“All night long I’ve had the most terrible impulse to do something.”
—Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina (1954)
That can’t be true. I mean, not really. There’s always a way out of a place this big, right?
“Remember that day when I had to reinstall all the locks on the doors?” Porter asks.
“And you know I had to do that because we lost live off-site monitoring of our security system, and that instead of switching to one of a hundred other companies, management just decided to buy this cheap-ass system you see before you now?”
“Uh-huh?” I say, but I’m not totally following, and he’s getting really angry. Steam is practically pouring out of his nostrils.
He takes a deep breath and calms down. “What this means is that Pangborn vaped too much weed again, left his manual keys at home, took mine, punched in a code that locks all the doors for eight hours, and drove off.”
I stare at Porter.
He stares back.
“But you can deactivate this code, right?”
He shakes his head. “Pangborn is the lead security officer. I don’t have clearance for a lockdown code.” Oh, the irony. “He lives fifteen minutes from here. So we will have to wait until he gets home, and then—and this is where it gets really funny—we will try to call him.”
“Why is that funny?”
“He usually turns his home phone off at night. He doesn’t like to be woken up. ‘Bad news can wait until morning’ is his policy. And if we can’t get him on the phone . . . well, I’m not really sure what to do. I guess we could try to call one of the other guards at home, but it’s ten thirty on a Saturday night. And not only will they be pissed, but Pangborn could get fired for this. And pretty much everyone is looking for a reason for that to happen. In case you haven’t noticed, he’s kind of a mess.”
That makes my heart twist.
“Mr. Cavadini? One of the shift managers?” I suggest and immediately realize the fault in that plan. Pangborn could get fired, and maybe Porter, too, for letting him go home early.
We both shake our heads.
I sniffle and scratch my nose with the side of my hand. “So basically what you’re telling me is that unless we can get Pangborn on the phone, we’re stuck here?”
“Let’s take one thing at a time,” Porter says, but I can tell by his grim expression that he doesn’t have much hope. He leads me back to the security room, and I’m so panicked, I barely have time to register that I’m finally inside the inner sanctum: “Heaven.” It’s weird to be back here. Dozens of tiny black-and-white monitors cross two walls, all numbered, and an L-shaped desk with four computers, two of which appear to be a decade or more old.
We plop down at the desk in two rolling chairs. A swing-arm lamp casts a light over an old phone, where Porter proceeds to speed dial Pangborn’s home number a zillion times. Of course the old man doesn’t have a cell. Or he used to, Porter says, but he never charged it, and it sat in the glove box of his car for several years; it may still be there.
“Yeah,” he says, completely miserable, head in his hands.
“Is Pangborn sick?”
He doesn’t answer right away. “You’ve heard rumors?”
“He had colon cancer two years ago. He’s in remission. But he went to the doctor last week, and he won’t tell me what happened, and that worries me. He’s always bragging about his appointments, because he’s got a crush on his doctor. So I’m kind of thinking maybe it’s back and he’s going to have to go through chemo or something. I don’t know.”
“Oh, no.” Grace’s intel was right.
“Yeah, it sucks. And that’s why he can’t get fired, because the last thing he needs is to be screwing around with changing up his doctors and health benefits right now.”
My chest aches. Why do bad things happen to good people? And if he does have cancer, and he’s still showing up here for these stupid ghost tours, dressing up in his little suspenders and ghost socks, turning down tips from guests . . . it shatters my heart into a million pieces.
After half an hour of calling, we give up. It’s not happening.
Deep breath. Time to evaluate the situation: (1) A cancer-stricken, nice old man has accidently locked us inside the Cave overnight. It’s hard for me to get too mad at him about that. (2) It’s not like we’re going to run out of air or food or water. (3) We’re not going to freeze or die of heat stroke. (4) We’re not in danger of being eaten by bears or tigers. (5) This isn’t our fault.
“Look on the bright side,” Porter says, obviously having similar thoughts. “The lockdown will release at six thirty in the morning, so you’ll still be able to beat your dad home from San Francisco. And if I call my parents and explain what happened, they’ll totally understand. They both know Pangborn. And I spent the night on the couch here once before when we were resetting the security system last summer.”
I glance over at the beat-up couch in the corner and my heart speeds up. “But what about me? I mean, will you tell them I’m here too? My dad would freak the hell out if he knew we were locked in here together alone all night.”
The tension falls out of Porter’s face, and the corners of his mouth slowly curl upward.
“Well, well, well,” he says, leaning back in his chair in front of a bank of security monitors. He temples his fingers together over his chest. “This is an interesting situation, isn’t it? Here we were, ready to run off to some crowded theater, but now we have the entire museum to ourselves. For the whole night. A boy prays and prays and prays, and is on his very best behavior, but he never dreams that something like this will just fall into his lap—so to speak.”
“So to speak,” I say weakly.
“Lots of room to spread out in this big place.” The side of his knee bumps mine. A question.
All my earlier boldness has fled the building along with my courage. Now I just feel trapped. I withdraw both my legs and hide them under the desk. “What about all the cameras? I mean, won’t this show up on the video footage? If someone reviews it later, or whatever?”
He chuckles. “You think the Cave pays for data storage? Think again. If we want to record something, we have to do it manually. Nothing is automatically recorded.”
I glance up at the monitors and search for the Hotbox. There it is. It’s empty now, of course, and dark, so I can’t see much, but it’s surreal to imagine Porter watching me from here. I make a mental note not to wear gaping tops to work, because that is a primo cleavage camera angle.
“However,” Porter says, “if you’re still worried, I know all the spots that the cameras miss. You know, if that would make you more comfortable.”
I give him a dirty look. “Who says I want to get comfortable? We went on one date.”
“Whoa.” He holds up both hands in surrender. “Now you’re making me feel like some sort of criminal sex pervert. Jesus, Bailey. An hour ago, you were talking about putting your hands on me in the back of a theater. I was just teasing you.”
I blow out a hard breath. “I’m sorry. I’m just nervous and weirded out. I’ve just . . .”