It was several hours later before Sharon would talk to him again. First she had gone to her room, and then he saw her briefly when she had walked past him to get a shower. Then Sharon had grabbed a muffin from the plastic container filled by Andrew’s mother the previous day, grabbed a file and went back to her room and closed the door. After an hour she came out fully dressed, Gary noted it had coincided with Andrew announcing loudly he was taking a shower. It was then Sharon came out to the living room. Gary put down the file as she approached and she came and sat in his lap without asking, he put his arm around her waist and she positioned her arms around his neck.
“I am sorry I got mad earlier.”
Gary looked her in the eyes. “Why were you mad?”
Sharon sighed. “I guess I was thinking ahead, trying to solve the whole mystery of all this I sometimes forget that the only reason you are searching for answers is to find your father, you don’t really care about the rest of this stuff.” She said motioning to the files spread around.
Gary shrugged. “You are right there; all I care about is finding my father, not about what he got involved with.”
“Well I was mad that you let gave information away,” Sharon stopped and paused, Gary was about to say something when he just nodded. “but you are emotionally involved, deeply, me I never met your father and I was given a glimpse at this great mystery and I want to get to the bottom of all this, to see what is causing all these fantastic things.”
“So you believe all this?”
Sharon gave a half nod. “Yeah I do, you see my father was not just an electrician he was also sort of an adventurer.”
“An adventurer, does that pay well?” Gary said sarcastically.
Sharon frowned and he could feel her stiffen. “Your sarcasm is one of the most unattractive things about you.”
“That is okay,” He felt her relax. “I just get defensive, I really love my family, and my father is a really great guy I cannot wait for you meet him.”
Gary did not know how to react to that, so he just nodded.
Sharon realized what she said and tried to cover it up. “I mean if he ever comes up here to pick me up, you know if you happen to be around when he comes around.”
“Of course.” Gary said quickly.
“So what do you think we should try and get out of this Mr. Stuckey.”
“Who is Mr. Stuckey?” Andrew said entering the room.
“Why are you wearing my godfather’s robe dude.”
“That is nothing bud, I plan on wearing opening a sealed package of new underwear I found in his closet and wear them later. So who is Mr. Stuckey?”
It was five minutes till twelve and the three of them were sitting in the comic book store. Sharon had a notepad in front of her, along with a couple of pencils. Andrew was behind the counter and Gary was sitting next to Sharon playing with the reassembled wooden puzzle box where the key had been found.
They saw a limousine pull up in front of the store. No chauffer got out but the back door opened and first out was Jack Gable, sometime since this morning he had evidently showered and put on an ill-fitting suit, he held the door and out of the back seat a smaller man, bald, a little rotund got out of the back of the limousine.
“I am guessing that is Mr. Stuckey.” Andrew stated.
“Do you think he really needs that cane?” Sharon commented, not really expecting an answer.
Gary shrugged. “I don’t care, I just want to know if he knows anything about my father.”
“Big picture baby, if we get some of those details filled in it can’t help but help us find your Dad.” Sharon said reaching over and holding his hand. They had discussed this after Andrew had gone to get dressed, and had agreed that when Mr. Stuckey showed up any details gained would be useful.
“Right you are.”
By now the two men had gotten to the door and Andrew had walked over to unlock the door. They followed him across the shop and Sharon and Gary stood.
“Quaint little shop you have here.” Mr. Stuckey said when he was across the table from the two of them.
Gary nodded. Andrew had joined them on the far side of the table. “Please sit down.” Gary said motioning towards the chairs.
“Of course.” Stuckey sat first with Jack Gable stood behind the older man and slightly towards his left. “Of course you know me as Mr. Stuckey, and you know my employee, Jack, and you are Gary Donnelly son of Wyatt, this lovely lady is Sharon Towner, and this fine man here is Andrew Harlan.”
Gary tried to keep his eyes on Mr. Stuckey but he was distracted by Jack Gable who was staring intently at Sharon, doing the creepy lip licking thing.
“We’ll let me start by first saying that I am a huge admirer of your father, some of the early work he did on his game controller was amazing, too bad Nakatomi corporation did not see it that way and let him go.”
“Ancient history really.”
“Yes of course,” Mr. Stuckey said continuing. “But what is it your father was working on lately, something truly revolutionary I bet.”
“Is that why you are here, Mr. Stuckey to invest in my father’s invention?”
“Well partially, you see several years ago I was an investor, some might have called me a corporate pirate really, go in buy a company and then strip it’s assets, sell if off for parts, making a lot of money in the progress.” Gary could tell this man liked talking about himself. “But alas my business partner and I had a falling out over a pretty woman.” He paused here. Gary watched him play with his cane head which was a silver eagle. “I had some reversal of my fortunes, but coming back from it, I decided to start looking at the creation of true wealth, what if a person could get in on the ground floor of such things as Edison’s light bulb, or Bill Gate’s DOS, why the sky could be the limit.”
“Sure I get that.” Gary said hoping the man would continue.
Stuckey looked at Gary now with eagerness. “But the more I studied the invention process, the more I realized that small inventors that I would be able to get on the ground floor with were few and far between and mostly they worked on small things, bettering the light bulb, making things faster. But then I found a group called The Enigmatic Findings Group founded by Dr. Riley.”
Gary tried not to show any emotion, but this was the same group Mrs. Eastman had said was founded by her first husband. Heck every report had the EFG letterhead.
“I see you have heard of it.” Stuckey said chuckling to himself. “Yes, I know all about Mrs. Eastman’s first husband, in fact using his guidelines and structure I have increased the size of the EFG quite sustainably and I know all about your father and his creation.”
“So where is my father now?” Gary said.
“Oh I don’t know exactly where he is right now, but I do not where his lab is.”
Gary looked at Sharon, then at Andrew.
“You are wondering how I know where his lab is, aren’t you, something Mrs. Eastman does not even know.” Behind Stuckey Jack Gable seemed to be chuckling silently.
“Where is it?” Gary said getting excited now.
“Not yet youngster,” the portly man said shaking his finger, “you see your father was working for me, well not for me, but for a EFG, he has never actually met me, but I have signed all the checks for his work. You see I wanted him to re-create his experiment that brought that virtual reality creature to life back when your dear old dad was in high school.”
“So what happened, where he is.”
Stuckey looked at him sideways now. “That is what I want to know, he stopped sending reports in 6 months ago, all attempts to contact him went unanswered, and all attempts to enter his lab have met with negative results.” The man paused there as if intentionally.
Gary looked at him and slowly asked the question the man had set him up for. “Okay, all attempts to enter his lab, what does that mean?”
Stuckey smiled a rather reptilian smile. “Well it seems your father set up an elaborate security system. If anyone enters, according to the system, without permission, all the data inside will be wiped from the computers and several incendiary devices will destroy the contents of the lab as well.”
“How do you know this?”
Stuckey smiled again. “Well you see the lab is set up inside a building, actually a building within a building. Gaining entrance to the first level is easy enough, just some simple locks, I even have the keys which I will give you.” He looked over his shoulder and motioned for Gable to give Gary the keys. Gable reached into his pocket and slide the keys across the table. Gary did not reach for them he just let them sit there. “But there is only one door to the interior area, and that is wired to computer. On the computer screen is very precise directions for opening the door. First the door must be unlocked with the key, secondarily the questions on the computer must be answered correctly and precisely before another panel opens, in which I imagine will contain the controls to open the door and disable the destruction device.”
Gary leaned back in his chair, his hands reached out and played with the wooden puzzle box.
Andrew spoke up. “I assume you have not tried to hack the computer?”
Stuckey leaned back. “No actually we did try. Gary’s father was quite adept at his programming, and he kept it very simple but complex at the same time. The computer has triple backups for the power, it is wired directly into the power system, no plug to pull and restart the computer, along with some battery backups, trust me young man, I hired some very proficient people to hack that computer and not one of them could even begin to make headway, it is a closed system, with only one way to enter the door that is to put the proper answers in after the key is placed in the lock.”
Sharon spoke now. “So you want Gary to open the door.”
Stuckey smiled. “Precisely.”
“Why do you think Gary can open the door?” Sharon asked.
Stuckey smiled again. “Because the computer has told us only he has the answers to the questions.”
The five of them all looked at Gary now, the room was silent for a few minutes with the only sound coming for Gary turning over the puzzle box several times on the table. Finally without saying another word Gary stood up and placed both hands on the table, taking the keys and placing them in his pocket. “I will let you know in 48 hours if I will open the lab.”
Stuckey looked at him, at first shocked, then gave a little smirk. “You are going to see Mrs. Eastman to see if what I told you is true.” He said it in such a way that it was not a question.
“Yes, I will be seeing her. But I am not sure how your problem with the lab really concern me,” Gary paused for effect. “The only thing I care about is finding my father and his friend, so unless their itinerary for a South American vacation is in the lab I don’t really care about his work for you.”
Stuckey chuckled at this and stood up still chuckling, then he smiled back but a flash of anger crossed his face but regained control. “You father did not leave the country, in fact I know your father never left this town. I had a lot of motivated investigators looking for your father; you know what each one told me, totally independent of each other. Your father never left this town, he is still here somewhere, I personally think he and your namesake had an accident in the lab and when we finally open that door we will find two corpses. But the choice is yours. Come to my hotel tomorrow at 7 pm with the proper answer, if not,” He left that hang in the air as he turned and walked towards the door. “I will open that door and your father’s corpse is going to be a little crispy when it goes to the funeral.”
Gable opened the door for his boss, then turned and looked towards Sharon again; he did the creepy thing with his lips and then followed his boss back to the limousine.
The three friends looked at each other and realized that had not gone anything like they had thought. Gary was the first to speak. “We are going to see Mrs. Eastman tonight.”
The day had passed uneventfully, before they opened the doors at one they had briefly discussed their plans; talk to Mrs. Eastman, try and discover where the lab was and after that figure out if they could get in without Stuckey knowing about it. Gary kept turning over the problem of the computer lock in his head, he wondered what if what Stuckey had said was true, was his Dad really dead in a lab somewhere close by, if so why all the puzzles, why not just send Gary a letter telling him where the lab was, especially if they were doing something dangerous. His Dad was not a risk taker, but his god father was, had Gary finally done something to get them both killed.
As Gary was lost in thought most of the afternoon he did not notice Andrew and Sharon having short intense conversations with some of the regular customers, he also did not notice the
phone kept constantly busy, with either customers using it, or Sharon and Andrew answering it.
An hour before closing Sharon approached Gary. “Lot on your mind boss.”
“Yeah,” He paused. “You don’t think they are dead in that lab do you?”
Sharon took his hands in her and looked at him directly in the eyes. “If your Dad is as half as smart as you are, no way.”
Gary smiled back at her, then kissed her on the lips very softly. “That was exactly what I needed to hear.”
Sharon almost blushed and then got serious for a second. “Hey I have to run and errand, and Andrew is going to run to his house for some clothes as he thinks we should not really split up until we find your father, so he was going to pack a bag for tonight. So we were going to combine the trip.” She took a breath. “You okay to lock up the place by yourself?”
He glanced around. “I think I can handle it. Try and get back here before too long, I want to get to Mrs. Eastman’s tonight before it gets too late.” They kissed again and then Sharon and Andrew grabbed their coats and went out the door.