108 Girl Next to the Door

Finally, Martin stopped outside a door marked only ‘317.’ “This is the lab,” he said, gesturing. “Or at least it’s the one that matches the address on that package we received. Obviously, I have no idea what’s inside.”

“Well, let’s fix that right now,” Stan said confidently, striding to the door and pulling out a bag from his pocket. Kneeling, he studied the lock for a moment, and then whispered, “Hey, cool!” Then he stood up. “Um… I guess you guys might not think so, but… it’s a Sargent Keso lock! I’ve heard of them, but never got a chance to see one, before.” He pulled a couple of flat tools out of his bag.

“What does that mean in terms of opening the door?” I asked.

“Well, you can forget what I said about bumping. These locks aren’t bumpable. This is going to be a challenge.”

“What do you mean?” Vicky asked.

“Well,” he said, “these aren’t the cheap locks I was telling you about. Keso locks are specifically designed to be hard to pick. In fact, I don’t think I know anybody who’s picked this model. But there’s always a first time, right?”

“Wait,” I said. “Are you saying that you can’t open this door?”

“Well, I would say rather that I don’t know if I can get the door open; it certainly won’t be quick.” At Vicky’s groan, he added, “look on the bright side. These locks are kind of pricey and you don’t put one on an empty room. If somebody felt the need for a Keso lock, there’s something in here they don’t want seen.” And with that, he inserted a flat piece of metal into the lock and started moving it around.

“This is going to be really annoying if it turns out to be the wrong room,” I muttered.

Suddenly, Vicky grabbed my arm. “It’s not the wrong room,” she hissed, excitedly. “Look!” She pointed to a fire extinguisher on the wall opposite the door. “See the half-torn label? I remember staring at that while I was waiting for them to open the door. This is the lab, Marsh!”

I looked; I hadn’t especially noticed the fire extinguisher myself, but she seemed pretty excited about it, so I was willing to believe that she had just found an additional confirmation that room 317 was indeed the right lab. If so, we had just taken a major step forward, or were about to. It was starting to feel real – I could really become a guy again!

Eric pointed out that it could be really bad if somebody happened on Stan while he was trying to break in, so he suggested that we split up and act as sentries. He and Martin headed one way down the hall, and Vicky and I headed the other, far enough away that we couldn’t be heard, but close enough that we could watch Stan.

From time to time, Stan would look into his bag and pull out a new tool, try it for a few minutes stare at it and put it back into his bag. Watching him got boring quickly, though. “So what are you going to do about Kevin?” I finally asked, my voice low.

“Why do I need to do anything?” she responded blithely.

“Oh come on, Vixy, you can’t stay with a guy who hits you.”

“He hasn’t done it a lot,” she insisted, “and he’s really sorry, and promises not to do it again. I just need to stop provoking him.”

“Vicky!” I hissed.

“Besides, you hurt me a lot more,” she added, and at my astonished expression, she explained, “ when you dumped me for Lee Ann.”

“I didn’t–”

“Besides, like I said, I don’t have any better options – but maybe I will once wonder boy gets through that door?”

“Of course,” I said, and I’m pretty sure I believed it, but I was still more than a bit thrown by the whole abuse thing. Shouldn’t I have noticed something?

“You’re mad at me, aren’t you?”


“Are you really dating a boy? Or was that just something to throw in my face?”

“Well…” I guess I was thinking that I’d find some way to downplay it, especially in light of our current efforts to change me back, but I thought better of it. “Yeah, I am dating Jeremy. I just didn’t think it should be that much of a big deal.” She raised an eyebrow and I flushed. “Like you said, if we change back, it won’t have happened, and… I guess I don’t want to be alone, either. But… I suppose I did sort of throw it in your face. I was really bothered about the whole Kevin thing.”

“OK,” she said.


“I guess you understand, then.”

Actually, I wasn’t sure I did, but I smiled and nodded. “So… what are you going to do about Kevin?”

“If we get this worked out, he’s history,” she replied. “Why would I date him if I could date you?”

“Thank you,” I said quietly, feeling more than a little pleased. Take that, Kevin I thought. There didn’t seem to be anything to add right then, so instead we talked about her schoolwork and the courses she was taking now. She was taking several art classes, and she was pretty excited about them. She was just telling me about the techniques she was going to try when Stan straightened up.

“OK, this is not working,” he said. “I’m going to have to do a bit of research and what people have tried and what they think should be tried.”

“You’re not saying you can’t get the door open, are you?” Vicky asked sharply, as we headed back towards him.

“Well, it’s going to take some time.” He looked at Eric, who was returning from the opposite direction. “Would you be able to get me in a few more times to try things?”

“But you can get in for sure, right?” I demanded.

Stan looked uncomfortable. “Well… I think there’s a good chance. I mean, eventually, somebody’s gotta figure out how to get through this lock. Why not me?”

“I don’t believe this,” she shrilled. “You said you could pick any lock Piques was likely to use!” She turned to Eric. “Can we just smash this door in or something?”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Martin exclaimed, putting out his hands as if to stop Vicky physically. “Nobody is breaking any doors! I don’t want to get tossed out of my program or out of school. That wasn’t in the plan,”

“He’s right, Vicky,” I said. “We’re just going to have to think of something else.”

“Something else?” she snapped. “Like what?”

“Well… the lock means that the lab is probably not empty, right?” I pointed out. “And so that must mean that they’re going to come back for the stuff. Doesn’t that make sense?”

“Not necessarily,” Eric started. I gave him a look and he hurriedly changed whatever he was going to say. “I mean… sure that makes sense. Um, probably.”

Vicky was not mollified. “And if they come back before we get the door open? And take it away? What then?” She whispered in my ear, “What about your manhood then, Marsh?”

I turned crimson. What if the boys had overheard? They were looking at us curiously, but didn’t seem surprised at anything, so maybe they were just reacting to the fact that she had whispered rather than what she’d said. To cover my embarrassment, I suggested, “Maybe we could film whatever was going on when they came to open the door? At least that way we might get some idea of what’s inside.”

“What, like a spy camera?” Stan scoffed.

“Actually, I meant…” I started, but then concluded, “Wait! Why not? I have one of those pocket camcorders. Isn’t there some way we could hook it up so it would go off the door was opened?” I saw blank looks for a moment. “They do this in spy movies, right? We attach a thread to the door, and… somehow that triggers the camera. It’s pretty simple to operate: just press power and then press the big red button to shoot.”

Martin and Eric looked at each other. “Think we could build something in the metal shop?” Martin suggested.

Eric looked up. “There’s a drop ceiling, so it might be possible to hide the camera up there. If we aimed it right, that would cover a fair bit into the room.” He nodded. “I think it’s a good idea, Marsh, and worth a try. If you want to bring your camera to my room, Martin and I will see about setting it up.”

“Wait a minute. I want to be in on this,” I said. “What can I do?”

They looked at each other again. “Well, it’s your camera, and your idea,” Martin acknowledged. “But I think we’re going to have to be the ones to make it happen. You haven’t done any metalworking, have you?”

“I’ve… done some woodworking,” I said, tentatively. I might well discover that what skill I’d built up there was gone, along with my skill with the guitar.

Not that it mattered. The guys had decided that it was going to be metal, not wood, and they were probably right. Martin said, soothingly, “We’ll keep you up-to-date Marsh. If we get any pictures, we’ll let you know.”

“Well, that was kind of annoying,” I told Vicky, as we walked back to her room. “I thought this was going to be the easy part.”

“It’s not going to happen, is it?” she replied, sounding more subdued than I’d heard her in a long while. “I’d almost rather we hadn’t found the lab in the first place. It feels like somebody’s teasing us.”

“Come on, Vix,” I said. “We did take a major step, and now we have two chances to find out what’s going on.”

“Yeah, right. And what happens if they never come back? Or they find your camera? Or… what if you do get pictures and it’s just them taking all the stuff away?”

“Then we’ll at least be no worse off than we are, right?”

We walked on in silence for a few minutes before she commented again. “You really are accepting this, aren’t you? That’s why you’re so intent on breaking me up from Kevin. You don’t expect ever to be Marshall again. If you did… well, it wouldn’t matter, since I’d never have been dating him in the first place.”

She stopped and faced me. “And that’s why you’re dating a boy. It’s not just physical needs. You’re really thinking of yourself as a girl, now.”

I thought for a bit before answering. I hadn’t told her about my memory issues, and I wasn’t sure I was ready to. “Vicky,” I said, “I really don’t know. I’ve been trying to get used to the idea that I might be stuck. Trying to find some way to be happy with the idea… in case I have no choice. Is that really so wrong? I’m sure I’ve been telling you this all along.

“And I want you to stop seeing Kevin because I care about you. I… care about you a lot and I hate to see you hurt.”

“Really?” she said, skeptically. “How much? I’ll break up with Kevin if you break up with Jeremy.”

“Vicky! That’s not fair! Jeremy is good to me – he’s never hurt me. Not on purpose, anyway.”

She turned and started walking again, and I hurried to catch up with her. I said, “You can’t be serious, Vix. I’m just trying to do what’s best for you.”

“That was a test, Marsh, and you failed. You don’t want to be alone? Well, neither do I. Kevin may hurt me sometimes, but he’s at least there for me when I need him.”

“And haven’t I always…?”

She stopped again, but didn’t turn. “I don’t think that came out right. I’m not saying you’re not there, but… I really like having a boyfriend. And Kevin isn’t seeing anybody else, and he’s there. What’s that saying? He may not be Mr. Right, but at least he’s Mr. Right Here and Now. I’m not asking a lot… I don’t think you know what dating you meant to me. It meant there was actually a guy who thought enough of me, who respected me enough never to hit me. I don’t know if you remember… I used to do things, say things, just to see if I could provoke you. But you never hit me.”

She turned, and I saw the tears in her eyes. “I don’t want to believe this is the end for us. I want to believe that it can all be the same, be what it was.”

I didn’t even think. I just put my arms around her. “I’m not giving up, Vix. I’m just doing what I can do. I’m trying to make the best of things. And I mean to watch out for you, whatever happens.

And meanwhile, I was getting an idea.


  1. von says:

    >>It feels like somebody’s teasing us.”

    That would be Russ 🙂

  2. scotts13 says:

    Indeed, Russ may have been learning at the Peacecraft school of plot development. Otherwise, excellent chapter. The fire extinguisher tag is very true-to-life as a memory mnemonic; the hook at the end is nicely done; and “Not necessarily – I mean… sure that makes sense. Um, probably.” made me laugh out loud.

  3. scotts13 says:

    BTW, Stan leads a sheltered life, and/or has overstated his lock picking skills. After asking a friend in the lock business (and thinking back on what I’ve seen in schools) Medeco locks aren’t all that rare even in K-12 schools. By no means standard, but you see ’em.

  4. an ony mouse says:

    Apparently Stan needs to do some google-ing. 😉 Here’s what I came up with:

    * http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTWDRrP2VC8

    * http://hackaday.com/2008/07/29/medeco-high-security-lock-picking/

  5. Russ says:

    Obviously, it’s the author who failed at google-ing. I did a bit more research and have replaced the references to the Medeco with the Sargent Keso, which appears to be a fair bit more difficult. It turns out that there are supposedly some Medeco locks which may be unpickable, but I haven’t been able to confirm that. Thanks for keeping me honest, guys!

  6. April says:

    “Actually, I meant…” I started, but then concluded, “Wait! Why not? I have one of those pocket camcorders. Isn’t there some way we could hook it up so it would go off the door was opened?” I saw blank looks for a moment. “They do this in spy movies, right? We attach a thread to the door, and… somehow that triggers the camera. It’s pretty simple to operate: just press power and then press the big red button to shoot.”

    That’s an awfully complicated system for something that could have been done with a couple hundred dollar motion-activated security camera. And with a much smaller chance of getting caught. Heck, I would think that a good deal of modern camcorders would have the same feature.

  7. TJ says:

    I keep getting mix feelings for vix. But I guess that how an abused victim may come off, it wrong, and I hate it, but I have not known someone like that, so I guess it makes it hard for me to relate to her. I guess marsh need to talk to nikki or mom about this to help.

Leave a Reply