Friday, 19 September 2014



"Conscience is a man's compass."


The woman leaned on the counter, looking over the typewriter, her one good eye on the blank, unlabeled keys; her other, the lazy one, looked to be on Marty the whole time, making him feel apprehensive, as if she somehow knew he had stolen the item.  At his feet were other antiques that he had already showed to the store owner, other things he had found in Ivan's basement storage space; a black-painted wooden stool with three legs, a brass desk lamp, a fireplace poker, and a small, porcelain horse figure that Marty could carry in one hand.

Jimmy had come over earlier in the day and the two of them had started scouring the house for antiques. Marty came up with the idea a few nights earlier when he was on his way to bringing some tea down for Tony and found himself staring at the stuff in storage. Some of the stuff looked very valuable. 

“You had all this stuff the whole time and didn't sell it?” Jimmy asked once Marty took him down that morning.     

“I don't go around selling other people's stuff,” Marty said, taking his finger off the light switch and making his way to his friend's side.

“And now? Now that your landlord has gone back to Russia you're going to sell it?”
Marty nodded. “By the time he's back I'll be gone. He only has my phone number, no other info, and if he calls I'll tell him it wasn't me.” 

Most of his friends would have carried on by questioning his morals, but not Jimmy. Jimmy was a thief himself sometimes. Whenever he got fired from a job, usually a restaurant job, he would take a bottle of rum or vodka as a parting gift. The people he worked for never called the police because Jimmy almost always had dirt on them, usually involving hiring illegal workers, or the manager's drinking on the job.  One time he caught a chef coking up in the employee washroom.

“There's a lot of money in this,” Jimmy said instead, taking in the sights around them. There were mattresses lined up against the wall, mannequins randomly strewn about (the few that had not been dropped to cover Ivan's body), but there were also valuable things, authentic antiques.

“God knows where my landlord got them from,” noted Marty. “Maybe it's Russian, some of the stuff. I don't know, the Junction's known for it's antique culture so it could be from anywhere.”
Jimmy nodded. “I'm no expert,” he laughed. “I only know old movies.” He went over to a small dresser, squeezing himself between two desks. On the dresser was an old clock, gold coloured, but unlikely real gold. He ran a finger over the frame. “Damn, this has got to be worth something.”

“There's plenty more upstairs,” said Marty. “I'm looking to clear one of the rooms out, maybe make a living room or something.”
 Jimmy looked back to him and smiled. “Now we're talking. You can get a real nice crib. Buy a big T.V., maybe a high-def thirty-six incher, a blue-ray player. Man, even buy two of them maybe so we can play online.”

Marty nodded. “That's the plan,” he said, feeling excited at the prospect. “We can go over to the stockyards right after and buy everything.”
Jimmy smiled, flashing a goofy grin. “Sounds great,” he said, lifting up the clock in both hands.          
“Where do we go first?”
“The Junction has plenty of antique shops,” Marty replied, moving in through the aisle between the desks, taking the clock from Jimmy. It was not very heavy, more evidence that it was not real gold. “How about we go in a few minutes, take whatever we can, start with the smaller stuff to see how it goes. You take some stuff and go on the south side of Dundas and I'll take the north? Then we sell as much as we can. If you think the deal isn't good, go somewhere else to get a second quote.”
“Okay, sounds about right,” said Jimmy. “How we splitting the money?”
Marty put the clock down on the nearest desk. “Well, how about this? We each get what we sell, but we put half of what we sell into a pool for things to buy in this house. You can come over any time and use the stuff.”

They clasped hands. “Now let's go upstairs and I'll show you the rest.”

As they walked out back out into the basement hallway Jimmy pointed out a chest on the floor near the archway to the stairs.  An old dust encrusted typewriter sat on top of it. Marty picked it up and placed it on the floor. The two of them then went for the chest, grabbing opposite sides of the lid. It felt heavier than it looked, causing both of them to grunt as they flipped the top open. Inside it was filled with quilts. A pungent, almost sour odour, reached their nostrils, causing Marty to cover his mouth and cough a bit as he breathed in stinky air.

“Ah, yuck!” cried Jimmy, taking a step back. “What the hell is that?” 

“Must've been in here for ages,” said Marty, leaning over cautiously and reaching for the quilts on the top, a deep crimson one and a white one. They felt soft and dry. Underneath were four blankets, folded perfectly into squares. “You think these are antiques?” he asked, pulling the first blanket up and out of the chest.

“If the smell indicates age, then maybe,” Jimmy answered. “What is this chest?"
Marty, placed the quilts and blankets back inside and reached to shut the lid. With a single tap of his fingers it slammed shut, sending more dust into the air, making his eyes sting again.
"I could fit in,” said Jimmy.
Marty thought of Ivan and sighed.
The old lady brought a magnifying glass to her good eye. “This typewriter looks Soviet,” she said in a voice that sounded stern and commanding for such a petite and frail looking person. “Probably about the sixties."

“Wow,” Marty said. “So how much we looking at for it?”
The antique dealer took another look at the item, turning it over to examine the bottom closer.         
“Hmm...hard to say,” she said. “These were mass produced so it's not quite the same if you brought in something from the Czarist era.”

Marty nodded. “A revolutionary may have written on it?"
 The old lady laughed. "Or a bureaucrat." 

Marty was glad to be around someone who got his jokes for once. He hadn't seen Richard for what seemed like ages.
 “I can give you three hundred for it,” she finally said after setting it down on the counter in front of her.
“Three? I'd think it was worth at least five,” Marty insisted, feeling a cool breeze beating down on him from one of her Edwardian ceiling fans above. “I mean, sure it comes from a society that didn't value money, but it's old, isn't it?”
She laughed again. “It's oldish, but younger than most things in here, including me. I'm sure many collectors would want to own it, but I wouldn't sell it for much more.”
“Okay,” Marty said. “Three-fifty let's call it?”

“The most I can do is three-twenty-five,” she replied.
Marty sighed, trying not to be too obvious in his disappointment. “Okay, well, how much is this in total then?”

“The stool is seventy-five, the horse fifty, the lamp and poker each fifty,” she said, opening up her old fashioned cash register with a 'ding'. She started pulling out the bills. Marty thought for a second of grabbing the bills from her, and then grabbing the cash register and running. He shook the thoughts from his head. “So, that's five-fifty.”
"Not bad,” Marty thought. “That's a week's worth.”

He knew there were a few more things in the house he and Jimmy could probably sell. He smiled as the woman handed him his cash. “Thanks!”
Once outside he stuffed the bills in his pocket. “There could be thousands of dollars worth of stuff in that house,” he said under his breath, noticing Jimmy coming out from the antique store across the street. They waved at one another.
“How much?” Jimmy asked as he came to Marty's side from the busy street.

“Five hundred and fifty,” he replied, not masking his grin. “How about you?”

“Six bills,” said Jimmy.

“You bastard.”

      “Damn Marty, since when could you hustle like this?” Jimmy asked as he flipped through his share of the money.
      Marty shrugged.  He moved his pawn, the second move of the game. They sat in the kitchen, an old wooden chess board between them. The pieces were white and red (instead of black). Marty naturally played as red. “I wonder if this chess set is early twentieth century Russian?”
 “I don't know,” said Jimmy, moving out a knight in response.
 “White versus red,” Marty muttered, unsure if Jimmy knew what he was referencing.
 “When is your landlord getting back?”
Marty's stomach knotted. He wondered how long he could keep it from Jimmy. 

Every day since the incident Marty half-expected to wake up to the sound of police sirens.  Instead he woke to the usual sound of a train rushing by outside his window mixed with the screeches of seagulls across from the stockyards. He figured that if no one had come by now then no one was coming. Ivan's disappearance was not even known. Every day Marty tuned in to the evening news on his radio and had heard no mention of him. 

Could he trust Jimmy enough to tell him?
“I'm not sure,” said Marty. “He told us around July and expects us to have our rent ready by then for the past few months. Yeah right, eh? I'll be gone by April.”
Jimmy chuckled. “Nice one.”
Marty looked at the board, choosing to move another pawn two squares forward. He would play conservatively, letting his friend bring out his big players early so he could concoct a trap for them.
 “So what was your other plan?” Jimmy asked after Marty's turn.
“You said you had another plan,” his friend replied, bringing out his other horse onto the board. “Last night when you came in you told me you had two potential plans for making some money, remember?”
“Oh yeah,” replied Marty, thinking back to the night before. 

He had gone up to Jimmy's place, back to the old neighbourhood he hated. When he had entered the house he saw someone sleeping on Jimmy's couch. It was Spades, the first time he had seen him in months.
“What's he doing here?” he asked Jimmy when he had come out from the washroom.
Jimmy shrugged. “He's crashing here again.”
Marty figured the police were after him. For a second he considered going home. If Jimmy was hanging out with types like Spades again, then he was exposing himself to potential danger and attracting eyes. The last thing Marty wanted was for the police to be watching anyone near him. Once Jimmy rolled up a joint and they started smoking in the living room he changed his mind.
“Thanks,” said Marty after taking his first drag. “Yo, so I got two ideas right now, two potential ideas for making some money. One of the ideas I think we can do for sure, the other one I'm still thinking about.”
“Oh yeah?” Jimmy had asked. “What, you want to start chopping weed now? You know there's not a lot of money in that. We can probably get something else.”
“Are you doing that?” Marty asked, suddenly feeling hesitant again.
Jimmy shook his head. “What are your ideas?”
Spades stirred on the sofa, probably due to the smell of the weed. Marty then explained to Jimmy the situation with his landlord (not the real situation of course, but the 'vacation') and his plan to sell off his antiques.  By the time he finished Spades was awake, looking groggy as he seated himself up on the couch.
“What's up?” Marty asked, pretending he was glad to see him.
Spades looked at him for a second and Marty wondered if he had forgotten him already. After a few seconds he nodded back. “Where the freaks at?” he asked Jimmy.
Jimmy shrugged.  Marty felt the key in his pocket and decided not to mention the other plan, at least not yet.
“So, what was the other plan?” Jimmy asked again, leaning over the chessboard. “It's your turn by the way.”

Marty moved out his queen from between two pawns. “Oh, the other plan? I'm not so sure it's such a good plan. Let's just see how much money we make doing this first then maybe next week I can tell you.”
“Come on, man.  Tell me what it was.”
 Marty shook his head. “Your turn.”

“Thanks!” said Tony, digging into his dinner. Marty had ordered an extra large pizza and had brought down some slices for him.
“No problem buddy,” said Marty. “Me and my boy just bought a high-def T.V., a Playstation 4, these huge bass speakers, and a blue-ray player. We're turning one of the empty rooms upstairs into a bit of a playroom.”
“Ah very nice,” said Tony. Marty wondered if it was in bad taste to mention this to a blind man. It felt like bragging about a flashing light machine to an epileptic.
“Anything you want? Maybe a radio or some audiobooks?”
Tony shook his head. “No thank you. I'm okay here. I got a radio  and a T.V. already and that's all I need.”
“Alright,” said Marty. “Well, just let me know. I'm really thinking you should probably get going out of this place still. Have you looked at all for another place yet?” Marty grimaced as he realized he used a poor choice of words again.

“No,” said Tony softly. “I'm good, thanks.”
Marty sighed. He really felt it would be better if Tony left, especially if Marty went ahead with his plans. He felt the key in his pocket again, still unsure if he should tell Jimmy about it.
“I'm making a new character for a campaign,” Tony said, finishing up the first slice of pizza.

“Oh yeah? When do you play?
Tony paused for a second, looking to be thinking it over. “It's been over a year.”
“Oh yeah? Why are you working on a character then?” he asked.
“Oh, I like it, it passes the time. I don't even know if I'll ever play this character. He's a thief, a human. I've never played a thief before. I can't decide on his alignment.”

“Oh really?” Marty asked, thinking over the irony of Tony's choice. “What alignment can a thief be?”
“Well, maybe anything not lawful good. He can be chaotic or neutral good.”
Marty snickered. “How can a thief be good?”
“Robin Hood.”
“Oh, I thought he was a ranger technically?”
Tony nodded. “I guess, but a thief who steals from the rich and gives to the poor can be chaotic good. A thief who steals to survive, but has a good heart and doesn't hurt people if it's not needed, at least not innocent people, can be a good thief. Of course, a thief who steals only to enrich himself is evil.”

Marty felt his fingers tense up around the key in his pocket. “How about a thief who steals because he's been pushed around by others all his life; one who steals out of revenge, and as a means of stealing instead of working his ass off for peanuts?”
Tony turned around in his chair, poised to look at Marty if he had sight. “Oh? I guess that could be a chaotic good thief, or a neutral thief. He could only be good really though, if he has redeeming qualities. If he gave the money to an orphanage, for example, or taught a starving village how to hunt and plant crops. He would have to do something else to make up for his ways.”
Marty nodded, standing up, still averting his eyes from the window even though the room was dark. Only Tony's desk-lamp provided any light.

“If there is anything I can do for you, let me know,” he finally said, turning about the leave.

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