by super sleuth
The Curiosity Shop held many treasures.
|With a heavy heart I left the cemetery. The wind had started to pick up and the temperature was dropping rapidly. What started out feeling like a warm, sunny, spring morning, had turned into a damp, cold, autumn afternoon. As the clouds rolled in I pulled my sweater tighter around my shoulders for warmth, but it didn't help. Lately it has been impossible to dress for the weather, its been changing so rapidly.
Jake's been dead for two years now, and I miss him terribly. He was my soul mate for over thirty years. He was the fire that kept me warm in winter, and the breeze that kept me cool in summer. He knew how to keep my motor running when things got rough and I wanted to quit. He breathed life into me all through my breast cancer scare, only to succumb himself to testicular cancer.
Why didn't you tell me you were dying? I would have done anything for you, the best doctors, hospitals. I miss you so. I can't go on like this much longer, I need your arms around me, I need to feel your warm body next to mine. I want out of my misery, my loneliness. Tonight, I'll do it, tonight. We'll be together soon my love...TONIGHT. DAMN this weather!
My teeth began to chatter as the rain started falling. The beautiful colors of spring had turned to the browns and grays of winter, dreary and dull like the mood I was in. I looked for a place to get in out of the rain so I ran to a small shop near-by. There was a dirty tattered awning over the front door, just large enough to provide me with enough protection from the wind and rain. A swirl of dust blew into my eyes so I turned away from the wind and faced the shop. I rubbed them to try and free the intrusion; instead my eyes began to water. Through my tears I tried to read the gold painted sign in old fancy lettering. It was difficult to make out; much of the paint had been worn away with time. It had seen better days, like me. As my eyes cleared I finally made out the words.
'Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe'.
I tried to peer into the window but the interior of the shop was very dark. It looked closed, but I was cold and needed some warmth. As I tried the old handle, a strong gust of wind nearly blew the brass lever out of my hand. I clutched it tighter and as the door swung inward it pulled me with it into this strange curious shop. The bell above the door tinkled with each successive gust of wind and was only silenced once I closed the door. Relieved to be out of the nasty weather I rested my forehead on the cool glass and said a short prayer of thanks.
I shrugged my shoulders in an attempt to shake off the chill, then I turned to look at my surroundings. The room smelled like damp, musty old leather. There was a misty haze everywhere that looked like billions of microscopic airplanes hovering in the air just waiting for their turn to land. Two old intricately carved wall sconces on either side of the narrow room provided the only light. The bulbs seemed as ancient as the sconces and barely illuminated their surroundings.
As my eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, I noticed many interesting things scattered about. On one of the four tables lining the wall to my right, was an old telescope that probably belonged to a sea captain who sailed on the high seas in the seventeen hundreds. There was also a sextant and a large compass in a big wooden box.
To my left was a long glass counter. Tucked away inside the glass case, lay a large gold brooch with a pink cameo taking prominence in the center. The brooch seemed to be part of a double strand, black pearl necklace. Next to the necklace, was a small gold locket with a lock of curly blond hair protruding out of the casing. It was as if the locket had been snapped closed hastily before the hair had been tucked away properly. A child's silver charm bracelet with a broken clasp lay next to a tarnished silver hairbrush. A mother-of-pearl inlaid music box completed the contents of the case. In the next case, several antique turn-of-the-century dolls in all their faded glory rested in peaceful slumber, seemingly undisturbed for years in their glass prison.
Along the back wall stood a dusty gray
suit-of-armor holding a long wooden handled mace. Although the visor was down I still had the feeling that it was watching every movement I made and would swing that spiked ball at me if I touched anything. I made sure I didn't go toward the back of the store, just looking at it made my body tingle and an uneasiness seeped into my chilled bones.
To my right was an elegant mannequin head with a long slender neck, and perched on top was a light brown bowl shaped hat and veil. On closer inspection I realized it was a white satin bridal hat aged with time. I smiled and thought about my own simple veil and the joy I felt on my wedding day. Jake looked so handsome in his Sunday suit as we said our I do's. That night in his arms the world seemed to vanish. We fumbled through our inexperience but it didn't matter. After several times of trial and error we soon found a happy medium that satisfied us both. I closed my eyes as I fingered the delicate lacy veil and I knew I had to have it. If I were to join Jake tonight it would be as his wife of thirty years ago. I would wear this hat and join him once again in a renewal of our continued life together. I picked up the hat and clutched it to my heart. My breathing became deep and I inhaled the love emanating from it. How many new young wives had worn this hat and veil in its long history? I would consider it an honor to join them.
I searched for the proprietor and saw no one, I called out. "HELLO? Is anyone here? I would like to purchase this hat please."
A strange sound came from the rear of the store. I walked toward it but stopped as the suit-of-armor came into view. There was a narrow space between the armor and one of the glass cases. A darkened doorway, protected by a curtain of red crystal beads lay hidden in the shadows. The glass case contained a gilt handled sword, several daggers with dragons carved on their blades and other vile-looking medieval weapons.
"HELLO?" I shouted louder hoping to alert the occupant of the back room to bring him out so I would not have to pass near the ominous looking metal man.
Again a muffled sound but no response. I headed toward the strange sound and approached the massive suit-of-armor. Although I was still chilled, beads of sweat formed on my forehead as I approached the massive figure.
It's only a metal man, it can't hurt you. What are you afraid of? You plan on doing away with yourself anyway, so why are you so afraid?
I gathered up my courage and tried to squeeze myself between the counter and the suit-of-armor, keeping as far away from the tin man as I could.
See, that wasn't so bad. Nothing to be afraid of, it's just an inanimate object.
I turned to look at the massive figure when a rustling sound startled me. Turning quickly toward the sound I bumped my head on the metal elbow of the ominous figure. It shook and rattled, so I grabbed at it, afraid I would knock something off. As I reached for the armor, I banged my knuckles into the hip plate of the metal suit, bruising the knuckles of my right hand. I quickly jammed them my into my mouth hoping to suck away the pain and any blood that might form on my knuckles.
I need to calm down, I'm only making things worse. My heart was pounding faster and harder. I took several deep breaths and closed my eyes.
I could feel my body finally relaxing, when suddenly, I was startled again by a weak raspy voice that said, "Are you finished beating up on my metallic friend?"
"No...I...I mean...yes. I'm sorry. I would really like to p...purchase this hat please." I was relieved to see the tiny man. I just wanted to pay and get out.
The elderly proprietor looked Asian and appeared to be about eighty plus years old and wore a long off white gown with a red and gold vest that came down to his knees. His hair was pure white and reached down to his waist. There was a large jade ring on his right forefinger and a black onyx pinky ring. He fingered his long mustache and beard as he looked at me over tiny gold rimmed glasses. He held a long bone handled pipe in his hand and motioned with it for me to follow him. His tiny frame squeezed between me and the metal man easily. I cautiously followed as he led me to the front of the store. He went back behind a counter that was nestled in a dark shadowy corner of the room and placed the pipe down on the distressed wooden counter top.
"Two dolla's please." he uttered.
"I'm sorry, there must be some mistake. It's very old."
"OK, OK. One dolla' and not a cent less."
"No, you don't understand. Shouldn't it be more? It is very beautiful."
The old man looked at me and smiled. He took the hat from my hand and placed it in a matching hat box covered in satin and tatted lace.
"As he handed it to me he said, "Enjoy what life you have left, it will be over soon enough. Now go." I tried to pay him but he refused to take any money from me.
I hurried home as fast as I could anxious to see my purchase in a better light. Several passers-by had stopped me and asked if they could buy the hat box. One man offered me four hundred dollars for the hat and the box. I declined all offers.
As I entered my apartment I placed my keys and purse on the nearest table and rushed into my bedroom to examine the hat more closely. My hands trembled as I carefully removed it from the box. It was beautiful. It no longer looked light brown, but a seasoned antique white.
As I placed the hat on my head I was bathed in a feeling of calmness and felt at peace with myself for the first time in years. I pulled the veil over my eyes and peered at my reflection. My body began to tingle and the vision I saw of myself in the mirror seemed to waver, to change. I closed my eyes and felt something touch my shoulder. As I opened my eyes a shadowy figure slowly materialized in the mirror. I should have been afraid...but I wasn't. As the figure came into focus I saw a face...a face I was so familiar with and I knew everything would be all right.
I leaned back and breathed in his familiar scent, a scent I had grown accustomed to over the years. Neither of us spoke, there was no need for words between us. We both knew what we wanted. I tilted my head to the side and leaned it against his shoulder. He kissed my hair, my neck and nibbled my ear lobe. My body tingled in anticipation. I felt his hands move across my shoulders and down my back. Slowly he unzipped the back of my dress. He pushed my dress down over my shoulders and as it fell to the floor I kicked it aside. His gentle hands reached around and cup my breasts, they sprang to life. I shivered in his arms and turned toward him. His lips were soft and warm. I placed my arms around his neck and pressed my body closer toward his. I could feel his need for me and my need for him. I never wanted to let him go again. He scooped me up into his arms and carried me toward our bed. We slowly peeled away each layer of our clothes and as each item was tossed to the floor, the two years of loneliness and misery also peeled away. I felt beautiful and young once again, as if it were our first time. With each kiss and caress I knew our love would span time eternal, and we would be forever young.
Several days later, Stanley Krutchner and Harvey Mason were called to investigate the disappearance of a Mrs. Kate Hutchens. The neighbors said they hadn't seen her for several days and they were worried about her. Upon entering the premises they found her nude body laying peacefully in her bed. She had a smile on her face and appeared to have died in her sleep. The coroner was called and he pronounced her dead at the scene. An autopsy was performed and the coroner said that semen was found in her body. It was speculated that maybe she had been raped and so a DNA test was performed on the semen.
"Stanley, do you remember that old lady we found dead in her bed two weeks ago?"
"Yeah. What about it?"
"Well...the DNA results came back and there is something very strange about it."
"So, tell me."
"You're not going to like this."
"Give me a break. Are you going to tell me or am I going to have to beat it out of you?"
"OK, OK. Don't get so up tight. It says here that the semen belonged to her husband, a Mr. Jake Hutchens."
"So what, the old broad had a little fun before she died. Nothin' wrong with that."
"No, you don't understand."
"For cryin' out loud. Give me that damned report."
"Let me see...Jake Hutchens, husband...DECEASED...TWO YEARS? No! This can't be right, can it?"
The well dressed young man entered the Old Curiosity Shop looking for a gift for his newly widowed mother. He wanted to get her something very special. As he looked around the strange shop, he spied an elegant mannequin head with a long slender neck, and perched on top was a light brown bowl shaped hat and veil....