“Crap.” Lila said, astonished. She looked from one side of the restaurant to the other, gazing into the distance contemplatively. “Why would he stick a Slinky in a box?”
Ian reached into the box and gingerly took out the plastic spring-shaped object. “I haven’t seen one of these since I was a kid. They used to be made of metal.” He passed the small cardboard box to Lila and drew out the toy for inspection. Engraved into the plastic rings was a series of what appeared to be codes.
“Can I just say, WTF?” Ian pronounced succinctly. “Why would anyone spend all that time to carve a Slinky?”
“Whatever’s carved there will stick around a long time, I mean, what are you gonna do, burn it?” Lila looked thoughtful, as though she would whip out a lighter and torch the Slinky on the table.
Ian contemplated the plastic toy. “Maybe it’s not what’s on the Slinky, but what’s inside it.”
Lila grabbed the Slinky and banged it on the tabletop.
“Whoa,” Ian said. “Hold on. Let’s wait until we know what it’s made of.”
“Plain, ordinary plastic.” Lila said and tossed it toward him, causing it to stretch out in classic Slinky form.
Ian gestured toward the box. “Anything else in there?”
Lila scrabbled around the bottom, pulling out a couple of credit card sized badges labeled in Russian. “Sergey Ivanov and Anna Sokolova,” Lila read the names aloud. She examined the lettering and coding on the cards before suddenly tossing them to the ground in alarm.
Ian looked at her as though she was crazy. “That’s evidence.”
“That’s a dosimeter!” Lila said in an concerned tone. “And according to the markings, Sergey and Anna already absorbed over 100 rads of ionizing radiation. You know, life threatening levels,” she continued pedantically. “And if those cards were exposed to that much radiation, I really don’t want to hold them in my hands.” She grimaced as she took a wad of paper napkins and used it to pick up the dosimeters from the ground, placing them carefully back in the box before closing it.
While she was doing this, Ian had been examining the Slinky close up. “There’s a word here. Looks like ‘trianon.’”
Lila uselessly spritzed a glob of hand sanitizer onto her hands and wiped it off meticulously before indicating for Ian to pass the Slinky to her. “Here. Let me see that.”
She held the Slinky close to the light emitted from her cell phone and made out the word “trianon” enscribed on the second ring from the top. Baffled, she tilted her head to think. “Trianon. Where have I heard that?” Her breath quickened. “The Trianon is an apartment building near Hollywood and Western. The one shaped sort of like a castle.”
Ian nodded his head and stood up. “I know it. Let’s head over there.”
Lila handed Ian the box containing the dosimeters and took the Slinky in her hands. As they walked, she let it cascade from one hand to the other in a soothing back and forth motion.
As they reached the Trianon, the Slinky abruptly seemed to crack apart in the middle, leaving the upper half edge in a jagged pattern lined with an inset that appeared to be metal. Lila ran the blunt edge across her finger consideringly, and held it up for a closer investigation. Once again using her phone light to cast a shadow on the metal tip, she saw the numbers 432 inscribed across the rim.
Raising her eyes to the Trianon, Lila then turned to Ian. “Shall we go in?” She held the Slinky’s metal lined tip toward him and quirked her eyebrows, “I believe we have the keys to the castle.”