A funny thing happened Friday night. I smashed my finger in a door, causing it to become completely useless for typing. I didn't do it on purpose. Honest. That said, I haven't written for the last two days, and am way behind in my word count. Its a bit better right now, so I'm going to gun for a couple thousand words tonight. I'll post a bit from last weeks writing in the interim. By the way, blogger does strange things to the text when I cut and paste from word. Hmm.
Run down buildings and hovels badly in need of paint lined the streets of the poor quarter, housing that only the downtrodden or those down on their luck would care to afford. While the section wasn’t very large--owing to the citys prosperity--it did have a sharp edge to it. Children played in the dirt or ran screaming through the trash littered streets; older males peered at them with unfriendly eyes on stoops or from front yards. Fred and Dundee felt conspicuously out of place, Fred in his pin striped suit and greatcoat, Dundee in his leather and crocodile skin.
Fred stopped outside a pawn shop, approximating the location that the aforementioned thief had requested directions leading to. Nodding to Dundee, Fred entered the shop as the Treasure Hunter moved out according to plan: Fred’s role spending time inconspiculously in the business while Dundee scouted the surrounding alleyway and reported back.
The inside of the shop was dingy, the smeared windows letting in little of the late afternoon sun as Fred hesitated in the doorway for a moment, his eyes quickly adjusting to the low light. Hanging above the door was a bell that had rung shrilly as Fred pushed open and closed the door. The proprietor noisily cleared his throat, acknowledging Fredericks presencse.
Avoiding his gaze for the moment, Fred decided to make a show of browsing about. Taking a tentative step forward onto a dingy, almost threadbare throw rug, he scanned the interior layout of the shop. Almost jungle-like in appearance, there were three clear paths, two hugging the walls on either side of the room and one bisecting the center. Wall and celing decorations seemed to drape over the room like foliage, and assorted tropical and deciduous plantlife lent to the look of overgrown forest.
Where he stood the fibers of the rug were worn down to the lining, presumably from the countless other feet that had stood here and made the same observations he had. There were various assorted items adorning the entire store, hung from ceiling and wall, heaped up on tables and floor. All available space was filled with some oddity or other, and most of it looked cheap to his critical eye. He wrinkled his nose at the musty smell and thick, filthy scent of old cigar smoke permeating the establishment. A shiny object caught his eye and he turned his head, slowly leaving the carpet at the entrance and following a faint path that disappeared as he began treading on a different specimen of carpet, leaving a few footprints behind from the dust and dirt of the street. This particular rug was decorated with an elaborate oriental pattern, strange swirls and foreign runes decorating its brightly hued colors.
On the table in front of him were various knickknacks and assorted useless ceramics, the kind that would decorate the lobby of a cheap hotel or the souvenier case of a home. Lining the near wall was unfinished or marked and beaten up furniture—mostly chairs--that were all labeled with a crudely hand lettered sign, “antiques.” Brushing his hand against a collection of chimes hanging from the celing, Fred made his way over to a pile of battered, rusty chests and cases in the southwest corner as the faint tinkling of the chimes followed him. As he tested the lock on one particular weather battered trunk, the proprietor broke the tomblike stuffy silence of the store.
“It’s locked. They all are.”
Fred nodded absently and continued to browse, sparing a quick glance over in the direction of the pawn shop owner. Sitting behind a screened in desk, the man was disgustingly wide and filled out the area admirably, his white tank top smeared with stains from, Fred presumed, lunch a few hours ago. Most of his hair covered his arms and chest, his bald pate dull with sweat in the stuffy room. He cleared his throat again—a harsh, disgusting rolling sound, like a stick being pulled out of mud-- and, as if on cue, began rummaging in a drawer next to his desk, pulling out a fat silver foil wrapped cigar and green glass ashtray. Turning his attention back to a particularly awful painting by some unknown artist, Fred cocked his head sideways to match the skewed angle it hung at and attempted to decipher what, precisely, a thick curly black squiggle was doing in the middle of a river. At least, he thought it was a river. It could also be the sky inverted. Maybe it wasn’t the sky at all, but a pack of badgers parachuting into a hot spring. The sound of a flame flared up and died, and the big man began puffing on the stogie.
“Hey you. C’mere,” he growled around the thick cigar.
Fred carefully picked his way over, stepping over a wilting poinsettia and ducking under a gaudy pink chandelier which hung very low from the ceiling. A hanging tassel caught in his face and he spluttered it out, picking out the strands and dust that caught in his teeth.
“You gonna muck around all day, or are ya gonna pawn something?”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize there was a rush. By all means, let your other patrons go first.”
Baldy flicked grey ash from the end of the cigar and stuck it back in the corner of his mouth.
“Smartass. There ain’t no hurry. But you’s looking like you’s a seller, not a buyer. I gotta strict no loitering policy, see?” He gestured forward over the counter at the misspelled “NO LOITURING” sign that hung tacked onto the wooden desk.
“Fair enough,” Fred relented, searching through his pockets for something to play at pawning with.
“How’s this?” He said, solemnly placing the gold pocket watch on the counter. Baldy cracked his knuckles loudly and smirked, depreciatingly.
Fred looked appalled. “This is an antique! More so than that garbage over there,” he said, gesturing at the antiques sign and the various junk oddities it labeled.
Loudly snorting the mucous out of his nose and into the back of his throat, Baldy leaned closer, squinting at the watch. His breath smelled like rotten fish and he whistled loudly through his nostrils as he inhaled, his lungs working laboriously around his generous bulk.
“I’ll give you 3 for it.”
Fred guffawed, beginning to warm up to the bartering.
“It’s worth 10 times that. No deal.” He extended his arm as if to take the watch back off the desk and return it to his pocket.
Scratching at his left nostril with a dirty fingernail, Baldy made a noise of dissent.
“Make me an offer.”