As long as she was home sick she might as well put a few hours into her investigation of her dad and Alice. Adding Alice’s past to the investigation was an exciting angle. She couldn’t imagine why she hadn’t thought of it before.
That gave her pause. Why hadn’t she thought to investigate Alice before?
As she thought about it, she remembered back to when Alice had first arrived in her life. She’d been upset, she’d felt betrayed by Dad, but she hadn’t been suspicious. It was like it had taken the last few years for her to start seeing Alice as she was. It was the same with Dad. It was like he was slowly waking up over the last three years too.
But wait, that wasn’t right either. As she cast her memory further back, Alice had always been weird, complacent and domestic, but it was more recently that her behavior had started to change and the “accidents” had started happening.
Back in her room, she got dressed. Her head felt a little better. She went downstairs and wiggled the mouse on Dad’s computer till it powered up. Dad had made a login for her and Alice, but it had been fairly easy to get through his security.
Breaking into his user account was a skill she’d avoided for a while. It felt dishonest knowing how to circumvent people’s locks, but working around Dad’s rules was tricky. Her only option was to look in his things.
Not that it mattered. Dad never kept anything important on his account. It was like he knew she’d get in.
Firing up Google gave her pause. What would she search for?
First and foremost, Alistair McGee was a weird name. The first few times she’d plugged it into Google, the window wouldn’t reload. The browser just stopped working. She tried restarting the computer, but it still didn’t work. She tried loading a different page, which worked fine. A few weeks later, she tried it again, but she could only fine a business page for a man in Australia.
Since searching for Dad never worked, she was probably stuck with looking up Alice. She wished she could search for Mom, but Dad would never tell Miranda her name. Finding Alice would probably not be any easier. She didn’t even know Alice’s maiden name.
She tried a few searches on the first name Alice connected to news items on escapees from mental institutions. Nothing came up. She tried searching arrest records in Wyoming with the name Alice, but there were hundreds. Lot’s of Alice’s got arrested. She wished she could look through head-shots.
She sighed. For all she knew, Alice had fled from another state and shown up in Wyoming right when Dad had met her.
She erased the record of her logging in and logged out.
The only other option was Dad’s safe.
It was out in the garage. Alice was busy upstairs cleaning the bathroom, so Miranda didn’t have to make any excuses when she went out there.
The safe sat in the corner next to the yard tools, covered in cobwebs. It was greenish metal, about the size of milk crate, it was originally the kind with a turn dial on it.
A couple of towns ago he’d caught her examining it. He’d hired a mover to help him take it away. The two of them strained to get it to the guy’s truck. She’d thought he’d had it thrown out, but it came back a week later with a new electronic keypad and all the brand information welded off.
It’d taken her a few months to realize he’d done this to keep her from researching the make and model. Ironically, it was that realization that made her decide to learn how to break in.
Now, with the safe in the garage, she had some peace to work on it.
On the other side of the safe were a pile of old computer parts. Like Dad was ever going to make something out of them.
Most keypad safes used a four, six or nine numerical sequence. If it was only a four digit sequence, she had a mere 10,000 possibilities, she’d started logging those, but then she found out that there were locks that you could choose the number of digits, which meant Dad could have a four, five, six … all the way up to a nine digit combination. That meant there were were 1,111,110,000 possibilities.
That’s when she switched to guessing what numbers were important to Dad. She would have been disappointed if Dad had used her birthday, or wedding day, or anything obvious like that, but it was frustrating when she’d used up all the numbers she could imagine Dad caring about.
The safe sat there, like it was mocking her. When she tapped the star key, the panel lit up. She was worried that with all her attempts, the battery in the thing would die.
She typed Pi to the fourth, fifth, etc digits. She Tried e and i, but neither worked. Dad was smart.
She’d have to try something else. She draped the cobwebs back over the face of the safe and went back upstairs.
Really, she didn’t feel that bad, just exhausted.
The sound of Alice vacuuming came through the floor. It would be a shame to waste a day now that she had school off.
That reminded her she needed to get her class assignments. Maybe she could ask Cindy?
If Alice let her go out, she could maybe look up Alice’s history.
Why hadn’t she thought of that before? Alice had to have had a life before Miranda’s dad met her! If she could find her name, she could look up where she came from. Maybe Alice even had a police history. Time in a mental institution, jail time. Who knew?
What did she know about Alice?
She sat there for five minutes before she admitted to herself that she had a complete blank. She didn’t know Alice’s maiden name, where she came from. The more she thought about it, she realized that she’d never had a single conversation with Alice about her life before dad.
The town where dad had met her was … Laramie, Wyoming. Was Alice from there?
That was as good a place to start as any. She started a new page and wrote Alice at the top, drawing a blank line after her name. Underneath she jotted Laramie, Wyoming.
She paused. The page looked empty and intimidating with nothing on it.
She had a little experience navigating Aught’s city hall. Hopefully that would translate into being able to investigate Alice’s past in another town.
Miranda had tried the same thing with Dad, without much luck, but maybe Alice’s past was less murky.
Dad had never told her where they came from originally. For all she knew she was born in this very town. Whatever he was running from, he hadn’t left any trail. That was probably good if people were after him, but it was frustrating not to know.
She closed the book. Now Cindy wanted her to investigate her mystery. Miranda was starting to think she wasn’t a good at investigating anything.
And what was worse, she still didn’t know what to do with Cindy’s dads. Five dads and the … bird thing.
She lay back on her bed.
Dad said the single most important start to any process was to clear your head and see what was true in that very moment. As she breathed, she ran over what was going on in her own body. She was breathing deeply, her left foot itched, her shirt felt light against her skin, she was a little hungry.
The true things she knew were that Dad had a secret, Alice was possibly homicidally crazy, Cindy had five Dads.
Wait, what was confirmed was that Cindy lived in a house with five men who claimed were her dads … and could transform into canaries. Ugh!
Well, she’d only seen one of them transform.
She wasn’t sure she believed entirely in magic, but say she did. That could be evidence that there were things that straight logic didn’t cover.
Hmmm … If magic was possible, then maybe Dad’s problems were magic in origin too? Maybe dad was running from a cabal of vampires? Werewolves? Maybe an intergalactic space god?
She giggled. Maybe Alice was under a magic spell.
She frowned. That’d explain a lot.
She couldn’t investigate magic, but she could look up records of Alice’s past. She grabbed her notebook and ran down to the living room.
Miranda wasn’t sure why anyone needed to wear an apron to vacuum, but Alice always did. She went and sat on the couch across from Alice.
Alice shut off the vacuum cleaner. “Honey, do you want to watch TV? I can do this later.”
“No thanks, Alice.”
Alice smiled. “Silly bug, call me Mom.” She went to turn on the vacuum cleaner.
“Actually, I was thinking that some fresh air might make me feel better.”
Alice nodded. “That’s a fine idea. Make sure you wear a coat.”
That was easy.