One Long Panel of Stones – Chapter 23

David Sexsmith sits at his desk exactly as he did when we came by the first time. I’m pretty sure he’s even wearing the same outfit, which is a bit strange. It’s almost as though his entire purpose is to sit here waiting for us.

“You’re back,” he says.

“We have some more questions about the vault, if you don’t mind?” I’m trying to project the confidence of someone who is supposed to be here, asking questions of a stranger, though Gus gives me a look that suggests I’m not quite hitting the right notes.

“Like I said, after it went to the museum, I lost track of it. Frankly, I never even thought about it again.”

“Can you tell us about the discovery, then?”

“Sure.” David softens, just slightly, “We were doing the excavation for the bowling alley, which requires a cement foundation that’s six feet deep. Initially, I had this idea of using a clear flooring so people could watch the balls return, so we went a little deeper to build that out.”

It turns out the best way to get him talking is to mention construction, I guess.

David continues, he’s almost animated now, or at least he seems to show some signs of life, “We ended up abandoning the clear flooring idea though. It was just too costly and the plexiglass ended up getting scratched up too easily. Even still we ended up digging about eight or ten feet down. We were just finishing up when the backhoe hit a solid object. Some more digging and we realized it was an entire room, buried underground.”

“Wait, what do you mean a room? How big was it?”

“It was just a metal box, I’d say it was about the size of a guest bedroom, around nine feet by nine feet. One side had one of those spinning bank vault doors, so we started calling it the vault. When we saw the symbols on the side, we figured it was prohibition thing, probably filled with old bootleg liquor. We called the museum and the police right away, in accordance of the National Historic Preservation Act.”

“What kind of symbols?”

“It was just a repeated pattern of an owl, if I remember right? Could have been any bird.”

“And what happened when the museum showed up?”

“The sheriff came first and told us to clear out, so we did. I sent the workers home and stuck around to make sure I didn’t need to do anything else. The museum sent Alexis Farns, who showed up with Melinda Bakersfield. I’ve always found those two a bit off, they have a knack for showing up in strange places around town. They rent a storefront from me now to run a bookstore, which is the only reason I even remember their names.”

“Do you remember anything about how they moved the vault? Or anything else?”

“After the museum came I left to work offsite on another project. The museum handled everything else and called me when they were done. After that we poured the concrete and got the bowling alley up pretty quickly. I never heard anything else about the vault or what was in it.”

After David finished speaking he seems to settle into a loop, staring at us, blinking, wavering slightly. Like last time, it seems like it’s up to him to decide when the conversation is over.

I thank David again for his time and we leave. When we’re outside, I hear Gus let out a sigh, like he’s been holding his breath since we were last outside.

“This vault is everything,” Gus says, partially to me, but mostly to the world at large, “I don’t like that something so large went missing. And,” Gus points his finger in the air for this final point, “Mr. Sexsmith, as someone who clearly takes making money seriously, just letting it go seems strange to me.”

“To be fair, he doesn’t strike me as the history type either, so I don’t know that I’d expect him to care much about something once it’s in the museum’s hands and he can’t make money off it.”

“True, true,” Gus mutters. “Should we head back to the museum? Try to see if Alexis will talk to us?”

Neither option seems like it’ll get us anywhere. The museum seems pointless without Alexis’ help and Alexis won’t talk to us unless Melinda is gone, which means we need to figure out a way to get Melinda out of the bookstore for a while.

“Gus, I have an idea.”