Crook Takes Pawn Part 55

    Greg was screwed. His business plan was shot full of holes. Greg had enough cash to make the next months payment, and then he was through. There was no more capital with which to purchase new items, or even wholesale products. He might be able to haggle in a few items and sell them, but that would just be delaying the inevitable. The profit margins on the items was slim to none. He might have to raise prices universally, just to make ends meet. But after that, then what???
    His mountain of junk was dwindling. How strange that a glorified flea market like the Pawn and Payday would be the only means to feed himself.
    the building could always be sold. He had contemplated that before. That seemed like an easy out. But Greg was tired of the path of least resistance. He wanted to build something. An object of his own creation. Greg didn't want to work for an asshole boss anymore. He desperately wanted to be the captain of his own destiny. The sputtering success of the Pawn and Payday had given him new clarity. He wanted to keep the place, but what now?!?! What would he do?!?!
    Ben was the key. Their consignment arrangement would circumvent Greg's need to pay overhead. If something was sold, both men could prosper. Greg was also giving serious consideration to hiring Donny (and actually paying him a living wage). All impound bullshit aside, Donny had done tremendously well.
    Greg decided that either scenario would benefit from having the front display window fixed. The front door could also use a replacement. If he eventually sold the shithole store, any breach in the integrity of the store would surely detract from the value. And if he kept the pawn shop, he didn't want it to look all ghetto and broken down. Next door, we have the Liquor store, and Welfare department. Step right up for some second hand goods, folks!! Greg's wry humor continued to plague him.
    All these thoughts leapt through Greg's brain. He got up at 7am and just couldn't lay back down. He texted rebecca and told her he would come by tonight. She replied with: YAY!! including the exclamation points. He knew she was going to be at class in a few hours. Greg gloated to himself that many of those frat boys and college kids would give appreciative looks her way, but she was taken, thank you very much. A smartass, obese pawnshop salesman was her beau. He's also been known to hang around bums and miscreants. It was something of a culture class, but it seemed to be working.
    At 8am, an hour before he opened, Greg called Ben. He didn't answer, but Greg left a message.
    "Ben, this is Greg Anderson. I was calling to maybe meet up with you today. I wanted to go over our agreement, and maybe even start stocking computers here. I've cleaned out a section I think would work just fine for the computer uh, area. the sooner, the better. Give me a call, man!! Bye."
    Donny showed up at 8:30 this day. Gus persisted in not talking to Greg face to face. Greg wasn't bothered. It was best to keep some distance between him and the guy, till things had settled down. there was no real animosity though. Greg was coming out ahead on the whole free labor idea.
    Donny's first words caught Greg off guard: "You wanna smoke a joint, Greg?"
Greg was spreading out the display of Tv's, trying to make it appear as though he had less open room. Greg gave him a distressed look.
"Are you serious?" Greg asks.
"As a heart attack," Donny confirms.
"No way, not while I'm working," Greg says crabbily, "and I don't want you to have it while you're on the floor. Put in in my desk drawer, in the office."
    Donny stared back. He repeated Greg's earlier question. "Are you serious?"
"Like cancer," Greg says grimly. Donny complies, stuffing the reefer into Greg's top drawer.
    Things proceeded slowly. Customers weren't as thick as the previous days. It was a combination of lack of goods, and inadequate parking. Greg had been zoned as a business by the county, and was afforded only a small number of streetside spaces. Traffic seemed to have picked up in intensity since after Jessie's death. Greg discovered exactly why, on that lounging day.
    Greg ambled up to a lady customer. She was an older African American woman, with a bit too much meat on her bones. She wore an easy smile as she browsed some of Greg's decorative knick-knacks.
    "Anything I can help you with, ma'am?" Greg asks casually.
"Oh my!!" the woman exclaims, her smile outlining the aged areas of her face, "You are the owner, right?"
"I'm awfully glad to meet you, sir!!" The woman exclaims, extending her hand, "Margaret Tarrell,"
Greg clasps both of his to hers and bows slightly as he exchanged his own name. It was easier to pour on the charm lately. The relationship with Rebecca had forced him to improve his chivalry.
    "I saw the channel 9 news report," the grinning black lady continued, "I can't believe it was you who finally took care of that no good hoodlum!!"
    Greg smile turns uneasily towards caution. How does one respond to congratulations on a killing?!?!
    "AhHe was outta control, that's for sure," Greg smartly replies, "I'm just glad no one else got hurt."
    "But didn't you get shot?" the woman asks, putting her hand to her mouth, as she catches sight of Greg's scar. It seems to answer the question adequately enough.
    "I knew Jessie since he was a little brat," Margaret says with a snap of sudden bitterness, "he was always no good. Grew up in a state home, couldn't keep a foster family for more than a few months before they grew tired of his violent ways."
    "that's unfortunate," Greg replies sullenly. It was hard to see a person like Jessie in such a two-dimensional way, but Greg had no sympathy to offer the deceased. Usually Greg would search for the lost humanity within an individual, as he was doing with Donny. But not Jessie.  There was no excuse for physically hurting another human being.
    "The neighborhoods been getting a lot better since Jessie died," Margarett commented, "one rotten apple can spoil the bunch. But now that there's no one to push that dope anymore. Or to be enforcers, or hitmen. I'd like you to meet my husband. Leonard!! Come over here and say hello!!"
    Margaret was shouting out to a big black man who was thumbing through some books. Leonard was as old as he was large. The guy had to be at least 6 foot 5, give or take a few inches because of the elderly slouch of his posture. As Leonard passed a shelf of decorative bobble head dolls, the heads of the ornaments shook convulsively, adamant in agreement that Leonard was large. Leonards gape is hampered somewhat by a noticeable limp.
    Leonard extends his gigantic hand, which almost enfolds Greg's own completely.
    "We were just talking about Jessie Baxter," Maragerett segues, "Tell Greg how you know Jessie,"
    "That mutha fucka buried a 6 inch blade into my leg," Leonard says angrily, motioning to his gimpy limb, "I was out in the kitchen, gettin' some orange juice, and I saw Jessie making off with my stereo. I knocked him around some, and we fought into the kitchen. Lil bastard grabbed my butcher knife from the sink and stabbed me with it!! can you imagine it?!?! Getting stuck with your own damn knife???"
    Leonard speaks with loud malevolence. Greg is taken aback by the man's ferocious presence. Margaret puts a hand on his shoulder to calm him. She has to reach up on tippy toes, and still has a fully outstretched arm to get to him.
    "Leonard gets pretty worked up about the topic of Jessie," Margarette says with a pacifying tone, "He's really a lovely man. I stuck with him all this time. It's been years since I've seen our neighborhood so at ease. Crime has dropped, wouldn't you say, Leonard?"
    "Definitely," Leonard says, nodding, "I think the thugs know they have to take their pushing business elsewhere. They're afraid, Greg. They don't want to fuck with you. A lot of the older boys left this area. Fear, man."
    Greg believed the term was street cred. Apparently Greg had racked up an infamous reputation around these parts. Perhaps there was a chance this little bureau could support more of Digital Dreams, Ben's business. It would be a lot more likely to have customers buying extravagant items, if they didn't have to worry about a lowlife breaking and entering into their humble home.
    Margaret contined to chat, but Greg eventually broke away from her politely and resumed the sitting place on the stool behind the register.
    Donny kept himself pretty well occupied. He spent about 30 minutes speaking with a college kid who was undecided about purchasing a next-generation video game console. Donny promptly helped him decide, and the kid walked away with the machine, as well as five video games to go with it.
    The video game systems always sold like hotcakes. Greg had amassed a few of them, but quickly ran out of moolah to support the venture. The kid had purchased the last remaining one. It was just as well. Greg had gotten burned by a deal involving 2 of the game systems. Greg had powered on the game consoles when he bought if from the seller, but failed to inspect the controllers. Had he bothered to at least plug one in and test it, he would've discovered the front controller ports weren't operational. the other one would power on, but no video. Oh well, live and learn. The defunct apparatus were still in the back room. Maybe Donny could take a look at them and perform more miracles via electronics.
    Sales halted altogether after a few hours. Greg's slim pickings of wares did not incite much buying interest. Greg was glad to see Ben when he pulled up in his Jeep. Greg was indisposed with a lanky girl wearing jean overalls, and a plaid shirt. She looked to be straight off the farm, and was flabbergasted by the intricacies of modern devices. Donny intersected Ben, giving a fist-pound and jumping into conversation with him.
    As anticipation grew, Greg wished this hick girl would get on with it already, one way or the other. Finally, the hillbilly chick withdrew and Greg walked over to the two guys. Something was up. Greg could read the confounded gaze on Ben's face. Greg was becoming a master of recognizing expressions now. With a hot girlfriend like Rebecca, the ability to decipher messages through facial nuances became a useful skill. And a woman's emotions can set an ameatur through his paces.
    "Greg, what's this about Donny working for no hourly pay???" Ben asks directly, "What kinda operation you got going on here? Is this a slave camp?"
    Greg feels the sting of contempt at this affront. How disrespectful to address Greg in such a manner in his own store. Greg didn't take such a tone when in Ben's own establishment. This confrontation had all the chemistry of a combination of cigarettes and oily rags.
    "I'm not exploiting anybody," Greg says, defending his position, "Where do you get off saying something like that, Ben?"
    "Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but Donny is not going to be getting a paycheck when he's done today. that sound about right?" Ben says straightforwardly.
    "Oh, did Donny happen to mention that i bailed his friends truck out of the impound lot?" Greg asks tactfully, "$100. That's what he owes me. Not to mention the matter of the stolen pills he still has to make good for."
    Donny steps between them brazenly, before their tempers can ignite further.
"Ben, you've got nothing to be concerned about," Donny says, "Its different than what you think. this is a gentleman's agreement. Nothing is on paper. Nothing binds me to him legally. I choose to help him."
    "It's not that simple, Donny," Ben says irritably, "there are tax and labor laws to consider here. If someone found out about this, someone from the Labor and Hour Division let's say, they might haul your butt into jail."
    Gregs balls shrivel as he hears this pronouncement. The prospect of hefty fines and imprisonment make Greg almost swoon. Would Ben report him???
    "Just take it easy, Ben," Greg says slowly, "Donny is just paying me back what he owed. This is his last day doing this for me, I can promise you that. Unless Donny wants to start working for me, for a job."
    Both men turn toward Donny, the boy genius of computers, former opiate addict, and current methadone userDonny fidgets uncomfortably under their eyes.
    "I'm also working for Ben right now, Greg," Donny relates, "We have to see how business is projected, but if I can keep a steady schedule with Ben, I can make time to work for you, too."
    Greg takes Ben's arm mildly and motions towards the back room.
"Lemme show ya, Ben," Greg says excitedly.

Uploaded 04/14/2012
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