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IBPA Member

Locks of Love: A Modern Gay Fairy Tale

Locks of Love

Locks of Love: A Modern Gay Fairy Tale by Jordan Castillo Price

Second Electronic Edition

Series: Standalone
Length: Novelette 10,200 words - 35 PDF pages
Cover artist: Jordan Castillo Price - see larger cover
ISBN: 978-1-935540-52-6

$2.99
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Summary

Not everyone can be a prince. Sometimes, though, an everyman will do.

Talent comes in all shapes and sizes, but some talents are a heck of a lot more useful than others. Hal’s particular gift? Talking to doors—a natural lead-in to an unglamorous career of locksmithing. What else would he do with himself when popping a lock comes as naturally to him as breathing? Other than burglary, of course. A guy’s gotta have some scruples.

Leave it to Hal to find someone locked in a five-story building without a single door leading to his prison. Sure, it’s probably a setup, and no, Hal doesn’t relish the idea of being played for a chump. The guy in the window is clearly accustomed to batting his eyelashes and getting his way. But if he really is stuck, Hal can’t just leave him high and dry.

Freeing him will merely involve outsmarting the gigantic tattooed bully that’s holding him hostage. How hard can it be?

This retelling of Rapunzel originally appeared in the anthology Torqued Tales.

 

Excerpt

 

My pager buzzed at my hip, and the readout showed its usual three digits, 911. That’s the “emergency” code used by my employer, A-1 Lockout. Melodramatic, if you ask me. I don’t actually deal with any life or death emergencies, but I figured I’d just generate a lot of hostility in the workplace by pointing that out. If someone standing on their doorstep an extra few minutes because they’d slammed the door shut with their keys on the coffee table was A-1’s idea of an emergency, then fine. I’d call it an emergency.

Fireman. Trauma surgeon. Police officer.

Locksmith.

Nope. I still wasn’t convinced that my line of work dealt with any actual emergencies.

The page routed me to an overpriced shopping district, and I found the customer: a thirty-something woman in a pink running suit with matching purse, nail polish and sneakers. She appeared to be doing a rain dance around her minivan. I pulled up behind her, got out of the car, and greeted her professionally. Meaning, with as little disgust as I could manage to convey.

“Name’s Hal. You called for a locksmi—?”

“What took you so long? I called over an hour ago. My baby’s dying of carbon monoxide poisoning.”

The car was running with her kid wailing away, red-faced, strapped in the car seat. I would’ve been a little more concerned about the carbon monoxide if the baby had been asleep.

Oh. And it had only been about twenty-five minutes, half an hour, tops. I’d come as soon as the office paged me, and they’re always on top of these things. If I were able to teleport, I wouldn’t be working for A-1 Lockout, I can tell you that much.

I ignored the frantic woman and focused on her car door instead. I kept a couple of tools with me because I’ve figured out that people get spooked when they realize that I’m not using mechanical means to open their doors, but when they think I’ve done it with the aid of a screwdriver, they’re all smiles.

Not that I’m a threatening guy or anything. Sure, I’m big, but it’s more the idea that I could use my talent to maybe break into their houses that makes people nervous.

So I play the part of the handyman to the hilt in the navy work pants and the matching jacket with “Hal” embroidered over the pocket. And being an average guy with an average talent, wearing a uniform suited me just fine. Most people also don’t suspect that we mechanical types might be gay, and that also suited me just fine. I’m a very private person.

Pink Running Suit Mom had a top-of-the-line minivan, and its alarm system could rattle four city blocks. That’s what the driver side door told me, anyway. I stuck the pneumatic wedge into the seal of the door and gave it a few pumps. I stroked the door as I fiddled, persuading it to open.

Once upon a time, I used to argue with doors—not out loud, but in my head. Do you want to listen to that brat screaming all day? Do you want the crazy lady in pink to keep yanking on your handle? But doors, they don’t have the same kind of logic as people. And over the years, I’ve figured out that most of the time, all you’ve gotta do is ask ’em nice.

The driver side door popped the lock with an inaudible click. I slid the jimmy in and fished around a little, just for show, while I praised the door with my mind. I think most everything enjoys a little stroking.

“Taylor!” the mom cried as the door opened, squeezing her arm past me to flip the locks on the whole van. She ran around to the rear passenger side and heaved the door open. “Look, Taylor—look, sweetie—look at Mommy.” She pulled flowers from the air as she spoke, daisies mostly, long white petals with tints of pink, blue and violet surrounding spongy yellow middles. One second her hand was empty, the next it held a flowerhead—which she would immediately drop in search of another, though apparently her talent had become so old-hat to both her and her kid that none of the flowers, no matter how pretty, were able to satisfy either of them.

I peeked between the seats and saw the floor of the van was littered with wilted flowers—daisies, marigolds, a sunflower the size of my head. I wondered where they’d originated. There was no sleight of hand involved. She was teleporting actual flowers. She probably didn’t know where they were even coming from. I’d wager that it never occurred to her to wonder. But I’ll bet someone, somewhere, couldn’t figure out why her garden always looked so sparse.

Stupid talent. That was the only time I appreciated my own ability, when I saw someone worse off than me. I guess if she ever needed to support herself, she could work in a bridal shop. And…that was about it. At least I had the option of being either a locksmith or a criminal genius. I’d gone and chosen the career track with all the money, glamour and perks, obviously.

Once the kid stopped wailing and we’d settled her paperwork, I phoned in to the office and found another job waiting for me. A warehouse district was adjacent to the high-priced shopping area where Taylor’s mommy continued to make flowers appear in hopes of distracting her sniffling child. Someone had managed to lock his whole set of keys inside a brick warehouse with a two-inch thick steel security door. I don’t talk to many industrial doors. Their owners tend to have them wired to automated security systems that can be tripped with a simple phone call and an authorization code.

I hopped into the company car, a little white twelve-year-old Hyundai with plastic bumpers and a magnetic sign on either side that read “A1,” and made my way to the call. The block with the warehouses wasn’t covered with drifting trash or anything, but it seemed cheaper and sootier than the neighborhood where people could buy three dollar cups of coffee and three hundred dollar handbags. Not that I was worried about anyone making off with the Hyundai. First of all, it was a company car anyway. And second, the driver side door was kind of protective of me. It wouldn’t give it up very easily to a would-be car thief. And the passenger side door always agreed with the driver side; it didn’t like making waves.

I found the locked warehouse in question down a narrow sidestreet that I would’ve taken for an alley if I hadn’t been looking really hard. The old brick façades of the properties on that winding lane were old, turn of the century, some of them with newish glass block replacing their original windows, others with the spots where windows had once been bricked up with masonry that didn’t exactly match. The real windows started three stories up, where most criminals were too lazy to climb.

I recognized the door I’d been sent to open by the flustered Chinese guy hovering to one side. He was short and chunky, and his brown suit didn’t quite fit him right. “A-1 locksmith,” I told him, as if the A-1 car parked across the street and the embroidered jacket didn’t make that plain enough. “Are you Mr. Wu?”

He pointed at the door. “O-pen.” Blunt, but effective. I preferred him to Running Suit Mom and her bitching and her stupid flowers.

I set my tool box down beside the door and ran my hand down its cool metal surface. There was an old webwork of scratches around the keyhole, and the enamel was worn off at the door’s edge. It’d been there a long, long time.

The steel door told me I didn’t belong there. Not in a standoffish way—and believe me, there are plenty of high and mighty doors out there. It didn’t like the way the neighborhood had turned out over the past few decades. And it didn’t think I was tough enough to handle it.

I told the door that if Mr. Wu could cut it, so could I.

It told me that Wu had a semiautomatic in his coat pocket.

Huh. And here I’d thought he looked harmless. I guess I should know better.

As doors go, it wasn’t all that chatty, the way residential doors can sometimes be. It was a working man’s door, and it had a job to do. Go, it told me. Just get out of here.

Asking it nicely to open wasn’t gonna cut it. I made a big show of fishing around in the lock.

Look, I reasoned with it. Half the time, your job is to keep people out, and that’s the glory part of it, for sure. But what about the rest of the time? When you’re supposed to be letting people in?

The door didn’t have much to say about that. Most of them don’t.

This guy, here, I thought, glancing toward Mr. Wu. He’s the one you always let in. Right?

True.

Well, then?

But…the key.

The key’s inside somewhere, isn’t it? It never left the building.

More silence. I pressed and released the lock’s first pin while the door mulled things over.

You don’t get many chances to show off, I supposed idly.

Of course not. He brings the key, I let him in.

Must be pretty boring.

The tumblers stiffened around my pick. I’d hit a nerve.

Smart door like you, I added. Such a shame.

I am what I am.

A pin moved by itself, very slightly, inside the lock. A subtle shift.

Those doors at the mall, swinging open and shut all day long, what do they know?

They do that?

I stroked the second pin with the curved hook of my pick. They have help, of course. Sensors. Electronics.

The lock quivered.

But you, I went on, you’re here all by your lonesome. You’re the important one. You’re in charge. You’ve got to make these decisions yourself.

I considered pulling out some other tools for the sake of show, but I didn’t want to risk the lock tumbling without my hands somewhere in its vicinity. So I kept on pretending to tinker. You can’t rush big steel doors.

I thought for a minute that it might not pop. I’d been trying to appeal to a mixture of its work ethic, its intelligence, and its sense of self-importance. But maybe I’d read it wrong. Maybe there was some vanity there, or gullibility. Or greed. Just because it was a scarred slab of steel, it didn’t mean it had the same sensibilities as the people who trudged in to work there each day before sunup.

I’d paused to consider another line of persuasion when I felt the tumbler begin to slide. I made a big show out of twisting my tools around as the five-pin lock clicked open with a satisfying thunk.

Mr. Wu seemed pretty relieved to get back into his shop, but he didn’t go all out for a big show of gratitude, which I find is par for the course. I like to think people are just embarrassed that they’ve locked themselves out and they want to get back to their routines as soon as possible. Either that, or people are basically ingrates. I haven’t decided which.

The Hyundai unlocked itself as I crossed the street, and I went around to the passenger side door to collect the paperwork that Mr. Wu would need to sign. While my head was inside the car, something pinged against the windshield. It bounced off and landed on the hood. I picked it up and twirled it between my fingers: a small silver hoop earring. It could’ve been a stray effect of someone’s talent—unexplained things usually are—but it wouldn’t hurt to check.

I looked up and saw a tumble of auburn hair hanging out a fifth floor window. That’s what he looked like at first, anyway. His hair was silhouetted against a bright white sky that made the edges glow like flame and cast his face in shadow.

“Hey,” he said. I shaded my eyes and squinted to try and get a look at him and read his expression, but it didn’t much help. “You just opened that door.”

“Uh huh.”

“What are you? A handyman or something?” He had some kind of Eastern European accent so slight that I couldn’t quite place it.

“Locksmith.”

He settled back into the window, crossed his arms over the sill and rested his chin on his forearms. I felt a little pang in my chest as the backlighting receded and I could make out his features. He had a narrow, delicate face with pale skin and high cheekbones. His eyes were huge, round and pale in a Slavic sort of way, and he had an easy smile.

“My name’s Micha,” said the young man who could easily slice out my heart and do a tap dance on it, if I let him. “What’s yours?”

“Hal.” It came out pretty curt, since I assumed he was either fucking with me, trying to sell me drugs, or attempting to turn a trick.

“You got a ladder, Hal?”

I pointed at the Hyundai. “Nope. Just that.”

Micha looked down at the tiny white car and scowled. I even liked his scowl. “Can you get a ladder?”

“What for?”

“Let’s just say I’d be very grateful.”

 

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