It actually took two days for Sharon to get a ride back to the comic book store, she called and told Gary that she might have the key to figuring out the resistor code but she needed to see the whole thing, and even then it would only get them so far. Then after two days of more family obligations, Mark was able to drive her back to school. Unfortunately she got back right at noon, and she knew she would not be able to open the secret compartment till after the shop was closed.
She initially felt awkward around Gary, what with their being customers and all and unsure if she should kiss him right then and there or wait. In fact some of the regulars came up and talked to her before she even got to the counter where Gary was working. They were all excited about going to see the Justice League movie with her, but most of them had already seen it on Christmas day, and they kept censoring themselves to not give away any spoilers. Sharon just nodded, not really talking but sneaking glances at Gary, who just stood there and chuckled silently. She was finally able to get away from the guys and make her way to the counter after promising to see it with them on Friday night.
“The Queen of the store has returned to her loyal subjects.” Gary said quietly so only Sharon could hear, but he did give a small bow at the waist.
“Aren’t you in a jovial mood?” She said, coming around the counter.
Impulse struck Gary and he gave her a quick peck on the lips.
She was surprised, but not at a loss for words. “That is sexual harassment sir; I am going to have to report you to the management.”
“You have got to find them first.”
This shocked Sharon, he had never been this flippant before, especially about his father. “Whoa Gary,” she said quietly, as a customer walked by, “that is a change in attitude.”
Gary replied after ringing up a customer. “Now that you are back I am feeling very positive, positive about finding my father and Gary, and positive I can soon turn the running of this place back over to them.”
Sharon laughed at that, but as the day progressed she thought about it as she dealt with customers and the running of the shop. If they did find Gary’s father would he stay around here or would he go back to his own school. They had never talked about it, basically because Gary never dared to believe that his father would be found. But know he was so positive. She got so distracted she did not even notice when Andrew arrived at the store.
“Hey stranger how was your Christmas?” He asked as she was bagging some old issues.
“Oh, hi Andrew. It was good how about yours?”
“Great, so great to be home after being away for so long. But tell you the truth it will be good to get back to school and get back on track with school.”
Sharon nodded, with her thoughts turning to school in a couple of weeks. If they found Gary’s father soon, would he have enough time to re-enroll at his old school?
Andrew could tell something was on her mind, so he wandered over to the comic book racks and looked at titles. Then he got engrossed in a debate with Jimmy and Clark as well as being invited to the Justice League movie on Friday night.
Jimmy and Clark were about to leave the shop when Andrew saw him for the first time. He was short but just a few inches taller than Jimmy, he might have been taller if he stood up straight but he didn’t. He held the door with his forearm, and seemed to avoid coming even close to bumping into Jimmy. When the two had cleared the doorway the short guy looked around the room, still standing there holding the door open as if he was trying to memorize the contents of the room, periodically scanning from right to left. It was then that Gary yelled.
“Hey buddy, you want to shut the door, I am paying to heat this shop, not Main Street.”
The guy seemed startled and let the door close behind him, just moving the minimum amount of distance so the door could close behind him. He continued his scanning, and finally came to where Andrew was sitting in the corner. He was startled when he saw Andrew watching him, but only for a split second, then he finished scanning the room. He moved along the wall but something seemed odd about his gait but Andrew could not place it. He went to the corner straight along the wall of the door, and then he began scanning the room again. Andrew did not get a good feeling about this guy so he decided to go point him out to Gary.
“Just a sec, the sooner I enter the sales into the inventory sheet, the easier it is later on the keep up on it.” He said noting sales in the ledger.
By now Andrew was up at the counter, and the short man had moved to the corner opposite the door and was doing his scanning thing again.
“Yeah what is it?”
“Check out this guy in the corner. The one in the dark brown long coat.”
Gary turned and watched the guy, who by then was finishing his scan, and as the two of them watched; he moved again along the wall to final corner of the store, close to where Andrew was sitting when he first observed him.
“What is he doing?”
“I don’t know, but it is giving me the creeps he did it in the other two corners as well, he was doing it when you yelled at him to close the front door.”
“That was him, I didn’t even process who it was just that someone was holding the door open.”
“Yep that was him. Do you think he is going to rob the place?”
“No, but I think he is some kind of nut.” Gary said that is both when he realized they were both whispering.
The guy had finished scanning the place or whatever he had been doing when he started acting like a regular customer, looking at comic books, then a few posters and trade paperbacks. He was studiously avoiding the counter area where Andrew and Gary were standing, walking on the far side of every shelf instead of moving in and out like a regular customer would. It was then that Sharon came back into the shop. She had been upstairs ordering a pizza that Andrew was due to pick up soon. She came down announcing that she had found the coupon that she knew was in the remains of the Sunday paper. ‘Hey free two liter of pop guys.’ It was then the strange guy’s entire demeanor changed. He stood up straight and tall, and stared at Sharon turning his whole body as he tracked her across the shop. Andrew watched as the guy licked his lips a little too much and did not blink his eyes enough so much that Andrews eyes started to water as if trying to will the guy to blink. Sharon was almost to the counter, when the guy came almost running up to the counter with a thick Superman omnibus full color hardback book that he grabbed off the shelf without looking at it.
“I would like to purchase this.” And he slammed the book on the counter.
“Sure buddy.” Gary answered.
Sharon was now behind the counter, and picked up the hard cover book, and looked over the book, not seeming to notice anything strange about the guy, who now that he stood up next to counter. Andrew noted that he was even shorter than Sharon, who was the shortest of the three of them. Shorter by two or three inches at least. His hair was parted in the middle, a kind of blondish brown that was quickly receding backwards even though Andrew guessed he was only in his late twenties, and his winter coat was buttoned up all the way to his neck.
“Good read, original Superman stories from Siegel and Shuster.” Sharon said announcing the price to Gary. “$48.93.”
“Ah yes, good reading.”
Andrew watched it all, he was not even sure the guy knew what he was buying. He just wanted to be at the counter when Sharon was there.
“Well buddy, will that be cash or charge.” Gary asked.
“Cash, always cash.” The guy said diverting his attention briefly to Gary with a bit of sneer, and with that he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash that would choke a large dog. The most amazing thing though, it was all two dollar bills. The guy counted out twenty five bills and laid them on the countertop. It was then he picked up the book and looked at.
“Your change.” Gary tried to hand it to him. The guy just tapped the countertop and Gary placed it on the counter and the guy picked it up from there. “Do you need a receipt?”
“No,” He said quickly, and then his pinched face turned into a rather unpleasant smile. “when will your father be back?” He said with almost a teasing tone.
Gary looked at him. “Do you know my father?”
“Only by reputation, in the scientific community.” It was then the little man turned and almost ran to the door. He turned one last time and stared once more at Sharon holding the door open the entire time he licked his lips four times and then he was out the door.
“Whoa that was strange.” Andrew said speaking first.
“Who was that guy?” Sharon asked.
“Weirdo for sure, but how did he know who I was, and why was he scoping out the shop.”
Sharon turned towards the two of them. “Are you sure he was scoping out the shop?”
“The only thing he did not do was take out a tape measure.” Gary said in response.
“Andrew can you lock the front door.” Sharon said in a low commanding voice.
He didn’t ask her why, besides it was almost closing time anyways and they were going to open the book case tonight after the shop was closed.
“Did he say anything else?” Sharon asked Gary as Andrew locked the front door and closed the shades.
“No not a word except what you heard. He just went from corner to corner, than he went around the bookshelves until you showed up.”
“And neither of you guys has ever seen him before in the shop or around town?”
The both answered negatively.
“Why do you know who he was?”
“No, but remember when your dad said in his note that he did not want his work to fall into ‘less than responsible hands’. I think we might have just seen two of those ‘less than responsible hands’.”
Andrew answered. “Well what are we going to do?”
“We are going to keep looking for my father.”
“And tonight, now that we know someone else is interested, are we still going to open the bookcase.” Andrew asked.
Gary and Sharon looked at each other. Gary simply nodded, and Sharon smiled back at him. “But first pizza, I buy you fly.” Gary said turning toward Andrew and Sharon held out the coupon.
“That guy is parked in black mini-van down the block.” Andrew said as he entered the door with the pizza.
“Yeah we know.” Gary said as he pulled out the paper plates and napkins they kept on the bottom shelf of counter.
“How did you know?” Andrew said putting the pizza down.
“Sharon went out the back door and said she saw him from the alley.”
“You think that was safe?”
“What do you mean?”
“He acted really strange when he saw Sharon, kinda creepy.”
“Well, she was just looking around, if she is not safe on the street then we got bigger problems, besides I am guessing the guy is just after whatever my father invented, industrial espionage my father talked about it occasionally, and since we are not even close to finding him or his invention, I figured this guy will just be watching us until we find my father.”
“Okay, makes sense, should we call the cops though just to be safe?”
Gary thought about it, then just as he was about to answer Sharon came from upstairs again carrying cups. “And tell them what I guy came into a comic book store, acted weird and then bought a comic book with two dollar bills.” Sharon answered.
“Yeah I guess you are right,” Andrew paused. “Okay let’s eat, the pizza is hot.”
“Okay, so what do we got.”
“No black, no grey and no white.”
“So if I am reading this right, that means numbers one thru seven.”
“Yes, but the top rings are only, brown, red, orange, yellow and green rings.”
“The second ring is those colors with blue and purple mixed in as well.”
“So the first ring is numbers one thru five and the second ring is the numbers one thru seven.”
“Hey guys that matches up with next board, five rows across by seven deep.”
The other two looked at it and nodded.
“Okay this part looks like it plugs into that,” motioning from the first board to the second board. “let’s get the first part down on paper.”
The three of them worked it unison. Andrew called out the colors, Sharon compared the chart and translated the colors to number and Gary wrote it all down.
“1st resistor, yellow, blue.”
“Four and six.”
Gary wrote down ‘4, 6’. “Next resistor.”
“2nd resistor, orange, blue.”
“Three and six.”
This went on till they had all fifty resistors decoded and written down.
The three of them gathered around Gary’s tablet. The first line was this: 4,6 – 3,6 – 1,6 – 3,4 – 4,3. The rest of the page was the same, four more lines with five sets of digits in each of them.
“I think I am going to need some aspirin.” Andrew said as he looked at the row of numbers.