“Hey guys,” said Claudia, bursting through the door of Leena’s B&B. It was a chilly, grey February afternoon in South Dakota, and the rest of the Warehouse crew were sitting around a fire, drinking spiced cider. “Check out this sweet new bass I got.” She waved the instrument in their general direction.
Artie raised one eyebrows. “Nothing about that instrument is new.”
“Hey, nice, is that a Fender?” Pete asked, twisting around in his seat.
“You know your guitars! Yes, and Artie, it’s called vintage. I know it’s a lot younger than you but you should learn to be tolerant.” She carried it over to the fireplace, sat down, plugged it into a conveniently placed amp, and strummed its strings. Then she grimaced and started tuning it.
“Don’t play that in here,” said Artie.
“Oh come on, a little music is just what we need on a gross day like this.” When she’d finished tuning, she strummed a few chords, then struck up a cheerful, poppy tune. “Sing along, guys! Robert’s got a quick hand, he’ll look around the room, he won’t tell you his plan…”
“I don’t know this song,” Myka protested.
“Me neither,” said Pete, but he made improvisational noises, bouncing his shoulders to the beat. “Hey, this is a cool song.”
Claudia nodded along with her bass, still singing. When the song ended, she immediately switched to another one. “Isn’t this exactly what we need?”
“Heck yes,” said Pete, standing up. He started to dance. It was ridiculous dancing, but it made Myka laugh. He grabbed Leena and pulled her up from her chair, making her dance with him. Then he let her go and bopped towards Myka.
Myka shook her head. “Music is not what I need today. I have finished my cider and now I’m going back to work.”
“Oh, no way,” Pete protested. He grabbed her arms and tugged her out of the chair by main force. “This is not a work day. It’s Saturday and we’re not in the middle of a case for once. Look, even Artie’s still in the B&B.”
“Hmph,” agreed Artie.
Myka rolled her eyes, but as Pete continued to hold her hands and move his shoulders to the beat, she began to smile again, and then move as well. Leena disappeared into the kitchen and shortly returned with a large plastic bowl. Seating herself next to Claudia by the fire, she began beating it as though it was a drum.
Artie continued to refuse Claudia’s plea to sing with her, but Pete and Myka slowly loosened up, and began to dance more and more enthusiastically. Finally, Claudia announced that her hands were tired, and they collapsed into their chairs, laughing. “Gross, I’m all sweaty,” said Myka, but she didn’t get up from her chair.
“That was fun,” said Leena, standing up. “Who wants cookies?”
“Hell yes!” said Pete. “Need help? Need somebody to taste test the batter?” Leena just shook her head at him and went back to the kitchen without answering.
“Hmph,” said Artie again, and stood up. “I’m going to check the news flashes at the Warehouse. Do not,” he added, glaring around at all of them but pointing especially at Pete, “eat all of the cookies before I get back.” Pete made innocent faces, and Artie stormed out. Possibly a little less grumpily than he had walked in hours ago.
There were, as it transpired, four cookies still left when Artie returned, slightly damp from the grey rain that was falling on Univille. Claudia and Leena had each eaten five cookies; Myka had eaten three; Pete had eaten two dozen. Artie stuffed one into his mouth, then made his announcement without dropping a single crumb. “We have a new case. I believe someone in Philadelphia is setting fires using Betsy Ross’s fireplace poker.”
Pete groaned. “Come on, Artie. Why would Betsy Ross’s fireplace poker be special?”
“I do not know,” said Artie. “But the fact remains that it is, and you and your partner will go to Philadelphia to investigate and bring it back.”
“Cool,” said Myka. “When do we leave?”
Claudia and Pete exchanged a wide-eyed look, then turned their astonishment on Myka. “‘Cool’?” Pete repeated.
Myka looked up at him from her position still slumped in her chair. “Yeah. What, did I say something wrong?”
“Only that you think it’s cool that we have to go investigate some fireplace poker halfway across the continent,” Pete said. He and Claudia looked at each other again. Claudia shrugged.
“Well, you don’t have to leave until tomorrow morning,” said Artie. “The fires haven’t been very close together and no one’s been hurt, so I hope another day won’t matter.” He snatched a cookie and thrust a file towards Myka. “Familiarize yourself with the case.”
“Okay,” said Myka, and opened the folder.
It had not stopped raining by the time they arrived in Philadelphia the next day—in fact, it was raining there too—so Pete was thoroughly grumpy by the time they reached the Constitution Center, which Artie had decided would be their first stop in hopes that they could find out what was special about Betsy Ross’s fireplace poker. Myka, on the other hand, seemed unperturbed by everything, even his complaining. He found that a little odd, but was quickly distracted by the well-stocked cafeteria the building boasted.
After they’d talked to a few employees (Pete did most of the questioning) and determining that no one knew anything, they spied a door marked “Employees Only.” “I think we should look through there,” said Pete.
“Okay,” said Myka.
Pete’s mouth was open to defend his plan. Then he shut his mouth. Then he opened it again. “That’s it? No argument? Not even going to question my vibes?”
Myka shrugged. “You always have vibes. I’ve learned to trust them.”
“Okay,” said Pete, somewhat taken aback. “Then let’s look through here…”
He hadn’t actually had a vibe. It just seemed like a good place to look. However, Myka didn’t seem to be upset by the fact that they didn’t find anything. So they split up, Myka going to the actual Betsy Ross House (which, according to the file, Betsy Ross had never really lived in) and Pete heading for the Liberty Bell exhibit, hoping to catch anybody who might be acting too patriotic or carrying around a fireplace poker.
Before he went to the exhibit, though, and as soon as he was out of earshot of Myka, he opened his Farnsworth and called Artie. “Found anything?” was Artie’s greeting.
“Nothing at all,” said Pete. “Which is kind of weird. But I’m calling you because of something else weird, which is Myka.”
“Oh, please,” said Artie. “If anyone is weird in that partnership it’s you.”
“But she’s not being weird for a normal person,” said Pete. He was speaking into the Farnsworth as quietly as he could and continually looking around, afraid Myka would overhear him and miraculously be back to her usual self. “She’s being weird for Myka. Artie, she didn’t even complain when I took us through an employees only door and we didn’t find anything.”
“Huh. That is strange. Maybe she’s just trying to humor you. You know, so you have to make your own mistakes and get tougher on your own. She does too much of the work.”
Pete shook his head. “There wasn’t a single I-told-you-so.”
“That is… very… Wait a minute.” Artie turned away while Pete stared at his Farnsworth, confused. Then he turned back, abruptly said “I’ll call you back,” and hung up the Farnsworth. Pete frowned and stuffed it back in his pocket. Hopefully Artie had just figured out something useful.
He did his checking—nothing unusual, but he wasn’t surprised—and met up with Myka again. “I’m empty,” he told her. “What did you find?”
She shook her head. “Nothing interesting. There’s a back room, but they wouldn’t let me through, even when I showed them my badge.”
“You didn’t bully your way in?”
“No. Why would I do that?”
Pete shook his head. “Come on, let’s try it again.”
Claudia was sitting in her room, strumming quietly on the new bass. She was good with a bass, but not as good as with a guitar, so she needed to practice. She thought she was making good progress when Artie burst in and without preamble snatched at the bass, causing an awful jangle from the strings.
“Hey, old man!” she cried, clutching the instrument closer to herself. “If you wanted to see my new bass, you could have just asked.”
Artie sighed. “Claudia, may I see your new bass?”
She continued to clutch it protectively. “Not until you explain yourself, Grabby Hands.”
“That’s a Fender, right?”
“A Fender Precision Bass.”
She raised her eyebrows. “I thought you only knew pianos.”
He pointed at it. “That,” he proclaimed dramatically, “is the same Fender Precision Bass that Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, used to write Good Vibrations.”
Claudia stared at Artie. Then she stared at the bass. “You think this thing is an artifact? No way, Artie. It hasn’t done anything to anybody. Besides, I thought we had all the musical artifacts from the last century, all bagged and tagged and on the shelves.”
“I thought so too. But then I checked the instrument aisle and I found a completely different brand of bass in the place of this one. And it appears to have affected Myka.” He described what Pete had said about Myka’s behavior. By the time he finished, Claudia was laughing.
“I would pay good money to see Myka like that,” she said.
“Yes, well, she’s on a case right now, and if Pete has to be the responsible one, I shudder to think what could happen,” snapped Artie. “So give me the bass so I can neutralize it.”
Claudia shook her head and stood up. “No way. You can neutralize it, but I’m carrying it to the Warehouse myself.”
The guy guarding the back room of the Betsy Ross house was, in fact, kind of a hard-ass. Pete had already looked around for other ways to get in, and none were accessible. He was beginning to think maybe he should come back the next day, when there would be a different guard, when Myka seemed to suddenly shake herself, and her expression hardened.
“We work for the United States Secret Service,” she informed the guard in her usual no-nonsense tone. “Behind that door may be a threat to the nation. If you do not let us through, I could have you arrested…”
Pete’s Farnsworth rang and he scurried away, glad not to have to hear the rest of Myka’s threatening rant. “Artie?”
“Yeah, she just got back to herself. What was it?”
“My bass,” came Claudia’s mournful voice.
“Wow.” Pete laughed. “We are going to have to try that again.”
They found the poker, but they never did get to try the bass again. Because when Myka found out, she locked it up and refused to tell either Pete or Claudia where the key was. Someday, though, they would get the information out of Artie. And then they would have a good time.