Crook Takes Pawn Part 21

    Greg had closed up the shop early for this occasion. The pawn store was bustling with activity all day. Greg was steadily racking up return customers. Classes were starting again, and it was mostly college students buying cheap movies and other items, but a sale is a sale. The old DVD cases were sun-faded from the glare of the store window, but they all worked. Greg dutifully examined each disc he bought, although it was a hassle. He figured it was even more of an annoyance for a customer to have to return a skipping move, though, and so his inspections continued.
    When he locked up that night, Greg actually had to prod people out of the store. He felt the anticipation of such moments with relish. He had always fought to bring people into his store, and now he was having to get them to leave. My, how things can change. Oh me, oh my
    Greg sat at the restaurant table. It was Spanish cuisine, a bit pricey for his normal intake of food. But it was a business meeting, he would splurge a little. Greg was sipping on a chilly strawberry Margarita, licking the salt from his lips as he put the glass down. For about the tenth time, Greg tugged self consciously at his button-down short sleeve shirt. He brushed off the lap of his carefully ironed khaki pants, although there was no food or mess. He was looking sharp, and knew it.
    Greg had even ventured out to a swanky store to purchase his new duds. It was strange when Greg realized how little he had been out and about in public. He had spent too much time barricaded within his store, licking his wounds. Now he was a man with a plan, with a business in his hand. Greg was feeling resilient. If a barrage of bullets and later financial disaster couldnt kill Greg, nothing could. Yessir, there were dreams to pitch, and people to persuade.
    Soothing Mariachi music drifted from the somewhat tacky fluorescent juke box. Greg hummed along to a song he could not interpret. The Spanish words communicated an atmosphere of calm, and that's all Greg needed to know. Greg anxiously twirled the rectangular leather menu, which collides with the base of his Margarita. The glass begins to wobble precariously on its bottom rim. Greg's reflexes kick in and he stabilizes the glass before it can topple it's slushied contents onto the tabletop.
    Greg is nervous. He can already feel his second shirt beneath the plaid button down begin to grow damp with his perspiration. Gross. Greg would have to remind himself not to raise his arms too much, lest he show his pit stains. Chronic perspiration had plagued Greg his whole life. He was a big kid in school, and it was a worry for him even back then. Greg surmised it was just nerves, but decided to take action.
    Greg arose from his seat and headed to the bathroom. He always kept a spare stick of deodorant with him in his car. On this occasion, Greg brought the antiperspirant gel stick inside, for just such an occasion. Greg found only the gel stuff worked against his unpleasant biological patterns. The dry, rub-on white sticks did not provide enough antiperspirant, and that's what he really needed.
    After applying the gel, Greg washes his hands, because he could feel his own sweat running down his fingers. Fucking sick. Maybe if he lost weight his over-active sweat glands would settle down. As Greg hammered the button on the air-dryer for his hands, an idea sprang forth. Greg angled the metal shell of the hand-dryer upwards, and hovered his arm pit in front of the flow of air. Within mere moments, his inner shirt was dry once more.
    Ingenius, Greg thinks, complimenting his own quick actions. Greg was indeed quick. A lesser man would have fallen beneath the hail of gunfire from Jessie. But Greg's resourcefulness and quick-thinking prevailed. Now Jessie was dead and buried in a dark hole where he belonged, and Greg was still alive and kicking.
    Greg sauntered back out into the main dining room of the restaurant. As Greg swung by the bar, he shot a quick greeting with his two index fingers pointed together. The bartender, an older Mexican gentleman cleaning a glass, nodded in a return of courtesy to his patron. Greg's stomach growled it's impatience at being made to wait. Greg figured it was proper etiquette to wait to order until both parties arrived.
    Greg was busy munching down the complimentary salsa and chips in the meantime. Greg had polished off one bowl already, and pushed them away from himself. Don't load up, save some room for the meal. You don't want Ben to think you're a pig. Greg ate when he was nervous. It was almost a compulsion, but one that he could easily control. In his darker moments during the onset of his decline, Greg used food as comfort. But now that he had other avenues to busy himself, food no longer held so much sway with him.
    Ben showed up about 6 minutes later, similarly dressed to impress. Ben's black loafers padded across the entryway carpet. Ben wore a relaxed smile, which squinted his dark brown eyes playfully. The grin made Ben look younger than the 40-something man he was. His bushy salt and pepper mustache contrasted this youthful look, however, and seemed to compete with his features to specify his exact age. Ben scans the restaurant and sees Greg almost immediately. Greg holds up his hand in greeting, which seems odd, considering the restaurant is almost completely empty.
    Ben walks over to Greg, and the two men clasp hands together in greeting.
    "Glad you found me," Greg says jokingly,"I thought I was gonna have to send up smoke signals, seeing as how packed it is."
    Greg waves his hands around, referring to the multitude of empty tables and booths.
    Ben chuckles at this as he sits down.
    "Grab a slab, Ben," Greg says cheerfully,"I was waiting for you to order."
    In truth, Greg knew exactly what he intended to get, but it was proper etiquette to wait for a guest to arrive first. The waiter promptly introduces himself and asks if they care for a refreshment.
    "I'll take another Margarita," Greg responds. He had since polished off his first drink, and was feeling good enough for a second.
    "Just a soda for me," Ben says,"a root beer."
    With a courteous smile, the waiter leaves to retrieve their drinks. Both men take the time to scan their menus (even though Greg had already done so previosly).
    Ben's face wrinkles in slight concentration, which reveals his many thought-lines and crows feet stamped at the corners of his eyes.
    Quite the selection Ben says, running his finger along the menu. Greg was nervous. Geez, judging by Gregs shiftiness and nerves, you would think he was on a date with a hot chick instead of a casual business meeting. The two men order and surrender their menus back to the server, who tucks them under an arm and leaves for the kitchen.
    Greg eases into conversation with Ben tentatively. They discuss trivial things, generalities like the weather, college football, etc.  They are nibbling around the edges of matters, while Greg wants to sink his teeth into the meaty flank at the center of things. Perhaps a segue is needed, from personal to business. Donny was still at the forefront of Gregs mind. It would be refreshing to vent some of Gregs stress.
    Ive got some bad news about Donny, Greg says sadly, sipping at the remains of his Margarita.    What? Ben asks anxiously, slurping the remainder of his own frothy root beer as well.     He stole some pain pills I got after my surgery. Greg informs.How do you know it was him? Ben asks softly.    Greg scowls and throws up his hands slightly. Who else could it have been? Greg retorts, I felt bad he got jumped and beat up, so I let him stay at the store overnight. I had half a bottle of Oxy, and    Bens mouth hangs open, dropping the straw from between his lips onto the table. Oxy? Ben says, alarmed, Oh, noThat was his drug of choice, wasnt it?    Yup Greg says glumly, chewing on a bit of ice that wasnt pulverized quite entirely.    That sucks,
Uploaded 01/24/2012
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