The locksmith limped over to me. He scooched himself out of his van with visible difficulty. When he got over to the lock and we introduced ourselves, he made a comment about his amputated leg.
"Gangrene," he said, pulling up his pant leg and exposing the prosthetic leg. "Took it off just below the knee."
"Oh no," I replied.
"It started out with a small infection, got bigger and finally gangrenous."
"How long ago?" I asked.
"It's been a little over a year," he said."Got it done half-price, in exchange for encouraging for a couple of young people who my surgeon was treating. Kids who wanted to give up and not even try."
Richard and I had just watched Fargo again and the image of the foot sticking out of the wood chipper popped into my brain. I wanted to ask him what they did with his leg. Somewhere I've read, people have ceremonies and lay body parts to rest. But I didn't get the chance because he kept on talking for twenty minutes non-stop as he repaired the lock. I'd asked him what his geographical range was.
"I go to Beverly Hills," he replied.
Seems he has celebrity clients whose locks he's done for decades—people who have Emmies and Oscars in safes. For whom he has signed confidentiality agreements. He told me a few stories I won't repeat. But who would guess a locksmith's life could be the source of so many stories? He'd been approached by paparazzi to reveal information about some of "his people," but his lips are locked.
He told me he'd opened a safe and found an anaconda snake inside. Another one contained explosives. Another a cache of weapons. Another was stuffed with illegal drugs. These were safes of people who'd abandoned their homes for whatever reasons. Sometimes law enforcement was involved.
A one-man operation, he's never had an employee and he's never gone a day without work. He showed me a ring of keys marked McDonald's. He handles all their locks in the Temecula and Murrieta area. "Once you're in with these people—you're in forever," he said. I got his card at the Temecula Post Office. They had a one-inch thick stack of them.
Finally, he told me he's never run into a female locksmith and we discussed the pros and cons. I googled, "Is being a locksmith dangerous?" and found this well-written blog post.