"This isn't going to make us any real money," Collin growled, throwing a pile of crumpled cash on the bed.
"Then why don't you get a job?" Mary asked.
"Get a job? How do you propose I do that, you little whore?" he asked grabbing her arm. "I'm a wanted man, remember? Benny and his goons are ready to kill me the next time they see me."
"You're the one who had to bet on Double Eagle for the win" she reminded him pulling out of his grasp. "And I'm not a whore."
"You forget how we met."
"Look, you want to get out of here and so do I. So let's just get some money and split."
"Maybe if you were a little better at what you do," he snapped tossing a handful of money in her face. "Eighty dollars was all you got last night?"
"I also picked up a shift at the diner."
"Ah, so you're holding out on me?" He grabbed her again. "I owe that man near 50,000 dollars now."
"Don't you touch me," she warned. "I'm the only one making any money around here."
"Go make some more." He handed her a dirty fur coat.
"I'm tired, Collin."
"All you're gonna do is lay on your back. I need that cash and I need it now!"
"Okay, these are the files for the bills we charge people and these are the files for the bills when we pay people," Duncan explained to the newest member of the antique store staff.
Richie nodded. "Money coming in... money going out. Got it."
"So why don't you start with this." He patted a stack of invoices. "These are the receipts from what we've sold. They're alphabetical by the customer's last name."
Richie set to work mumbling his ABCs while Duncan did data entry in the computer.
"How's it going in here?" Tessa asked coming into the office from the hidden door to her workshop. "Sorry," she apologized when she noticed Richie's shocked expression.
"You startled me," he mumbled, turning back around.
"I thought I would get lunch started. How does soup and sandwiches sound?"
"Sounds great," Duncan smiled at her. "What do you think, Rich?"
"Good. I'll call you when it's ready." She turned with a smile and left. When Richie had moved in a week ago, she had wondered if an American teenager would be hard to accommodate, but this particular one was so easy going and accommodating it was like he had always been there.
She looked through the cupboards and refrigerator and decided on ham sandwiches on day old Italian loaf with baked potato soup. While the soup was simmering, she grated some cheddar cheese and cut some green onions to garnish the soup with. Then she sliced the left over ham from two nights before for the sandwiches. Nearly an hour later, lunch was ready. She called the others up. Richie came up immediately, but Duncan was dealing with a customer and couldn't come up until they were gone.
"Shall we wait?" Tessa asked.
"Sure," Richie shrugged, searching for a coke.
"We may be out," she admitted. "I'll put it on the grocery list."
"Okay." He started looking for something else to drink and settled on milk. "Um... maybe we could add milk too?" he added a bit sheepishly as the last of the milk poured into his glass.
Tessa smiled at him. "Of course. We'll get a full gallon this time." They weren't used to having an avid milk drinker in the house. In a few days time, Richie had polished off a half gallon by himself.
A few minutes later, Duncan came up after getting rid of the picky customer and closing the store for half an hour.
"You didn't have to wait," he smiled, sitting down at the head of the table. As soon as he was seated Richie picked up his sandwich and started eating. "Hungry?" Duncan asked laughing.
Richie stopped, put the sandwich down and grinned nervously. "Sorry." Duncan just smiled and picked up his own sandwich.
"Richie, we need to talk to you about something," Tessa started when the silence had gotten too thick.
Groaning, Richie put down the bowl of green onions he was dumping on his soup and leaned back in his chair. "What did I do?"
"Nothing," she told him.
"Oh," he perked up. "What's up, then?"
"Well, Friday night there is a silent auction for charity that Duncan and I have been invited to..."
"And?" Richie asked. "What does that have to do with me? You guys were the ones invited."
"You have two choices," Duncan started. "Well, three really... four." He shook his head to stop his rambling mind. "You can come with us if you'd like. We'd have to go out and get you a suit tomorrow, but that wouldn't be a problem."
"You'll need one soon enough, anyway," Tessa agreed.
"Okay... so you want me to go."
"If you want to. Or you can stay here and have some quality time with yourself," Tessa told him.
"Or go out with your friends... or have them over, I suppose," Duncan added. "It's up to you."
"So you want me to stay?"
Tessa smiled at the boy's simple confusion. "We want you to decide if you want to go or stay. You just need to decide by five o'clock Friday night."
"So you'll have time to get ready if you want to go."
"Oh...okay." He went back to his soup. "I don't think I can go," he decided after nearly ten minutes.
"Already have plans?" Duncan asked.
"Tell you what. We'll leave Tessa with the store tomorrow. I need to go to the hardware store and you can go with me. After that, we'll go get you a suit just in case you decide you want to go."
"But what if I don't go? Then I'll have wasted all my money."
Duncan and Tessa exchanged a quick glance. "Well, Tessa and I were thinking that since you need the suit for work related obligations that we would pay for the suit."
"Are you sure?"
"It only seems fair."
"If you're sure."
"We are. We talked about it and we decided."
"Um... okay, I guess."
Tessa smiled. "Then it's settled. I'll call Mr. Marshall and ask him to set aside a few things for you. That way tomorrow he'll be ready for you."
"Who's Mr. Marshall?" Richie asked tearing apart his bread.
"He owns a tailor shop," Duncan told him. "We'll go there for your suit."
"I thought we were just gonna go to the mall?"
"Mr. Marshall has better quality suits. And I see teenagers in there all the time, so he'll have some styles that are perfect for you."
Collin walked up and down the aisles of the hardware store. It was a safe place to hide for a while. He was sure he had spotted some of Benny's goons in a café a block away. He'd give it an hour or so before heading back out. By then they will have gone somewhere else.
His fingers glanced over a few of the more pricey items on the shelf in front of him. Too bad there wasn't much want on the black market for fancy chandeliers and light fixtures. There were no real hot items in demand that he could easily get his hands on. Benny's last warning had been clear. The money by next Friday or he would never have to worry about owing anyone money ever again. That gave him a little less than two weeks to get it.
"Man... I can't let you foot that bill. Let me at least pay you back for half of it," a kid said walking down the aisle next to his father.
"Richie," the man said as they skirted Collin. "Don't worry about it. We got a good deal."
"Four hundred bucks on one suit is a good deal?"
"Keep your voice down," the father hissed, grabbing the boy's arm. "Yes, it was. That suit was worth six hundred easily."
Collin couldn't help but listen to the conversation. Four hundred dollars? On a suit for a kid? He wished he had that kind of money to throw around.
"Stop worrying about the clothes and help me find the right lightbulb for the light out side the store."
So dear old Dad owned a store.
"That thing's so old I'm surprised it doesn't use candles," the kid cracked.
"It's used to. It took some doing but I converted it."
"The thing's an antique, why not just get a new one?"
"Think about what you just said."
The boy paused and Collin pretended to be looking at the yard lights a few feet away.
"Kinda an ambiance thing?"
"Very good. It's an antique store, so there is an antique light outside."
Dad owned an antique store? Collin was starting to get an idea. As the pair found the lightbulb and headed for another aisle, Collin walked the other way and caught up with them on the other side of the shelves. He could hear and sort of see the two as they continued their shopping.
"Have you given anymore thought to the benefit?" the father asked as they picked up a box of screws.
"I dunno. I guess since I got the suit now, I might as well," the kid answered.
"Don't worry about the suit. You're going to end up wearing it more than you'd like to know. You'll get plenty of use out of it."
"Well...Gordon and Kyle were going to try to set up a game of football in the park Friday afternoon."
"Then the problem is solved. Go play with your friends. As long as you don't mind being alone for a while. These events run pretty late sometimes."
Collin smiled... the solution was unfolding right in front of him.
"One or two in the morning."
All his questions were being answered as he stood there listening.
"That all? I can handle that."
"Okay. We'll tell Tessa tonight."
Just when Collin thought things could not be any more perfectly set up, he noticed what was on the shelves right in front of him. Grinning, he grabbed a roll of the duct tape just in time for the father/son pair to walk off again. He waited for a second then followed them to check out.
Richie shifted in his seat and looked over his shoulder.
"What are you doing?' Duncan asked.
"That car's been following us," Richie said.
Duncan glanced in the rearview mirror at the blue car behind them. "For how long?"
"A few blocks."
"You're paranoid." Duncan turned around the corner and parked outside the store. The car was no where to be seen. "See? Just your imagination."
Richie smiled and relaxed visibly. "I guess some things die hard."
Duncan smiled, too, and put his hand on the back of Richie's neck. "I guess so."