glass slipper

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prologue

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What was this – some sort of Cinderella story?

He clutched the glass slipper in his hand, knuckles threatening to turn white. The moon's beams glistened off its glassy form, making it sparkle in his clutch.

Where had this come from?

Right, there had been three of them…

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one

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0805.

An early morning car appointment.

The mechanic came out five minutes and thirteen point seven seconds too late. It was impossible that he had been held up by a previous appointment – Adam was the first appointment of the day, for Christ's sake! Adam's eyes narrowed as he inspected the boy as he meandered over to the car. An oily blue jumpsuit, emblazoned with the tag Gray. A sweaty, dirty face with a swipe of green grease across the forehead. A few matted blond curls stuck out from underneath his cap.

Beside him, an older man walked. Probably the owner – the head mechanic. Not that he'd have expected the little pipsqueak mechanic to be the owner.

"You're the eight AM?" the head mechanic shouted in a rather loud voice, leaning against the driver side window. Adam took a heavy pause before responding, rolling the window down.

"That is correct. Just an oil change and inspection."

"Aight, yeh can give Gray here the keys and go wait in the lobby. It shouldn't be too long of a wait."

"I've gotten inspections done before, I'm familiar with the process."

The man lifted the keys deftly out of Adam's grasp and pushed him in the direction of the lobby. "Aight, kiddo. Scram for now."

"…"

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1038.

"Ya car's good as new, kiddo."

"Very well, then," Adam said, putting his watch back into his pocket. That had been a rather long wait and he was itching to find out what had taken so long. "Were there any problems?"

"Only a million," the head mechanic said with a dramatic sigh. "Left indicator light was broken so we had to replace the glass casing… big dent in the front passenger door so we buffed it out and slapped some new paint on it… center console fell out of place so we had to replace some of the parts there too. No charge for any of that, though."

"And what, pray tell, were you doing with the center console?!" Adam asked incredulously, bolting up out of his chair. "I brought my car in for an inspection and oil change! There was absolutely nothing wrong with the car when I left it with you this morning!"

The man lifted his hat up to scratch his bald head, and said, "I don't really get what you're getting' at. I mean - that's why there's no charge, kiddo."

Adam pinched the bridge of his nose as he felt the waft of an incoming headache. "I really don't have the time to be discussing this. I'm already an hour and a half behind schedule as it is. Please, just give me my keys and I'll be going."

"Uh…" the bald man said. "Just hold your horses for one moment. I don't think Gray's done with the copies yet."

"Copies?!" Adam demanded.

"Just a company policy we got here. We make copies of all our customers' keys. I keep 'em locked up nice and secure in my lockbox back in my office. We only use them if we get locked out of the car. Yeh see, we ain't a dealership so we got no way to get back in if Gray shuts the door before make sure it's unlocked."

"I – I don't understand," Adam said, in genuine shock and confusion. "You – already worked on my car. What in the world could you need a copy of my key for after the fact?"

"Well, for future appointments, of course."

"Future appointments?!"

"Yeh ask a lotta questions, kiddo…"

"What makes you think I'm coming back to this – this -" Adam hunted for the right word, determined not to let the word dump leave his lips, "establishment after the service I just received?!"

Bald man stared back at him for a moment, blinking a couple of times. "Well I'm afraid I just don't see what yeh're getting' at."

Gray chose that moment to reappear through the office doors and handed the key back to Adam. Baldie smiled and clapped a large hand on Gray's shoulder. "Good work today, Gray! Enjoy the rest of your day!"

Gray nodded silently before leaving as quickly as he arrived. Adam could only gawk. "You literally just opened. I was the first – and only, for the record – customer this morning. Is he a part time employee?"

"Who?"

"Your employee… his nametag said his name was Gray?"

"Oh! Gray!" Baldie nodded his head. "Kid just volunteers here every so often. Loves cars and machines. I think we got another kid like that running around here. Haven't seen him in awhile, though – his name was M something. Hmm. Hold on, it'll come to me."

"I genuinely do not care in the slightest," Adam said, already scribbling on a check. He ripped out the check and handed it to Baldie. "I trust this should suffice."

Baldie held the check up to the light, shutting an eye tight as he squinted at it. Finally he brought it back down and smiled at Adam. "Looks legit."

"That's -" Adam began, fully prepared to end with not how you check a check for authenticity, but thought better of it. He was running quite late, after all. Instead he settled for a rather curt, "Clearly."

Without another moment's hesitation, he left the autoshop. Opening the door to his car, he was greeted by a strong odor. Something he couldn't place. But something strong – like gas. Which, after an inhale of contemplation, was a rather reasonable smell to expect at an autoshop.

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1048.

Brooklyn called as he was pulling out of the autoshop's parking lot. Fiddling to accept the call with the new buttons on the new center console, he pressed a few buttons and spun some buttons around a couple hundred times before accepting the call and promptly going deaf. Spinning the newly identified volume control button back down to a normal decibel range, he answered, "What can I do for you?"

"Hey, blondie, where are you?" Brooklyn's nagging voice somehow wormed its way past his new-onset deafness. "You said you'd pick me up at 10 AM sharp. You're never late so I was worried."

"My appointment at the autoshop ran longer than I expected. Side note, this place was extremely shady. 0/10 would not recommend."

"Thanks, Yelp. So what'd these people do, exactly?"

"They replaced a bunch of parts on my car that didn't need replacing. Also they made a copy or two of my keys. Probably other things that I wasn't privy too as well."

"Uh… okay," Brooklyn said. "Sounds sketchy as hell, honestly."

Adam grimaced. "I know, right? I think I might replace my keys at least."

"Well that's going to have to wait until tomorrow, because we're late as it is. We'll be lucky if there's even side street parking in a five block radius by the time we get there."

"I am well aware of the time, thank you. And yes, I'll wait until tomorrow on that. Anyway, make sure you're ready to go when I get to your house. I'll be there in 16 minutes and 4 seconds, with a margin of error of two minutes and -"

"Just shut up and drive, blondie. I'll be waiting," Brooklyn said, ending the call with a resounding click.