Authors: Matt Solomon
“I just received some new information regarding our soil samples. It suggests a few things,” said Fitzgibbons. “Let's take a moment to check my warehouse hypothesis. Set a search for any activity.”
A real-time satellite view of the warehouse appeared. From an aerial perspective, the AD German Warehouse looked like just another flat-roofed building. The search ended quickly and results populated the screen. It didn't take long before something unusual emerged.
“There!” blurted Fitzgibbons, lurching forward. “At the top of the building!”
Barton halted the images and replayed the series of stills.
“Stop.” Fitzgibbons tapped his finger at the elevator shaft on the screen. “Zoom in.”
The view leaped forward, revealing someone climbing the rungs that ran up the side of a brick shaft. Barton dialed in the focus. “It's a child,” he said with amazement. “What's a kid doing on the roof in broad daylight? This just happened!”
“Possibly. There's a good view of his face rightâ¦” Barton punched more keys. “Here. I think there are enough markers.” He uploaded the image to a remote mainframe and Accelerton software began comparing the face to millions of others on the web. A handful of pictures populated a queue. The software identified a boy from Richland Center. “His name's Charlie Lawson,” Barton said, reading the caption from a picture of Charlie holding a cheap plastic trophy. “He won a video game tournament in somewhere called Boscobel last year.”
“Have security run a background check.”
Barton resumed his scan of the satellite photos. The sky got darker as the pictures reversed into the night. “Look at this!” He zoomed in on the sidewalk outside the giant warehouse. A truck was backing up into the alley. The time stamp on-screen read 4:35 a.m.
“There's how the waste in the soil samples gets to the quarry,” said Fitzgibbons. “And I bet I know who's driving.”
Barton ran the images frame by frame. The pictures were dark, but they could make out the silhouettes of a man and a large dog exiting the truck, then disappearing into the warehouse via an alley door.
“We've found the hiding spot,” said Fitzgibbons. “Too many things line up. I'm as certain as I can be without breaking in there.”
Color flushed Barton's face at the prospect of encountering a giant in the flesh. “Should we try? We could force our way in and tag the thing, just to be sure.”
“We'll keep watching. You'll get your specimen,” said Fitzgibbons, reaching for his phone. “Now that we're confident where the giant is hiding, it's time to call in the Stick.”
The giant poked the boy in the chest with a large index finger. He pulled himself up on his elbows.
“See? Told you I'd come back, didn't I?”
“Cool,” said the giant.
“Hank said something about âthe next leg of your trip'âyou taking off soon?”
The giant shrugged. Either he didn't know when he was going or he didn't know how to say it.
“So where are you headed?”
“NewÂ â¦ home.”
“Yeah, I got to move all the time, too. Sucks.” Charlie tried to figure out where you'd move a giant. “So where can you go where you can stay secret? In the mountains? Out in a forest somewhere?”
The giant was bored by the questions, like a new kid tired of telling everyone about his old school. He plopped down on his huge butt and moaned, almost like he was sick or something, and looked at Charlie with pitiful eyes. “Hungryâ¦”
Charlie looked at him skeptically. The boy had tried pulling the “I don't feel good” trick on his mom just last night. “I know you just got fed.”
“Dude. I saw the truck come and go. We talked about it, remember?”
The giant glanced at the ceiling and bit his lip.
He was trying to play Charlie, the same way he'd played Hank! “Come on, man. You don't have to trick meâif you want more, just tell me. I'm not your babysitter.”
The giant shrugged and burst out laughing, a long, low chortle that bounced off the bare warehouse walls. He was busted.
“Where does Hank keep the food?”
The giant pointed down the hallway where Charlie had first found his way into the hiding spot. In a dark recess in the passageway, the boy spotted a wooden pallet full of forty-pound bags with red lettering that read
Each sack featured a picture of a smiling cartoon horse. Charlie grabbed a bag, which was way heavier than it looked, and dragged it to the happy giant.
The colossus pointed down to the old ceramic bathtub, its tarnished claw feet resting in a rusty puddle. A wooden boat oar sat inside the tub along with the end of a hose that ran from a spigot on the wall. Charlie found an old utility knife lying on the floor near the tub and ripped the bag open.
Smells like the stuff you feed the goats at the petting zoo
, he thought as he dumped the bag inside the tub. The oats looked dry and unappetizing. Charlie turned on the spigot, soaked the grains down good, and stirred the whole mess up with the oar. He looked up to the giant, but something was wrong, like Charlie hadn't prepared it right. “What's the problem? I thought you wanted this.”
The giant grimaced, then stuck an enormous index finger into the goop. He lifted the viscous slop to his nose and took a tentative sniff. His enormous eyes closed tight as he recoiled from the smell. “Sucks!”
“It can't be that bad.” He stuck his own hand into the mushy grain and tried a bit. It was the worst-tasting anything he'd ever eaten.
The giant looked at Charlie as if he was the dumbest guy in the world. “Sugar!”
He looked around. “There's no sugar here.”
Trying to squeeze his massive arm back down the narrow hallway, the giant repeated his request. “Sugar.”
Charlie squirted past the giant's arm to take another look down the hall. Sure enough, there was a fifty-pound bag of sugar, three-quarters full, set just out of the giant's reach. He dragged it back to the tub.
“Charlie!” The giant rubbed his hands together.
Charlie lifted the bag and drizzled sugar crystals across the top. “This ought to help.” The giant snatched the bag. “Hey, what the heck!”
The behemoth dumped the entire contents into the feed, stuck his big paw into the “oatmeal,” and plopped a sweet glob into his mouth. He sighed with pleasureâthat was more like it.
Charlie stuck in his own hand and tried some. He didn't think the sugar helped much, but the big guy finished the entire tub in about a minute. He picked up the hose between a massive thumb and forefinger, motioning for Charlie to turn on the water. He did, and the giant drank for a good five minutes. Then he got a funny look in his eye and pointed at something back down the hall.
“What?” asked Charlie. “You hear someone coming?”
The giant continued to drink, motioning for Charlie to go ahead and check it out. He turned and looked around the corner. Nothing was there that he hadn't seen beforeâjust the bags of oats andÂ â¦
A hard, cold blast of water hit Charlie in the back of the neck, knocking him forward. He turned and sputtered through the icy spray. The giant was laughing his butt off, working the hose to soak Charlie good. “Knock it off, you big idiot!”
The wetter Charlie got, the more the giant laughed. The big guy was pretty good at forcing the water in Charlie's face, pushing him back. Finally, Charlie managed to get to the spigot and turn it off.
“Come on, man. I didn't jump down an elevator shaft to get soaked.”
The giant reached down to turn the spigot back on and broke the entire thing off the wall. Water spurted everywhere, and he danced around like an oversize kid playing in an open fire hydrant. He kicked water in Charlie's direction.
Charlie ran for cover under the table, wishing he had some water balloons or something to fight back with. Giants were definitely fun once they'd had a little sugar. He scrambled for the wooden oar and flicked water that was pooling on the floor at the big guy. The giant stumbled backward and almost knocked over the pallet of dynamite.
“Watch it,” warned Charlie, scuttling across the wet floor looking for something else he could fling at the giant.
Bits of oats flew from the giant's teeth with each hysterical guffaw. He scooped up enormous handfuls of water and dropped them on Charlie's head, like the huge buckets at the water park that dumped a thousand gallons at a time. It was the coldest shower of his life, and the giant kept chucking water over and over. Charlie didn't mindâhe was having a blastâbut he was getting a little worried about all the water. There was a good two inches on the floor now and he was pretty sure it was seeping out the door in the back hall into the alley. It wouldn't be long before someone would wonder where all the water was coming from.
Charlie tracked the copper pipe that ran from the spigot until he saw the rusted master shut-off across the warehouse. He made a break for the handle, put his full body weight behind the effort, and managed to turn off the torrent.
“Water!” shouted the giant, pouncing on and destroying Hank's old chair. Splinters flew everywhere. He reached down to snap the copper pipe and start the fun again.
“Don't break it!” shouted Charlie. He looked around the warehouseâit reminded him of the aftermath of a New Year's Eve party that his brother threw sophomore year when their mom was out of town. In other words, a certifiable disaster zone. Maybe they needed to take it down a notch before someone called the cops. That's what happened to Tim. “I've got something even more fun to do!”
The giant stopped and cocked his head, as if to say, “I'm listening.â¦”
Fun stuff to do. Charlie wracked his brain. What did he do for fun?
, which was out of the question. The guy's thumbs were way too big to work the controls. Eat stuff, which they'd already done. Watch a movieÂ â¦
Then the boy remembered Tim's box of crap, with the dusty old projector and film reels. A movie! The giant would freak out if Charlie could pull it off. He yelled up at the giant. “Hey, I'll be right back!”
The giant looked dejected, even guilty, like maybe he shouldn't have started the water fight after all. “No,” he pleaded. “Stay.”
Charlie held up his hands. “I'm not mad or anything,” he insisted. “Hang here for a minute and don't break any more water pipes. I just got to go get somethingâI'm coming back, promise!”
The giant collapsed into an empty corner of the room and put his massive hands on his knees.
In the hallway where he'd found the oats, Charlie discovered the back door that Hank had used a couple of nights before. He was able to unlock it from the inside and most of the water drained into the alleyway and down the sewer. He sprinted back across the street to his apartment. He grabbed the box marked
and in no time, he was back across Church Street.
The grateful giant offered a fist bump.
He was fascinated by absolutely everything in Tim's box of crap. Charlie showed him the peekaboo pen first. The giant's eyes got big as he held the tiny pen upside down and watched the woman's outdated bikini evaporate like magic. That naughty disappearing trick alone probably could have kept the giant busy for hoursâhe kept flipping the pen to dress and undress the old-fashioned swimsuit model.
While the giant was occupied, Charlie set the table upright, positioned the projector, and plugged it in. Whewâthe old place still had power. He figured out how to thread the reel. Tim had shown him how, but that was a long time ago. After a few false starts, Charlie got it. The warehouse space was perfect. Its huge blank walls were large enough to be real movie screens and a patch of rain clouds had made it just dark enough inside. “You ready?”
The giant looked up, not quite ready to give up the pen but intrigued by the projector.
“Okay, here we go,” said Charlie. “Check this out.”
With the click of a switch, the projector began to whir. Flickers of light danced forth and then an enormous image of Bruce Lee in black gloves and matching shorts appeared on the far wall. His chubby opponent attacked. Bruce countered with a series of lightning-fast punches and throws that sent his challenger to the ground.
The startled giant backed up against the wall farthest from the projection. “Charlie!”
Charlie turned off the machine, surprised to see the colossus cowering. “Hey, hey, hey!” The boy held up his hands to calm the giant. “It's just a movie!”
The giant scrunched his nose at the word. “M-m-movie?”
“Pictures,” Charlie explained. “Pictures that move. They tell a story.”
The giant stared down at the projector, then back up at the blank wall. He pointed at the empty space with a tentative finger, inviting Charlie to start the movie again.
Bruce Lee came to life once more, and this time the giant didn't flinch. Instead he edged across the room to try to touch the image. It appeared on the giant's back when he stood between the projector and the wall.
“Come here,” said Charlie, grabbing an end of the giant's tunic and tugging him back. “You sit and watch. It's a story.”
The giant still was baffled, but he sat against the wall. Charlie plopped down, and the two of them watched the movie together.
Even though Tim was wrong about most things, Charlie couldn't deny that
Enter the Dragon
was pretty great. The giant forgot his initial fear and lost himself in the flickering images on the wall. He was so engrossed, in fact, that when Bruce Lee fought an opponent on a strange island, the giant rose to his feet and began mimicking the martial arts master's moves with surprising grace and dexterity. The giant's punches and kicks mirrored Lee's own.