Isabel knows the truth about their Archaeology project. But alarms are also going off about this rumor. Considering she herself is involved in some underground sales. She would have to tread very carefully at this point. Very very carefully. She wishes Nate were here; he's always been the shrewd businessman factor in this game.
|Choose your moves carefully Isabel. This is no ordinary game of chess you're playing.|
Isabel decides to ask around town to see if anyone knows where she might be able to find some replica relics. Cheap knockoffs were big business for some of the merchants in Egypt, so perhaps here would be the same and lead her to secret black market sales. But where Egypt had plenty of tourists looking for a cheap trinket to decorate their home with Egyptian decor, Champs Les Sims did not seem to cater to the same sort of tourism. Most came here for the charming culture, food, and most of all - the nectar.
The only relic shop in town is, not coincidentally, run by the Bonnet family. Isabel is quite certain Beatrice would not be sending her on a wild goose chase to uncover her own family's black market business since they are obviously part of the corporation.
|The Bonnet family "Heirloom" Shop. Real (or are they?) artifacts, high prices, corporate ownership.|
Asking around town did not produce any results at all. In fact, most of the locals seemed annoyed by her invasive questioning. They were suspicious of a foreign sim asking too many questions. It was apparently considered gauche to suggest tourism was even encouraged or catered to here, unless you were buying expensive Nectar, of course.
Isabel is frustrated. She's not a private investigator, why is she being asked to do this sort of undercover work? Aren't her relic reconstructions and recoveries enough for those greedy bastards?
|French woman: "Why would anyone care about old broken bits of pottery. Pffft! Non non non!"|
She checks the 'adventure board' outside the Inn where she stays as base camp. There's the usual ads asking for photos and tours, etc. But one ad catches her eye because she recognizes the name of the contact. It's the same name Cyriaque Duval gave her back in St. Claire. Monsieur Yves Bernard, local Nectar specialist and apparently a social organizer for the town. He's asking for nectar tasters at an event to promote historical nectar making and ancient types of nectar never before seen or tasted.
|"Well this is somewhere to start at least."|
This seems as good a time as any to meet the contact she was recommended. Maybe he's involved and will know why she's asking when she tells him Monsieur Duval sent her there.
Isabel is also suddenly aware of the food truck sitting suspiciously outside the Inn. Just like the ones in Egypt, it seems oddly out of place here in a small quaint town in France. Pretending to be adding some notes from the board into her tablet, Isabel sends a quick instant message to Nate, who happens to be online at the time.
He says for her to go near it and talk, so he can see if he can pick up anything via the spy bear he planted in the one in Al-Simhara or through her own sim-pad si-fi connection. If his theory is right, all of the trucks are 'listening' devices and he should be able to hear through their network computers inside. It seems far-fetched, but Isabel gives it a try.
Nate's message beeps in her pocket. She takes that to mean he got a positive trace on the frequency in the truck. She pretends to do a few stretches and jogs away casually as if nothing is amiss.
The reply message from Nate says there's definitely tracking gear in that truck and she needs to steer clear of them. He also says there's a local man at the relic shop they are tracking right now, who may be an investigator. Isabel's bravery gets the better of her and she decides to meet with him.
The man Nate identified as connected to the trucks does seem strangely formal and dressed in an almost military crisp corporate suit. "Nondescript" comes to mind. And he's not french either from what she can tell. Introducing himself as "Adrien Langston." Isabel files the name away for future research.
Adrien seems overly cautious about Isabel too, and they exchange pleasantries inside the relic shop. The topic of the shop is easy to tie in with casual conversation and Isabel drops a hint that she's looking for less expensive relics to take home as souvenirs and the prices in this shop are too high.
Adrien does not disappoint her, and eagerly gives her a business card. Now she has a lead.
|"Thank you, I appreciate the reference and hope to do business soon!"|
First, she has to figure out the connections. She feeds the details of her conversation back to Nate and he promises to do some digging on the names.
Isabel changes clothes and heads out to the Nectary for the tasting event Duval's contact there is hosting.
|"Welcome to our nectar infusion event. Please come in and relax. Enjoy the flavorful delights within!"|
Yves Bernard greets her and holds the door open for her, a perfect gentleman with a crooked smile and ruffled hair begging for a brush. Something about him reminds her of her Father, or an older Nate, and she instantly likes him.
|"Bienvenue, mon ami!"|
Isabel has brought along the mysterious bottle of nectar she acquired down in the catacombs. She reads the inscription written on it before pouring it into glasses on a serving tray.
"heureux au jeu, malheureux en amour"
("happy at the game, unhappy in love")
Odd, but perhaps fitting for her current adventure, eh?
|"Well, here's to hopefully winning the game at least ..."|
Maybe its his rumpled fuzzy sweater, quirky appearance with funny nose and bushy eyebrows, or his non-formal boyish demeanor that does it. Isabel isn't sure which it is, but she finds herself talking quite a long time with Yves over glasses of sweet nectar.
|(If only Sims knew what we could see in those thought bubbles!)|
While Isabel and Yves discuss good books, others are starting to feel warmed up by Isabel's unusual nectar ...
And ... Isabel and Yves too.
|"I must be moonstruck right now ... I feel so warm and fuzzy inside."|
The glasses of nectar go down too easily one right after the next. Isabel's flirting with Yves seemed natural and so easy to do.
Feeling light headed, Isabel loses herself to the sensations of strong (and maybe magic?) ancient nectar.
Yves quotes her poetry over another glass ...
"Nectar comes in at the mouth
And love comes in at the eye;
That's all we shall know for truth
Before we grow old and die.
I lift the glass to my mouth,
I look at you, and I sigh."
(- W.B. Yeats)*
Isabel has no idea how she ended up in Yves' arms, but she didn't feel at all like stopping it.
And she doesn't really remember having any objections to going upstairs to the Inn rooms of the Nectary. Romantic getaway suites designed for just this type of romantic encounter.
|Isabel thinks, fleetingly, "Am I really having a romantic fling?"|
But the logical side of her brain, heavily subdued by nectar and woohoo, seems willing to admit this may have been the right time, and the right place. For now. Yves Bernard seems like an honest and open guy to Isabel, who has long kept her heart locked away.
|"You are most beautiful, mon amour."|
That night, back in her own bed at the Base Camp Inn. Isabel has a lot of Nectar-muddled dreams about Yves, her worries over MorcuCorp, and even about her Father. She has a lot of unresolved concerns about everything.
|"Commitment Issues" shining through in Isabel's dreams.|
When she wakes up the next morning, she realizes she's made a mistake getting romantically wrapped up with a local who may or may not be somehow connected to her illicit operations. A professional Archaeologist does not engage in risky business of that sort while on the job!
|"Ugh. What have I done?"|
Despite several voicemails she does not reply to, Isabel manages to avoid seeing Yves for the next week of her work trip. She stays focused and brings in many exciting new relics for the Bonnet family business, which of course feeds the MorcuCorp involvement. Isabel sends back less relics to St. Claire this time, despite Nate's insistence they can get top dollar with Duval. Something is worrying Isabel about it all and until she confirms who the Langston person is, and whether or not Yves is also involved, she needs to keep a low profile.
Finally, she cannot avoid Yves anymore and needs to see him. Her trip will be ending soon, she'd been in France a long time.
Nate's super sleuth work had uncovered that Adrien Langston, was an alias and he was actually Adrien Landgraab, son of one of the notorious Malcolm Landgraabs in the long line of their legacy. Nate isn't sure what involvement the Landgraabs have at this level in France or with MorcuCorp though its well known they have in fact had involvement with them or against them over the centuries depending on where the simoleons were found.
Isabel doesn't know if she should give her info about Adrien and the spy-food-trucks to Beatrice Bonnet or if this will just be pointless since they are working in cooperation anyways. Nate suggests coming clean with Yves Bernard since he's Duval's contact. They need to know who he's in league with! Nate, of course, had no idea why Isabel is reluctant to go see Yves.
But she goes to his house and puts on her brave face and rings the bell.
|Isabel is rarely ever nervous. Today is one of those rare times.|
Yves is so happy to see her, and doesn't even seem upset she hadn't returned his call. His genuine gregarious good nature is a huge relief to Isabel, who confesses she was quite nervous about seeing him again.
Isabel learns that she is not the only one who is brave.
|"Oh that's awesome. I knew there was a reason I really liked being around you!"|
Yves laughs, and assures Isabel there are a lot more reasons why she would like being around him if she got to know him, and not just because they went to bed together, though he's confident that was definitely a plus!
|"I know, it was fabulous for me too, but I am not going to pretend there's anything serious between us, agreed?"|
What a relief. Yves is not interested in a long term or long distance relationship. He just wants to enjoy her company while she's here.
Finally, Isabel comes out with the real reason for her visit aside from wanting to see him again, of course.
She tells Yves all about the food truck, the meeting with the undercover Adrien Landgraab, an obscure and quiet artist relatively unknown in the Landgraab legacy, and her concerns about Duval's connection to the Bonnet family and MorcuCorp. It all spills out in a long flurry of words, what a confusing mess!
|"And I just don't know who to trust. Even you, forgive me Yves, I just don't know what color pawn, black or white I'm actually playing against!"|
Yves laughs and hugs Isabel tight. "I smile at your chess reference, but tis' true Mademoiselle, there is much to be concerned about and many players in this match."
Yves goes on to explain in more detail who everyone is, at least as far as he can tell. He's a Nectar specialist, not relics, but he knows enough about the local 'business' to have agreed to work with Duval in sourcing clean relics, not copies and not black market.
"Langston is the wild card here. If he is actually working with MorcuCorp, then that complicates matters a bit more," Yves smiles again and thinks carefully before continuing. "Duval, however, you can trust. He is actually a double agent working undercover to try and snag the kingpin leader of the relic black market. Your boss here, Beatrice, does not know you know of him, and in turn, Duval has promised her to 'keep an eye on you' from St. Claire. Does that make sense now how he is connected?"
Isabel tries to wrap all this intrigue and mystery around her brain. Genius or not, there's a lot of really confusing moves happening in this particular chess game! She nods and asks, "So does that mean the relics I've ...ahem, acquired on my own and sold through Monsieur Duval are off the record and safe?"
Yves grins and kisses her. "Yes! Your brother is quite a clever businessman to find such a resource right under the noses of your employers!"
Hugely relieved, Isabel agrees to spend the day on a date with Yves to celebrate.
|"Would you do me the honor of dinner and a walk along the river Mademoiselle?"|
After a lovely dinner and walk, they stop to watch the stars together on the bridge that goes across towards Paris. The Eiffel Tower can be seen in the distance along with the Parisian skyline.
|Awww... how romantic. Yves is such a scruffy likable fellow.|
Yves walks Isabel back to the Inn, and they sit for awhile and cuddle, and even make out a little. It's so much easier to be bold and carefree of what others think of you when traveling in a foreign country. You can be anything you want ...
And right now, Isabel wants Yves.
|"This is my last night here, please, take me to bed with you again ..."|
Bold Isabel, spends the night lovemaking with her french lover, carefree and happy. And this time there was no magical nectar to cloud things. Just pure desire, and possibly a little love.
But finally, all adventures end and Isabel's is nearly over. She and Yves promise to 'keep in touch' but that no serious commitments were expected as she never knew where her next adventure would take her or when she would be able to return to France. Yves agrees that when things settle down a bit in their future, he would like to come visit her and his old school friend Cyriaque in St. Claire.
|"I should like very much to see you again one day, mon amour ..."|
Isabel returns to St. Claire with a smile on her face, and much more confidence about her association with Duval. She trusts her instincts, and Yves to lead her the right direction. She makes arrangements to meet with Cyriaque the very next day after her arrival back in St. Claire.
It's mid evening when the taxi drops Isabel off out front of her townhouse in the historic Bradford district of St. Claire. She's stretching her tired muscles and thinking how she needs to get the porch light bulb replaced. It's far too dark out front.
|"Ugh, my neck is so stiff. I need a hot bath!"|
She's thinking of her big business meeting with Duval tomorrow and how exciting it is to be on her way to comfortable wealth when she heads up the steps and nearly steps right on a small bundle wrapped in a pink blanket ...
|"What - is ... that?"|
Of course, it's not a stray kitten.
It's a baby.
|"Oh great. Just when things were going perfectly fine ..."|
Onward to chapter 2.10 - "No Name"
Yay - a FUN cliffhanger this time! =)
I hope you enjoy the suspense of this, and it surprised you. Of course, some of you may already be putting the pieces of the puzzle together and have your own suspicions. Don't worry, no spoilers in talking about it here if you want. I expect to release the followup pretty quickly this weekend as I'm going to be super busy next week and won't be able to write.
Also, as necessary, it's important I give proper credit to the poem I took liberties with and changed the word wine to be nectar, to better fit with the Sims version!
A Drinking Song, by W.B. Yeats (1865-1939). Responsibilities and Other Poems. 1916.
It's a poem I heard given as a toast once, and I've always loved it! It seemed so fitting for Isabel and Yves.
Yes, Yves is a 'resident' sim of Champs Les Sims, and Isabel really did start flirting it up with him at the nectary. I decided to let her have her way, and her romance!
The Landgraabs are often named in connection with MorcuCorp though its uncertain why or how. I wanted another character who could possibly make a future appearance if the plot thickens more for Isabel's investigation. Nate's hunch was right, and the food trucks are in fact spy trucks!
Adrien (Langston) Landgraab, btw, is the son of Malcolm Landgraab in the Xbox 360 version of the Sims3, which my own son played briefly.