Mouse sat down in front of the screen, unfolding the piece of paper from the envelope.
“Marissa Leanne Hamilton,” she read aloud. “October twenty-third, nineteen seventy-four, New York, New York.” She smoothed the creases from the paper. “Well, that gives me somewhere to start.”
I peered over her shoulder. “Will you be able to find her?”
Mouse pulled the keyboard closer. “Won’t know until I try.”
The sound of computer-generated gunfire jerked my head to the left, hurting my still-tender muscles. My body had already taken care of the visible bruises, but the deeper ones would take another day or so.
Teenage boys lined the walls of the internet cafe, most of them staring unblinking at the screen in front of them. Occasionally one would sneak a peek sideways, only to look away again when I caught their eye.
“Got ‘em,” Mouse smirked after only a few minutes.
“That was fast,” I said.
“There aren’t many Marissa Hamiltons,” Mouse said. “Even fewer were born in nineteen seventy-four.”
We crowded around her, peering at the screen. The monitor displayed a black and white photo of a woman with a fine nose and large eyes, accompanied by a toddler. She looked quite young; there was no way it was recent.
“She owns a nightclub in New York. Apparently it’s a classy place.”
“What’s it called?” Briana asked.
“The Rising Phoenix. Just a sec. Give me some space so I can get more info.” Mouse began typing again, her fingers flew over the keyboard. “The only phone number I can find is the reservation line for the night club. Do you want to try calling them?”
“We may as well,” Nicole said.
Mouse jotted the digits down and Nicole went outside to use the payphone. She was back a moment later.
“They won’t take a message, give me another phone number, or tell me anything useful,” she said grumpily.
“Well that sucks,” I said.
“Is there anything else?” she asked Mouse.
“Nope. No home address, no phone number and no permanent residence.” Mouse flicked between pages, reading everything insanely fast. “She spends some Saturday nights in the club, but I don’t know which ones. And we wouldn’t be able to get in there anyway.”
“Why not?” Briana demanded.
“Because you have to be over twenty-one.”
“Keep looking,” Nicole instructed. “There’s got to be something. If not we’ll have to find some way to sneak in.”
I leaned back against the partition that separated Mouse from the boy on her right. The skin on my arm itched so badly, I almost couldn’t bear it. I tried pushing my finger beneath the plaster but it wouldn’t fit.
“Got it,” Mouse said. “The third Saturday of every month is an eighteen and over night. We couldn’t pass for twenty-one, but with the right IDs we could definitely pass for eighteen.”
“Can you get us some?” Nicole asked.
“Yeah, no problem,” Mouse said. How was she so confident about that? “What could be an issue is getting into the VIP area.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because Marissa has a booth permanently reserved there. She never leaves it to go out into the club.” She scrolled down the page of a gossip website, her lips moving silently as she read to herself. “Everything says it’s almost impossible to get in.”
“Is there anyone we can bribe?” Briana asked.
“We don’t have enough money to bribe anyone,” Nicole said.
“Even after the laser tag?”
“Even after laser tag,” Nicole confirmed. “We may not even win that, though.”
Briana snorted. “Sure.”
“Let me have a look-see,” Mouse murmured to herself. She trawled through the website’s photo galleries.
She flew over various gossip blogs, searching for something, until she froze. She caught her breath and stared at the screen, unblinking. A strangled noise escaped her throat. “Oh. Oh, wow…”
“What?” I asked.
“Lord Richard William Lockwood, an acquaintance of Marissa, has a daughter who recently turned nineteen. Until now she’s been at college studying art history and languages. She hasn’t left the country since she finished high school,” she rattled off.
“What’s so ‘wow’ about that?” Briana asked.
“Look.” Mouse tilted the screen so we could see what she was talking about.
My breath caught as my eyes settled on the image in front of me. It was like looking in a mirror. If it weren’t for the riding clothes and the glossy mahogany horse she held, I would have thought it was a photo of me.
“How is that possible?” I asked faintly.
“It could be a complete coincidence,” Nicole said, her voice somewhat distant. “I don’t believe in coincidences.”
“So what do you want to do?” Mouse asked.
“Get as much information as you can,” Nicole said after a pause. “We’re going to Nashville, and then we’re going to New York. You’ve got a week to learn everything possible about this girl.”
That last comment was directed to me.