“Well, you got to realize how easy it is for them pipes to grow out of control,” Ffolkes said. “My system, I have to go in every day in the summer, every other in the fall, with the snips to cut off the little steam pipes as they bud off. It’s easy when they’re that small.”

Moyer looked at the cellar door, uneasily. “You’re saying Jacobi didn’t do that?”

“I kept telling him. Snip them pipes when they’re a quarter inch, before any steam can flow through them, and seal with a spot weld or solder. Easiest thing in the world. Let them go too far and they’ll start growing boilers. ‘Well, maybe I like boilers’ he says.”

“And then one day, he didn’t come back.”

“You let a boiler system grow too much, other things start moving in,” Ffolkes drawled. “You might get a concrete infestation, growing floors where you don’t want ‘em, and that’ll take a jackhammer to pull out. Might even get an electrical system growing on the ceiling, and you know they’d never wired quite right without a little tending. Good way to get electrocuted.”

It was time, Moyer thought, to start considering worst-case scenarios. “What’s the worst you’ve ever seen, or heard of?”

“I heard that up by Grant, when they dug up the old utility building, they found a steam turbine generator,” Ffolkes said. “Never seen it myself. Worst I ever seen woulda been the house on the other side of town, where they yanked it down without digging up the pipes and had no idea anything was wrong until radiators started sprouting two doors down.”

Moyer looked toward the door again. Jacobi, or what was left of him, was surely down there, in a labyrinth of rocks and steam.

And no bets for who had to go in after him.

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