October 29, 2012 by Steampunkish Graphic Novels
Stephen had just become a ‘Philadephia man’ just two weeks before the man came in. The pace of life he had adopted upon arrival was well outside what he was used to – everyone seemed to be needing everything right away – no time to delay. Or think, for that matter.
Within that time, he’d spent most his efforts neatening up the shop and filling out orders. It had taken up most of the morning and he’d had little time to handle the actual machining tradework he had come to Philadelphia for. Noting the time, Stephen tried hard to hurry through some final cleaning – eager to pursue work more significant to his education.
“Good day, sir!” said Stephen called out hurriedly, hearing the bell of the door. He put down the brush and pan quickly and rushed out – in the same way he had been doing with everything else that morning.
“Good day,” returned a voice from the front.
As Stephen approached the counter, he saw a towering man with unkempt hair and a few days growth on his face. He looked at Stephen with an angry, displeased look which frightened him. When the man attempted a smile, he realized the look was a result of a scar above his left eye that set that eyebrow far above his right. Still, the impression was unsettling to say the least.
“Is your employer available?” he said, glancing to the back.
“No, I’m afraid not.” Stephen replied, “He will be returning tomorrow. Is there something I can help you with?”
The man looked at him for a moment.
He pulled a leather bag gingerly from his shoulder. He couldn’t help but notice the way he favored his right arm – an injury to his left, maybe? Stephen reminded himself a man’s business was his own and returned his attention to the bag as he pulled something forth.
“Have you seen one like this before?” the man asked.
It appeared, at first look, to be a knuckle-duster – but after focusing his eyes on it, it was far more than a brass knuckle. Intrigued, Stephen stepped towards it, his brow furrowed.
The man handed it to him. Incredible. As he turned it over in his hands he found that this brass knuckle also had a double-edged knife that flipped out and more importantly – if you unfolded the weapon, it became a gun.
“Careful,” the man cautioned, “it’s still loaded.”
Indeed, it was. Stephen opened the barrel, finding pin firing cap bullets, five out of the six in their chambers. Brass knuckles, a knife and a gun – all in one package. It wasn’t very big, either – could be easily hidden in a pocket without giving itself away. A nasty little bit of work.
Stephen looked up at the man and placed it back on the counter gingerly, the business end pointed away from the both of them.
“I’ve never seen one of these before,” the man said, “and I would be willing to pay to find out where it comes from. Also, I appreciate confidentiality on things like this – no one that doesn’t need to know. You follow?”
Stephen nodded quickly, recognizing that his customer’s severity was not something to be taken lightly. As a journeyman, he would need to consult his employer about the ‘nature’ of this request. It was not a simple catalogue review. He would also be certain to describe a great deal about the man himself as well.
“I will be traveling in the next few days, but you should see me soon. When I return, I may have other work as well.”
As the man slipped out the door, the shop returning to normal. Strange. While he hadn’t noticed it upon the man’s arrival, the whole of the shop had been swallowed by silence. It had removed all noise from the street as if as if it were a light that could simply be turned off.
He wondered if his employer would prefer he intentionally feign ignorance in his research or attempt to find it quickly to bring matters to a close. Meanwhile, there it was on the counter, cheerfully gleaming and reflecting the morning sunlight coming through the window.
Stephen found a box for the disturbing weapon and put it away immediately. He wouldn’t need a reminder to mention it to his boss – he could already tell it was going to be in his mind’s eye for the rest of the day, boxed or not.