The evening brought relief from the day's heat and excitement, and eventually there was only the one dedicated soul left, quietly grunting while lifting weights in the corner. The travel alarm clock on the card-table ticked toward closing.
Bryan pressed the button to close the bay door, its noisy, creaking mechanism startling the youth in the weight corner. "Hey man, we're closing up. Cool-down time."
"It's not 9pm yet," the client replied, petulantly, yet already obediently following the instructions.
Bryan ignored the complaint, crossing the floor at a steady pace, wheeling the mop bucket. "Hey, can I have a word with you?"
"Sure." Michelle yawned. "How are you so awake? You've been up longer. I'm wiped."
Bryan gave a distract shrug. "I like gyms at closing. Second favourite part of the day. There's something about how it's all quiet and still, when it was so busy before, that makes me all energized."
"You are so weird."
"You'll come around."
"Never." Michelle yawned again, propping herself on the desk. "What's up?"
Bryan glanced over at the youth, his voice lowering to a whisper. "I think I found something you should see in the bathroom."
Bryan scowled. "I'm serious, M."
"You indeed look serious. Very serious face." She yawned. When he didn't reply, and furrows formed on his forehead, she leaned forward. "Jesus. What is it?" She dropped her own volume. "Did you find a dead body?" She expected him to roll his eyes or scoff. Bryan did neither. "You're kinda freaking me out."
He waited until the weight-lifter moved on to the change room. "M, I found something really weird and you need to see. Soon as we're closed, okay?"
Bryan crouched at the base of the wall. The floors of the women's change room glistened from where he'd mopped; Michelle carefully crossed the tiles, afraid of slipping. "I was looking for somewhere new to keep the mop," he explained. "People are complaining that where we keep it now it is a tripping hazard."
"Okay. Fair enough. But why are you on the floor?"
"Because of something Leo said to me." Bryan's fingers scraped the drywall, searching. "I asked him about where the closet was, we were supposed to have a supply closet put in during the reno. Keep part of the old office."
"Sure." Michelle stifled a groan, trying to keep her weight from shifting too much onto her bad ankle while she stood.
Bryan stopped, staring at her. "Have you noticed a closet in here?"
"Didn't that strike you as odd?"
"Considering I was not made aware of the request for one until just now, no, can't say I find that odd. So what did Leo say anyway?"
Bryan frowned, then scooted several feet over. "He started to say that there was one, and then stopped—here it is!"
"Here what—" Michelle's mouth dropped as Bryan managed to get his fingers into something invisible, and pull. A seam appeared, dust drifting. "Holy shit."
"See? See why I was freaked out?" Bryan dusted his hands off. "Got your camera ready?"
"What's behind there?"
"No goddamn idea. Came to get you as soon as I noticed the outline. It's been painted over."
"How did you even know to look?" Michelle fumbled with her phone.
"The dimensions of the change rooms. Something about how Leo stopped himself made, like, bells go off in my head and I paced off the change rooms against the wall. There's about three feet missing."
"Nice size for a supply closet."
"Right. So I figured, shit, the reno was all handyman special, some idiot marked off the space and didn't build a door, but then I noticed that line when the mop slipped." He took a deep breath. "Ready?"
Several yanks and manly grunts later, Bryan pried the tiny door open. Only about twofeet high, it swung on invisible hinges. Beyond lay darkness. Michelle handed the phone to her brother and he crawled in.
"What can you see?"
"Not much. Shelves. There's shelves in here. I can stand up." His voice came through the drywall. "Coming in?"
Michelle debated. Curiosity smoldered, but ankle pain burned brighter. "I'll pass. Maybe once the cast is off."
"Oh shit. Right. Well, you're not really missing much. It's just... an empty supply closet. What the fuck where they thinking?"
"I mean, what the fuck where they thinking?" Bryan brushed yet more drywall dust from his hair, and swung his gear bag over his shoulder. "I have half a mind to call them up right now."
"Do it tomorrow, send them an email with the video." With most of the lights off, the building no longer resembled her little gym, but an empty, confusing, unsettling warehouse in an empty part of town. Cold seeped in from the walls. She rubbed her arms, gooseflesh refusing to unprickle.
Bryan gave her an odd look. "Are you seriously freaked out right now? It's just a stupid renovation mistake."
"Is it though?" Michelle asked him. "Mis-measuring, maybe. But a tiny fucking door that they then painted over? How is that a mistake?"
Bryan's confidence faltered. "Maybe they thought I wanted a crawlspace?"
Michelle shook her head, unconvinced. Then there came a sound like something scraping across asphalt and all the hairs on her arm and neck stood. Someone was talking, though she couldn't make out what they were saying.
"Maybe it's a practical joke—"
She shushed him, her hands held out. "Do you hear that?"
He froze. "What? Where? Outside? Or in the bathrooms?"
"I think it's coming from outside—" Michelle hobbled to the door, fumbling with the lock.
"Probably just raccoons—?"
They stared out into the night from the open door. Their industrial area was poorly lit; while they had a decent lamp mounted over their heads the closest streetlight lay several buildings away. Michelle could barely make out the opposite curb.
"I heard talking. Footsteps." Michelle's voice dropped into a low whisper. Nothing outside but the humid summer air, and kamikaze moths slamming into the grill of the light. One of the more wayward moths brushed her face and she shooed it away. "This is getting really—"
"How could you have heard voices from across the—"
Across the street two headlights blazed into existence. Footsteps pounding pavement. A slammed door, and the SUV peeled off into the night. The siblings stared at each other for a beat and then hurried into the gym, closing and locking the door. Bryan wore a frozen, comical expression of surprise until he shook his head. "It's probably nothing."
"I've had enough of probably-nothings for one night."
"Yeah. Yeah, me too. Let's get going, I'll give you a ride."
YOU ARE READING
After spending her 20s and 30s coasting from job to job, geeky Michelle has finally found her calling. She's teaming up with her out-going jock brother Bryan to create Creampuffs, a gym for ultra-beginners and introverts. They'll need to renovate th...