The Shamus Austin Shopping Complex

Precisely two blocks down from the Gloria Scott, and more or less equidistant from the most frequented transit hub in the area, the Shamus Austin Shopping Complex had always set itself up in a sort of 'faux' community competition with its supposed rival mall. The truth of the matter was, as it usually is in these cases, that their particulars worked more like an interlocking jigsaw puzzle of shops, with each filling in the nooks and crannies that the other didn't quite cater to, and thus the two malls got a fairly even split of the local spenders.

This didn't stop the local common perception of the two malls existing as bitter enemies from permeating most matters to do with them, and signs of business-like cooperation, such as each mall holding its major events on different days, tended to go unnoticed by the masses.

Regardless of what Jocelyn or Jacky, or indeed what their navis, thought of the pseudo political climate, the actual climate as they approached their destination was really rather crisp and cutting. A chill wind blew, and it would make stepping into the main entryway of the Shamus Austin something of a relief.

The main entrance itself was large and airy, and majority made of glass paneling that looked out to the small decorative gardens that wove their way through the divides in the parking areas. Further in, past the pale yellow marble columns, the entrance arch gave way to a moderate sitting area that branched out in all directions. Most of them here seemed to lead into food retail outlets; a news agency, two cafes, a coffee shop, a bakery and a sandwich bar. The main thoroughfare also lead on into the wide passages of the rest of the two-level complex, but obscuring some of that view from the entrance was a large electronic board that held a map and key for finding one's way around the mall.

The shop that they had been assigned to meet their new client at was called "How-Do-You-Doo?", and was apparently located at the southern end of the mall, up one escalator from ground level, in the section that seemed to be mostly health and beauty shops.

Of course, while the poster would have been notified of their acceptance, there was no hard and fast arrival time predicted for them, so if anyone felt like a bit of judicious skiving before finding their employer, that was always an option. There was a good chance they'd probably be vising some of these places anyway, but if checked, the sign could also lead them to whever they wished to explore. The competition mall's main food court was at ground level, taking up most of the north wing; the sport/garden/greenlife section was to the lower east, while the section which mostly contained shops for home goods, games or electronics was upper level north. Lower south, according to the key, held an esoteric assortment of miscellaneous shops and kitsch ware that didn't seem to fit anywhere else, while upper east held a large brand department store, which was coincidentally, the competition chain to the department store housed in part of the Gloria Scott.

Wherever they went inside the mall complex, the tile underfoot was a dull cream yellow, inlaid with green trimming, and glass panel sky-lights were a big theme for lighting the expansive areas.
After what was a decent morning jog for Jacky and an easy ride for Jocelyn, the two arrived at the Shamus Austin Shopping Complex. Sleuth took as much of a look around as she could from her PET and placed one of her gloved thumbs to her chin thoughtfully. "You know, Jocelyn, it occurs to me that we really should have put you in different clothing before we arrived. After all, your presence as the mysterious 'angel of the Gloria Scott' is somewhat well known. Any authorities here at the mall might recognize your uniform and show you some hostility," she warned her operator. The pensive look slowly turned to a grin as she regarded the situation. "Fear not! I have a lot of experience talking to on-site authorities about why I am dressed in an unusual fashion! If the situation arises, I'll help you through it."

"Thank you kindly! Of course, I also have a trick up my sleeve," Jocelyn announced, rolling up one of her already short sleeves to the point of her shoulder and make a silly flex, placing one hand upon her dainty bicep. "A willingness to cooperate and try my very hardest! I think they'll find themselves so pleased that there will be no point in protesting. After all, when you think about it, they'll sort of be getting free help from their competition and who could ask for a better situation?"

"A surprisingly logical thought," Sleuth nodded. "However, wrong! We want to be relatively hush-hush with what we're doing here at the mall. After all, our employer didn't trust the authorities to begin with, or he or she wouldn't have asked us here. No, it's best that we be discrete and, if for some reason we do meet the authorities, we'll tell them a simple white lie. Of course, luckily, one of our partners is very good at lying."

"Miss Jacky? I thought her medical experience seemed a bit suspect, when her navi ended up being the one with the most practical advice," Jocelyn whispered in a gossipy fashion.

Sleuth returned an unamused expression, which slowly turned into an awkward, crooked smile as she continued talking. "No, Miss Hyde. I should warn you, by the message she returned at the GNA post, our employer may have a first impression of us that includes imagining me as Hyde's kinky, eccentric 'owner' in an sadist-slash-masochist relationship, due to our new friend's oh-so spontaneous behavior," she informed her operator.

"Wow... That sounds a misinterpretation, based on what I know!" Jocelyn responded, covering her mouth with surprise (but not the prerequisite amount of embarrassment that you'd imagine would go with it). "Well, it's going to be a bit hard for me to lie to the authorities here... after all, they're my brothers and sisters in mall security! I wouldn't want anyone obstructing my job in such a fashion. Then again... I suppose if they had good cause, I wouldn't mind. And we do have good cause, so I'd say we're in the right. I'll keep that in mind, the next time a culprit tells me not to suspect him: he may be on a mission for the greater good that requires him to appear guilty!"

"We need to have a serious discussion about how you're choosing to retain and interpret information, but we'll save that for another, private time. We're entering the main mall now and ought to keep our task quiet here."


The girls would traverse a good span of the mall, one on foot and one on segway (assuming no one confiscated Jocelyn's), before they'd come upon their destination. The trip had given Jocelyn time to reflect upon the differences between the mall where she worked and the 'shopping complex' across the way. "The colors just aren't to my liking," she finally resolved, as if that was the most important difference. "I prefer the pristine and familiar blue and white tile of the Gloria Scott. But I suppose maybe it grows on the workers and the customers who frequent this place?"

"I prefer brown myself," Sleuth added.

"A brown mall? My, but you're a unique thinker!" Jocelyn gasped in amazement. "I can't quite picture it! Perhaps you could sketch it out for me later?" she asked, in a way that would be interpreted as sarcastic rather than literal by one who knew Jocelyn less well. "What do you think, Miss Jacky, Miss Hyde? Have you ever seen something so curious as a brown mall?" That thought really ought to be far from their minds as they took in the far more important scenery of How-Do-You-Doo, the interestingly named shop where they'd been guided.

"Now now!" Sleuth sighed, becoming fed up with listening to so much Jocelyn. It turned out that malls were one topic of which Jocelyn had enough day-to-day experience and interest to talk at length about. Jocelyn giggled, which caused Sleuth to grimace at her. "What is it?"

"I was just thinking when you said that... 'How now, brown cow!' It's something I used to recite when I took speech lessons with my tutor."

"You'd be surprised how much I hear the expression 'brown cow' myself," Sleuth added, looking aside and smiling bitterly, more out of her irritation at getting off topic than finding the memories unpleasant. "But please, please, pleeeease, I beg that you focus! Try to single out our employer as quickly as possible!"

"I'm on the case!" Jocelyn announced, pressing one hand to the right side of her expansive chest before beginning to glide around the mall on her scooter, looking for anyone who was in turn looking for them.
The walk had been a bit nippy, so Jacky was glad she'd worn her turtleneck. Frankly, it had also been a bit longer than Jacky was used to: she'd thought she was up for it, but in the end, she found herself wishing she'd just gone to her car and driven the short way. Since Jocelyn and Sleuth seemed to be engaged in conversation of their own, she had a brief intermission with Hyde.

"But honestly, I didn't get to see Sleuth and the curiosity is biting," Hyde confessed, although she didn't look particularly upset or anticipatory one way or another. "What kind of Navi does she seem to be?"

"She's a female detective, it appears, and dresses as a classical detective. I assume the reason is to make her occupation immediately apparent. She seems like a free-spirited type, but with a sharp enough intellect to keep Jocelyn in line."

"Yes. My apologies, but I've heard as much as you from her, so I can draw my own conclusions to her personality. I'm mostly curious as to appearance. What should I be prepared for? Is she human-like or not? You must understand, I've only had very limited Navi-to-Navi interactions."

Internally, Jacky thought it was more likely that Hyde was subconsciously gathering more information at the behest of her alter-ego so it could begin scheming prematurely, but she didn't say so. "Well, she's a fan of the color brown, and that seems to be the coloration of the majority of her wardrobe..." "... Besides her undergarment, which I'd really call closer to yellow," she didn't add, thinking that couldn't possibly help anyone involved. "She has very short hair, and I don't have any hypothesis as to the reason. She has... well, she's... endowed," Jacky finished, monitoring Hyde's reaction carefully.

Hyde simply nodded, raising her eyebrow a bit curiously at the silence that followed.

Jacky became aware that Hyde was awkwardly looking for the significance in that piece of information, so she decided to move on. "If I had to guess at a reason for the endowment, I'd say it's so she can use charm and seduction as a method of manipulation on male interrogation targets... that sort of thing."

"Or female, if she and the target were so inclined?" Hyde brought this up conversationally, as if it was a point of objective interest.

Jacky frowned, believing Hyde was really only asking this to see if she could be made to squirm. To continue to poke at her boundaries and test her reactions... "Yes. I suppose so."

"Well then. I happen to fancy the color brown as well!" Hyde mentioned, pressing a hand to her entirely un-brown cloak which concealed her entirely un-brown outfit. "I'm sure we'll get along famously."

"I'm sure," Jacky replied, noncommittally. She realized that she'd been following Jocelyn's lead unquestioningly, but just as she was beginning to wonder if that was a mistake, it seemed they had arrived at their destination. She heard a question directed at her, but she didn't think it was one that warranted a particularly large amount of concentration. "Ah, a brown mall... I can't say I've ever been to one." She didn't really have any further thoughts, as to whether a brown mall would be attractive, or popular, or economically sound... after all, she didn't have much interest in malls regardless, and certainly not in their aesthetic properties (any further than judging their safety and whether or not she met their target customer profile). "Anyway, I must agree with Sleuth here. Let us try and focus our attentions on locating the client and starting our mission."

Jacky began scanning the shop to get more information on its purpose, as well as locate their employer. She didn't think they would be searching long. Whizzing about on her scooter and fully outfitted as a mall cop, Jocelyn was sure to catch the attention of whoever they were seeking out... provided they were actually here.
As the pair entered, and began to explore, the mall, each chatted amiably with their respective navis and only briefly with one another. Even so, they drew a few looks from early-morning shoppers, though in all likelihood that was simply Jocelyn on her segway. There hadn't been anyone official to stop her from riding it around the interior of the complex, and the one security guard they did pass on their way to the health and beauty section only watched them pass with raised eyebrows.

It wasn't too hard to locate the shop they were after; 'How-do-you-Doo?' turned out to be, somewhat predictably, a hair salon, and at this stage of the morning, most of the chairs were empty. The sore itself was quite deep, with the salon and treatment section on the left, running the length of the shop, while a divider of various products and merchandise separated it from... well actually just from a few more aisles of goods that were for sale. Apparently they had a sale on Lady-Jayne hair brushes and combs at the moment, but that was the most remarkable thing about the store, overall. It seemed like a fairly standard mall salon.

The counter was to the right of the entrance, and was half cluttered with more small product displays and minor slae items. If anyone wanted a twenty pack of rainbow hair ties, they were a steal right now. More importantly, however, the woman behind the counter looked their way as they entered, and she pressed her hands together with a small, nervous grin. Apparently, as hoped, the pair had more or less stuck out as the ones she was expecting, if for no other reason than that she wasn't really expecting anyone else to show up at this time anyway.

The one that was, presumably, their petitioner, stood quite tall, though a part of that at least came from her high, curling hair style, and possibly also her stiletto heels, once she stepped out and around the counter to greet them. Her hair was a distinctly unnatural shade of cerulean, although it matched her eyes and went well with her pale, flawless skin. A matching blue blouse and crisp white under-shirt only seemed to embellish the woman's bust, which, while not massive, had the unfortunate effect of looking over-large on her otherwise slender frame. The disproportion was clear enough that chances of the assets being original was probably quite slim.

As well as the blouse, she was wearing a short-cut pleated skirt in a blue that matched the rest of her theme, along with white stockings. The heels themselves were, predictably the same blue. Some people just had to co-ordinate, after all, and it was no surprise in anyone operating any shop that revolved around fashion or beauty.

She seemed a little uncertain how to greet the pair exactly, eyes flicking back and forth while she wondered who to address, but eventually she settled on Jacky.

"Good morning, good morning, You two would be... from the GNA? Please, I'm Damson, I requested your help. Ahh, perhaps you could come through to the back with me, where we can talk more privately?" There was a hint of something north-netopian in her accent, but exactly what was hard to pin down. It was only very faint.

Provided there were no objections, Damson would lead the two back through the short aisles, pausing briefly to let her one client, who was resting with her eyes shut in one of the salon machines, that she was stepping into the back for a bit, before taking them through a door at the rear of the salon. The back office wasn't particularly large, and mostly only had room for a single working desk, a bookcase and a few seats. One of the mall-standard security cameras in the top corner of the room had a small silken cloth draped over it, but otherwise the room was undecorated.

Damson indicated the available seats for the girls, choosing to sit on the corner of the desk herself, rather than drop down behind it like some sort of interviewer.

"So, I am Damson, and there's a small matter that has me somewhat in distress. It's a pleasure to meet you both. How may I call you both? You are a..." She glanced back and forth, only a little bit uncertain in her guess, but equally unsure how to phrase it, before focusing most of her attention on Jacky again. "Ahh, you are partners, yes? I was a little worried when I read the responses, but I must say, the costume is very believable! I am quite reassured!" Said responses seemed to have led their client to a number of unfortunate assumptions, first about Sleuth and Hyde, and apparently, leading from that, about Jacky and Jocelyn too... and about the nature and actual origins of Jocelyn's mall security uniform. Even so, she seemed quite eager to press on with describing her problem to them, faint spots of colour rising in her cheeks as she rushed on quickly enough to give neither of them an opportunity to correct her just yet.

"It's a delicate issue, and I can't talk to any of the actual security here, or the police. I know too many of them, you see, and I'd hate for anyone I know to know this about me. Oh my, I'm terrified even to tell it to strangers that I'll never see again after this, but I suppose I must, mustn't I? It's, ah, well, you see, something quite important to me has gone missing. It's not where it should be, but there's only so many people that might have taken it. I don't think any of them knew it existed at all, so it was probably just a crime of opportunity, I suppose... but, I, oh the shame of it.... No-one should have been looking in my bottom drawer anyway, but I can think of no other answer!" She paused for breath, only to bluster on, the spots in her cheeks growing into a progressively brighter blush.

"We're all friends here at Shamus, you know, not like those fiends at the Gloria, and well, most of the shop keeps here have operated their shops in different locations through the mall, over time... the sections move every now and then, so, you know, most of us know quite well the tricks for getting into just about any shop in the mall when the rollers are down, because we've all had to do it at some point, you know? Only, that means that anyone could have slipped in when I was out, but I just can't think who would have, or why, and I just don't know what to do, really!" Her cheeks were crimson by this point, and her words were growing quieter as she raised one hand to bite unconsciously at perfectly manicured fingernails, obscuring her mouth. Fortunately for all present, another new voice spoke up to help clear matters up, at least partially.

"If you don't tell them what it is, dear, they're never going to be able to help you." The voice was bright, but with a hint of refinement in it; feminine, and a lot calmer than Damson. It came from the woman's PET, which was resting on the desk beside where she was sitting. Damson herself nodded, but didn't seem comforted by this.

"I know, I know, but it's... oh I can't just say. It's, it's..." She winced, squeezing her eyes shut as her hands clenched into small fists in embarrassed frustration. After a moment she pushed through her own barrier in a way that led to a torrent of explanation.

"It's a custom designed personal massage device that I ordered specially! It's got five drive motors and reticulated flexible motion capability with full one-eighty range both vertical and horizontal at any depth, with thirty settings for strength, speed, pulsing and movement, and memory for ten more completely programmable custom sets and patterns. It's got ten modes for texture control via micro-structures in the outer silica layer, so it can be anything from glass-smooth to rough, with programmable locations for shaping and ridging. It's self-lubricating and takes cream cartridges to emulate actual—" By this point her excessively accelerated diatribe of explanation rose to a mortified squeak as the woman herself ended up with her hands pressed to her face. On the bright side, having fallen silent now, the girls had a proper chance to get a word in, at last.

"It's such an unusual idea! I'd be surprised if either of us had been to a brown mall, personally. You just never see them," Jocelyn chuckled, happy that Jacky had confirmed her suspicion that a brown shopping center was a rare, outlandish sort of thing. "I'm sorry. I'll try to focus on the mission rather than the mall," she apologized, refocusing on the task before her.

The proprietor (or perhaps employee?) of How-do-you-Doo turned out to be their employer for the mission; there would be no mistaking her for anything other than a professional hairdresser, with or without the context of where she worked, so long as she sported that giant hair. "Good to meet you! I'm Jocelyn Yard. Miss Damson, we're here from the GNA to assist you with your problem!" she introduced herself, pressing her right hand dramatically over one of her large breasts. "I'll be happy to head to the back if you wish to speak privately." And so she did, still riding her scooter.

Once in private, the seeds of confusion sewn by Hyde continued to take root, but Jocelyn was clueless to the meaning of any of it (or really, to the fact that anything was fishy at all). "We are indeed partners! We'll work together as a cohesive unit to solve whatever problem you're having. This isn't a costume, however; it's a uniform! I'm a mall security officer, inside and out," she reassured Damson, pointing at the name badge on the chest of her shirt. It was the kind of thing nobody would have missed to begin with upon meeting her, as the eyes were sort of already drawn there.

Sleuth sighed, realizing what unfortunate conclusion Damson had drawn, but she didn't think it was worth correcting right now. Jacky would probably take care of it outside herself and she would simply right the issue whenever they met the navi they were going to be working with. When their employer managed a few more words, she smiled and closed her eyes, tut-tutting with a "I've seen it all before" type of expression. "The bottom drawer, eh? I know what you're going through, my dear! The fiends have made off with your undergarments, have they? A common problem for young girls such as yourself, either a crime of bullying or, dare I say, a crime of passion? One is far preferable to the other! There's nothing more flattering than knowing a man wants your panties, in my humble opinion... Although, how they act on that desire is a matter that should be judged separately and sneaking in to steal them really ought not to be the way. Still, I like to remain optimistic until the situation begs otherwise!"

Damson had more to say and her words solicited a sharp gasp from Jocelyn. "What 'fiends' are you referring to? I had no idea there were malcontents within the good men and women of the Gloria Scott's staff and security! I'll bring up the matter with Rodney later and see if he knows anything about it!" the hapless security officer returned, unaware that, if there truly were any shady characters in the Gloria Scott's workforce, Rodney would be chief amongst them... literally. Still, that was besides the point; what were important were the mission details. Sleuth had theorized that Damson was saying someone stole her skivvies, but was that really the case? "Well, I don't know that I would have suspected it was so simple to slide in and out of locked off areas like that," Jocelyn gulped, now wondering just how secure her own mall was. She didn't want to imagine ne'er-do-wells easily breaking in to the building after it was locked up and she'd left for the night. "Maybe it's a problem specific to this shopping center? If not, I might need to talk to Rodney about posting a few night shifts!" she thought to herself. There was another topic at hand that was far more real and worrisome: namely, once word finally came out about what was really stolen, the newly revealed fact that Damson had hired them to look into a stolen feminine pleasure device. "Well, this is a salon! I suppose it makes sense to have a massage device," she reasoned. "You mean like a massage chair, right? Papa sometime uses one when the stress of carrying on his business becomes too much to bear. It soothes him so... Excuse me? Depth? Self-lubricating?"

"I think this personal massager is not quite what you're imagining, my dear Jocelyn. I doubt you've had much experience with this sort of thing... brought up as you were... but... how should I explain it..." Sleuth mused, realizing that educating Jocelyn on this matter might be a job responsibility for her, given that it fell within the scope of both their mission and Jocelyn's own learning. "Ahem. You know how babies are made, don't you?"

"I do!" Jocelyn announced, with a prideful smile. "Papa taught me. It's like a lock and key, I understand. And, as Papa said, the most important part of this paradigm is that the first step to safeguarding a lock from a key is to make sure it's well hidden and never, ever accessible. Furthering the paradigm, he said that what's inside that lock is extremely precious and shouldn't be given to anyone, even if they present the correct key."

"... I may need to re-educate you on the matter at some later point. Anyways, yes, a lock and a key. Women have that precious lock and sometimes, a woman like myself just wants to... test the lock out a bit, get it lubricated, enjoy the company of a nice key and make sure the old lock still works. You see, sometimes, it can feel pretty crackerjack to let a key in to give my lock a good rattling! So long as the proper safety measures are taken, it's a healthy experience for my lock and the key. Are you following me?"

"Um... I think both you and Miss Damson have some strange ideas about what locks are intended to do. They seem too easily bypassed, in both of your stories. But please, continue."

"Alright. Well, some women don't really have access to a key or otherwise don't want one, but still feel like the lock needs a little jingling. When that happens, they find something like a 'key', but a little different, to stimulate their 'lock.' One such tool would be the 'device' that Miss Damson mentioned. It looks a bit like a 'key', but it can very in length, design, and functionality, as Miss Damson explained in abundant detail. If someone's stolen this... I wouldn't call it 'cute' or 'a crime of passion.' Stealing something like that is simply revolting. It serves an important function for a woman and can serve almost no purpose for anyone but its owner except for some other truly repulsive possibilities that I dare not mention. Yes indeed, if someone has stolen it, they are simply a pervert or a scoundrel, and I will tolerate neither placing our client in fear of her privacy!" Truth be told, Sleuth was already having a hard time taking this case seriously; most women, if their pleasure device was stolen, would rightly stay quiet about it, no matter how expensive or dear the object in question was to them. Sleuth's motto, however, was that the client was always right. If Miss Damson wanted to reobtain her stolen masturbatory aid, then Sleuth was the right person to reclaim it for her; she'd gotten used to acting as the last call one makes when no other option is available to them. If the money was right, she didn't mind getting her hands dirty... and in this case, there were serious hygiene concerns.

"That's terrible! If you need your lock rattled as much as Miss Sleuth does, based on the number of different men I sometimes see enter her homepage, then you must be aching to have it back!" Jocelyn gasped, meaning to console her new acquaintance, but accidentally mortifying both the woman in question and her own navi.

"A-Ahem, erm... I believe the problem is more in the violation of respect and privacy, not to mention the monetary damages, as opposed to the immediate name for her to... ah... utilize the device," Sleuth cautioned her operator. "Let's get off that particular subject. Miss Damson, I assure you, I am taking this matter quite seriously and wish to resolve it to your satisfaction. To that end, I have a number of questions to start us off, the answers to which may help me begin my investigation. First of all, can you provide a product listing for this item so that we will know its appearance? That may be significantly easier than describing it in words. Secondly, could you tell us if there is anyone in the mall that might harbor ill will towards you? Thirdly, can you tell us if there is anyone in the mall that might harbor lustful feelings towards you? Someone whom you'd have reason to be cautious of, of course, not just someone who happens to cast an eye to your bosom now and again. Fourth, is there any other item that was taken? Finally, is there anyone who may have known it was there? There is a security camera in the corner... Perhaps, at some point, it was uncovered and you... jingled the lock, so to speak?" she asked, although she thought Damson probably would already have died of embarrassment if that happened. "Miss Jacky, Miss Hyde, feel free to pitch in with any questions of your own. To guide our investigation and ensure that we aren't wasting time, we should try to get as much out of this questioning as possible before we start moving."

"I have a question too, then!" Jocelyn piped in, raising her hand into the air. "Miss Damson, why would you have the device here, at the mall, rather than at home? It seems like an odd sort of place to jingle the lock." Sleuth wished Jocelyn hadn't asked that question, as the answer was almost certainly "sometimes I just feel like it when I'm on break," but she figured she'd hear the answer regardless.
"Ah... how do you do, Ms. Damson," Jacky responded, nearly biting her tongue as she realized what she'd subconsciously said. "That is... yes, my name is Jacky, and the two of us are here from the GNA." She mostly held her tongue and let Jocelyn do the talking from there. She was still a bit uneasy about being led into the back, having no idea what their supposed employer intended. At the very least, Damson didn't seem like a dangerous person, so she didn't hesitate too much.

She took a quick seat and listened as Damson explained. "Ah, yes. We're partners. Well, partners... for the mission," Jacky added a bit tentatively, still unsure why she seemed to be getting such a strange response from their client. "And, as Ms. Jocelyn says, she is, in fact, a mall cop. But I assure you, I won't let my inexperience inconvenience anybody."

Jacky (and Hyde, for that matter) continued to listen attentively. For her part, Jacky really didn't have the imagination to begin guessing what item Damson was very slowly getting around to admitting she had in the bottom of her drawer that someone had taken. She simply assumed that Damson must not be a comfortable speaker, or must be flustered from the experience of having something precious stolen. Having no guess at all, she decided to simply remain quiet as the explanation continued, allowing Jocelyn her own time to consider what implications the incident might have on mall security on a larger scale.

Near the end, however, Jacky's keen mind began connecting the dots on the forthcoming description. Her facing flushing in response to Damson's she made a quick point to cover her PET with her hands, preparing to silence any initial sniggering laughter came from it. Once she felt certain it had passed, she removed her hands.

Jacky wasn't quite sure what to say. Half of her wanted to chide the woman for bringing such a thing to work in the first place... but she knew that wouldn't help anybody. The operator turned to Jocelyn, listened, and disengaged with a sigh. She brought her own PET up to her face, deciding to consult with Hyde momentarily while Sleuth had the "birds and the bees" talk with her operator. "Hyde, I'm sure you've put together what the item in question is by now?"

"Yes, and you as well?" Hyde responded, covering her mouth slightly with her cape. "After all, I would think you'd be far more experienced with such a thing than I. You lonely types, that is."

Jacky frowned, fidgeting. "I... that is... well, regardless of that..."

"I jest, I jest!" Hyde interrupted, waving a hand dismissively. "That's between you and your late nights and nobody else. Goodness knows I shouldn't be berating anyone about such a thing. After all, I was frequently 'enlisting the help of the midnight masseuse' even before my road in life became more crooked. Why, you remember yesterday, during the business with the stir fry, and Ms. Jocelyn, and your pants?"

The Navi's operator realized that she was hearing a very rare case of Hyde's later-developed personality discussing her original. As ripe of an opportunity as that was for exploration... Jacky really didn't think she could afford to press into that particular discussion right in front of their employer. "Let's table that thought for now, please! A-all right... well, I believe we've established we are all... more or less familiar with the item in question. In particular, yours sounds somewhat..." Extravagant was the word Jacky wanted to use, but she managed to search for a better one. "... Expensive. That is, I feel as though it is less likely this is a crime of passion or perversion, and more likely it is provoked simply by the apparent monetary value of your item. As opposed to any other money or equipment, unless you are... using such a thing with some frequency... they most likely assumed that was a reasonably profitable item to steal that would take the longest to be missed. With that in mind, I suppose my first question would be- and I understand this is somewhat personal, but still- how long has it been since you last used the item in question? We need to know if the criminal is likely to still be in the mall or not. Also, how long has it been since you noticed the item was missing? Did you notice if there was evidence any other areas in your shop had been searched?"

The operator tried to slow down, realizing they were probably giving the frustrated Ms. Damson a lot to deal with in her current state of mind. "Please, we will need as much information as possible to begin stringing this together, so anyone you may have talked to about the item, anyone else who has access to your things, and anything else strange you've noticed... please, hold nothing back." Jacky really was rather emphatic about this, because, honestly, she placed the odds that they were going to find the thing rather low. It wasn't like they were TV detectives with access to biological scanners and digital wizardry. If her first hunch was correct and the item had been stolen because it was expensive, whoever had stolen it was probably long gone. If that was the case, all Jacky and Jocelyn would be able to do would be recommend Damson to the proper authorities, if she really was so dogged on the idea another mall tenant had taken it.
As much as Jacky might have hoped her little verbal trip might fly under the radar, the proprietress had obviously far too automatic an ear for the pun, and she had twirled one hand up at her 'do in response, with near instant "Why, like this, of course!" that seemed to come by rote. The moment had passed by with merciful swiftness, at least, helped in no small part by the next oddity to arise as she'd led the pair back.

The hair-dresser's eyebrow had twitched with a twinge of hesitating disbelief when Jocelyn didn't dismount her segway to follow her through. Fortunately for all involved, there was just enough room for it to get by without upsetting any shelves or displays, though it had served to make their discussion in the back room uncomfortably close-quarters, especially considering the subject matter.

She had taken the assertion that the mounted mall-cop was, indeed, a professional with a small nod, and an equally small smile that might put one in mind of a caged animal, or else the person locked in said cage with a mad one. Either way it was the kind of cautious, placating response that Jocelyn had probably received many times, and if it hadn't fazed her then, it was unlikely to now.

Truth be told, the poor woman had almost been on the edge of believing that her initial guess, and the misleading mission response, had been mistaken, especially while Jacky corrected her definition with more accurate details... right up until the point that the conversation had turned to locks needing rattling. If one were to run off into the sunset with the rather unfortunate analogy, it might have been possible to suppose unflattering things about how easy it was for practically any other shop-owner in the mall to slip into her shop, even while the roller was closed. Fortunately for the already far-too-flustered hair stylist, the conversation didn't turn that way.

The educational discussion, however, was more than enough to turn Damson from an embarrassed pink, to a much more thoroughly mortified crimson. Worse still, it didn't go at all well with her cerulean wardrobe choice. She merely gasped and hid her face at the suggestion that she needed her own lock rattled badly. On the other side, she had caught some words apparently relating to the uses of such devices, and what Jocelyn had been doing in Jacky's pants just yesterday, and all in all that was enough to banish all possible belief that the pair were anything other than what she'd first though... a kinky couple role-playing college girl and security officer together.

Soul consuming mortification aside, however, the two women eventually got around to dealing with the actual problem at hand, and, much to the poor woman's surprise and relief, actually asking some important questions... however much she was still loathe to answer them.

She blinked a few times and fanned at her face as she tried to collect herself and deal with the fact that she needed to divulge yet more personally mortifying information to the pair. One small consolation, at least, was that as long as she believed that they and their navis were indeed 'horse and rider', so to speak, she no longer felt like anything was going to shock either of them.

"Well, um, let me think... Ah... I don't think anyone else knew it existed. It was a... a special order, you see. Custom design, all the, ah, well, all the bells and whistles." Her unfortunate choice of words caused the woman to lapse into another brief silence ans she pressed hands to her blushing features. "That is, it only arrived yesterday! I... I had it sent here, first, and I'd meant to smuggle it home in secret, because I didn't want my husband to find it in the mail, and see what I had spent so much money on. He.. he wouldn't understand. He'd think there was something wrong, or that he wasn't, you know..." her voice grew progressively smaller an quieter again. "that the wasn't.... pleasing... me?" Another deep breath let her return to normal volume. "But he's wonderful, really, it's just, sometimes, well, you know, a woman needs... her own time."

As her mind tried to trace back over everything else the four questioners had put to her, she shook her head, looking as much guilty as embarrassed now.

"I haven't even tried it out yet. It's still in the box. I... I wouldn't dare do.. do... I wouldn't use it here, not at work!" The mere thought of doing so seemed to send Damson into another shocked moment of silence, but she shook it off. "Um, no, no, nothing else was disturbed, nothing searched, or rifled, or, well, anything really. Just, that one thing missing, and nothing else out of place. Oh, well, and I guess, the, uhh..." She bit her nails again, still hesitating. "The little pack of refillable cartridges as well..." Embarrassment or not, this apparently needed some further justifying, as far as Damson was concerned.

"You see, when it arrived yesterday morning, I knew what it was of course, and I just couldn't wait to have a look, so, I took the ox back here... it was just a plain-card nondescript delivery package, of course... the shop I ordered from are very professional, of course. But I didn't want the camera to see what I had! So, I covered it, and then I opened the box. There was the smaller box, with the.. the toy... and, then there were the documents, and the little pack of cartridges was separate, but I didn't dare to actually open the toy itself until I got it home, so I just put everything in the bottom drawer." More threads of guilt had worked their way into the woman's voice, and now a certain amount of regret as well.

"I guess I just forgot to uncover the camera, after I'd hidden everything.... I'd never normally block it like that, you see. There for our protection, of course. But then, you see, I had to make a run out to pick up some other supplies, around mid morning, and I put the door down and went out for lunch, like I always do. Janette needed me to mind her counter, down the way a little, at Pedi-joy, that was around mid afternoon, and I closed up then as well, because I didn't have any appointments, but I was only gone half an hour... Any then Teresse, she works at Petaffection, offered to give me a lift home. I usually catch the bus, you see, but she was heading my way yesterday, and I couldn't refuse... only we were together come lock-up, and I got nervous about her seeing it, so I left it in the drawer and just went home. But when I got in and set up this morning, it was gone!" Talking about something that wasn't directly sex-toys seemed to have let Damson calm down a little bit, and had loosened her tongue enough to talk the other women through her movements yesterday, but if anything it created more opportunities than it closed.

"Please, I know I could just talk to security, or the police, but like I mentioned, I've got good friends in the police, and I really don't want Rude knowing this about me, either... he's head of security here, you see, but he's, ah, well... I think he's a little bit of a pervert, I'm sorry to say. You, um, when you talk to the others around here, you can, ah, say what's missing, or what you're looking for, but you won't need to let anyone know that it's specifically me that you're speaking for, will you? I'd like to avoid that, if I can. We're all good friends, and I can't think of anyone who'd wish me ill, or who might... well, no, I must be honest, I think Casey, from Greener Gardens, would steal a hairband because she thought I'd worn it... and she won't stop tyring to show me she's, um, well, 'interested', no matter how often I try to tell her that I'm married, and to a man..." Here the woman shook her head.

"I should be flattered, I suppose, but, I'm not, you know, not like that." Her eyes opened wider suddenly as her words met up with the company she was presently in, and what she believed of them. "I mean, not-not that there's anything wrong with that, of course. Perfectly natural and healthy for some. It's just no, I'm just... just, it's... it's just, just not me..." The self-repeating apology tapered away into almost inaudible embarrassment again, before Damson managed to distract herself with something else.

"Oh! Right, the manifest! The box that held everything was gone too, so all the documents went with it, I'm sorry. I'm not sure I can..."
"I can help with that, Damson!" The voice from her PET spoke up again, sounding suddenly enthusiastic. The hair-stylist looked momentarily puzzled, but then the blush that had been gradually receding rushed back again.
"O-Oh... Uhmm... Curly, dear, are you sure that's such a good..."
"Oh it's fine, dear, I don't mind. It's nothing between girls, right? I'm sure they'll be completely professional, and it's not like any of us have to fret about any of those horrid sanitary problems you ladies up there do! Share and share alike, I say!" The small hints of higher refinement were still there, but overall the female voice sounded quite unexpectedly enthusiastic. "Can you explain? I need to get dressed if I'm going to meet people." Damson nodded with an absently uncertain look on her features.

"Well, I don't have the documents, per se... but I've got the electronic copies in my PET still, and, well, as part of the rewards for ordering such a custom request from them, and spending more than a certain amount, they gave me a digital copy of the product as well, free of charge, along with the electronic receipt." More blushing and lowering of her head. "CurlGurl, my navi, was, em, quite happy to learn about this. She can show it to your navis, if you want them to help with your investigations. You can jack-in wirelessly anywhere in the mall, as long as you're only going to the mall's own closed net. Most every shop owner keeps their navi jacked in during business hours, since the closed net serves as a net mirror to our shops here. I generally only jack Curly in for appointments... they're note very frequent, for navis, or not as frequent as mine, at least, but she's got none booked today, so she should have all the time in the world for you." After she finished, Damson took a few more moments to try and think about whether she'd missed anything any of her temporary detectives had asked.

"Ah, is there anything else I can tell you?" She looked uncertainly between them for a moment, before CurlGurl's voice chimed out again.
"Right, I'm decent! I've got everything, too, so, send me down whenever you want Damson, I'll meet them at our shop." Again their employer nodded, though she was looking increasingly concerned now, and pressed a few buttons on her PET.

((I'm opening the net topic, Here. Feel free to jack-in whenever suites.))

Sleuth listened to both the client and to Jacky with interest, smiling wide with amusement at their shyness while stifling a giggle. "If Miss Hyde wasn't already teasing Miss Jacky full time and if Miss Damson wasn't our client, I'd have such fun teasing them," she thought to herself silently. "Now, now. Even in a committed relationship, there's no shame in a little personal time now and again. But I can understand your keeping it from him. Not all people are so free-thinking as I am and one could hardly blame another for being testy about such a suspicion," she agreed as Damson relayed her reservations about receiving the item in view of her husband. She was also somehow surprised to hear that Damson was married; Damson looked a bit young for a husband. "So, the package was opened when you stored it. The thief definitely knew what they were taking then."

"Perhaps not! After all, even if I saw it, I would have no idea what it was," Jocelyn reminded her navi. This was probably true...

...However, a woman of Jocelyn's age not being able to recognize such an item should probably be treated as an outlier, distinct from the average case. "Well, let's assume for now that they probably did. If not, they might find out by reading," she chuckled.

Jocelyn looked relieved when Damson explained why the camera was covered. "Of course! Mall security officers always have the best interests of our people in mind. I'm sure the criminal would be caught already if the camera had been uncovered, but I understand completely why you'd want to cover it," she reassured Damson.

Sleuth knit her eyebrows. "Just a second! That's a rather important detail, I think. If the camera was, as you say, already covered when you came in... Well, I should warn you that I tend to be overly imaginative with my theories and favor the wildest assumptions, but I would put money on this wager! I'm willing to bet that whoever came in to steal the item was someone who knew that your camera would be blocked at this time. It's too favorable a coincidence for the thief to be otherwise," she offered. "Of course, the alternatives are that the thief simply got lucky or otherwise planned to hide his or her self regardless of the camera, although I can think of only one way they'd do that if you hadn't already done it before them: either being a member of security or having contacts therein. But, as you can see, one group is already suspicious: the security force. One could even question why they haven't come to check on the covered camera already, right? But I'd say that tells us where we should start."

"H-Hold on! You really think the security force could be behind something so devious?" her operator questioned, looking personally hurt. "Mall security are there to protect people! They'd never commit theft themselves."

"Would that such an assumption of righteousness in those tasked to serve could be so easily assumed, the world would be a brighter place. Alas, people in positions of authority are often the most prone to crime due to their ability to abuse said authority. We should not rule them out as suspects, or at least as aides to the suspect," Sleuth retorted. "Besides security, if there is anyone else who would have been in this room, such as cleaning staff, they might be worth questioning as well. They wouldn't have needed to see inside the drawer; even their knowing that the camera was covered is enough to cast suspicion." With that said, she listened to more of Damson's story. "Hm... We're going to have to be very delicate with how we question the security force. Seeing as you don't want them knowing the exact nature of the problem... My, my, I hate working with local authorities. Their smug sense of entitlement! Fah, you can't tell the good ones from the bad ones half the time, with how uniformly pompous they seem to be. This isn't even counting the perverted superior you mentioned..."

"The chief of security at this shopping center is such a person? Oh dear..." Jocelyn sighed, closing her eyes with a pitying, sad look. "I don't know how I'd work under those conditions. This 'Rude' person sounds like a difficult man to deal with."

Sleuth took off her hat for a moment and rubbed her temples with her gloved forefingers. The idea that Jocelyn couldn't realize that Rude was nearly an exact parallel of her own manager, Rodney, had left Sleuth feeling incredulous and temporarily submerged in despair. Reforming her to be a productive, self-sufficient human being was going to be difficult. "Regardless, we're going to need to speak to him, for certain," she pointed out, going back to her observations about the likely involvement of the security force in this crime. "It could turn out that they're just too lazy to come check the camera and they're wholly unassociated with the crime. But there's too many coincidences here and all of them point back to either a perpetrator in security or, at the very least, an assistant to the perpetrator. As for the others, I think that we can consider Casey innocent in this unless we learn something more. The way you describe her, she's smitten to a fault, but not to the extent that she'd want to steal your merchandise at risk of straining her relationship with you yourself. For the sake of thoroughness in the investigation, and I know I'm reaching, but could you tell if Teresse headed straight home after dropping you off? I know it's probably nothing, but if she knew you'd just dropped you off, that would give her the perfect time frame to steal from your shop. Not that it sounds as though there's a motive."

"Wow! You're really suspicious of everyone, aren't you?" Jocelyn asked; it was supposed to be a compliment, but certainly didn't sound that way.

"Indeed I am. You can't seriously consider yourself a detective unless you're willing to explore all angles, even the ones that seem ridiculous or make others uncomfortable," Sleuth agreed. She decided not to bother addressing the fact that Damson was still looking at both the operators and navis she'd hired as kinky, extravagantly dressed lesbians. She had enough on her plate already. Damson's navi spoke up, offering information but making things even more awkward. "Ah... So now we're our sharing sex toys? Yes, yes. Quite," she chuckled dryly. With that, they were basically through explanations. "It sounds like the proper thing to do would be to jack in Miss Hyde and myself. We'll meet up with Miss CurlGurl," she continued, almost stumbling over the word 'CurlGurl.' It sounded hilariously foreign coming out of her mouth, pronounced in a haughty Netopian accent. "As cops should be, you will be primarily involved with the leg work. Take us to the priority questioning targets and I will feed them the questions. Well, Jacky will likely have questions of her own. I'm counting on her support in this mission."

"Me too. She's an invaluable ally," Jocelyn concurred, smiling and pressing one gloved hand lightly onto Jacky's shoulder. As she smiled into Jacky's face, Damson's over-active imagination could easily be interpreting the gesture the wrong way. "After all, you heard what Miss Hyde said! Who would have suspected that we have an expert in the use of personal lock-jinglers right here with us! How fortunate!" she giggled, not realizing just how much pain being called an expert in such matters would make Jacky feel.

"Ha ha ha! Quite right! Smashing observation!" Sleuth guffawed, slapping her palm up and down against the lens frame atop her cane. "Aaah, let's have fun! That's my other highest priority in life, you know? Besides being the best detective on the planet," she sighed, smiling contentedly and sounding as though she was telling the truth. "Jack me in to the nearest terminal, please, my dear."

Jocelyn complied, sending Sleuth onto the net to meet CurlGurl. "Now, although you said we should try to avoid security as much as possible, I'm afraid it sounds like they're currently our key suspects. We'll have to question them as discretely as possible. At the very least, we can see what they're doing up there that's causing them not to notice your camera is covered and immediately render assistance! That's what I'd do if I were watching the cameras at my mall... Although, I'm never found myself assigned to that particular duty," she murmured, now questioning why she never was. The truth was that a certain somebody probably valued watching her over the cameras a lot more highly than any advantage he might obtain by assigning her to the task. "Can you point us in the direction of Mister Rude?"

((Jacking in Sleuth))
Jacky saw that their employer was blushing quite a bit, but it was her turn to blush, as well. As Damson's narrative continued, it quickly became apparent that Jacky had jumped to a conclusion in assuming the hair stylist had been keeping the intimate item in her office for use during the work day. She decided to save her apology, though. With Hyde as a Navi, Jacky knew apologies were going to be a highly sought-after commodity from her.

As Damson laid out her story, Jacky got to see (well, hear, anyway) Sleuth's detective procedure at work. "Indeed. The covered camera is certainly the focal point for this mystery. While it could easily provide a motive, I wonder about necessarily casting suspicion on the security. After all, I assume the primary purpose of the cameras is to safeguard the tenants themselves. If one sees a lady cover a camera of her private room one might simply assume she places privacy over her need for protection. If that was the case, perhaps they wouldn't interfere out of respect for that understanding."

"Privacy for what~?" Hyde chimed in, her sentences curling at the end in a fashion reminiscent of her hair. "What would a young woman need privacy for in her back room during the middle of the day...~?"

Jacky sighed, realizing that she'd really left herself open for that one in light of their previous discussion.

"In all seriousness, though," the Navi added, "Jacky, it's important to remember that the cameras are not only to protect the tenants, but also mall safety and property. The tenants sacrifice some degree of privacy and, in return, receive security. I agree with Sleuth. It's hard to fathom that any semi-responsible mall cop would allow a camera feed to remain dark over the course of an entire day."

Internally, Jacky had to wonder on the point of a "semi-responsible mall cop." Between the one she'd just met yesterday, and the ones in this mall that were allowing her to dress as a uniformed officer and patrol the mall on a motorized vehicle unimpeded, she didn't have a great amount of faith in mall security. Added to that, the staff in this mall sounded eerily similar to the staff of Gloria Scott. Jacky couldn't imagine they'd have the luck of a completely sane, reliable officer to turn to in this mission. "I suppose that does give us a reasonable route to begin questioning."

The operator thought a bit more, pressing a finger to her lip pensively. "Mmm... so, it sounds as though we have a long period of time at which nearly anyone's alibis will be valid. I think it would be useful if we could contact the authorities. The camera in this office may have been covered, but there should still be other cameras trained on the vicinity of the shop. If the criminal had to unlock and open the door, it stands to reason that some of the footage should catch them lurking around." Of course, there could be any number of problems with that line of investigation. They might find that other cameras had been tampered with, that the perpetrator was wearing a disguise... or, of course, they simply might be prohibited from accessing or reviewing the footage.

"I doubt it will be that easy to crack this," Hyde spoke, sounding like she had a pitying edge in her voice. "After all, the perpetrator could have been disguised, or they may have tampered with the other footage... and then, if it was a member of security..."

"Yes, yes, there are many uncertain factors, but I believe it's worth looking into," Jacky replied, pushing her thick glasses up on the bridge of her nose. "Anyway, I'm sure we have a lot of footwork ahead of us. We'll exercise as much discretion as possible in our line of questioning to avoid spreading any untoward information around." Internally, Jacky was thinking that gossip was going to get around. Jocelyn hadn't exactly been low-profile when she entered, and Jacky doubted if she ever was.

The operator stared at Damson a bit blankly as she went on talking about how she was A-Okay with lesbians, but was not one herself. She frowned a bit widely. "Well... while it does go against the natural human directive to procreate, I do believe that embracing other lifestyle choices is necessary to foster open-mindedness in other critical areas, such as academics." Unknowingly, Jacky probably sounded like she was offering a defense, or even criticizing.

Jacky flinched a bit from Jocelyn's touch, her mind still on the topic of lesbianism. She didn't pay much attention to Sleuth and Jocelyn's comments about her usefulness, as she was never one to let praise get to her head. However, at the notion of being a "professional lock-jingler," Jacky's face twitched between her various mild expressions of shame and anger. She turned to Jocelyn, covering her lower face with her hand and using it to keep her glasses straight as she turned her head towards the mall cop. "Ms. Jocelyn, I understand you're not familiar with the practice, and, understanding your situation, I don't take such a comment to heart, but... please, don't say that in front of other people again."

She remained sullen a while longer, her mind jumping distractedly between the mystery at hand and the mystery of why she didn't simply sleep in today. Her mind suddenly hit on an interesting thought, though: she heard Sleuth laugh at her expense, but why didn't she hear Hyde? "Hyde? Are you okay in there?"

"Just fine, thank you. I'm fully prepared. When you have a chance, please jack me in so I may join Sleuth. I'm simply chomping at the bit to get started."

"I wish I had all of your enthusiasm," Jacky admitted. Nonetheless, she rose and found a terminal to jack in. She turned to Damson again. "I hope you'll rest assured that we will do our utmost to solve your problem with discretion. I understand how hard it is to turn to strangers in such a precarious matter."

((Jacking in Hyde))
While Damson still seemed more or less mortified at the idea of having the mall's own security forces in on the matter, the reasoning from all four of her new helpers managed to convince the poor woman of the unfortunate necessity of it. Still looking worried and uncertain, she nodded to their requests in that regard.

"I... I suppose you're right. I did cover the camera myself, that's true, but, you're right... Someone really ought to have checked up on it by now, and I've not had word from anyone about the matter." She paused, biting her lip. "Though I was out of the shop quite a lot yesterday. I might have missed him, I suppose." At the taunting implication from Hyde, spring-boarding off Jacky's own unfortunate choice of words, Damson's furious blush returned; even the implication that she might be doing something... naughty... in her place of business, seemed to shock the poor woman. She shrugged her shoulders and, a little self-consciously, crossed her hands to rub at her arms for a moment, moving on. "I guess we do have to think about the cleaning staff as well, too. They go through between five and seven, and I would have been long gone by the time any of them came by..."

With a small sigh, the woman stood again, though the office didn't leave much room for them all, crowded in with Jocelyn's segway. She put fingers to her temples then rubbed her forehead; it was the sort of action that might have become a scrub through her hair, if not for the fact that it stopped short of her actual, fantastically styled 'do. Actually running one's hands through that would probably be a nightmare.

"If you must talk to the mall staff, as I guess you must, you should find the stairs that lead up to the staff offices part way down, on the right, on this floor. Oh, but do be careful. It is, technically, a restricted area..." which was a concern only for simple civilians and not someone acting in official capacity, however Damson still seemed convinced that the pair were merely acting their roles, and the brief exchanges... a touch here, a look there... a brief sexual-conduct chastisement from Jacky to Jocelyn... weren't doing anything to convince her otherwise.

"I shouldn't think that Teresse would have turned around and driven back to the Mall after dropping me off. It would have been very much out of her way, by that point, even if she knew, and well, I can't think why she might do a thing like this at all." The problem was, of course, the poor woman didn't really seem to be able to fathom any of her mall-friends committing the deed, so that reassurance only went so far. She still seemed nervous. "Anyway... Best of luck to you both, and, please be discrete as much as you can!" Like Jacky, however, it sounded as though the woman was having serious doubts about whether discretion was particularly in the repertoire of three of her four detectives.

Provided their initial interrogations were over, the pair would find themselves led back out again, and turned loose on the rest of the mall, free to pursue their investigations as they saw fit, with a last, albeit somewhat worried, wave from Damson from behind her counter. They had numerous places and people they might want to find or speak to; fortunately pretty much all of the shop owners would be in by this point, so tracking them down would be as simple as following the sign-boarded direction to the shops Damson had mentioned. Of course, if the duo wished to go right to the centre of the mystery, and seek out security on the matter of the covered camera, following Damson's directions would quickly lead them to a staff-only door which opened onto a flight of stairs that might at last be an obstacle enough to force Jocelyn from her vehicle... maybe.

Jacky offered some more useful advice, which was appreciated by both Jocelyn and Sleuth, and some more evidence that she took offense at being teased, which was mostly appreciated by Sleuth. Jocelyn simply tilted her head with a small smile. "Don't worry! I would never talk about 'the lock' out in public. After all, like I said, it's supposed to be kept off limits to anyone. It would be improper to simply mention it out in the open," she chuckled, as though it wasn't improper to be chatting about it in front of their employer. Then again, 'the lock' was sort of an inevitable part of this discussion in some ways. She realized an important omission in her papa's rules, then turned to Damson with a polite smile. "Unless you're joined in happy, legally-sanctioned matrimony, of course. It's fine for you and your husband to talk about 'locks' and 'keys' whenever you want, Miss Damson!"

"When a third person talks to a married couple aloud about 'locks' and 'keys,' they're either a psychiatrist or part of a threesome, though, and you don't have the prerequisite knowledge to be either yet," Sleuth warned her operator. "Though, let's see how the night goes!" she joked, probably mostly to pick on Damson. The operator was probably going to be given a pretty hard time between the senses of humor and willingness to talk candidly that all three of the navis present possessed. "You're right, though; we can't rule out the cleaning staff either. They're as likely as anyone; all they'd have to do was come into the room, see the camera covered, and then take that as a green light to take whatever they wanted. They may even have come to suspect something was hidden. The same is true for the security team. That's why we must focus the start of our investigation on those groups, which are the most suspicious."

Sleuth said no more about the possibility that Teresse turned her car around and went back to the mall, but kept the female coworker's offer to take Damson home that night in mind. Some possibilities were just too juicy to cast aside in theory-crafting, no matter how outlandish. It would certainly make for an element of intrigue if the friend was involved, so Sleuth secretly hoped that she'd have another chance to use the theory. "Don't worry, Miss Damson. Discretion is the better part of valor, they say, and I am nothing if not valorous," Sleuth reassured Damson. It seemed like a lot of their day was going to be used reassuring people not to worry about them. "Or was it impetuous that I am nothing if not? I'd say I've got plenty of either quality."

"We're heading out now. You rest your mind and await the return of your merchandise. I know you're itching to have it back," Jocelyn finished, picking another gut-wrenchingly bad choice of words.

"Despite what I said... I wish we could start with the cleaning crew," Sleuth murmured, leaning on her cane thoughtfully. "Once we talk to the security team, if they happen to be in on whatever's happening here, they might restrict our access to others. That's not our best option though; they're probably not as centrally located and they're also lower priority suspects. We're just going to have to be charming and likeable so that the mall security is too distracted to suspect us of anything. That's my usual strategy regardless," Sleuth informed everyone. "We're all amiable, classy sorts of women. I'm certain the security team will be smitten with us right away." That really was a joke; Sleuth couldn't remember the last time a cop had been smitten with her, any further than both of them deciding that one another would be a nice midnight fling. Cops and Sleuth didn't tend do like each other. Then again, there was someone that was going to be even more of a pain for cops than Sleuth in their party: Hyde. Sleuth made a mental note that she was going to have to run defense, along with Jacky, so she might not have as much time for clowning around and being a general nuisance as she usually did.

"For now, let's follow the case in a straight line. To the security office! Once they see that I'm a fellow mall security officer, they should allow me full access to whatever information they have," Jocelyn responded, feeling fired up and even more optimistic than usual.

"... If, for some bizarre reason, that doesn't work, we'll have to play it by ear. The first thing we need to do, however, is meet up with one of them and make some discrete inquiries. It might actually work best if we use your status as a mall cop for that. Let's try to keep our questions very general... perhaps focus on asking about the security system itself. It would be especially useful if we could learn who was manning the cameras around the proposed time of the crime, although we'll have to be extraordinarily careful about that. My dears, nothing makes a criminal quite as on his alert as being fed lines from a detective drama... so avoid phrases like 'where were you yesterday night between the hours of' or 'do you have any special relationship with.' Or especially 'you know we can throw the book at you for obstruction of justice!' Nobody should be using that phrase anyways. Ugh, terrible," Sleuth groaned, evidently remembering a specific case where she'd heard it. "Now, Jocelyn, I hand the reigns over to you for a bit. Miss Curly has something interesting that to show me that could be of use to the case."

"Roger that!" Jocelyn responded, riding her segway towards the area Damson had indicated. Of course, once she got there, she'd remember a distressing fact: stairs. "D-Does nobody else here use a segway?!" she asked, sounding shocked. "It doesn't seem fair..." Pouting, she grabbed up the instrument in both arms and began the arduous task of lugging it up the staircase along, leading the way and slowing the pace at which Jacky and she would be able to move. This certainly wasn't going to be a matter of sneaking around; she planned to get the attention of the first guard that she saw, but they might notice her before she noticed them...
Jacky sighed. At least she could take reassurance in the fact that, even if for the wrong reasons, Jocelyn didn't intend to call her an "expert lock-jingler" in public. "Please relax, Ms. Damson. I can't promise an immediate return, but I can promise we will be fully devoted to the task as we move forward. Jocelyn and I each have our own proficiencies and weaknesses. I'm certain that we'll be able to compensate for each other and complete the mission working in tandem." That probably sounded as much like she was trying to convince herself as it did Damson, but thinking about things in terms of favorable probabilities and hard pros and cons always felt like the most effective way to keep her mind on track.

Really, Jacky had some doubts that they would be allowed full reign to investigate the security systems just because of Jocelyn's status as a security guard of another mall. That said, she did feel confident in the security team as a starting point of their investigation. It was easy to imagine they would at least be able to get some early questions and answers out of the way that might shed light on the mystery. If nothing else, they would probably be able to posit a theory, based on the cooperation they were given, as to whether the security staff was to be trusted or not. "After all, even if we found someone carrying the thing around, it's not like we could just take it from them," the operator mused. "At some stage of this, authorities are going to have to get involved... aren't they?" Jacky found it was getting harder and harder to imagine a scenario in which Damson's privacy was protected, but she figured they would tackle that when it came up.

In any case, what Sleuth was saying sounded good. Jacky figured she would let Jocelyn lead. She thought it would be a good first impression to have an amicable-appearing mall guard leading the way, and then... pick up on the conversation, if things got hairy. She thought the two of them together seemed more-or-less harmless (Jocelyn by way of her sunny disposition, Jacky by way more literally by her slight physique), so she wasn't that concerned.

Having Jocelyn lead the way was turning out to be a bigger undertaking than she expected, however. She paused, watching Jocelyn haul the thing up and begin lugging it down the stairs. She thought about suggesting Jocelyn just leave it, seeing as they were, after all, right in front of security. They'd be in a good position to do something about it if someone ran off with it. However, she did recall that Jocelyn's PET seemed to be integral with the device... but could she remove it?

By the time she was done thinking about such things, Jocelyn was halfway down the stairs. The operator decided not to bother, adjusted her glasses, and grabbed a rail as she walked down, herself.

Up until now, she'd thought that Jocelyn's segway was kind of ridiculous, but as she progressed she started to see how it might come in handy. "I've never been one much for mall-trecking," she thought to herself, stopping short of admitting she wasn't one much for any kind of trecking. She wasn't tired out yet, of course, but she could easily see this becoming an issue if she had to make her way across the entire mall multiple times through the course of the day.

Realizing she was probably looking moodier than she needed to behind her thick frames, Jacky gave her head a discrete shake and tried to make some small talk. "Jocelyn, I'd been meaning to ask, but I'm very curious about your day-to-day lifestyle as a mall cop. How did you originally get your position? What does your day-to-day work consist of?" While she meant it as small talk, her inquiries were, in fact, some of the biting questions she still wanted to understand about the other operator.
By this point Dasmon, under her blushing and nerves, was coming to accept that nothing she could say would truly be safe, in terms of getting derailed by the kinky couple and their navis, into a more mortifying spin. Like the others, she too was beginning to doubt just how private her private affairs were going to remain. In the end, the talk of threesomes washed right over her as though she was trying valiantly to block out everything but the more sensible, case-relevant bits and pieces, though that honestly didn't leave much of the conversation for her to key on. She did, however, manage to wave them off, with something akin to a look of vague regret in her eyes, before returning to check stock levels on her shelves in an effort to calm her nerves.

Finding the stairs that would lead them up to the staff section of the mall was easy. Getting up said stairs, notably more taxing. Past the automatic doorway, the stairwell was far more silent that the exterior mall had been ,and sounds echoed around the walls. This made every bump and clunk of Jocelyn's half-lifted, half-dragged segway sound deafening by comparison, but at least the clunks were somewhat intermittent, and hopefully wouldn't get in the way of their conversation too much. It took a fair while for them to mount the stairs in this fashion, and they were only mostly at the top by the time a voice greeted them.

"What on earth is... eh?" At the top of the stairs, a uniformed man with short brown hair and a pale complexion was looking down towards the pair, plus segway, with a certain level of incredulity.
"What are.... Hang a tic, are you that... Just...What?" His loss for words only lasted a little while, before he swiftly helped Jocelyn get her contraption up the remaining few steps and settled it to the side, in the upper hallway, and much less in the way of anyone who wanted to get passed. The man's security uniform did bear a small name badge, and identified him as the Rude they were probably seeking; if they'd been hoping to catch some of the lower down security elements first for questions, the noise of their approach had certainly pulled that off the table.

Once they were all at the top of the stairs, the man seemed to have recovered his composure, although he also seemed to be having a rather hard time keep his eyes up; they repeatedly drifted to Jocelyn's more enviable assets, in particular.

"Uhh, right, um. This is staff only, folks. What in the blazes are you doing lugging that great thing up here?" There was a fairly good chance that Rude recognised Jocelyn's uniform for where it belonged to, and if he'd ever shared a coffee with certain other mall security heads and swapped stories in the past, he was likely going to put that, the segway, the formidable assets, and the name-tag together before too long, but even if that were the case, the penny didn't seem to have quite dropped yet.

The more astute would be able to get a quick look around the landing at the top of the stairs while he questioned them; there wasn't a great deal to see, since most of the halls were plain and featureless. A cork-board on one wall contained shift timetables, while there were two open doors that looked like they led into offices. A door at one end of the hall was signed as being the break room, while while three additional doors on the right of the hall were clearly restrooms. There was a branch in the passageway that indicated some sort of meeting room at the end as well, likely used for mall-team pep-talks and the like, and the opposite end of the hallway had a door that bore a yellow stylised cleaner's icon, and was probably a store room and cleaning supplies cupboard.

Regardless of how nice the segway might be for saving energy over a long mall-trek, Jacky would soon realize that convenience would be nullified by how much energy Jocelyn was spending trying to lug the thing across an unaccommodating staircase. Jacky had a couple of questions for Jocelyn and the mall cop was happy to reply, despite her state of ongoing physical exertion. "I'm glad you asked, Miss Jacky! Mmph! You see... hmph... I'll take a small break," she chuckled, pausing her advance and leaving the segway on the latest step she'd reached, "When I reached the age of twenty and finally left Papa's estate, I went out on my own to become my own woman. This amounted to finding my own career path. I do so enjoy the atmosphere of these lively shopping centers and I've always been respectful of the good work that policing authorities do, plus the barriers to entry were fairly low, so I decided that I'd devote myself to being the best mall security officer I could be! At first, the task seemed arduous... there were various tests that I had difficulty with, rules that were difficult to comprehend, and so forth... But that's when I stumbled upon the Gloria Scott Mall and met Rodney, the chief of security there. He's a benevolent sort of person and helped me pass the tests necessary to become employed there, once he heard that I was looking for work. I've been loyal to him and the mall ever since. I see many good years there in my future," she finished, clapping her hands together cheerfully. Even most studied, veteran mall cops probably had never had such a sunny outlook towards a life in the business as she did.

"As for my day to day responsibilities, why, that's one of the reasons why the life is perfect for me! Every day is a new adventure, a chance to learn and grow as a professional. Each morning, I report to Rodney, who outlines my tasks for the day. We do some early morning exercises together, share a meal, then I head out on one of his special missions. He sometimes will assign me a special uniform, depending on the task at hand or the need for distinction. I then spend the rest of the day on my trusty friend here," Jocelyn smiled, hugging one arm around her segway and patting its console lightly with one hand. "I patrol the mall looking for ne'er-do-wells, but as you know, the Gloria Scott is a bastion of peace and prosperity. There aren't too many miscreants to be found, so most of the time, I give a warm reception to guests, pose for pictures with them, that sort of thing. Every now and then, though, I'll get a call on my PET, informing me of mischief in progress! I'll drop what I'm doing and respond immediately, heading to the scene of the crime on my segway, then resolve the issue to the best of my ability. It's mostly small-time thieves or such. Other officers will assist me if anything more troublesome comes up. At the Gloria Scott, we all do our part!" she finished, giving a quick salute, before returning to a cheery grin.

"Of course, it's not that I wasn't happy at home. But, once my sister vanished... and with me becoming a mature woman and all, well... it was just time to leave the nest," she began again, resuming lugging the segway at the same time. Before Jacky had time to ask any more questions, a new man showed up; he fell into a predictable stupor, not knowing what to make of the scene, but he did helpfully offer to help Jocelyn move her prized personal possession. She thanked him, as was proper, following close behind. As they reached the top of the staircase, it became apparent that the segway wasn't the only asset of Jocelyn's that the man would be happy to put his hands on. The drifting of his eyes didn't seem to bother her, either by way of obliviousness or way of being used to it. Hopefully, Jocelyn and her various charms would make a good distraction while Jacky took useful clues from their environment, because Jocelyn didn't appear to be seizing that opportunity herself. Instead, she relaxed and engaged her new acquaintance in friendly conversation.

"I'm sorry to intrude! I know mall security personnel always take private area restrictions seriously, and for good reason! However, I was hoping you could make a one-time pass for me, seeing as I'm a visiting mall security officer myself. Oh, excuse me... you're a shopping center security officer yourself, aren't you? There may be a distinction there," she reminded herself. "At any rate, I was hoping we could have a chat and compare notes on our various methods of protecting the integrity of our surroundings and our customers. I hope you're not too busy? It won't be too long, I promise," Jocelyn reassured Rude. She hadn't called him by name yet; it may even be possible that she hadn't thought to look at his name tag and confirm his identity yet, or it was possible she was being shrewd enough not to attach special meaning to his name, so as not to reveal she had prior knowledge of his character... but past knowledge of Jocelyn's character would suggest the former.

At this point, Jocelyn seemed to notice that Rude kept staring downwards; as if taunting him, she reached the fingers of her gloves into the collar of her shirt and stretched it a bit away from her neck (the shirt was pretty darn tight, so there wasn't much room to stretch). "Oh! I apologize again, but I hadn't even thought about this... I've been terribly disrespectful. The chief of security down at the Gloria Scott, Rodney, always tells me that it's important for me to adopt whatever specialized uniforms he has prepared for me on a day to day basis as I go about my work. You may have a special uniform that I need to wear as well and here I've been neglecting to ask you about it. Excuse my rudeness, please, and do let me know if you need me to get changed," she offered.

Jacky would likely either be investigating the room alone or introducing herself at this point, but Jocelyn seemed absorbed with treating the chief of security here with the reverence and respect that he undoubtedly deserved.
Jacky listened to Jocelyn's tale without interjecting. Although Jocelyn was being fairly thorough, Jacky couldn't help but feel like there were a lot of points that would become alarming if one dug into them just a little bit more. "What kind of exercises? Sharing a meal with your boss every morning...? Posing for pictures?" These things ordinarily might not ring of sexual harassment, but after the events of yesterday, Jacky was already able to provide some more context to the "special uniform" and Jocelyn's method of "resolving the issue to the best of her ability."

Jacky was also impressed at Jocelyn's level of satisfaction with and devotion to her job. She thought to herself, "I suppose Jocelyn's father's estate must take care of her rather well for personal comforts, so the wages associated with the job most likely aren't an issue. There's nothing wrong with doing what you love and doing it well... so long as you're doing it well." Jacky just couldn't put herself in a positive mindset about it, and let out a sigh.

Very soon, the two of them had encountered Rude. The man seemed only to have eyes for Jocelyn, so she was content to stay quiet and let the two of them talk, intending to jump in at some point and introduce herself. As the conversation moved forward, however, she began to change her mind. It felt as though (as usual) Jocelyn was writing a pretty big blank check and handing it to whoever might be most particularly suited to exploit her. Jacky wondered with some dismay if Jocelyn was going to get taken up on that, and even worse, if Rude was going to expect her to go along with it as well...

She was on the verge of interjecting, before she thought a bit more. Jocelyn was working pretty well as a distraction, and Jacky's own eyes had homed in on a corkboard with what looked like a schedule a short ways down the hall. Getting a good look at that could help them shorten a list of involved parties very quickly. If Jocelyn was to get led up to make conversation... or play dress-up, as the situation may be... the hallway looked like it would otherwise be clear. She would have enough time to at least make it to the board and take a look. If someone DID call her out on it, what would they do about it? Just taking a passing look at the schedule wouldn't be enough to incriminate her of any shady business.

As such, she remained a bit tense but even more silent than usual, seeing if she could fade into the background while Jocelyn moved Rude to a more convenient location. Of course, there were any number of ways it could fail: there was no guarantee at all Rude wasn't going to ask her along, or even to join in. Even worse, without a plan arranged beforehand, it was perfectly likely Jocelyn was going to pull her back into the conversation ("Or even to join in..."), and that plan would be a bust.

Really, though, there wasn't anything to lose by at least enacting the first part of her plan. Clamming up and getting tense would probably merely give the impression she wasn't comfortable around strangers. If she had to introduce herself (or if Jocelyn introduced her first), she'd cross that bridge when she came to it.
The unstoppable wall of force that was Jocelyn's vapid, sunny naivety had really rendered Rude pole-axed at first, and it washed over him while he fought between looking at the woman's chest, and her face. At first his thoughts were, as one might expect, to wonder whether anyone could possibly be for real, when saying the things Jocelyn was, but then something she said caught his ear and the penny dropped.

"Ah, you're—" about to say 'That ditzy broad that Rod always has the wild stories about', Rude caught himself in time to amend the statement to, "Ah, that stand-out officer that Rod always has the glowing reports about! Great to meet you! I wish more of our own officers were as dedicated and willing to put their jobs ahead of themselves as he tells me you are."

Internally, Rude's mind was racing and trying to work out how best to capitalise upon this impossibly good opportunity, to the extent that he more or less forgot the existence of Jacky completely, and certainly didn't notice her slip away to check the schedule board.

A quick inspection showed that it contained the shift details for other security personnel, as well as the time slots for other mall services, such as cleaners, to go through. A closer look would tell Jacky that the mall only employed four officers, aside from Rude himself, during the day, and they were each stationed around the entrances and the car-park exit to the mall complex itself. Apparently, throughout the day, none of them would have been actively patrolling through the mall itself, but simply been either in the break room, or at an entry post, though all were on call to handle any active security needs.

By contrast, the night watch was more secure, as it probably should be, and there was little chance of anyone who wasn't a professional sneaking in unseen after the exterior doors were locked of a night. That said, it was a shopping mall; someone who actually did have professional break-and-enter skills, wouldn't be too hard pressed to get in at night, undetected, if they really wanted to.

After looking all she wanted at the board, Jacky was still completely off Rude's radar, so she was free to look about, or slip out of the hallway in some other direction, if she wanted to. Most options were open still, though she'd be pushing it if she wanted to try and get back past the pair at the top of the sitars, to get to the break room. Back in the mind of the unexpectedly fortunate mall security boss, Rude was formulating a plan.

"Ah, yes. That's right, we can't, ah, we can't have you going around dressed like that, wearing the uniform from over the way. It would confuse people, you see." Mostly, he wanted to get in on some of the impossible things he'd heard, and his brain was doing gymnastics to justify it. Rodney was an ok bloke, really, and it would be unsporting to mess up his little game. Further, his line of thought went, if he acted normally, she might begin to question Rod. That wouldn't be fair either. No, he reasoned, if he really wanted to protect his friend, then it was his duty to play along, and to reinforce the idea that this was how the relationship between security officer and security chief was everywhere. It was his duty as a friend. That was it. He nodded to Jocelyn, and took a moment to glance deliberately down over her uniform.

"We'll have to get you out of those before we can let you go about the mall. Hmm. I think I can help you out. Here, just, um, step into the break room there, and strip off those things, and I'll see if I can't make you up a proper 'visiting security' identifier. That should do the trick, and then none of the shoppers will need to worry about anything." He tried to keep his voice level, like what he was asking was supposed to be the most normal thing in the world, but it was clearly an effort for him; the man could hardly believe that any of this was actually real, but he was going to run with it for as long as it stuck.

Jocelyn watched Jacky wander off on business while Rude seemingly ignored her; she wondered if she ought to introduce Jacky, but realized there might be a reason the girl preferred to stay unknown. That conclusion she came to: shyness. Jacky had seemed a little bashful earlier. "I suppose that it can be pretty intimidating, dealing with several respectable and highly qualified law enforcement officials in one place," Jocelyn reasoned. "I'll let her do what she wants for now." She gave a big smile as the Shamus Austin chief of security presented her a warm welcome. "You're too kind, sir. Well, I couldn't do it without Rodney's help, I assure you. He's excellent at delegating tasks and making the most of my unique abilities. We bring out the best in each other!" the officer giggled, covering her mouth with the tips of her fingers to hide another giddy smile.

Jacky managed to uncover some useful information while Jocelyn absorbed Rude's attention, as she was wont to do. Whether caretakers, bosses, or casual observers, those who interacted with Jocelyn usually found themselves devoting a lot of thought to her, either from curiosity, worry, or as in this case, desire to exploit. "I figured! It's also about getting into the Shamus Austin mind-set, I imagine? Every mall- or shopping center- is so different, with a life and personality of its own, that it would be wrong to try to follow my regular routine here. Rather, I will mold myself from the outside in, becoming a security officer who sets the people of the Shamus Austin at ease, so long as I'm visiting here," she committed herself with a sharp salute... followed by a momentary blank stare of confusion. "Oh, that's it? Alright then..." she murmured, somewhat mystified by the fact that Rude seemingly hadn't detailed what she was suppose to wear after taking off her clothes. Then again, he'd said he'd give her something, so that was probably what he was talking about. "Just one moment! I'll give a little knock once I'm ready. It'll be done in a jiffy!"

With that, Jocelyn disappeared into the break room. She'd take a quick look around, less an investigation and more to make certain there were no people inside, before she started stripping down. She had just enough sense to know that it wasn't ordinary for people to undress in front of one another, but not enough sense to properly register when a new "uniform" itself left her in a state of undress. After confirming she was alone (by means of asking people to leave, if necessary), Jocelyn would begin to undress herself, which she was very quick and efficient at doing... worth pointing out only because, as a child, she hadn't been. These were skills learned on the job. Her outfit was rather simple to take off, starting with her bell-shaped cap and her shoes, then continuing with her belt. Next came the saucy bits: the untucked shirt was lifted off over her giant bosom, which bounced with a slight slapping noise just at coming out of the top and continued to show some motion even after that. After unzipping her slacks, she'd pull them down off her thick hips and thighs with similar difficulty given the tightness. As a final thought, she'd tug off each of the socks, unsure if they'd go with whatever he planned to make her wear, then hesitantly remove each of her white, lace gloves. Like Sleuth, she was an obsessive addict when it came to her gloves, feeling a bit naked without them... although, in her case, she was pretty naked, save for her underwear.

Delicately, she placed her frame against the door, then gave a polite knock, knock to indicate she was ready. If he flew inside with reckless abandon, he'd probably knock her over and onto the floor, but if he tried to carefully open it, she'd politely reach her arm around the door to accept her new wardrobe.
Jacky took advantage of her good luck to get a good read over the schedule, keeping an eye out for more incoming security and trying as hard as she could not to listen too carefully to the situation Jocelyn had gotten herself into. Indeed, there was a lot to take in... she tried her best to go ahead and memorize the five names. However, it sounded as though the schedule didn't lend itself to fingering a culprit. All four of the officers had regular shifts outside, and none of them sounded like they would be more likely than another to be involved. She also took a closer look at the cleaning staff, seeing if there were any names stationed in such a way that they'd have easy access to Damson's office.

Perhaps more interesting was what Jacky could fill in to the negative space surrounding the table. For starters, there was no shift that seemed directly tied to monitoring security cameras. Furthermore, Jacky hadn't seen any room that was obviously dedicated to monitoring equipment, although it could have been either of the two offices she hadn't looked into yet. Regardless, all of this pointed to one suspicion in the Navi's mind: it seemed likely that either a Navi or a Program was involved with monitoring the security cameras. In this day and age, it certainly wasn't much of a stretch of the imagination. A computer program that could judge situations and react without falling asleep in front of the camera would be a much better candidate to handle that portion of security... "Of course, then we get back to the question of why he isn't doing his job, apparently."

Ultimately, the schedule raised as many questions as it did answers, but at least Jacky had a new line of thought to pursue. She'd have to check in with Hyde and Sleuth soon to discuss, as much as she was enjoying her time away from operating. She gave a glance back to Jocelyn... "Goodness, she's really going ahead with it? Oh, Jocelyn... Unfortunately, for the sake of the mission, your sacrifice is not in vain." In an attempt to use more of the time Jocelyn had bought her, Jacky decided to flee before she was caught staring at a mall security staff schedule. She made a silent vow to rescue Jocelyn later if she saw things were getting too ridiculous.

Her first impulse was to head for the bathrooms, but she realized the fault there: she would have to knock (as she was a polite young lady), and that might cause Rude to catch sight of her.

Her next impulse was to simply hide in the cleaning supplies closet until Rude was out of the way, but that didn't seem like a good idea, either: after all, if she was caught heading there, it would be hard to come up with a good reason for why she'd been going in there (at least with her limited creativity).

She decided the best decision, strange as it might be, was to head for the meeting room. There was a bend in the hallway she could disappear around, so she could listen for footsteps to try and determine if the coast was clear to pass by. Furthermore, with Rude as the security head currently occupied, it was unlikely anybody would be using the meeting room itself. That meant less likelihood of encountering mall staff and having to explain herself...
As she scanned for names of interest, Jacky might have been disappointed to discover that the names in the shift boxes were all first name only; the only two cleaners were listed as 'Christopher' and 'Sierra', and they appeared to alternate evening shifts; Sierra was on the previous night, and Chris would be on today. Even so, if they ever got around to checking the security footage, that ought to clear up if either of them went in.

While she was checking the board, Rude showed Jocelyn into the break room, which was mercifully empty, this early in the morning, then bustled right away into the nearer of the side offices; he never so much as glanced at Jacky, so caught up in his own concerns was he. There was the sound of some bustling from the office he'd stepped into, and the soft squeak of a metal locker being opened and shut.

He was still busy, apparently, as Jacky headed down the side branch that led to the meeting room. This area was also empty of people, and it began to look as though Rude himself was the only mall officer present at all in this staff area.

The meeting room was comprised of a single large table, with a dozen or so seats around it, and a large whiteboard at one end. There were a few cupboards along the walls that served as flat-topped benches as well, and a photo-copier that looked positively antique, in the corner. Thre were a number of fliers and documents on some of the benches, and the white-baord held a rough-sketched diagram that looked like some sort of profit-margin chart. The small sill at the base of the whiteboard held a thick green marker, a single worn duster, and a slim, black object about a foot long that, upon inspection, would telescope out into a pointing rod about two metres long.

On the meeting table itself, were some files and reports that looked a bit more official, and the topmost sheet had a chart that mentioned shrinkage rates by section and department. Also, resting on the near corner of the table, was a PET. It was a pretty standard design, coloured and trimmed in the Shamus Austin green and yellow.

In slightly more questionable circumstances, Jocelyn would be relieved to find the break room empty as well. It was a fairly nondescript affair; blank walls with some 'motivational' posters about working hard and team spirit. There was a single long cushioned lounge, against one wall, and a table in the middle with chairs. The right wall, alongside the door, was the wet area, containing a pair of wash sinks and drying boards, two fridges and then a microwave. The fridges had a bunch of small notes, likely staff communications about whose food belonged to whom, or the like. The day's newspaper was on the table, open to the comics and crossword pages, though it hadn't been touched yet.

As Jocelyn stripped off, she might or might not notice the security bubble in the top left corner of the ceiling, but if she did note it, it likely wouldn't be a surprise; staff and meeting rooms needed monitoring just as much as every other part of a business environment after all.

She wouldn't be waiting long for the return of her instructor, and thankfully the man retained at least some small amount of tact when he returned, knocking once then turning the handle to open the door a crack. What he passed through to Jocelyn was... maybe a little underwhelming.

It was a thin fabric singlet pull-over, with broad shoulder straps but a narrow overall front and no sides. Instead, the back was joined to the front simply by a pair of elastic stretches at the base. Really, it was more the sort of thing that a person might wear over proper clothes, rather than on their own, unless one happened to be in a sporting event. In this case, it was the Austin yellow, trimmed with green, and it bore the word 'Visitor' in bold print across the front and back panels. If Jocelyn pulled the garment on over her under-things, she'd find that her particular assets made it difficult for the vest to do much more than cover them from the front, and barely at that. The expanse that needed covering on her chest would leave the vest able to reach no lower than the base of her ribs, leaving her midriff exposed. From the front, the sides of her breasts would still be quite visible, the narrow cut of the vest not managing the task completely, and from the side, the effect would be even more dramatic. No matter where one looked from, her underwear was going to remain at least partially visible.

The second garment was similar in nature; exceptionally thin, light fabric in a cream yellow, with green trim. This piece was also fairly light on in the coverage department, sporting an elasticated fabric waist band, that held only two long strips of loin-cloth style panels. The front was fairly broad, and while it wouldn't cover all the way out to her hips, it at least protected her modesty from the front. The panel was broad enough to support vertical lettering that read 'Security', in block letters, down to the end, which would fall to about shin height. The lack of sides would, again, leave a least a portion of her underwear visible to side-on views, but perhaps slightly more concerning was that the back panel was notably narrower, if the same length, and wouldn't really do very much to cover her behind properly.

That said, it was a bit hard to tell what was the front and what was the back, with the second garment. There was no tag, though the lettering was only on one panel. Perhaps it was meant to go the other way? It was difficult to tell for sure. Search as she might within the bundle that rude had passed her through, Jocelyn wouldn't find any more clothing mysteriously revealing itself. Those two garments were, apparently, it.

While Jacky was busy with the perhaps self-degrading but useful task of snooping around the office, Jocelyn was engaged with the no less useful but significantly more degrading task of distracting Rude. The good news was that she was doing that well without necessarily trying to. The bad news was that either Rude had prepared well in advance for this day or he'd otherwise just made an extremely bold leap of faith and had come up with something even worse than what Rodney usually picked out for her to wear. Jocelyn judged it as such based on two criteria: one, the green and yellow colors, which she didn't care for at all given they were so unfamiliar (although they were pretty gaudy to look at regardless), and two, the fact that it would let everyone see her underwear. Although she'd worn a lot of such outfits before without really thinking about it- a skirt so short her panties would show whenever she walked, a semi-transparent night-gown, and many a billowing garment that would allow one to see either up the back or down the front given the flow of the wind- she'd never been asked to wear one that put her undergarments so obviously on display.

"Well... I did know they would have different customs here... But perhaps I should ask Mister Rude about it, all the same?" Jocelyn thought to herself; she'd put the new uniform on over her bra and panties, but, all things considered, it looked especially awkward given the lack of coordination in the whole suit. If Sleuth was here, she'd also point out that having the word "VISITOR" printed across one's chest immediately undermined any point of having "SECURITY" written anywhere else on one's outfit. If anyone watching through the camera, which the Gloria Scott officer had not yet managed to locate, was eagerly awaiting the moment where she'd strip the final pieces off, they'd have to wait at least a little while longer; Jocelyn tapped gently on the door with her knuckles again and cracked the door ever so slightly. "Sir, I don't mean to be rude," she asked, inadvertently evoking his name, "but... what am I meant to wear underneath the new uniform? Did you have special garments for that as well? You see, my current ensemble, the bra especially, sort of show beneath the outfit at all points. I was just wondering if... well, Rodney always said that it was important that I be photogenic as I attend my duties, and I'm afraid that the dichotomy of the spring-yellow and neon-green, mixed with the sky blue of my underwear, might be a bit clashing," she offered. She still wasn't willing to step out, but she was apparently going to give him all the details regardless. "You see, today, I've chosen a pretty blue set, with the kinds of details that Rodney tells me mature, working women ought to favor: intricate embroidery with a bit of semi-transparency... the whole thing is a little thin all around, which is good, given that will help conceal it beneath the outfit you handed me, but it's still not quite enough. The bottom is a bit low and, er, the belt you've given me is a bit high, in contrast..."

She clenched her fingers at the door frame a bit tighter, then shook her head, still hidden from view. "No, listen to me complaining! That's not the sort of thing a model officer does. You must know that I'm not upset at all. I simply think that... Given my apparent role representing mall security everywhere... that perhaps we should be careful to make sure I'm fully coordinated before we go out. Don't you agree?" she asked, almost as if, amazingly, this is where her pride as a professional would step in. "I don't know what the solution might be. Do you, by chance, have an official swimsuit I could wear underneath?" Jocelyn inquired hopefully. Realizing she was still being pushy, she modified her request. "O-Or perhaps official undergarments?... That failing, maybe over-garments in a color more flattering to blue?" she continued. "Of course, I'll do whatever you think is best. Do you have any other suggestions? I know you might have suspected I'd be wearing something beneath that wouldn't clash so heavily with the uniform," Jocelyn apologized, as if there was anything she logically could have worn that would remain hidden, modest, and fashionable with a set of light yellow and green napkins.