2007-10-19: Lee Jones and the Secret Room


Kory_icon.gif Lee_icon.gif

Summary: Lee and Kory return to the secret room in the back of the Secret Lair, and decide what to do about what they've found.

Date It Happened: October 19, 2007

Lee Jones and the Secret Room

Location - East Village, Manhattan - Inside the Secret Lair

The Lair closes early on Sunday, so the door is locked and the sign is dark. Kory knocks on Lee's apartment door, and when that fails, she calls him and tells him it's time to finish up. She waits on him to return from wherever he went, a pot of tea warming in the kitchenette in the back.

She looks him up and down for some moments when he returns. "You don't look like you slept well," she decides after this examination. "I know you probably don't wanna deal, but it's like lancing a boil. Best to get it over than to let it fester."

Lee was in fact not at home all morning, he comes in, "Hey, Kory." He nods at her assessment. "Yeah. Thanks for calling. I can't argue with that." He gestures towards the back room with a pained look that belies his 'shall we?' gesture.

Nothing has changed. The piles of junk remain. The secret shelf-door unlatches dutifully. Inside, for now, darkness.

Kory remembers the bulb from the night before; she reaches around in the dark until her hand finds it. Klik! On comes the single lightbulb. She glances back around at Lee, concerned. His reaction the night before was troubling.

Lee pauses at the door as the lightbulb illuminates an eerie scene. A wide table with bottles of chemicals, the labels yellowed, faded, peeling, a mortar and pestle dish stained with ancient use, pill bottles scattered, their contents tumbled over. A television. A 1980s-era videocamera, and a huge metal cabinet with drawer after drawer of videotapes. Composition book after composition book of handwritten notes, all labeled with dates, piled underneath the table in insane stacks, papers protruding from each of them. Lee looks at the spine of the first one, and reads the first date out loud. "February 12, 1980. Our birthday."

Kory nods at Lee. She takes a minute or two to assess the room. "Crud," she murmurs, "Look at this mess. How do we know if any of this is safe to dispose of down the pipes? I better go get the rubber gloves out of your kitchen." But she doesn't immediately move. Instead, she moves to stand beside Lee and look at the span of photos.

They're all of Nima and Lee, many of the very early ones seem almost clinical - next to tape measures, the date, time and even hour recorded obsessively. Lee picks a book at random and reads: "May 16, 1982. Lunchtime. Banana, injected with 3 ccs compound CB-19. Lee: 1 and a half. Nima: 1. No apparent effect. Daily tests. Clairvoyance, zero. Strength, normal. Intelligence, normal. Telekinesis, zero. Precognition, zero. Postcognition, zero. Dinnertime. Tuna casserole, sprinkled…" He stops. He stares. "Sprinkled with phosphetic aurochoridine 4. Complained of taste but finished…I just thought…thought mom couldn't /cook./"

"Oh, no, no. None of that." Kory reaches over and plucks the book out of his hands. "Do you really want to get absorbed in going through all this? I mean, you just pretty much made your peace with the stuff your parents put you through, Lee. It's not going to give you any great insight, is it? Any closure? To read this?" She holds the book to her chest, but loosely; like if Lee says he needs to see it — she'll relent and hand it back if he wishes.

Lee is just stunned, he flops down on the single stool in the little space. "Right. I mean, right. You're right." He rubs his forehead. "What does this change, I mean…it's not worse than disappearing, whatever's here can't be worse than disappearing…" He trails off, running his fingers over the spine of the books. He always loved books, and he always was self-absorbed, so this has a huge narcissistic pull for him. "We really ought to just dump it all. No, burn it. Something permanent, where someone else won't pick it up and get the same idea."

"Good idea," Kory agrees. "I think I saw an oil drum in the alley this morning, when I was dumping what we got done last night." Probably lugged there by some homeless person, in preparation for the temperatures dropping. "We can do this." She plucks her cellphone out of her pocket and begins thumbing it furiously. "CB-19…" she frowns. "We at least need to find out what these chemicals are. If they're dangerous, before we burn it all…but Wikipedia's coming up blank."

Lee is already shaking his head negatively at his own idea by the time Kory starts replying. "It never works to burn an idea, someone will always have it again. Whatever made my parents have the idea to do…to do this…is out there, someone else will have the same idea - it's happening to some other family right now. Maybe to dozens of other families." he says. A pause as she tries to look it up. "Where did they get this stuff? I mean, did someone sell it to them, or donate it, or…?"

Kory looks up at him, eyes widening. He's starting to spiral. "Leto." Kory almost never uses the full name; Lee hates it. But it usually works to get his attention. And, unfortunately, hers. Her face goes a bit ashen as another idea occurs to her and she gives it voice: "We might be better off giving it to the authorities."

Lee closes his eyes. "Kory…the authorities already want to arrest my dad for arson." he says, painedly. "I already hid him from them. I've made that decision, I'm not going to unmake it now." A pause. "How…why did…wait, this is starting not to add up." He opens his eyes. "Mom was a college dropout. Dad drove trucks in the army before they opened the shop. What made them think they could pick out the right chemicals and compounds, and all that? They must have had someone helping them." He bites his lip nervously. "What if there's a clue in here somewhere as to who that is?"

"And what if there is?" Kory asks, throwing her hands up. "If they're working with your folks, they're long gone now, because you and Nima didn't turn out to be Zan and freaking Jayna, okay? You can't obsess about this." But she pauses. "Arson, you said? Somebody wanted this destroyed. They sent your dad to do it." She's supposed to be talking him out of looking for clues, but the pieces keep falling into place.

Lee blinks at her. "Oh god." he says, rubbing his forehead with his palm. "You're right, there is value to all this crap for some people. It shows what doesn't work. How am I not supposed to obsess about a secret room right under my feet that existed my whole life and I never knew about it?"

"Is obsessing about it going to repair your relationship with your parents?" Kory asks, simply.

Lee says, "Christ no, but it's not all about them, is it? I'm not trying to get into an argument with you, I'm just saying it happened, it happened to me, I'm here, it's here, so what are we going to do about it?"

"I'm not trying to argue with you either, Lee," Kory says, visibly a little stung. "I think your first instinct was the right one. Get it out of here, at least, and put it somewhere else. We could get a storage facility or something." She shakes her head. "It's your secret room. It's your parents' weird deal. Just tell me what you want me to do, and I'll get it done."

Lee nods a little, falling silent. He looks at his hands, laces his fingers together in his lap, meditatively. "What would you do?" he says quietly. "Destroy it or just move it somewhere?"

Kory is silent for a long moment, considering the display before them. "It depends," she finally answers Lee. "The fact that it holds value to someone — value enough that they wanted to destroy it rather than let — whoever — get their hands on it? That means something useful might come of it. But honestly, if it'd give closure to get the stuff completely shredded and trashed, I'd have to do that. But either way, it needs to be gone from here, unless you want someone to make another try for it."

Lee suddenly gets a very weird look on his face. "We could redact the names and posted it on a blog somewhere? In the spirit of brick-flinging kids and the sound of breaking glass." he says, and his tone is joking even though his eyes are a bit unreadable. Is he serious?

"You want to attract more attention to this stuff, Lee? If you blog this, people are gonna comment. They're gonna talk." Kory's voice is calm, but her expression is alarmed. "You nearly lost the store once. And this city has enough craziness going on in it already, and you want to go out looking for more? I thought you hated your parents' obsession and everything that goes with it?"

Lee says, "I don't understand it enough to hate it." and he says it casually, but it's a confession that clearly comes from deep in the heart. "It is sort of irreversible to bring something up out of a dark hole into the sunlight. But it also means it would stop people looking for it, or looking to destroy it. The actual data would become worthless. Nobody would ever care where it was again." He runs a hand through his - all too stylish - haircut. "All right. We'll move it to storage. Quietly and in boxes with the rest of the stuff from the back room, so it's not obvious what we're doing, in case anyone's watching. If we need to release it, if trouble keeps following it, we'll use the nuclear option then."

"Mmmhmm," Kory says, frowning at her phone again, apparently disappointed that Wiki Magic has failed her in this instance. "And who's going to do all the transcribing when we get to that point, Doctor Jones?" The wry Indiana Jones joke is only somewhat a bad pun, all things considered. "But fine. We can stick it all in Rubbermaid tubs to protect it from water damage, and make it easy to move."

Lee says, "I'll do it, if it comes to that." He rises, and says, "We did get one superpower out of this nonsense, I admit. We learned to cook for ourselves by the time we were eleven." with that half-smile. "I'll get online and order the tubs. And when this is all done, let's knock down that wall. You can use all the extra space you can, right?" Lee suggesting something for the store?!?!

"May as well leave the wall there," Kory suggests. "It gives the place a certain charm, and lends reality to the name of the place." She regards Lee worriedly as he volunteers to transcribe years and years of notes. "Okay. I'll have the stuff neatly stacked up for you by morning. And I'll research the chemicals so we can find out if they're safe to dispose of."

Lee says, "If you can't ID any of them, they might be secret, or patented, or proprietary in some way. We should preserve them if that's the case. Don't worry, I'm not about to cause more trouble for myself unless I think something good will come of it. I learned that much at Brubaker."

"If they're not devalued already by just sitting around in here since your parents took off," Kory points out. "Well, I'm glad you're taking this better now than you did last night." She cracks her knuckles, and pockets the phone. "This'll make a swell office when we get it sorted out, though."

Lee says, "I have to admit that naming the place 'The Secret Lair' is a fine example of lantern-hanging and even I grudgingly have to approve of the irony." with a charming half-grin. "Last night…it was just a shock to see how deep it went." He rises. "It's almost…comforting how hard they tried on our behalf, you know?"

"Hid one in plain sight," Kory agrees. "I'm glad you can find something positive to take away from it. She walks over and kisses his cheek. "And now you have a plan on how to handle it. No other weird fixtures in your apartment upstairs to worry about, are there?"

Lee says, "I wandered the halls measuring the walls until I figured I was stir crazy, then left. Everything's accounted for up there, as far as I can tell anyway." He seems buoyed by the cheek-kiss. "All right. Don't think you have to pack this up on your own, I will definitely help out."

"Well, that's a consolation, then," Kory says, genuinely relieved. "And good; I still have to call Detective Parkman about Cam's little adventure the other night. It'll be good to have the help." She does, however, take a few pictures of the room as it is with the camera on her phone. "But for the moment, why don't we head out to Bayamo for a little fusion Cuban Japanese to give us strength for the task to come?"

Lee says, "Great idea. You lock up, I'll bring the car around." The topic of conversation at the table is school, and Lee's plans for the next week. It might seem a distraction at first, but more and more it becomes clear that Lee feels that his teaching is the refutation of that dark and secret room. The city is full of light, banishing the shadows.

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