“What's the situation with your warehouse out by the Airport?” Cromwell asked as we pulled away from the storage place.
“Well, it's still there, if that's what you mean.”
“No, I mean did Mona ever get her hooks into all that old saloon stuff or does she have a key or is her lawyer hanging around or anything?” He went past the turn to his pottery shop and continued north up Old Dixie Highway. Towards the airport and towards my old warehouse full of salvaged saloon fixtures, antique wall panels, old brass lamps, a British phone booth, stained glass windows, stacks of choice hardwood lumber and other oddities I had collected in my years working throughout the South. This was the first time Cromwell had ever expressed any interest whatsoever in the place.
“No, Crom, no harpie's hooks or bushwacking barristers. And yes, you may stash this crate of whatever it is we just stole in my warehouse. I changed the lock a month ago and Mona never had any more interest in that stuff than you did, until now. But is it too much to ask what is happening? And if you will be buying lunch?”
“Lunch is on me, alright, after we unload this crate. I want to get a better look at what's inside and see if I can find a shipping manifest or anything else that might tell us if this stuff is what I think it is.” He blew through a yellow light and cut left across the railroad tracks over to the little warehouse district behind our small municipal airport. “Which one is yours?”
“Right over there, next to the welding shop.” He pulled up in the front next to the big sliding door.
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Look, if you pull over there to the side a little, see that block wall between my shop and the other building? It's not a wall, exactly. Let me push it open and you can back down in between the buildings where we can unload this thing with privacy.” I hopped out before he could ask any questions and jogged over to the “wall” between the two buildings, waited until he had the van positioned properly then reached over the top and hit the little button that you had to know about to push. That released the magnetic lock and the big block wall section swung inward, taking with it the planter and ornamental shrubs that were attached to it and gave it the appearance of being a solid, fixed wall. Cromwell backed the van into the ten foot space between the two buildings and I shut the gate.
“You have a secret passage?” He said. “I'm impressed. But why?” I was busy unlocking the compact roll up door, and when I sat the big padlock on the shelf next to the opening I hit another little switch that Crom didn't see. It killed the security system.
“Don't be too impressed,” I said, “It came with the place. All the same, let's keep it between you and me. Now, let's get the contraband out of the truck, I'll rustle up some boxes and we can inspect the booty.” He opened the van and we pulled out the crate with the dolly. It came out a lot easier than it went in. I got a couple big oak planks and put them on a pair of sawhorses, creating a makeshift table. Cromwell got busy digging into the crate, brushing off the pieces and setting them on the table. They were terra cotta figures, oddly shaped.
“They remind me of a chia pet,” I said.
“Well, these will sprout some green, indeed, if they are what I think they are...but listen, Blix, I have some checking to do. It is imperative that not one word of this crate leaks out. OK?'
“I never imagined I would ever hear you say 'imperative'', I said. “But sure. Don't worry about it. Who's the one with the secret passage, anyway? I'll let you out the gate. The secret gate.” I wasn't too happy about any of this. Whatever that crap was in the crate, I realized I had just added some convolution to my already convoluted life.