Jed set the little robot cowboy onto the shelf. Almost as fast as he did, a customer from
the roads wanted to take a closer look. He handed the little exhibit to the old man.
Squinting, the fellar chuckled at the figure. “Science comes to the old west, if that don’t beat all.” He eyed Jed. “What will you take for it?”
The guy nodded. “Take a credit card?”
“Don’t most places?”
He laughed and held out his hand. “Harvey.”
“Nice to meet you.”
“Likewise.” He ran a finger over the piece. “Just out of curiosity, where does this originate?”
Jed shrugged. “Don’t know, sir. Just work here after school and weekends.”
Harvey nodded to himself. “Still, a piece like this sure is curious. Makes you wonder what the brain was thinking when it created this.”
“I’d have to ask Bill.” He hollered into the back room of the gift shop.
At once, a plump, middle-aged, balding man stepped out, dust rag in hand.
Jed pumped his finger at Harvey. “Wants to know where the robot-thing came from.”
“What…” Bill paused at the sight of the thing. Sweat broke out on his brow. “That’s not for sale.”
“How come?” Harvey asked.
“I’ll give you twenty.”
“Mister, nothing’s going to make me sell it to you.”
A bead of perspiration popped onto Harvey’s upper lip and he trembled as he said, “One hundred dollars.”
“No sale,” Bill insisted.
“Listen here, it isn’t fair that you get someone interested in something and then jerk it out of their hands.”
“Jed only works here part-time, he didn’t know.”
Harvey grumbled to himself. “Five hundred.”
“If there’s something else—”
“This is taking advantage of a senior citizen! One thousand, not a penny more.”
“I’m sorry, sir.”
Harvey cast a disgusted eye at Jed and then left the store, peeling out of the drive in his Lexus.
Jed placed the cowboy robot back in its place. “What was that all about, boss? Why wouldn’t you sell it to him?”
He shook his head. “Picked up the thing years ago, or actually my father did when he owned the shop. Supposed to be a crime deterrent. Mostly for luck, I guess.”
“Don’t seem like it’d stop much.”
“Just for show. Old-timers thought it brought peace of mind. If it was good enough for my Dad…”
“Still a thousand dollars.”
Bill stared at the piece. “Not worth losing a memory over.” He straightened and headed for the back. “No, my Dad said to hang onto the thing, just in case, and I intend to.”
Two hours later, Jed took off from his shift, Bill locking up.
Neither saw the Lexus in the shadows.
As they walked away into the night, Harvey eased open his door. He headed for the back of the gift shop and broke a pane of glass that let him turn the lock on the knob. Inside, he maneuvered himself through the dark storage area, tempted to turn on a light to avoid running into stuff. All he wanted was the doo-hickey. It would be his, he determined. At last, he made his way to the front of the shop. He smiled as he spied it upon the shelf. Reaching up, he was startled when the twin white balls of its eyes shot out and impacted against his pupils. He lurched back, putting a hand up to wipe away his tears.
Before he could finish, he felt a metal claw dig into his arm. He screamed in pain. Trying to turn and make his way back through the store, he came up against the thing. Its cowboy glove pinched Harvey’s nose. Hard. He screamed again as the hat slammed into his face, sending him staggering into a pile of toys. His heart gave out before he hit the floor.
Bill opened early in the morning and found his store perfectly intact, despite the broken glass and the empty Lexus in the back of the shop. He eyed the drops of blood splattered on the floor and nodded. Time to call the police. He glanced at the cowboy robot on the shelf. “Your yearly sacrifice has been met, oh great protector.”
For a moment, it seemed the tiny eyes focused on Bill.
A chill swept through him.
He never knew what it did with the bodies. Only that its presence kept his store safe while others around him were hit. And as far as he was concerned, it was a good trade.
©Copyright Nov. 16, 2010, tlc.