Jason has been explaining his security measures as the team learns the layout of the house. He makes a joke about keeping people away from the walls. “Keep ten feet back from the walls and set your ladders parallel to them. Cross that line, you’ll get quite a shock. Won’t kill you, but your balls will be smoking after a second or two.” Jason and the men think it’s funny, but Taylor obviously doesn’t. When Greg laughs at her, she takes action, putting his arm in a ‘chicken wing’.
“Sorry. Sheesh! When did you lose your sense of humor?” Greg complained.
“Since they put me in charge,” she snapped. “Can we continue the Magical Mystery Tour?”
She glared at him. Jason held his hands from his sides like she had a gun on him.
“Sorry. Nothing personal, Agent Driscole. I’m British.”
They went down the stairs again. At the bottom, they faced a bare room with an unpainted concrete floor and unfinished cinder block walls. The doors were metal and painted gray.
“Not all the downstairs is finished off. Door number one,” he pointed to his immediate right. “That’s storage. Door number three leads outside. Doors four through six lead to the panic room, electrical/ mechanical room and extensive pantry and wine cellar. I was in the process of stocking both…. Behind door number two….” He winked at Driscole as he opened the door.
Inside was a two lane bowling alley complete with bar, small kitchen, score boards, shoe racks, etc. The lights came on as the door opened and hidden speakers started playing Dude Looks Like a Lady by Aerosmith.
“On a perfect day, the bar would be fully stocked, an attractive girl in a tight shirt, no bra and Daisy Dukes would be preparing ghastly, high fat treats. So we’ll have to pretend. I don’t think there’s even a warm beer back there, but you’re welcome to look.”
“We’re on duty,” Tim said with a grimace.
“True. Plenty of soft drinks upstairs. I indulge in the occasional hard cider, but haven’t got the Woodchucks on tap yet. However, every conceivable carbonated beverage is either in the kitchen or pantry. I even have Cheerwine. I have it flown in from the Carolina Bottling Company.”
“Dude,” Kisler said, spinning in a happy circle with his arms flung wide. “This place rocks!”
“Thanks, Greg. I’ve gone to a bit of trouble over it. We’ll have to lay in some food, I’m afraid. If anyone wants to make a grocery run. I doubt the boss here will let me go. We can make up a list and I’ll pay for it.”
“You don’t have cash on you, do you? Cause I know we didn’t stop by an ATM,” Graves said.
“Mate, I’m a thief. I’m set to bug out at the least sign of trouble. I’ve got cash tucked away in several strategic locations. Oh, panic room.” He swung around, waving them after him.
The music had changed to Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin. They followed him out of the room, leaving the door open. The music continued to play from more hidden speakers. Graves took Driscole’s hand, swinging her into a happy dance. Once she got over being startled, she danced with him, laughing happily when they messed up.
“Panic room,” Jason said after the song concluded.
He walked to the fourth door, placing his hand on the door knob. A panel snicked open on his right and a light scanned his face.
“Hideaway,” he said clearly.
The door clicked and he pulled it open. The metal door seemed extra heavy and fell shut behind them with a thud that echoed in the empty room behind them.
“It’s got a loo, place to sleep, food and water,” he told them, pointing around. “It’s basically a bomb shelter, even has its own independent air supply.”
“You said you’ve got another upstairs?”
“Not as big, but yeah. Had it built by a safe company. This place is, for lack of a better term, a ruddy fortress. Built to my specifications. You’re safer here than just about anywhere.”
“This must have cost a bundle,” Graves said, looking around attentively.
“First two quarters, my business made a mint and I’ve nothing left to show for it. Sunk a lot into this place. Got to live here two months before my life went to hell. I’ve been building it for over a year, dreaming and planning ever since I was a kid.”
“It’s amazing,” Taylor Driscole breathed, turning in a slow circle, taking in details.
“Nothing like cold nights huddling in a cardboard box to make a lad think of safety,” Jason said. “And having a drunken, drugged up, abusive family, I learned early that a bolt hole was a good thing.”
“Was it really that bad?” Taylor asked sympathetically.
Jason nodded, not able to put in words how horrible his life had been.
“Got the scars to prove it,” he said lightly, swallowing hard.
Taylor put a gentle hand on his shoulder, wondering if the scars were emotional or physical. She strongly suspected both. Having grown up in a secure, happy, loving home, she had no idea what he’d been through as a boy. Even after losing her father, life hadn’t been terrible. Her mother ran the store, remarried a few years later to a nice man who had eventually adopted her as his own. She couldn’t even imagine living on the street or setting up a bolt hole to protect himself from his own parents.
“Let’s have a look at the other rooms,” Kisler said. “You said something about one of these doors leads outside?”
Jason shook himself, blinking hard as he focused on Kisler. “Yeah. Lucky number three. The lawn equipment and such like are stored there. The house is built into a hill, so it goes right into the backyard. Looks like easy access, but anyone trying to get in this way finds out looks are deceptive.”
© Dellani Oakes