Heaven’s Gate, part 4 (Chapter 2)

7 Feb

The Devil’s antique shop, located on the corner of 3rd and Main, was something of a curiosity. It was called Unnecessary Things, so named as a bit of an inside joke, after an antique shop in a Stephen King book he picked up one day from a man missing two fingers on his right hand and whose dog almost sounded like it could talk. Odd chap, Mr. Drake felt, a bit too-serious, but the book was quite excellent and he had made a wonderful effort at having a conversation with the dog. It had ended in failure, as anyone who has made such attempts might tell you it would, but it had been a terrific attempt, and Mr. Drake thought if perhaps given more time he might have actually managed it.

The shop itself wasn’t particularly large, at least as far as antique shops go, being about large enough for two elephants to bed down sideways next to one another. This was, in fact, how Mr. Drake had performed his measurements, to the profound consternation and confusion of the real estate agent who had leased him the plot. Thankfully however, as real estate agents are discernibly unaccustomed to seeing elephants used as measuring tools, the man had passed it off as the consequence of drinking too much coffee that morning.

He had, but that didn’t change the bit about the elephants.

The inside of the shop was rather cozy all told, and the items thoughtfully laid out with short, informative labels so that customers might know what it is they were supposed to be impressed by, while the small white price tags told them how much they were supposed to be impressed by it.

The variety of the items present in the shop was, in a word, staggering.

There were teacups from 16th century China, tribal garments from central Africa along with gold scarabs recovered from pyramids. There were Viking helmets, renaissance paintings, a pebble reputedly owned by Genghis Khan—it had gotten stuck in his boot and had been fished out and summarily thrown away…”owned” is such a vague term—one of George Washington’s teeth, and a set of candlesticks bought from a flea market by Marie Curie which still emitted startling amounts of radiation, greatly confusing anyone who happened to possess a Geiger counter and who happened to walk by the store while using it. The shop was full of interesting things, and Mr. Drake loved nothing more than taking inventory and seeing just how many wondrous things he had come by over the centuries.

Business in the antique shop was much as it was for all such small independently owned runs stores: slow. But seeing as generating income was hardly an issue, Mr. Drake could otherwise be said to be doing excellent business. He sold things as often as he wished to, which was rarely, but as this hardly differed from the practices of most antique shop owners, it can hardly be said to be noteworthy.

His last sale, for instance, had been two weeks previous, when a pair of young children, twins by the look of them, one boy and one girl of perhaps ten years of age, had entered the shop looking for something to entertain them—though the day had been quite lovely and any sensible person would be out enjoying it; that’s children for you of course, no sense when it came to such things, not knowing what they would be missing in their eventual age. The boy, a sandy-haired lad with wide cheek bones and the sort of bearing that suggested he was quite excellent at kickball, had expressed a studied disinterest in a pair of wooden soldiers that had, incidentally, been carved from a tree which Robin Hood had once used for target practice, and which had been likewise used by Jonathan Douglas, a woodsman, for storing his sack lunches while he took naps beneath it on alternate Sundays.

The young lady, for her part, idly ran her fingers through her curly brown hair while gazing curiously at a puzzle box whose shape appeared, and in fact, was, geometrically and physically impossible. Thinking he might wish to keep the item a little longer—Mr. Drake liked using it as a coaster—the proprietor strode smartly forward holding a small box in the crook of his arm.

“Hello there young lady,” he said cordially, offering a somewhat ridiculous bow and tipping an altogether imaginary hat.

The girl giggled, then tipped an imaginary hat right back. “Hello there middle-aged man.”

At this, Mr. Drake laughed uproariously, his handsome face slowly turning red from the lack of incoming oxygen. After a moment, he managed to regain control of himself, then wagged a playful finger at the little girl.

“You shouldn’t make an old man laugh so hard!” he chastened. “I’m likely to forget myself altogether and spend the rest of the day laughing and not making sales.”

The child looked at him speculatively, then spoke abruptly. “I’m Susan. My brother’s name is Mikey. We were bored and want something interesting.”

“Hmmmm. Well, Susan, my name is Mr. Drake, and as for Mikey, I think he may have already found something.” Indeed, the young man had scarcely moved since picking up the soldiers. One could only imagine what he was thinking, but it was more likely than not something along the lines of whether or not the soldiers might be capable of being catapulted. Mr. Drake, a noted expert in such things, was of the opinion they might make less than ideal projectiles. But, wise old—well, old in the eyes of children—shopkeeper that he was, he took care not to express this opinion to his potential customer.

“Mikey always finds interesting things.” Susan’s voice was flat, suggesting it had been her long experience of having her brother encounter the interesting things while she proved less lucky. “I want something special.”

Thinking for a moment, and wearing a curious expression on his face, one somewhere between nostalgia and sympathy, Mr. Drake nodded. “I understand exactly, Miss Susan. I think I may have just the thing.” So saying, he rummaged around behind his desk, and at length drew forth an odd marble.

“This…” he began, “is something quite special indeed.” He rolled the marble around in his dexterous, long-fingered hands, careful to keep it out of the sunlight streaming through the window so as not to spoil the surprise.

“Watch closely.”

“I’m watching. Nothing is happening.”

Mr. Drake smiled in anticipation, and lightly flipped the marble into the air, where it caught the light and veritably exploded into colors, beams of multi-colored light poring out of it at every angle. He caught it handily, ending the effect.

Susan’s eyes were the size of plates. “WOW! Do it again! Do it again!”

Mr. Drake shook his head, causing the poor little thing to frown.

“Why not?” Her voice quivered, and she made a face very much like a bedraggled kitten’s. Mr. Drake wasn’t exactly ordinary, but even he couldn’t resist that one.

He sighed, and his shoulders sagged. “I can’t…”

And here Susan looked even sadder, if such a thing were possible.

“…But how about you try?” he grinned, passing her the marble.

Say what you will, the Devil is one hell of a salesman.

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