The storefront looked abandoned. A rusty padlock secured the entrance, and a crazy quilt of plywood was nailed to one side of the display window. The other side was coated with a thick layer of grime. Someone had written, “Wash Me,” with their finger in the dirt.
A hand-painted “For Sale” sign, tucked into the bottom corner of the dirty glass, was faded from long years of exposure to the harsh southern sun.
“It doesn’t look like much,” Clio said, cocking her head to consider the rundown building. From her spot across the street, Clio couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a demarcation down the center of the road dividing the town into the “have’s” and “have-nots.”
On the side of the street where Clio was standing, the stores had undergone a recent revitalization. Upgraded facades, fresh paint and masonry, new tenants, new problems. The opposite side where the empty store was located, the buildings looked more than rundown. They looked like urban ruins.
“How long has it been vacant?” Clio looked up and down the street, checking for a break in the traffic.
The woman standing beside her, with her spray-on tan and overly teased bleached hair, consulted her iPad, scrolling through the MLS info on the property.
“Not long,” said Rhonda, Clio’s Legacy Properties agent.
“What’s ‘not long’?” Clio stepped off the curb and jaywalked across the street, the agent scurried after her.
Once across the street, Clio inspected the outside of the building. Peering into the dark window, Clio tried to see passed the clutter pushed toward the front of the store.
“Is there a key to this?” Clio held the door’s padlock in her hand, rust staining her palm and finger tips.
Rhonda looked over her iPad again.
“I can get it from the listing agent,” she said. “I’ll pick it up in the morning.”
Clio looked into the display window again, squinting into the blackness.
“I do have some lovely properties on the north side of the street that are available,” Rhonda said, still staring at the screen of her iPad. “I can’t understand why you’re interested in this southside property.”
“You don’t have to understand,” Clio said, rubbing grime off the window with the heel of her palm. “You just have to show me the listings I ask to see. If you can’t do that without commentary, I can find another agent.”
Rhonda abruptly closed the real estate app on her iPad, her crimson lips pursed into a tight O, one drawn-in brow arched dangerously over her blue, color-enhanced eye.
“I will let you know when I acquire the key, and we can make arrangements to see the store later this week.” Rhonda walked to the corner and crossed back to the north side.
Street lights had begun to blink on obscuring the night sky. Even if she couldn’t see the stars, bright, white pinpricks above her, Clio knew the alignment was drawing nigh. She was running out of time.
Clio continued to stare at the sky, allowing her eyes to adjust to the street lamps. When she discovered earth and specifically this abandoned store was the third locus on the Triangulum galactic ley line, she knew she had to acquire the property.
When the three points moved into their cosmic array, Clio knew a stargate would open, giving her the only chance to return home in a millennium. Rhonda better get that padlock key and soon. The alignment was only two days away.