Driving the twenty forested miles to Coalbeck the next morning, he thought about Shayla, her hot skin, delicious saliva, intoxicating curves and the sidelong, wide-eyed glances that left him speechless. He almost missed the exit to a roadside pawn shop he'd noticed several times on his way to Winston-Salem. In neon tubing on a lattice atop the building, the sign announced PAWN SHOP -- Guns Ammo Tools Musical Instr Jewelry. He had worried that it might be closed on Saturday, but it was open.
“Yes, sir,” the pawnbroker said before the door closed behind Nelson.
“What can I do for you?”
Trying for blasé, Nelson said, “Need a handgun today.” The hirsute, camouflaged man stood behind a glass case full of them, hands on hips.
“What do you need that for?” he said. Nelson looked up from the guns to the man's face. “Self defense? Home defense? Target practice? You gonna carry or stow in the nightstand?”
“Self defense,” Nelson said.
“Yep. I figured.” The pawnbroker smirked at Nelson's eye patch.
“Home defense, I mean. Self defense.”
“You gonna carry?”
“Carry. No. I'm just going to have it in the house. Nightstand. Like you said.”
Nelson had researched guns on the Internet, but he pretended ignorance The pawnbroker began a leisurely sales pitch, explaining to Nelson that he'd want something dependable. A lot of people thought they'd probably never need to use the gun, so just wanted some cheap Saturday night special for the night stand. That was the worst thing you could do. If you need it and it doesn't fire, you're dead meat.
“What do you suggest?” Nelson finally wedged into the conversation.
The pawnbroker peered through the glass top of the display case as though he had never seen these guns before. “See this .25?” He retrieved a tiny automatic. “This is a so-called 'vest pocket' pistol.” It was exactly the kind of gun Mothra had described hiding inside a book. “This is easy to conceal, and is handy for just about nothing that would ever happen to you. I show you this as an example of what you don't want for home or self protection. You know what they say about these? If you shoot somebody with it, they might notice, get pissed off, and beat the crap out of you.”
Contrary to the pawnbroker's exaggerations, Nelson knew the .25 would be fine for blowing your brains out. The pawnbroker held up a .38 snub nose revolver. “This will do considerably more damage. With a .38, you'll stop your home invader, and probably kill him.”
“Don't you have to cock it first?”
The pawnbroker went into a loving description of how the revolver worked. He seemed to think it was the right choice, but Nelson had been imagining an automatic, like the .25 but larger. A .357 magnum revolver in the case looked much too heavy, as did the Model 1911, a .45 automatic the pawnbroker liked.
“What's that one in the corner there? The automatic. Is that a .38?”
The pawnbroker pulled out the CZ Model 27. It had a classic look, not too big but substantial enough. It looked almost new, its Bakelite-clad grip emanating visual warmth, the blued metal proclaiming invulnerability.
“You mean this beauty?” the pawnbroker said. “No, this is a .32. Not quite as mean a round as a .38, but you know, it would do you just fine. Beautiful piece, ain't it.”
“Can I hold it?”
Handing it to Nelson, the man said:
“Lovely to look at,
delightful to hold,
but if you should drop it,
to you it is sold.”
As Nelson felt the gun's civilized heft and looked it over for flaws, the man continued, “It comes with a shoulder holster and one magazine, original. These were Nazi pistols in World War Two, made by the Czechs from 1927 to 1951. Rarely find one this perfect. Post war, so no Nazi markings. Not a cheap pistol.”
“Yep. Very good. A nice one like this is going to run about six hundred even if you go online. Want to use my computer to check?”
“How much you want for it?”
“I want six hundred, but I'll let it go for five because if I get it cheap, I sell it cheap. Guy inherited it and didn't have a clue what he had.”
Nelson placed the gun on the counter and said, “Throw in a box of ammo and you got yourself a deal.” Five hundred was much more than he had intended, but he was enchanted with the gun.
“I can give you fifty rounds of Magtech, 71 grains, full metal jacket, for twenty-six fifty.” The pawnbroker pulled a box of ammunition from a shelf.
“Why can't you throw those in?”
“Because I'm giving you a hundred dollars off the gun already.”
“Done. You take Visa?”
“I surely do. Debit or credit?”
While Nelson dug his card out of his wallet, the pawnbroker produced several sheets of paper printed in small type, clicking a ballpoint into action with his thumb.
Nelson stopped, billfold still open. "What's all this?"
"Paperwork. You don't think you're walking out with that thing without a background check, do you?"
"Background check? There's nothing to check."
The pawnbroker tilted his head to the side, raised his eyebrows. "Up to you."
"How long does all that take?"
"The paperwork won't take five minutes. The check could take an hour or a week and might or might not come back okayed."
Nelson sighed, thought for a moment. "Na. Forget it." He started stuffing the debit card back into his billfold.
"Oh wait," the pawnbroker said, trying to frown. "You wanted this CZ 27. This is an antique firearm."
"Well, antique firearms are exempt. We don't need any of this," he said, and shoved the paperwork back into the drawer.
"Antique," Nelson said. "But it works fine, right?"
"It works perfectly. I tell you what, if you buy it, we can take it out back and I'll let you fire off a few rounds into the lake. You don't like it, I'll give you your money back."
"No, that's okay. I believe you." The gun looked quite solid and undamaged. With a patina glowing with age, it looked so well crafted it inspired confidence.
Just as Nelson reached his car, he heard the pawnbroker say from the open front door, “Hey, you want a roll of concertina wire?”
“What's concertina wire?” Nelson said, thinking it must have to do with guns.
“You know, razor wire. Nothing says 'keep off my lawn' like a roll of razor wire on top of your fence. I've got ten fifty-foot rolls of the stuff, half-price.”
“I'm good on razor wire, thanks.”
What a dad, Nelson thought, wondering why. What a set of genes!