After hanging up with Pete, Deck killed another butt in contemplative silence while he absent-mindedly stirred his drink with his finger. All he could do was pray that Seedy didn't fuck this one up; not that Pete had ever back-stabbed him before--he was a rat, but he wasn't an idiot--but this was big bucks. This could be the retirement ticket. All he had to do was keep Pete away from the book and the money and all would be well.

After killing his eighth drink, Deck stumbled to the bathroom, book in hand and tossed off to page twenty seven for the second time that day. After washing his hands and dabbing love sauce off the spine of the book, Deck collapsed into his chair and began to think about where he was going to hide the book. He realized that it had to be somewhere that he could get to without leaving the building, in case whichever parties wanted the book so badly had planted a watch on him.

At the top of the stairs on the 8th story of Deck's nearly condemnable office building stood a rather formidable looking iron fire door. Daunting, were it not for the fact that Deck had stolen the key from his Landlord's office one drunken night so that he could come up here and drink and be at one with nature. Cool smog on the neck; the delicate smell of smoke, fried chicken and cooling asphalt; the gentle wailings of various native species of state-owned vehicles as they ferried O.D.'d junkies, burn victims, drunks and indiscreet burglars to and fro--that sort of thing.

Unlocking the door, Deck stumbled through and staggered directly to where he knew the book would never be found. Prying open the maintenance door above the elevator shaft was a bitch, but that elevator hadn't worked in 30 years or more; no one would be poking around in there any time in the next century. Nope, Deck probably had more faith in the consistency of his Landlord's nature as a low-life, money grubbing, scum bag than the Pope did in Jesus. Deck slipped the book securely into the frame of the mechanism at the top of the shaft and closed the doors tight. Shame that he never made it past Page 27.

Piss drunk and reflecting sourly on the abrupt loss of world class masturbation material, Deck nearly failed to see the warning sign.

Deck's father was a paranoid militia type ex-Marine and, living with him, Deck had learned a lot of tricks. One of Deck's favorites was to draw or notch a small line that perpendicularly crossed the point where the stem of the handle and the metal socket in which it turned met. Deck did this in a way so that when one simply released the handle the lines did not match up. Every time he left his office, Deck always made sure that he lined them up, religiously. Right before he moodily grabbed the door handle and flung his office door open, Deck's blurry eyes grazed the handle and stopped cold: It wasn't lined up; not even close.

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