As Celeste and Allen walked into Arnold’s store they saw a group of older men standing at the counter drinking coffee and chatting. “The snare of marketable maliciousness is at fault as the country spirals towards greater animosity. A world in harmony would require us all to drop all the self-centered pompousness and turn to God!!”, said one.
“Yes, but meanwhile we have to put ’em all in jail . . then give ’em good old fashioned church 24/7. .”, said another.
Arnold looked up and saw Allen and Celeste and a huge grin spread across his face. “Gentlemen, I have pressing business in my office. Keep the meeting going and I’ll be back out soon.”
“Alright, Arnold . . . . communication is the key . . I’m telling you, all these politicians living and dressing like movie stars. They are really nasty little scurrying mice and we need a cat, a good mouser, to handle them. I think we finally have our mouser!!”
“So you are the one who raked in all this business for me!!?”, Arnold exclaimed.
“Well, I did spread the word about all the services offered here . .”, Celeste offered hesitantly.
“My dear, you’ve worked wonders for me!! I’d like to have you here at least part-time. . I know Allen needs you to do research for him so I can’t keep you to myself.” Arnold grinned ear to ear. “I need to show you both a couple things that might interest you. Follow me . .”
Arnold stood and led them to a hidden door in his office. Celeste and Allen gasped as the opened door revealed two (2) stairways, one (1) headed up and the other down!! First they headed upstairs and Arnold proudly showed them a cute furnished apartment stating, “Celeste, I’d like to offer this apartment at part of your salary.” Celeste almost fell over in disbelief! How could something so wonderful be for her??! “Wow!”, was all she could say.
“I think that means she’ll take it!”, laughed Allen.
“Thank you so much!”, stammered Celeste as she peeked in kitchen cupboards.
“Okay, that’s settled. Now for the rest . . follow me”, Arnold said and walked down the stairs. Over his shoulder he added, “I’ll get you keys when we’re finished with the tour!!” Down they went, past the first floor landing and into the cold musty basement. “This may look like an ordinary basement, but look back here. The city has no idea this is here, by the way. You see this?”, and Arnold pointed to an old set of shelves up against a wall. “This is a secret way out of here.”, and he pushed a hidden button sliding the shelf into the room. “BUT, it also connects, via more secret doors, to other tunnels! I think this may have been the primary office for the mob at one time.” Allen and Celeste followed Arnold into the first tunnel and were in awe. Such secrets hidden and now revealed. What could they find from here??!
As they peered into the darkness of the tunnel Celeste had a flashback~ Sitting on the cold damp basement floor staring at the gray wall praying for help and hoping in hopelessness until one day when God said, “Enough!!”, and she was able to escape. When the flashback ended she had to kneel as she became dizzy and her forehead rested against the cool smooth basement wall. A nice breeze drifted in as though through a recently opened window and she inhaled deeply taking in the scent of the forest floor. The temperature in this little oasis was perfect. It would be the ideal hideaway as the days sometimes had a calescent paraoxysm, spewing extreme heat onto the masses. She needed to retreat and wandered out behind Arnold’s shop and looked around. She marveled at the yellow tent barely visible through the thick brush. Like a quiet island stamped into the urban jungle. One would not ordinarily expect such a constellation of thick trees and shrubs here.
Close up she could see it was a very neatly kept homestead and wondered if she should haphazard a guess at how/why it was set up in town?? Allen had followed her and put his arm around her shoulders pulling her near.
“You okay?” Allen asked.
“Yeah, a flashback to my time held captive in the basement. I have to work through these memories and move on.” Celeste answered leaning into his hug with a smile.