HEART FOR TRADE: WEEK 22
“Sam, we need help here. You can’t just bust it open. I read somewhere that some safes have an internal security system. If you try to force it open, it could lock up and damage the contents.” Ryan gripped his arm. “We need to talk to someone who would know about these things before you make any rash decisions.”
“How do you know stuff like that?” Sam paced the room. “And I’m not bringing anyone into this room besides you. My father kept this a secret and I’m not going to give it away.”
“For god’s sake, Sam, he kept it a secret because he was depressed! He wanted somewhere to hide his treasures and sit and brood. This is not a matter of security. This was all a shelter to him. You don’t have anything to hide. You aren’t like him.”
Sam growled, whirling around. “Don’t you tell me about my father. I knew him. You didn’t. You know…where are you going?”
“I’m not staying here to listen to you defend him over nothing. You’re stressed out and you’re getting hysterical. I know you don’t mean to yell at me or anything you’re saying, but I’m not going listen to it all the same. I’m going to go do what you’re afraid to. Stay here.” Ryan slammed the door in Sam’s face. “God,” he whispered, stomping down the hall, “you’re such a baby, Sam.”
“I am not!” The door opened. Sam marched after him. “What are you going to do?”
“Why?” Ryan kept going. “You’re not stopping me even if I tell you.”
“I can if I have to.”
“If you stop me, I’ll never speak to you again,” Ryan threatened, keeping the edge in his voice.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“Try me. I’m tired of playing the poor little maiden to your crazy knight in shining armor. If you give two shits about me, which I thought we’d already established you do, then you’ll put some more clothes on and come with me. If not, stay here and let me do what needs to be done.”
Sam sighed, spinning around Ryan to block his path. “This is all I have of them, Ry. I don’t want it to be ruined.”
“And it won’t. Don’t you think our friends would enjoy sharing this with you? Some legacies are meant to be broken. You aren’t him, so why are you trying to be? Let down your guard and let people in. We all care about you. Every single person on this base loves you and wants to help you find that password. Now that we’re this close,” Ryan squinted, putting his thumb and pointer finger near each other, “you want to ruin our chances? Just stop. Stop being a big baby and be a fucking man.”
Sam narrowed his eyes. “I am a man.”
Ryan looked down, smirking. “I don’t mean that.” He glanced up. “I mean here.” He tapped Sam’s temple.
“What’s gotten into you, Ry?”
“You.” Ryan pushed past him, going into the bedroom. “Put the rest of your your clothes on and let’s go.”
“I said get dressed.” Ryan snapped his fingers. “Now.”
“Geez, okay.” Sam held up his hands. He went to the dresser, and changed into jeans and a t-shirt. “Better?”
“Shoes.” Ryan pointed at his bare feet.
Ryan tapped his foot, arms crossed over his chest. “No I’m irritated, there’s a difference.”
“Don’t be like that. You have to understand, better than anyone.”
“Sure I do, but I’m tired of you being all bi-polar over your dad. It’s time for you to grow up, grow some balls, and help me out here. We’re a team. You are not my keeper or my disciplinarian when things don’t go your way. I am your partner. I have a right to call you out for being a douche.”
“Ryan.” Sam huffed. “I’m not a douche.”
“Says you. I know you love me. However, I’m not going to have my head bitten off for helping you. I apologized for being sneaky. We’re past all that. Now it’s time you let me help you. I will not be a doormat for your emotional turmoil a second longer.”
“Is that how you feel, that I’ve been walking all over you?”
“In a way.” Ryan shrugged. “But I’m not holding it against you. I just want it to be done now that we’re sharing openly. Consider it forgotten and come with me, Sam.” He held out his hand as Sam stood. “Let’s do this together.”
Sam relaxed, putting his hand in Ryan’s. “Deal.”
“Good. Now hand over your dad’s book.”
“Okay fine.” He crossed the room and pulled it out from under his pillow. “Here.”
Ryan pushed onto his toes, giving Sam a kiss on the cheek. “Love you.” He slipped the book into his back pocket.
“Love you too, bossy.” Sam craned his neck, going in for a kiss on the lips. “Sorry I’ve been—”
Ryan put two fingers to Sam’s lips. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
They left their rooms, hand in hand. Ryan looked straight at the camera. “Avery, buzz Benny and Jarum. Tell them to meet us in the garage. Oh, and tell Colby we’re coming. I hate when he pops out of nowhere, freaks me out.”
Avery’s soft laugh echoed through the hall. “Roger that. I’ll make the calls.”
“Why do I get the feeling Avery knows more than I do?” Sam eyed Ryan, pushing open the door for him.
“Because she knows eveything.”
“Does everyone know?” Sam balked.
“No. I told Avery because I know you trust her with your life. And maybe I told Jarum, but he’s my best friend. Best friends are supposed to tell each other everything.” Ryan quirked a brow.
The underlying message was clear to Sam. “Meaning I need to make up with Benny?”
“Bingo. Now you’re learning. I’m so proud.” Ryan slipped his arm around Sam’s waist. “My little baby is growing up.”
Sam laughed, pushing him away. “You’re gonna pay for that later.”
“I look forward to it.” Ryan backed away. “I’ll race ya.”
“Speaking of children…”
Ryan shrugged, gave Sam a sly smile, and tore off down the hall.
“For fuck’s sake.” Sam took a deep breath and chased after him.
“This had better be good, Ryan. I was in the middle of a call with Russia and Jarum was in training, where you should be.” Benny looked him up and down.
Jarum swung his legs, sitting on Colby’s desk. “Lay off, Benny. It’s important.”
Benny looked over his shoulder. “And you know that how?”
“Just do. I happen not to be fighting with my best friend.” Jarum smiled, lifting his cheeks in a boyish way. He cocked his head, adding to his smug expression.
“Is this a fucking intervention?” Benny growled, making a full circle with his hands on his hips. “He was the one who started this shit in the first place. Don’t you dare put the blame on me.”
“Uh, Commander, may I ask why you’re all here in the garage, doing this? I got things to do, no offense to your authority or anything.” Colby scratched his head, smearing grease in his hair like he always did.
Ryan intervened, stepping forward. “I’m sorry to interrupt your work, Colby, and I’m sorry you had to hear that.” He shot Benny a warning look. “If you two want to make up that’s on you guys. We have important things to discuss.”
“And who the hell are you to call me in here like you own the place?” Benny crossed his arms, astonished. “You should leave the important matters to your boyfriend while you get your butt back to training. You’ll never be a part of the important stuff unless you learn how it works.”
“How does running laps and get hazed by Raj help me on a computer, Benny?” Jarum slid off the desk. “Will you put your bark away and listen to Ryan? And don’t call him stupid. He’s the smartest person I know.”
“I never called him stupid.”
“You implied it!”
Ryan saw red. “Shut the fuck up!”
Every eye in the room landed on him. He hissed through his teeth, seconds away from knocking Benny in the head with a wrench. “While you’ve been out there doing things we’ll never be good enough to do, I’ve been tracking the password. And guess what, smartass? I think we may have found it.”
“Yeah, smartass,” Sam added.
“And when were you planning on telling me this, Sam? How long have you two been sneaking around with this kind of information?” Before Sam could respond, Benny whirled around, pointing a finger at Jarum. “You knew about this, didn’t you? I thought we agreed to be open with each other. No secrets. You lied to me.”
“No he didn’t.” Ryan stomped over and yanked Jarum to him. He put himself in the middle, squaring off with Benny. “He didn’t know until today and it was my secret to keep. I told him not to tell you yet. And Sam only found out a little while ago. I acted on my own.”
“Commander?” Colby looked terrified, backing into the counter. “Sir, maybe I should go.”
“No, no, no. There’s a reason I brought you all here and Colby you’re kind of vital, so stay put.” Ryan waved a hand to calm him down. “Benny, you two are going to have suck it up, put your shit aside, and play nice. Sam trusts you, and you guys are best friends, no matter what you said to each other. Everyone knows you didn’t mean it. Fucked up situation, fucked up timing, and now we have to get over it. Jarum isn’t lying to you. Sam doesn’t hate you. We all think it’s great that you’re with Jarum. No one thinks you’re a pussy for being with another man. Do you understand?”
“Are you sure you’re Ryan?” Benny leaned in, pushing a finger into Ryan’s chest. “I could swear someone else has taken over.”
“Maybe he got a taste of authority and likes it a little too much.” Sam snorted.
“I’m not going to even say what I think about that.” Jarum sniggered.
“I’m me, thank you very much.” Ryan whacked Benny’s hand away. “You’re the one with the problem, you and him.” He pointed to Sam. “Can you two pull your heads out of your asses long enough to hear what I have to say? Can you work together on this? Did you hear what I said, hello, password, as in the password.”
Benny straightened up, looking over to Sam. “Is this legit or did he hit his head? Do you think it’s promising?”
“Yes, I do. He’s found shit we didn’t even know existed, Benny.” Sam cut his eyes to Ryan. “They’re smarter than we give them credit for. And Ryan’s right, we need to work together, because I trust you on this Benny.”
“What’s up with this whole trust business? Why do you have to trust me?”
“Because he has a secret lair,” Jarum muttered under his breath.
“What did you just say?” Sam’s eyes flared with anger.
“I’ll bet.” Sam cracked his fingers, narrowing his eyes.
“Macho show is over.” Ryan waved his hands. “Colby?”
“Yes…sir?” Colby cringed.
Ryan decided to ignore the tension and just go for it. “I’ll take it. What do you know about the mechanics of a safe?”
“Well, it depends on what kind of safe you’re talking about. There aren’t many around these days and if there are, they’re usually already emptied.” Colby yanked on the towel in his pocket, wiping his hands. “Is this a hypothetical scenario or do you know what kind of safe you’re dealing with?”
Ryan glanced at Sam. The Commander sighed and nodded. “Colby, we’re going to show you something and you can’t tell anyone about it. This is the part involving trust,” Ryan said, directed at Benny even though he wasn’t looking at him.
“I won’t tell a soul, I promise.” Colby gulped, nervous as he could be. “Should I bring tools…in case we encounter a safe in need of opening?”
Sam ignored Benny’s stunned face. “Yes, you probably should.”
“Now you’re officially taking illegal substances,” Benny spat. “Why are we in your bathroom, Sam?”
Sam lifted his hand to grip the hook where his bathrobe usually hung. “To get where we need to be.”
“You’ve lost your damn—” Benny gasped. The wall began to slide away. Darkness sat on the other side of a door sized hole. “What is this?”
“His secret lair.” Jarum leaned over, trying to get a better look.
“I thought that’s what you said earlier. Talk about trust,” Sam scolded Ryan.
“No comment,” Ryan returned.
“I have a few comments right about now.” Benny nudged his way past Colby, squeezing in next to Sam. “After you, secret keeper.”
Sam flicked the lights on up above, making the hallway not so dark. He crept over the smooth concrete floor, going directly to the second door.
“This is so cool.” Jarum spun in a circle. “Secret doors and a secret hallway.”
“And it’s going to stay a secret.” Sam opened the door. “Isn’t it?”
“Oh, uh yes, yes it is.” Jarum saluted him.
“I hope so, Jarum. This is private.”
“So you can keep this shrine away from the rest of us?” Benny stopped Sam before he went into the room. “We cared about them too, Sam. Your dad was the closest thing I ever had to a father. I looked up to him. When he lost it and started tucking himself away, stopped talking to anyone, it hurt. And now you’re doing the same exact thing. Don’t you understand how unhealthy that is?”
“He does,” Ryan piped up. “I already made him aware.”
“Then why all the secrecy right now?” Benny looked around.
Sam groaned. “I’m not a head case, Benny. Okay, yes, at first I kept it a secret because I was being selfish and wanted to keep what little I had of my family to myself. I wanted to preserve their stuff and their memories, but Ryan made me realize it’s just that…stuff. This room is my parents. What’s in here is what my parents left behind, even my dad, who was kind of an asshole.” Sam pointed to his chest. “I want to keep this a secret for now, in case whatever’s in that safe doesn’t pan out. I don’t want to get their hopes up and then let them down. This will between us and only us, until we find out what’s in there. Got it?”
Benny thought about it for a moment then nodded. He eyed Sam cautiously. “Are you sure you’re okay? You’d tell me if you weren’t, right?”
Sam was silent.
“Right?” Benny frowned.
“That would mean you’d have to be civil to me, like my friend.”
Benny threw his hands up. “I am your friend. You pushed me away.”
“And you said awful things to me, Benny. I would never take a man from his family just to get off.”
Ryan and Jarum looked at each other, wide eyed. Colby stood there frozen behind them.
“I didn’t mean it. I was upset that you pulled Jarum away from the only friend he had and that you were mad at me for something that wasn’t even your business. My love for Jarum is none of your business unless I tell you otherwise. My love for men period wasn’t something I was ready to share with the world. I wanted to make sure he was it for me before I went traipsing about, holding his hand, and showing him off to the entire base. I wanted him to feel that I loved him first. I needed that support from him before I shared that with you. It’s not because I don’t trust you. It’s not because I don’t love you like my brother. It’s because I’m different than you are. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m a private person and you knew that all along. You can’t be mad at me for being myself. And I apologized about walking in when we did. It was an accident, Sam. But if you need another apology…”
“No, that’s not necessary. I said some things I regret, Benny, to both of you. I’m sorry, too. You shouldn’t have had to tell me anything, but it just would have been nice to have some support on my end, you know? Growing up, completely open about my sexuality, was rough for me, Benny. You know it was. They didn’t treat me the same way as you. They pushed me harder. They didn’t want to be my friend like you. They didn’t—”
“Shit, Sam. That wasn’t because you’re gay. Jesus! Are you kidding me with this? They pushed you harder, they alienated you, and they put you through hell just like your father did because they knew you were next in line. They wanted to see what you were made of, if you were strong enough to lead them. And you were! You are everything your father was and more, and he was a great man. Those men and women out there follow you like puppies now, but you’ve been so blinded by your own depression you couldn’t see it. They look up to you. You’re their leader, Sam. You’re my leader and my best friend. So just stop. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. There’s nothing to be sorry about anymore. We’ve got more than enough good to go around. Even if we don’t find the password, you will always have more than enough support to hold you up, because we believe in you…in whatever you decide is best for us.”
“Holy shit,” Jarum breathed.
Ryan gripped Jarum’s hand, mouth hanging open. Colby put his arms around them both, equally stunned. Sam stared at Benny before he attacked him with a hug.
“Aww,” Jarum sighed.
“So cute,” Ryan agreed.
Benny and Sam pulled away, glaring at Ryan and Jarum. “There’s nothing cute over here. Is there, Sam?”
“Cute is for kittens.” Sam grunted.
“I guess that means they’re friends forever again, huh?” Jarum laughed, elbowing Ryan.
Colby cleared his throat. “I have no idea what any of this means.”
“Damn it. I’m so sorry, Colby. Come on in. Let’s get this show on the road. We keep getting off track.” Sam gestured him forward.
“And whose fault is that?” Benny reached around the doorframe to find a light. “You’re the one who gets all creepy weepy at the drop of a hat.”
“I told you to never call me that again.” Sam slapped him upside the head. “I do not weep. Do you see me weeping?”
“Not yet.” Benny shot a sexy grin over his shoulder. “But he will.”
Sam pushed a rolling rack of his father’s jumpers out of the way. “No one will hear you scream back here. Think about that before you continue.”
“I hate to interrupt, but may I see the safe, if there is such a thing back here.” Colby rubbed his arms. His bag jingled behind his back. “Please?”
“There is a safe, Colby. It’s right over here.” Sam moved the wood panel out of the way. “This was my dad’s. I think this is where he put the password.”
Colby whistled, eyeing the safe in the light. “Well, that safe would be a good place to put it.”
“Duh,” Jarum snorted, “it’s a safe.”
“Not just any safe, kid.” Colby pulled a penlight from his pocket, clicking it on. He flashed the light across the bottom, pausing over a small plaque embossed into the safe’s door. Everyone got an eyeful of the military stamp. “There’s another safe just like this one in the weapon’s storage. It holds things no one’s supposed to get a hold of, unless it’s an emergency.”
“And only the Commander can give out permission,” Sam elaborated. “But that safe has a digital log-in. This one has a wheel on it.”
“Don’t forget a six digit combination, and by that I mean six numbers ranging from zero to your guess is as good as mine. I’ve seen the guts of this model, had parts of it in my office for a while, but ended up making a cage locker for Raj in the gym with them.” Colby crouched, examining the model number to be sure. “Yep, it’s the same one. Behind this door,” he explained, “is what you call a spindle. It’s a small bar connecting the external dial, where you turn the numbers, to the six wheels on the inside, each correlating to a digit in the combination.”
“That’s old school, Colby. This is ancient.” Sam rubbed his face, already exhausted.
“Commander, this place has sat here for hundreds of years, designed to withstand the test of time. What makes you think the items in it aren’t going to be just as old? This safe is particularly troublesome, not because it’s old, but because it’s military grade. It’s booby trapped.”
“Shut the fuck up.” Jarum’s eyes sparkled with excitement. “This is like a fucking mystery book.”
“Not the right time,” Benny whispered to him.
“No. It is the right time. Okay, so I know I’m not the brightest around, but let’s think about this. Colby, what is that hunk of junk going to do if we try to break it open?” Jarum slipped between Sam and Benny, kneeling next to Colby.
“If I try to pry it open, the change in pressure will alert the internal mechanism behind the spindle. Some of these safes have been known to spray ink, damaging any documents inside, also used to identify the thief. Another option could be an explosive charge.” Colby turned to Sam.
Sam shook his head. “No. My dad would never have allowed a possible explosive around his family.”
“My thoughts exactly. Most likely it’s ink, which in this case would be just as damaging if the password is inside. And we’re not talking a few teaspoons either. Whatever is in there is fucked once that ink starts to go.” Colby sighed. “It’s your call, Commander.”
“Any more thoughts?” Sam’s shoulders slumped in defeat. “I’m lost here. We can’t pry it open, and that’s the only clue we have left.”
Ryan started to feel hopeless. Then he remembered the appointment book in his back pocket. “What if it’s not the only clue? What if your dad made sure all the clues were connected somehow?”
“What do you mean?” Benny was intrigued, looking at him like he was an adult and not a fragile boy.
Ryan straightened, shoulders rolling back. “The first time I caught onto all of this was in the file storage when Avery sent us there, the warehouse where all the techs and Commanders would store their printouts.”
Sam nodded. “What about it?”
“Well, your father’s documents were never searched through because no one thought anything of his daily printouts when he was alive, but maybe he thought you would go looking for anything with his name on it if he were to pass away. Maybe he thought he’d never get the chance to use the password, so he left it for only you to find. He never counted me, Sam. He thought it’d be you.” Ryan exhaled, shaking with excitement. “He put his document box on the bottom shelf in the storage cabinets, because you’re tall and you’d have to bend. You’d see the videos hidden at the very bottom, you’d see the chair with his old smoke can, and know you were on the right track.”
“What chair? What smoke can?” Sam tugged on his hair, his one nervous habit.
“Not important at the moment.” Ryan held up a finger. “The video I picked up first had no label. It was the only card without a label. Anyone would have chosen it first out of curiosity. It was the video with the safe, Sam. He knew you’d recognize that room and find the safe.”
“And what about the book? What made you think to find the book?” Sam crossed his arms.
“The janitor, he used to talk to your dad every night when your dad would watch movies in the storage room.”
“He what? He watched those movies every night?” Sam’s hands slid to his sides.
“Yes. He also made sure to carry that book with him everywhere, to show how important it was to him. He wanted you to see how important it was, Sam. He didn’t expect you to be afraid of it because a bundle of paper reminded you of him. He didn’t expect Rick to hold onto it for you. He wanted you to have it because it was the last clue to the safe, Sam. I bet my life the combination to that safe is in here.”
Ryan slapped the little black book into Sam’s open palm. “It’s you turn now, Sam. Maybe I caught onto the trail, but it’s up to you to finish the journey. And Benny’s right, you have all the support you could ever need.”
Colby made another pot of coffee in Ryan and Sam’s tiny kitchen. He brought a tray with a few clean cups and the pot out to the living area, but found Benny and Jarum asleep on the couch. Yawning, Colby set the tray down and put a blanket over them both. He was tempted to go to bed himself, but he wasn’t sure the Commander felt comfortable with him leaving just yet.
Instead of bothering Sam while he lay on the bed with Ryan, going over the appointment book for the millionth time, Colby plopped into a chair and took a sip of coffee. He filled his mouth with a second sip when he heard a scream of joy, and spit the brew out of his mouth.
Benny’s arms flailed, knocking Jarum to the floor. “What’s happening?” His eyes shot open.
Wiping his hand over his mouth, Colby shook his head, completely rattled. Ryan came running into the room. Sam walked behind him, face blank as he held out the book.
“We found it.”
“Found what?” Jarum’s eyes were heavy with sleep. He slapped one palm on the floor, slowly getting to his feet.
“The combination, it was there the entire time. Sam Sr. was a sneaky little bastard.” Ryan bit his lip, seemingly crazy and half sleep deprived.
Sam held the book open with both hands. Ryan pointed to a date in January, the twenty-first, making a circle with his finger. The date had been circled over and over in pencil. “He used dates, circling one every other month with six numbers in total. It’s genius.”
“It’s crazy, that’s what it is.” Benny got to his feet with Jarum’s help.
“A little eccentric, but smart, and the former Commander knew how smart his son was. He knew Sam would find it. It was his last goodbye.” Ryan took Sam’s hand. “Do you need a minute or can we…”
“He doesn’t need a minute. He’s just as excited as you are, but he’s trying not to show it.” Benny smirked.
Sam squeezed Ryan’s hand. “I’m indifferent. I’m trying not to get my hopes up here.”
Jarum smiled. “Sam, this is one of the situations where even I’m pretty damn sure the password is in that safe. The set-up that got us this far is too perfect not to have a happy ending. This is it.”
Benny rubbed his chin, and nodded. His eyes flicked to Sam, confident. “He’s right. It makes sense.”
“What about you, Colby?” Sam nudged his chin.
“Yes you, what do you think about all of this?”
Colby stood. “I knew your dad for many years, sir, and this sounds like him. He may have been quiet, but he did have a sense of humor. If I had a son, I’d want him to remember me with a smile too. There isn’t one thing in this world that would make you smile like the moment you find that password. And in that moment, he’ll be right there with you.” Colby nodded quickly. “This feels right.”
“Then let’s do this.” Sam noticed they’d all huddled together. “Let’s go see if we’re right.”
Soon after, they stood in front of the safe. Ryan held open the book. Colby held his pen light over the dial for added light and Benny and Jarum stood watch from behind.
“And December’s number is…fifteen,” Ryan murmured, looking up at Sam. “Last one.”
Sam’s fingers trembled as he moved the dial to fifteen. “Now what?” His hands hovered away from the door, careful not ruin anything.
“Turn the wheel.” Colby grinned. “Let’s see if we won a prize.”
Closing his eyes, so they didn’t have to see the disappointment in them, Sam jerked the wheel to the left. He heard a click. He heard their gasps. He felt the door swing wide open. His hands fell away. His eyes flashed open, full of tears. A lone manila file folder sat in the middle shelf of the safe.
“I’m gonna throw up,” Sam admitted, clutching his shirt around his stomach.
Ryan rubbed his back. “If that’s not it, it’s okay, Sam. We’ll find it eventually. We’ll do it together.”
Sam felt like he couldn’t breathe. The time came when he realized his hand had made the decision for him, reaching out to touch the file. He pulled the file into both hands, reading the cover.
A red stamped label read confidential. His father’s name was penned in the top right corner. The file felt light, possibly empty.
“Sam, open it.” Ryan laid a hand over his. “Please.”
Wedging his finger between the two file flaps, Sam flipped it open. In thick black marker, his father had written:
I hope you get the chance to use this. Well done, Samuel. Love, Dad
There in large print, was the ten digit password to save the world.
Sam dropped to his knees and wept.
TO BE CONTINUED…