Home > King of Code(8)

King of Code(8)
Author: C.D. Reiss


“Are you done helping me?” I asked.

“If you’re not here to buy the place?”

“I told you—”

“Everett Fitzgerald’s talking about buying it so…” She drifted off as if I could infer the rest.

The Fitz I knew was eccentric, brilliant, two generations from royalty. I couldn’t believe he’d ever heard of Barrington Glass Works. Not for a minute. Fitz was in the business of eliminating traffic and solving world peace. Not bottling.

“Since when?” I asked.

“Heard about it a month ago from a realtor in Doverton. He needs it to build the personal helicopters is what we think. He’s coming in three weeks to look at it.” She glistened with excitement. “When I first saw you, I thought you might be scouting for him.”

“I’m not.”

She shrugged, clearly disappointed.

“I’m not going to hurt you or the property. I’m not going to buy the plant. I’m not going to do anything you expect. In an hour, I’m going to be a crazy story you tell your friends. Are you going to let me in or not?”

“No.”

My patience was held together with scotch tape, and it was getting loose. “Why not?”

“I don’t have the code.” She tilted her head toward the padlock. It was the size of a box of pushpins and had a row of buttons.

“Okay, you know what? This was fun. But I could have done it myself. I could have driven here with my GPS, parked at the guardhouse, walked here, and been in the same barrel of shit as I am now. No, I would have been better off because I would have had a car. So, no, I don’t want to cut you into little pieces. It’s not my thing. But my God, if I were a cut-a-girl-into-little-pieces kind of guy, this would be the day I started.”

She raised an eyebrow. Daring me. She was daring me to cut her into little pieces, which wasn’t even on my list of shit to do.

“Let me see this.” I got my hands on the padlock.

It attached the ends of a heavy chain, which was wrapped around the poles of the gate. It had a code, which meant it could be cracked, right? I took out my phone to check the Tor boards. Maybe someone had a master code that worked.

No signal.

“Is this the only gate?”

“As far as I know.”

“Do you have tools in the trunk? A hacksaw? Stick of dynamite?” I looked at the top edge of the fence. There was a break in the barbed wire. Maybe I could get in there. I hooked my fingers on the chain link just above my head.

“No.”

I didn’t believe her, but I didn’t think tools would do it either. I also didn’t believe she didn’t know how to get in. There was enough graffiti to account for a hardware store full of spray paint.

“Rebecca or Carlyle would have the key, I guess. She’s the realtor over in Doverton, and he does security for everything around here. We can call them if we go back.”

“Yeah. No. Don’t worry about it.”

I took out my pocketknife and pinched out the awl. I didn’t have time to pretend a normal way in was going to work, nor did I have the patience to explain a hundred times why I wanted to get into an empty factory.

I lifted the weight of the lock and looked under it. Three pinholes. One bigger than the other two. “Those earrings? They platinum?”

“White gold.” Her veil of suspicion didn’t obscure her curiosity enough to silence her.

“Can I borrow one?” I asked.

“Excuse me?”

“It’s white gold, so it’s hard enough that I won’t bend it.” I held out my hand. “If I break it, I’ll replace it. But I won’t break it.”

She thought for a second, looking me up and down as if scanning my complete character. Either liking what she saw or accepting my shortcomings, her hands went to her ear. When she looked at the tall reeds, her hair blew back. Her neck, her jaw, those earrings. I wanted to mark her right at the base of the curve and the center of the length of her throat.

I didn’t even have time for the fantasy, much less charming it into reality.

Two pieces of jewelry sat in her outstretched palm. The diamond post and the backing.

I reached for the post. “Thank you.”

She closed her hand before I got it. “What do you think is in there?”

This girl.

“Someone left something for me in there. I don’t know what it is, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

“Who?”

“Someone who wants to screw me. I don’t want to be screwed. I want to get him before he gets me, but I have to follow along until I can make a move. Is that enough of an answer for you?”

She opened her hand and let me pluck out the post.

I was extra careful with the post, making sure to push and not bend. The lock popped open.

“So,” she said when I handed her back the earring, “you’re a thief?”

She couldn’t know it was a trick question because she didn’t know where I’d been and what I’d done.

“I like to know how things work. Once you know that, you can do anything.”

She put the dirty earring in her pocket. I couldn’t tell if she believed a word I’d said. It didn’t look good for me though. I wouldn’t have trusted me if the situations were reversed.

I hooked the lock over the fence and opened the gate. I gestured for her to go in. “Are you coming?”

She held her chin up and crossed through. I followed, leaving the gate open, and we went toward the building. As we got closer, the sheer magnitude of the place got very real. In the vast emptiness, it had looked to scale, but against the size of actual humans, it was titanic. The warehouse windows had survived the closure, some even looked new. The grass and brush were trimmed. We came to a sealed metal door set over a steel staircase to the second floor. The door was painted black. Shiny, as if it was new.

“We bottled beer and soda,” she said. “The syrup and soda came from all over, but the glass bottles were too expensive to ship, so we made them here.”

“Bottles have been plastic since forever.”

“Yeah, the soda went away a long time ago. We did beer, then there was just nothing. All the bottling went to Mexico. The work just shrank and shrank.”

“Are we going to have to get past another lock to get into the building?”

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