“Maybe they’re sharing embarrassing stories about you,” Zap said, grinning at the shelf of apples in front of him.
“Sure, maybe,” Alan said. “Nalley really likes to get people talking. She’ll listen to stories all day.”
Zap turned and looked back at Alan. “I hear you used to have a car,” he said mildly.
Alan looked back at Zap, his expression somewhat suspicious. “Yeah,” he said. “I sold it.”
“Hm,” Zap said, returning to his work. “Okay. That’s cool, owning a car.”
“Might get another one,” Alan said, his expression relaxing a bit. “Nalley’s going to build me something out of salvage parts. Collecting the parts now, and she’ll eventually find a frame.”
“I’m here!” a voice called from the front of the store. “I’m here!”
“Don’t tell me; clock in!” Alan shouted back.
“So,” Zap said to Steve as the two paced the aisles, “How was coffee with Nalley?”
“It was good!” Steve said, smiling. “She’s really great. Alan’s caught himself a seriously awesome girl.”
“She does seem really friendly,” Zap agreed. “She’s cool. What did you guys talk about?”
“I did a lot of talking, really,” Steve said. “I told her the story about how I ended up getting to carry Polaris here.”
“I should hear that story sometime,” Zap said.
“Yeah, you really should. Other than that we just covered basic stuff about each other, you know, what we do and stuff.”
“Nalley’s a vehicle mechanic, right?”
“What kind of cars does she specialize in, do you know?”
“Um, I think mostly Chiaroscuro cars.”
“Mmm…” Zap said.
“What are you on about?” Steve said suspiciously. “You’re acting really weird.”
“I want to show you something,” Zap said, pulling out his personal shell and tapping on its screen.
“Just going to the Chiaroscuro manufacturer’s ethsite. Did you know that Alan used to own a Chiaroscuro?”
“Oh? What model?”
“Well, I’m not entirely sure,” Zap said, tapping the screen a few times. “But I’m pretty sure it was this model.”
He showed the screen of his shell to Steve. Steve froze. Her hazel eyes flickered from the screen of the shell to Zap’s eyes several times. Her face registered confusion first, then surprise, then suspicion.
“What—” she began, and shook her head. “What are you trying to say?”
“You know,” Zap said, “I’m not sure. I’m not sure what I’m trying to say. But I think there’s something to be said.”
“Maybe it’s a coincidence,” Steve said.
“You know, if not for Paru’s first comment, I’d write it off as a New Washington thing and leave it at that.”
Steve shifted uncomfortably. “Are you going to say something?”
“I don’t know,” Zap said, tapping his shell and putting it back in its pocket. “I don’t think so, not yet. But I figured you ought to know.”
“I guess,” Steve said. Her face suddenly expressed irritation. “Man, Zap, why do you have to think so much.”
“I know; it’s a bad habit.”