Amber lay awake that night, thinking about her encounter with Brand.
Normally, she has no problem meeting new sims. She enjoys learning about their mannerisms and watching how they talk and communicate. Most of the time she can learn more about a sim this way than by what they actually say. But Brand is different; and not a good different. He is exactly the kind of creep that little girls are taught to be afraid of. Just making eye contact with him felt gross.
It is now clear to Amber that poor Mr. Dworkin has been used for some reason. What she cannot figure out is how Billy Jones fits into the puzzle. The only person who might know for sure is Brand. And even though the thought if it scares her, she will have to pull the information out of him. But something tells her that it may not be so easy.
She does have one thing going for her. Amber possesses the cognitive and emotional faculties of an adult. But she also does a great job of just being a kid. If she can pull off the “silly little girl” routine, while he and Mr. Dworkin are speaking, Brand may just feel safe enough to allow a few details slip.
Feeling good about her plan, Amber gets an early start to the park. As expected, Mr. Dworkin is playing chess with Brand. Amber skips up to the two men, and does her best to ignore an unmarked, sealed envelope sitting on the bench next to the weary-looking math teacher. She immediately senses that it is important, though feels hesitant about its conspicuous placement. Amber can almost hear it yelling, Hey! Look at me!
She goes immediately into her “pesky little sister” impression; talking incessantly and asking outlandish questions. When she notices that the two men have resigned to the fact that she is not going away, Amber makes her move. She innocently asks Mr. Dworkin when he is coming back to be her teacher again. He winces at the question. But Amber sees Brand’s delighted amusement. Brand echoes her question back to a now squirming Mr. Dworkin.
Brand smiles his greasy smile, then answers the question for the trembling, old man. Talking as though he is telling a fairy-tale, he tells Amber that some very bad sims have made her math teacher do things that were very, very wrong. And that she should go home before the bad sims make her do something wrong too.
Though she is just a kid, Amber knows when a situation is turning south. And the needle just took a nose dive.
One of the many neat tricks Amber has learned while watching sims at the park, is how to swipe things. She scrambles up to Mr. Dworkin and gives him a hug. Then, she skips over to her bicycle with the unmarked envelope tucked securely under her shirt. She peddles her bike as hard and fast as she can to Aunt Sarah and Uncle Ricky’s house. Uncle Ricky is a police officer, and he would probably love to see what is inside this envelope; especially if it has something to do with “bad sims”.
It is only just days later when Amber learns how right she is. Uncle Ricky is present for her teen birthday bash. He pulls her aside during the party for congratulations, but also to give her some new and interesting information.
He informs her that Mr. Dworkin has moved into a nearby retirement community. It is a secure complex with gates, intruder alarms, and around-the-clock security. Amber does not understand why, at first. But the facts come together quickly when Uncle Ricky explains what she was able to uncover.
The envelope she found contained a flash memory chip with a video of Billy’s father, Mr. Jones. Though Uncle Ricky would not tell her any details, she is able to deduce that it was some kind of bribery or blackmail. Uncle Ricky assures her that her role in this will be kept perfectly secret. But he also says that there is no proof that her mysterious Mr. Logrus had done anything wrong. In fact, there is no record of anybody with that name in the entire system. Then, he scolds her for getting involved in something so dangerous; and suggests that she save the detective work until she is an adult.
But Amber finds the mystery to be irresistible. She visits Mr. Dworkin every week to play chess and chat about math. She does not discuss cheating scandal, or the envelope. But she does often wonder who this Brand character was. She can tell that her former math teacher has a story to tell, but senses it is not yet the right time. Mr. Dworkin is happy just having somebody to visit him and play chess. Perhaps, some day, she will ask him about it. Until that time, she will just have to learn to live with the lingering question that sometimes keeps her up at night.
When she does eventually find out who Brand is, will she wish he hadn’t?