He was just about to get in the car when he spotted a sign above a shop door: Antiques and Curios for the Discerning. Alvin was an avid collector of objets d’arts from bygone eras and not being a habitué of these dingy streets he had never encountered this particular shop.
Pausing to admire the ornate doorknob, he plucked up his courage and entered. The two rooms that made up the shop were dank and musty: the only light filtered through several admirable stained glass windows. He stepped with caution as his eyes adjusted and cast a preliminary glance over the floor to ceiling display of every type of curio imaginable.
“Good day sir, may I be of assistance?”
Alvin glanced around the crowded room. His eyes settled on a rotund man of swarthy complexion, his hands folded on his belly and a broad smile on his face.
“Oh, hello. I just came in to have a look around. Never seen this place before.” He thought he heard footsteps in the next room but focused on the proprietor who was now walking toward him.
“Please do have a look around. There are many wonderful items here that will amuse and delight you. I’ll just be tending to some matters in the back if you require my assistance.”
Alvin perused the shelves, inspecting items that interested him. There was a beautiful Tiffany lamp, an unusual piece of carnival glass, and some antique binoculars. He was startled by an odd, high-pitched voice behind him.
“Hey you, come over here, I want to have a word with you.”
He turned around but there was no one there. He looked around the corner into the next room but he was quite alone.
“No, not in there, over here.”
He turned back and spotted a ventriloquist’s dummy perched on a low shelf. His eyes widened when it’s mouth moved.
“That’s right, now you’ve got it. Come on over, I don’t bite.” The dummy let out a hoarse cackle.
Frightened but unable to resist, Alvin went over to it. He glanced around the shop convinced the owner must be playing a prank. The dummy seemed to read his mind.
“No, it’s not him. See, he doesn’t know. I don’t talk when he’s around. Listen pal, you gotta get me out of here. This place is a tomb. I’m bored out my noggin, you see?”
Alvin stared as the mouth moved in perfect time with the words.
“It’s a long story pal. I belonged to this ventriloquist who lost his ability to perform from hitting the sauce too much. He found this voodoo woman and paid her to give me the ability to speak on my own. When he died I ended up here.”
Alvin’s mind raced and his heart skip a beat. Barely able to breathe, he backed away from the dummy. He could see the shop owner on the phone talking business. It couldn’t possibly be him throwing his voice. He turned back to the dummy.
“Look pal, I’m begging you. Get me out of here. I have other powers I can use to make you heaps of money. We can talk about it later, the owner will be back in here any minute.”
The owner reappeared. “Well, have you found anything of interest?”
“Perhaps. I was just admiring this ventriloquist’s dummy. I’ve always wanted one how much?”
“Oh, that’s a very old, rare piece sir. Quite a fine specimen. I couldn’t part with it for less than five hundred.”
“Five hundred! But that’s – “
The man held up his hand. “I’m sorry sir, the price is non-negotiable. I have two other people who come regularly to look at it. I’m quite sure it will sell soon.”
Alvin pulled out his wallet and paid.
“Thank you good sir. I’ll just take it in the back and wrap it for you.”
He came back out and handed over the dummy and Alvin left the shop and headed for his car. As soon as he was gone a man came out from behind a high shelf grinning from ear to ear.
“Another one sold. That’s three this week. We’re doing quite well Amir.”
“Indeed we are Omar. Would you mind setting up a new dummy, I’ve some errands to run.”