Out of all the dumb shit I did, this one was high on the list. After Cory left me at my car after an afternoon of shopping, I drove into town and parked behind the pub. Then walked into the pub and snuck out the back through the kitchen while something distracted the staff.
I walked from the pub towards Herald Park. Even though I had an excuse to be in the Town Hall, I knew I was being watched, and I didn’t want anyone to see me enter. I had the feeling Alexander Lowe worked for the Beckham Agency rather than Dunn, maybe even Nate Island directly. Lacy Senior, Grandfather and the other board members of the Agency who I was sure included Mayor Chesterfield’s father wouldn’t want him indicted on fraud charges. I was shaking by the time I reached the edge of Herald Park. There was a small wooden footbridge over the river hidden from view. I’d used it to go to the park and play cricket with Kat, her siblings and Ned while we waited for Grandfather to finish work. That had been before we learnt its sickly secrets. Back then we’d been clueless about why Aunt Olivia was spitting mad when she found out her children had been playing there.
I was alone in the dark park, but every step I took, I expected to come face to face with a knife-wielding ice addict.
I inserted the key in the lock and let myself in. I closed the door so quickly I almost caught myself in it. I’d still be welcome, right? I knew now there had to be magic guarding the place. A man like Lowe wouldn’t stay out because of a silly insignificant thing called ‘breaking and entering’ being illegal. I knew that he was the type to run around in a red ski mask, pushing Nate Island’s law on anyone who strayed across his path. I wondered when he’d approach me; now I could no longer help him.
I had to be ready to make the first move.
I walked through the abandoned corridors until I reached the back of the library.
The phone was still sitting in my desk; it was silly to even hide it. No one would expect its purpose. As I touched the phone, I wondered what type of magic someone would need to know regarding the intentions of anyone who touched it. I’d bury it somewhere, then take it to my office in the morning. I wasn’t stupid enough to take it to the Lacys’ house. It was an oddly technologically advanced phone for a throwaway mission. Maybe someone else had asked him to get dirt on the Lacys’ or me. As though Nox the feared criminal Death Mage would be dumb enough to carry a strange phone in his pocket. Had this Nox targeted me on purpose, or did he just have the misfortune of looking like me? I carefully placed the zip lock bagged phone into my backpack, covering the cameras with my hand.
Then cleaned out the rest of my desk as it would be the perfect excuse if I ran into anyone. The building had been dark when I arrived, and the cleaner should have been finished an hour before. He wouldn’t question my presence if I said that I was cleaning out my desk. I’d just have to crack a joke about wanting to avoid Mrs Gregory, and anyone I encountered would laugh. We’d carry on, and they’d likely forget they saw me before they could tell anyone that I snuck around the place at night.
I paused at the backdoor, my hand wrapped around the door handle. If Chesterfield and Gregory were guilty, I’d have an advantage over them if I found the information that Lowe was looking for. I’d also have something Lowe would want. I’d have the most power in the situation if the photos weren’t on a device Lowe could have a back door into. I turned off my phone’s access to the internet and placed it on flight mode to be extra safe. It couldn’t send any files or give someone a back door while I had the photos on it. If they gave someone in the family the right reason, the phone could have been snuck away. They could have installed God knows what on it without me noticing. I hardly touched the thing when I was at home. I could factory reset and break it before it reconnected to the net. I pulled the sim card from the side. Safely having this information was worth giving up my phone, everything on it was automatically backed up. I could easily buy another one. I hid my backpack near the door and walked upstairs. After a careful look through Mayor Chesterfield’s office, I didn’t find what I was looking for. I didn’t understand why I thought it would be easy. This wasn’t a book or one of Eli’s games. Labelled evidence wouldn’t be sitting in his top drawer.
Where would I place the information if I was Gregory or Chesterfield? I know I wouldn’t trust the other to have it in their home.
Where was the safest place in this building?
I found myself in the records room. I carefully walked to the back of the room. The oldest documents that weren’t in the Historical Society Museum were housed in a vault that the public couldn’t access without supervision. I had the key because I did most of the supervision working from the bottom of the hierarchy. I had keys to almost every room in the building because of Mrs Gregory’s sheer laziness. I also knew where to access the keys I didn’t already have on my keyring. I put on a fresh pair of white cotton gloves and unlocked the vault. I carefully looked over every book housed on the shelves. No one would look for a modern book on these shelves.
God, this was a silly idea.
I still skimmed the pages of the books half an hour later. My stomach sank as my eyes landed on a book that looked off. As though someone who didn’t quite know what they were doing had artificially aged it. They had the theory memorised but had physically never gone through the process. As I focused on the book, I had an overwhelming urge to pull it from the shelf.
I pulled the book from the shelf and opened it. It listed information for two bank accounts, one under Mayor Chesterfield’s name and the other under Mrs Gregory’s name. A percentage of any money that came in would be siphoned into their accounts through a shell department.
I flipped through the books and took pictures on my phone. I’d been so close to this many times including the other day when I was here for hours looking for the identity of the Short Street Ghost. I knew the handwriting in the book belonged to Chesterfield and Gregory. Once I had the photos, I carefully put everything back in its place.