“So what have you learned about the guy you followed?” Bryce asked, sitting on the floor of Madison’s room while the two of them worked on their calculus homework together.
“Nothing. I googled the address and I didn’t come up with anything,” she said.
“Really? That’s weird. Lemme try. What is it?”
“619 Lakeside,” she said.
Bryce tapped at his phone awhile. “Huh. That’s really weird. Hey Siri, how do I find out who lives at an address?”
Madison shook her head as Bryce’s phone turned up web search results, and he looked through them. “It says here,” he said, “that you can find out who owns a house by searching the registry of deeds.”
“Do we have to go there?” Madison asked.
“Maybe it’s online.” Bryce tapped on his phone screen while Madison waited. “Ugh. It’s online but I can’t use it on my phone. Can I use your computer?”
“Sure.” Madison woke up her computer screen and typed in her password. Bryce sat down and started searching. He asked her to repeat the address, and shortly thereafter he asked, “Do I want grantor or grantee?”
Madison searched the definitions on her phone. “Grantor would be the person selling and grantee would be the person getting it. So I think you want the grantee.”
“Okay, it’s not a person. It’s something called CLP Holdings.”
“Damn.” Madison stood and walked over to look at the computer screen. “Oh! Wait a second!” Madison took her notebook from the desk and flipped through her notes. “Yeah, they mentioned that at IHOP. Said the security people were on CLP payroll. I wonder what CLP stands for.”
“No idea. Well this is a dead end, huh?” Bryce said, turning to look at Madison. “I was hoping we’d find his name, but I guess he doesn’t own it.”
“Another dead end,” she agreed.
They sat in silence awhile, and then Madison turned her attention back to her homework. “These mixing function problems are so confusing,” she said.
“Don’t you know his phone number?” Bryce asked.
“Huh?” Madison looked up from her homework.
“His phone number. He’s Mr. Black, from the group chat, right?”
“Oh. Yeah. I guess I can figure out which number is his. Just a sec.” She picked up her phone and searched the chat. “Okay, this is from him. Write this down.” She rattled off the phone number.
Bryce entered it into his phone and waited for Mr. Black to pick up. Madison looked on in stunned silence. “Hello! I’m with midtown couriers. I have this package and I’m standing in front of 691 Lakeside and there’s nobody here. The package is from,” Bryce paused as he looked at the registry of deeds search results, “just says CLP? Maybe someone’s initials? Oh! 619? That explains it. Okay, yeah, can I get your name to make sure it matches? I’m going to call this in… Richard Wagner? Great… Yeah, that matches… Okay… Yeah, I should be there in a couple minutes.”
Madison’s eyes were wide, and her jaw was slack. “Oh. My. God! I can’t believe you just did that!”
Bryce was beaming with pride. “Move over Nancy Drew,” he said. “I can do this too, you know.” Madison’s expression turned to one of fear. “What?” Bryce asked.
“Your number! When you don’t show up at his house, he’s going to call you back!”
Bryce sat back in the chair and folded his arms over his chest. “Star sixty-seven,” he said.
“Star sixty-seven. You dial that and they don’t see your number. Look, I’ll show you.” Bryce tapped on his phone screen and then Madison’s phone rang. She looked at it.
“No Caller ID,” she said. “How did you know that?”
Bryce shrugged. “A girl needs to be careful these days,” he said with a smirk.
“Move over,” Madison commanded. “Let me drive.”
She slid into the chair at the computer and entered Richard Wagner into a search engine. “Dammit! He’s got the same name as some opera guy.” She scrolled through the results. “I’ll never find him this way.”
“Try image search,” Bryce suggested.
Madison switched to image search and the two of them looked through the pictures. On the third page of results, she spotted him. “Oh my God! That’s him!” she said, pointing at the screen.
“Well, hello, Daddy!” Bryce said in a sultry tone.
“Ew! Gross! He’s like seventy!” she protested.
“Old guy’s still got it going on. What site is that picture from?” he asked.
“LinkedIn,” Madison replied. She clicked through and Mr. Black’s resume appeared on the screen. “American University. Georgetown Law. Then the Environmental Protection Agency for his whole career,” she said. “But he’s retired now. A couple of non-profit boards. Seems like he spent his whole life in DC. I wonder why he’s even here.”
“Google Richard Wagner EPA,” Bryce suggested.
Madison did as instructed. “Jackpot!” She scrolled through several pages of search results. “There’s a ton of stuff here.”
“Bookmark it,” Bryce said. “We should finish our calc.”
“Yeah, okay. I’m going to be up all night learning about this guy,” she said.
“Can’t wait to hear your report,” Bryce said. “Maybe there will be a clue about what they’re up to.”
“You’re mine, Mr. Black,” she intoned at the computer screen.
“Oooh,” Bryce replied dramatically. “But I saw him first.”
“Gross,” Madison repeated.