Finny's Birthday (part 5 of 8)
Finny's Birthday (part 5 of 8) postapocalyptic stories
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ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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Finny meets 'Soggy' Moise and Eric Small.

Finny's Birthday (part 5 of 8)

Where Joe was taking her next was Humphreys Street. The car pulled up outside Moise's Pawn & Jewellery, and Finny followed Joe inside.

Unlike Aunty Wainwright's, the pawnshop was no more extensive on the inside than the outside suggested.

Once inside, however, the available space was made even smaller by the stout steel cages that prevented customers from doing anything more than looking at the goods in the various display cases.

Cameras hung from the ceiling, and their ever-curious lenses covered every inch of the shop floor.

Finny followed Joe past the shelves of clocks and hanging pictures, past the cases of silver,

gold and bright jewels to the far end of the shop where a narrow slot was the only break in the lattice walls.

There was also a solitary bell, one of those shiny round service bells with the stud on the top.

Joe waited for a moment to see if anyone would appear from behind the curtain at the back, then rang the bell when they didn't.

There was the sound of movement from behind the curtain, and soon a small man pulled back the threadbare velvet a little way and squinted at them.



Soggy's scrutiny descended to Finny.

"And I take it this is the girl?"

At Joe's nudge, Finny stepped forward.

"Finny, this is Soggy... Mr Moise, until he knows you better. Soggy, Finny."

Soggy stepped through the curtain and approached the counter. He looked at Finny closely.

"She's a bit young."

Joe smiled, but not with any humour.

"Give me a child at seven blah blah."

Soggy turned his attention back to Joe.

"If you are going to quote Aristotle then you could at least get it right."

Joe lost the smile.

"Close enough. This is just a bleedin' introduction. You don't need to know the ins and outs of my business."

Now it was Soggy's turn to display a forced smile.

"I suppose not." He turned to Finny and tried to inject a little warmth into the smile for her benefit. "Nice to meet you miss Finny."

Finny became the third to smile the polite smile. The restrained tension in the shop was making her uncomfortable.

"You too, Mr Moist."

Soggy fought to maintain even the polite smile.

"That's Moise."

"I... I'm sorry."

Joe interrupted Soggy before the sudden increase in tension became dangerous.

"Anyway. Now you two know each other I hope this will be the beginning of a fruitful relationship."

Soggy turned back to Joe, leaving Finny staring at the floor.


Joe put a hand on Finny's shoulder, reassuring her enough to look up again.

"Finny here is prone to exploring and often returns from her little adventures with things she has found along the way." He smiled down at her.

"Mr Moise will be happy to look at any expensive looking little doodads you come across. Like that silver picture frame you recovered."

Soggy took something from under the counter, and his fingerless gloved hand slid it through the slot in the steel mesh.

"You might find this handy, little lady. You know, should you find something you ain't sure about."

Finny picked the dull brass object up and examined it, sliding out what looked like a small magnifying glass. Soggy folded his arms on the counter and leaned closer to the slot.

"It's called a loupe. It'll make it easier to see hallmarks and such. Help you sort the trash from the treasure."

Finny thanked him, closed up the loupe and transferred it to her pocket.

She half-listened to the conversation between the two grown-ups while thinking about the reason behind Joe having her meet Mr Moise and Aunty Wainwright.

And what had Joe meant? And who was Aristotle? Finny had heard the name before, from Mr Trent at the bookshop. She would ask him later.

Ten minutes later they were climbing back into Joe's car.

"Just one more chap I want you to meet, Finn." Out of the pawnbrokers, Joe's good humour had returned. "Then how about we go and see the missus and Annie?"

The car carried on down Humphreys and turned right onto Coconino Avenue. Passing the building where the Ranyhyn Company had its offices, Joe swung right again and they were back on the square.

He drove slowly through the crowd and eventually pulled up outside the shaft down to Rowdy's Bar.

Finny had outgrown, well almost, the dare game of sliding down the ladder and then climbing up as fast as you could to escape getting caught by the bouncer who lurked below.

It was Russian roulette really. Getting caught all depended on how close the bouncer was to the bottom of the ladder.

It felt strange, then, to be climbing down the ladder without the heart-pounding fear of being instantly ready to scramble back up again.

The bouncer ignored Finny and instead nodded as Joe led her up the small flight of steps and through a door she had only ever glimpsed before.

She was surprised to find out that there were more steps, this time leading down and then further down. And the further down she followed Joe, the worse the smell got.

Wee and beer and cigarette smoke... And that strange smell of vomit and sawdust. All very grown-up smells that made Finny just a little nervous.

At the bottom of the flights of stairs, there was another door, and behind it, Finny could hear muffled music.

The music got louder when Joe led her through and into a space much bigger than she had imagined.

Joe looked around for a few moments, and Finny noticed that the few people in the bar quickly looked away after spotting Joe.

Just in the same way, she realised, that kids in the dining room looked away when certain other kids entered. Don't make eye contact. Don't invite trouble.

Joe led Finny to the lower level and towards a booth where a man sat.

Finny knew from her own early experience with him that Joe was 'not a nice man', but except for that first meeting with him when she was seven,

her contact with Joe had always been either at the factory or on the few visits to his home and family life.

The reaction to him here reminded her that Joe was dangerously more than just the grumpy boss she knew.

They reached the booth and Joe motioned for her to slide in on the side opposite the man. Joe squeezed in after her and just in time for a waiter to appear.

Joe ordered a beer for himself and a soda for her and the waiter went away.

The man across the table from them wore a coat with the collar turned up, and a big floppy hat with the brim turned down.

Finny thought he looked like the spy in the story "The Silent Spy", well until she saw his face which didn't look anything like the handsome spy described in the book.

The man staring at her with big, bug-like eyes had a sharp chin and a long turkey neck which was covered in red, sore looking skin.

He also didn't exude the suave confidence of the spy in the book because he looked really, really nervous.

Joe adjusted the position of his sawn-off shotgun so that it wasn't digging into his hip and grunted his relief.

"Thaaaat's better." He nodded at the man opposite. "Afternoon Eric." Eric graced Joe with an unfriendly smile that lasted all of a single second. Joe nudged Finny.

"This is Eric Small, Finny. Not to be confused with that great white turd-burglar known to all as Fat Eric."

Just then, the drinks arrived. Eric Small twitched fretfully as Joe passed the girl her soda and then carefully positioned a beer mat under his own glass.

Joe paid the waiter who disappeared up the small flight of steps back into the main bar. Eric leaned onto the table.

"Can we just get on with this?"

Joe took the first sip of his beer and savoured the hoppy goodness. He put the glass down.

"Calm down, Eric old son. Finny?"

Finny, who was making good progress in draining the glass of soda in the fervent hope of getting another, put down the glass and burped.

"Yes, Joe?"

"Our friend Eric here is another important resident of New Flagstaff who it is good to get to know.

" Across the table, Eric gave an exasperated eye roll and slumped back against the curved, high leather seat of the booth. Joe continued anyway and at the same conversational pace.

"Eric is an employee of our lords and masters 'The Union' and has lots of friends there who will help fellow citizens like us cut through the maze of officialdom... For a price."

Eric sat forward again and thrust a hand across the table towards Finny.

"Very nice to meet you little girl, er Finny." Finny shook his hand silently while watching the man's very prominent Adam's apple bounce up and down as he spoke.

"You too, Sir."

Breaking the handshake, Eric leaned forward into Joe's face.

"Can I go now?"

Joe sighed.

"Yes Eric, you can go."

Eric Small scrambled from the booth and, pulling his hat even further down and his collar even higher up,

scuttled from the bar in a manner guaranteed to defeat his desire not to draw attention to himself.

Seemingly content with the outcome of the short meeting, Joe sat back, lifted his beer again and tret himself to a slow smile.

Finny was as confused as ever.

But, as Joe showed no sign of moving until his beer was finished, she decided that this was probably as good a time as any to ask what all this meeting people stuff was about.

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