27 IAN’S NEW PLAN
As Marney and Ian approached the front of the building, which resembled more of a large, old two-storey farmhouse than a government field office, she noticed the worm and tired-looking steps and handrail. The second building, which was large and modern, was around back and out of sight. The gravel driveway from the highway ran right up to the building, leaving no space for landscaping.
Marney looked at Ian’s truck through the woods. I wonder how they’re doing.
“So, the parking lot is empty and there’s still no sign of any movement… Let’s go.” Ian said as he leaped to the top step in one bound and knocked on the door. After a few seconds, he knocked again, but louder. And again, he knocked loudly enough for anyone remotely close by to have heard.
Marney breathed out as if she were slowly blowing out a candle.
Ian’s strong eyes stared convincingly at her for a moment, “We don’t have much choice… If going in this building without permission is going to help Teplan and Terah, we need to take this chance now while no one is here.” The hope in his eyes and conviction in his voice hammered the point.
Marney looked at Ian broodingly, “I don’t like this… Make sure no one gets hurt.”
Ian nodded. He calmly tested the front door of Paulton’s building to see if it was unlocked. As if her head was on a swivel, Marney scoured the property for signs of movement. Ian let go of the locked door handle, pulled something out of his pocket, and jiggled it in the keyhole. Within moments, the door unlocked and they both disappeared inside.
“I see that’s the first lock you’ve picked.”
The front foyer boasted a high ceiling with only a coat rack beside the main door. The long front counter enclosed the customers’ small waiting area. Ian and Marney took in their surroundings and remained silent.
“I don’t think anyone is here and I don’t see any cameras in here either,” Ian whispered, glancing around the main room.
Off to one side, desks faced each other and were flanked by filing cabinets on each end. Ian opened the latch and both flew through behind the counter. “Let’s quickly look through these desks. I want to check the offices in the back, too.”
Ian and Marney systematically opened each desk drawer and scanned for anything that could be of value. “Look for any papers, envelopes, notebooks, flash-drives —anything that might have information we can use,” Ian said as both moved quickly through the room.
“Well, I can’t see a sign on a desk that indicates it’s Paulton’s; maybe he has an office upstairs.”
“We need to at least find his inspection reports so we can see how he is reporting his findings at the farms he inspects.”
The room’s walls offered photos of trees, forests, oceans, lakes and other nature settings. Marney looked around and pointed to the opening of the hallway at the back of the building, “There are the stairs.”
Within moments, they crossed the room and dart up the stairs. At the top was a window that looked out the side of the building.
“Hey, there’s your truck!” Marney whispered as she looked out the window at the top of the stairs.
“Great!” Ian said quickly as he focused on minimizing the creaking of the floorboards on the second floor. “Look, there are only six doors up here,” Ian said scanning the hallway.
“And, bingo: ‘Paulton’!” Marney read aloud from the sign beside the door to their left.
Ian tried the door and found it locked. He quickly pulled out the same pocketknife, jiggled the handle and it popped open. Just as he turned the handle and un-clicked the door, he froze. “That sounds like an engine outside, doesn’t it?”
“Yes. Let’s hurry up so we can get out of here. This place gives me the creeps,” Marney replied.