Kid surveyed the clumps of clustered claptrap and wove a path toward the skylight, 24 paired panes of glass, a dozen on each side, the tented peak reaching about as high as Kid’s chin. Kid stalked across the roof with habitual stealth, coiling into a crouch with the comfort of a cat about to pounce, leaning close to examine the architectural idiosyncrasy of an alleyward skylight façade.
The mottled and muddled surface looked to have been last cleaned around the last time the roof had been. Each of the corners facing Kid where the skylight neared the flanking walls of the adjacent buildings was home to a junk jumble, with another having been shaped into a kind of trash sandbar by the aerial eddies about two thirds of the way from Kid’s right to his left along where glass met the roof.
Um, can we make out anything through this stuff?
Not really. Maybe if the light was on?
But it isn’t. Because that was one of the things that we were waiting for, remember.
I remember, I was just saying, now that we are here the light would make it easier to see what’s in the room.
We could try looking from the other side. With the sunset behind us?
I don’t know how much that would help.
And how would we even get to the other side? This thing looks held together by more rust than metal now. Are we even sure it could hold us?
I’m sure it’s thick enough that… Ah, is that a?
Kid stretched to his toes, arms thrust behind him to balance his forward lean to examine the apex of the iron and glass construction, which met in a cylinder as thick as Kid’s wrist bearing the telltale breaks of a hinge.
Um, are we gonna use more words, or is this not that time?
So, the hinge means the skylight could open.
Which raises a whole mess of new questions.
Wait, ‘could open’?
Yeah, that’s one of the questions.
That wasn’t a question, it was kind of more the curious repetition of the same words you just used, hoping you’d say it in a less ambiguous way.
Yeah, I got, I was responding that the ambiguity as to the opening was one of the questions.
But I think the more interesting question is: does the gang know it could open?
Wait, how’s that again?
I mean, look at the hinge. If most of it is on the outside and you can’t really see through the glass, do they even know the hinge is there? It might just look like a joint or a weld from the inside.
Um, wouldn’t the more interesting question be whether or not we should go inside?
Well, that might be the most relevant question, but I don’t think that makes it the most interesting.
But since it is a little more relevant, are we going inside?
Strikes me as not a great idea.
But remember how we are stuck on a roof?
Remember when we opened the window for the first time coming to the surface? And it was all stubborn and screechy? This window looks like it hasn’t been opened in even longer, and it might screech louder.
And the guy at the door might hear us.
Wait, why are we even keeping this a secret? If they don’t know this could be how we use that book to solve our other problem, using reciprocity, right?
You know, I think we have enough problems that we should start naming them or something.
I’m talking about our impressing the boss problem.
That name sucks.
But this could be the kind of gift that makes him want to give us something in return, right?
Well, that is only a gift it it turns out they don’t already know.
That seems like something we could check.
How? Did we unlock secret mind reading talents when I wasn’t paying attention?
Hah. Should be a pretty easy test, really. Doesn’t take a mind reader. Just a quick scan. . .
Kid sank back into a squat and peered along the roof-edge of the window panes, stopping when he saw an overlapping pair of flat iron loops at the center, one loop from the skylight frame and the other from the base frame, each sitting empty.
Boom. I think it is a pretty safe bet that they don’t know that the skylight opens.
Well, I mean, they have a guy at the door keeping everyone but the members out of the building.
And another guy at the stairs keeping most of the members out of the upper floor.
Yeah, we know. The guy with fiery arms is back there a lot.
Well, if they were that concerned about keeping people out of this floor I doubt they would fail to lock the window leading into that floor.
Huh. That makes sense. That means Whiny’s early question is even better, though: why not just let them know as a way to gain favor?
I think we could maybe use it better if we wait? Hear me out.A few reasons: it seems like they have been here for a while and they still don’t know so it seems reasonable that they aren’t going to find out any time soon, so we can save the option to tell them at any point in the future; also we might want to break in at a future point, which we have the ability to do as long as they don’t know, so if we don’t tell them, we can keep the ability to use what we know while preserving the option to initiate reciprocity.
Is that your way of saying we shouldn’t go inside? Cause I didn’t want to go in anyway. I was just asking if we were going to.
Yeah, I don’t think we should open it today. Maybe we can find some stuff to break down the rust and screechy stuff when we DO want to open it.
Well, glad we sorted that out. Even if it means we still haven’t solved our initial problem of the day.
Again, could you be more specific?
The getting into the building not using the front door so we can get to work without risking a beating problem?
You are the worst at naming. Besides, we can totally get in without using the front door. Just not as a regular option, just on occasion, and even then it will give away the secret, and also they have the guard at the stairs that would notice us coming down.
Oh. Right. Wait, if we already knew about the guard keeping us from using the stairs then why did we even try the roof?!?!
I was hoping for some kind of ventilation or air circulation maybe leading to a closet we could slip in and out of? Also, the roof is a lot easier to find than hoping to stumble upon a pipe or tunnel that happens to cross under the exact building.
Ok, well then we have a new problem. We can’t get back up where we started and we aren’t getting into the building.
Meaning we need to make an exit from the front of this building, where we know a guard is also waiting, always. Pretty sure we can file this mission as a failure.
Hold on, the door is recessed into the wall, right?
Um. Ok, maybe a doorway COULD be considered the ‘playground of wallspace’ but that doesn’t help us at all.
Recessed, as in set deep into the wall.
Right. That’s because the walls are so freaking thick.
I’m not so concerned about why. Think about where the doorman stands.
Um, leaning against the wall on the far side of the door.
Not just against the wall. Leaning against the inside of the wall, so he can just reach up and bang when he needs the door opened.
Yeah. Against the wall. That’s what I said.
The point is, if I’m right, then he won’t be able to see us unless he steps away from where he is leaning because the wall overhang will block his view if he looks toward the roof.
Huh. Maybe we can climb sideways . . . Good catch. We should check it out.
Not to be the pooper here, but if he’s wrong and the guy is just posted out in the alley? Sticking our head out to look down seems like a really good way to get noticed.
Not really. I mean, no one looks up and just leaning seems like it would be quiet enough to avoid giving him a reason to break that habit.
Doesn’t our phone have a camera?
Couldn’t we just slide the camera lens over the edge and then be able to look at the screen without giving our whole head as a visual distraction.
Huh. That actually makes a lot of sense. I mean, even if he isn’t tucked into the corner at the moment we could use that technique to wait until he moved and plan out our climb in the mean time. Great thought, Shady!
I’d feel better if you seemed a little less surprised.
That isn’t surprise. It’s excitement. I think we are gonna be able to use that trick a LOT. Let’s do it.
Kid placed hands on thighs and pushed himself o a standing position, turning with long, slow strides toward the corner where rust mangled iron met the coarse cut concrete.
So are we gonna just bounce without even trying to look inside the room?
Um, what? We can’t see inside. The glass is too murky and we don’t want to risk the noise of opening?
And I thought you didn’t want to go in, anyway?
I don’t want to GO in. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to know what is inside. Murk can get cleaned. I mean, that is right, right? We could at least try wiping some of this gunk off the glass?
Well, I guess we could at least look.
The risk is that the next time, or any time, someone goes in the room they might notice the clean spot and figure out that someone had been on the roof.
But people don’t look up, right? That’s like our thing.
If it casts a funky shadow they won’t need to look up. But may be if we just tried a small part, on a place that doesn’t get much light? I think it might work.
Do we want to look inside?
I don’t think having more information is ever a bad thing.
I already said I’m game. Feels daring and also, I hate not knowing things.
Isn’t that what he just said?
Nope. Totally different.
Whatever. Ok, let’s try to sneak a peek.
A quick scan of the trash piled at Kid’s feet identified the crusty remnants or what had either been a sock or a mitten in a past life. Scratching and scrubbing at the buildup in the low corner of the glass revealed layers of grime, the surface of the glass itself only peeking through after a few generous applications of saliva.
When he’d cleared an area about the size of his fist Kid walked his feet out behind him while lowering himself on fingertips until his cheek pressed against the rough chill of the rust eaten iron and his eyelashes could brush against the now clearer glass.
All I can really make out, furnishing wise, is the desk and something at the far end of the room. Can’t tell what it is, but it looks about the size of a bookshelf, but square, like, as deep as it is wide maybe.
Ah, that stuff on the desk?
I was more looking at the stacks next to the computer that look a lot like wads of cash.
Explains why he didn’t mind giving some away the first time we met him.
I was kinda looking at the end of the desk, over by the wall?
Can you even see anything at that end of the desk? That closer to the wall the shadows are thicker.
Not all the way along the wall. I mean, we can still see the thing in the far corner, and it’s on that same wall.
Huh. Yeah, that’s weird.
That’s what I was talking about. It kinda looks like the shadows are sitting on the desk. I mean, even the floor in front of the desk is easier to see.
That doesn’t make sense. I don’t think light works that way.
Something on that desk is glooming.
Is that a word?
Sure, it’s like looming except more oily and gloomsome.
Works for me.
Right? Gives me the creeps. Super glad we aren’t going in, now.
Kinda gives me the creeps, too. We’ve gotten our look, right? We can go?
For sure. But I’m making a note of the fact that Big has something that seems to defy the laws of physics in his office, because the stability of my understanding of reality demands it.
You do you, Fuzz.
Kid covered the clean spot on the corner of the glass with the mitten-sock and then shoved the rest of the isle of refuse closer around it to hold the light obstruction in place. Then he stood and turned to face the wall, stepping sideways so the ball of his foot rested on the iron framework suspending his heel above the grimy glass.
Leaning against fingertips keeping him from brushing his face or chest against the wall Kid shuffled his way up and then back down the skylight. As he reached the end of the skylight on the other side one hand descended to slip his cell phone free from his pocket.
A squeeze and a swipe activated the camera function and Kid’s hand crept toward the edge of the wall. He tilted the phone so the camera pointed down at the alley below, lowering it so he could still see the screen when it showed the curve of an elbow poking out from the doorway.
With a quiet grin Kid deposited his phone back in his pocket and edged around the corner, making slow and silent progress across the web of lines and pipes decorating the windowless alley side of the building until he could slip through the bars circling the ladder and ascend back to his rooftop freedom.
Well, I don’t think we should call this a complete failure.
Why not? We didn’t accomplish our goal. We still don’t have a safe, consistent route from our place to here.
No, but we learned some things, about the skylight and whatever the gloomy shadow thing was in the office.
Right. And we can use at least one of those for the reciprocity thing.
Fine, not a total failure. But, uh, while we’re waiting for the right time to get all reciprocal, maybe we can use one of the other points in the book to keep making friends?
What did you have in mind?
Well, it mentioned that sharing things you like is a good way to build relationships, too.
Well, Benji had mentioned basketball the other day. . .
Want to learn to play? There is an underground exit near the park he said he hits.
Maybe we can swing by when we get a chance?
Perfect. I’m ready for a nice relaxing day at the park.