Sharon’s Note: Back to a familiar setting in the Magical Pawn Shop, a place that if you’re lucky, it gives you what you need rather than you what you ask for. Warning: Sappy sadness.
I’d already sold an antique watch that morning for a hundred bucks. The watch was attractive and hadn’t killed anyone that I knew of, so I hoped it made a good anniversary present for the lady’s husband. It was rare that I made more than one sale a day, so I was surprised when the bell over the door rang. An attractive woman in her early fifties walked through the door, she was hugging a teddy bear.
“Um, can I help you?” I asked, fidgeting on my stool behind the counter.
“Yes.” The woman’s voice was soft and saturated with sadness. She placed the bear on the counter. I recognized the bear first. It was a truly old bear with dark brown fur and a lighter brown leather vest. On the left breast was pinned a tin star with the words ‘Theodore E. Bear’ painted on. It was only then that I recognized the woman. She was smiling gently at me. “I need to return this.”
I pretended not to know the woman. “Oh, huh, did you buy it here?”
“You should know. You sold it to me almost thirty years ago.”
“What? That’s ridiculous.” I tried to laugh it off, but I was a terrible actress. I wasn’t fooling anyone. With a put upon sigh, I dropped the act. “You aren’t going to be weird about this, are you?”
“No.” The woman chuckled. “I figured out that there was something strange going on years ago. You were right, by the way. Whatever was attacking my daughter stopped after I gave her the bear. I never saw another cut or bruise on her. Thank you.”
“Um, you’re welcome.” I so rarely got to sell someone something benevolent, but it was even less often that I got a thank you. “You know, you don’t have to bring the bear back.”
“My daughter doesn’t need him anymore.” She shook her head, her eyes starting to get overly shiny.
“Keep him for her kids then. I think he’d like to protect a family.” I pushed the bear towards her.
“My daughter died yesterday, giving birth to my first grandchild. Neither of them survived. I think she’d want Sheriff Teddy to go to someone else who needs him. So, please, take him. Give him to someone else to protect their child.” Tears were flowing freely from her eyes, now.
Well, that lodged my foot firmly in my mouth. I nodded and turned on my stool to the register. “Ok. Let me see what I can give you for it.”
“I don’t need anything, just give him a good home.”
“That’s not the way this works.” I popped open the register. “You leave with no more or less than you came in with. You either pay or are paid exactly what is owed.”
The register, where I had not that long ago put in a hundred dollar bill, now only contained a single photograph. It was of a girl of maybe eight sitting on a twin bed, rocking a baby doll in her arms. I held it out to the woman, and she put one hand to her mouth as she took the photo.
“I took this picture a long time ago, but I thought I’d lost it. She always wanted to be a mother. She would have been a good mother.”
I gulped. “Well, fair payment, then.”
“Yes. Yes it is. Thank you again.” The woman didn’t even look at me as she turned and walked towards the door.
“You’re welcome.” I don’t think she heard me as she walked out the door. I took the bear and put him in his old spot, tears prickling my eyes, “Welcome home, Sheriff.”