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Yonder & Far: The Lost Lock



The offices at the end of Merchants Row were . . . odd.


Nothing about their outward appearance, mind you. The building that housed the offices was a sensible square of red brick and timber set within a fashionable part of Boston Town. Upright, unostentatious. No one had ever remarked upon any impropriety with the house on the end of Merchants Row – indeed, few had remarked upon the building at all, except to use it as a point of reference to distinguish between the Episcopal church and Masonic lodge with which it shared a corner. In every respect, it would have seemed a proper place of commerce in a good and upright Federalist neighborhood.


There was nothing at all strange about the shape of the chambers within. The single floor had been neatly halved into two adjoining rooms. Each office was well apportioned, neither smaller nor larger than its neighbor. A narrow stairwell in a foyer led to an attic. The stairs wound upward, just as stairs should. The railings wore a coat of unremarkable white paint.


Nor could one charge that the offices were not suited for their ostensible purpose. Walking through the entry and past the stairwell, at a casual glance, one would behold an eminently serviceable lawyer's den. The ceilings were high. The walls all made of polished wood and plaster. Both rooms had a beveled glass window. There were more than ample bookshelves, rugs, chairs, and furniture to serve the needs of clients. All of it was laid out in a manner just as one would expect for a barrister's workplace.


But if one were to pause in any of the rooms, if one stopped long enough to consider the surroundings more carefully, if one leaned in close enough to give anything a good squinting, a veneer would begin to peel away. One would notice little things, trifles, which, collectively, would exude . . . oddness.


First, there was the oak partner's desk in the center of the first office chamber, which had been crafted into a shape that resembled an unfurled shamrock. And the draperies carelessly thrust aside on their rods, they were almost colorless – except at a certain moment every dusk, when they would suddenly and inexplicably refract the setting sunlight with a gleam as startling as fireworks. The lone portrait in the second office was centuries out of date and it portrayed a truly loathsome looking fellow (clutching a bloodied halberd, of all things), while the floral illustrations that had been hung in the first office all depicted plants much too vibrant, too exotic, for a place ostensibly devoted to the solemn business of courts. And though none of the stoves within the offices had ever been lit nor any of the windows ever cracked, the air in each of the partitioned rooms felt, at all times and in all seasons, like a dry, comfortable autumn.


But perhaps the most disconcerting feature of the law building was the matter of its legal papers. Which is to say, there were none. Not a solitary writ, demurrer, pleading, or complaint could be found within.


It was as jarring as coming into a church bereft of Bibles.


The door that led into the offices was drab and featureless, save for a handle and a brass knocker. There was a shingle hung above the knocker, a small plaque in faded green with white script that was rather embellished in its cursive, and it read:


Yonder & Far,

Attorneys and Counselors

of Custom