The Fixers #1

Seb Cole frowned.

Scratching his head, he stood looking at the spot on the floor where the false floorboard was supposed to be. It wasn't there. And if there was no false floorboard, then there wasn't any safe hidden there, either.

With a sigh, he replaced the portion of the rug that he had pulled aside.

Everything else was going to plan, he considered. He left the office behind and walked to the kitchen. Anderton, his wife, and the two kids, were all gone on some weekend trip. They had even taken the family dog, Oscar, along.

Hal had been right about that bit.

Although the house was set up with a fairly sophisticated security system, most of it was rigged up for the doors and windows. Easy to avoid if you don't need doors.

Seb reached into the refridgerator and pulled out a half-gallon of milk.

The motion-sensors were a little trickier, but Hal was right about the probable passcodes, too. Seb needed just two tries to shut those down.

He twisted the cap off the milk.

But the missing safe was nagging at his nerves. It pointed towards Anderton knowing someone would be here - that wasn't supposed to be possible.

Standing in the glow of the open fridge, Seb took a long swig from the milk. He tried to work it out further in his mind, but after a moment he shrugged. Hal would let him know what to do.

"Seb?" As if on cue, Len's voice crackled in his ear. "Status?"

Seb set the milk back into Anderton's fridge and let the door close.

"House is empty," he replied.

"And the safe?" Len asked.

Seb crossed the ground floor of the Anderton's home, and began climbing the stairs.

"Not where it should be."

He entered the bedroom of Anderton's teenage daughter, Kristen. Crossing the room to her dresser, he began opening drawers.

"Roger, Seb," came Len's delayed reply. "Hal wants you to continue searching the house. He suggests with high probability that the safe is hidden in a different location, but remains in the home."

Seb pulled out a pair of the girl's thong underwear and held it up. It was barely more than a thick string and a small patch of black fabric for the crotch. Looking close, he found a small heart was embroidered there. Interesting, he thought.

"Seb, did you copy? Continue searching the house."

"I already am," he replied.

He rummaged through the bras and underwear for another moment. At last, he grabbed a pair of the girl's panties - a more modest blue pair - and tucked them into his pocket. Closing the drawer, Seb looked around.

"Len," he said, keying his mic. "Does Hal have any suggestions for me?"

Where would Anderton hide his safe? It wasn't down in the man's office where it should be, so it could be anywhere in the large home.

"Uh, negative, Seb. Too many variables to consider. Examination of the blueprints turns up nothing out of the ordinary. Typical human behavior make some places more probable than others, but overall the percentages are pretty level." After a pause, he added, "You'll have to find it the old-fashioned way."

It might take awhile, Seb thought - a big house like this one. He would just have to go room to room, until he found it.

He left the daughter's bedroom and headed for the parents'. He would start in the master bedroom and work his way around the house from there.

* * *

Seb found the safe in less than an hour. It had been moved at some point to the master bedroom. Well, he silently amended, perhaps it was never actually in the office. He always became confused thinking about the ramifications of altering the past.

"Okay Seb," came Len's voice in his ear, "try this for a combination." He rattled off a few numbers.

Seb turned the dial, and tried the handle.

"No good."

Len gave him another set of numbers. Again, the safe wouldn't open. "This is getting old fast," Seb muttered.

"Don't worry," Len assured him, "there are a few more high percentage possibilities."

"What if Anderton used random numbers?"

"He should have," Len said, "but he didn't. No one does. Try this." He gave Seb more numbers.

This time, the handle clicked and the safe door swung open.

"We're in," Seb breathed.

He reached in, moving aside a few stacks of cash, some silver and gold. He grabbed for a paper-wrapped package, carefully pulling it from the safe.

"The painting?" Len asked.

With a cautious hand, Seb peeled the paper away from one edge of the bundle, peeked in under the wrapping. He could make out the canvas inside, held in a wood frame.

"I've got the painting," Seb replied. Carefully rewrapping the portion he had just torn, Seb stood. He placed the wrapped painting on Anderton's bed, then returned to close and re-conceal the safe.

"Ready to come home?" Len asked.

Seb crossed back to the painting and picked it up, tucking it under his arm.

"I'm ready," he told Len.

For a moment, nothing happened. Then the familiar buzzing began in his ears. A tingling sensation, at first indistinguishable from the sound in his ears, spread to his head, then down through his spine to all parts of his body. At last, the tips of his fingers and toes were buzzing, too. His teeth hummed in his mouth.

A sharp, sucking sound like someone playing a recording of a gust of wind in reverse.

A blue-white flash, and then...

Seb was standing back in the Chamber, looking at Len's smiling face through the window.

A moment later, he emerged through the door, carrying the painting. Len was there to meet him and pat him on the back.

"Nice work," he said, grinning. "Let's have a look at this painting, shall we?"

Together, they walked to the table where they ate meals. Seb laid the painting on the table, then carefully removed the paper wrapping. Neither man spoke for a moment.

"I guess it's nice," Len said, finally.

Seb nodded. It was a decent color painting of some unknown woman.

"Okay, better keep this wrapped up and safe for now," Len said. He reached out and began re-wrapping the framed work. "Hal will tell us what to do next."

"How's the girl," Seb asked.

Len paused in his work. He turned his head, considering Seb. After a moment, he grinned. "She is NOT going to like you," the black man said, breaking out into laughter.

"What? Where is she?"

"In her room."

Seb turned to leave. "But I wouldn't go in there if I were you." Len called after him. "She is pretty upset."

Seb ignored him. Turning into the corridor, he walked towards the living quarters. Outside the door of the new girl, he paused. He knocked gently, then stood, listening. Hearing nothing, he reached out and turned the handle.

"Who's there?" The girl's voice came from inside.

Seb paused, holding the door partially open.

"Can I come in?" Seb asked.

"Where am I?" the girl moaned. "Why won't anyone tell me what's going on."

"We'll tell you everything right now," Seb assured her, talking through the opening. "Sorry it's taken so long."

He pulled the door open and poked his head into the room.

She was sitting against the far wall, holding her knees to her chest. Her blond hair fell around her shoulders, and her eyes, red and puffy, were focused on Seb.

"I know you," she said, eyes widening.

"You do?" Seb asked, curious.

Never taking her eyes from Seb, the woman began to very methodically rise from her seated position on the floor.

"It's you," she breathed. "You're the motherfucker who killed me."



  1. This is really good. If this was the first chapter of a paperback book that I picked up off the shelf at a store somewhere I'd now proceed to a chair so that I could read more of it and convince my self to buy it. :) Keep it up.

  2. Thanks, Caine! Hope you enjoy the story!