Mr. Smith turned the key and opened the shop’s door. ‘Mr. Smith Antiques, Rarities, and Oddities is a moderate size store in lower Manhattan. It is a three story brick building with the first two floors occupied by the shop itself, the top level has a couple apartments. Mr. Smith had asked me if I wanted to live there, I immediately turned the offer down. I am broke not insane.
I have to say, though, after three years the place has grown on me. The walls were lined with shelves and cabinets of various styles from different eras. Modern meshed with Ancient quite frequently in this little shop; Mr. Smith threw nothing out. The center of the floor accommodated an accumulation of display glass cases and wooden tables, all filled to the brim with an arrangement of small objects for customers to pick up and examine. Everything is lined in neat rows to encourage customers to walk around and browse. If you were to make your way to the back, you would find a metal spiral staircase in the right corner. This leads to the second floor where you will find furniture and rows after rows of bookshelves that reached ass the way to the ceiling containing rare and odd books. History permeates every inch of this place, you can actual feel it walking through the door. My shoes tapped on the hardwood floors, echoing in the temporary quiet room as I entered and smiled like greeting an old friend.
“Ahh.” Mr. Smith said in a pleased tone. “No place like home.”
Mr. Smith flipped the sign on the front door to open while I pivoted on my heel and walked behind the wooden counter next to the reliable old glass door. I bent down, unlocked the safe hiding under the counter, and got the money to fill the giant brass register sitting on top. Mr. Smith looked my way from across the room stopping his journey to the backrooms.
“Oh, Henry, go ahead and call the tailor. I need her to mend my suit.”
“Sure thing Mr. Smith,” I said, my foot closing the safe while I flicked the light switches skyward. A sudden illumination banished the shadows from the areas where the sun could not touch.
Mr. Smith gave me his usual gleeful smile and went into the back rooms. I had just gotten the Rolodex out, yes we still use them, to look up the tailor’s phone number when the bell rang announcing the first customer of the day.
“Good Morning and welcome. Is there anything I can help…” I started to say before I noticed who was standing in front of me.
“Good Morning Henry, dear.” Came a voice as smooth as silk from across the counter.
I stood up straight and began to load the till, my gaze never leaving the woman who smiled at me with impossibly white teeth from across the counter. The large, almost comically sized, blacked out sunglasses she wore to over her eyes did very little to hide her sharp almost angler features. Her platinum blonde hair was weaved in an elaborate pattern and inlaid with a string of small black pearls. Did I mention she was tall? I mean real tall, over six foot not including the designer heels she was most likely wearing behind the wooden barrier. She wore a dark colored silk blouse that complimented her pale skin perfectly. It hugged her tightly in all the right places and looked to be made just for her, which it was. Every piece of her wardrobe was handmade by top notch designers, and they all worked for her. This is also the same person Mr. Smith refers to as his tailor.
“Madam Spider,” I said as cheerfully as I could muster, one does not simply upset Madam Spider. “ I was just about to call you.”
“Glad to of saved you the trouble. I am always delighted to hear you are thinking about me.” She had a beautiful accent, Eastern European if I had a guess. She ran a scarlet nail across the counter, her moves very predator like and her next words came out with a purr. “How many times have I offered to take you out on the town Henry dear?”
“Several times, Madam Spider.” My tone is pleasant.
“And how many time have you turned me down?” She tilted her head slightly, the movement was too fluid, as if judging the best way to strike.
“Every time.” I choked a little on the words, was the collar of the shirt getting tighter or was I just that uncomfortable.
“Why is that? I could show you things you have only dreamed about.” She poured honey into her smooth silk voice, come hither said the spider to the fly. She leaned over the counter, her height allowing her to get within a hair’s breath of me and whispered in those same honeyed tones. “I could just wrap you up and never let go.” Her smile told me she would good on her promises, all of them.
“That’s exactly why we don’t spend more time together. Madam Spider.” I croaked out.
“Fine. Perhaps another time then?” She moved back swiftly and stood up to her full height. The honey had drained from her voice, back to business then. “I have come for my order.”
“Your order?" It only took me a second to snap my head on straight. "Oh right, it did come in last night, but I didn’t call you to let you know it was in.”
"It is Thursday.” Said Madam Spider manner of factually. “I always pick up my orders on Thursdays.”
I was not so sure about that statement and was about to question her when a voice bellowed from one of the brass tubes set on the side of the wall next to the register.
“Henry, code red, the salamanders got loose!” Mr. Smith’s voice yelled from the tubes.
“Not today.” I sighed, and my hand found its way to my forehand with a sharp slap.
“Is everything alright.” Madam Spider looked confused and gleeful at the same time.
“Yes, everything is..”
Henry, I can’t find them!” The voice bellowed again.
“Turn off the lights and look for the glowing!” I yelled back at the tube then turned back to smile at Madam Spider.
“Right, back to business. Your order and Mr. Smith needs one of his suits repaired.” I hurried to grab her package off the shelf.
“Henry!” Mr. Smith sounded a slight more panicked than before. “Henry, who has been feeding the salamanders? They were never this big.”
I did not know how to answer that question, to my knowledge Mr. Smith was the one that feeds the creatures down below. Meanwhile, I notice Madam Spider silently chuckling to herself.
“Oh for the love of mankind, those little fiery bastards melted the glass on the grindylow tank; they are out too.”
I banged my head on the shelf, one more time than I would like to admit. Could this day get any more hectic? The only thing I needed to do was focus on the task at hand. Madam Spider’s box was in a slot labeled ‘Special Orders.’ It was wrapped in brown paper and tied with a golden thread. I slid it off the self and almost dropped it from the weight. What did she order? Gold Bars?
“Never mind, the grindylows are eating the salamanders.” The tube said in a relieved voice. “Do not forget to call the tailor.”
I laid the package on the countertop and gave Madam Spider a knowing smile. She returned one in kind. She ran her fingers over the long box and hooked a nail under the gold thread. With a flick of her finger, the thread severed. She then traced that same fingernail along the top of the paper. Like a scalpel, the paper was cut revealing the redwood underneath.
The paper was carefully removed by her and set aside. A plain wooden box laid on the table. It had no markings and a tarnished brass clasp holding the lid in place. You would think Madam Spider had just opened her first Christmas present from the too wide grin spreading across her face.
“All good?” I asked, curiosity getting the better of me.
“Quite.” Madam Spider said as she popped open the clasp.
Inside was a line of metallic plates stacked up against each other. I am not sure how many there were, but they lined the box end to end. Madam Spider pulled one free. Light reflected off of the credit card shaped piece of, what I could now see as, copper. She took a delicate minute to look over the finer details of the copper plate.
“New piece for you next fashion show?” I asked.
“No, something very old,” she turns her head to me slightly. “They are for my employees, what with the unrest in the local circles lately.”
“Is it that bad?” I asked. “I didn’t hear anything about it.”
“No,” Madam Spider answered. “I supposed you would not. Regarding involvement, you would be considered an outsider looking in. Close enough to can affect your day to day but not a high priority to warn.”
She was signing the delivery slip when the back door opened, and Mr. Smith hurried through the door, his already battered suit was now smoking.
“Henry, did you hear m… Madam Spider, it is nice to see you again. Thank you, Henry.”
“She actually stopped by to pick up her order.” I corrected.
“Well if she is looking for salamanders, we are fresh out.” Mr. Smith grumbled.
I tapped the opened box sitting between Madam Spider and myself, my eyes wide in that way you only get when you are in the presence of the incredibly dense.
“Oh, I see you already got it; wonderful.” He said after a moment’s clarity. “Also I need you to fix my suit. It somehow got damaged.”
“Of course sir.” Madam Spider gave him a small, respectful bow. “I can pick it later today if you like.”
“No need.” Mr. Smith said as he undid his belt and dropped trow in the middle of the shop.
Madam Spider looked on with amused curiosity and I, on the other hand, should not have been as shocked as I was.
“Mr. Smith,” I said exasperatedly. “We have customers.”
“Oh, I don’t mind.” A coy smile played across her thin lips.
I got out a paper bag so Mr. Smith could deposit his torn and charred slacks inside. Next to him through in his jacket and a button-down shirt. Leaving him standing in the middle of the shop wearing nothing but his boxers, socks, and a smile. I rolled up the opening to the bag and pushed both of her packages toward Madam Spider. She signed the receipt and closed the box. She placed the metal plate she had pulled from the box down on the table in front of me.
“For luck, Henry dear.” She smiled at me again before turning to Mr. Smith. “I will do what I can for your… suit?” Madam Spider said as she turned to leave, but she gave me a quick glance. “Oh and Henry, you really must let me make you something. I promise it would be special.” with her free hand she tilted her sunglasses down to reveal the top set of her golden-brown eyes, one of them winked at me.
“I would take you up on that.” I shot a glance toward the half-naked god that signs my checks. “Unfortunately I am what you would call…. broke.”
“Well if anything changes let me know.” She glanced to Mr. Smith for the briefest of moments and sashayed out the door.
“Well, that was fortunate.” Said Mr. Smith before to went to the back, hopefully, to get a change of clothes.
I didn’t see Mr. Smith for several hours after the salamander incident. In that time we had several other customers, and everything went pretty smoothly. We did have one guy try to play with the thunderbolt, not his most shining of moments. I had to drag him into a nearby chair after he was hurled half across the room and almost hit his head on one of the antique tables. He was still snoozing in the chair when Mr. Smith decided to grace the floor with his presence.
“Who is this? Mr. Smith asked as he slapped the unconscious patron lightly a couple of times.
“The Bolt claimed another victim.” I look up at him from the ledger I was writing in. Thank whichever god you choose, he was wearing another suit. “He has been out for a couple of hours now. You should put it in a glass case instead of hanging it on the wall with just a ‘Don’t Ask’ tag.”
“Did he ask?” Asked Mr. Smith.
“Asked about what? The Bolt? No, he touched it, yelled something about YOLO and passed out.”
“Then the sign worked.” Mr. Smith shrugged and ended the conversation. He moved away from the young man and crossed the shop to me behind the counter. I handed him the Ledger with today’s business and the receipt book. While I called the customers whose orders have came in that afternoon, Mr. Smith walked around the shop taking inventory. He checked what had sold today, what was brought in, and if any particular orders were made. Mr. Smith was walking around the upstairs loft when I thought I heard the phone ringing. I picked up the heavy receiver and got a pad of paper.
“Mr. Smith Antiques, Rarities, and Oddities,” I answered the phone.
There was nobody on the other end of the line, but I could still hear the phone ringing. No, it was not the phone I heard, but bells and the sound were getting louder. A moment later trumpets blared from all around me. They sang in all tempos and mixed into a Symphony with the bells. The music grew increasingly louder. It raised my soul and uplifted my spirit along with the Melody. Even though the music itself transcended beautifully, it seemed that the sounds true goal was to see how many decibels it would take until I bleed from my ears. I dropped to my knees and covered my head; the noise became deafening. The table next to me started to rattle, and books fell from their shelves. My head felt like it was going to explode when a strong hand gripped my shoulder.
“Silence.” Mr. Smith bellowed, and the noise abruptly ceased. “I will not tolerate these shenanigans in my house. If you want to talk then speak to me as a man.”
The pressure subsided immediately, and I went slack. If not for Mr. Smith’s firm grip I would probably be face first on the hardwood instead of just slumped on my knees.
“Henry close the shop, we have a special guest.” Mr. Smith saying that, did not ease up his grip until I got back to my senses. I was exceedingly grateful to the counter for letting climb on its side on my wobbly feet. It had taken another few deep breaths before I was actually able to make it around my sturdy support and flip the sign to close.
“So where is this particular guest?” I asked exasperated, locking the door.
“I am here.” A calm, almost song filled, a voice came from the somewhere on the left side of the shop floor.
Mr. Smith and I waiting patiently to see who had come into the store. Someone was moving around the different displays making its way towards us. It was not until the man walked out from behind an unusually tall Wardrobe that I got a real good look the familiar figure. It was the guy that got knocked out by the Bolt, he stood there like nothing had happened, standing casually in a pair of skinny jeans and a red sweater. When he had walked in a knitted beanie adorned his head now in it’s place was a circlet of what had to be condensed light. It looked even more out of place paired with the man-bun he was rocking. Other than the light show around his head he looked like any other pale face college student that needed a trip to the barber shop.
“And who might you be?” I asked trying to be polite, but if I was completely honest, I was more than pissed.
“I am the Messenger of the Lord on High, the Alpha, and Omega, the.”
“Yes, yes.” Mr. Smith interrupted. “All well and good B-lister, we are not in any mood for a grand speech.” Mr. Smith turned to me. “Henry, be a good lad and make us some tea while I chat with our customer.”
“Who is that?” I asked without hushing my tone.
“Henry, you have met an Angel before.” Mr. Smith looked confused.
“I have but which one, the only one I know is Ezekiel, and I like him. He doesn’t pull the holier than thou are crap.”
Mr. Smith sighed and gestured toward the hipster angle. “May I introduce to you Gabriel, Archangel, and Messenger of ‘God.’” He actually made air quotation marks on the last word.
The angel made no inclination toward me, so I gave him the same.
“My time is brief,” said Gabriel. “We must discuss the matter at hand.”
“Very well.” Mr. Smith said.
He guided Gabriel to a small alcove on the left side of the store. Inside would be a couple of sturdy chairs and a coffee table for them to sit and discuss their important business. Once Gabriel walked inside Mr. Smith closed the curtain behind him, giving the small area a sense of privacy. I, on the other hand, began brewing some tea from a small pot we keep next to the safe. I had just brought the tray over when the curtain sprang open, and Gabriel walked out. The hipster angel did not bother saying a word to me as he walked out of the shop and headed out into the world; I swear I had locked that door.
“Henry.” Mr. Smith gestured from the curtain where he was standing to the now empty chairs. This ought to be good.
I set the tray down on the small table and poured myself a cup; I take mine with two sugars. The chair made a little squeaking noise when I sat down the little teacup cradled in both my hands like a newborn chick.
“So..” I began, but I needed to pause and take a sip of the tea, allowing the sweetened hot wonder-brew to cascade down into the core of my very being. Some of the tension I had felt since the Archangel’s arrived fluttered away along with the miniature swarm of butterflies that had taken residence in my stomach until only seconds after that first sip.
“That was a short visit, is there some holy artifact that you are holding ransom from them? The Lord’s favorite sandal perhaps?”
“Actually.” Mr. Smith said, not answering my last question I would like to note. “He came to drop off a package and officially requesting our services.”
He pulled a small manila envelope from his jacket pocket and handed outward towards me. The tea’s effects had wavered slightly, and the butterflies were trying to crawl their way back in.
“I have good news.” Mr. Smith smiled, and my stomach dropped, butterflies and all. “You have some overtime coming your way.”
Like I said today was going to be my lucky day.