Feels like it has been a while since I have done a Chuck Wendig prompt. Maybe I am a slacker, it could happen. But at the same time there is a hope that this story makes up for the lack of Chuck Love (he might have trademarked that).
Anyway, the prompt this week is random title. The concept is the same as it has been in the past. Two lists, with 20 words each, roll to find the title for the story. For those who keep count, no one died in the performance of this piece (or maybe they did…)
The Grave Robber’s Coin Purse
A bell above the door announced their arrival. They pushed through, into the shop, drunken louts, loud and boisterous. The shop keeper stopped them before they could move past the entrance way. “We’re closed,” he said. The old man leaned against the broom, his scowl and the crease in his brow matched.
“Sorry,” Jerry said. “We just wanted to use your bathroom.” The girl next to him leaned in and drunk whispered in his ear that she had to pee, strong emphasis on the word pee. “I don’t think she can hold it much longer man.”
“Our bathroom is for paying guests only. And I believe I mentioned that we are closed.” He swept the broom toward them like they were debris he would push back through the door.
Jerry reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. “Look I have money,” he said. “I will gladly buy something if you will just let her use your bathroom real quick.”
The man sighed. “It’s down the hall first door on your right,” he said.
The girl stumbled down the hall. When they heard a door slam in the distance Jerry let the air from his lungs. He hadn’t realized he was holding his breath the whole time. He looked back into the eyes of the shop keeper but quickly averted his gaze. “What is it you sell in here anyway?”
The man pointed above the counter at the sign, Curiosities.
“That’s a gimmick right? We had a shop like that back home. All sorts of weird crap that no one really wanted to buy.” As Jerry approached the counter it lit up, a bright light that reflected off the contents.
The first case seemed fairly tame, gadgets and gizmos that he remembered from the back of comic books when he was a kid. “I ordered those x-ray specs,” he said. “They never worked the way I thought they would.”
The old man swept a small pile of dirt into a dustpan.
The next case took a turn for the gruesome. Monkey’s paws and elder eyeballs, at least that was what the labels read. Jerry held his hand over his mouth to stifle the gasp. “You get much business around here for any of, this?” He asked.
“I have a select clientele,” The old man said. “Your friend, she has taken quite some time to use the facilities. Are you sure she is okay?” He set the broom aside and moved to stand behind the counter.
“I should probably check on her in a minute,” Jerry said. “Hey, how about that? How much is that coin purse? Looks like one my dad used to carry his loose change.”
The man opened the case from the back and pulled the small brown leather purse out. His eyes glazed over for a moment as he weighed it in his hand. “This is a very special purse,” he said. “Thought very old it has been well maintained.” He set it on the counter in front of Jerry. “Two hundred dollars is the least I can accept for it.”
“Really,” Jerry said. He picked it up and caressed the faded leather. The bag had a weight to it that belied its empty interior. “What’s so special about it?”
“This particular coin purse has changed many hands over the years,” he said. He pulled a book from the shelf behind him and set it on the counter. He flipped through the hand written ledger and stopped on a page halfway through. “Yes, here it is. At one time this coin purse resided with one Percy Shelly. He was not the first owner but he was an owner of note.”
Jerry set the purse back on the counter. “I should probably see what’s keeping her,” he said. He followed the hall the man had mentioned earlier. The hall was much longer than he had expected, he passed several doors on the left before he found the one on the right.
The door handle felt warm to the touch, not enough to burn more like it had been set in a warm bath. He knocked then turned the handle. She hadn’t locked it. “Are you okay?” he asked as he stepped into the room.
No lights, no sounds, though light from the hall carried into the room. It took a few moments to find the light switch, a pull string for the lights over the sink. She wasn’t in the tiny bathroom. The room was so small that he would not have fit inside if she had been.
He stepped out and back down the hall. “Sher! Hey, you out here?” Jerry said.
The shopkeeper waited at the entrance to the shop. “Where is your young lady sir?”
“She didn’t come out here?” Jerry asked. “Are you sure you didn’t see her?” He scanned around the shop. Tall shelves of various goods blocked his view. They sectioned the shop into smaller spaces amidst the forest of high shelves. He confronted the shop keeper. “What’s in the doors on the left? Maybe she got lost in one of those rooms.”
“I mentioned specifically to use the door on the right,” he said. “You surely can’t hold me responsible if she did not follow instructions.”
His buzz flew from him in a fit of adrenaline. “She better be okay,” he said. “I have a lawyer.” Jerry rushed back to the hall.
He found the first door on the left locked tight. The door did not wiggle and neither did the handle. As drunk as Sher was, she would have passed right by this door. The second latch clicked as he turned the handle. The door had swelled with the moisture in the summer air but it gave way. “Sher, you in here?” he called into the dark room. He found the light switch beside the door and the room flickered with fluorescent light. The buzz from the fixture gave him chills, gooseflesh puckered on his arms and neck.
Various yard tools hung from the walls and were stored in a corner of the room. A wheel barrow, filled with fresh dirt had been parked near the door, beside it a bucket filled with red paint circled by flies. “I told you she would not be in here,” the shop keeper said. “Maybe she slipped out when we were talking?”
The thought raced through Jerry’s mind. “We never heard the chime of the bell’s by the door,” he said. “We would have heard if she left.”
“There is another way,” The man said. He turned from Jerry and walked further down the hall.
Jerry followed, wary, his nerves wound tight. A knot in his chest forced him to take short, shallow breaths. The man led him past the bathroom to a door at the end of the hall.
“She might have taken the back door,” the man said. He twisted the handle and pushed the door open. He held it open for Jerry but he did not step through.
Light and fresh air rushed past him as Jerry stepped past the man. The streetlights beside the small cemetery created shadows over the grave stones. The door slammed behind him and he ran. He raced for the street, almost tripping over a fresh grave, without a tombstone.