Chapter Thirteen (Part Two)
“I got it,” Vandalia grins, pulling a packet out of her bag. “The manager was more than delighted to help me and completely understood how a touch of arthritis made signing my name so difficult. He did so admire my ID, though.” She and Mowgli laugh in triumph, but I’m too focused on the manila envelope sitting on the bed in front of me. I pick it up and heft it in my hand. It seems too slim to have caused so much trouble.
“This is all there was?” I ask, toying with the clasp. Now that I have it, I’m suddenly nervous. What if it doesn’t have what we need? What if it’s all been nothing? All the scheming, the planning, the conniving. I dismiss these unworthy nervous thoughts and pull the envelope to me.
“That’s it, buckeroo.” Vandalia drawls. “Sean, the manager, assures me that nobody has been in the box except for moi.” The self-satisfied smirk on her face grows as she leans back on the bed.
“Open it, Del,” Mowgli says impatiently, itching to rip it from my hands and open it himself. “Let’s see what we got here.”
I slowly open the packet, my fingers suddenly cold. I pull back the flap and plunge my hand inside, pulling out first a sheaf of papers, then another key. The three of us stare in bewilderment at the key for a minute, not sure that we are seeing what we see. I turn the envelope upside down and shake it—empty. The silence is unnerving as none of us can think of what to say. I pick up the sheaf of papers and leaf through them, handing each page to Mowgli when I’m through. He, in turn, hands it to Vandalia. The three of us read, frowning as we do so. There is a bunch of legalese which makes no sense, but what it boils down to is that O’Reilly, Peters and a ‘silent partner’ own a nascent company called BLots which in a year or so will be ‘challenging the stranglehold that Nike has on the sneaker world’. The company is based in Juarez, Mexico, and a Senor Ramon Lopez-Garcia is the nominal president.
“This is it?” Vandalia asks, setting down the last page of the document. “This is the reason those girls were killed?”
“Not the whole reason, I don’t think,” I say, shooting a glance at Mowgli.
“I agree,” Mowgli nods his head. “I mean, it’s sleazy, but it’s not exactly illegal.” He leans back on the bed and closes his eyes to think. The three of us are huddled on my bed, all frowning.
“I think it’s a blind,” I finally say. “This stuff is crap, and I think Blanche understood that in her dim way. That’s why she put the second key in the box; it opens the box that holds the real stuff.”
“Question is, where is the second box?” Vandalia asks, her face serious for once. No one ask the question they are all thinking—how many boxes are there?
“Another bank?” Mowgli asks, his voice unsure.
“No,” I say, examining the key. “This isn’t a bank key.” I show it to them, displaying the number on it—A341. “Some kind of locker or perhaps storage room,” I muse, turning the key over in my hand. On the other side of the key is a tiny inscription that says, “R. Bros.” on it.