“Now lot 436, do I have £50, no £20… £10… over there, £15… sir… No… sold at £15.
It began just like that, a random lot. In fact Claire was interested in wooden fire screen frame. It had some nice carving on. She knew the lot came with a cardboard box full on odd and ends, but that was par for the course. Claire would rummage through them clean and sort them out; they were bound to make at least £20.
This was how Claire made a living, sorting out odds and ends. She had a small shop at the corner of Pear Avenue and the High Street. It wasn’t an Antiques Shop; she dealt in bric-a-brac of all sorts, from furniture to second hand clothes. She was the darling of all the amateur dramatic and operatic societies for 50 miles.
Claire walked out of the auction about 5.00pm, she had brought two other lots besides the one and was loading them into the back of her old Landrover, when the cardboard box containing the bits and pieces toppled. A pale blue oval rolled down the pile of items and bumped against Claire’s hand. She frowned and looked down.
It was a porcelain egg, slightly bigger than a hen's egg but not as big as a goose's. It was the sort that farmers used to put under their hens to encourage them to lay. She picked it up and put it in the pocket of her old coat and forgot about it.
Good thing really.
Claire unloaded the items at her shop, made sure it was locked tight and went home, stopping at the local fish and chip shop for her supper.
It was in the early hours of the next morning when a policeman hammered on Claire’s door.
Her shop had been broken into,
November 2nd, 2004, 08:22 PM
A nondescript man in a worn blue overcoat and mismatched black loafers sat in the back of the room fingering the large round ring in his pocket. It was almost big enough to fit around his wrist, but not big enough to go over the hand.
Round and round the ring his fingers ran as the man in front pawned lots of junk off. He knew the next was the one he wanted, and he smiled in anticipation. It should not be hard to get it, surely no one else could sense it. Surely no one else had a key... without which it was so much bric a brac.
"Now lot 436..." the droning voice broke his reverie, "do I have £50, no £20… £10…"
The worn man grasped a rumpled ten in his pocket. It was all he had. All he could have under the rules, he raised his small red paddle.
"Over there, £15… sir… No… sold at £15" And with that, his chance to return was sold to another. His future was altered.
He watched the woman walk away with his prize, still fingering the ring, with a sense of urgency now. Could he... no, not here, not like this. He would find another way, one with less risk than a confrontation. And the rules, yes the rules forbid such.
Meddlesome things rules, but necessary. Yes, he thought, clearly necessary lest time itself become turned in on itself.
A traveller must always follow the damned rules. But, he so wanted to end his travels and return.
With a shrug he be watched an old Landrover pull away and he watched it go. He straightened his cloak, pulled up his sagging penstriped pants and turned the other way.
As long as he held the key he had time.
November 3rd, 2004, 07:01 AM
The biddy went into her shop looking for all the world like meself doing the same, looking over shoulders, around the block sixty times, careful as anything to not be observed. The difference, o’ course, were that herself had a key. Puts me one up in the talent department. Don’t need no stinkin’ key.
She comes back out, still all sneaky like, locking doors, checking they are locked. What do you suppose would cause a woman like her to react like that? Must be somethin’ worthwhile, don’t you think? I’ll just wander over there and take a look-see.
Ain’t right! Just ain’t right! Get in there easy as you please and find a used store. Used clothes, books, doo-dawds, everything used. What kind of person puts such value on used goods as to be lurkin’ and sneakin’ into their own store?
I’m careful and what you might call perfessional, though. I look in desks and tables and behind hangin’ pictures. I look in the file cabinet. Ain’t nothin’ worth findin’, I’m tellin’ you. Just used stuff.
Except for right there in the middle of the desk – on top of the freakin’ desk! – is this egg. Ain’t even a real egg but some fake thing. Just laying there as if it ain’t worth a pence.
Yet, lookin’ at that egg, I get a sense of importance, like it is sittin’ there rulin’ the world and the world don’t even know it. Doesn’t glow or nothin’ ritzy like that. Just sits there. But just sittin’ there, that egg knew it was in charge.
What else could I do? I took it.
And then, going out the door, I lost my perfessionalism. Ain’t done that in 10 months or so but I tripped the alarm. Now, who’d a thought that this used store would be alarmed?
Had to get the hell out o’ there in a hurry, let me tell you.
November 3rd, 2004, 04:08 PM
The next day a rumpled man in a red ski parka, blue faded jeans and mismatched black loafers was wandering down High Street.
He remembered the street, but it had a different name. Was it Hay Street? Whore Street? Did it really matter? No, he decided, it didn't really matter. He was here now, and it was High Street.
He came to a corner and could feel it... well almost feel it. He stopped and looked through a window. The sign on the front declared it was 'Claire's'.
"Claire's" he grumped. As if that explained anything. Claire's what? Claire's why the hell did you steal my egg parlor? Claire's shop of crap that includes my egg? He settled down a bit. "Not her fault, no not really, you just be easy Old Jon."
Yes, his name was Old Jon. He forgot that sometimes. Jon is what his da named him, and Old was what he was. Oh, perhaps he did not really look it, but 600 years was a long time. Perhaps he didn't earn them all, perhaps he took a short cut. But 600 years was the count from there to here, and that made him old. Simple.
He shuffled to the window and looked in. "Crap. It's Claire's hous of crap."
Talking to himself was a habit he had never lost. When others could not hear (and sometimes when they could) he spoke to himself. Simplified things, cut down on arguments (well, maybe not, but he won them all).
"So now Claire... why do have it? Oh...! No! Now you have it now you don't is the game eh? Rules... rules... what are the rules on this?"
Deciding he had to remember the rules, he chose to simply sit below the window and think for a bit, perhaps see what happened.
"Tay Street! That's what it was. Tisk. I liked Whore Street a might more... to bad it wasn't Whore Street. Nothing on Tay Street. Just that old tailer whatsisname... and, wait, it was... yes, the Curiosity Shop!" Lots of scary crap there, heads, magic talismans and...
Oh. Damn. He could not even go in there now. That was a real problem. It would still stink of it.
"Damned rules anyhow," he muttered. "Fine, fine, Old Jon can wait."
And he did.
November 3rd, 2004, 07:51 PM
A car pulled up behind the Forensics van and parked. Narked, a constable stepped down to tell the driver off.
"You can't park there..." he began.
"DS Moorby, CID," the blonde in the tweed skirt and jacket said, flashing her badge. A small wintery smile on her lips, she slipped out of the car and strolled towards the shop, shivering slightly despite her wool jumper.
"Sorry, I didn't recognise..."
"So what happened here, constable?" she interrupted bluntly.
"We got an alarm at 3:21. First unit arrived here about 3:30, found the door open."
"Where's the owner?"
"She's in the back of the unit car giving a preliminary statement."
"Forensics say when they'd be done?"
"Half an hour, they said."
Sergeant Moorby stepped up to the doorway and eyed the technicians in their white suits at work, taking photos and dusting for prints. She also eyed the merchandise.
"Don't seem like they got away with much."
"Constable, what sort of shop is this?" she asked, folding her arms.
"Bit of a rummage shop really," he shrugged, stepping up behind her.
"Donno, didn't seem like that kind of shop. Second-hand junk."
"Doesn't look like whoever broke in was after the till, does it?" Moorby frowned. She turned and walked towards the unit car where Claire sat with another constable.
"I'm Detective Sergeant Samantha Moorby with the CID," she introduced herself. "Mind if I ask you some questions, Ms.?"
November 5th, 2004, 03:01 PM
I'm Detective Sergeant Samantha Moorby with the CID," she introduced herself. "Mind if I ask you some questions, Ms.?"
"Claire, Claire Short. And I don't mind at all." Claire said as she rubbed her right hand down her skirt. The hand had started to itch. The very hand that had held the egg.
"Very well," DS Moorby said and smiled reassuringly at Claire. Claire did not feel reassured she was worried about the contents of her shop. What had happened in there? "You sell..."
"Bric-a-brac, bits and pieces”
“Well, some, but they are undiscovered ones if that makes sense?” Claire opened her right palm and tried not to look at it, it prickled so much.
“Not really.” DS Moody replied her eyes watching Claire clench and unclench her hand.
“Well I mean they are antiques, but people have just thrown them out as junk, not recognised what they had.”
“And you recognise them.”
“Sometimes,” Claire answered looking at her hand, her mouth widening in surprise.
“Explains the state of the art alarm system.” DS Moody nodded to her fellow officer.
“My hand…” Claire gasped.
“My hand, its gone blue, just like the egg.”
“What egg?” DS Moody leant forward looking hard at Claire.
November 5th, 2004, 03:23 PM
DS Moorby stared, reaching in and taking hold of Claire's wrist.
"Constable," she ordered, turning to the cop standing next to her, "Get one of the forensics boffins out here now."
"I want you to relax," she told Claire, raising the wrist above the woman's head. "Maybe it's just the color leeching off. Is there any pain? Feel like you're going to faint or something?"
One of the forensic techs appeared with his box. Seeing the hand, he frowned and put his box on the roof of the car, rummaging through it for a sample swab.
"This egg Claire - was it one of the things stolen last night? Where did you get it? What did it look like?"
November 5th, 2004, 03:34 PM
"Errrr, it was on the desk, just an old porcelain egg, the sort that was put under hens to encourage them to lay."
DS Moody frowned as the edges of Claire's fingers started to fade. "You feeling ill, anything."
"Are you..." Claire giggled for some reason she could not understand
"Nothing like that on the desk now." The constable said flipping through the list of what was in the shop, or at least what was on top of the layers of bits and pieces.
Claire's whole hand was now fading as was DS Moody's fingers where she held Claire's wrist.
"Stand back let me through," one of the white suited forensics team said.
But there was no one there for him to see once they had let him through, Claire and DS Moody were else where. They were mere shades of themselves standing in the grimy sitting room of a grimy flat belonging to a friend of a freind of a professional thief.
Said thief was fast asleep on the overstuffed sofa one hand round an empty Newcastle brown ale bottle, the other holding a glowing pale blue egg.
November 5th, 2004, 03:50 PM
A cold chill filled Sam Moorby as everything faded around her. Instinctively she clung to Claire's wrist.
"Wha... what is this?" she stammered in the gray mist. "What's happening?"
A giggle answered her. Was it a drug? Poison? Virus? Butterflies were churning in her stomach.
Shapes began appearing again from the mist - a man lying on a soiled chesterfield sofa in a grimy little flat. He was out of it, no doubt thanks to the beer in his hand. He looked familiar - she'd seen his face in a lineup, she was sure. In the other hand something glowed blue.
"Claire, is that... Is that the egg?" she asked, but she already knew the answer.
"Yes... What's going on?"
Sam raised her free hand and stared at her transparent fingers. "I wish I knew," she said, trying not to shudder. "Do you know him?"
November 7th, 2004, 11:44 PM
Old Jon opened his eyes, his head aching a bit.
"Oh, no you wouldn't. Oh yes you did! But not now, then... but now you are, and then no longer."
He smiled at that. "Okay, so then you were, but now you are. But where? That is something Old Jon doesn't know."
He stood up and began walking down the road. "But he'll find out sure enough, yes he will. More importantly, he'll find out how you triggered it without the key!"
He scratched his crotch vigorously, then stopped as he noticed an old lady watching him. "Get your own!" He barked. The lady looked away shocked.
"Ah yes, the key. It was only a partial triggering though, now wasn't it. That's the thing, only a parial triggering. Good, but not perfect."
He wandered down the road, seemingly at random. And somehow, for anyone paying attention to these things, he was now wearing a black herringbone coat, worn and frayed, blue pinstrip pants three inches too short, and a pair of mismatching loafers.