Snow & Winter series
Little Moments Coda
A good day at the Emporium consisted of making money and keeping my nose out of any wandering mysteries in need of being solved.
A great day at the Emporium was when Calvin visited.
“It was my turn to buy,” I said, turning away from the computer when Calvin dropped a takeout bag on the desktop. “You should have told me you were on the way. I’d have called in a lunch order.”
“It’s fine,” he answered, leaving the office to fetch the stool at the register counter.
I ripped open the bag. “Sushi?” I glanced up as Calvin set the seat beside me. He crouched down and gave his dog, Dillon, a few pats. “You don’t like sushi,” I reminded.
“You do,” he countered.
“I hate that you are consistently one-upping me in this relationship.”
Calvin stood, leaned over me, and kissed my mouth. “Thank you for watching my dog.”
On days Calvin worked, I brought Dillon to the Emporium, just as I originally promised when the subject had been brought up in February. I hardly minded. Dillon was well behaved and just kind of chilled on his doggy bed all day. Unless Calvin visited. Then he was all tongue-hanging and tail-wagging.
“I talked to a new realtor this morning,” I said, removing a takeout container.
“Oh?” Calvin sat.
“We should check out some of her properties. They sound promising.” I looked into the bag once more. “Did you not buy lunch for yourself?”
“I’ll eat later,” Calvin answered.
Dillon was leaning against his leg, staring up at Calvin with that lovesick expression dogs have. One would be inclined to believe Dillon hadn’t seen Calvin in years, not merely a few hours.
I handed him a small package. “At least eat the California rolls. It’s only imitation crab.”
Max knocked on the open door. “Seb?” He glanced at Calvin and smiled. “Hey, sorry to interrupt.”
“What is it?” I asked, snapping apart a pair of chopsticks.
“There’s a lady here— wondering if you’re interested in purchasing a collection of Nancy Drew books.”
I shook my head and picked up a piece of sushi. “If they’re the picture cover format, no way. They’re not worth anything.”
“Those are the yellow spines from the 1960s, right?” Max clarified.
“So you do listen when I talk?”
“Sometimes.” He winked and left the office doorway.
“Those aren’t Victorian,” Calvin said. He popped a roll into his mouth.
“No, but if they’re the 1930s editions, I’d consider it,” I answered. “Sort of have a soft spot for that series.”
“An amateur sleuth sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong,” Calvin murmured. “Can’t imagine why you relate to them.”
“Give those California rolls back.”
Calvin raised an eyebrow as he picked up a second. He stuck his tongue out and licked it while staring at me.
“I was sucking on your nuts last night. A little slobber won’t stop me from eating those,” I stated.
“God, you’re cute,” Calvin said dryly.
“Boss,” Max called, walking back to the doorway. “Some of the books look a lot older. They have dustjackets.”
“Are they in good condition?”
He shrugged. “Seem pretty sweet to me.”
I set the lunch aside. “No rest for the wicked.” I stood, patted Calvin's thigh, and left the tiny office. I pushed my glasses up as I walked to the register. “Hello.”
A woman glanced up at me and smiled in that polite, vaguely disinterested manner. “I was talking to the younger guy about selling some books.”
“Uh-huh. I’m the owner,” I stated.
“Oh!” She quickly shoved the pile on the counter forward. “My name’s Heather. This junk used to belong to my grandmother. I don’t have room for it.”
I slowly looked from the books to her. “I’m not really in the habit of buying junk,” I said politely.
Heather seemed confused for a beat, then her expression grew more embarrassed. “Uh… sorry. I didn’t mean… I don’t really….”
Max joined me at the counter, butting into the conversation as he pointed to a small stack of books. “These ones,” he said to me.
“I don’t read mysteries,” she began as I grabbed some cloth gloves. “They’re just collecting dust at my house. And I really don’t have the time to sell them off piece by piece, so if you’d like to take—“
“Not these,” I interrupted, jutting a thumb at the large pile to my left while I inspected one of the dustjacket books with my magnifying glass.
“Why not?” she protested.
“Newer editions. They’re not collectable.”
“No, they’re old. The copyright on this one says 1930!” Heather said, thrusting one forward.
I glanced up. “The copyright date was rarely changed unless there were revisions to the content. Those are from the sixties and seventies.”
She slowly looked down at the front cover, puzzling over the information. “They’re all worthless?”
“No.” I straightened from my hunched position over one of the books. “This is the first in the series,” I began, holding up The Secret of the Old Clock. “First edition, original text, in near fine condition with a dust jacket.”
Heather stared at me blankly. “Is that good?”
Christ. It hurt to tell her the truth, but I was an honest businessman.
“It’s worth thousands.”
A smile lit up her face. “That’s great!”
I carefully set the book aside and inspected the following six in the series. “Your grandmother took impeccable care of her collection.”
“Good for me, right?”
I let out an annoyed sigh. “I suppose you could say that.” I motioned to the eighty-plus year-old books. “I’d be interested in these seven. But I won’t purchase them for their full value, I hope you understand that.”
Her expression faltered. “Why not?”
“I’m a businessman, not a collector,” I pointed out as courteously as I could manage. “And these books are too new for my clientele, so it’ll take some work for me to sell them. Frankly, I’m only interested because there’s some nostalgia on my part.”
“You read Nancy Drew growing up?” Max whispered.
“Look who you’re talking to,” I replied.
“So how much would I get?” Heather asked.
I took off my gloves and grabbed a piece of scrap paper. I scribbled a price and offered it to her.
My left eyelid twitched. “Yup.”
I turned to my right as Calvin joined me at the counter. “Have to go already?”
“Sorry.” He buttoned his suit coat, leaned down, and kissed my lips. “Want to stay at my place tonight?” he murmured.
“Do bears shit in the woods?”
He smiled and gave my arm a brief squeeze. “Have a good day.”
I watched Calvin walk down the steps and disappear around the pillar. I probably looked as lovesick as Dillon. Shaking my head, I turned at Heather. “So, did you want to sell?”
I still didn’t have a home after the fiascos during February. So for the last month I had been splitting my time between Pop’s couch and Calvin’s apartment. And despite Calvin’s place being far too small for two grown men and a dog to live in comfortably for any length of time, I always looked forward to my nights over there. We’d settled into a routine around his schedule that included dinner together, a walk around the neighborhood with Dillon, then varying combinations of television, sleep, and sex to conclude the night.
“Did you get your Nancy Drew books?”
“Hmm?” I looked up from our clasped hands.
Calvin stopped at the end of the block and checked traffic before allowing Dillon to cross the street. “Your books,” he said again.
“I bought seven.”
“I overheard you say that one was worth several grand.”
“Uh-huh. If I can find the right customer without too much work it’ll be a nice payday.”
“Not going to keep them for yourself, then?”
I snorted. “If I wasn’t homeless I probably would.”
“Keep them at my place.”
“You don’t want to allow that.”
“Aren’t we moving in together?”
“Assuming we find an apartment sometime this century,” I answered.
“Then what’s it matter?” he asked. “You don’t have to ask permission to bring antiques home.”
I pulled Calvin to a stop.
He looked down, raising an eyebrow. “What is it?”
“Nothing,” I said, smiling. “You’re just… opening Pandora’s Box. That’s all.”
“I’m not afraid.”
I laughed quietly.
Cold, March rain brought our walk to a premature end. We hurried back to Calvin’s, but were thoroughly drenched by the time we got inside the building. Our shoes squeaked as we walked upstairs to his apartment. Dillon shook wildly upon reaching the landing, spraying us and the walls with wet dog perfume. Calvin grunted, unlocked the door, and held it open for me.
I kicked off my shoes and removed my dripping wet coat. “I can go down to the basement and throw our jackets in the dryer,” I offered, reaching out to take Calvin’s as he stepped into the dimly lit home.
“Dryers are broken.”
“Been broken for a week now.” Calvin toed his shoes off and set them in a corner. “I suspect the other tenants will start a riot soon.”
“Just hang them on the shower rod, baby. It’s fine.” Calvin grabbed a towel out of the laundry hamper and sat on the floor. He tossed it over Dillon and pulled the dog close so he could scrub his fur dry.
I took a few hangers from his closet and went into the bathroom to let the coats drip-dry. I peeked out of the door in time to see Calvin throw the towel over Dillon’s head, quickly pull it off, then toss it over again. Dillon barked playfully and snatched the material in his mouth, giving it a firm tug. Calvin started laughing and yanked the towel backward, hoisting the wet dog onto his lap.
Calvin looked toward me, holding the towel with one hand as Dillon started tugging it again. “What?”
I shrugged. “I like you.”
Calvin smiled. “I like you too.”