BUYERS AND SELLERS - JARRETT RUSH
“Don’t buy stocks,” the man in the olive suit advised.
I was browsing a nearby table, flipping through a brochure. I turned my head when he spoke. He saw me and called me over with the wave of a couple of fingers. I approached his table and he began again.
“Don’t buy stocks. What you want are whips and chains.” He was standing behind a battered folding table filled with samples of his wares and pamphlets describing his services.
“Oh, yeah?” I asked.
“Yeah.” He handed me a thick, metal chain off the table. The weight was heavy in my hand and the metal cold.
“Imagine, if you will,” he said, squinting his eyes and looking to the sky, like whatever he was trying to describe was actually taking place just beyond the fluorescent lights of the exhibit hall. He cleared his throat and started again. “Imagine, if you will, you are in a room. It’s small. It’s dusty. There is a single bulb hanging from a ceiling that is made of dirt and beams. You’ve been working on this guy for a half hour and he’s a pro. He’s not cracking. Can you see it? Are you there with me?”
He rocked on both feet, planting them firmly into the worn orange shag that covered the floor of the entire place. “So this guy’s a pro,” he continued. “He’s not cracking. What do you think is going to make him give it up? Spill the beans? Those things across the way?” He’d stopped staring into the ceiling and was now looking across the aisle. He pointed at the steel stocks they’d set up for display. There was a hole for each arm and one for the head.
The inside of the sleeve on the salesman’s suit had been worn shiny and caught a bit of the light as he pointed at the merchandise in his neighbor’s booth.
“I mean, look at that. That looks downright comfortable. Line those with velvet and a little padding and you could sleep like a baby locked up in there. You can’t convince anyone to give up information putting them in there.”
He turned his attention back to his own booth and pulled the chain from my hands. His knuckles were scarred and misshapen.
He doubled the chain over in his hand then let it swing down by his side. He looked me over.
“What are you? Six feet? 200 pounds?”
“So, imagine with me again that you’ve got your man in the chair. He’s restrained and he’s gotten a bit of a work over already but still won’t give anything up. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re ready to go home. Whatever he’s got, you want it. So you decide to step it up. Imagine this across your back.”
He swung the chain over his head and let it fall onto the top of the table. The deafening thump echoed off the ceilings and walls of the warehouse. Several sets of eyes turned to look our way, and I realized why the table looked like it was about to fall in on itself.
“Hear that?” he shouted, like the same ringing that was in my ears was also in his. “Did you feel it? Now imagine that on your back. Each link feels like a little fist. And you can tease him too. Work your way up from little love taps to a full-on home run swing. That’s what’ll split the skin.”
I nodded and took the chain back in my hands. I swung it in a circle and it did feel good. My arm fought the pull. I grinned a bit and he noticed. He brushed his thinning hair back onto the top of his head and gave me a nod, the go ahead.
I let the chain come down hard on the table. More eyes looked at us this time as the echoes bounced around the exhibit floor.
I chuckled and swung the chain again and let it crash to the tabletop. Then I did it again. Harder. Faster. And one last time, throwing my body behind the swing. The chain crashed against the table top and the whole thing buckled. Other chains rattled to the floor. Brass knuckles bounced across the tile into neighboring booths.
The salesman let out a laugh that came from the bottom of his feet. He clapped me on the back and pulled me deeper into his booth, next to the boxes of stock he brought with him.
“Now I know who you are. I thought you were too small to be the muscle. Didn’t look to be carrying anything so I didn’t figure you were a triggerman. But that little display, now I know who you are. You’re the guy without a conscience. You’re the crazy nut who’ll do anything.” He laughed again and clapped me on the back once more. “You’re my favorite guy.”
He pulled a bag out from behind the curtain that was separating the public area from the private area of the exhibit floor. It was small and made of black canvas with a broken zipper across the top and a stitch along the side. He dipped his gorilla hand into the bag and pulled out a manila folder.
“You know, there are a lot of guys around here who are going to ask you to spend a little extra money to get some machine. And it will do a good job. It’ll help pull info from some low-life. But it’s nice, isn’t it,” he asked, “getting back to the old ways of doing things. I mean, you can do a lot of things with a little technology, but this industry was built on the hands-on techniques. We are too quick to abandon them for computer programs, hardened steel and titanium locks.”
“But you can’t replace crazy. Looking someone in the eye and letting them see that there isn’t a soul behind those baby blues. You can’t replace that. That’s true intimidation, and that’s priceless. And you only get it if you are up close and in their face, cutting them with a blade or smacking them with a chain.”
I smiled to let him know I understood what he was saying.
“I’m here selling, but I’m also buying,” he said and handed me the folder he’d pulled from his bag.
I opened it and he continued speaking. “I’ve got a client who needs a guy. Pay’s good. Work’s pretty standard. Possible travel overseas. You interested?”
I skimmed the pages for details.
The client wasn’t anyone I’d worked with before but was a name I recognized. All he needed was an intimidator to stand in the back of the room, someone who could swing the chain but wasn’t afraid to use it.
I handed the folder back to the salesman. He pushed his hair back on the top of his head and looked at me, expecting an answer.
I nodded and said, “Yeah, I’m interested.”
“Great,” he said, “let me make a phone call. I’m Bishop, by the way.”
BIO: Jarrett lives near Dallas with his wife, Gina. This is his first published story, but hopefully not his last. He blogs at Jarrett Writes.
OPEN SECRET (1948)
57 minutes ago