(and in case you don’t know by now, this cover has nothing to do with the story)
“Okay let’s do this.”
Sharon and Andrew were standing beside him looking at the shelving unit mounted on the wall, he pulled the card, not that he really needed it now. He just wanted to be absolutely sure. “First Hawkeye. Andrew was closest to that title and he pulled all the issues off the shelf and examined the space behind it. Then he noticed that the part of the shelf behind this was stuck to the wall at a funny angle, he put his fingers behind it and it popped off. The other two were right behind him and he handed them the small wooden panel.
“Magnetics, and it was sticking to an old fashion metal toggle switch, the switch was in the up position with no label on it.” Andrew announced.
Sharon and Gary leaned in to look at it. Gary was about to flip it when Sharon grabbed his hand. “Not yet, let us find what is behind the rest of the books.” She stated cautiously.
Gary just nodded, and looked at the list again. “JLA.”
Sharon was closet to this title and moved all the issues off the shelf and on to the table. She again found the panel with the magnet, but this toggle switch was in the down position.
“Okay now for the last one. Kevin Smith’s Bionic Man.” Gary moved to the end of the lowest shelf and then to the top of the next one looking for the title, he found it on the next shelving unit over and repeated to procedure, but this time the backing was not sectional, it was one long piece and nailed to the rest of the shelf. “Something is wrong, no section it is one long piece.” He shook the self and all the comic books moved.
The other two came over and looked as well.
“Something is wrong, we missed something.” Gary exclaimed.
“But what, the first two were exactly where they were supposed to be.”
Gary stated the obvious, “Well I supposed we could take down every comic book and look behind each one.” He shook his head at the thought of all the work, and looked at his watch if they started right now, they had nine hours till the shop opened on Saturday morning, and sales lately had been very good lately on Saturday, a lot of people buying something for the geek in their life for Christmas.
Sharon leaned against the table and looked at the shelves, and then she snapped her fingers. “Do you remember what you told me the first time we met?”
Gary was puzzled. “Ah don’t be late and taking Wednesday off was grounds for immediate termination.”
She punched him. “No, the instructions you received from you father thru the lawyer. No major changes to the shop.”
“Yea so,” He motioned around the shop. “same as when I first started running it, same stupid mismatched furniture, same cash register with a broken 3 key, and same ugly carpeting. Same stupid store.”
“Not exactly, remember I talked you into changing you orders. A few more copies of some titles, and we got rid of a couple because they never sold.”
“Yeah so.” Then the light went off. “We changed how we stocked shelves.” He turned to Andrew. “Where is that photograph of you and my god father?”
Andrew had been watching the two of them as they worked it all out together, and realized at the same time about the photograph and was reaching for it on the counter. “Here it is.”
They all gathered around the photograph that showed the same shelf the other two switches had been found on.
“JLA is in the same place.”
“But Bionic Man was all the way down here.” Gary said pointing to the lowest part of the middle shelving unit.
The three of them looked at each other, Gary moved to where the book used to be placed. “Huh, Joe the Barbarian,” Gary said moving the books. “How is that selling?”
Sharon responded. “Does it really matter right now, is there a switch or not?”
Gary responded with by producing the telltale click which revealed the same setup. This switch was also in the down position.
They all looked at each other and Gary reached out and flipped the switch. The three of them looked around the shop and looked for something to happen. Sharon was near the first one they uncovered and she looked at Gary and she reached over and switched it in the opposite direction, in this case down. The three of them paused and looked around, the empty store.
“Andrew would you flip the second switch?”
“Sure.” Andrew stated calmly, and reached out and flipped the final switch in the opposite position.
This time the group waited a full minute, listening intently, all they heard was the occasional car going by outside the shop on the street.
Sharon spoke up. “You don’t think this could be operating something upstairs, or in the basement?”
Gary shook his head. “All the instructions I got from my father’s lawyer were about this shop.” He said motioning around. “Nothing about the apartment, besides no way my father could have foreseen Andrew helping out. No I am thinking he would have set it up so I could find it, whatever ‘it’ is, all by myself with no help.”
Gary walked away from the shelf, and rubbed his chin. Sharon came and leaned against the table, and Andrew walked over to a chair, turned it around so it faced away from them and then straddled the chair and sat on it backwards.
The three of them were silent for a few minutes finally Gary broke the silence. “Well let’s not make the same mistake we made before.”
“What mistake was that?” Andrew asked.
“Well we thought it was about the comic books, it wasn’t, my father was not into them, he was into puzzles, electronics, and classic novels.”
Sharon chimed in now. “Yes, like the puzzle box he sent you.”
Gary snapped his fingers and the other two looked at him. He got up and walked over to the last toggle switch found, stared intently at it and then very gently flipped the switch. He flipped it back and forth four or five times. Then he looked at the two of them. “It is another logic problem.”
“Huh?” Andrew stated.
The switch can either be in the on position or the off position. There are three switches. So they can be exactly eight settings overall. Either all off, all on, or some combination of on and off.” Gary was talking faster and faster. “So I am thinking that went we get all the switches in the proper position, whatever that is, then we will get the next clue, maybe even the answer to where my father is.”
“Makes sense.” Sharon said. “Guys, I have to run upstairs for a minute, please don’t do anything till I come back.”
“Well I might lay out all the positions, but I promise not to touch any of the switches till you get back.”
Andrew nodded as well.
Sharon gathered up her high heel shoes and walked quickly upstairs. Gary walked over to the counter and got a pen and piece of paper.
Andrew stood up and stretched, then looked at his watch. “Whoa, almost one.”
Gary did not respond, just kept working on the diagram.
“So does Sharon live here with you?”
Gary looked up. “No, she lives a couple of blocks away.” Then went back to the paper.
“So how long have you guys been a couple?”
Gary looked up again, with a confused look. “Oh well, we are not exactly going out. In fact tonight was supposed to be our first date.”
Andrew whistled. “Hey man I am sorry, I ruined your plans.”
“Dude, things like this have been messing us up all semester. Don’t sweat it.” Gary said and waved he hand dismissively. He looked at the sheet of paper. “Yeah I was right, eight permutations, of off and on for the three switches.
“Only eight, well this should not take too long.” Sharon said from across the room.
Andrew saw that she had changed into a pair of blue jeans, black Converse high tops, and a college sweat shirt. Even wearing this she was very pretty. He was a little jealous of Gary.
“Okay everyone man a switch.” Gary instructed.
They each got to a switch and they all placed their hands on them. “Okay, first thing, everyone flip the switches down.
Three clicks. Nothing.
Three more clicks. Nothing.
“Okay everyone listen carefully,” Gary said looking at the paper. “Sharon flip yours down.”
“Okay, switch yours back up Sharon, and Andrew switch yours down.”
Click. Then they all heard it, and felt it as well. A deeply recessed dull click and the whole shelf moved slightly toward them all.
“Okay that was weird.” Andrew said.
Gary looked around quickly. “I think this whole shelf is on a hinge, and I think,” and he pulled on the shelf, and it moved towards him. “Step back everyone.”
They all moved away from the shelf and very slowly with some effort Gary pulled the shelf away from the wall, with one end as the pivot point, and the end where Gary pulled opening like a door away from the wall.
“Can you guys pull the table back?”
Andrew and Sharon rushed around to the other side of the table and pulled it across the room and then ran around and moved the chairs out of the way. Gary then opened the bookcase entirely.
It was just a cinder block wall, but mounted on the wall were three large pieces of plywood wood painted white. Each with something different mounted on them.
The top one was a large poster board with two lines of various stick figures in various poses, some standing on their heads, some with flags; it almost looked like they were dancing.
The second board was a series of small electrical resistors, each with different bands of colors around them, fifty resistors total. Lined up in five to a row, ten rows total.
The last board was the simplest. One large box separated into five rows across and seven rows deep, with nothing in each block, just empty spaces.
“What the heck is this?” Andrew said.
The 1st Board.