Sunday, February 10

I found out yesterday what Joe was so excited about on the computer.

Apparently there's a lot of different places you can look at to see the reviews people have left about, oh, let's just say, restaurants. And a certain fish shop/coffee shop. And they're not all positive.

Murph and I are huddled in front of the screen in the office, store temporarily unmanned while we talk with Joe on a conference call and show Murph the bad news.

"So you think these are fake?" Murph asks him.

"I've seen some fake reviews in my day."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"They, um," Joe coughs, "they look the same, like it's the same person."

I'll agree on that. Too many negative reviews that all read the same. Blah blah blah, food was garbage, wouldn't give it to my job, not authentic enough, too expensive, rude employees, filth on the walls, etc.

True? Possibly, some of them, but way over the line. You can't go and just trash the hell out of a place just for laughs, and do it anonymously. People planning trips obsess over views they read, if enough of these pile up, we'll lose customers.

"Boys, we've got us a mystery," Murph states, straightening a nonexistent tie around his neck.

"Who would do this? Did we piss someone off? Joe, come down and help us."

"Can't," he responds back. "The race is still on."

"The same one as yesterday?"

"Kurt…it's a 24 Hour race. That means it's a day long."

"And you're seriously watching all of it?"

"Well…I want to see the end."

"God, fine, watch it." We hang up on Joe. "Is anyone else coming in?"

Murph doesn't even need to check the schedule. "Craig at 12."

"Okay, cool. You stay back here and check reviews for the other places around here, I'll take the kitchen if we need it, Craig takes the counter up front, we bang this out and catch the spammer." I tried rushing through that so that Murph wouldn't have a chance to process it.

He turns and looks at me. "You trying to pull a fast one on me, Sinnott? Kitchen certified now?"

"There's no kitchen certification, I can handle it," I shrug.

"No, come on." Murph points at the screen. "It's not like someone got murdered here-"

"-Jersey mob?"

"-and we have to crack the case today. We can do it at home."

My excited adrenaline had gotten the better of me. Like when you have a great idea that at the time seems brilliant, but later on or once you try to follow through with it, you realize that you're short on everything, giddy over something unrealistic, and there's no way you could actually do that thing.

Like playing army, war games. Growing up we all always thought it would be cool if some weekend we set out for one of the little outlying islands and played war there for two or three days. We'd get amped up during school and start drawing up plans during lunch, only to have everything fall apart later in the day when someone had band practice, someone else's parents didn't like the idea, that we didn't have the camping equipment, and that doing the war games in the first place might be against the law.

What, were we going to hack whoever did this to our store? Somehow realize who it is and go bang on their door, assuming they're in town?

Well, Craig had the same wide-eyed excitement, and thought we ought to follow up back at his house when our shift ended.

It's the first time I've taken a look at their house in daylight. Near the lodge we saw Alexis and her family at, it's a big place, built on a crowded, leafy hillside. There's a flight and a half of stairs from the road up to the front door. Moving must have been fun. That's something I've always wondered about. There's some enormous homes around here that you basically have to access by climbing five hundred stairs, hopping on one foot across a stream, pulling yourself across a pond with a rope, etc. I mean, those are exaggerations, but still, how do you get furniture down/up there, how do you carry groceries, clear snow, all those things. I wouldn't want it.

Halfway up the stairs, one of the other Overbay brothers – I thought – shuts the front door and comes sulking down.

"Hey, there he is, there he is!" Craig laughs.

I do a double-take; it's actually Becky. She sees my eyes immediately shoot up and gawk at her head and short hair. "Oh-"

"Yeah, I know," she groans, edging past us on the stairs, "they butchered me. I said pixie cut, not same-cut-you-just-gave-my-brother. You thought I was a boy?"

"Dad did," Craig smirks, eyes widening as he knows he's egging her on. "He probably thought you were me!"

"Oh, you know what?" she snaps, "he knew it was me because I'm bigger and I can kick your ass, Craig." Becky's probably right. At the bottom landing, she turns to me. "Oh, and, I'll be back in a few minutes," she adds. "I gotta – Dad, where's the post office" she shouts up at the house. "Actually, forget it! Forget it!"

Craig nudges me. "Loco, huh?"

We enter the house. Loud, bad punk music blaring from the kitchen.

"Where are we going?"

"Basement, don't worry, you don't have to talk to them." Craig throws a thumb at the kitchen counter, where two middle school age boys – I'm assuming the younger two brothers – are sitting, doing something on their phones over their homework.

He opens a door and flicks up a light switch. Carpeted stairs leading down. Fresh carpet, too, it's got that familiar smell. "Yeah, we just got the basement finished and all, it was nasty when we moved in."

The straight stairs down empty out into the back corner of a bright open space, a huge finished basement with hardly anything in it yet. I say basement, but I feel like we're ground level with the road outside; there just aren't any windows. Or doors. "There's not a door in down here?" I wonder out loud.

"Yeah, there is, but it's really gross and jammed shut, it's in this giant bush outside." He fires up a computer sitting atop a new desk. "What should I look up?"

I grin behind him. He's still riding the high of intrigue. I'm realizing more and more that it was silly for me to start thinking like a spy, like there was some big adventure afoot. But I can keep playing along, he doesn't have to be as jaded as I am.

"Let's…pull up all the restaurants in town and see if the same things are getting said for them too. Narrows it down if anyone doesn't. How's that?"

"That's good, that's good!"