Thursday, May 28, 2015

Secret Origins

While Ed Bryce was sorting out his recently inherited trolley shed, Madwood had discovered a new client - or more correctly, a new client had discovered him.

She got up, placed her purse on top of the box and picked the whole thing up. I opened the connecting door to the workshop and followed her in.

“You can put it there,” I directed while pointing to a spot on the workshop table for her to put to the box down.

That table is the room’s main feature and never fails to wow the clients. It stretches all the way from the waiting room door to the bay window overlooking the street at the other end. It’s a mad scientist’s Frankenstein dream: you could probably lay out three bodies end-to-end down its length and still have room for a few jars of Abby Normal brains. My needs are far less gothic: everything from train layouts to extra-large drawings to big 1/8-scale hotrod teardowns and rebuilds could be setup there. 

After she put the box down I invited her to have a seat in the bay window area. 

She looked around at the shelves and cabinets lining the walls as she walked over to the chairs. I went to the coffee maker by the sink.

“Would you like some coffee, tea or maybe some water?”, I asked.

“Coffee would be fine.”

There were some dregs left in the carafe. I decided to pour them down the drain and make a fresh pot.

While I busied myself making coffee, she glanced at the feed and seed mill on the table that I was finishing up, then surveyed the street outside the window before finally taking a seat. 

“I don’t see any diplomas or awards on the wall. How did you get into this business?” she asked as she watched me make coffee.

I was struggling to tear open a coffee packet and not have to resort to using my teeth and blow my figment of a cool, macho image. 

“It’s something I picked up during the war. It’s a long story.”, I replied as I tried to jab my fingers into the coffee packet that seemed to be made from stainless steel sheets. After a few seconds of determined clawing it opened without embarrassment and I proceeded to get coffee brewing. While the machine did its thing I walked over to the chair beside her and sat down.

“So, how did you get into this business?” she repeated.

“Well, Miss...?”, I thought I’d try the repeat thing too and fish again for her name.

“Jane Warden. Mrs. Jane Warden,” she clarified.

I leaned back a bit in my chair and glanced out the window at the quickly setting sun. For no good reason other than it seemed like a pleasant thing to sit here and talk, I decided to tell her the whole story. She could always tell me to pipe down.

I turned back to her and began, “Well, Mrs. Warden, after basic training I was assigned to Domestic Security and got sent up north to New Toronto. With a bunch of other junior agents I worked with the old boys, doing their grunt work and learning how to find spies.”

I could hear the coffee pot make the tell-tale noises that it was nearing the end of its brewing cycle, so I got up went over to the machine. Her eyes followed.

“After I was there a couple of months the brass started a big investigation into a suspected armory being run out of a cheese factory west of the city. One day they decided to send me and my boss out there in the middle of the night to see if we could get inside and look around. We hid in the bushes for a long time and when everything seemed ok we crawled over to a loading dock, climbed up and tried to pry open a window that didn’t look too secure.”

The coffee machine stopped making noises and puffed a last little bit of steam. I pulled out the pot and started to pour two cups.

“The next thing I knew I was waking up in a hospital bed.”

Her neutral expression and was replaced by surprise. “What happened?” she asked.

I grabbed the steaming cups and walked back to chairs, placed hers beside her on the table and sat down.

She reached for her cup and said, “Thanks.”

I forgot my manners and belatedly asked, “Would you like some milk or sugar?”

“No, this is alright.”

I took a sip and continued, “Turns out I’d been there for three days. They told me my boss was beaten to death and I was lucky to be alive.”

She took a tentative sip of the still steaming coffee and peered at me over the rim.

“They figured that whoever did it didn’t mean to kill us, just beat the crap out of us to send a message. Unfortunately, they didn’t know their own strength and when they realized what they’d done to my boss they ran and left us there. But, that’s all just guessing. Who knows what happened, or what they were thinking.”

Still no word from her to shut-up. She was leaning forward a bit. She wasn’t bored. “Did they catch those men?” she asked.

“No. Turns out the building was abandoned. Hadn’t been an armory for awhile. Don’t know who those guys were or what they were doing there.”

She drank some of her coffee.

I went on.

“It was a long time before we got scooped up and brought in. I spent three months in the hospital and eight more in and out of rehab. One of the things they had me do was build aircraft recognition models to help bring back control in my hands. It was interesting, but I was still very stiff. I also did a stint with some other guys building one of those ground layout boards that the brass use to plan their battles with toy tanks and things. After that I was assigned a desk job in DS. I guess they wanted to get their investment back from fixing me instead of giving me a discharge.”

I drank some of my coffee. It was getting cold. 

“Can I get you a top up?” I asked her.

“Yes, please,” she replied.

I took her mug and walked over to the machine for a refill.

On the way she asked, “Did you get more training after the war?”

While pouring a little black gold into the cups I continued with my monologue, “After it was over I got a job at a model making company. I learned a lot, but we worked like dogs. Lots of unpaid overtime and weekends. It ended after about a year when I decided to take a weekend off and go to my uncle’s funeral. I got fired on the Monday. Wasn’t a team-player.” I still can’t say that last part without a slightly sarcastic impression of my ex-manager’s voice.

I walked back over to the chairs, and found that I could indeed walk and talk at the same time, “Then I got a job making dioramas at a museum. Great job. Great people. Terrible pay. I couldn’t make ends meet. I quit and got a job driving a shuttle tram at an old DS buddy’s company. Better pay, but more long hours.”

After handing her her cup I sat down. The sun was dipping below the horizon.

I was on a roll.

“One day things turned around. I was driving an older guy from the train station to a big model railroad show in the city. We got to talking and he suggested I call him about doing a restoration job with his company on some rich guy’s gigantic model train layout. That was the break that eventually lead to this.” I swept my free arm around with a grand flourish to show her the splendor of my office. It was splendid.

I rested my mug, and my case, on the arm of my chair. She had followed my ramblings with surprising interest. Most people usually have turned to stone by now or escaped via a convenient trapdoor. 

But, enough is enough.

“What’s in the box?”

Part 4 of this chair griping series can be found here.


  1. Been following your story for a while; am finding it enjoyable.
    Please keep up the good work.