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MARK’S VARIETY

By Terry Sheils

Copyright 2001

Kenford Plaza was named with the usual imagination of developers and rental agents. That is, it was at the corner of Kencaid Ave and Winford Drive, in Winford Park, a subdivision, in turn, named after its builders Wendy Caiden and Ford Parkin.  So one should not have expected anything unusual about it from its name.

And, indeed, a listing of the nine stores that constituted the plaza would have led to the same conclusion.

Walking from East to West along Kencaid, the first business you passed was La Cafeteria, its sort of French name suggesting an ambiance that was belied by its interior. The menu was limited and the coffee was probably the only thing that wasn’t knowingly cooked in grease. None-the-less, it had its regular clientele, particularly before work in the morning and later, once the beer was cold.

The next establishment was Sisters’ Cleaners, which was run by the Sisters, all right; Bert and Frances Sisters, and prided itself - in loud letters on the steamy window - that nothing was sent out. Of course what was not bruited quite so vociferously was that nothing got quite clean either.

Then there was Viro’s Cards ‘n Things, run by real sisters also, Violet and Rosemary Spooner, spinsters whose independent wealth made it possible to run a business that saw maybe fifty customers a year. Violet refused to have anything but the most sentimental of greeting cards on the shelves, and Rosemary, who was in charge of the things, no longer had any mind for inventory and was more interested in the comings and goings of the other stores on Kenford Plaza.

The fourth store was periodically vacant. For some reason, or probably a variety of them, no business seemed to last in that location for long. Rosemary insisted it was haunted and that strange sounds could be heard through the walls after sundown in the Fall, but nobody paid much attention to her.

In the middle of the nine stores, in more ways than one, was Mark’s Variety, run by Joanna Mark, who, without quite knowing how, had become the spokesman, willing ear and advisor to all the business people on the Kenford strip. No decision regarding the plaza as a whole, or the relationship of the tenants to their landlord, Wendy Caiden, was made without the approval of Joanna. It was a dirty job but...the cliché described reality.

The two barbers, Dom and Tony’s was next, though Dom no longer cut hair, having suffered a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair, and Tony had long ago sold his half to Moishe Feldstein, a nice young Jewish boy. However, Moishe reasoned, no one would go get his hair cut at Dom and Moishe’s and he looked vaguely Italian, so he easily offered the name of Tony when asked by a new customer which one he was.

West of Dom and Tony’s was Earthanasia, the Health Food Store, run by two aging hippies, Verba Spyles and Neddo Rubens. No one knew their real names. No one cared. As long as they didn’t smoke their food out front of their place, they were pretty much left alone. And they didn’t get enough business to disturb anyone’s regular customers...not in the daytime anyway.

Maxine’s House of Absolute Pulchritude was the second last place to the West and, though Maxine herself gave a good try at living up to her business’ name, the customers were farther out of touch than Verba and Neddo if they thought no one would recognize them when they’d had a complete makeover.

Then, at last, on the corner of Winford, Lola’s Fashions and Accessories, owned and run by Frieda Schmidt, offered “Cut-rate Gowns at High-Fashion Prices,” in contrast to the big mall stores which advertised just the opposite. That had been painted on her window by mistake and she hadn’t corrected it for, apparently, Lola-Frieda’s honesty had a certain appeal. Her store was almost never empty. Of course, she stayed open late on Friday night, when husbands would lurch the length of the plaza, to buy “a little something” for the wife they’d forgotten to phone before they dropped in to La Cafeteria for a beer.

Not much of a place, Kenford Plaza, one might think.

But if there were a “million stories in the big city,” to go along with a half-million stores, there had to be at least ten stories at Kenford Plaza.

And how many stories can a reader take, after all?

 

Word of Mouth Security

Joanna Mark, who was the “Mark” of “Mark’s Variety” on the Kenford Plaza, was losing money. Moreover, unlike the Spooner Sisters who ran “Cards ‘n Things” two doors East and whose trust funds meant they could exist forever on the sale of one friendship card, she couldn’t weather a period of hardship for very long. In fact, twenty-four hours was about her limit, and it had been much longer than that now.

Besides, while Vi and Rosie had only themselves to feed - and she suspected they ate like the tiny birds they looked like - Jo had Henry Mark, her father, who, if he could be compared to any flying thing at all, probably had most in common with a pterodactyl.

The problem had begun when Jo had gone a few rounds with the Big C and received radiation in a place she’d rather not talk about. Though she appeared to have won, the fight had sapped her energy - for at least a year the doctor said - which meant that ten hours at the store was all she could take. She’d normally been open from seven a.m. to eleven p.m., but now she found that by five she was dead on her feet. Nor did opening at nine or ten solve the problem, for it merely meant she missed the before-work purchases of milk, sugar, cookies and coffee for the offices across the street, her morning papers got stolen from outside her shop and, since Henry still had to have his bowl filled and his cage cleaned before seven, she was still a basket case at five o’clock. Closing in the middle of the day was worse. Jo couldn’t sleep when the world was at high noon. But closing at five meant she lost the six most lucrative hours Mark’s Variety had in the day.

The solution was, of course, obvious. Hire someone to work the evenings.

Obvious, but impossible.

“You just try to find someone who’ll work seven days a week from five to eleven,” she told the others on the Kinford strip mall. And they all scoffed, until Peter de Angelis lost his evening waitress at La Cafeteria and tried to replace her.

Unemployment figures may be perfectly accurate, but the forms upon which they’re based should ask questions like,

“Will you work evenings?” Those who have the youth and energy to do so, won’t.

“Will you work for minimum wage?” Those who will are incompetent and don’t deserve that much and the rest are young and energetic.(See Point One)

Thus when Nayed Mizrahi quit to open a parking lot in Algonquin Park or somewhere, Jo found herself without her third evening clerk in a week and started shutting the store at five, thereby guaranteeing herself daily losses for nine more months.

And her father’s stomach began to rumble, ominously.

Of course the other strip mall operators who were her friends were full of sympathy, but they had their problems too, except for Vi and Rosie who thought the world was a Valentine and Verba and Neddo, proprietors of “Earthanasia,” the “health food emporium,” who were always testing their products for purity and whose minds were thus regularly cleansed of all rational thought.

Everyone was full of helpful suggestions, like

“Put a couch in the back room and an alarm on the door; thus, when someone comes in, you can wake up and serve them.”

Maxine, from the Beauty Parlor had even brought in a psychiatrist’s couch - God knows where she had picked that up - and Neddo Rubens had hooked up an “eco-friendly alarm,” so Jo had tried that idea...for exactly one night. The moment her head hit the headrest of the couch, her eyes snapped open and the simulated tiger’s roar that Neddo’s alarm emitted gave Jo the shakes for an hour and drove whoever it was into the night, shrieking bloody murder. Jo had spent the rest of the evening trying to disconnect the alarm; Neddo was no help, he was brewing a batch of Ecolixir from ingredients he’d bought wholesale from the Metro Zoo.

Then her father made the stupidest suggestion of all; undoubtedly his mind was weakening with impending starvation.

“Why don’t you let me work the night shift?” he’d said. “I mean, I wouldn’t demand any pay as long as I could have a quart of milk and a bag of cookies - something not too fattening. And I’d really enjoy talking to people again. You realize all I do is walk around this house all day talking to the flowers and myself? And I’m not much more fun than the flowers; we both just drink water and slowly die. And that dog you bought me was worse. He pretended to understand me and then cowered under the stairs and peed the next time I spoke to him. What was my point anyway?”

Her father was always rambling on until he lost the thread of where he’d begun and had to be reminded of it. But this time Jo wasn’t going to help him out.

“I have no idea,” she said.

“That means you disagreed with me...oh, yes, I suggested working evenings for you, didn’t I?”

“And, though you didn’t give me a chance to do it verbally, I answered ‘Not a chance.’”

“Why not? You think I’m incompetent to serve people? To make the right change? I’m only seventy-two. I’m in fine shape. ‘Six-three of lean and mean,’ the Doctor says. I used to be an accountant. And my mind’s still sharp; in fact, I’m the one who knows just how far in debt we are...to the cent.”

“I know and no, it isn’t that.

“What’s wrong with evenings? I outlast you. I even did before the Big C. I only need five hours sleep. You need about twenty-six a day right now. But I’m not offering that. Six hours a night. That’s my limit.”

“No bloody way.”

“Give me one logical reason.”

“Do you know how dangerous running a shop at night is?  Robberies all the time.”

“You ever been robbed?”

“You know I haven’t. But the cops say armed robbery is on the upswing in the suburbs. What would you do if a man pulled a gun on you?”

Joanna emphasized her question by pointing her index finger at her father across the Dining Room table.

“This.”

Henry Mark explained his answer by grabbing her wrist so hard it hurt like hell and dragging her on her face halfway across the table where he placed his other hand firmly around her neck, his long fingers almost choking her.

“Where...in hell...did you learn...to do that?” she gasped. “God, let me go, you’re...choking me...”

“Sorry.” Henry Monk released her. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“Just my ego.”  Jo felt the cheek that had been dragged across the table and rubbed feeling back into her hand. “I repeat, where’d you learn to do that?”

“Only thing that dog you bought me was ever good for.”

“You practiced on Muffy?  No wonder he cowered under the stairs and peed whenever you spoke to him.”

“But it’d surprise the hell out of the first would-be thief, don’t you think?” Henry asked. “And I’d sure have him held nice and still for the video to get a good look at him.”

“But they talk to each other, these guys,” Jo argued. “Once your element of surprise wore off, they’d fill you full of lead.”

“That’s when I’d spring Muffy’s Revenge on them.”

“You’d pee on them?”

“Worse than that. But it’s got to be a secret even from you. They have torture chambers, these guys, and I don’t want them using the Wheel of Truth on you.”

“What on earth’s the Wheel of Truth?” Joanna laughed.

“They strap you down and make you watch three days of Wheel of Fortune.

“You’re out of your mind,” Jo chortled.

“Certainly. But I can run a friggin’ variety store. Please, Jo. You come in here every night bushed and pass out. You realize, since your mother died, I’ve really had no one to talk to? She’s the last who ever listened to me.”

“No wonder. You drag her across the table on her face too?”

“Don’t be funny. Give me a chance. One night. If I blow it, fire me.”

“God,” Joanna sighed. “One night. All right.”

“And you promise to stay home and sleep.”

“Stay home, O.K.

“Don’t worry. You’ll hear from the cops if I have to use Muffy’s Revenge.”

“Why doesn’t that comfort me, I wonder?” Joanna mused.

“You’re starting to hedge...”

“All right!” Jo threw up her hands. “All right! Tomorrow’s Monday...usually our quietest night. Come in before five to let me get to the bank with the weekend money. We’ll see how it goes and take it from there.”

In fact, Henry was so excited about doing something useful again, he actually came in about noon and puttered around in the back room, straightening up the pop cases, repairing the knob on the rear door (though Joanna wasn’t aware it needed fixing) and generally making her feel uncomfortable.

But it went swimmingly. Regular customers, seeing the lights on for the first time in ten days, dropped in to see what had been wrong and naturally, not wanting to appear just nosy, bought something. So, in fact, it turned out to be a better Monday than usual. And Henry had no problems, except for the constant interruption of having to answer the phone. But that stopped once Joanna finally dozed off.

In fact, at the end of the first week, the only thing wrong, Henry found, was that no one wanted to stop and talk.

“It’s just in and out, like a buffet at a brothel,” he complained. Adding that the entire week’s output of verbiage on the part of the customers could be transcribed on the head of a pin and still leave room for a slew of angels.

“Fine, thanks.” “Sure is.”

“No kidding?” “That so?”

“A jug of milk, a loaf of bread...

What wilderness?  Gotta go.”

In fact it wasn’t ‘til the second Monday that the Kid came in and Henry knew he had a live one.

The first clue was that, though it was a hot August night, the Kid was wearing a heavy leather jacket. And his right hand was thrust into the zipper at the front, like Napoleon. Halfway down the magazine rack from the front door, he pulled out the thirty-eight and aimed it at Henry, the nose wobbling just a little unsteadily as he said,

“Hand me over what’s in the till, Gramps.”

Henry Monk sighed.

“Just my luck to draw an amateur,” he said, almost to himself. “Oh well, got to start somewhere, I guess.”

“Whadja say?” the Kid asked, looking puzzled.

“I said you’ve got to start somewhere.”

“Meaning me?” the Kid’s chin quivered, just perceptibly.

“Of course, this is your first time, isn’t it?” Henry sat on the high stool, his hands resting on the counter.

“How...how’d you know?”

“If you were a pro you’d have cased this place and know we’ve already taken our weekend take to the bank. You’d also know that Monday is a slack night, so there’d be damn little in the till. And you’re holding that gun all wrong.”

“Whadja mean? Look, Grampa, I can fill you full of lead...”

“Not holding it that way. Recoil of the first shot would snap the barrel back at either your face or your foot. That means your second shot would be either up your nose or in your toe. You’d hurt so much there’d be no third shot...and I’d be willing to bet, even at this range, your first shot would have missed me.”

“Look, just give me what’s in the till, eh?” the Kid said, stepping instinctively closer to improve his odds of hitting his target...if he had to shoot at all.

“Of course. I’m not a betting man,” Henry Monk smiled and punched “No Sale” on the old cash register. “Here.”

He held the few fives and a twenty out to the Kid with his right hand.

The kid reached out with his left and suddenly found the wrist of his gun-hand clamped in a vice-like grip which rendered his fingers instantly numb so the thirty-eight slipped out of them. But the gun was forgotten as he suddenly scraped across the counter on his face, dragged by his right wrist, and found his throat clutched by long fingers that threatened to cut off his air supply entirely.

“Now, you aren’t going to struggle are you?” the man he’d called Gramps and who must be a cop in disguise, said softly. “You want to continue breathing, don’t you? Twitch your nose once for ‘Yes.’ That’s good.

And the young man found himself dragged completely across the bar and stood up on his weak, oxygen-starved legs.

“Can you walk? Twitch once for ‘Yes.’ Good. In there.”

Then he was walked by the neck into the back room of the store where there was a couch, like a movie shrink’s couch, amid the stack of pop crates and other boxes.

“Lie down.”

The old man let him go and the Kid had the fleeting notion to wheel around and slug him. But, when he started to turn, he found he was dizzy and he fell onto the couch. And, when he looked up he found the old guy was holding his gun.

As if he knew what he was doing with it.

“Here,” Henry Monk said, tossing a coiled length of clothesline (three-ninety five for fifty feet) at the young man. “Tie your feet to the legs of the couch.”

“Whadja...?”

“Is that the only word you know?  You speak English? Twitch...”

“Yeah, yeah...” the Kid muttered.

“Then tie your ankles to the legs of the couch.”

When the Kid had finished that, Henry moved behind him and looped the free ends of the clothesline around back of him, tying his wrists together. He had just finished when he heard the little bell they had used to replace Neddo’s tiger roar.

“Now stay put. I’ve got a customer. And be quiet. This time of night, lots of cops drop in for snack bars. You’d know that too, if you weren’t so wet behind the ears.”

The Kid tested the ropes on his wrists as he listened to the old guy serving someone out front. Yeah, he thought, they’re not all that tight. Coupla more customers and I should be able to get free. Then I slug the old fart when he comes back and...

“You on drugs?” Henry Monk asked as he came back to the Kid.v “N...no...”

“Good. That means we can have a sensible talk. Hate talking with drunks or druggies. Anyway, good for you. If you’re not on them now, stay off. They fry your brains. You think I’m kidding, stop by Neddo’s Earthanasia, couple of doors down the plaza and try to buy something off them at this hour of night. Bizarre. And of course, it’ll be later when you leave here.”

“Wh...when I...leave here?” the Kid stammered. “Oh, you mean when the cops take me away.”

“Whether the cops take you or you just walk away, depends entirely on you. Be good and we’ll see. Anyway...what was I talking about?”

“Drugs,” the Kid reminded him.

“Oh, yes, Neddo and Verba. Watch him, Neddo. He gets argumentative when he gets potted and he knows how to use a knife. Verba, she tends to sing a lot before she gets to crying for the Universe. If you time your arrival right, you’ll catch Neddo chasing her around with a knife, while she sings sad songs about pollution.”

“Sounds as if I shoulda hit their place.”

“You’d draw a blank there. Unless you’re into grass and ragweed nectar,” Henry laughed. “They don’t use money. They accept only Ecocredits, redeemable in the New World. God knows what they are. But back to you. We were talking about you, weren’t we?”

“Not that I remember...”

“Sure we were.” He waved the thirty-eight at the Kid. “Why’d you pack this thing?”

“To...to scare you, I guess.”

“You weren’t planning on using it?”

“I would if you made me, I guess,” the Kid looked really confused now. None of this was going the way he’d planned.

“Did you even load it?” Henry looked down its barrel.

“Of course I did. Don’t you know that’s dangerous?”

Henry looked up from the nose of the gun.

“Of course I know it’s dangerous, you ninny!” he snorted. “I was handling these things before you were a sperm in someone’s orgasm. The question is, do you know this thing is dangerous?”

“Of course I do...”

“Not to me...or your ‘victims’...what do you call them? Doesn’t matter. Not to them. To you. Use of this can get you life. You want life in prison?”

“N...no...”

“Then why not just threaten to kick my teeth in?  Assault and robbery are minor compared to armed robbery.”

“‘Cause you’d have beaten the shit out me, Gramps.”

“I would’ve, sure. In fact, I still might. But if you’d caught my daughter in here, she’d’ve handed over all she had. But this thing...” He waved the pistol at the Kid again.

“Would you mind not waving that thing around? It makes me nervous.”

“Scares the hell out of me too. Might go off and blow your head off. Oops, excuse me, customer.”

Henry Mark left the back room, pocketing the revolver as he went, and the Kid wrestled furiously with the ropes on his wrists.

He had to get out of here, he thought desperately. The old guy was beginning to get to him. Pretty soon, he’d start to make sense. Or the kid’d begin to hear strange noises, or see things in dark corners or whatever, and that’d be when he knew his mind had snapped.

Hey, these ropes weren’t tight at all!

Why, he wondered, hadn’t Gramps been more careful to see they were? It was only seconds before the clothesline slipped off his wrists and he bent to undo his ankles. Then, as he could hear Gramps still serving another customer, he looked around for a way out. He sure wasn’t gonna hang around this loony bin any longer than he had to.

Thank God, there was a back door.

The Kid staggered stiffly over to the door, feeling the pins and needles tingling in his ankles, and grabbed the knob.

And all hell broke loose just outside the door.

Recoiling from the most horrible roar he had ever heard, he fell over backwards on the couch, striking his head on a pop case beside it. The last thing he knew before he passed out was that he’d peed his pants.

When the Kid awoke, it was with the vague awareness that he had been hearing a voice all the time he had been out - however long that was. And, indeed, as he opened his eyes, Gramps was in mid sentence.

“...and that’s the way I look at it. Ah, good, you’ve decided to join in our talk,” Gramps smiled down at him.

The Kid looked around for a third person and found only that he was lying on the couch now, with his ankles tied again to the legs and the cord now wrapped around his neck, so that any attempt to sit up cut off the air to his lungs. Moreover, his wrists were now bound in front of him with duct tape (fifty feet for three-ninety-nine).

“But you probably don’t remember what we were talking about do you?” Henry Mark smiled.

“What the fuck was that roar?” the Kid suddenly remembered the last thing he’d heard.

“Oh that’s just Muffy,” Henry smiled. “She’s a...sort of kitty. Somebody stepped on her tail once and she turned kinda vicious. I think she wants revenge. So I keep her out there to guard the back door. Didn’t realize I’d need her to keep people in as well. Anyway...what were we talking about?...oh, that’s right; you don’t know. I know! I was saying that the tendency to social violence...or to the willingness to use violence - like you bringing along this gun...”

“Put it away...

“Certainly. Glad to oblige.” The old man pocketed the thirty-eight. “That gun in my pocket...you only brought it along because this society hasn’t given you an outlet for your hostility. It’s called ‘War.’ I had Korea. My father had the First Big One, my brother the Second World War. You’ve had nothing. Joining the army means you’re a ‘peacekeeper.’ What kind of outlet is that?  That’s why they went all stupid in Somalia. They had these guns. Why’d they give you them guns if they didn’t want them to use them? Give a kid a toy and tell him not to play with it? And you haven’t even had that. Even those who fought in the Gulf War are basket cases because that was a TV war. Even the killing was on Monitors, watching images of missiles go boom. Nothing beats a good face to face shooting...or the threat of one. So, young Kids like you go out to rob old men in puny little stores, packing hardware like this...”

Instinctively, the old man’s hand moved toward his jacket pocket.



Please...”

“Sorry, I forgot,” Henry apologized. “Get much sex?”

“What business of yours...?”

“Who’s tied up on whose couch?”

“N...no...”

“Masturbate, then?”

“What the shit kinda question is that?”

“It’s important to know.”

“No. They say it’s not good for you.”

“Bullshit. You’ve probably heard you go blind...” Henry laughed.

“Y...yeah...”

“You see me even wearing glasses? And that’s all I’ve got left now. You should, you know. I’ve got a theory that men who jerk themselves off don’t go firing guns. A gun is just a penis substitute. It’s hunters who spread the rumor that pulling your wire makes you too blind to shoot a deer. That’s why I call hunters ‘woods-peckers.’ But, I ask you, wouldn’t you rather be shoving your dick up a girl’s panties than this thirty-eight up my nose?”

Jeez, the Kid thought, he’s getting to me; he’s starting to make a weird kinda sense...

“Yeah...I guess...”

“Then go get it. I want it too, but then I poop out. I’m seventy-two, but you’re just a pup. So go get it while you can. Then you’re too tired to go around pretending you’re going to shoot people. This gun...sorry...did I already say it’s only an excuse, a substitute for a pecker?   Yeah, I see I did. Anyway, the act of sex is the culmination of the predator’s hunt for its prey...the female. You’re not...gay, are you?”

“Shit, no.”

“Then you’ve got no excuse. Know anyone you’d like to...do it with?”

“Y...yeah.”

“Your age?”

“Y...yeah.”

“Good. Going with someone already?”

“Yeah.”

“Better man than you?”

“I...I don’t think so.”

“Good for you. Go get her. I had a girl I wanted once and I let her get away. Cute little trick, always wondered what she’d be like in the sack. I had many a wet dream over her, I’ll tell you.  But while I was having those wet dreams, another guy comes along and marries her.”

“Too bad,” the Kid muttered. God, let get away from this guy and I’ll never rob a store again.

“No, as it turned out. I married my late wife and had Joanna - you haven’t met her...Joanna. It’s too late to meet my wife. Fine girl, Jo. And the guy who took the girl? He ran off with a model; said Sylvia - that’s the girl I had a crush on - was cold as a mackerel. Whereas my wife...well, that’s no matter. Anyway Sylvia - the girl I had a crush on - became an alcoholic. Know your father?”

The Kid had been so wrapped up in praying for miracles - even to having a cop come in and arrest him on the spot - that the question took him by surprise.

“What?”

“I said, ‘Know your father?’”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Your real father?”

“Yeah, the fucker’s my real father.”

“O.K. Point made.”

“Which is what?”

“I’ve got a theory but it’s getting late and I’ve gotta close up shop. So think about it some day.”

“Yeah, like while I’m serving time.” Please just put me in a cell away from motor-mouth, the Kid prayed.

“The hell with that. You’ve got a girl waiting for you to...boff her.”

“Think I’ve got a chance?”

“Long as you throw this away.” Henry patted his pocket.

“Jeez, I dunno...”

“You won’t know unless you try. It’s not too late to give her a call is it? Drop in on her?”

The Kid stared at him as the implications of that sank in.

“You...you’re not going to turn me in?”

“What for?  You came in. Gave me your gun, just like in the Westerns. Check your firearms at the door. And then we had a nice chat...three and a half hours worth...though you dozed through some of it. You should eat more fiber. Then I gave you back your gun and you left.”

“What?”

“You left.”

“Before that.”

“I gave you back your gun. What’s the matter? Isn’t it yours?”

“Of course it’s mine...”

“You steal it?”

“Cost me fifty bucks.”

“Sell it back. Take the girl to dinner before you have your fun...”

“Are you crazy...or is it me? The bump on the head...”

“Here.” Henry Monk handed the pistol to the Kid, butt first. “Oh, just to convince you we’re neither of us nuts, I did take the shells out. Now, get the hell out of here.”

The Kid stopped at the door to Mark’s Variety on his way out and turned back, his face still vaguely puzzled.

“Thanks, Mister...I think...” he said. “It’s been... strange...”

“It has. Oh, and son...”

“Yes, sir?”

“Show your face in here again and I’ll show you Muffy out back.”

“I...understand sir. Goodnight.”

-----

Henry Mark whistled his way all the way home that night.

“How was business?” Jo asked him.

“Slow,” he answered.

And went to bed.

-----

Even after Jo was fully recovered, Henry continued to run the store at night.

For, as Jo told it, in all that time, though stores on nearby plazas got hit regularly, and there was one, non-fatal shooting down on Wenpark Mall and Vi’s and Rosie’s, for Pete’s sake, got knocked over for twenty bucks - Mark’s Variety was never touched. And she couldn’t understand why. The only thing she had that was different from the others was Henry.

Still, apparently, word on the street had it that their security system would blow your mind.

And so did electronic security devices take second place to good old fashioned word of mouth.