|Guns and Ammo Shop
“It’s the third one this week. We have to do something about this. It’s costing us too much.” George threw the bank notice on the desk.
“What do you want me to do? Lock the door?” Andy picked up the notice, read it. Then he looked at George.
“Quit taking his bloody checks. I’m the boss, I make the rules. No more checks.”
“I feel sorry for the guy. Stranger in town.” Andy shrugged his shoulders. He felt defeated.
“What do you know about him?” asked George.
“Just that he showed up about a month ago. He wandered in here, bought a few things, asked where he could stay. He didn’t say anything else.”
George picked up the notice again. “So did you get any ID from this ‘Michael Justice’?”
Andy blushed just a bit. “Um, no. Guess I didn’t.”
“So he was in three times, and three times he wasn’t asked for his ID? Come on, Andy. You’re killin’ me. I’m not a welfare state here. I’m not made of money. Bottom line, he comes in again, no cash money, no purchase. Got it?”
Andy nodded. “Got it.”
The two men left the office. They went about their tasks in the store. George set up the cash drawer. Andy swept the floor, turned on lights, unlocked the door.
Waiting outside was Michael Justice. Andy let him inside. Justice walked to the counter, checked the inventory.
“Can I help you?” George asked.
“I’d like to buy some of those there bullets.” He stared at George. His face was blank. No expression. Dark hair and eyes to match, disheveled clothes, no jacket on a cold day.
“I’m sorry but you’ll have to be more specific.” There were boxes of assorted sizes and types on the shelves behind George. Large gauge, small gauge. All calibers. Blanks, all types. “What type of weapon do you have?”
“This type.” Michael Justice held a gun to George’s head. “And I don’t have anything but a check to pay for what I want. Do you have a problem with that?”
George’s loose knees made him grip the counter to keep from falling. George felt like puking. All Andy could do was stare in disbelief, the broom in his hand.
“Well, then, ummmm. I guess I’ll need to see some I.D. Mr….”
“Justice. Michael Justice. My I.D.’s been stolen. All I have is this.” He dug in a pocket; soon a much-folded scrap of paper came over the counter.
George carefully unfolded it, keeping one eye on the guy and the gun. “So all you have to identify yourself is this card from the National Audubon Society?”
“Yeah. That’s it. Will that be enough?”
“Well, you see we have a problem, You’ve been in here a few times, and those other checks, well, they were returned by the bank for insufficient funds. So I’ll need to see some cash buddy.”
Michael lowered the gun. “Maybe I can get some cash from my family. I’ll be back.” He walked out of the store.
George looked at Andy. Andy had resumed his floor sweeping.
“So what do you make of that? Pretty weird.”
“Was that an actual membership card?” Andy swept a path over to George.
“Seemed to be, but it was an antique. From the 1890’s. Maybe it’s worth some money as a collectible.”
The day in the gun shop proceeded as usual. No sales worth much of anything. Harold came in to buy some shells. He was headed out for the first day of mule deer season. Murphy stopped by to chat. He never spent any money, just wasted everyone’s time. T.J. had his eye on a pistol, but had to talk to the wife. Seems she didn’t take kindly to forking over $500 on what she thought was a toy. Pretty soon it was almost time to close. Then in walked Michael Justice.
“I’m back to get those there bullets,” Justice said. He clutched a wad of bills in his hand.
George thought for a moment. “Tell you what, Mr. Justice. I’ll take whatever cash you have. I’ll forget the bad checks, give you the ammo you need. All you need to do is hand over that Audubon membership card.”
Michael Justice considered this for a few moments.
George repeated the offer. “That’s the deal. Ammo and amnesty for card and cash.”
Andy stood by with a big smile. He had locked the door.
Michael looked at Andy, looked back to George.
“So I can get those bullets? And all I have to do is give you this money? And my paper?”
“You bet. That’s it.” George leaned on the counter. His eyes were on the cash in Michael’s hand. “Just give me all you have and you can get what you want.”
“Well alright then, here you go.” He put the cash on the counter, then laid the Audubon card on top. “I’ll take a box of bullets to fit this gun.” The weapon he had earlier was out on the counter.
George grabbed the box and gave it to Michael. They shook hands.
“Pleasure doing business with you, sir,” George said.
Michael took the box and his weapon. He walked to the locked door. “ Thank you and good bye.”
Andy unlocked the door, let Michael out.
“So Andy, I think we came out ahead in this venture.” George began to count the cash. Suddenly he stopped, laid the bills back on the counter and began the count again. “This can’t be right.”
“What’s wrong, George?” Andy now stood at George’s elbow.
“I’ve counted this a few times. You count.”
Andy counted the pile of cash. “I got $56.00.” He handed the bills back to George.
“Right. We’ve been snookered. That sneak. Those bullets cost twice that. Plus the cost of the returned checks, so now we’re out a whole pile of dough.” George opened the folded paper. He read the Audubon Society membership card. “Well now then, wait a second. What’s this?”
“See something?” Andy crowded in for a look
“See that signature? It’s Brewster, who is named on the card. I wonder…..”
“Wonder what?” Andy had a confused look on his face.
“Ebay auctions. I wonder if we could cash this in. Make some money on this.”
“It’s worth a try. He gave it to you. Consider it a gift, and once someone gives you something….”
“…..it’s yours to do with as you see fit.” George finished Andy’s thought.
They both smiled.
“Bonus points. Score one for the team.” George slapped his hand on the counter. “This little gem gets listed tonight.”
Several days went by with no bids on the Audubon membership card. George and Andy were puzzled. They were sure this little paper treasure was their ticket to wealth and fame.
The days drug on. Customers were few and far between in the gun and ammo shop. But one day all that changed.
Another mysterious customer made their way into the shop. This time a woman neither knew made her way to the counter. George stopped entering numbers in his current Sudoku game.
“Are you the owner?” The woman’s voice instantly caused George’s knees to buckle. He gripped the counter tightly. She stood no taller than a small child but her voice was low and loud. She had green eyes and white blonde hair, with a small pointy nose.
“Why yes, yes I am. May I help you?”
Andy peeked around the corner of a back shelf.
“I need to buy the item you listed on eBay. That Audubon membership card is mine.” She put a large black purse on the counter.
Her eyes were like green lasers thought George. There was something strange about this person. He had a bad feeling, a very bad feeling.
“Is that so.” George thought about this for a moment. The small woman stared at him. “Let me get it. I have it in the office in the back.” He turned and headed back to the store office. Along the way he whispered to Andy.
“Keep an eye on that woman. I got a bad feeling about her.” George continued to the office.
Andy’s eyes went to the woman as he made his way to the counter. He nervously cleared his throat.
“Ahem……George’ll be right back.” She didn’t look like anyone he knew. “Nice weather we’re having.” Nope, no one he’d ever seen before.
The mystery woman stared at Andy. She didn’t speak. Suddenly she noted the
Sudoku game. A few seconds later she’d finished it.
“I think it’s a bit chilly for March,” she said. “In fact, I predict it will snow here in about an hour.” The woman stared at Andy. Her green eyes tracked his every move.
Andy looked out the window. The sun was shining. It was 60 degrees. The weatherman predicted an early spring.
“Here we go. Here’s that card.” George arrived from the back office carrying an envelope. “I think the price I set on this was $300.00.”
“You’re mistaken. The price for that item has been lowered to zero dollars. Hand it over.” The mysterious woman took a gun from her large purse. She pointed it at Andy’s head. “Now.”
Andy closed his eyes. His lips were moving, perhaps in a prayer thought George.
“Oh, hey now. No need for that Miss. I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name. Here you go. Here’s what you want.” George handed the envelope to the mystery woman.
The gun remained pointed at Andy’s head as she slid the envelope into the big black purse.
“Very well. Like I told this one, it’s going to snow here in about an hour. Thank you for the membership card.” The gun slowly came down as the mysterious woman backed away from the counter. Andy’s eyes remained closed. George stood still and watched her leave the store.
“You okay Andy? She’s gone.” George tapped Andy on the shoulder.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I thought I was a goner. What in the world was that all about? Are you sure she’s gone?” Andy leaned over and held his ankles, about ready to faint.
“Pretty sure. What’s this about snow? It’s 60 degrees out there. The sun is shining. But whatever. She’ll have a surprise later when she opens that envelope.”
“Oh yes, yes I did. She got a copy of the card. Not the original. Like I said, I had a bad feeling about her. Spooky like.” George picked up his Sudoku book. “What’s this? Did you finish my game?”
“No, mystery woman did that in about 2 seconds. Quick as anything. Why.”
“She left a message with the game. It says ‘It’ll rain, it’ll snow. I’ll gain, you’ll know. All is pain, just let go.’ Goofy. What does a stupid little rhyme like that mean?”
So for the next hour George and Andy worried over the Sudoku rhyme. They dissected it, word by word. Analyzed the meaning or lack of, replayed each moment the mystery woman was in the store, remembered what she did, she said. Did they know her? Was she in disguise?
Suddenly the lights went off. Snow started falling out of the ceiling. George and Andy stood on top of the counter.
“What the…….George? That crazy woman was right, it’s snowing.”
“We need to get out of here. Before this gets too deep.”
“Do you think she put a curse on us? Do you think that rhyme was a curse?”
Andy climbed off the counter into several feet of the cold white mass. George followed. They plowed a path to the front door. Both tried the door, but it was blocked by the snow. George banged on the glass panel with his boot, then with a nearby chair. The snow continued to fall. It was soon to their chins.
“Andy…..we’re not…..able……..to get…” George fell facedown into the snow. He disappeared in the white mound surrounding him.
Andy tried to move, then he too disappeared.
Outside a large white owl sat on the telephone wire. Its green eyes focused on the movements inside the gun shop. Once all was quiet, it flapped large wings and flew away.
Michael Justice sat and waited. Suddenly a tapping at the window caught his attention. A large white owl sat on the windowsill. He opened the window, let the bird inside.
“Is it through?”
The small woman with the green eyes, small pointed nose, and white blonde hair stood before Michael. She gave him a small slip of paper.
“Just like you told me to write, ‘‘It’ll rain, it’ll snow. I’ll gain, you’ll know. All is pain, just let go.’ They are buried in the snow. The entire store is filled with it. Just like you asked me to do.”
Michael walked over to the window. “Time for you to leave. Thank you and goodbye.”
The small woman instantly transformed into a large white owl. The owl hopped up to the window ledge, turned its green eyes on Michael for a moment. Then she flapped her large wings and flew off into the night.
Michael Justice sat behind a desk. He took the piece of paper the woman had delivered. It was the original cardboard membership card for the Audubon Society. With a match, he lit the corner and watched it burn.