I stepped out of my car and quickly closed the door. I didn’t want the upholstery to be exposed to the sheets of rain that were pounding against my windshield like paparazzi that just spotted a drunken starlet. Hiking up the collar of my coat, I walked calmly past other unlucky souls holding umbrellas or newspapers over their heads. In front of me was the pawn shop that Catherine had pointed me to. Neon lights shone through the reinforced windows advertising jewelry, guns, and fair prices. I couldn’t see the pampered and debonair Ms. Von Werner ever stepping foot inside of a place like this, but after checking the piece of paper for the third time, I balled in and threw it in the river that was passing as a gutter. I don’t worry about littering. This city is just one big piece of trash, one more piece of paper is going to have the same effect as the attempts to clean this dump up.
I opened the door, and hearing the ring of the bell over my head, shook some of the rain from my long coat. I hope I didn’t look too much like a dog that had been left on his chain for too long, but that’s exactly how I felt. A large, bearded man stood behind the counter, his enormous hands resting flat on the glass. Underneath those massive paws laid several expensive-looking watches, and a few watches that actually were that pricey.
Walking up to the counter, I decided I’d make him start the conversation. I like to see how the atmosphere of the room is before I make any moves. Placing my hands on the counter, I looked him straight in his beady eyes underneath a brow primitive enough to put that old broad Lucy to shame. He stared at me right back, and said nothing. We continued looking at each other, occasionally shifting our weight or leaning on an elbow. Finally, the man that had escaped from the natural history museum rolled his eyes.
“Well?” he asked, raising a bear of an eyebrow. So he was going to play it like that.
I threw the pictures Catherine had given me down onto the glass and jolted my finger at the first. Raising my own eyebrow as threateningly as one can, I asked him, “I need to find this ring. You seen it?” Grammar could wait until I had gotten a lead on this case.
“Yes, I bought it from a pretty young thing, as I remember. I get a thousand rings a week but this one was special. The seller as well as the jewelry,” the mountain in a button-up said.
His cooperation was throwing me off balance. Too often I had to work methodically and violently to get these sorts of answers out of people. “What did you do with it?” I asked, still on the attack. With a guy like this, you need to stay on your toes more often than a jumpy ballerina.
“Well I put it away, under the counter, here, and not too long after, a guy came in, lookin’ real excited, and paid for it. I made three hundred dollars on that ring alone. I should have you track the seller back just to thank her!”
I slammed my palms on the counter, hard enough to shake the glass in its faux-gold supports. “Look here, Sally Jim,” I don’t really know why that name came to mind, but you gotta play it by heart in this business, like a surgeon. “I want the truth about this ring and I want it now!”
The man shrunk away from the counter and put his hands up like a Frenchman who still gets surprised by Jack-in-the-Boxes. “Look man, I don’t want any trouble. That’s the truth! I swear! In fact, I still have the guy’s receipt! He didn’t want it! You can have it.”
I looked at him sidelong. Then I looked at him out of the other eye. It’s always nice to double check. I decided that as strange as it seemed, he was telling the truth. “Alright,” I said, collecting my photographs. “I’ll just head on out. BUT!” Here I jabbed a finger in his direction and he flinched very noticeably, “If I find out you were lying to me, I’ll come find you.”
The man who could break me with a heavy sigh looked at the floor and nodded, almost in a panic to get me to leave. I picked up the receipt, found a phone number printed upon it, then hiked up the corners of my collar, and stepped back out into the sheet of the rain.I looked down the street both ways until I found a phone booth standing sentinel against the waves of shoppers and business people caught on the rush hour. I swam with the current as best I could until I reached the glass booth, and hung on with one arm to brace myself from being swept away in this flood of humanity. Unfortunately, there was an eddy to the river of people, and he was taking up the booth at the time. Looking closer, I realized that it was my close associate Eddy. I shouldn’t call him that, he’s no closer to a friend than the man in the business suit that just slammed into my shoulder. Eddy was a man I had experience dealing with in the past, and was happy to have avoided for several weeks. Eddy was a man who seemed like he was unconcerned with the fact he was supposed to be talking on the phone, instead simply leaning against the glass, apparently seeking shelter from the rain. When I opened the door to ask him to leave, Eddy turned immediately around and socked me straight in the nose. My lights went out faster than a teenager’s bedroom on Prom night.