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If ever a man looked like trouble, this one did. Power radiated from him like ripples from a hub. He may as well have been wearing a sign that read: Beware. This man is dangerous.
And me? Well, he scared hell out of me. But it galls me to confess that, at the same time, I was attracted–and on more than one level. Dangerous? Oh, you bet.
But let me explain.
I was alone in the shop on an unseasonably hot June morning, knee-deep in paperwork and with an overdue repair backlog. My brother Scott, the other half of "Iron's Gunsmithing: Sales & Repair," had gone off on a junket with Sonja, his fiancée. Their wedding, scheduled to take place in a couple of weeks, occupied most of his waking hours and all of his thoughts of late, which left me wholly in charge of the shop. His job is sales; mine repairs. I'm Boothenay Irons, the gunsmith.
The telephone receiver I was holding dropped away from my ear as I glanced, strangely disturbed by the man who'd come in and stood looking around. The person on the other end of the line faded to a distant squawk before I recovered and caught up with the question he'd been asking.
"No, sir. I'm sorry, Mr. Kivett, the new Browning Citori O/U Special Skeet hasn't come in yet. If you'd care to drop by the shop and take a look, we have a Beretta S682 Gold Skeet in stock that's just a little pricier." I paused, listening as Mr. Kivett–who traded skeet guns every season, none of which made him shoot any better–rattled on. "Yes," I said. "Scott has a note right here with instructions to call you as soon as the Browning arrives. Sure…sure. Will do, sir. Thank you.Good-bye."
If Mr. Kivett truly wanted to excel in his sport, he'd get out to the range and practice, and quit blaming his failure to win a competition on his shotgun. Of course, he was good for sales, especially since he bought a new gun from us every year. I guessed I'd better not complain.
Meanwhile, I hadn't stopped watching the man, a stranger whom I'd never seen in the shop before. Something about him made me uneasy and I edged nearer the cash register where, if driven to such a humbling action, I could hit the panic button that would automatically call the cops.
To be fair, the guy seemed to be studying me with reciprocal distrust. He kept his distance, too, coming no closer than the center of the room. As though claustrophobic, his dark eyes swiveled this way and that, taking in the ambiance of the old brick building that houses Iron's Gunsmithing on the lower floor, and where Dad and I live on the second. He reminded me of a shyster real estate agent about to try passing off an iceberg as an arctic island resort.
To cover my nervousness, I smiled brightly at him. "Help you?"
He jumped, as though my speaking had startled him. Guilty conscience? I wondered. I wished there were someone–anyone–else in the shop right now. I'm strong and tough-minded, but I'm also small in stature, which tends to keep me on my toes.
When he spoke, his voice sounded rusty and unused, scraping over some of the consonants. I have to say this wasn't unpleasant. Quite the contrary.
"Looking for a gun," he said, quiet and low.
"What kind? Rifle? Handgun? Shotgun?" Thinking of Mr. Kivett, I added, "Skeet?"
His lips formed the word "skeet" as if he wondered what kind of animal that could be.
"Pistol," he said, with an emphasis on the last syllable, until it sounded almost a Spanish speaker's pronunciation.
"Single action, double action, semi-auto, fully auto? What price range are you considering? What are you going to use it for?" I rambled on. "Targets? Varmints? Home defense?"
An inquisition isn't the normal way for me to begin with a customer. Like I said, the guy made me nervous. So much so that I nearly missed hearing him say, "A killing gun."
I swallowed, thinking, well, it is the nature of the beast. "Ah, yeah." I said aloud. "Well, suppose you come over here and see if there is anything in the showcase that interests you."
Hoping I wasn't borrowing trouble, my finger hovered above the panic button. Believe you me, I'd want to be checking this dude's credentials before I sold him as much as a cleaning kit.
With my other hand I reached for the little Smith & Wesson Model 60LS .357 magnum under the counter, close to swearing out loud as I remembered I was in Scott's territory. I'd left the LadySmith on my own side of the shop. Scott liked an old pump Mossberg I found awkward and slow, but at least it lay on a shelf within reach. I found myself appreciating its proximity.
Tentatively, the guy stepped forward. The lightweight, lace-up boots he wore, with tops made of black fabric, reached to just below his knees. Dressed all in black, he almost faded into the background, until he got to where the sun shining through the shop windows cast more light on him. Then I saw his skin was tanned a shade like stained oak, a little unusual around Spokane this early in the summer. The color was in sharp contrast to his raggedly cut, white-blond hair.
Yes, white, although he couldn't have been more than my own age of twenty-seven. A natural coloration, I believed, although black lashes surrounded eyes as brown as my own. An odd genetic combination.
Copyright © 2003 by Carol Crigger