The two men stood side by side in the courtyard showroom, looking forward, both sets of eyes focused on the object of their desire. It was a black padded chair, and on the upholstered black backrest was a stark white picture of a skull. The only other color to be found was the coiled red cable of a bicycle lock wrapped around one leg to deter any shoplifting. Both men were silent as they took in the latest acquisition available at Olecas Curios.
“Now that is a fuckin’ chair, man,” said the shorter of the two men, still not taking his eyes off the blank sockets of the chair-skull.
“Indeed,” replied the other, taller man.
“I been tryin’ not to come in here so much. Been spendin’ too much money here, you know? But she called me up and told me about this piece, and I just had to see it, you know?”
“I understand. This is a unique objet d’art.”
There was a moment of silence as the two men continued to study the chair.
The shorter man spoke, not looking at the other. “So. . .I’m thinkin’ I’m prob’ly gonna buy this. . .”
“By all means, please do.”
The shorter man’s shoulders relaxed. “You sure? I mean, when I got here you were already lookin’ at it, so I don’t want any hard feelings, you know?”
The taller man smiled slightly, still looking at the chair, and chuckled. “No hard feelings, no. Make no mistake, I would most definitely like to acquire this piece, but at present I’m afraid I really have nowhere to keep it. But it will be some small comfort to know that it will be in the possession of one who appreciates it as much as I.”
A grin spread over the shorter man’s face, and it was then that he turned to look at the taller man. The taller man did not reciprocate, continuing to look straight ahead at the chair. The smaller man opened his mouth to say something, but when he saw the ravaged cheek of the man he’d been speaking to, any words he’d planned on uttering evaporated in the Las Cruces heat.
“Thanks,” was all he was able to mutter as he turned to go back into the store and arrange for his latest purchase. Kibosh did not turn to watch him go. He really did like this chair. Moments like this, he almost wished he had a place of his own where he could hang his hat and knives.
Inside, he heard the young Hispanic man he’d been chatting with dickering with the proprietor of Olecas Curios, an old woman with skin like wrinkled leather. Kibosh listened with amusement as the old woman stood her ground on what to Kibosh was a fairly ridiculous price, even for such a wonderful item. Eventually, the young man agreed, and made arrangements to have the chair delivered to his address. The old woman didn’t collect the address from him, seemed to already know it by heart; it seems the young man did indeed frequent this establishment regularly.
Kibosh heard the man exit, and he heard the old woman say “Good day, Senor Ramirez” and then Kibosh became very still. He heard the old woman grunt and groan as she shuffled toward the courtyard and slowly made her way to the same spot the young Mr. Ramirez had been standing a few minutes earlier.
“Sorry, sir, but this chair no longer for sale,” the old woman said in a voice that sounded as if it had been scrubbed with gravel.
“Quite all right, ma’am,” Kibosh said, turning to the woman and tipping his hat. “Mr. Ramirez seemed quite taken with it.”
The old woman smiled at him, revealing a mouth full of sporadic teeth that were little more than browning stumps. “Si, si. Senor Ramirez is my best customer.”
Kibosh studied the old woman, and she continued smiling at him. Behind her glasses, a thin film of white covered her faded brown eyes. It would explain why she didn’t recoil at Kibosh’s appearance. Kibosh leaned in closer to her.
“Incidentally, ma’am, that young man wouldn’t happen to be Manny Ramirez, would he?”
The woman’s smile vanished as if it had never been there, and she studied Kibosh warily. “Maybe? Why you want to know?”
Kibosh chuckled, holding up his hands. “Please don’t misunderstand, madam, no need for suspicion. It’s just, I’m in town on business and was looking up an old friend of mine, and if memory serves, I believe he mentioned he was good friends with a young man named Manny Ramirez. I thought Mr. Ramirez might know where I can look up my friend. That’s all.”
The old woman was unmoved. “If he is a friend, why you no know where he lives?”
Kibosh cleared his throat. “It’s a. . .delicate matter.” He sighed dramatically. “If you must know, my friend and I, we had a bit of a disagreement several years back and parted ways less than amicably. I just want to put the whole ugliness behind me. Bring some closure.” Kibosh smiled serenely. “Bury the hatchet.”
The old woman looked down at the ground, slowly grinding her sandal into the dirt.
Kibosh cleared his throat. “I’d be willing to provide you some recompense. . .some generous recompense. . .for your troubles. Would one hundred dollars be agreeable?”
The old woman studied her sandal.
“Two hundred,” she said.
“Perhaps one hundred and fifty?”
“Deal.” And in one fluid motion he had the appropriate bills out of his jacket pocket and enclosed in the old woman’s gnarled fist. She counted them slowly and carefully, then nodded curtly, the deal successfully brokered.
Ten minutes later, Kibosh exited Olecas Curios, humming contentedly. In his jacket pocket was the address for a one Mr. Manuel Ramirez, along with the $175 he had momentarily parted with and another $300 from the cash register. Undoubtedly, the authorities would assume the poor old Mexican woman had broken her neck when she tripped and fell. If not, it was no concern of his.