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    Sunday, April 20, 2008

    Wizard Part V



    Part V

    The truth is that keys only have one purpose. They exist to unlock doors. Many people believe they can close them too, but that isn't exactly right. Anyone can close a door and lock it. Most doors will lock without using the key, but try and unlock a locked door without the key, or an improvised facsimile. You can't.

    The storage facility was twenty minutes outside of town on a barren lot with nothing around it but highway. The whole thing was automated and the code for the gate worked without a hitch. He'd definitely chosen a good isolated location, but as I drove down the rows of orange doors I wondered why I'd never known about this place. What could be so secret that he wouldn't have told me? Until that key had fallen into my hand I believed that he had no secrets from me, but as I came to a stop in front of the storage unit door, I had a momentary thought that maybe I'd never really known my Uncle at all.

    The lock was well cared for even though it looked rusted shut I could still smell a hint of WD-40. He'd let the outside go, but he'd kept the inside in fine working order. The key slid in smoothly and the lock popped with barely any pressure. Pulling the lock off though I realized it wouldn't be this simple.

    Putting the lock on the ground I stepped back and mumbled a few choice words under my breath. The runes on the door glowed like fire. He'd definitely signed his work. This was one of his. One he'd taught to me and made me practice many times. Evidently he'd been thinking something like this might happen. I started to wonder if I'd been taught, or merely trained.

    I reached up and reworked the runes. They moved under the light touch of my finger tips, allowing me to reorder them. I heard a secondary lock give as soon as the last rune was in place. Then the door began to rise. I liked that. It'd save me a bit of rope burn.

    For a split second I could feel the cool air on my skin as the room exhaled. The rich earthy aroma of sassafras and mistletoe hit me next. Evidently he thought something less than human might try to get in. He used to find it amusing that most people who drank sassafras tea no longer knew why. Somehow, even in the superstitious south, the oral history of the tea had been lost while the recipe to make it and the novelty of drinking it had survived.

    Before I stepped over the threshold I muttered a reveal spell just in case. It seemed that he'd considered the personal seal enough and he was probably right. He'd only ever taught it to one person. He'd also set a salt line just inside the door. It wasn't the normal crude line of poured kosher salt. He'd actually cut thin strips of salt lick and inset them into the concrete floor. As I made a quick survey I realized they made a complete circuit of the room. He'd even taken care of the ceiling.

    Almost as soon as I stepped over the threshold, the door began to close and the fluorescent lights in the ceiling came on. The entire interior was custom. The room went the full width of the building comprising what had probably once been two units; ten by forty with a ten foot ceiling.

    The interior was meticulous. I laughed out loud at the thought of my Uncle, with his beer can silver and stained carpet trailer having the ability to maintain something so pristinely. That's when I realized this was what he used to refer to as his "Fortress of Solitude," his little joke reference to Superman's shining palace of crystal where all of his secrets were hidden.

    A portion of the front was taken up with filing cabinets. It was a bit of relief, this would be where all his case files truly were. Just beyond the cabinets, in the center of the area was a small living room portioned out with a Persian rug. He had decorated it with a reading chair with a lamp, and a small roll-top writing desk. The wall opposite the chair housed a cabinet. It's interior filled with curiosities; a Wunder-Kammer.

    Just beyond the sitting area was a small kitchenette one side and a cot against the wall opposite. At the fare end of the room was a workbench, filled with half finished clockworks and reliquaries. But opposite the workbench was the thing that surprised me the most. A steal lattice front cabinet, lit by interior lights, containing a wide variety of weapons.

    The lock on the front looked identical to the one I'd unlocked outside. So, slipping the key into the lock and turning it, I took a breath and as the lock gave a warm rush went through me. At that moment I realized that I wasn't just here to avenge my Uncle's death. I was here to take his place.

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