Sandra felt as if she had become deaf. Looking out of the eyes of the Contrived Garith but not being able to hear had taken a toll on her nerves. She had not been able to figure out why he had taken apart the metal cot in the dark room and it was frustrating her. She had not been able to understand what had happened in the exchange with the man in the office and it was infuriating her.
And now he had put sunglasses on so everything became very difficult to see. He must know that it made everything dark and a little out of focus for her. Did he not trust her? No, she realized, he may not trust her all the way, but he definitely didn’t trust Dr. Malpus. She glanced up at him, where he sat beside her, watching intensely. His jaw was clenching and unclenching ever so slightly.
Because fear had become her constant since Garith had walked into that waiting room, the added level of fear that twisted her gut as she wondered who Dr. Malpus really was did little more than exhaust her further.
As she watched Garith pick the lock to the back entrance of a building she furiously wondered who he was, and what he really did, now that he had supposedly fired himself. And what had driven him to destroy everything—years of his hard work? She did not know and she was very angry that Garith would not tell her anything other than vague hintings.
And that girl—Errand’s daughter—she had said something about children being involved. “do you know whose children they are?” Garith had asked her. She had not known. “Then trust me, you don’t care for them enough to risk telling me all of this.” had been his response. What was that supposed to mean? She wondered if ‘children’ was code for something, but she was not certain. And what about these contrived people? Where did they fit into the picture?
There were so many questions that needed answering and all she had was a still Garith in a dentist’s chair and a silent camera looking eerily out of the eyes of his duplicate. Neither any good for answering questions.
Garith easily picked the lock, which was meant to deter ordinary intruders and entered a sparsely furnished room boasting only a ragged gray fold-out couch and a tippy floor lamp with a yellowing lampshade. The lamp was on a timer and the combination of its wan light and the pale light that filtered through the thick, dusty curtains amounted to very little. Once inside, Garith stood very still for a moment, listening. He could not hear any movement in the house.
Satisfied, but by no means off guard, Garith entered the small dark hallway that exited off the first room and after glancing into all the other rooms on the first floor—a kitchen, dining room, and a tiny bathroom—all empty and unused. A perfect cover for a secret storage site. He proceeded down into the basement. He had to go down in complete darkness because the light at the top of the stairs wasn’t working. This is not a pleasant experience when you are in a safe comfortable place where you know there is nothing to fear. Walking down stairs into complete darkness in an unfamiliar and hostile house was enough to even make the Contrived Garith nervous and wishing he had thought to bring a flashlight. He was surprised at himself for forgetting that small but important tool. When he reached the bottom of the flight, he felt the walls in search of a light switch.
A slow raspy breath coming from the basement room made his hands pause, then hurry. When he turned the switch on, he had a weapon in his hand and was plastered to the wall of the stairwell, making him a smaller target. A bare bulb did its best to light the dingy basement room where a pile of clothes grunted, stirred and sat up on the far side of the room. An old man, with deep shadows accentuating his wrinkles and matted hair protruding from his balding head, stared at Garith in surprise.
“Don’t shoot,” said the old man, clumsily putting his hands above his head.
Garith gazed at him for a moment before speaking. “Get up, with your hands above your head and come stand under the light.”
The old man obeyed, his hands shaking a little as he used the wall to push himself to his feet and came forward.
“Please don’t hurt me,” the man’s voice was shaking with fear, “I didn’t mean to intrude. The place was empty. I was just looking for somewhere to spend the night.”
“Turn around, and keep your hands in the air.”
Again, the old man complied and Garith put the barrel of his gun to the old man’s neck while he fished something out of his breast pocket. A moment later, he pressed a small metal square against the old man’s neck. A blue light glowed on it. No heat.
“What are you doing?” the old man asked.
“A small test,” Garith replied, quickly slipping his gun into its holster and producing a narrow cord, which he wrapped around the man’s neck and tightened.
The old man struggled frantically, unable to breath.
“You’re lucky I’m giving you the chance to escape,” Garith growled under his breath as he held the cord steady, “I could have just shot you.”
The man disappeared a moment later. Garith pocketed the rope and picked up the small metal square. He then began to work very quickly. He started with the filing cabinets. He wished he didn’t have to wear the dark glasses as he opened file after file, scanning their contents, and pausing now and then to read in more detail. After a few minutes of working, he heard mournful fiddle music start up, coming from the street outside. It continued to play, providing an eerie soundtrack to his work. After about five minutes he found a document which he set aside. After ten minutes he took a break from the filing cabinets and began opening the old boxes that were stacked on the other side of the room and sorting quickly through their contents.
The fiddle music became more cheerful and it played a very familiar tune. A small smile crossed Garith’s lips at the change of tune. The boxes were full of bits and pieces of technology. Some of them were organized, well packed and carefully labeled by someone who obviously valued order. Other boxes had clearly been thrown together carelessly and were a terrible mess of wires and screws and yellow and green circuit boards. Garith was at home in the world of machines and knew exactly what he was looking for, so he was able to proceed quickly.
He opened the sixth box and there it what, lying right on top. It didn’t look like much, just an irregular egg shaped piece of metal that was open on one side to reveal a tiny and complex system of wires. There were gaps inside where parts were missing. But Garith had expected that. The prototype had never been finished because he had taken the blueprint. Garith was careful not too look at it long, or up close, even though he longed to admire it or figure out what parts he would need to complete it.
He quickly wrapped it in a rag and stuffed the small shape into his jacket. He closed up the box and returned to the filing cabinets. Wishing he could continue looking around here, but knowing that his time was running out, he grabbed the file he had set aside, placing it under his jacket as well, and headed up the stairs. He paused for a moment before shutting the light off and considered making a mess of the room to hide his quick search and make it more difficult for them to discover what was missing. But he changed his mind and pushed his sunglasses up on his nose. He was probably being watched, anyways.
He didn’t bother locking the door behind him but slipped out into the gray day and walked around the block until he was at the front of the house. There, standing under a lamppost by the street, was the violinist he had heard playing. It was a young man in a long raged brown trench coat with a deflated black Mohawk ticking his tattooed neck. He continued to play an upbeat waltz as Garith approached and dropped something into his open violin case.
Garith walked on down the street, minus a conspicuous oval-shaped lump in his jacket. He got a black taxi cab at the corner of the street and by the time he drove away the musician was gone.