Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
Jeremy had said 7, and had said that even a minute late would nullify our deal. Usually when people say things like that they're exaggerating, but I believed him and took his words literally. So I was there 15 minutes early, sitting in the Blazer with the heater going and listening to Procul Harum on the oldies station, where they play those few rock songs I actually like. It was another day of thin high clouds, with a sharp wind blowing down from the mountains. Probably up by Tijeras Canyon, the pass I-40 follows between the Sandia and Manzano Mountains, the wind would be worse, for when it comes from the east the pass funnels it. Down here it wasn't so bad, and because Larry's apartment was on the west side of the building I was actually in mostly still air. Still it was early, and winter, and I ran the heater.
Jeremy pulled in just before 7. He didn't seem terribly happy to see me, but he produced a key and unlocked the door. He handed the key to me and said, "I'll be back by 6 PM – no later. You'll give me that key then, and you won't get in again. If I find out you made a copy of it I'll put you in a cell on any charge I can think of, and keep putting you in a cell till I can get something to stick. You got that?"
"Yeah. And though right now I guess it doesn't mean much to you – thanks. You don't know what this means to me."
"I know what it means to me, Darvin." And he got back into his car and drove off.
Maybe I'd ruined, if not a friendship, then a friendly acquaintance, but I couldn't let that bother me now. I went in and locked the door behind me, and went to work.
The first thing I searched was the computer. It ran Windows, so I didn't have any trouble; I'm not a tech, but I've been using Windows ever since Win95 came out and I'm familiar with how it works. I wanted an address book, but the Microsoft address book had nothing in it – not a single name, address, or telephone number. That might mean anything, so I didn't draw any conclusions. I started looking around. Though I miss DOS, one of the nice things about Windows is that you can look at a directory tree at a glance. In fact, I used to use Windows 3.1 essentially as a DOS shell to look at the directories; back in those days I ran everything from the DOS command line.
I used My Computer to hunt around on the C drive. It was tedious, but I opened every directory – though Windows calls 'em folders and uses a manila folder icon – and sub-directory. While an address book file using some other program – and the most likely program would be a word processor, and the mostly likely processor would be MS Word – could have any name, it wasn't probable that Larry would give it an irrelevant title. Unless he was really playing paranoid games, which I doubted, he'd almost certainly have called it Address Book. I looked for that name and variations on it. With Windows you've got long file name capabilities, unlike DOS, where if I remember correctly the limitation was 16 characters, or maybe eight. I'm forgetting more and more about DOS as time goes by.
I didn't see anything, and after two hours I was tired of digging around on the computer. Larry hadn't had a lot of folders on his machine, nothing like the filing system on my office machine, which is the equivalent of several filing cabinets, but it's so easy to create and use directories using Windows that even someone who doesn't use many will have enough.
I got up from the desk and planned how I'd toss the rest of the apartment. I was looking for a physical address book. It would be large enough that certain places would be unlikely, but small enough that the number of possibilities would still be large. I knew it wouldn't be in, for instance, a standard letter envelope, but aside from that a lot would still need searching.
Mostly the planning was deciding where to start. Question: Where does someone keep an address book? Answer: Where he'll be able to get at it easily when he needs it. Question: Where would he be most likely to need it? Answer: Where he writes letters or pays bills or otherwise needs to have addresses handy. That meant that the desk and its environs, and the table and the area around it, would be my first choices.
I was already at the desk, so I started there. It was a fake antique, or so I assumed; at least it looked new in an old style. The monitor was on one corner, with the keyboard in front of it; the tower sat beside the desk. There were drawers on both sides and one in the middle, above the kneehole. Generally if you lock the middle drawer of a desk it locks all the rest, so I started there. It was indeed locked. I drew no conclusions; an ordinarily prudent man might lock his desk when he's not working, without having anything more incriminating to hide than a matchbook.
I didn't want to damage the desk more than I could help, but I am not an expert at picking locks. I can shim an ordinary doorknob lock without trouble, but desk locks are deadbolt style – at least, all I've ever seen are. If I had my tools with me I could pick it, or try, but I'd failed to consider this possibility and so they were in the office. I pulled out my pocket knife. It's got two blades, one with a point that I keep sharp for cutting, and one with a rounded tip that I use as a small screwdriver and pry bar when I don't care to grab tools. I tried prying down the deadbolt, but I couldn't get the blade on top of it, and I doubted that prying would have worked anyway. I then tried turning the lock by main force, but I couldn't get the blade into the hole. Frustrated, I tried prying the drawer open, but the blade was too small to get any leverage. I had a couple of choices – try to cut the wood away from the deadbolt, or find something better to pry with and go for broke.
Cutting seemed to be the least damaging alternative. I closed the dull blade and opened the sharp one. It's a stainless steel job, and is tough to get an edge onto, but once there the edge stays. I cut as carefully as I could, for it was a nice desk and I didn't want to utterly wreck it. I'd spent 15 minutes trying less destructive methods, and it took another 10 or so before I could pull the drawer out. I pawed through it – Larry was a neat guy, as the apartment showed, but like most middle drawers this one was the miscellaneous drawer. Nothing. Oh well, if I ever found something the first place I looked the shock would probably give me a heart attack. No matter where you start hunting for something, you don't find it until you get to the last place – and if you'd started there, it wouldn't have been there.
I now had access to the other drawers. I spent 30 minutes looking through them, disarranging them as little as I could. Only an amateur makes a disaster out of a place he searches; it's much easier to put things back where you find 'em, or leave 'em there in the first place. If you don't, you don't know what you've searched and what you haven't. I found nothing helpful, though it turned out that Larry had a vice I'd not known about – there was a harmonica and an instruction book in the bottom left drawer.