The Book of Gateways Installment 27 (#BOG)

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We all rejoin at seven in the little locked office via the outside window.

“This is why Milo always kept this place locked. He used it to come here. Aw he kept my kitten calendar here.” Desimae goes to change the calendar to the correct month but then decides against it and leaves it. “He touched it last.” She says matter-of-factly.

“Are you ready for this?” Piers looks concerned. “You might feel nauseous and possibly even pass out. Are you gunna be okay?” He slips his arm through his second backpack strap. She nods and pulls her little backpack on. It almost looks like the character Domo but a sky blue version with a ton of multi-colored patches and little legs that swing back and forth when she walks. She named him Phil. We all file through our bags to make sure we have everything we need. Passports? Check. Bank cards? Check. Change of clothes? Check. Looks like we are ready to go.

“I’m a little nervous to put this many people through the gateway.” I swallow hard at the thought of half my body in Singapore and half my body in this office. The police wouldn’t be tired of me anymore.

“How bad could it be to get stuck between space jumps? You’d probably be severed instantaneously.” Desimae shrugs which causes Phil’s legs to swish back and forth. Piers sighs exasperated.

“Can we just do this?” He says opening the book to a page with a picture that read: “100 Year Old Dim Sum Shop…Singapore”.

“Well we know why Milo went to Singapore.” Desimae laughs.

“Grab onto me.” Piers says to both of us. Each of us puts a hand on Piers’ shoulder and another hand around his waist. We don’t want to get disconnected and turn into Swiss cheese.

“Three, two, one. Go.” Piers says as he puts his finger onto the starter circle and just like that we’re sucked in.

Through the blackness, I hear a gasp of air entering deprived lungs. My eyes open to the back of the restaurant before me, Piers underneath me, and Desimae beside me. Her eyes wide and searching her surroundings. “Whoa.” Is all she says as me and Piers stand up already used to the pressure of jumping through gateways.

“Need help up?” Piers yanks Desimae up by her forearm. Her whole body is shaking with adrenaline. “Are you okay?” She nods yes.

“Why don’t we try some food here? Milo obviously liked it. We should try it too.” I say bouncing on the balls of my feet. “It’s ten in the morning here, but anytime is a good time for Dim Sum.” With that, we all make our way into the little shop and are greeted by a small Singaporean woman.

“Ah! Riley! Oh my goodness, you take after Milo so much! Popping in whenever the wind blows you here!” She says with a wide smile. “Please, please come in! Sit down. We aren’t quite open yet, but for you, anytime!” She says and points us to a table.

“You know her?” I whisper to Piers. He shakes his head no.

“My name is Min. Milo has told me so much about you. Who are your friends?”

We all introduce ourselves and sit down at the table.

“How is Milo? Is he well? I haven’t seen him in a long time.” She says sitting next to us. A dread falls over me and suddenly we are stuck in a difficult position. I look to Piers.

“Oh, Min. I am, so sorry…” He looks down to his hands and suddenly Min seems uncomfortable. “Milo, was murdered about three and a half months ago.” Piers fidgets. Instantly Min’s eyes well up.

“Milo was a good man. Who would murder him?” Her voice cracks.

“We don’t know. Everything has been a bit of a whirlwind. The police haven’t found anything. I’m very sorry you’re just finding this out.” Piers pats her folded hands.

“And, I am sorry for your loss Riley. Whatever you want to eat today will be free, in honor of your loving uncle. He was a good man.” She says as a few tears dripped from her eyes. “It’s nice to know that so many people loved my uncle.” Piers smiles at her. She returns the kindness.

“I have so many books to return to you then. I was waiting for him to come back. He was going to pick them up the next time he came around. Anyway, I am so happy that you all came to visit. He told me this was his most favorite place in all of Singapore.” Min stood up and smiled proudly. “My husband Eugene should be in soon and we will cook you many delicious things and we will celebrate Milo.” She wipes fresh tears away.

We soon after met Min’s husband Eugene and boy could he cook. They brought us almost everything there was on the menu. We all shared great stories we had of Milo and in an instant, we had another glimpse into what kind of man Milo was. It was a great thing to see another layer of his legacy he left to another family in another country. He truly was a great man.

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The Book of Gateways Installment 26 (#BOG)

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I awake to the sound of a series of taps. I open one eye to see Desimae fully dressed and sitting at her little table in the kitchen area with a single glass of orange juice and her phone in hand. She looks over at me and nods then goes back to her text.

“What time is it? How long have you been up?”

“Ten am. Since seven thirty.” She doesn’t look up. I get up and quickly get dressed feeling obligated and silly for sleeping so long.

“Alright, I’m ready. Should we meet up with Piers?” She shrugs and stands up. Today she sports a pale green shirt with a nineteen fifties pin up styled Medusa that says “Medusa, master sedusa.” Which I wish I owned.

“Want breakfast?” She still doesn’t look up from her phone.

“Sure.”

“Let’s go meet up with Piers and we will eat together.” She looks up at me. I nod and get dressed. We make our way to a little diner not too far from the book store. A fifties styled diner with a blue Cadillac car for its emblem and bright red neon lights that read “Cadillac Sal’s Diner”. Oh San Diego, you so differ from my little town in Maryland. We order in array of food to fill the table, say a prayer to bless it, and then dig in.

“So…” She pauses for a long time. “What’s the deal? How was Milo getting around the way he was? I know you’re doing the same thing.” She leans in expecting something great. Piers spends the next few hours talking to her about the book of gateways and our hypothesis on why Milo was targeted and killed. Which in short, someone became too interested in Milo’s travel and transportation of books, and when Milo wouldn’t give up his secrets…He was murdered. I mentioned Matt, our British canary that has been warning us about how dangerous it is. Desimae looks unsurprised as she sips her chocolate milk and pushes her eggs around in an uninterested way.

“Aren’t you lactose intolerant?” Piers comments. She shrugs.

“Aren’t you even a little bit shocked?” I ask surprised by her unsurprised reaction.

“I suppose not. I saw Milo take that book with him everywhere with his planner, although the book was much harder to catch a glimpse of. He must have figured out the science of the book to make those transporter boxes. I can’t believe that old man kept such a good secret.” She says thoughtfully, her eyes darkening the same way they did the night before. Maybe she feels that pang of bitterness too. The fact that he would hid something so big from the people he loves so much.

“But it’s not like he owes me anything anyways. Not my life to interfere with.” She says bringing her eyes to meet mine, and for the first time I see her smile with that darkened look. A mixture of anxieties and feelings like when a river and the ocean meet, not quite sadness but not joy either.

“So where have you been other than here?” She says calling over for a bill.

“Greece.” I say.

“That’s it? You’ve had this book for several months and you’ve only been to Greece?” Her smile now reminds me of the Cheshire cat from Wonderland. “I think that should change today.” She sends the waitress off with her card.

“Listen, before you get travel crazy this has been really dangerous. We’ve already been attacked and we don’t want you to be involved in this.” Piers says agitated.

“Piers, mah dawg.” She flicks her head in dramatic way. “I was involved the moment you got here in your little jumper machine. There’s no turning back now. Besides whoever is following you is gunna take some time to find you. They can’t track you the traditional way. There are obviously no flight records to San Diego. So you good homie.” She stands up and puts her card in her wallet.

“What kind of a person thinks of a paper trail?” I say jokingly.

“I’m pretty sure I have family in the mafia. Uncle Sal is always acting sketchy. Right Sal?” She hollers over her shoulder.

“What are you saying you crazy kid?” An older gentleman in a pair of khakis, a white shirt, and suspenders sputters to life from the far corner of the diner. I look at Desimae unconvinced to which she mouths “He’s crazy.” And twirls her finger by her temple. I just laugh and shake my head. We walk back to the book store and see that Lannah in all of her flowery woodland fairy glory has opened the shop and adorned the front desk with a new water lily in a bowl. For which an unknown reason bothers me. From the instant we walk in Desimae zeroes in on the lily and plucks a petal from its base and frolics to a nearby sitting chair. We follow her and sit down. This store is different. It’s also two stories but has white inside with geometric bookshelves to give it a sterile but inviting atmosphere. All the furniture is a dark wood and on the sides of some of the bookshelves are little succulents that are perched in little frames. Milo has yet again surprised me with his good tastes in design.

“Let’s go to Singapore!” Desimae smiles devilishly. I nod, Singapore seems like an interesting place.

“I told you, it’s dangerous. We can’t just take trips willy nilly.” Piers huffs as if gray hairs are starting to sprout from his fresh scalp.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine. Maybe, maybe Milo would want us to all take a trip together.” I say trying to ease his mind.

“I’m not so sure.” Piers huffs and runs his hand through his hair. “Let’s take a trip.” I look my clock which reads: 1:32pm. “Currently it’s four thirty-two am in Singapore. We should wait until it’s a decent time to go over there.” I say look back at my crew. They both nod.

“We’ll go after dinner around seven pm. What do you say? Spend a day in Singapore?” We all smile knowing full well we are about to embark on an adventure.

“Desimae! You little wretch! Stop dismantling my lilies!” Lannah shrieks from the desk.

“Gotta go! Be right-!” Desimae leaps from her chair unable to finish her remark. For the next fifteen minutes I watch two grown woman run around a book store (with paying patrons inside) and bicker over a lily. Maybe we should leave sooner than seven.

The Book of Gateways Installment 25 (#BOG)

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“What is going on.” Piers says as he packs his bag. “What did the police say?”

“They said that they put out an alert and that I could file a restraining order.”

“So, basically that means nothing. They can’t do anything.” Piers clenches the paper in his hands. “This has got to stop. I’ll put in my notice today. I’ll have another professor cover that last of the semester for me. I don’t want you to be in danger anymore. I didn’t realize how serious this was getting.”

“Let’s get out of here for a while. Okay? Let’s take an extended stay somewhere. I’m so anxious over this whole thing.”

“I agree. Pack your things and I’ll take care of the rest.”

I spend the day packing and preparing things to close the shop for a bit of “renovation”. As I pack the last bit of clothing into my suitcase I really hope to myself that the portals will accept so much extra mass.

But where should we go? Where is somewhere safe?

~*~

“So you’re staying here for a while?” Desimae chews her purple grape gum. Piers nods in agreement.

“Eh, I don’t see why not. I’ve missed you bro.” They exchange a complex handshake that ended with three violent pelvic thrusts.

“She’ll get used to it.” Piers claps me on the back. I make an awkward smile. This dynamic is awkward, but enjoyable.

“There’s a room upstairs that you guys can stay in above the shop. Milo used to stay there…well. You know. When he was here he hardly left the shop, unless Comic-Con was around.”

“Well, we aren’t like that.” Piers shakes his hands in a “no” fashion. Desimae shrugs uninterested.

“Then she can stay with me, and you can stay here.” Desimae picks up one of my bags.

“That’s not really gunna work either.” Piers interjects again.

“Can I just-?” Desimae grabs Piers and brings him into the nearby hall. I lean in close so I can hear her speak to him.

“Listen, something is clearly going on. You don’t just bring girls around with you.”Desimae’s voice holds a serious tone which seems unusual for her personality. “You told me that if something ever came up with Milo that you would tell me. How did Cesar get in on this before me?”

“What if I am bringing home a girl I like?” Piers sounds convincing.

“Perhaps, but seriously we go too far back for me to not know something is up.” My stomach twirls around at the idea of Piers “bringing home a girl he likes.” That’s me. Isn’t it?

“I’ll let you in on it eventually. Right now it’s just too dangerous, and I already have a lot at stake. Right Cesar?” He calls to me from the hall. I quickly back up and start to fix my luggage, and clear my throat. Desimae and Piers re-appear.

“For now, I’ll be reasonable and let you rest. Tomorrow, I want in. How did you guys get here from the airport anyways?” Desimae says picking my bag up again.

“We took a cab. This whole trip is a bit impromptu so we didn’t want to bother you.” Piers says shifting uncomfortably.

“Well that’s bull.” She looks at me and shrugs. What she doesn’t know is we took the portal to the locked office and then quickly scurried out to a nearby window, pitched our stuff out the window, and then “naturally” knocked at the front door.

“Come on Cesar Salad.” She says and starts to walk out of the shop. “I live a block over. I hope you’re okay with walking. I don’t have a car so, you would have to be okay with it anyways.” So I follow.

Desimae’s house is a studio apartment only a block from the book store. She informed me that she would hang out the store so much that eventually Milo employed her.

“ ‘I figure you’re here enough, you might as well help around here.’ Or something like that.” Desimae says imitating Milo in a realistic accent. I look over to the kitchen area of the studio and there is another kitten calendar with x’s for eyes. This month sported two black and gray kittens in a bed of roses…with x’s for eyes. I feel I should be concerned.

“Whatever you see is yours. I’m not picky.” She walks over to the cabinet and pulls a box out. “Want a cookie?”

“Ya, why not.” I receive the little circle, which is odd for me because I never take things from strangers. Eventually we go back to the store to find Piers well settled into the room. Desimae shows us around the store and how they operate.

“Where’s your book drop and send out?” I ask poking around the front desk.

“There’s a separate room for it.” Desimae takes me down a hallway and unlocks a door with three different keys. The door opens to a room about the size of a small bedroom with white walls and little metal boxes in rows of six by six. They look like P.O. boxes.

“What are these?” I ask trying to open one of the boxes.

“Don’t you guys have these?” Desimae pinches a box open to reveal an empty twelve inch drop box. I notice above the metal door there’s also a small oval in the right corner. Instantly it clicks in my mind. That looks like the oval in the Book of Gateways.

“How does this work?”

“Each box is a different P.O. box from a different location. Milo has thirty-six of the thirty-eight locations up here. This particular box receives books and sends to and from his Greece location. You put the books in, close the door, and press your finger to the button until it glows and then the book is sent for shipping. I never figured out how he got this contraption to work. He always told me to keep my nose out of his inventions, so I did. Especially now, I feel like it would be rude if I went behind his back, y’know?” Piers and I both nod in agreement. Instantly it clicks that somehow Milo created this system to ship all of his books to every location necessary. It’s definitely efficient, but somehow I’m sure this caused interest in his employees. Bad interest. I look over to see Piers eyeing the wall system with a heaviness I hadn’t seen in a while.

The day continued on after Desimae locked the room behind us. She took us to a Shawarma place that supposedly Robert Downing Jr. enjoyed between movie shoots. Regardless, it was delicious. We had a great time walking the city, seeing almost all there was to see in the great city of San Diego by sunset… Or so Desimae assured me. Eventually we made our way home stuffed, sun burned, and tired although Desimae’s energetic freestyle rap about rabbits peddling daffodils as drugs on the down low was quite the opposite. All I could do was laugh and add to the rhythm she had already started with Piers.

“I hope you both had a marvelous daaaaay, goooood siiirrsss and madam!” A surprising British accent leaped from her mouth “But now me thinks it is time for you to get some shut eye!” She says showing the time on her phone: 10:30pm.

We turn in for the night and I share a bed with a stranger. It’s not so bad though, she’s comfortable in a foreign way. Her PJs consist of a Spiderman teeshirt and some purple checkered pants.

“So are you going to tell me what’s going on or am I actually gunna have to wait around for an answer?” She says plopping onto the bed. I sit up suddenly uncomfortable.

“I just think that Piers is trying to keep you safe. We’ve stepped into something unbelievable, but very dangerous.”

“Perfect! I love dangerous.”

“I know, but this is a different kind. Listen, I really don’t know how to explain this. Hopefully Piers will be able to explain it better.” Her brown eyes seem to darken at my statement. I feel bad for disappointing her. It’s only been a day and I already like her. She shrugs which brings me back to her deep eyes and she lays down next to me.

“I’ll find out soon enough.” She smiles as if to say “No hard feelings.”. I smile back and pull the covers over me.