The Twilight Zone: Episode 9X The Locksmith of Saigon

     When Hue Cahn finally spots a scant opening between scooters buzzing along Tan Binh Boulevard, he motions impatiently to his three apprentices, and they all step bravely into the traffic. Intent only on his own crossing, he quickly snakes his way across to the safety of the far curb, keys tinkling angrily in his pocket with every swerve. Only then does he look up, noting angrily that two of the youngsters stand panting beside him while the third is still marooned on the far side, waving stupidly. Hue Cahn purses his thin lips. "Leave him," he rasps.

     With his two remaining apprentices, Hue Cahn falls into a wave of pedestrians and rides the collective tide for three blocks, breaking free to hustle down the unpaved alley by the Nha Rong Memorial House. He turns to make sure the apprentices are following, then turns left and scurries as fast as his reedy legs will carry him to the low concrete building marked Hue Cahn Locks.

     "Today's locksmiths are dog bladders," he tells the youths as they catch up and stand before him at the metal door. "They work on the absurd assumption that locks are meant to keep people out."

     The recruits take notes as he points to the door's Weiser lock and speaks lovingly about its three-ball drop circuit.

     "Not only would it require my mastery to break in," he says, stressing the last word. "But not even ghosts can get out."

     Shielding the lock with his thin body, Hue Cahn fumbles loudly with his key-ring and swings open the door to a bare, darkened room with four small doors set in the far wall. One is partly open, and a sprung padlock lies on the floor.

     "Here is the ghost who couldn't get out; step carefully," he smiles as he takes a wide stride over a skeleton. Dusty fragments of green clothing veil the bones. He looks down at the skeleton, shakes his head sadly, and points to the open cell. "The Dudley lock; not secure, as you can see."

     He steps nimbly and hides his handling at the second door, whistling happily when he flings it open. In the cell, an old man sits slumped on a small cot, head lolling and eyes fixed on nowhere. One apprentice retches dryly and bolts for the building's front door. Hue Cahn laughs with the sound of rustling leaves and calls after her that the front door's Weiser dead-bolt is self-locking.

     "Foster's finally dead," says Hue Cahn to the cadaver. He nods approvingly."The Schlage BA360 held him well for thirty-four years."

    He scuttles to the next door and rattles his key chain as he slides a slot open.

     "Still here, Captain McWhinnie?" he asks the gaunt, grey-haired prisoner. "Of course you are. It's the DL Thumbturn 160 with roller catch, you know."

     "The war's long over, dung-face; it must be," says the prisoner weakly. Hue Cahn very slowly slides a shiny golden key off his heavy ring and throws it into the cell.

     "I have something for you, Captain," says Hue Cahn. "These are the keys to Foster's room. And I gave him yours. Good luck and Merry Christmas."

The End

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