Bruno was braving nature as he stood under the tree opposite where Katherine lived. He witnessed the apartment’s lights switching off one by one, then, within moments, the exit from the building of three men, all wearing white work-clothes.
They must be the painters.
When they walked down the steps, one man’s actions grabbed his attention.
Did he put somethin’ in the mailbox? He can’t have! Having doubts about what he saw, Bruno thought, there’s only one way to find out.
In the darkness, he rubbed his hand along the bottom surface of the mailbox, and the discovery surprised him. He knew exactly what the small flat object represented. Freedom of entry. From bending to standing upright took only a millisecond. His reflex action came from his thought I’m being set-up! Why would anyone leave a key in an unlocked mailbox? He studied the street with suspicion, looking for indications of a planned trap.
He waited for someone, anyone, to approach, but when nothing occurred, he walked up the front steps to stand on the stoop. The key slid into the lock, and as the door eased open he glanced quickly up and down the street. He had to satisfy himself of no followers. He was ecstatic! He wanted to yell with intense euphoria. His team had just hit the home run.
As his eyes adjusted to the near darkness, a new sense made itself known. The smell of fresh paint was unmistakable.
He discovered the apartment door partially open, having ascended the stairs. Don’t touch the paint. I can’t let anyone know I was here, he thought, as he pushed on the handle to open wider the door.
With the absence of curtains, the illumination from the streetlights streaming through the windows gave the empty apartment an eerie sensation. He walked the hall, inspected the rooms, but his lingering was longest in Katherine’s room. Images shot through his brain, one after another. They were ever so real, moments of living before his very eyes. With his conquest replayed, his groin began to react. He needed her badly, more than a fix.
“Snap out of it!” he said admonishingly. With his mental indulgence extinguished, he departed the apartment, but did remember to pull the door back to its original position before descending the stairs.
Bruno was about to return the key to the mailbox, but intuitively stopped. I need a duplicate, but it’s too late to get one cut. What if I leave the door closed, and unlocked? Whoever comes first in the mornin’ might not search for the key if the door’s unlocked? It’s worth a try! I’ll return it before anyone knows it’s missin’. Shit! That means not goin’ to work until another one’s cut.
Sleep was elusive. The excitement of having a key cut kept his mind, and body, in a state of perpetual adrenaline overdrive.
“I need a key,” he said, to the old man behind the counter immediately on entering the hardware store in the Back Bay area. “Thank God you open early.”
“I’m here to please.” The old man’s tone was brusque. Everyone’s in a hurry these days. They come in, and never say hello, except my regulars.
Bruno allowed himself a smile as he looked at the two keys resting in the palm of his right hand. They were rewards for his effort.
Long before nearing Beacon Street, he thought of how blessed he was. If I wasn’t there when the men came out of the building, I wouldn’t have found the key. All I have to do is return it.
As he drove slowly along the street, men carrying rolls of material into the building were visible. He swerved his truck into the first available parking spot, not all that far from where originally wanting to park. He took count of the men as they came and went, and it soon became apparent there were four workers, while another appeared to be working on the interior wall near the front door’s entrance. Kerbside, directly in front of the building, sat a truck loaded with carpet and underlay, and a locksmith’s van.
Realizing there was no point in postponing the inevitable; he crossed the street and walked in the building’s direction. His pace reduced to an amble as he approached the steps, and breasting the mailbox, the original key, in his left hand, slid into the slot. The metallic sound of it hitting the bottom of its dark refuse guaranteed it was back where it belonged.
As he sat in his truck, Bruno wanted to yell, again, his excitement. The key represented access to a power never envisaged. I now have what I need to come and go, whenever I want. Katherine, and her family, will have no idea I’ve been in their apartment. He awarded himself another smile. The prospect of such an event was worthy of a smile. The thought of rummaging through Katherine’s and her mother’s personal belongings was a temptation that fed his senses.
The craving to try the duplicate was overpowering. He knew he would have to make another house call later that evening. I’ll come when everyone’s inside. Only the crazies are out in this weather.
He could feel the wind pushing against his back as soon as he emerged from his building. It tried enticing him to walk faster, but he did not need the encouragement. Just thinking about returning to a warm bed was sufficient.
“What if someone sees me?” Bruno thought, as he walked up the steps to the front door. It should not have been a concerned. The activity in the street was not worthy of consideration. Even though he knew the building to be uninhabited, he still took care with inserting the key gently into the lock.
“Fuck!” He was shocked. It failed to turn.
Removing it, he then reinserted it. Still, it would not allow his hand to turn. Hurrying to the mailbox he brushed his hand around in the darkness until he found what he was searching for, then bounded back up the steps to remove the new key from its orifice, before inserting the original.
It turned with ease.
“What the hell!” With the availability of limited light, he superimposed one key over the other. They appeared identical. Damn! I have to go back and see the old man.
With the original key back in the mailbox, he drove to his apartment to await the morning’s beckoning.
Just as the old man unlocked his door, Bruno barged in. He had arrived at the hardware store long before its opening was due. “Old man, I paid you to cut this, but it won’t open the door. What gives?” he asked, as he slammed the key onto the counter.
Ignoring Bruno’s anger, the old man picked up the key and studied it with a diligent eye. “I only cut the key, son. I don’t guarantee it’ll open the door,” he replied, with sarcastic smile.
Bruno did not know to take the old man’s humor, but he could feel his anger subsiding.
“I’ll only be a minute.” The old man turned to a machine and gave the key a buffing on the burnishing brush. He then ran his knurled thumb and forefinger finger up and down the polished key.
“Try it now. If it doesn’t work, bring the master key back and I’ll cut another.”
Confused by his comment, Bruno asked, “What’s a master key?”
“The original key you gave me was a master. You know, one that opens every door.”
“What do I owe you?”
Bruno walked from the store, overjoyed by the new knowledge of the key’s capability. This can only get better. Another drawn out day was inevitable before he could re-test the key. If this works, he thought, as he held the key, then nothin’ can stop me. I won’t make any mistakes this time.