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Dancing Her Dance

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Emma arrived at the office the next morning feeling refreshed, ready to take on whatever was waiting for her. She had to remember to thank Mr. Hopper later for his suggestion.

“Mornin’, Sheriff.” She threw her things on her desk and sat down. Then she pushed them to the side and opened the “Serial Burglar” case file she had left on her desk.

“I hear your first tango class went well.”

Emma flinched. “What? How’d you know about that?” She hadn’t told Graham. Emma hadn’t really told anyone about it.

Graham smirked. “My friend Ted. Have you met Ted? I’m assuming you’ve met Ted. You were all he was talking about last night.” He winked. “So… what do you think of him?”

“Shut up,” she said as she punched him playfully in the shoulder. “Yeah, I met him last night. The architect, right? He didn’t tell me he knew you.”

“Yeah, I hang out at the bar with him and some of the guys. I’m not just my job, I have a life outside too.” He was still smiling, but his grin felt like a stab of annoyance in her gut. Maybe he hadn’t meant it, but he was essentially poking fun at the fact that Emma didn’t have any good friends here. She’d had friends in Boston, but since she moved here, the only person she really knew was Graham, and they were co-workers. There was Ruby and Mrs. Lucas, but Emma was also a patron at their diner. And she had only known them a few weeks; it wasn’t enough for Emma to consider them more than neighbors in a small town.

And now she knew that Graham had a social life and friends outside the office that he never bothered to mention to her. He could have invited her out sometime; it wouldn’t have hurt him. Then again, maybe it was a “guy’s night out” kind of thing.

“Whatever,” she thought. Part of the reason she joined the tango class was to make friends. “I also have a life outside.” Emma shrugged it off, let the conversation end there, and made herself look busy. She wasn’t going to let anything ruin her mood.

She sorted the contents of the file into piles, chronologically, when Graham stepped out for his usual morning run, hollering a “Bye Em”.

Now that he was gone, she could forget about him and really focus. Emma was never sure what she was looking for, but every day brought a chance at finding a connection. She compared the first two incidents:

The first had “Incident #1” sloppily handwritten across the top.

                Date: October 28th, 2013

                Time: 8:30am.

                Reporting Officer: Sheriff Graham Humbert.

                Victim’s Information:

Last Name: Mordin         First Name: Rex                         MI: K            Title: Dr.

Address: 364 Freesia Street

Phone: 555-3765

Details of incident: Dr. Mordin was leaving for work at 7:45am when he discovered his car, parked outside, was unlocked. Missing items include: a GPS system, a laptop computer, a rearview mirror car ornament, and $60 cash. Signs of forced entry: scratches on the window. Suspect likely used a coat hanger to unlock the door. No trace of fingerprints. No witnesses. No security footage. No injuries.

The next one, labeled “Incident #2” wrote:

                Date: October 30th, 2013

                Time: 12:45pm.

                Reporting Officer: Sheriff Graham Humbert

                Victim’s Information:

                Last Name: Riggs             First Name: Ophelia                 MI: S             Title: Mrs.

                Address: 14015 Silverburgh Court

               Phone: 888-6292

Details of Incident: Mrs. Riggs was at home in her garage preparing for a Halloween party. Garage door was open. Culprit likely snuck into house when Mrs. Riggs went to her backyard to get supplies from storage unit. Missing items include: a jewelry box, several pieces of jewelry, and Mrs. Riggs Wallet. No signs of forced entry. No trace of fingerprints. One witness said to have seen someone walk in, but was unable to identify. No security footage. No injuries.

 

Ugh. Same as yesterday. There were nine more reported incidents to review, and she had a general idea what happened in each of them. What could possibly connect them? The victim profiles all seemed so… random; there was no single “type” being targeted. There were men and women, well-off and poor, liberal and conservative even… most things you could think of, and they were spread all over the town. It didn’t make any sense. But it wasn’t in Emma’s nature to accept that there was nothing more she could do. There had to be something she was missing.

Half an hour had gone by, and she was almost through:

“Incident #8”

                Date:   November 12th, 2013

                Time: 10:50pm.

                Reporting Officer: Sheriff Graham Humbert.

                Victim’s Information:

                Last Name: Lucas             First Name: Griselda                MI: W           Title: Mrs.

               Address: Granny’s Diner

               Phone: 712-5555

Details of incident: Mrs. Lucas, known as Granny, was asleep in her bed, when she was woken by a creaking noise- the door that leads into the diner. Went to look and encountered the culprit but could not identify. Mrs. Lucas grabbed the culprit, a struggle ensued. Mrs. Lucas was thrown against the counter and rendered unconscious. Unable to identify suspect’s body type. Missing items include: a hunting rifle, cash from the register. Signs of forced entry: doorknob was removed, tools used were discarded in a nearby dumpster. No trace of fingerprints. No other witnesses. No security footage. Reported injuries: Mrs. Lucas broke her arm upon impact.

 

And finally, the most recent:

“Incident #11”

                Date:   November 20th, 2013

                Time: 12:50pm.

                Reporting Officer: Sheriff Graham Humbert.

                Victim’s Information:

               Last Name: Primblush    First Name: Michael                 MI: R                         Title: Mr.

               Address: 413 Pine Circle

               Phone: 777-2586

Details of incident: Mr. Primblush left his home to go to the post office, and returned to a smashed window and missing dog, Drixy. Dog returned, blood on his snout. Only missing item was a decorative egg. Signs of forced entry: broken window and bloodstain. The culprit is possibly injured from a dog bite. No trace of fingerprints. No witnesses. No security footage. No injuries.

 

Emma took a minute or two to process everything she had read after reviewing the final report. Then she sighed. So far the only incidents that really stuck out to her were Granny’s and Mike’s case--- Mrs. Lucas’ because the culprit was almost caught, and Mrs. Lucas was injured, and Mike’s because it was the most recent.

Actually, now that she thought about it, it was strange that there was no consistency in the timing of the incidents. The earliest was reported at 8:00 in the morning, and the latest was close to midnight. It’s possible there is more than one person at work here. The thought might have surfaced before, but this was the first time Emma had consciously considered it. The time differences just made it seem more plausible. But there was always the slight possibility that it was one person. So that wasn’t much of a breakthrough.

What else… What else? Emma mulled over it a while longer. There were never any fingerprints, so they were all planned robberies. They happened all over town and at all times of the day.

Her mind started to wander; Mike’s egg got her thinking about chicken eggs; chicken eggs led to other bird eggs, to birds, to flamingos, to Africa- where flamingos lived- then to other animals that lived in Africa, to lions, then to… Regina?

She shook her head, decided that was enough for now and set about other things. She made sure all the paperwork in the station was up to date, sorted through the mail, checked the calendar for events, and so on. She even swept the floor and mopped- with the very same mop handle from yesterday- until it was almost noon.

She packed up her things, set them near the door, and sat in her chair. She put an elbow on the table and rested her head in her hand as she took her phone out of her pocket to check the time. It was 11:48. She liked to wait until Graham returned before she went about town, so the office wasn’t left unattended for too long. But upon remembering their conversation this morning, she reconsidered. The office would be okay for a little while. They had an answering machine, after all, and Graham could check it.

She wasn’t mad at him; she just didn’t feel like answering a hundred questions, and she knew he would try to set her up with Ted. He’d done that a few times in college, when one of his friends was interested in her. Whatever the outcome, he always respected her decision, and she appreciated that, but it was also a waste of time. She might, might, play along later, but she didn’t want to deal with it now.

She checked the clock on the wall, and then her phone again, as if the clock wasn’t trustworthy enough. It was 11:50 now. As she weighed the possibility of getting a phone call in the next several minutes versus the things she needed to do, she settled with leaving right away.

She got up and made her way out, double-checking that the door was locked. She made a mental checklist: Granny’s first, drive around town, the park, community center, post office to send out stuff for work… And Geppetto’s for shoes! She had almost forgotten. She’d go there when she passed it on her route.

Once inside her car, she turned the key in the ignition and left for Granny’s.

------

Emma was seated on a stool at the bar. The place was bustling- it was usually busy around lunch time. Before she got food, she liked to sip hot tea or cocoa, or nibble on the free crackers, until the customer traffic slowed.

“Afternoon Emma.” Ruby smiled and set a cup of cocoa in front of Emma. It had become routine, and Emma always appreciated it.

“Hey Ruby! Thanks.” Ruby nodded a “you’re welcome” and made her way around the diner to write down and deliver orders for the other patrons.

Emma sipped her cocoa slowly. Vapors of steam carried upward the scent of cinnamon, sprinkled delicately over the whipped cream. Emma found the smell especially soothing this morning.

She spent the next hour or so watching the clientele come and go, occasionally making small talk with those she recognized. She and Ruby kept an unspoken ritual- after the tea or cocoa, Ruby would take her order when the restaurant had cleared out; they would talk about things, like Ruby’s dreams last night or a memorable interaction with a customer, as Granny prepared the meal; while Emma ate, the three of them would chat about whatever, until Emma made the move to leave. Sometimes that wasn’t for another hour- they were so easy to talk to- and sometimes it was right when she finished eating, depending on her schedule.

She had a light load today so she allowed herself to linger for a while. Ruby gave her update first. She had dreamt of jumping off buildings and falling, then being lifted as if by a gust of air the moment before hitting the ground. “I wasn’t scared at all. Like, some part of me must have known it was a dream because I knew I wasn’t ever going to hit the ground! What do you think it means?”

Emma honestly didn’t think it meant anything, but she wasn’t going to put a damper on Ruby’s imagination. “Jumping off buildings, hmm?” Emma pondered a moment. “What if… it means you’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider? Or a magic mosquito?” Emma joked.

That made Ruby laugh wholeheartedly. “Come on Emma, really. What do you think? I wanna hear your idea before I tell you mine.” The girl was persistent.

“Well, let’s see... You said you were falling? I’ve heard that falling means you don’t feel like you have control of something in your life. Maybe changing Leroy’s order 10 times a day is wearing on you.”

“Oh, you’re exaggerating. He’s really not as grumpy as he lets on.”

“Anyway, I gave you my idea. What’s yours?”

“I think…” Ruby’s eyes widened. “Well I guess it felt like I was flying when I was lifted up. It was pure bliss, almost like being on a roller coaster, but I felt safer. And it just kept happening! So I think it was- hold on a sec.”

Ruby paused to welcome a guest. Emma didn’t know who it was, but apparently Ruby did.

Emma was still surprised that after nearly a month, she was still seeing new people all over the place. Give me a year and I’ll be listing them alphabetically, forwards and backwards.

“Anyway,” Ruby had taken care of the customer and was coming toward Emma, “So, now that I think about it, it’s more like I was flying. But yeah, I was like- I was kind of being taken for a ride on the wind. So here’s my theory.” Ruby leaned in closer and lowered her voice to give her words a more dramatic effect. Either that, or she didn’t want Granny to hear. “Maybe I’m feeling stuck, in this small town, in this diner. Maybe I want to fly away and let life take me wherever it leads.”

Uh oh, shit just got deep. Emma looked Ruby in the eyes. “Well, we can solve the problem with one question: do you feel trapped? Yes or no.”

“See, that’s the thing. I don’t know! I mean, I thought I was happy here. I never had any reason or ambition to leave. But now that I think about it… what if on my 30th birthday, I regret that I’ve never been to Australia? Or something.”

“Hmm…”

Ruby looked worried. “What if I’m meant to do something more with my life? What if my true calling is to be a fashion model but I never go to New York? What if I’m supposed to work for some super high tech agency? What if-”

“Ruby, I’m going to stop you right there and tell you, you are always going to have ‘what ifs’ in your life. For the rest of your life. But you also have to make a choice and accept why you made it. And you are more than capable of handling that. I know you.” Ruby smiled meekly. “Maybe you need to change up the program a little, get out and do something… different.”

“Like what?”

“Like… I don’t know.” Wait, duh. “Oh yeah! I was going to tell you about my night when you were done, but I guess now is as good a time as any. So I went to a tango class at the Seven Seasons.” Emma raised her eyebrows, knowing Ruby would take the hint.

“Yeah! The Nolans and their students eat here a lot, so I’ve heard of it before. Just never considered going myself.”

“Well, maybe you should! I went yesterday, and I’m going again tonight, but the beginner class is Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and first class is free. You might enjoy it.”

“Yeah sounds fun. I’ll think about it-”

“Think about your dream,” Emma goaded.

“Geez, I’ll go tomorrow,” Ruby giggled, “Wait, what’s tonight?”

“It’s a Q&A for more experienced people. They said I could go, even though I just started, to see what it’s like. I’m not sure you want that to be your first experience with it, just a suggestion.”

Ruby nodded. “Okay, yeah that makes sense. So tell me how it went!”

Another voiced chimed in. “Oh? And what is it we’re talking about?” Emma and Ruby turned to see Mrs. Lucas carrying a plate with Emma’s food. There was a well-done steak sprinkled with pepper, a baked potato with sour cream and green onions, and two slices of buttered toast. Emma also noticed a slice of key lime pie on the side that she hadn’t ordered.

“Hi, Mrs. Lucas. Just about tango last night… um, I didn’t order-”

“I know you didn’t. It’s on the house. And I’ve told you a hundred times, call me Granny.  Mrs. Lucas is entirely too formal.”

It warmed Emma’s heart, knowing these two ladies. They were probably the closest she’d ever had to family.

“Yes Gr- ”

“So, tell us about your night dear.” Mrs. Lucas leaned on the counter and positioned herself in such a way that she could see the door. Her left arm had a cast and sling on it. At this point, the only other person in the diner was the room was the customer Ruby had talked to, an average sized man wearing a hat. Emma studied him, but couldn’t see his face.

Emma took a gulp of water and cleared her throat. “Ruby said the Nolans come here a lot, so I guess you know about the Seven Seasons dance studio too, Granny?”

“Yes, it’s their life,” she answered, half rolling her eyes. She was wiping the counter with a damp rag. Emma hadn’t even seen her bring it out.

“Well, long story short, my job was wearing on me and I needed an outlet. So I talked to Mary and started tango. Last night was the first class. I danced with several people, most of whom I didn’t know, but they were very nice. Well, almost all of them were. And the teacher was… interesting.”

“Is that why you didn’t come in yesterday,” chimed Ruby.

“Ah no, something came up with work... Mary was two nights ago, and classes are in the evening.”

“Was it related to…” said Granny, glancing at her left arm.

“Mmhmm. I mean we can’t be 100% sure they’re all related incidents, but seems like its same guy who got you.”

“Well they’ll be in for a surprise when they find out that ol’ gun probably doesn’t work,” Granny whispered, “the Ticklicker has been in our family for ages, but not once have I seen her fired.”

Emma nodded, thoughtfully, trying not to react at the strange name of the family rifle.

“Still,” Mrs. Lucas continued, “It would be a shame if we didn’t see her again. I was hoping to pass it on to Ruby eventually...”

Ruby turned away from Granny and rolled her eyes.

Emma stifled her laughter by digging into the pie first. She appreciated the tart gift and wanted Granny to know. “So back to tango,” she said between bites, “The teacher’s name is Killian Jones.”

“He’s quite a character isn’t he?” Ruby said. She flinched, almost shocked that she had spoken. “Sorry… go on.”

“Yeah he is, but he’s also incredibly talented… and a very good teacher. I wish he’d lighten up on the cologne a bit, though.”

“Yeah, he is pretty potent. I always notice when he walks in. I’ve never seen him dance. What was it like?” Ruby had an expression like stone on her face. Well, as stony as she could get. Emma didn’t need her superpower to see right through it.

Granny silently excused herself to clear the table where the man in the hat had been sitting. Emma had been too invested in her food and conversation that she hadn’t seen him leave.

She cut a piece of steak and stuck it in her mouth. It was crunchy and charred on the outside, and the fresh pepper gave it just the right amount of zest. The inside was brown and juicy, but not bleeding. Emma had had Granny make several steaks over the weeks before discovering that this was her favorite. She could also taste hints of salt, lemon, and rosemary.

“Go on, I can hear you from here,” Granny said. Emma quickly swallowed her food- she could talk more openly now that they were alone in the restaurant. She glanced at the clock and saw that it was exactly 1:40.

“To be honest… Seeing him dance with… with her… was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” She hadn’t meant to put such a strong inflection on the word “her”, but it was enough for the other two to notice.

Ruby giggled. “Someone jealous she didn’t get to dance with Mr. Jones, hmm?”

“What? Oh. …No! That’s not it I--- just let me finish my thought. Anyway, it was incredible! I didn’t know two people could be so in sync with each other mentally and physically. If I’m jealous of anything, it’s that I haven’t experienced that kind of connection with anyone… doing anything! Plus, he was the first person I danced with.” Emma quickly shoved another bite of steak and potato into her mouth to shut herself up. She had obliterated the pie.

“Geez Emma, I was kidding,” Ruby smirked.

Emma swallowed again. “Well, maybe I can’t put how amazing it was into words. So since you’re going tomorrow, you can see for yourself.”

Granny raised an eyebrow from the kitchen, where she had brought the soiled dishes. Emma guessed she’d ask Ruby what that was all about later.

“Yeah, yeah. By the way, who is this “her” you mentioned?”

“Oh, no one. Just Regina. The mayor.”

The diner went silent. Ruby fiddled with napkins in the holders as if she had just remembered it was the most important thing in the world. Granny knelt to load dishes into the dishwasher.

Emma set down her fork. “Ok… is there something I should know about the mayor? I mentioned her name and now you two are acting strange.”

“No we’re not,” Ruby said. Her voice cracked as she spoke.

“You’re lying to me. I can tell. I can always tell.”

“What would I possibly have to hide?”

“You tell me. You’re acting really guilty.”

“Emma. It’s nothing. Just let it be.”

“Fine.”

Ruby shrunk away into the kitchen, and Emma ate the rest of her meal in silence. Emma was annoyed that they were keeping something from her. But she was even more intrigued by whatever was up with Regina. This woman obviously had a history that people weren’t willing to talk about.

Emma picked up her napkin and cleaned her face and hands. A minute later, Mrs. Lucas came over with the bill and collected the payment. Emma left a couple of extra dollars on the counter, as was the norm for her.

Ruby held the door open for Emma, her eyes like a puppy’s. Emma gave in and smiled. She didn’t want Ruby to think she was mad at her, because she really wasn’t. She just wished they hadn’t been so secretive… and lied about it. A simple “we’d rather not discuss it” would have sufficed. Emma thought she meant more to them than that… but that’s how her life was. Figures.

“Later. I better see you in class tomorrow if I don’t see you at lunch, Ruby.”

Ruby’s face relaxed. “Yeah, definitely!” she said cheerfully.

-------

It was after 4:00pm when Emma dropped things off at the post office, concluding her list of errands for work. The day had flown by, but she still felt like there was plenty of time to spare. One last stop. Now that she had finished all the “important” things, she could do personal errands- today that meant stopping by Geppetto’s and getting shoes.

When she had found the place, she was surprised at its appearance. It was more like a large garage than a store. The name of the store was displayed in an archaic font across the top of the opening.

Emma got out of her car and went toward the open door. She guessed the man sitting behind the desk at the back of the room was the owner. He was an older man, almost completely bald except for the small line of gray and white hair that reached from ear to ear, around the back of his head, and ran right into his facial hair, a white beard and mustache that covered half his face.

“Welcome!” he said when he saw her, “what brings you here today?” He had a distinguishable accent, which Emma presumed was Italian.  

“Hi, I’m Emma Swan. And you are…?”

“Pardon, I’m not used to having to introduce myself. I’m this store’s namesake- Geppetto at your service,” he said with a chuckle.

“Not a problem, I understand. I’ve been here a few weeks as the new detective, so I’m still getting to know the town. I’ve been told not much has changed in the last few decades.” Emma brushed her hand over a solid wood cabinet and said “I just started a tango class last night, so I was told to come here for shoes… wow, you have some beautiful things in here.”

“Thank you, sweetheart. Oh, it was Mary who sent you here, wasn’t it? She’s always looking for ways to support my shop- she even buys her own shoes from me. Give her my thanks.”

“Will do.”

“Well, let’s have a look, shall we? Your shoe size is…”

“Eight.”

“All right, please excuse me a moment.”

Geppetto stood up, turned around, and went through a door behind his desk. Emma though it looked like it went into the house, but it could have also been a storage area. She hadn’t seen enough to tell.

While she waited, she browsed the rest of his goods. There were definitely a lot of clocks. There were other pieces of furniture, dolls, knick-knacks, and even some paintings, but wow, they did not compare to the number of clocks. Emma wondered if the old man had made of the wares all himself, or if he had employees or partners.

He returned with a pair of shoes in his hand. No box. It was still strange to see how differently people did things in small towns as opposed to the city.

Emma took the shoes, thanked him, and removed her own shoes, brown boots laced to the knees. She slipped on the left shoe she got from Geppetto, and then the right. They were light brown with small heels- about two inches- and the straps latched over the top of her foot to the ankle. There was a cup for the heel, cushioned on the top- to prevent blisters, she figured. The material on the soles was incredibly soft and felt cool to the bottom of her foot as it touched. “Is this real leather?” she asked.

“Of course, I use nothing less! The rest is solid wood covered with fabric.” he beamed.

Emma got up and walked around, keeping her arms out for balance at first, and then relaxing them as she found her balance. “Wow, these are comfy!”

“Heh heh… I knew you’d like them. My works are like my children, so I find the perfect match for every customer.”

“Looks like you found mine. That went a lot faster than I expected. What do I owe you?”

“As a first time customer visiting Geppetto’s shop, I have a special price for you- only thirty-five dollars. You won’t find better quality at this price.”

“I doubt I’ll find better quality anywhere at any price,” Emma said warmly.

Emma removed the heels and put her own shoes back on. She placed the shoes on the counter, as Geppetto strode over to the register. Emma handed him two 20 dollar bills, and he gave her a 5.

She thanked him and headed back to her car.

“Take good care of them! And tell me what you think,” he called out, waving to her over the counter.

“Will do!” Emma shouted over her shoulder as she opened the door.

Emma was finally on her way home, after stopping by the office one last time. She met Graham there and gave him a quick recap of her day, asking him if there were any new developments.

----------

By the time she left for class, she had eaten, dressed, watched a bit of some soap opera that was on TV, and applied some light eye makeup. She wore her brown boots outside- she had seen people the previous night changing shoes just for class.

As she drove, she had a bizarre sense of reality for a moment- she knew she was driving, and she knew she was almost at the studio, but she felt like she had skipped forward in time. There was a whole block of time that was a complete blank, but suddenly she was at her destination, and could not recall at once how she had gotten there, or even what she had been thinking about. But I made it safely, so I guess that’s what counts.

She grabbed her new shoes by the backs and went inside, greeting Mary as she passed through the reception area.

As she walked through the hall she wondered vaguely if Regina was going to be there, and was annoyed that she cared. Why should she? But she supposed that someone as beautiful, yet insufferable, was noteworthy whether she liked it or not. She hit the elevator button and shooed away her thoughts. Instead, she mentally prepared herself, reviewing everything she knew.

The door opened before she finished. She stepped into the room and took note of who was there. Mr. Killian was there of course, as well as several people she had met the day before, like Ella, Mike, Belle, and Ted. Upon noticing her, Ted waved enthusiastically at Emma. A little too enthusiastically, she thought, as she mentally shot down Graham’s less-than-subtle offer to set them up. There were, however, less than half the people here than at the beginner’s class. And no Regina.

Emma’s heart sunk which, again, annoyed her. Why the hell was she reacting this way at Regina’s absence? Regina had not been particularly nice to her and had this attitude that she was just above everyone else.

Yet, Emma was disappointed that she didn’t see her. What’s wrong with you, brain? It was almost laughable.

She didn’t beat herself up over it too much though. She resolved- or rather convinced herself- that it was because of the shoes. She must have wanted to prove to Regina that she was competent and had her own pair, and then Regina could shut up about it.

Actually, that sounded really immature when she put it that way.

Stop it Emma.

She went to say hi to everyone.

She greeted Mr. Killian first, and he welcomed her with a smile and a fervent hug. She quickly went to around to as many people as she could to say “hi” and “nice to see you again”, and got compliments on her new shoes. Before long Mr. Killian instructed them to grab a partner and warm up with walks.

The warm up was quick- she had gone through three partners when they were told to stop and form a circle.

“Who’d like to start?” Mr. Killian asked the group once the circle had been formed.

A few seconds passed until, finally, Belle raised a hand and said, “Can we go over the timing of the Sentada we learned on Tuesday?”

“Right. Ella, may I borrow you?”

Ella came forward at once and they fell comfortably into an open embrace. Mr. Killian spent a few minutes demonstrating the “Sentada”, explaining to the leads how to signal the start, and to the follows how to read the signal. It was some sort of lift- Ella, or the follow, jumped up, folded both knees over one of Mr. Killian’s thighs, and sat sideways. Ella didn’t do it correctly right away, but Mr. Killian used it as a troubleshooting exercise for anyone having difficulty with it.

Emma thought she understood it pretty well, until she actually tried it. Her partners were gracious and helpful, though, so she pulled it off, albeit sloppily, a couple times.

They circled up a couple more times, and when there were no more questions, Mr. Killian figured out something else for them to work on.

She could handle this class, she thought. She’d double check with him for his opinion, and if he gave her the green light, she’d be tangoing four days a week.

Her last partner of the evening was Mike. He helped her refine her spins, as well as one or two of the things she had learned tonight.

“A-any luck finding who broke into my house?” he said later. Emma was surprised he still couldn’t look her in the eyes, but she guessed it took some longer than others to get comfortable with new people.

“Nothing yet. I’m still wracking my brain for some kind of connection… or a clue. Why does this guy have to be so good at this?”

“Well, every thief gets caught, eventually.”

“You can say that again.” Emma knew all too well. A long time ago, she’d been one. She’d had her own run-ins with the law. And yes, she had been caught. She had faith in her abilities to catch this person, and she wouldn’t give up until the culprit was behind bars.

“I hope you find him soon, that Pysanka really meant a lot to me.”

“That what?”

“I… uh… told you yesterday. The egg?”

“Oh yes- sorry- I remember now. The one from your mother.”

“Yeah it’s the only one I have, and it’s irreplaceable.”

Hmm... Emma had a hunch creeping at the outskirts of her brain. She tuned everything around her out the best she could… it was right there. She was so lost in thought she almost tripped over her feet when she heard Mike.

“Emma? Y-you ok?”

“Yeah, sorry, I was just… thinking about something.”

“Ok because class is, ah… over.”

Emma looked around the room. Everyone was gathering their things from the lockers or standing near the walls chatting. Whoops.

“Sorry, Mike, I must have been more out of it than I realized.”

“Heh… yeah.”

Emma thanked him for his help and picked up her stuff from the lockers as well. A mixture of relief and a little disappointment passed over her when she noticed Ted walking out with Ella. Shrugging, she then went over to Mr. Killian.

“So… what do you think? Should I keep coming to Thursdays?” she asked him when he was free.

“I admit, you learn rather quickly. As long as you’re comfortable, it’s fine by me.”

Emma beamed. “Great! I guess I’ll see you tomorrow then! Oh, and it’s ok if I bring a friend, right?”

“Yes, that’s perfectly fine. Just come a bit early and have her meet Mary Margaret so she can sign the waiver and all that.”

“Awesome, I’ll bring her with me tomorrow then.”

“Good and done. If I may ask, who is this lovely lady?”

“You probably know her- Ruby, from Granny’s diner?”

“Ah, yes. I never forget a pretty face like that one.” He grinned amiably.

“I’ll tell her you said hi if I see her at lunch tomorrow,” Emma said, smirking. What if…

She said her farewells, and was up the elevator and in her car moments later. She set her shoes on the floor and her jacket on the passenger’s seat. She sat back and stretched before she turned the key in the ignition.

She had been driving a bit when she passed by Freesia street, where the first incident in the case file had taken place. She remembered meeting Mr. Mordin and investigating the area around his home and the inside of his car. She glanced over as she passed his house, then looked back at the road.

Then it hit her. The revelation she was unable to grasp when dancing with Mike. The connection between the incidents- what the culprit was after.

She glanced over again, zeroing in on Mr. Mordin’s car.

She thought back to each of the reports. Yes, the hood ornament, a piece of jewelry, Mike’s egg, and Mrs. Lucas… her rifle?

That had to be it. What else could the thief be after if it obviously wasn’t money, and the victims in each case were unrelated?

Emma gripped the steering wheel impatiently. She had to write this down before the thought left her. She found a good place to park on the street, turned the overhead light on, and grabbed her notebook.

She flipped to a blank page, clicked her pen open, and scribbled hastily onto the page:

                possible motive: possessions of sentimental value.