A chill runs down my spine and I get an odd feeling. Strangely, I'm reminded of the time when Skye looked into Diamond's eyes. He was supposed to be returning her to Forget Me Not today, he must have just returned to Mineral Town. I instinctually look at Skye and he quickly pulls me into the clinic passed a stunned Elli. The nurse just stands there with a stupefied expression, as if she's been petrified and Skye closes and locks the clinic's front door, while the villagers protest.

Trent's voice calling Elli snaps her out of whatever trance she was in and she rushed to assist the doctor in the examination room. As soon as we're left alone in the waiting room, with the noise of the townspeople behind the door, I stare at Skye. "What was that?"

"You should be the one to explain it to me, fair maiden." Skye bats away my question with a request for information of his own.

I shake my head and quickly spill out what I know. "Jeff was apparently having a heart attack. I heard the commotion at the super market and brought him here." I haven't forgotten my curiosity though. "What was that just now? How did Elli end up looking so stunned?"

Skye offers me a radiant smile, "all I did was this."

I blink, his handsome face is indeed very distracting, but I still have the feeling that there was something else he did. I can't imagine what it was; I mean he was standing right next to me, though I was looking away. "Okay..." I decide to accept his answer for now.

We wait quietly for a while longer until Trent comes out of the patient's room and looks around. "Where are Sasha and Karen?"

"Outside," I tilt my head towards the door.

Trent steps forward and opens it. The villagers want to run him over, but he grips the door frame and stands firm. "Only his wife and daughter can come in. Only them, please stand aside, let them through!" Finally, Trent closed the door when Sasha and Karen were inside. He took a deep breath and addressed their worried faces. "Jeff is not having a heart attack; he's just suffering from heartburn."

"Oh..." Sasha and Karen chorus, wiping away their tears.

"Jeff is resting now, you can see him if you want," Trent offered.

I wasn't about to go out there to face the villagers, so I hung around the waiting room sitting next to Skye. He suddenly placed his hand on mine. "Don't look so distressed, my princess, it's not like we're sitting here waiting for some fatal news."

"I'm not making any progress." I should have pulled my hand away, but I let it be, I could use the consolation. "This investigation isn't going anywhere."

"Maybe you should let things be," Skye suggested. "Finding the culprit won't help Miss Alice now, will it?"

I nodded, not questioning his knowledge of the case, everyone in town must know by now. "Charles still wants justice. I can't blame him. I would want revenge too if I was in his shoes. There has to be a clue somewhere, there just has to be."

"Maybe I can help," Skye offered.

I didn't like the idea of having to ask someone to help me with my job, but I was desperate. I needed to solve this before I got fired by Charles' impatience. I can't believe I still try so hard for him. If it was anyone else, I would say the trail went cold, write a report and call it done, let the cold cases division handle it. Charles made me join the law department on a whim, then I ended up as a detective. Even without meaning it, he pulls the thread of my fate. "Okay," I finally agree.

Skye smiled, satisfied with my answer. "Alright, detective, what should I do first?"

"Go out there and explain to the villagers what happened with Jeff so that they don't kill me." I felt cruel asking him to do such a dangerous task, but it was something I really needed.

"That won't be necessary," Karen suddenly makes her way from Jeff's room to the waiting room. "You tried to help even though we haven't been nice to you, even after all the things I said. I guess I shouldn't blame you, if I had the chance I would also be seduced by the glitter and glamour of the city too. I'll talk to the villagers and tell them you're not a bad person."

"Thanks..." The part about the glamour and glitter wasn't exactly how it was as much as the conveniences of the city, but I'm not going to say too much, least I ruin what good karma I managed to obtain.

After that was taken care of, I remembered why I was going to the clinic in the first place and had a talk with the doctor about Alice. He described the result of the examination in detail and even showed me some medical records, since I was an officer and all. Blunt hit to the head, almost drowned. From what I can piece together, she was pushed off the bridge and hit her head on one of the rocks on the river. Said rocks by now have all been washed of any traces of the occurrences by the river itself. I asked if she presented other bruises and the doctor gave me the negative on that. There was no struggle, she was caught off guard, thrown off the bridge and lost consciousness on impact.

This means that she wasn't on her guard from the start or rather she was caught off guard. It must have been dark already and someone snuck up on her, but who? The wood of that bridge squeaks and screeches like there's no tomorrow and I don't think it was any quieter the night of the almost murder, it's the same noisy old bridge that's been there since I was a kid. How could anyone sneak up on her then? Maybe the almost murderer tried to talk to her to get her to lower her guard, pretended to negotiate. Yet Charles describes Alice as a capable business woman who doesn't lower her guard and the tension in town must have been obvious. How was she caught off guard then?

If I didn't know Charles, I'd throw the blame at him, but his concern is without a doubt genuine. Who was capable of making Alice lower her guard? Who? Realizing that my thoughts were going in useless circles, I decided to leave the clinic with Skye, my new assistant, tagging along with me. I headed for the church. I knew there was no way that Carter would spill the beans if anyone confessed to him, but maybe I could read between the lines of his silence if I came up with a conversation.

As Skye and I entered the church, Carter seemed to be busy reviewing his next sermon, or more like practicing it. He had the Bible in his hands and the topic seemed to be about the ten commandments. "Thou shall not murder!" He spoke gravely and seriously, as if trying to put feeling into the importance of this rule.

Skye froze beside me, his face suddenly whiter than normal. "I think we're interrupting something," he finally spoke when he noticed I was looking at him.

"Thou shall not..." Carter paused in his speech as he noticed that he wasn't alone. He was one of the few who were civilized and nice to me from the start upon my return. "Oh, hello, welcome, welcome, don't be shy. Sorry if I was a little loud there, I was rehearsing my next sermon. People sometimes tell me I don't put enough emotion into my voice and it bores them."

We finished walking to the front of the church where Carter stood. "Hi, Carter, do you have time? Can I confess? Oh and by the way, this is Skye, in case you two haven't met. Skye, pastor Carter is one of the nicest people in this whole town." I would confess my frustration as a detective and how I wish I could do something to protect the world from that murderer that was on the loose, supposedly hiding among the innocent villagers. Then maybe Carter would try to encourage me and I would cling to his every word for hidden clues. It's a sneaky and underhanded tactic, but it's for the sake of justice, right?

Carter smiled gently, "it is nice to meet you, Skye."

There was a hint of relief in Skye's eyes, "likewise." They shook hands and time froze.

Carter looked into Skye's eyes as if searching for something, but decided not to voice what it was. After that split second, the relief that overtook Skye became alertness instead. "Of course I have plenty of time," Carter agreed. "Would you both like to confess? Separately naturally."

Skye smiled innocently, "maybe another time."

"Very well," Carter smiled gently, but he still held a look of alertness in his eyes. Because I asked if he had time and perhaps also because of all the commotion attached to my presence, Carter must have assumed that this would be a long confession. It would be long, but more so because I'm looking for clues. "In the mean time," Carter glanced at Skye, "You can occupy yourself in praying or reading. I have another copy of the Bible at the confessional, so you can read this one if you want." Carter hands Skye the Bible.

Skye took the Bible and didn't breathe a word, moving his hand back quickly, as if not to even brush the pastor's fingers again. As I walk to the confessional, I can't help it but to wonder what that silent exchange between Skye and Carter when they shook hands was about? From the corner of my eyes I saw Skye sitting down and opening the Bible to a random page to look at, only to look at it, not really to read.

I could tell Skye's mind was elsewhere and he would read nothing beyond the title spoken aloud, possibly for Carter's benefit, "Proverbs six..." Skye was deep in thought and would only stare blankly at the page. He would pretend he was doing something, in case anyone else came in, so that they wouldn't interrupt his thoughts with conversation. Then the door to the confessional was closed and I had to force myself to focus my attention on the task at hand.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 8: Confessions

My confession with Carter was most unsuccessful. I managed to vent about my frustrations and I did feel better later, but I couldn't get any information out of him. The worse part is that I upset him. He noticed I was fishing for answers and berated me for it. Then he straight out told me no one had confessed to the near murder and gave me a whole sermon about honesty and what not. On the bright side, at least I know I shouldn't waste my time trying to get more information out of him. I do want to apologize though, so I'm taking some snacks to him as a gift for my 'misbehavior'.

It's a new day which will hopefully be filled with new discoveries. Charles expressed his impatience and I told him I had a solid story, that I just needed the proof. He didn't have time to question me as a doctor from the city was coming over for Alice's checkup. I headed to the church to give Carter the snacks, but didn't see him there. I listened and heard voices from the confessional. Curiosity overtook me and I listened on.

"Enough of this going around in circles, tell me what you know," that was Skye's voice. Could it be that he was interrogating Carter? I believed him when he said he didn't know anything and I don't want my new assistant to pressure him. But how can I interrupt them?

There was a long pause until Carter answered. "I know about your hypnotic abilities." Carter's words took me by surprise and I remembered the suspicious silent communication going on between Skye and Carter yesterday. Just what is this hypnotic ability about?

"That's it?" Skye sounds relieved as he laughs lightly.

"This is not something to be taken lightly, young man," Carter scolds him sternly. "I cannot allow you to take advantage of your ability in Mineral Town. I can sense these things you see. It doesn't seem that you've used it on her yet..."

Skye laughs again, taking Carter's warning lightly. "There is no need to worry; I would prefer not to resort to such methods." He spoke as if he was saving a trump card for an emergency, rather than deciding not to take a certain action.

"Prefer?" Carter inquired suspiciously.

I could picture Skye's cocky smile in my imagination. "I won't use that gift in the situation that you're thinking."

I heard Carter cough as if in embarrassment. Just what was the situation Skye was hinting at? "That would be... terrible indeed." He coughed again; does he have a sore throat or something? He muttered something about purity and I couldn't understand the rest. "Well, please try to refrain from using such tactics, it is improper. That is all." Carter sounds tired.

"Sure, no problem," Skye chuckles.

"Skye..." the name hangs in the air as if Carter is considering speaking further or not.

"Yes?" Skye prompts.

"You asked me what I knew, is there something else you think I should know about you?" Carter's question had me holding my breath.

"No," I have a feeling that Skye's answer is to be left up to interpretation. "There is nothing more you should know."

"Very well, if you ever need anyone to talk to, I will be here," Carter kindly offered.

"I'll remember that," Skye went out of the confessional and saw me standing there. He quickly shook away the surprise and smiled. "Hey, beautiful."

"Hi..." I replied and hurried past him trying to pretend I wasn't eavesdropping. "Excuse me..." I went into the confessional and let out a breath.

"Have you come for a proper confession this time?" Carter asked with more kindness than the implications of the question deserved.

"Actually, I came to bring you a snack." I gave him the little package.

"Oh, thank you!" Carter smiled kindly and gratefully.

I nodded and smiled, then let myself out, "I have to get back to work now."

"Have a nice day," Carter gently voiced.

"Same to you!" I called out as I left. Skye was still there, at the church, waiting. "Um... hey... is there something you wanted to do today?" I'm the detective, he's the assistant, I should be deciding our work, but my mind is at a blank right now.

"I want to make curry, if you'd be interested in helping me, I would be most grateful, princess." He gave me an irresistible smile.

I blinked and stared for several moments. "I guess so," that's not what I meant when I asked. I was talking about the investigation, but instead I ended up going back to the Snack Shack with Skye.

xoxox xox xoxox

At the Snack Shack, I didn't really do much except talk. I talked about our favorite TV shows, video games and websites. Despite living in the country, Skye was rather well informed in such things, though he admitted that the internet signal was quite bad and before Fun Land came along he was stuck using the dial up from the local inn at Forget Me Not for a long time. Of course, he didn't tell me he would sneak into the inn and make himself at home at one of the rooms in secret, downloading action movies. He did mention, after I assumed mistakenly that he was another paying guest there, that it took forever to download the movies and that he just left the laptop on while he slept. He didn't say it was hidden in a vacant room on the days when he knew it wasn't time to clean it, as it was unused anyway so it didn't need as much maintenance.

After a while of laughing at the movie cliches and going on and on about the characters we liked the curry was done and I had done nothing. The morning was gone and it was mid day so we sat down to eat. It was delicious. Skye, gave me a victorious grin, "I think I finally did it, I got the flavor I was trying to achieve for so long! Why do you think that was?"

"Maybe because you were entertained," I suggested. "They say food turns out better when you make it while in a good mood."

"Maybe it's true," he smiled.

Then something clicked in my mind and I innocently inquired. "For how long have you been trying to get this recipe just right?"

"It's been a long time, I dare say even over a year." Then he froze as my vigilant gaze penetrated his icy blue eyes. "You caught me, miss detective. It seems that being caught by a beautiful lady was my destiny."

"I should have known not even an amateur was such an awful cook. You lied about not knowing what you were doing." I was accusing him, but I couldn't make myself sound angry.

"Alright, I admit it, I'm not an amateur, I just wanted you to stick around and give me a hand," Skye confessed. "Is that really so terrible?"

"I guess not," I laughed. From a certain point of view it was almost sweet. "so what other secrets do you hold? Something about hypnosis?" I decided to be direct.

"You heard..." Skye stated. He looked uneasy for a moment, then took a deep breath and admitted it. "My eyes have the power to appeal to the instinct of a member of the opposite gender. For animals it instantly charms them into becoming docile and friendly."

"I knew something was up with Diamond!" I exclaimed. Then another very suspicious thought came to me as I recalled Skye's conversation with Carter. "What about humans? Does it charm humans too?" I instantly glared and was once again at full alert after I had started to really relax around him.

"No," Skye explained. "Humans have a process of reasoning that animals don't have. Humans are not driven by instinct alone, so they do not follow it so easily. When instinct and reason clash, the result is paralysis. For a moment, until the effect of the instinct that reason cannot accept fades away, the brain can focus on nothing more but to annihilate the inconsistency and thus the limbs do not respond. You can still think, you can still speak, but you can't move other than little movements, the brain won't have enough resources for such commands. It'll only last a little while though and the discomfort of paralysis will if anything, help cement you more solidly in reality and made the effect fade. If on the other hand, the charm was actually accepted, then there wouldn't be an inconsistency, no paralysis."

"Has that happened before with a human?" I asked in disbelief.

"The paralysis? Yes, I'll admit it has," Skye didn't further elaborate about the possible situation surrounding such an event and I knew he didn't want to talk about it, but I was curious.

Yet my other curiosity was even stronger. "What about the charm being accepted?"

"That has not happened yet, so my interpretation about how it would affect a human is only a theory," Skye admitted. "I suppose for it to work, I would have to use it on someone who already consciously likes me so that the affectionate instinct wouldn't be at odds with the rational thought."

"But if you're already liked, then it wouldn't make the situation all that different, would it?" I theorized.

"I guess not," Skye chuckled.

"Right..." I let out a breath and bluntly stated. "I don't believe it."

"It is a rare trait," he admitted. "Few people in the world have it. Especially in the modern day."

"Who has had it then? Romeo?" I suggested with a light laugh.

"As far as I know Romeo was fictional," Skye reminded me. "Your suggesting him shows just how much you don't believe me." He seemed amused by it rather than offended, but then who could be offended when something utterly silly wasn't taken seriously? Yet Carter seemed quite serious.

"Who then?" I insist amused.

Skye thinks for a moment and finally replies, "Jezebel."

I mull over his answer, I'm not exactly a history buff, but the name is easily recognizable. "I didn't know she was real," I mused aloud, but that wasn't the point. If Jezebel was a historical figure who lived long ago, or a character based on one, or a purely fictional character wasn't the point. The point is that the name is something so easy to interpret in terms of modern culture, Jezebel the seductress. I get it now, Carter was using a metaphor. Skye doesn't actually hypnotize people, who could do that? He's just so handsome and charming and anyone who looks into his eyes falls for him.

Yet if Skye really is that way, if he is how I assumed him to be from the start, why would he warn me? Then again, I've been with him often enough, haven't I? He's not running off to flirt with another girl, right? Maybe I should keep an eye on him. What am I saying, since when did this become about Skye? If I do spend all my time with him, investigating of course, I'll hopefully progress with the investigation and I'll keep an eye on him at the same time. If he's just toying with me he'll get fed up with the constant surveillance soon enough and if not... I won't think about that now, I won't get my hopes up just yet.

Having finished my curry I stand and pick up the empty plate, taking it to the sink. Skye stands up with his empty dish too. I take it from him, "you cooked today, so I'll wash the dishes."

"I couldn't leave you to over work your beautiful hands." Skye kissed my hand and stood next to me, washing his dish. Since we're both in front of the small sink, we're standing pretty close.

I haven't made an effort to continue the previous conversation and neither has he. "We should go around town this afternoon, talk to people and ask them a few questions. Let's try to read between the lines and try to figure something out. Maybe bring them snacks too, that'll soften them up."

"I can make some things," Skye offers.

"Alright," I agree, "don't hold back on your skills as a chef."

Skye grinned confidently, "I'll show you what I can do, fair maiden."

We ended up spending the whole afternoon and evening baking treats. Another day passed without obtaining clues to solve the mystery of Alice's near murder. I tried to tell myself that I wasn't slacking off too much; this was for the sake of getting information after all. I didn't want to face Charles empty handed again, so I stayed the night at the Snack Shack once more. Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, Skye and I would set out with our baskets full of treats and visit everyone in town. We'll find some clues, tomorrow for sure... I hope.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 9: Buried

Skye and I went all over town giving people treats and making friends. People started getting used to my presence, which is good, but I still got nothing in terms of clues. Another day passed by and I progressed in terms of my relations with the town, but nothing else. By the time yet another day rolled around I dropped the farm girl wanna-be act. I felt more comfortable in my city clothes and though the overalls were confy and convenient, I had simply grown used to city clothes.

I still wanted to have an image that would make the villagers feel identified with me; I wanted to make sure all the hostility was gone for good. To be on the safe side while keeping my own style, I decided to order a bracelet from the blacksmith. Of course I would need ores for that. I decided to get them myself. My clothes aren't that different really, jeans, a tshirt and sneakers since I'm going to the mines anyway. I met up with Skye as usual, having him walking next to me felt very natural by now.

I showed up at Barley's farm and was greeted by his granddaughter, May. "Skye!" The little girl had taken to him immediately when we were here before. Naturally, she didn't even notice my presence until after she was done giving him a big hug and rambling about her day thus far. "Big sis is here too!" May finally realized.

We chatted with May as we made our way to the shop. Barley greeted us cheerfully and I made a little small talk with him. After Skye's performance at the horse race that time, having him along does wonders, even more so after we handed out the treats. After a little more casual conversation, I asked Barley to borrow his tools to dig around the mines and smash some rocks. I confirmed that, as I thought, the mines are still a free for all.

After we left Barley's farm, Skye gave me a curious look. "Do you really intend to mine, princess?"

"I do," I replied somewhat proudly.

"You're just full of surprises!" Skye laughed fondly.

I smiled back, "so are you." Yet most of all, we would soon find out that life holds the most surprises of all.

xoxox xox xoxox

Skye accompanied me to the mines and we started digging around. We didn't get much out of our efforts. The ores we managed to find weren't of sufficient quality to make any jewelry out of them. We found a tunnel and ventured in, but I paused and looked back at the higher level from where we came. The dim light from the entrance of the mines wasn't enough to see what we were doing. "I didn't bring a flashlight."

"No problem," Skye took a pen flashlight from his pocket and turn it on.

"For such a tiny thing, that flashlight pen sure is bright," I was amazed. I'm not sure why he would carry such a thing, but it was lucky that he had it, so we didn't have to leave the mines and go hunting for a flashlight.

We continued our trek through the mines, going deeper from one tunnel to another. I'm not sure how deep in we were, but I really wanted to find some good ores. I found a peculiarly stubborn rock that wouldn't break. I got a good grip on the hammer while Skye investigated another rock on the other side of the cave chamber. I brought the hammer down on the rock and it shattered at last, but the thin ground beneath it cracked and broke. I stumbled, yelped and fell, struggling to grab on to the edge of the caved-in ground.

I heard the hammer hit the ground several feet below and my hand slipped a little further. As I braced myself to fall, Skye's hand was suddenly on mine. It all happened in seconds. He was trying to pull me up when the ground beneath him gave way and we both fell deeper in. Skye somehow managed to turn us around in the air with his impressive agility and tried to land on his feet. Yet the distance of the fall was too great and the impact sent him to the ground as he reached the bottom.

I fell on top of Skye, breathing heavily. He dropped his flashlight at some point during all of this and we were left in total darkness. "Skye..."

"Are you hurt?" I could hear the pain in his voice, even if it was too dark for me to see his expression. Yet I could clearly picture it.

"I'm okay," or at least as okay as someone who is buried alive can be. "You're hurt, aren't you?"

"It's just a scratch." I knew Skye was trying not to worry me.

I got off him as gently as possible. I wanted to have a look at his injury, but I couldn't see a thing. "It sounds like more than that."

"I'll be okay." I felt him shift next to me and try to get up, only to fall down again.

I caught him on time and steadied him, then helped him sit down on the ground. "Is something broken?"

"Possibly," Skye had to admit. "But don't worry, my princess, I'm sure you can make me feel better in no time."

"Skye... Only you have the energy to flirt in a situation like this." I couldn't help it but to chuckle and kiss him. The action was completely automatic, instinctual. Surprisingly, it was Skye who pulled away first when he moved his injured leg as he tried to lean in closer to me and it caused him abundant pain. "You really are hurt." There's no time to waste, I need to find a way out and get help.

I got up and felt around for the wall, trying to climb up. My efforts were in vain, as I kept slipping and falling. All that I was accomplishing was getting bruised, scratched and dirty. I searched my pockets and the image of my cell phone plugged to the charger in my room at the Fun Land office resurfaced in my mind. Of all the days to leave my phone behind; I never let it go and today of all days I forgot to bring it.

"Don't hurt yourself, fair maiden." I followed the sound of Skye's voice and returned to his side.

"Do you have a phone on you?" I asked hopefully.

"Unfortunately not," Skye replied. A small moment of silence passed and he wrapped his arms around me, massaging my tense shoulders. "Don't worry, beautiful, someone will find us."

"I hope so," I didn't want to think pessimistically, but I couldn't help it. I had not made any progress in the investigation and Charles might assume I bailed out on him and ran back to the city. As fond as the villagers have become of Skye, he's a traveler, an outsider who doesn't necessarily follow a set schedule. They might assume he left just as much as they might assume I left.

My only hope is Barley, if he needs his tools and doesn't have them back, he might go looking for them. Then when he doesn't find me he'll put two and two together and someone will come looking for us at the mine. Then again, Barley might not need his tools right away. Who knows how long it'll be before he does? What if he thinks I stole the tools and left with them? No, no, I can't think that way.

I feel Skye's arms wrap around me. "You're so tense." I must have been very obvious if he noticed it even in the darkness. "Don't worry so much. Worrying will only make you feel worse and lower your precision." He speaks as if he was in a situation that involved danger and the need for precision before. "Calm down, relax and save your strength. Just give me a little more time and I'll recover enough to climb up and find a way to get you out of here."

"You can't!" I insisted. "You're hurt, and besides, I tried to climb up and it's too slippery. I know you're pretty agile." There's the understatement of the century, he's as agile as a cat. "But you're hurt and this is too much, even for you."

"Don't worry, princess, there's always a way out." The way Skye said it was somehow reassuring despite the situation. I leaned into his embrace and took in his attractive scent.

How could I manage to feel so comfortable even in a situation like this? "How did we end up like this?"

He took a moment to reply, as if taking note of how calm I sounded and wondering if I was really lamenting the fact that we're trapped. "In the mines?" He finally asked.

"Like this, anywhere." I heard him chuckle as I somewhat explained.

"I don't even know myself," Skye cuddled against me. "I'll admit I didn't expect it."

"Just randomly flirting, eh?" I teased.

"Something like that," he admitted. "But it's different, things change..." I couldn't see his expression becoming thoughtful in the darkness of the mines.

I thought he was a flirt and a player. I thought he wasn't worth it. I thought he'd stop paying attention to me after a while. I didn't expect myself to give him a chance. Yet somehow we had gotten to know each other and became close. He's been with me practically all the time and he's been so sweet and charming I can't even believe he's still giving me so much attention. Yet when we talk it seems so natural. We like all the same things and it's so easy to get caught up with him and for time to fly by.

xoxox xox xoxox

Time passed and to put it simply, there was a lot of kissing and cuddling, with plenty of dozing off in-between. I slept until I could sleep no more and lost my notion of the passing of time. I was hungry and thirsty to the point where I didn't feel it anymore. But at this precise moment, I'm sure my face must have been crimson, so I was thankful that the darkness hid that, though being in the dark for so long was getting on my nerves. I wanted to see Skye's face, his reassuring blue eyes. Yet at the same time I wanted to take advantage of the darkness to become more courageous, more daring. Maybe I was becoming delirious, I wasn't sure anymore.

Skye pulled me onto his lap, slipping his hands around my waist and drawing me against his body. I wrapped my legs around his torso and held on to him as if my very life depended on it. Our lips met again, curious, brave and adventurous. We kept a comfortable yet somewhat hungry pace for a while until a voice interrupted us, calling my name. In an automatic reaction I jumped off Skye's lap, thankfully not harming his injured leg in my rush. Soon the brightness of a flashlight shone from above us. Gray, Cliff and Rick peeked out from the cave opening above. We were saved, we've finally been rescued.

xoxox xox xoxox

Driven by adrenaline, I somehow managed to stay awake until we got out of the mines. Barley had needed his tools and had wondered where I was. He thought to ask Gray, the grandson of his good friend Saibara to have a look at the mines just in case, as he didn't think I would simply run off with the tools. Gray went to have a look and found the cave in, so he got Cliff and Rick to give him a hand in exploring it and searching for further signs of our presence. Eventually, they found us.

As soon as I stepped out into the sunlight, I knew I could breathe easy again. My deliriousness left me and the way I kept trying to ignore the obvious danger I had been in and seek distractions in Skye came crashing down. Everything came crashing down on me along with reality and I found that I could no longer stand. My face became sickeningly blue and the ground seemed to be getting closer as the bright rays of the sun faded into darkness around me. Then there was nothing.

xoxox xox xoxox

When I woke up, I was at the clinic with Dr. Trent and Elli busily running about providing medical attention for Skye and myself. I later learned that we were trapped in there for three days. When we weren't... comforting each other, we were asleep and actually slept for most of our entrapment at the mines.

Skye's right leg, where he had put the most weight during the fall was fractured in a few places and his ankle was sprained. Dr. Trent said he was lucky though, a fall like that could have been worse. Yet this is Skye, my amazing Skye who kept me from getting hurt beyond a few insignificant scratches and somehow managed to preserve my sanity during the entire ordeal. I never want to set foot in those mines again.

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 10: Broken Deceptions

After the mine incident, I received another harsh blow from life, I was fired. Charles left the Fun Land office and took the unconscious Alice to the city, so her usual doctor wouldn't have to travel to Mineral Town for her check ups. He wanted her near him where he could personally guard her, but there was no longer a reason for him to stay in Mineral Town. He had lost hope in the investigation and declared it all a failure; he had declared me a failure. He was proper and polite in the coldest way about firing me, but I saw the disappointment in his eyes. He thought I was incompetent; I got his hopes up for nothing.

Because of the importance of this case, I wasn't just fired from the investigation; I was fired from my job as a detective. I didn't want to return to the city though, to my relatives who would switch from being consoling to scolding with rapid mood swings and always in the extremes. I decided to stay in Mineral Town and finish my case. I no longer had a badge, but I still had a gun and the permit to wield it, and that I would do when I found the culprit. After all the trouble I've been through, I'll enjoy jailing him.

Skye invited me to stay at the Snack Shack and I did. I wanted to be there for him anyway. I didn't want him moving around more than needed while he was still recovering. Thus began a new saga in my life. Fall ended and gave way to winter. I was actually enjoying my life with Skye, managing the Snack Shack. He recovered rather quickly and by late winter he was back to normal with his feline agility intact. Skye and I continued becoming closer during that time and Popuri would tease me, saying that we looked like newlyweds.

Though the town still laments the departure of the Harvest Goddess now and then, they had somehow managed to carry on without her. The case is always on the back of my mind, constantly plaguing my worries and reminding me of my unfinished business. In such a way, winter rolled around and gave way to spring before I knew it. It was during mid spring that Skye started insisting that we left Mineral Town. He claimed to be tired of it and wanted to see the city where I was from. With the help of portable technology to make this place more civilized and convenient, I had gotten used to living in the quiet town in the middle of no where and didn't feel like going back to the city.

Skye was rather adamant about this, like he had never been before. Every day, he would ask me again to go to the city and assure me that we would have fun. I wondered if it was his adventurous side catching up to him after staying in one place for too long. I could somehow tell that there was a part of him, a big part, that enjoyed the trill of adventure and perhaps the trill of risks. Mineral Town was too quiet, too stable, too predictable. As late spring came by, I was just about ready to leave, though Popuri insisted that we stay at least during the first week of summer. I agreed with her and encouraged Skye, after all, as far as we knew, he was good friends with Kai and should want to see him again.

Summer and the arrival of Kai were only a few days away when Skye arrived with a particular gift for me. He had gone off to the supermarket for supplies, while I got a few things ready to tend to the customers that have become our regulars. He put the supplies away while making conversation, though the topic wasn't as light as usual. "Will you always stay with me no matter what?"

"Of course I will, Skye." I answered lightly at first. He was still a flirt, he said things like that now and then, it could be sweet.

Yet this time there was a serious edge to his voice as he repeated, "no matter what?" And cupped the side of my face in his hand to make me look at him.

"Yes," I assured, wondering what could merit such a tone. He couldn't possibly be jealous. Even with his suave ways not even I was jealous of the light compliments and charming smiles he gave everyone in town, after I realized that it wouldn't escalate beyond that. He gave me the center of his attention and he was always there. I was always with him, so why did he sound so unsure?

"What if I had done something terrible?" I didn't know where he was going with all of this, but his serious expression was certainly unusual on his face.

"Like what?" I inquired.

"Like something I didn't intend to do but did anyway." His explanation was vague at best.

"Like an accident?" I prompted and he nodded, though his eyes told me there was more to it than that. "Well, if it's an accident then it's not really your fault. Relax, everyone makes mistakes. You can't live in the past all the time. If there's a lesson life has taught me well, is that sometimes you have to let go of the past and leave it all behind to find happiness." Perhaps Skye was right about leaving. Maybe he saw how stressed I was about the case. It's a case that was already cold when I got it. It's forever frozen now and I'm no longer a detective anyway. I can't solve this; no one can, except maybe Alice, but she's unconscious. She's the only one who holds the answers. "Skye... I want to forget about the case, about my old city, about all of it. Let's go to a new city far away, or maybe even a new town in the middle of a different no where. Maybe we can check out the islands."

Skye smiled at my suggestion and sudden eagerness. "Yes, let's leave right away, my princess. Let's leave everything behind and run away together!"

I giggled. "Let's not get carried away. We did tell Popuri we would wait for Kai," or more like I told her. "Besides, he's the one that let you borrow this place, without which, we wouldn't have survived here for all these past seasons. The least we can do is thank him in person before we leave."

"Oh, I'm sure he would understand," Skye insisted, he pulled out something blue out of his pocket and my counter argument froze in my throat. "Run away with me, fair maiden."

I stared at the blue feather that Skye placed in my hand. I knew enough about Mineral Town's traditions to know what it meant. "Skye..."

The look in his eyes told me it wasn't a joke. "Would you...?"

I leapt into his arms, "yes!" One minute I was bursting with happiness and the next my whole world was crashing down on me.

The door to the Snack Shack opened and footsteps ventured in past the counter and to the kitchen where we were. The leader of the new arrivals was a silver haired woman with enraged emerald eyes. She pointed angrily at Skye shouting, "there he is!" A doctor fussed around in the background telling her she shouldn't be walking so much so fast and should return to rehabilitation. She silenced him with a sharp, "I can walk just fine!" And a stomping of the foot.

While the scene was unfolding, the two police officers, that accompanied Alice along with Charles and the doctor, pounced on Skye and me. "What's the meaning of this?" I demanded to know. They were arresting us, but why?

"This man is being accused of attempted murder and you are being accused of covering for him," Alice scolded. And here I thought Charles' glares were intense. No wonder he fell for this girl, only a spirit like hers could tame him.

"Attempted murder?" I babbled in confusion, while the officers informed me that I had the right to remain silent.

"It was an accident!" Skye argued.

"Quiet," Alice growled, then turned her back to us, exiting the Snack Shack. "No judge will believe you." She looked back inside from the doorway, "I hope you're ready to rot in jail."

xoxox xox xoxox

Everything was a blur, a horrible blur right out of a nightmare. We were taken to the city and interrogated. I don't know how long passed, but it was days before they determined I had been tricked and let me go. I didn't want to stay in the city and I didn't know where to go, so I returned to Mineral Town. I didn't see Skye before leaving and it was better that way because if I saw that rotten liar ever again, then the police would have a real reason to arrest me, his murder.

I was received with open arms in Mineral Town, which took me by surprise. They saw me as a victim and were glad to finally be able to assign a name and face to the mysterious criminal that made life long friends and neighbors doubt each other in silence. They were all too pleased to say terrible things about Skye, and I was all too eager to wish him eternal misery. My life was in pieces and I felt completely lost. I didn't know how to start over. I didn't know what to do. Thus I went to the library and tried to find a distraction to clear my head. Maybe Mary had some manga or something that I could look through.

xoxox xox xoxox

'All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts...' Did Mr. Shakespeare ever say it like it is. Skye was a vile actor. I should have known; he has the face of a Hollywood star after all, a face that I want to pound into a bloody mess. It was the start of summer now and it turns out that Kai and Skye weren't even friends. Kai didn't even know that Skye had invaded his property.

I was staying at the inn now, Ann and Doug invited me to stay for free. I huffed and pushed the book away across the library table. Mary sat shifting uncomfortably across from me with a very worried look. She sighed; Gray had mentioned that poor Mary was really stressed about all this, though the attention of the town was still on me and also on Rick. They had thought he was somehow involved in the mess because of how stressed and angry he had been about Fun Land. Now he was getting a lot of silent apologies for all the suspicious looks and secretive accusations.

Mary finally looks up the thick book she had been staring at, not reading, for the past fifteen minutes or so. "I have a terrible confession to make."

Talk about unexpected things to say. Though with how horrible my life was going, I thought nothing could shock me. "I doubt it's all that bad."

"It is," Mary looked like she was about to cry. "Skye... he... I knew about him and I didn't tell you. I was afraid of getting into trouble." A few tears escaped her as she tried hard to tell the story in a semi-composed way.

"What?" I snapped in shock. I thought nothing could surprise me now, but I was wrong. "What do you mean you were afraid of getting into trouble?"

"Skye is a thief from Forget Me Not, I hired him to rob Alice and scare her off," Mary confessed regretfully. "It was stupid really, it wouldn't have worked anyway. I managed to convince him by paying him plenty and he tried to give Alice a scare. It wasn't his usual thing, but the money was too tempting for him to refuse. He was only trying to scare her, but Alice went on the attack and tried to throw him off the bridge for daring to attempt to rob her. You should have seen him all scratched up and covered in bruises, desperate and scared as he told me the story, I could tell he wasn't lying. When he tried to push her away to escape, they were on the edge of the bridge; she lost her balance and fell. He didn't mean for it to happen and he did bring her to the clinic. He called to the Harvest Goddess and when she appeared, he left Alice in her care and escaped, but not even the Harvest Goddess could wake her. Perhaps the goddess left out of frustration because she couldn't help Alice."

xoxox xox xoxox

Chapter 11: Dodging Bullets

I was bitterly angry at Skye and kept an eye on every piece of information I could find. Mineral Town was finally on the map thanks to the case, not that something like that would bring any tourists to town anyway. When the news reached me that Skye had escaped, I cursed the sneaky thief.

Karen heard my plethora of verbal obscenities and sarcastically, or at least I thought it was sarcasm, asked. "Why don't you curse him for real?"

"If only I could." I grumbled bitterly.

"Maybe you should see the Witch Princess," Karen suggested and I no longer knew by her tone if she was kidding or not.

"The Witch Princess?" I questioned curiously.

Ever since Skye was caught and everything except Mary's involvement has come out on the open, Skye's reputation at Forget Me Not has been discovered too. If only I had investigated there, if only I had discovered that dirty liar! "I think I will go." I got up from the bench and started walking while Karen stared after me. I was serious too. If there had once been a mysterious supernatural being known as the Harvest Goddess around, why not a witch?

xoxox xox xoxox

I arrived at Forget Me Not out of breath. I couldn't wait to get to my destination. I asked around and found my way to the Witch Princess' house, even if the locals advised me not to go there. I knocked softly on the door, having second thoughts.

A young woman opened the door, "who are you?"

"Um..." For some reason, I didn't think that it was wise to reveal my name to her. "That doesn't matter. I want to ask about Skye... I hate Skye."

"A lot of people do, but not intensely enough. It's the same for you." The Witch Princess spoke with such certainty that I felt appalled.

I frowned, "how do you know?"

"I know," her gaze was piercing and solid. "Your hatred is weak." She shut the door on my face.

I backed away automatically and stared at the closed door. I looked up at the skies and shuddered. This was a bad idea indeed. I'll just go back to Mineral Town.

xoxox xox xoxox

Evening fell over the land in the middle of no where. As I crossed the bridge back to Mineral Town, almost there, I found who I least expected. I don't know if I should say a move like this is very stupid or very smart. Who would think that the slippery Phantom Skye, who hid in plain sight for so long and had all the time in the world to leave the scene of the crime squeaky clean, would actually return there again?

He gave me a charming smile and I began to recover from my stupor just enough to glare fiercely. "Please, let me explain, my fair maiden."

That was it, hearing him calling me one of his stupid sweet nicknames made me snap and as I recovered my power of motion; I aimed my gun at him. "Phantom Skye, I give you a choice, rot in jail or die!"

"Now princess, there's no need to get violent." He pleaded, holding his hands up in front of him in a defensive gesture.

"Confess!" I growled threateningly.

"I admit that I befriended you to get close to the one at the center of the investigation, but I realized it wasn't necessary, because other than Alice as the star witness there were no clues," Skye confessed. "I could have run then, the longer I stayed the worse it would be. I should have disappeared, but I was already too involved to go without you. I thought we could forget the past."

"Murderer," I growled in a low voice at first, then rose my tone to an accusing volume. "You're a filthy murderer, Skye! How could I forget that?"

"I'm not!" Skye defended as if he really meant it, but I was determined not to fall for it. "I was hired to rob her, she fought back. I paralyzed her to get her off and escape, but she has a strong mind, so it took a moment for it to work and she was close to the edge. She fell, I didn't mean to push her off the bridge, I thought my eyes failed me for the first time. I didn't mean for her to get hurt and it's haunted me ever since. I thought that there was nothing I could do but try to move on. I felt helpless and you cheered me up. I can't fix the past, so I wanted to erase it and build a new life. Don't you know? I was so overwhelmed I wanted to drown myself that night. I'm a thief and a heartbreaker, I'm not a killer. It was the Harvest Goddess; she told me that life was not something to be thrown away."

"It all fits with what Mary said. Did you tell on her?" I accused.

"No," Skye assured me, I could believe that much at least. "That sweet lady doesn't deserve to be blamed for her dealings with a thief. I'm not one to really hurt people, honestly, I'm not. What happened with Alice was an accident and I would make it up to her if I could."

My grip on the gun shook, "you can't. You can't give her back all the time you made her lose any more than you can take back all the lies you told me. Give up Skye, I may not be able to arrest you myself, but I'll make sure it happens. I'll hunt you down however many times it takes until you're finally locked up in a place you can't escape from!"

"There's really no hope for me?" Skye looked sad, but I refused to let him convince me. Then he did something to me and when I looked into his eyes, I was paralyzed. I couldn't move an inch as Skye came closer and leaned in nose to nose with me. I couldn't pull away, but I doubt I would be able to move away from him even if I wasn't paralyzed. His lips touched mine with the same intensity as always and I missed those times so bad. "You can't shoot me, fair maiden, because you love me and I love you." Then he left, disappearing into the distance.

xoxox xox xoxox

My next few meetings with Skye went in a similar way. I wanted to send the police after him, but my pride prevented it. I think that somehow he knew I wouldn't reveal his location so he stayed. Or maybe the cocky thief was just confident he could escape when the police arrived. Either way, I didn't keep his location a secret as a mercy, far from it. I wanted to be the one to take him down. I wanted to muster the courage to pull the trigger, not to kill him, but to hurt him, in more ways than one. I would show him I wasn't a slave to his lies. I would prove that he had no power over me. I would get my revenge.

Yet every time he dared to repeat the actions of that fateful night, my resolved weakened. Then eventually he didn't need to paralyze me to get close, because I loved him and I could somehow tell that he was in pain with all that happened. He wanted our life back, but I wouldn't give it to him even if I wanted it too.

Then finally, there came a night when I was determined to end the struggle and he knew it. I pointed my gun at him and he paused unsure. "Won't you even consider-"

"No," I growled.

"You won't even tell me what I can do because of your stubborn pride? Is that the only thing keeping you from thinking of forgiveness as an option?" He was right and I didn't deny it.

"Yes, you lose, Phantom Skye," I held my gun steady. I would make him lose even if I ended up losing just as much. I would give him much more regret than he already had, even if I ended up in sorrow. I would sacrifice myself to get back at him, but would it be worth it? I have no room for doubts now; I must act while my determination is strong.

Skye tried to paralyze me with his eyes and I stared into them boldly. Nothing happened and he tried again, but still there was nothing. "Why?"

"Because there's no conflict, I love you, I can accept it and I'm willing to kill my own heart if it means breaking yours!" I pulled the trigger then everything was enveloped in a deep dark haze after that. I couldn't believe it, I shot, I won, the game of cat and mouse ended with blurred roles. Then the flood gates opened up and an endless river of tears cascaded down my face.

The bullet had barely graced his arm. It wasn't even a flesh wound, more like a scratch, but he was bleeding and it was dark so I thought it was worse. "Is this enough?" He must have been in shock that his ability didn't work on me. Perhaps what stunned and stung him more so was that I was willing to admit that I loved him and even then I could go this far. That I was stronger than my own heart, or was I?

"Yes..." My voice was but a whisper and that was all I could say. Skye held me for a long time, I don't know for how long, but later I realized that the one word I spoke was true. The battle was over and I don't know if I should say we both won or more likely we both lost.

xoxox xox xoxox

It was a new day and I found myself at the Mineral Town inn with none other than Alice, Charles and Mary. Mary's secret dealings with Skye would remain a secret. That might be related to the reason why she so readily agreed to this, but it is actually good for her, she wants to be a writer after all. Alice finished looking through the script with a critical eye. "Fun Land has been looking to expand into TV and the premise of a series about the action filled adventures of a dashing young thief and the detective trying to capture him is good. I am willing to at least film the pilot episode for review." Her eyes were focused and piercing. "I take it this is a peace offering? Skye will be the protagonist you suggest, right?"

"He can do it," I insisted. He might as well put his charm and handsome face to good use on TV if it'll save him from a life of being hunted by the police.

"He is in this town," Charles ascertained and I didn't confirm or deny it.

"Let him try," Alice decided. "However, his debt to me will not be easily paid, so he better be ready to do a lot of acting and be profitable. I can let him off the hook with my connections, but I can also change my mind if he disappoints me or tries to escape."

"It's a deal," I agreed.

xoxox xox xoxox

Skye's wound wasn't serious and he recovered from it relatively fast. I'm thankful for the darkness messing with my aim that night. If I had hit him on the shoulder how I intended, it would have been much worse. It might have permanently damaged the use of his arm, instead of the superficial scratch he got. I got my revenge, I guess, and he accepted it if it was what it took for me to move on. I didn't feel satisfied as I imagined I would, but we both made mistakes and in the end we agreed that we could leave them behind after all.

Skye has a lot of work to do as an actor and somehow I got roped into the series too in the role of the detective. I wouldn't have it any other way. The series has been successful and the wrath of Alice has been appeased. Even if the filming days may be long, we have our home built on the former farm grounds in a corner of the studio's land and it's quite cozy. The staff is all over the place, but they are certainly less people than what an amusement park might bring. Mineral Town is getting used to filming and even looking forward to it.

The Harvest Goddess has even made a few mystifying appearances, she is camera shy, as if to keep her mystery, but a few shots of her have been caught, giving the whole process a more surreal feel that, if anything, had benefited the hype of the series. Even if this series one day ends, I know Skye can go into movie acting. I might not always act by his side, but I'll still be there with him to keep him safe from his fan girls, after all, I did accept his blue feather in the end. At last I can finally say that all is well; or at least a lot better than we imagined and we are happy. I've finally found where I belong, and it is with Phantom Skye.


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