Anyway, let's check out the trio as they continue their own lockdown...
Brennan and Riz
This was the day we were going to find out what was in Riz’s drawer. I was anxious as hell. Valarie was her usual reserved, cool, calm and collected self. She laid on my bed, her head phones in listening to her phone. I didn’t want to intrude and ask what she was listening to, could have been an audio book or anything. I’ve heard her listen to all sorts before.
This was her pre-job routine, something I had only been privy to a few times before. Most days we’d meet up after she’d done all this. She was aware of my gaze, as I caught her looking back to me, a sly smile still on her face, and with it, the memories of the things we’d been doing in this first week of lockdown. Actually, this was the longest I’ve spent with her uninterrupted. We may have been lucky and got two or three days, but one of us always had a job to do, or Riz would be an arse. Sometimes both.
In some strange way, this is what it felt like to have a normal life. One without the constant threat of the Others. Where what you saw, was what you got. From what I was aware of, people were still unused to living like this, but if it meant more time with her. I’d take whatever they threw at me. Just as long as I could throw Riz at them of course. Just to make it fair.
I didn’t know what the time was, and I should have been keeping track of it. As soon as Valarie gave the signal, that’s when we were to make our move, and I still didn’t know how she planned to take the rat out of the way, what method she’d use. I was about to find out. I had been at the window, looking out, my phone left on the wooden frame. It had been there for a day now, as I didn’t have much of a use for it in these circumstances, I wasn’t even expecting it to have power left in it. The surprise shook me as it started dancing on the surface, ringing and vibrating, the wood providing a nice material to work with. Valarie heard it as well, but the expression she had was one of knowing. She knew who was ringing, and so did I, well, I did as soon as I looked at the caller I.D.
Alice. My blood ran cold, as every other thought left me head, I became worried that I’d missed a loan repayment date, that she was going to send her collectors after me, a threat that carried with it serious consequences. That was the threat she’d use to make Riz do her bidding.
“Aren’t you going to answer it then?” Valarie said. She spoke like the call was nothing, that the other person on the line was a harmless no one, instead of a very dangerous someone. I hesitated for another second, but Alice was still seeking my attention.
“Hello?” I called out as I answered.
“About bleeding time! You keep me waiting like that again and I’ll add a rudeness charge to your account!” Alice said, her words causing my knees to go weak, and my mind retreat to the distant past, to a comparable memory of me at the mercy of my year 4 teacher. Though, to be clear, Alice’s scare factor was much greater then hers.
“N-No need to do that! I just....” I tried to think of an excuse. “Couldn’t reach my phone in time!” I wasn’t sure of it when I said it, but either it worked, or she just moved the conversation on for other reasons, but Alice came at me with a request.
“Put the rat on, I need to ask him for something.” I never moved so fast, well, not without my life being on the line some how. I reached my desk and banged on it, making Riz appear with a yawn.
“Wat do yer want? If yer ‘ere bout der poo in Val’s shoes, den dat wasn’t me, dat waz sum other rat.”
“No one said anything about poo...”
“In dat case, ferget I sed nethin....” Riz said, making sure that Valarie wasn’t standing behind me. She’d stayed within my room, after all, she already knew the outcome of this call.
“Alice wants to speak to you.” I handed the phone over to him, and he snatched it out of my hands.
“Y didn’t yer tell me sooner! Ello?” He said, turning away from me, and lowering his voice so that only he and Alice could hear it. All I heard was a series of mumbles and half formed sounds. I fancied that I could make a few things out, but nothing definite. After five minutes of these mumbles, Riz hung up, and tossed the phone back to me.
“Rite, I ave ta go out.” It dawned on me here that this was Valarie’s plan, that she and Alice had orchestrated it. What Alice was going to get out of this was no one’s business.
“You can’t go out in a lockdown! You’re hardly a key worker.” I replied, not wanting to appear quite keen to get rid of him.
“Alice wants me ta get sumthin fer ‘er, nd she’s gonna take it off our debt! I’m not lettin did pass us by. I’ll only be gone fer a couple of hours ne way. Nd don’t worry, I’m not gunna brin der virus back fer yer nd Valarie. No matter how temptin it is.” Riz hopped down from the table and made for the door. “Besides, who’s gonna stop a rat? No one, dat’s who.” Riz added, throwing me a final smart ass look.
“So what are you going to get?” Still playing along.
“Nothin yer wanna know bout, otherwise we’ll both be dammed.” I stopped asking when he said that. Anything with that kind of response is something I don’t want to be involved in.
Five minutes after he left, Valarie came in, dressed for the job, topping it off with a French style beret and gloves to hide evidence of her handiwork.
“Come on Bren, let’s see what the rat is hiding.” She said, walking past me. You may be thinking that this was an awful amount of work to do, just to see what was in a drawer. Surely we could have just asked Riz what was in there. Let me lay those concerns to rest. There was never, no way in hell that Riz would have just shown us the drawer. We’d have an easy time in getting him to part with stray coins he’d pick up off the floor.
Valarie bent down and looked at the drawer, she looked up at in surprise.
“Bren, I take it these locks weren’t on this when you moved into his place?” She asked.
“Locks? I got that desk from a charity shop when I got this place. It was the only think I didn’t have in a lock up. There wasn’t locks included.” I explained.
“Then explain this pair!” She said, moving back, allowing me to get a look in. Affixed to the front of the drawer were two circular plates, no bigger then a two pound coin. Each one looked like it was detailed with a tiny face.
“When did he put them in?” I asked out loud, trying to think of when he would have had the chance to do something like this. This wasn’t traditional do it yourself work. I ran my finger over them, and almost lost one as the lock tried to take a bite out of it.
“Do you mind where you are sticking that extremity of yours? It is quite rude.” The opposite lock said, while the one that had wanted to eat me just laughed.
“Why’re you talking like that you pompous hack! This bozo just tried to fondle my mouth! Without even buying me dinner first! The cheek of these bastards...Wouldn’t have minded if it was the girl mind.” A pair of eyes appeared on the locks, even a monocle on one of them. One set shifted from looking at me, to looking at Valarie and back again, the other, just focused on Valarie. That was the one who just accused me of trying to fondle it’s mouth.
“Magical talking locks...Of course, what else would the rat have to guard his secret drawer!” Valarie said, face palming. She didn’t do it often, but when she did, it was serious business.
“Excuse me madam, but you trivialise us with that classification. We are Alchemy-level Security Talismans. I am Arthos. He is Aramis. Master Riz installed us for the security of his den.”
“Yeah, he didn’t want just anyone getting in, so he brought in the best! Though if you would like me to work with you my darling, I’m sure we can work something out...” Aramis didn’t get to finish that thought as Valarie stuck a twisted hair clip in his keyhole. I think she knew it wouldn’t work, I also think she didn't much care.
“Okay, that’s enough from you. Arthos was it? Since you seem to be the more civil and intelligent one of the two, maybe you can help us. See we want in. I know there’s a sure fire way to get in, but for everyone’s sake, I don’t think you’ll want me to do it.” I was aware of the plan that we were going to follow, but that revelation didn’t fit anything I knew.
“I’m sorry madam, it would break our very being for us to break the vow that we took when we were placed here. No one but Master Riz can enter here. We’ll give our lives to defend this vow, and in our death, no one can gain entrance.” Arthos said stoically.
“We can’t open, even if you want to bare all to me love.” Aramis winked at Valarie. “As for you however mate. Fat chance. There’s nothing you can offer me to get in.”
“Why did Riz choose such an arsehole to be a lock?” Valarie said, I could see in her eyes that she was trying to work out a way in, despite this sudden setback. I was a bit disturbed by this as well. I mean, sentient locks? What kind of existence was that? Did Riz pay them for their service? Was this a magical form of punishment? These were only the tip of the iceberg in terms of questions I had at that point. Damned if I was going to get any answers. Didn’t seem the time to bring up anything existential. Valarie on the other hand...
“Let me get this straight. You are locks with your minds, your own sentience. Yet you have to be locks to a perverts drawer?”
“Hey! Don’t badmouth the boss like that! He’s great.” Aramis snapped back, completely ignoring the question in the defence of his master.
“Your questions are understandable but this is our life and we will attend to it as we see fit. We swore to serve Riz in whatever capacity he choose. We will continue to do so till our deaths.” If he had a body, I could have seen him standing proud, arms folded.
“Did you have a form before that of a Alchemy- Level Talisman?” I asked.
“I can neither confirm or deny that. We are who we are now, and that’s all that matters from here on in.”
“Or to put it bluntly, we’re not letting you in dick!”
“Aramis! Do no be so vulgar!” This pair seemed to fight just as much as me and Riz. Or at least Riz and Valarie.
“So there’s no way you can just open and let us have a peek inside?” Valarie said, before sighing. “Though if you won’t I guess I’ll have to get the C4 out anyway.”
“No don’t do that!” Me, Arthos and Aramis said at once.
“Well, here’s the thing, I want to see in, you two locks won’t let me, so I’m going to have to blow a hole to see down into the drawer. It’s nothing personal” Valarie started rooting through her bag, prompting more outcry.
“Please madam, reconsider, do you not value our lives?” Arthos pleaded.
“I said it’s nothing personal, I want to see in the drawer. It’s as simple as that.” Valarie then stopped. “Unless...You just want to give me a little peek, you know, not open fully. Just a tiny, tiny crack.” She used her fingers to illustrate her point. Aramis was the first to answer, much to his partner’s terror.
“Well, a crack is better then being blown apart. Rather see your crack mind...” He said, chuckling to himself as if he just told the wittiest joke. Arthos sighed, and I felt his pain, having been on the receiving end of Riz’s big mouth.
“If that is truly your only recourse, then that compromise is agreeable. Our vow is only to stop you entering from force and from gaining access. We will not be opening it further enough for you to take anything in and out.” The defeatism in Arthos’s voice was heavy, heavy enough to make me question if we wanted to go through with this, but again, Valarie was way ahead of me.
“Open up!” She said with glee, and the drawer creaked open, and stopped just as quick. This crack was a tiny silver, a hair would have found it a tight squeeze. Valarie then looked at me and reached into her bag, picking up the most important tool she had for this job. Her micro camera. Carefully, she fed it into the drawer and attached the other end to her phone, allowing us to see what it saw.
“Hope it’s worth all this! I mean, it’s a rat’s hidey hole! What you expecting to find in there? The Mona Lisa?” Aramis joked, he wasn’t taking the situation anywhere as serious as Arthos.
The screen flickered on and revealed a unnatural darkness in the drawer. The micro-camera had a light on it, so we should have had enough to illuminate the inside, but all we got was darkness. I should point out that there was a hefty amount of wire to this camera, and at first I thought it was overkill, yet there I was feeding more and more of it in, as the camera went deeper and deeper.
“What is going on here!” I said, looking for any sign on the feed that we were reaching the bottom of the drawer, something that was so small in physical space. Valarie, for once, was lost for words, and the two of us were absorbed by what was going on, enough so that we didn’t hear the door go.
“Yer both avin fun dere?” Riz said, tapping his foot.
“Riz!” I cried out in surprise.
“What the hell are you doing back so quick!” Valarie said, annoyed.
“Yer little errand waz child’s play. Didn’t yer think I wud know sumthin waz goin on wen Alice called me up ta sort it out wen she’s got yerself fer crap like dat.” Riz took glee in explaining it to Valarie.
He then hopped onto the table and peered over where we were stood, looking down into where the drawer was ajar.
“Oi Arthos! Aramis! How long did it take ‘er ta break yers den?”
“Sorry master Riz. She threatened us with destruction, so this seemed like a good compromise.” Arthos said.
“Get dat stick outta yer arse. I don’t see wat der fuss is bout. I’m not angry since it’s a good test of my other security measures!” Riz laughed.
“Other measures?” I think everyone else said in unison.
“Wat? Did yer think dat I’d leave it just ta der locks?” As Riz spoke, I noticed a light move past the camera on the phone screen, it was swift and moving quickly. Then I saw the same light shoot out of the drawer like an arrow. “Dere’s one of dem now! Wat’s dat one do again?” Riz said, tapping his face with his paw. The light then made a beelne for Valarie, who smiled.
“Well, guess who saw this coming! Melezour!” Saw the word loud and a Rune she held in her hands broke apart, the light bouncing harmlessly off her...And headed straight for me. Bugger. I barely had the time to mouth the word shit before the light struck me, and everything went black.