London's Treasures
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 4
Chapter 4 of 12

Barron Oddheim stood outside of the door into the agency.  He took a deep breath, held it for a moment, then released it through tight lips.  Dread?  Was that what this feeling in the pit of his stomach was?  Regret?  Embarrassment, that’s what it was.  As much as he hated it, these people where his best option, his only option really.  He just didn’t want to face them; they probably wouldn’t even talk to him, and he wouldn’t blame them if they wouldn’t hear him out.  But there was only one way to find out what would happen.


Raising his head, he looked at the simple plain door, ‘Frogg Brothers’ was all it said on the frosted dirty glass, behind the bars that protected the door window from being entered through after the glass was broken, which was probably the only reason it hadn’t been broken.  Not making an appointment was also his best way of getting a chance to talk to them; just show up and get to it.  Standing here being indecisive wasn’t the answer.  With reluctance, he took the two steps up to the door, tried the latch, unlocked, so they’d be in their office.  He pushed the door open and started inside.


As he passed through the outside door into the small entry to the next door, he noticed a small camera that would give a view of the exterior of the building.  If they were watching, they’d know he was here.  Maybe he dawdled to long.  He gathered his resolve, no backing out now, this was too important.  He grabbed the handle of the second door into their office and strode in with stature.


Two of the Frogg brothers were sitting behind their desk, which was one long desk with dividers between them like accountants desks from a bygone age in counting houses.  They both smiled wryly at him.


“Why if it isn’t Barron Von Odd-hymen.  Eviscerater-At-Large.”  The eldest of the pair looked to the middle one of age.  “Tell me brother did you smell that the sewer was backing up?”


“Why no brother, but I can tell by the pile of fecal matter before us, it has.”


Barron sighed deeply.  “Pessach, Yitzchak, so where is Zevulun?”


Both the brothers dropped their faÇ;ade smiles at the same time.  “Why do you care?”  Yitzchak asked.


“Why are you here old man?”  Pessach questioned.


“You have a lot of gall showing your face here Odd-hymen.”  Yitzchak stated.


“After all the things you’ve said about us, and publicly I might add.”  Pessach followed with.  “The Frogg brothers are charlatans, soothsayers, they are nothing more than rascals that seek out the gullible to peddle their tricks and guiles on for monetary gain of their own through dishonesty and deceit.  They convince the unwitting that they are accursed and that they, are their only means of divination against the occult.”


Barron nodded slowly.  “You remember that almost verbatim.”


“HA!  Almost, no Barron Von Odd-Hymen, that is verbatim, that is exactly what you said and what was printed in the newspaper.”  Pessach declared as he pointed to a frame on the wall behind him.  “I framed it and hung it on the wall.  I have read those words nearly everyday for the past twelve years since you said them!  And now you have the audacity to set foot into our sanctum!  I must say Barron Von Odd-Hymen, you do have big balls.”


“Big balls and a small mind.”  Yitzchak added.


“I suppose I deserve that.  Maybe I’ve had a change of heart.”  Barron meekly replied.


“Maybe you’ve had… a change of heart.  How refreshing and warming.”  Pessach returned.  “I should toss you out on your ear sir!”  Pessach ran a hand along his head smoothing his hair.  “But alas, I, Pessach Frogg, charlatan and soothsayer, shall be the bigger man.  I will give you a brief moment to explain yourself Barron.  Be quick, my patients grows thinner by the second just looking at you.”


Sighing again, Barron asked, “Where is Zevulun?  He’s the one I should probably be talking to; from what I understand, what I’m here to talk about is… his area… of expertise.” 


“Our brother, Barron Von…”  Pessach paused, calmed himself, took a breath then smiled as he contained himself from insulting mister Oddheim again.  “Barron, is currently in London, Scotland Yard to be exact.  He is meeting with an inspector there and containing an artifact of ill repute and returning with it.  Our brother, mister Oddheim, is doing this after he stopped a man whom was causing many deaths with this artifact.  This may amuse you Barron, but this artifact, which some mistakenly have called a golden asp, is actually a black mamba; when a living creature, such as a human, casts their eyes upon this golden serpent at the crest of the setting sun, they become poisoned, painfully so, and die before dawn.  Twice a month, once on the full moon, once on the new moon, as part of a dark ritual, he would unveil this golden serpent to the unsuspecting, causing their death.  For two and a half years this viper has been murdering the innocent with this accursed object.  And my brother, mister Oddheim, has stopped this from happening; this, Barron, is what charlatans do sir, we protect the innocent.”


“I see.”  Barron Oddheim began, before he could say more, Pessach went off again.


“Do you Barron?  Do you truly see?  You have been most critical of my and my brothers’ work for years!  Chastising us at every turn and opportunity!  Casting us into the mud and stomping on us with your highbrow status, archeologist extraordinaire!  Not once giving myself or my brothers, rabbis all, and learned men, the slightest of ear to consider what we claim.  Insults and demeaning, that is all you’ve had for us!”


Instead of responding, Barron Oddheim took a photo print out from his coat pocket, approached the desk and held it out to Pessach.  With reluctance he tore his eyes from glaring at Barron and looked at the picture; then he snatched it from his hand.  He surveyed the picture for several moments, his face glazed into question.


“Where did you get this?”  He asked Barron with urgency in his tone.


“Have you ever heard of a man by the name of Horace Goat?”  Barron asked.


The two brothers looked at each other quickly, held for a moment then calmly looked back to Barron.


Pessach held out a hand palm up towards a chair in front of the desk.  “Please Barron Oddheim, won’t you have a seat.”  He offered in a kind and polite voice and tone.


“Thank you Pessach, I will.”  Barron stated then took to the chair in front of Pessach.


Once Barron was seated, Pessach spoke.  “The ring of Cecily of York has surfaced again, most unfortunate.  I presume the bride to be is no longer with us?  Killed her betrothed on the night of her engagement?  Then took her own?”


Mister Oddheim’s face became stricken.  “Yes… how… how did you know that?”


“Curses, mister Oddheim, all have their mechanics.  Cursed items that act simply by existing and affect those around them, are the simplest of curses, these can typically be disposed of, destroyed, and the curse along with them.  They seldom survive long.  Relics, my good man, these contain curses that, for lack of a better term, they must be activated; a specific set of circumstances initiate the curse.  Many require an act of greed, money must be exchanged, the relic sold for the right reason to the right person, then the curse becomes active.  Such items as these often exist for decades without being discovered as being accursed.  They do so because they are inactive, waiting for the right moment, the right situation to bring their curse to life again.  These relics usually cannot be destroyed, they are of the truest and purest of curses.  They always return.  They can usually be contained, kept safe from the populace they wish to reek havoc on.  This ring, is such an item that cannot be destroyed.  The last person whom tried, was blinded because of the effort.  And Horace Goat, is no man, Barron Oddheim.”  Pessach extrapolated.


“If he’s not a man, then what is he?  Who is he?”  Barron questioned, his face betraying his distress at hearing what Pessach told him; he was becoming a believer.


“He has had many names, hundreds of thousands of names over the millennia.  As to what he is, mister Oddheim, he is a guardian, the keeper of the gate, the gates of Hell, mister Oddheim.  If you’ve met this man, you’d do well to keep your distance good sir.  He roams the earth, seeking out whom he may consume.  He is an ancient evil, mister Oddheim.  It is he whom we seek to contain the best we can.  Wherever he goes, Barron, Hell follows close behind.  He is perceived as a kind and feeble old man, but this, he is most certainly not; he sells his wears to the unsuspecting, his only goal, his only satisfaction, is misery and sadness.  His only currency, the souls of those he has dammed.”


Disbelief filled Barron’s face now.  “You’ve got to be kidding me, that is so far fetched, it can’t be…”


“But it is true Barron.”  Yitzchak cut in.  “In your heart, you know it is true, that is why you are here, coming to people you once called charlatans, seeking our aid.  You know this ring was destroyed, by the current Queen of England.  To activate this curse, the ring must be given, not bought, given to the intending groom to be again given to his intended bride, just as it was when the ring was first given, in a marriage that was wrongly annulled.  When a relic such as this ring is destroyed, it returns to the keeper of the gate, so he may induce the curse again.  Tell me of how this happened please, mister Oddheim, the recently converted?”


Though Barron didn’t like what he was hearing, it went against everything he believed, had been taught, and what he himself had once taught, and though he was struggling with believing what he was told himself, he was losing the battle against not believing.


“The young man, Mark, Mark Grammar, he ran a coffee bar in a store that recently opened.  A mutual friend gave the shop owners my card, they contacted me and I put several displays in their store.  It wasn’t long after they were in business, I found out Horace Goat had also set up a display for his goods in their store.  I advised them against it, but the merchandise he provided them, sold well.  Mark said a friend gave him the ring to give to his girlfriend.  And he did.  He proposed at his parents house to the girl, they went out to dinner to celebrate, just the two of them.  The next day, he didn’t show up to open the coffee shop.  He was found early in the afternoon, murdered in his apartment by his fiancé; she stabbed him in the heart with a chefs knife.  She cut her wrists then hung herself in the bathroom.”  Barron recited of the details.


“And was Horace Goat the one whom gave this ring to this Mark?”  Yitzchak inquired.


“No one knows.  He never told anyone who gave it to him, he only told his sister that a friend gave it to him.”  Barron returned.


“No money changed hands, a gift of a gift of love, only to be a sentence of death.”  Pessach commented blankly.


“That wasn’t the first odd death.  There was another man, a postal carrier, car enthusiast.  Bought a collection of scale model cars.  They were supposed to be mint edition collectors of 1962 muscle cars, they had a certificate of authenticity and everything.  This man buys them, then, finds out they’re not scale models at all, they were supposedly Matchbox cars.  He was on his way back to town early in the morning to take issue with the owner of the store, he paid around four thousand dollars for the collection, and he died in a crash before he got to town.”  Barron further informed the Frogg brothers.


“The Tucker curse.  That came up sooner than expected.”  Yitzchak stated from deep thought.


Barron’s face crunched.  “The Tucker curse?  You mean like the car?  Tucker’s Automobile?  That Tucker?”


“Yes, that’s the one.”  Yitzchak answered.


“But… Preston Tucker died in 1956, December 26th if I remember right.  He wasn’t around in 1962.”  Barron said.


Pessach raised an eyebrow.  “I’m impressed, I never thought I’d ever say that to you Barron, an archeologist that knows his car makers.”


“I know history Pessach, not cars.”  Barron retorted.


“It has nothing to do with what the cars are Barron.”  Yitzchak started.  “It’s a curse.  The original collection was a collection of model horse and buggy setups from a company that was put out of business by the auto industry, this collection was sent anonymously to Preston Tucker inside of a small coffin.  It was presumed that one of the presidents of the big three automakers had sent it to Preston as a message.  The collection becomes whatever the buyer wants it to be.  In this case, 1962 muscle cars, something he would be willing to pay more than he could afford to for them.  And like the collection originally was, they become junk after thirteen days.  That’s how this curse works.  And the buyer, will die in their car.  And the certificate of authenticity, the last time we ran across it, is, was, signed Henry Ford, only the writing wasn’t his, it’s actually Preston Tucker’s.”


“That collection is the newest accursed relic in existence, to the best of our knowledge.  We’re still learning about it.  Were the cars from this collection recovered?”  Pessach asked.


“I don’t know… no, they weren’t.  Now that I think about it, I did overhear Denver asking the county Sheriff about them, he said they hadn’t any luck finding them.”  Barron replied.


Pessach and Yitzchak looked to each other and held each others eyes for a moment, both began nodding at the same time then looked forward.


“It appears this curse has no reset time and can be reintroduced right away.  Not surprising actually, it is young, and not that powerful of a curse, only affecting one person at a time.”  Pessach stated then looked at Barron again.  “It’s most likely back in Horace Goat’s possession and may even be in a shop somewhere, to lure its next victim into its clutches.”


“You said that Mark Grammar was given this ring by a friend, no one knows whom this friend was, correct Barron?”  A new voice asked coming from beside them a short distance away; all looked towards the voice.


“Zevulun!  Dear brother, you have returned, again without so much as a call or text.  Welcome home Brother Frogg!”  Pessach greeted Zevulun with a cheery grin; Yitzchak was also grinning large at seeing their youngest brother.


Zevulun had come from a side office, he held his eyes on Barron with a light pleasant smile on his face and eyes of seriousness.  “Early this morning, I’ve been in solace and meditation after placing the golden viper in the citadel.  Yes Yitzchak, I did visit Paris, no, I did not speak with whom you are wondering, but I did glean some information.  Pessach, after I left the Yard, I met with her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second in private chambers.  I will not disclose the entirety of that meeting, but I will speak this.  We discussed the destruction of a certain ring.  Barron, I saw a picture of it on Facebook after it was posted announcing the engagement of Mark Grammar and Veronica Nelson.  Yes, Pessach, I have, the ring has a dormancy of thirteen years, thirteen days and thirteen hours, as I suspected.  Yitzchak, I fear not, we will not be able to recover and contain it before it is given again, and you are both right in assuming as soon as the young lady died, the ring returned to Horace Goat, as he is calling himself here in America and England.”


The two Frogg brothers behind the desk laughed together.


“Guess what I’m thinking now Zevulun.”  Pessach asked.


Zevulun reached into his right pants pocket, pulled something, a red ball, out.  “Supper ball.”  He said then tossed it to Pessach who caught it in midair.  “Stop seeing that goy girl Yitzchak, the gothic Jewish girl, a much better choice.  She will remain faithful and will become valuable to us all in our endeavors; she is an accepting girl, willing to learn and with discretion.  Dump the goy, really, a good Jew such as yourself, and a rabbi,” he scoffed lightly, “no business with a goy dear brother.  Keep it in the family.  Horace, he has been hanging around the London’s shop?”  Clearly his last bit was for Barron.


Barron Oddheim blinked several times, trying to collect all that had just happened and make sense of it.  Just as he opened his mouth to speak, Zevulun spoke suddenly.


“Clairvoyant is the word you’re looking for, not psychic, I listen to the whispers.”


“That is…”


“Kind of creepy, yes.  It is.  Has Horace Goat been hanging around the shop?”


“Don’t you…”


“If I already knew, I wouldn’t be asking Barron.  It doesn’t work that way.”


“I don’t know if he has or not.  He’s never been there when I’ve visited.”  Barron answered.


Now Zevulun broke eye contact with Barron and looked to Pessach.  “He no longer views us as charlatans and soothsayers that are nothing more than rascals that seek out the gullible to peddle their tricks and guiles on for monetary gain of their own through dishonesty and deceit.  You may do your deed now, as you have foreseen.”  He looked back to Barron.  “I must apologize for my eldest brother’s ‘warm’ welcome Barron.”


Pessach stood from the desk, turned to the wall behind him and went to it; he removed the framed newspaper article, then went to Barron and held the clipping in the frame out to him.  “For you Barron Oddheim, my personal gift to you, from all three of the Frogg brothers.  Would you also care to retract your comment pertaining to us as best hunting vampires also?”


Yitzchak and Zevulun snickered; Barron reached out and took the framed clipping from Pessach as he looked at it.


“Yes.  I retract everything negative I’ve ever said about you Frogg brothers.”  Barron stated lowly as he held the clipping in the frame.


“I knew this day would come.  The Rebbi told me of it, the one time we spoke when I was a young boy.  Let this be a reminder to you, as it has been to me.  Look upon it daily, and remember today.  It will keep what you know real and fresh in your mind Barron.”  Pessach told him.


Barron looked off in thought, and held for several minutes.  The brothers had convinced him, and he would do just as they instructed.  His thoughts wandered to other times and places; his eyes were opened now, he had a new understanding of things.


“One question before you go mister Oddheim.”  Zevulun said.


Barron looked at him.  “What?”


“Of whom was it that advised you to seek out myself personally over my fine brothers Frogg?”


Barron smiled in an amused manner.  “Ah, well, a rather peculiar fellow, Jamian Bird is his name.”


Zevulun smiled himself now.  “Yes, peculiar does fit brother Bird.  Shrewd in business is he.  Yes, and his wisdom serves him well in his advice.  Like yourself Barron, when he became a true believer in the Brothers Frogg, he became a supporter.  It is through people like yourself and brother Bird that we are able to succeed.  Keep your wits about you, your eyes and ears open with this new found knowledge Barron.  Keep in touch.”


He nodded small a few times as his mind took to wandering again. 


“Barron…”  Zevulun called to him, getting his attention again.  “do what you have been considering, do it in the morrow, early in the morn, as early as you can; make haste.  Travel to New Jersey, Boston if you’d rather, but travel by land, do not fly.  Once you have taken refuge, stay put; visit your rabbi, eat only food you purchase and prepare yourself, or from the wife of your rabbi; stay put until you hear from us.”  He looked to his two brothers.  “Come dear brothers, we travel ourselves within the hour.  We are going to Minnesota, Lakeland to be exact.  We must see for ourselves this evil that lurks about.  Horace Goat is up to something, and it is our duty, if we can, to interrupt his schemes.”


“Boston?  Why do I have to stay put?”  Barron asked.


“Safety of distance.”  All three brothers said to him together.


“You have inadvertently become apart of this mister Oddheim.”  Zevulun informed him.  “In the air you are an easy target for the keeper of Hell’s gate.  I would also advise you to keep to an old custom; that is not to venture out of your home between sunset and sunrise.  Stay close to Temple, wail your prayers frequently and loudly in solitude Barron.”


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“He what?  How early?”  Denver exclaimed after Gretchen, their new employee that ran the coffee shop for them, passed on her news.  She had worked for Grammatically Correct Coffee prior to being hired by them as the manager of the coffee shop, at a higher wage.


“As soon as I opened the doors this morning, five before six, he had several deputies with him and some strangely dressed men with hats that didn’t actually do anything and several younger men that carried out his stuff and the displays then loaded everything up into a truck out front.  I tried to stop them from going into the store, but the deputies stopped me from interfering, said they’d arrest me if I did anything!”  Gretchen explained.


Denver’s face was that of shock and distress.  “And they took everything from Oddheim’s out?”


Gretchen made a face.  “Well… not exactly everything that was on his displays.  Mister Oddheim checked everything over before it was put into crates while the deputies watched, and filmed what was taken.  Some of the pieces he had the older men in the hats look at, they’d shake there heads after they looked at it.  They even put on gloves before they handled anything he had them look at.  It was very strange.  Those things, he didn’t take.”


“Where are those things?  What he didn’t take?”  Denver asked hard.


Gretchen pointed towards the back of the shop.  “I think he put everything in those boxes near the back storeroom door.”


Denver hurried towards the storeroom door.  Beside it were five large boxes; on top of the pile of boxes stacked two high side-by-side with the fifth one set across the middle of the four boxes below was a piece of paper.  ‘Not Mine’ was written on the paper in black magic marker.  Beneath the piece of paper was an envelope; when he took out the contents, they were copies of the original invoices that listed everything that had been delivered to the store.  Beside some of the items listed were checkmarks, after these lined items, was the word ‘removed’. 


The last page of the pile of invoices was a typed letter.  “Dear Mr. and Mrs. London; I have removed all items belonging to my company from your store.  Due to your own choices in business matters, I cannot in good conscience conduct business with you.  Consider all business between us concluded.  Anything owed for items that have sold has been cleared, you owe me nothing.  Please do not contact me ever again.


Dr. Barron Oddheim’ the letter read.


“Fine, if he doesn’t want to do business with us, fuck him.  Horace can fill in any open spots, or we can.  His shit wasn’t selling good anyways.”  Denver said to himself after reading the short note Barron Oddheim had left behind.


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Pessach, Yitzchak, and Zevulun were walking around the downtown area of Lakeland, it was approaching ten in the morning.


“Should we head to the store the London’s run Zevulun?”  Yitzchak asked his brother.


He stopped his walking and held for a moment, staring off down the sidewalk.  “No.  There is more to transpire here yet today.  Tomorrow we shall visit with the London’s and make our inquiry.  Today, we explore.”


“What is it Pessach?  You have an ill look about you.”  Yitzchak asked his brother.


He continued to look aimlessly around as he replied.  “Hmm, not sure exactly, there is something about this town.  Something off, not right.  I can’t tell what it is; something is incomplete.”


“Yes, I have felt this as well my brother.”  Zevulun commented.  “Whatever Horace Goat is up to, it isn’t ready yet.  I feel after our interaction with the London’s in the morrow, we should seek the council of Rabboni Moschel.”  His other two brothers nodded in agreement.


The three brothers continued to walk around downtown, looking at the buildings and people, feeling what was around them.  When Zevulun would stop, close his eyes and raise his chin slightly, the other two would stop and watch him until he opened his eyes again.  He would shake his head several times in a small quick short motion, then the three would start walking again.  He did this at least five times, always shaking his head when he finished.


“That is their shop there.”  Pessach said as he pointed towards London’s Treasures.


“Yes, nice sign, the window signage, very nice, well done, attractive.  Looks like they did some work to the fascia as well; gives it a modern updated look while keeping the nostalgic tone.  Bit of a west coast flair.”  Zevulun commented.


“They did move from California.”  Yitzchak stated.


The two brothers looked at Zevulun and waited as he stared at the store front.  This took a couple of minutes.  “You know what, there is a coffee shop in there.”  He looked between his two brothers.  “Would you Froggs fancy a cup of espresso?”


“Oh yes, a nice creamy cup of the good stuff.”  “I to would like some brother Frog.”  The two agreed.


“Then, three espressos it shall be.  Let us visit but not visit we brothers three.  Espresso and nothing more.  It is agreed.”  Zevulun stated and the three Frogg brothers started across the street to London’s Treasures.


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Denver had just finished a sale and was about to return to working on trying to put up another display with the few things he had actually restored when three well dressed men walked in.  They wore linen suits, black, with white cotton shirts underneath and black ties.  Their shoes, appropriate for their attire, on their heads, black plain fedoras. 


“Good morning gentlemen, what can I help you with today?”  He said to them.


They were moving past from in front of him and not looking at him when he spoke to them.  After he did, all three turned their heads in unison, looked at him then smiled together, then they dropped their smiles and headed off towards the coffee bar area.  Denver had a suspicious feeling and walked after them.


They were directly in front of the coffee bar now, Gretchen had come to in front of them and was about to address them when Denver spoke from behind them.


“Can I help you gentleman with something?”  He said somewhat loudly and rather crassly.


One of them looked back at him, the one in the middle of the three.  “Do you run the coffee bar?”  He questioned.


“No…”  Denver had intended on saying more, but the man spoke again before he could.


“Then no.”  He replied, gave a quick smile then looked to Gretchen.


The one to this man’s left spoke to Gretchen.  “Three espressos please.”  He requested.


They all had their backs to Denver now.  “Would you like those for here, or walking?”  Gretchen asked politely.


“If you’re here to spread the good news, save it, we don’t allow solicitations here.”  Denver said brutishly from behind them before they could answer Gretchen.


The one on the right looked back at Denver, he looked to be the oldest of the trio.  “The good news?  And just what is the good news?  Are interest rates going down?”


This was not exactly what Denver was expecting.  “No, that religious mumbo jumbo, you know, repent the end is near, Jesus saves, that bullshit.”


The man half smiled and shrugged a little.  “Well, I’m all for saving; set a little aside each month, it adds up over time; especially if you invest it, in say like a money market account.  Municipal bonds are stable and a fairly safe investment, but I like something with a bit more risk myself.  Penny stocks are fun.  I’ve even invested in crypto currency.  I’m thinking about pulling out of that though, I think Bit Coin is going to tank soon honestly.  Did you want to talk investments, or just making chit-chat?”  The man asked, pissing Denver off.


Denver’s eyes snapped to Gretchen.  “They’ll take their coffee to-go.”  He looked back to the man that had spoken to him last that was still looking back at him, the others kept their backs towards him.  “Get your coffee and get out.”


The one on the far left turned some so he was sideways to the others, facing in towards Denver when the one facing him spoke again.  “Such warmth sir.  Is this how you treat all of your customers?”  Denver was about to retort to his comment when he held up a hand at him.  “Spare me your wit.”  He said then looked back to Gretchen.  “Cancel that order please miss, it appears we for some reason, aren’t welcome here.”


As he turned to leave, the one that was facing to the side towards the one in the middle stepped quickly to the counter and dropped a ten dollar bill on the counter.  “For your trouble dear girl.”  He said, then the three turned towards the door out and left, leaving Denver alone with Gretchen.


“The nerve of some people…”  Denver commented as he watched the trio exit his store.


Gretchen snorted and muttered, “Yeah” drawing Denver’s attention to her.


She dropped her rag on the counter and started taking off her apron.  “What are you doing?”  He asked her.


“Leaving.”  She said now that the apron was untied.  She dropped it on the counter and started around the bar to get out from behind it.


“Where are you going?  Your shift doesn’t end until three.”  He stated.


“I quit.”


Denver’s face became shocked.  “What?!  Because of those three?”  He asked as she was about to pass in front of him.


Gretchen kept walking past him, once she was on the side of him closest to the exit, she looked back.  “No, because of you.  Those men were nice, polite, kind even.  You were ready to go to blows with them, for nothing.”


“There was something up with those three.”  Denver argued back.


Gretchen scoffed.  “Yeah, there was something up with them.  They wanted espresso.  You have an espresso bar in your store; they walked past you to the espresso bar, asked for espresso, and you accosted them.  I’m done.  The Grammar’s would never treat a customer like that.  Maybe I can get my job back there.  You can Johnny Paycheck this job.”  She told him then turned to continue out of the store.


“Johnny Paycheck this job?”  Denver said in a questioning tone but not actually asking Gretchen a question, just being confused by what she’d said.


She looked back over her shoulder as she kept walking.  “Yeah, take this job and shove it!”  And with that, she opened the entry door and walked out.


“Fuck!”  Denver said to the empty store.  “Great.  I wonder if Wanda can run the coffee shop.”


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“I tried calling three other dealers to see if we could get them to put stuff in the store.  One of them, after I told them who we were, said they weren’t interested and hung up.  The other two hung up right away when I said who I was.”  Shelly told Denver as they worked together in the shop after lunch.  “I don’t know what the deal is, all of a sudden, no one wants our business.  We’re going to have to start restoring stuff to fill the space.  I know that was our original plan in the first place, but we’ve been so busy, no time to restore stuff.  Maybe Horace can put more stuff in; We’ll have to talk to him when he shows up.”


“Oh?  When is he coming?”  Denver asked.


Shelly shrugged.  “No idea, he’s just been showing up; probably will again soon.  I’ll ask him then; haven’t called or anything.  Maybe I should.”


Denver snorted then chuckled.  “Yeah, you’re probably right, he’ll show up.  At least one of our vendors takes an interest in us.  And his stuff is what sells.  I just can’t believe Barron took everything and didn’t even talk to us first.  Guess he was just pissed we moved his stuff to the back of the store.  Can’t blame us for that, his stuff wasn’t moving, that’s business, give the best location to the stuff that sells.”


“Yeah.”  Shelly said as she looked around more.  “Maybe we could expand the furniture area, that would fill in some space, you think?”


Denver looked over at the coffee shop area with the chairs and sofas along with the rack of special order furniture.  “Yeah, it would fill it in more, but we’re not a furniture store.  We only have display pieces for the coffee shop, that’s just for people that want to order Ashley stuff in special.  We expand that then we’d have to dedicate half the store to their furniture.  Maybe we could just clean up some of the stuff we’ve bought and sell it at a lower price for people that want to restore their own stuff…”


Shelly sighed at this idea.  “No, then we’re becoming too much like a second hand store, don’t want that.  The previous owner was doing that, and not making any money.”


“True.”  Denver said.  “But he didn’t know what he was doing, his wife made money doing that.”


The door chimed, announcing someone had entered the store.  They both moved to the front to see who had come in.  Obediah Elfman was whom had come in, he saw them and started towards them with an expressionless face.


“Great, another problem to deal with.”  Denver said in a low voice to Shelly only.  “Mister Elfman, wasn’t expecting you until the end of the week.  Shelly and I discussed what mister Bird offered, and I’m afraid we aren’t interested in selling the apartments, I’m sorry but no is our answer; you can tell mister Bird we’ll buy him out over time.”


Obediah was now right in front of them, with a manila envelope in hand.  “I’m afraid mister Bird has retracted his offer, that is why I am here.  He has decided to make an offer, one I never would, that is highly in your favor.”


As he opened the envelope and pulled out the papers from inside of it Shelly and Denver looked at each other with trepidation.  “And just what is this offer, and why is it highly in our favor?”  Denver inquired.


Handing the papers to Denver, Obediah filled in some of the details.  “Mister Bird has decided to cancel his investment in your property; in short, he is writing off the debt completely and taking his name off of anything dealing with your operation here.  In short, sign these papers, and you owe him nothing and he no longer has any interest in your property.  It’s yours, free and clear.  I don’t know what came over him, but whatever his reason, he is willing to take a loss to cut ties with you.”


Denver and Shelly looked at each other again.  “Let me get this straight, he’s just giving us the hundred thousand dollars he invested in us?”


Obediah made a small motion with his head and a quick expression of consideration.  “Effectively, yes, that’s what he’s doing.”


The couple looked at each other again, Shelly flapped her arms with a hard exhale then moved over near the sales counter.  Denver looked back to Obediah.


“What is it with you people anyways?”  Denver said.


Obediah’s face contorted into questioning and lack of understanding.  “You people?”  He said sounding a bit put off.


“Yeah, religious types.  First Barron Oddheim shows up this morning before we’re here with some laborers and men in funny hats, our former employee told us, and removes all his goods, then three Mormons show up and cause trouble.  I know you’re a Jew, that’s why mister Bird, another Jew, hired you to manage his part of our business; now he up and cuts bait and runs.”  Denver relayed.


Obediah’s face was still questioning, only now somewhat troubled.  He looked off to the side.  “Hasidic.”  He mumbled. 


“Hasidic?  What’s that supposed to mean?”  Denver questioned.


Looking at Denver, Obediah explained.  “Barron Oddheim, men with funny hats.  Barron is a Hasidic Jew, I myself am orthodox, reformed.  These other men, these three Mormons, why… did they tell you they were Mormon mister London or is that an assumption?”


Denver shrugged.  “They were dressed like Mormons, black suits, white shirts, black ties, black fedoras.  They looked just like the Mormons that are out evangelizing to the community when they ‘spread the good news’ as they like to say.”


“Hmm, black suits, fedoras, hmm.  Many Christian groups talk about spreading the good news in reference to their belief of the Messiah, I am rather familiar with the ways and customs of Mormon society mister London, having lived in Utah, near Salt Lake City, they talk about sharing the gospel, and the book of Mormon, not so much the ‘good news’ like you have said.  They also don’t wear fedoras usually when they are on their missions.”  Obediah stated.  His face became more quizzical.  “These three men, did you happen to notice, did they tend to, um, line themselves up, shortest to tallest, and about the same distance in height between each, they may have also looked to be varied in age the same way, that being the shortest being the youngest, and the tallest being the oldest?”


Looking at Obediah, Denver blinked several times looking a bit stunned.  “Yeah, now that you mention it, they did line up shortest to tallest, youngest to oldest I’d say.  You know these men?”


Obediah snapped himself, bringing his eyes back to Denver with a bit of a wide eyed expression.  “Oh, know them?  Ah, no, never met them before, I’ve heard of… well…”  he laughed nervously, “probably not the people I was thinking of.  We’re a bit out of their, ah, stomping grounds you might say.  New York City boys, currently living on the west coast, Anaheim I think, maybe L.A., not sure honestly.  You’re probably right.  Mormons, that would fit better with the area we’re in.  They have two churches here, one on each end of town.  I was just rambling, forgive me.  Now, about the deal mister Bird has offered?  Will you and your wife sign?”


“What’s the catch with mister Bird’s deal?”  Shelly asked from the counter.


When she asked this, Obediah looked over at her and started approaching the counter.  “There is no catch missus London.  Forfeiture of all rights and dissolution of all debt and abatement of all contractual obligations on both sides.”  He explained.


“Let me see this paperwork you have on this.”  She requested.  Obediah handed the papers to her.


Shelly started looking each of the documents over.  Her face was set and hard as she read them, her mouth moved as she read.  She didn’t ask a single question nor make any comment.  After about five minutes she looked at Denver.


“Call Wanda, she knows this stuff better than I do.  I have some questions for her.  From what I have read and as far as I understand what’s in here, we sign these, we’re free of Jim.  It looks just like mister Elfman has said, this severs all ties and satisfies all debts.  He’s walking away and taking the loss.”  She said to him.


Denver moved off and made the call to Wanda, explaining what was going on and asking her to come right over.  Twenty minutes later, she walked in and gave the documents her inspection.


“So, what do you think Wanda?  Should we sign?”  Denver asked her when she set the papers down and looked up blankly.


She blew out her breath from between pursed lips as she shrugged.  “Yeah, if you want to.  There’s no catch in here, it’s straight forward.  Cancels the investment, no payback required.  Makes everything null and void, quashes the contract and investment completely.  I have no idea why he’d walk away like this; he’s losing a lot of money doing this, but that’s his choice.  I’d say go for it.  Makes you debt free from him, you own the apartments and the income from them, flat out.”


Denver looked at Shelly now.  “You alright with this?”  He asked her.


She shrugged.  “I guess.  If he wants to cut ties with us this bad, I’ll sign.”


And with that, both Denver and Shelly signed the documents and returned them to mister Elfman, ending their business dealings with mister Bird, their former friend, and putting them a hundred thousand dollars to the good in their investment into the apartments.  Once Obediah had the papers back in the envelope they came from, he reached into his suit coat pocket and pulled out a business sized white envelope and handed it to Denver.


“What’s this?”  He asked as he took the envelope.


“That is a certified bank check returning all revenues mister Bird has received from his former investment in the apartments within your property.  As per his instructions, now that you have signed the documents abating your contractual agreement with mister Bird, I am returning these funds to you.”  Obediah informed them.


“Fine.”  Denver stated.  “At least since it’s a bank check, it won’t bounce.”


With a modicum of amusement Obediah replied, “I don’t think mister Bird…” he chortled as he flared his eyes, “never mind.  Good day mister London,” he looked to Shelly, “missus London.”  He ended then picked up the envelope preparing to leave.


“You can deposit all of the revenues from the rentals to the same account you were depositing our share to before mister Elfman.  We’ll issue you a check for your percentage from that account.”  Denver told him.


Obediah’s face became set in decision.  “I’m afraid my involvement ended with mister Bird’s.  I will no longer be managing the property, I will not continue on handling your accounts.  Goodbye mister London.”  He said then turned to head for the door out.


Denver looked after him as he walked towards the door.  “Fuck mister Bird-shit.  And fuck you too Elfman.”  He said to Obediah’s back.


Obediah said nothing, he didn’t stop or even slow in his walking to the door; he simply raised his right hand and waved it.  Once he was at the door, he opened it and walked out.  He would never again return to the city of Lakeland.  After he left the London’s shop, he made notifications to the other property owners he managed apartments for that he would no longer be handling their accounts.  From there, he would move to Pensacola Florida and sell real estate.



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