“I wonder what the exact opposite of ‘raining cats and dogs’ is,” mused Teatime, gazing round at the featureless and aridly grey-brown desert, “Because this is definitely it.”
They were back at Reverend Box’s ‘church’ and, as before, all was quiet. The agents, Harold and Teatime had been standing around for several minutes, expecting the strange little man to pop up out of his hole in the ground, having seen them on his cameras, but so far he had failed to do so.
“Did anyone notice that car that was behind us for a while back there?” said Prada, “I could have sworn it was following us until it suddenly turned off.”
“It would be difficult to follow someone in these conditions undetected – there’s no cover for miles around. ” commented Othello. “It doesn’t look like Box is in any hurry to come out and join us today, what say we drop in on him?”
Prada rolled her eyes, “Very droll.”
When they reached the bottom of the access shaft leading to Box’s underground living quarters, they found the door locked.
“Don’t suppose he’s left the key under a plant pot or anything like that,” sighed Mercury, looking around the now rather crowded space at the bottom of the ladder.
“Doesn’t look like it.” Replied Othello, regarding the plain grey metal door, “We could try knocking I suppose, but this door is quite thick as I recall and he may not even hear it.”
“I think you could assist here, old sock,” Teatime whispered into Harold’s ear, “Remember how you got the jazz club’s door open?”
“Oh yeah!” agreed Harold. Aha! Here was a chance to make himself useful to the team – actually useful – for once. He stepped forward.
”Excuse me,” he said, “I think I can get us in.”
Mercury raised a quizzical eyebrow but stepped aside with a be-my-guest gesture, and Harold set to work.
It took longer to get this particular door open than when he’d opened the old fire ext door at Baron Samedi’s – the mechanism was more sophisticated - but, after a couple of minutes of concentration (along with a number of sceptical glances from the others), Harold was able to give the door a push and was rewarded with the sight of it swinging silently inwards.
“Nice job,” murmured Othello, slipping his notebook into his pocket (he had been making a careful observation of Harold the whole time). “I’d love to know how that’s done.”
“Sorry, trade secret,” Harold grinned as they all filed into Reverend Box’s bunker.
The lights were on and the refrigerator was still humming away in its corner, but of Box, there was no sign.
“Hello?” called Mercury, “Anyone here?” He listened for a few moments but there was no answer. “Ok, let’s look around carefully and see if we can figure out what’s going on here. Prada, you check what’s through that door. India, you take that one, Othello, check in here.” He paused, “Demon, you help Othello.”
The group dispersed as instructed.
Harold followed Othello over to Box’s desk and watched as the agent opened the drawers one by one. The first drawer just contained a sheaf of papers devoted to the various aspects of ancient Greek religious practices of which Box was so fond, many of which he had apparently written himself. The second drawer held office supplies, spare ink cartridges, staples and so on, but the last drawer contained a surprise.
“Well, well,” chuckled Othello, lifting out a stack of well-thumbed paperbacks. “Charity Lambert and the Spoof Spooks’ Book Club, eh?” he said, holding up the first one. The cover art was a luridly-painted scene featuring the eponymous Ms Lambert, a rather voluptuously endowed young lady PI, clad rather impractically in six-inch heels, tight leather jeans and an even tighter t-shirt, standing in dramatic pose under a streetlamp, gun pointed at a rather salacious-looking criminal. “Who’d have thought Box was into these penny dreadfuls,”
“I suppose it must pass the time.” Opined Harold, picking up the next book off the stack: Charity Lambert and the Magical Mystery Tour. “I imagine life down here could be quite lonely and boring.”
“Hmm,” agreed Othello, setting the book down, “I guess. Oh, hello, what’s this?” At the bottom of the drawer was a folded sheet of paper. Othello picked it up and unfolded it.
“Aha,” he breathed, “the legendary Lost Shipping Receipt!”
At that moment, Prada came back into the room, sneezing loudly, “The dust in this place,” she moaned, brushing her sleeves vigorously, “You’d think a guy could flick a duster round once in a while, sheesh!”
“Find anything?” asked Othello,
“Nah, I think that was just an old store room - loads of old clutter, broken desks, empty filing cabinets and a bicycle, of all things.” She shrugged, “You?”
Othello held up the receipt.
One by one, the other returned. Box, it seemed was nowhere to be found.
“Guys?” said India, after a few moments, “Didn’t Box have a computer when we were here last time?”
“That’s right, he did.” Agreed Othello, “a laptop. It was right here. I knew something was missing. He must have taken it with him.”
“Now what?” said Prada.
“Let’s leave a note for Box,” suggested Mercury, “and then let’s go check out the address on the Shipping Receipt.”