Crook Takes Pawn Part 15

    Over the next few weeks, Customers gradually began to fill the store. Whenever someone mentioned Donny's name, Greg made a mental note. It seems Greg had free advertising in Donny. The bum was spreading the word, telling all who would listen that Greg's Pawnshop was the place to be.
The news story didn't seem to help Greg much. It only seemed to attract gawkers that wanted to take pictures of the bullet holes and blood stains. As soon as he had enough funds, the first renovation would be to tear up the old, threadbare carpet. Not only was it splattered with blood, but it also had various stains of other assorted varieties. Word of mouth seemed a much more potent form of attracting customers. Greg was still reviving the long lost art of his salesmanship, and at present about 60% of customers who came in left with a purchase. On one occasion, Greg had cleared out a large section of his TVs. There was a local restaurant owner who was looking to buy three Televisions to show the sports games on the weekend. After debating the matter with himself, Greg sold three identical TVs at a reduced price. In return, the restaurant owner agreed to put a permanent flier on the window of the front door of Greg's contact information. Greg was selling so much stuff, he figured he could get by with selling those TVs at-cost. Greg needed the money anyway, even if it wasn't a profit.
    The first major victory for Greg was when he added up the totals of three weeks worth of sales. Greg stood there looking at the green readout of the simplified calculator he used. He had enough to make the bank payment. It was true. He held the cash in his hands. Those wonderful dead presidents were returning Greg's unbelieving stare. Greg's entire outlook had changed. They say that success is like a snowball, and his meager store was gaining momentum. Greg locked up his earnings in his seldom-used cash safe. The hinges of the safe squealed, as if delighted at being filled with funds. Greg really should oil it to get rid of the noise. He anticipated using the safe a lot more often than he previously had.
    Greg was whistling to himself as he locked the door to his back office. Using one of the countless keys on his ring, Greg unlocked his desk and removed the jar housing his marijuana. Greg had taken to rolling his own joints, and was quite adept at it now. While toking his victory J, Greg brainstormed his next possible steps. It was a chess game now. He had the resources to make moves, and plan his future stradegiies. Perhaps it was partially the high quality bud he was now smoking, but Greg's mind came up with ideas at a fevered pace.
He had a small notebook which he scribbled these thoughts into with great enthusiasm.
Greg was writing in it everyday, reigning old ideas, coming up with new schemes.
    For one, Greg was going to get into the TV disposal business. He had originally intended to only discard his one wrecked TV, but Ben had called him the day after buying the Sony set. Ben had an old picture tube TV that had blown out during a thunder storm. It was the reason for buying the new Sony in the first place. Ben was just wondering if Greg knew of a place to get rid of the old mammoth Television.  The seeds of an idea were planted. Greg was already going to junk a TV, he might as well take Ben's as well. Ben lived very close to Greg, and the distance to the TV repair shop Greg intended to use was even farther away than the pawn shop. Greg agreed to take the set from Ben, he just had to stop by the shop.
Upon hanging up the phone, Greg had his eureka moment. He had a professional sign made, one that briefly explained how Greg would dump their old TV if they purchased a TV from him. The ploy worked surprisingly well, and Greg found himself suddenly running short on a supply of TVs, while neck-deep in malfunctioned, non-working TV sets. Greg saw himself as the middle man between people who wanted to avoid the cumbersomee task of ditching their blown sets, and the environmentally friendly people who made sure to recycle those components. That thought jogged another notion. Greg had read about bills being passed in the government that favored "green" incentives. If Greg disposed enough of old Televisions, perhaps he could get a good tax break on his business.
"Green initiatives" Greg says, chuckling to himself as he jots the note down,"I'm green enough for them."
Greg takes a long drag on his joint, to emphasize his green nature.

     Greg was late on his bank payment, but it was better late than never. Greg took particular care to explain what happened to his loan officer at the bank. She was actually very understanding, and waived the late fees that would normally apply for such a tardy payment. It turns out the lady was a fan of Channel 9 news, and had seen the coverage of Greg and his once-shattered life. They had an animated conversation, and Greg had really turned on the charm, to get on her good side. Greg had forgotten the human element that was behind business. Had he simply gone straight to the loan officer in the first place, when his troubles began, he could've saved himself unneeded stress.
    Greg's only real financial worry now were his medical bills. He had to simply write those off for now. They would eventually head to a collection agency, but who gives a shit? His credit rating was already tottering on the brink of bad anyway. If he could continue peddling the junk from his measly store, he wouldn't need to operate on credit. Besides, that's what was wrong with America anyway. Everyone lived beyond their means, just so they are able to make that single monthly payment. Meanwhile, they were digging their own graves, with credit card shovels.
    Greg lost touch with Donny for awhile. Having success really made the time fly, whereas failure made time draw out like a blade. Greg became so preoccupied, before he knew it, he simply had to get rid of those junk TVs. There was simply no more room, and there was no way Greg would allow any junk to be stored on the sales floor. Greg was becoming very particular about the appearance of his business, as all successful owners should. Greg was planning to haul the TVs over to the repair shop today. He figured Donny could use a few bucks, if the bum was willing to help him both load and unload the Televisions into the van.
Greg had no way of reaching Donny besides a face to face meeting. Donny had no cell, no mailbox, no email, just a space beneath a common area in the middle of a residential park. Greg drove to the park in the borrowed van, and made his way over to Donny's spot. Greg parts the bushes, and intends to yell Donny's name when he paused. Donny was not there. Greg could see enough through the filtered light through the lattice that Donny was nowhere to be found. Whats more, Greg did not see the cord from the space heater trailing beneath. What he did see is a fresh set of silver nails driven into the lattice, holding it down tightly. Also, Greg spotted a smattering of color against the wood of the gazebo support. It was red, faded dark maroon into the rough surface of the grain. Greg had been around the murder scene of his store long enough to recognize blood when he saw it. With an uneasy feeling lurking in his gut, Greg withdrew from the shrubs, once again obscuring the lost refuge of a friend.
"Ben?" Greg asks as the phone picks up,"This is Greg Jefferson, how are ya?"
Greg waits impatiently as Ben goes through the customary greeting, fine how about you, blah blah blah.
"Listen" Greg says, interjecting,"I'm sorry to bother you, buthave you seen Donny lately at all? I'm trying to get ahold of him."
A negative reply. Ben had no idea how to reach Donny, or any of his relatives. Greg figured it was a shot in the dark anyway, but it was worth a try. Not intending to be rude, Greg cut their conversation short, said goodbye, and hung up.
Where else? The hospital? The cop shop? Greg didn't like the thought of his buddy Donny in jail, but it was a concrete jungle out there, and things could get bad at the drop of a hat.
Greg resolved to go to the county jail right now and find out for himself. He didn't want to call, because the average wait on those automated directories were insane. Greg gathered his coat and keys and killed the lights. As he was locking up his front door, a dark figure rounded the corner of his shop. Greg paused and peered cautiously into the black stillness.
"Hello?" Greg offers cautiously.
Donny steps out into the blue neon light of Greg's store sign. Donny is in bad shape. He tugs nervously at  a skull cap that comes just short of his lower ears. Donny's beard has progressed into a mange of thick almost fur-like hair. Steam pours from Donny's nostrils in muffled gasps. Greg can hear a  low whistling sound as Donny wheezes through his broken nose. A deep cut runs along the bridge of Donny's sniffer, and there is harsh swelling which puffs out both of Donny's eyes in a grotesque shape.
"Oh my God" Greg says in a shaky voice, "what the fuck happened?"
Donny's mouth hangs slightly agape, perhaps to compensate the breathing for his injured nose. Hearing that odd whistling sound makes Greg's stomach turn.
"The cops" Donny says, in a thick, nasally voice,"They found out where I was staying. They dragged me out from under where I was sleeping, and they started wailing on me."
Greg steps slowly toward Donny, and puts a hand on his shoulder. Donny casts his eyes downward, not wanting Greg to see him like this.
"Let's go inside" Greg says, guiding Donny toward the door.
Greg eases Donny into one of his office chairs. The luxurious leather chair from before was sold, and this less-comfortable alternative is all Greg has to offer.
"They confiscated that sleeping bag" Donny relays sadly,"and they smashed that heater on the ground. While I was laying there bleeding, they stomped on it until it was junk."
"Those fucking pigs" Greg growls, clenching his fists,"why did they do this?"
Donny shrugs and gives Greg a bewildered look.
"I don't know" Donny says emphatically,"I swear, I have no idea. Maybe they found out I was smoking pot, and selling a little bit. But I wasn't hurting nobody."
"Maybe they like to hurt people who can't fight back." Greg suggests.
"I can fight" Donny says defensively,"I had to take care of business once or twice, I know I can hold my own. But I wasn't about to go fighting a cop. They must know it too, because they like to taunt you into striking them."
Donny produces a handkerchief, and wipes some loose snot from his nose.
"I can hardly fucking breathe," Donny says in that strange, choked voice,"they arrested me and held me for two days. I guess I'm lucky they even let me see a doctor."
"What was the charge?" Greg asked.
"Loitering and Tresspasing" Donny says, with a cynical smile,"Loitering, at a public placeWhatever, cops do what they want anywayThey're the real crazy ones."
Donny studies the handkerchief, folding it neatly from corner to corner.
"I just got out an hour ago," Donny says,"My mom is in the old folks home now. I can't really shack up with her. I came here cuz..Well."
Donny bites his lower lip and clears his thickened throat.
"Do you think maybe you could," Donny begins,"I dunnoDo you have another space heater I could use? Not have to keep, but just use for tonight maybe???"
Greg uncomfortably shifts in his chair.
"I'm sorry Donny," Greg informs,"I sold the only other one I had."
"Oh." Donny says blankly.
    There is a horrendous silence following that. Its like the proverbial pink elephant in the room. They both know an issue is looming, but are afraid to address it. Greg knows exactly where this is leading. With a thoughtful eye, Greg studies the young man sitting before him. As bad as Greg's situation was, at his lowest moment, he wasn't even close to approaching the depths of Donny's misery. Someone always has it worse, and Donny's continued existence proved such a philosophy. Yet, despite such terrible circumstance, Donny had taken strides to revive Greg's business. Greg could only imagine how animated Donny was when he told various people about Gregs pawn enterprise. Donny surely must have been quite convincing, seeing as how Greg got almost daily referrals from him.
    Greg decides in a flash to make it an easy choice for Donny.
"I saw they boarded up the fence by the gazebo," Greg says, absently using his thumb to pick at one of his fingernails,"I guess you've got no place to go."
Donny utters a low sound, which appears to be a yes, without the strength to affirm.
"I tell you what," Greg offers,"I can let you sleep here tonight. There's a bedroom up the back stairs you can sleep in, and a shower as well."
Donny's brow wrinkles into a frown beneath his skull cap, and he continues to look at the ground. Donny can't believe his ears.
"Really?" Donny says unsurely.
"Yeah," Greg says in a way, as if to say are you kidding me,"The only catch is, you'd basically be locked in the store. You couldn't get out because the doors lock from outside. But I guess that would mean you won't run off with anything while I was away."
"that's fine" Donny says quickly,"I don't have a problem with that. I won't steal, I'm not a thief."
"besides" Donny says, motioning around himself at the half-empty store,"you sold so much shit, there's not much left to take anyway!!"
Greg nods, settling the matter in his own mind. He leads Donny through the back, at the multitude of unopened boxes lining the walkway. Greg comprehends that soon he will need to start marching the contents of these boxes to the front, where there is available space for product.
Greg points out the bathroom and single bed, which sums up the grand tour. As an afterthought, Greg removes a shirt, pants, and belt from his closet.
"If you wash up, you can wear these." Greg says, handing the garments to the appreciative Donny,"There's a washer and dryer downstairs you can use to clean those ratty clothes of yours."
Donny smiles and plops on the bed, looking at these wonderful offerings.
"You're quite a bit smaller than me, so you'll probably have to use the smallest notch on that belt you can find" Greg says offhandedly.
Greg pauses a moment, running over his decision one last time. Leaving Donny here means Greg will have to rent a hotel room. the prospect is appealing to Greg. Already Greg can picture treating himself to room service, and a nice fat joint.  But it is another expense. A more permanent arrangement will have to be worked out, depending on how things unfold.
"Just don't make me regret this," Greg says simply.
"I understand" Donny replies with great seriousness.
"I'll stop back tomorrow morning" Greg says, zipping up his coat,"I need some help with a job, and you can make some money doing it."
Without further ado, Greg turns and trots down the stairs.
"Good night Donny" Greg shouts over his shoulder.
"Good night, Greg"
the last light is switched off downstairs, and Donny is alone. The ratchety clanking sound of the outside door travels up the stairs as Greg secures the locks. Donny piles the clothes onto the floor and slips beneath the sheets of Greg's bed. Donny's eased mind quickly drifts off, and he has the soundest nights sleep he's had in years
Uploaded 01/08/2012
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