I had my work cut out for me and I wasn’t even sure where to start, so I took off my jacket, rolled up my sleeves and went on the hunt. I would have to use my keen detective skills to decide which boxes had been there the longest, since the layer of dust obviously wasn’t going to be an indicator. Every box was covered and they all looked like they had been there for years.
I surmised that the oldest ones would be on the shelves. My reasoning was that they would be filled first, then the table and then the floor. One by one, I started taking them down, carefully scrutinizing each one, looking for that elusive number 35S.
Some of the boxes felt as though they held nothing, while others had a hefty weight to them. I admit that I was tempted to take a peek inside some of them, but temptation was as far as it went. I had a mission and that was to find the box that mattered.
Some of the numbers had been written on the bottom of the box, a fact I discovered after straining my eyes, trying to find it on the top or the sides.
I looked at every single box on the shelves, thirty-two in all. “Why would so many people forget what was in a safe deposit box?” I thought. “And why didn’t a family member come to claim it?” I wondered if they thought, like so many, that old people and old things had no value.
Having proven that my so-called “keen detective skills” were lacking, I skipped the floor and turned to the table and its contents. There were nine rows, stacked four high. I started on the end, removing the top box and dusting it off as I looked for the number.
Three rows in and just as I was thinking “this is bullshit,” suddenly, the number 35S was staring me in the face. It was written on an old childs’ Buster Brown shoe box. The size said “13 1/2.”
I paused for a minute, letting it sink in that I had actually found the box. What was I going to find inside? I took a deep breath and pulled my Barlow knife out of my pocket to cut the twine tied around the box.
Just then, Roy came in and said “it’s about time to close the doors. How’re you doin’?” I told him I had just found the box and he let out with a “well, what do you know about that!”
When I told Roy that I thought I’d just take the box with me, I saw a look of confusion on his face. “I’m not sure you can do that,” he said. “The order says search but it doesn’t say anything about seizure.” I showed him the order again and pointed out the phrase “grant access and release any and all information associated with the decedent.”
“Okay,” Roy said. “I’m not sure I would consider the contents of that box as information, but I’ll take your word for it. I’ll just need you to sign this form, stating that you are taking care, custody and control.”
Roy tried to come across as an almost country bumpkin but he was clearly playing with a full deck of cards. I was curious as to what his profession had been before he came to work at the Post Office. Certain phrases he dropped like “not standing on ceremony” and “search and seizure” and “care, custody and control” were not the words of a backwoods, uneducated man.
When I posed the question to him, he hesitated and then said “I was a structural engineer but I left that life behind many years ago.”
I got the impression that Roy didn’t want to talk about the details so I shook his hand and told him it was a pleasure to meet him.
My curiosity suddenly wasn’t confined to my pretend investigation into the contents of box 35S. I took out my phone and started Googling local engineers. Buried deep on page nine was an article about a new building that had been erected in the city and what an incredible accomplishment it was. The engineer was Roy Huggins.
Tragically, just after the building reached full capacity, it collapsed, killing everybody inside and several pedestrians on the street. The exact cause was never determined but the court of public opinion ultimately put the responsibility onto Huggins’ shoulders.
“What a pisser,” I thought, and headed home.
To be continued________________