Secrets In The Sanctum

She thinks I’m dating Puppy. How the hell did that happen? I’m over here thinking how smoking hot she looks in that dress and she’s over there thinking I’m robbing the crazy cradle.

I walk away without trying to explain that Potato Fingers isn’t my type; that conversation will have to wait for later, when we’re done with the family act. Right now I need to find the mayor’s hidden treasure.

The door we passed on the way in has been closed; I stand with my back to it, survey the arriving guests, and cover the sound of the jiggling handle with a cough. Locked.

I join the flow of high-priced suits and higher-priced escorts further into the building, fitting in perfectly on the exterior, as out of place as a child on a battlefield on the inside. The stench of excessive cologne and putrid perfume makes my stomach roil.

They turn into the luncheon room and I continue on, hoping to clear my head. There are three elevators up ahead; without really thinking it through I step into the nearest one. The building has ten floors and I assume the mayor has the best seat in the house. I press the ten but nothing happens; must need a pass to get access. I shrug and hit the nine on a whim and the button lights up and the door slides closed.

The elevator is silent and smooth - I was half expecting theme songs to various children’s television shows to be streaming from the stereo but I have only my thumping heartbeat for company. I guess that would have been too much of a tip-off.

I step confidently from the elevator and move to the right without hesitation. Only after I’m sure the hallway is empty do I pause to look around. I spot the door to the interior fire escape stairs at the end of the hall in the opposite direction and retrieve my lock pick gear from an inside sleeve pocket as I approach it. Needlessly, as it turns out - the door is unlocked.

I take the stairs two at a time, knowing I’ve already been absent too long. Emma will think something has gone wrong - unless her and Puppy are comparing notes on how I perform as a fake husband as compared to an imaginary boyfriend. Puppy is an incredible artist, and a good looking kid to boot, but… she’s not exactly always there. I need someone I can talk to, can't Emma see that?

The door to the tenth floor is unlocked as well. This is starting to feel too easy. I poke my head through the open doorway and find another silent, empty corridor awaiting me. I don’t have time to hesitate, I have to keep moving.

There are only two doors in sight - the one on my left is clearly marked as a conference room, the other has to be Wilkerson’s sanctum. I move on silent feet, the lush carpet aiding my covert advance. Tools at the ready I reach the door… only to find it slightly ajar.

I put the lock picks back in their concealed pocket and swear softly. My right hand reaches for the gun in my jacket but I bring it back down to my side. Let’s try bluffing my way through this first. Besides, a gunshot would just bring the entire police department down on my head faster than I could tag a trash bin.

I crack my neck, straighten my back, breath deep, and stride into the mayor’s office like I own the place. A boisterous greeting dies on my lips as I realize it is unoccupied. Maybe he went for a bathroom break? Or maybe I’m so far over my head I should stop thinking and just keep moving.

I follow the wall around the room, tapping at various intervals, hoping to find a hidden compartment. This is how they do it in the movies, right? I reach the window behind the mayor’s massive black desk without striking rich so I try the same technique on its polished wood surface. Just as I’m about to move on the timbre of my knuckles on the wood changes slightly in the far right corner.

I move around to that side, glance at the door over my shoulder, and find the source of the variation again. It’s about five inches by five inches - just large enough to hold a CD. My tools are back between my fingers in a flash and I start prying at the edge of the desk, searching for a weak spot. Sweat drips into my eyes and I blink it away with another low curse. He’ll be back any second, I’ll be caught red-handed, maybe executed, and…


The panel stands open, an unmarked CD sits regally inside on a deep purple cushion. I stare for half a second, grab it, slide it into my pocket, and snap the panel shut.

“You find anything Red?”

I have to check my pants to see if I’ve wet myself; everything seems okay down there. I turn and confusion hits me so hard my head swims.

“What are you doing here?” I ask lamely.

“You really think Joel would leave this up to you amateurs?” No-Neck replies with a sneer. “So,  you get anything yet?”

 “No,” I say, trusting my instincts. “Why don’t you help me check the drawers here?”

He nods and leaves the doorway to join me at the desk. I turn and begin tapping its surface again, needing to do something to keep my hands busy. I look up to ask No-Neck a question when the bright reflection of metal in the window stops me short. I try to leap over the desk to gain some space but I’m not fast enough.

The knife enters the back of my left leg, midway between my spine, its intended target, and my knee. My mouth opens to scream but a gloved hand covers it before anything more than a groan can escape. No-Neck has me bent over the desk, holding me in place with his body weight.

“It’s a shame you gotta go this way, kid,” he snarls in my ear while my vision darkens. “You had real potential. Just a damn shame.”

He tears the blade free and I know the end will be here soon. With a jolt I realize my tools are still in my left hand, which is stretched out on the table. With desperation I blindly jab over my shoulder in the direction of his heavy breathing.

A howl of pain and space to move are my rewards. I spin, ignoring the nausea that threatens to overwhelm me, and punch No-Neck as hard as I can. Fist meets nose with a disgusting crunch and he stumbles back, holding his ruined nose with one hand and tugging at the lock pick protruding from his neck with the other. I close the distance between us, pushing off my good leg, and slam my hand against the pick, driving it all the way in. His eyes go wide, he sways once, twice, then collapses in a heap.

I stand over him, panting and groaning and another wave of nausea arrives and suddenly I’m spewing vomit on No-Neck’s dead body. I close my eyes and drag my bad leg to the door, down the hall, to the elevator. I press the down arrow and rest my forehead against the center elevator, hoping it will be the one to take me away from this insanity.

Must be my lucky day - the door slides open and I collapse into the lift. After the threat of a blackout passes I pull myself up and jab the button for the lobby. I nearly collapse again when the lift lurches downward and have to lean heavily to the right. After an eternity the doors open again and I limp out.

I must be hallucinating - that looks like Puppy.

The End

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