Home > Locked Doors (Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite Series #2)(8)

Locked Doors (Andrew Z. Thomas/Luther Kite Series #2)(8)
Author: Blake Crouch

We were playing at the end of my street where no houses are. Mom says if I want to play in the road this is where I have to do it since no cars ever come down here. She doesn’t want me to get run over.

Mikey had pulled the slug out of the jar and put it on the road. It was crawling very slowly. It left a silver slime trail behind it. Josh made me give him the magnifying glass. He’s very bossy sometimes but he’s bigger than me so I have to do what he says.

“Get out of the light, shrimp,” Josh said to Mikey.

Mikey moved. He’s more afraid of Josh than I am. Josh is nine. He has his own BB gun. When Josh held the magnifying glass over the slug the sun went through it and made a bright dot on the slug’s back.

“What are you doing?” Mikey asked.

“Just watch.”

“What are you doing?” Mikey asked again.

“Shut up! I’m trying to concentrate! Billy showed me how to do this.”

I wanted to know what he was doing too. It was sort of boring just watching Josh hold the glass. After a long time the slug started smoking. Josh laughed and got real excited.

“Do you see that?” he yelled.

“What are you doing?” Mikey asked.

“I’m burning him, Mikey.” Mikey got up and went home crying. He’s only six years old and my mom says he has a very tender heart. Josh asked if I wanted to do it but I told him no. The slug wasn’t crawling anymore. Or maybe it was and I just couldn’t tell.

I heard a loud whistle. Josh looked up. “Oh no, my mom,” he said. Josh dropped the magnifying glass and took off running down the street. I watched him go. He could run very fast. He was scared of his mom. She turned mean after his dad went away.

I stood up and stomped on the slug in case it was hurting. It stuck to the bottom of my shoe like nasty gum. I was getting ready to go home when a man got out of a gray car that was parked at the end of the street near the woods. He was very tall and had long black girl hair. He came toward me. I was afraid but he didn’t even look at me. He just walked right past me up the street.

Something fell out of his pocket onto the road but he didn’t notice. I went over and picked it up. It was shiny and expensive-looking.

“Mister!” I yelled. The man turned around. “You dropped this.”

The long-haired man came back. He looked down at me. He didn’t smile. Most grownups smile at little kids. “You dropped this,” I said. He opened his hand and I put the shiny thing in it. “What is it?” I asked. It looked very neat.

“A laser pointer. It makes a laser beam.”

His teeth were scary—brown and jagged like he didn’t brush them ever.

“How?” I asked.

“Open your hand. I’ll show you. Come on, it doesn’t hurt.” I opened my hand and a red dot appeared. It was the neatest thing I ever saw. “You should see it at night,” he said. “If it were dark I could shoot this beam across Lake Norman and it would light up an entire house. But you have to be very careful. If you shine it in your eye it’ll blind you. You want to try it?”

“Yessir.” He handed me the laser pointer.

“Push the gray button,” he said. “Shine it on my hand.”

I pushed the button and shined it on his hand.

The long-haired man sat down in the road and took his laser pointer back. Then he took a piece of yellow candy from his pocket and ate it. I wanted one too but I didn’t ask.

“What’s your name?” he said. He was smiling now.

“Ben Worthington.”

“Ben, that was awfully nice of you to tell me I dropped this. You could’ve kept it. You’re an honest boy. If I give this to you will you be careful not to shine it in your eye?”

“I would be very careful.”

“I can’t give it to you right now. I have to use it this afternoon but—”


“I lost something in a tunnel and I have to find it with this.”

It made me sad that I couldn’t have it right now.

“But maybe… No, I shouldn’t. Your parents probably wouldn’t let you have—”

“Yes they would.”

“No I don’t think—”

“They would too.”

“Ben, if I give this to you you can’t show it to your parents. Or your brother. He would steal it and play with it. Your parents would take it and throw it away.”

“I won’t tell them.”

“You promise?”

“Yessir, I promise.”

“You can’t tell them about me either.”

“I won’t.” He got up and looked down at me.

“Later tonight I’m going to come knock on your window. You have to go to your backdoor and open it so I can give this to you. Can you do that, Ben?”


“You have to do it very quietly. If anyone wakes up and sees me I’ll have to leave and you won’t be able to have the laser pointer. Do you want to have it?”


“Say that you want to have it.”

“I want to have it.”

“Say it again.”

“I want to have it.”

“You’re obedient. That’s a good boy. I have to go now. I’ll see you tonight.”

“Can I do the laser again?” The long-haired man sighed.

I didn’t think he was going to let me but then he said, “All right, once more.”


LUTHER Kite straddles the thickest limb of the pine fifteen feet off the ground. It is suppertime on Shortleaf Drive, quiet now that the children have been called home, each house warm with lamplight and lively with the domestic happenings of a Sunday night.

His stomach rumbles. He has not eaten. He will eat afterward because this is North Carolina, land of Waffle Houses that never close. He’ll consume a stack of pancakes and scrambled eggs and sausage links and torched bacon and grits and he’ll drown it all in maple syrup. Especially the bacon.

A breeze stirs the branches and the vivid dying leaves sweep down in slowmotion upon the street. The sky has darkened so that he can no longer see the silhouette of the water tower that moments ago loomed above the rampart of loblollies across the lake. Only the red light atop the bowl signals its presence.

The October night cools quickly.

It will be warm inside the house he has chosen.

He smiles, closes his eyes, rests his head against the bark.

Just four hours.

The moon will have advanced high above the horizon of calligraphic pines, burnishing the empty street into blue silver. He sleeps perfectly still upon the limb, the smell of sap engulfing him, sweet and pungent like bourbon.

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