The beams of their lights probed the darkness down the stairs. The steps were solid concrete, and the hand rail was still firmly attached to the wall. Mike stood at the top, Jo just behind him; they methodically ran their light over the walls, Mike working on those further away with his more directional light, Jo using her phone to light up the closer walls.
It didn’t look terribly promising, Jo thought. The basement did have the look of ancient construction, but there were plain signs of upkeep over the years. Some sections of concrete were clearly much newer than the rest of the walls, which were made of brick.
They moved slowly down the stairs. After almost two centuries, the concrete steps, a relic of the original building, had worn down significantly toward the center. She had to be a little careful to avoid losing her balance and falling.
The basement showed clear signs of having served as storage for the drug store, and likely the previous tenants before them as well. Broken cardboard shipping boxes littered the dark space, stray packing peanuts lay on the ground or floated in small puddles where the damp had collected, and the floor surface itself was dirty and scuffed visibly despite the months of dust that had accumulated.
“It’s a bit of a fixer-upper,” Mike said dryly, inspecting several of the puddles more closely, undoubtedly recording the whole inspection, as Jo herself as. He frowned. “Does this look like condensation to you? I’d say it looks more like a leak in the plumbing somewhere.”
She looked at the puddle, but there was nothing special about it; there were pipes near it though, and they were streaked with rust. She followed them upward with her eyes, up the wall to where it met the ceiling. Her hand twitched a bit, and she realized she was tracing a climbing route up the wall; another moment and she realized she’d traced a route to a destination she hadn’t even consciously noticed at first.
There were a regular series of indentations in the walls, very narrow, but large enough to maybe get a hand in. They were almost flush with the ceiling, and looked like darker patches of shadow. She moved closer, letting the ambient glow of her phone illuminate one of them better. Mike followed her gaze.
“Huh. Good eye, Jo.”
“Thanks,” she said absently; the recess looked deep, and there was something inside. “I’m going to climb up and see if I can pull that out,” she said.
“You could wait until we get more equipment down here, or at least better lights,” he replied, but she was already testing several handholds in the bricks higher up on the wall. In short order she was clinging to the recessed section she’d seen the object in, her feet swinging almost a meter off the floor. She braced her feet tight against the brick wall below and held on with one arm, reaching inside with the other.
She got hold of the object, which was largish and heavy; it felt like a box, maybe of metal. “Mike, come grab this, I won’t be able to carry it down, I’ll have to pass it to you.”
He stood ready to catch it as she pulled it from its resting place, then caught it as it fell. Jo climbed back down and took a look at what she’d retrieved.