Don’t you think stories always begin in the wrong place? I usually turn to the end before reading how the denouement is reached. Therefore I have no regret in relating that Ivan got to the night depository and carefully stowed the envelope inside its verdigrised safe. I watched him lean against the wall and let out a sigh, then he looked around to ensure no one had followed him. He obviously didn’t possess good observational skills. I was able to survey him through my compact mirror whilst touching up my lip gloss.
There had been a couple of awkward moments. Firstly the queen skating along the sidewalk who’d almost taken him out.
“Sorry, darling,” he crooned.
“Nice package,” he said, squeezing the envelope and smiling. “Mucho moneyo!” He laughed and despite his wheels helped Ivan upright. I could see Ivan sniff his heavy perfume.
“Oh! You’re English.” The guy caught my signal. “If you’re okay I’ll get off.”
Ivan nodded and clutched the envelope tightly.
I thought the second distraction might be more of an issue. I’d hired a vagrant to read his fortune. The deal was ten dollars to accost him and twenty more if she managed to get him to listen to her story.
“You’re too pretty to be a private detective,” she said as I peeled off ten from a bundle. She told me about her book which had gone missing and had probably been used as fuel by other vagrants, and that was her opening gambit with Ivan.
“Can’t be too careful round here,” she told him as she crossed his path. “My Teddy Roosevelt biography was stolen from me last night.”
Ivan walked on and ignored her, as I thought he might, only she gathered speed and caught up. I could see his nose wrinkle as she spoke and remembered the smell of stale cabbage.
“There’s a negative aura about you for one who’s about to get married,” she said.
“Aura? Married! What sort of crap’s that?” Ivan looked around; I wondered whether he suspected something.
“Energy, good or bad — and yours is bad, and it’ll get worse if you don’t give me a dollar bill and that’s not a good start to any relationship.”
Ivan smiled and pulled a crumpled note from his pocket. “Keep the change,” he joked.
I took some photos. Ivan was off to a good start as a prospective husband. He’d got off the plane sober — that must be a rare event for a Brit! He hadn’t abused a guy who knocked him over. He’d shown charity and humour with a vagrant. Well. It was time for the finale. This test had needed rehearsing and I’d insisted on a toy gun.
Ivan walked with purpose. He took surreptitious glances at a street map without being obvious and entered East 103rd Street. That’s when my two guys emerged from an alley.
I stopped and listened, as I’d wired one for sound earlier in the day.
“We’ll take that.” The youth with pimples gestured the envelope.
“I don’t think so.” Ivan said.
“He doesn’t think so!” The second youth produced the toy gun and tossed it menacingly from hand to hand. I figured Ivan might be taken in not having experience of firearms.
“It seems to me you have a choice of being here when the police arrive or being long gone.” He flicked open his phone and dialled 9-1-1.
The youth with pimples pulled the phone from him and threw it across the sidewalk. It slipped off under the wheels of a yellow taxi. Quite calmly the man grabbed the youth’s arm and turned him around in a painful lock. At the same moment his foot caught the hand holding the gun and it pirouetted through the air and shattered on the concrete.
The guys looked at each other. One of them used two fingers as a gun and made a joke of it.
“Am I being made a fool of?”
“We’re outta here. See you around.” The two ran back down the alley.
I was seriously impressed and I hoped the pictures I was taking as evidence would satisfy my client. She’d gone to a lot of trouble to sift this one out from the internet dating agency. I had to move quickly. Ivan sprinted the final one hundred yards and got to the night depository.
“Well,” I said, emerging from the shadows. “Jolene is some lucky woman.”
Ivan looked at me, not certain whether to laugh or cry. “You set this all up?”
I nodded and handed him my card. “My client wanted to know she was doing the right thing, so she asked me to find out. You didn’t steal the money. You arrived sober, you forgave a man who knocked you down, showed charity and finally bravery. Wow! You’re quite some guy.”
“Made that way,” he said.
I looked at his slightly-too-long curly hair and brown eyes. He kept himself in good shape and I noticed the glint in his eye and how he looked at me just a fraction too long.
“Do you want a drink before you meet Jolene?”
He looked at his watch. “Why not — just the one, mind, and no more tricks.”
I crossed my heart but kept my other fingers crossed because I had one life-changing idea. I’d have to forfeit the fee of course but it might just be worth it in the end. Quite gallantly he took me by the arm as we entered the bar and I had this feeling in the pit of my stomach — a cross between butterflies and a flock of starlings. As I say, stories always begin in the wrong place and far too often they end in exactly the same fashion!
Clint Wastling is a UK writer based in York. He’s had stories published in newspapers like The Weekly News and online with withpaintedwords.com and Every Day Fiction. There’s a story forthcoming in Bridge House Publishing’s Travel Anthology as well, keep an eye out! Like loads of other writers he’s trying to get a first novel published! His collected stories, Calico Blue and Other Stories, is available on Amazon.