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Nine (part 7)

 
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Aunty Wainwright’s was a junk shop. No, let’s get it right. Aunty Wainwright’s was a junk emporium. The premises was on Santa Fe and directly across the road from City Hall. To the casual observer in the street it looked just like any other small shop, but cross its threshold and you found yourself in a multi-storey maze of every conceivable item that had ever been scavenged, repaired, reused or built by hand with love but not much skill.

Mere seconds after the jangling of the doorbell had announced your presence, Aunty Wainwright herself would appear at your shoulder from around the nearest corner of piled high bric-a-brac.

And so it was when Finny and Joe entered the welcome gloom after the brilliant sunshine reflected off the pavement outside. Finny looked at Aunty Wainwright from her position on the other side of Joe.

She was old, older than Joe even, and had straggly grey hair. She was also wearing more clothes than Finny had ever seen anyone wearing all at once. At least three baggy, shapeless skirts, numerous frilly blouses, a waistcoat complete with watch and chain and finally a pair of saggy woolly cardigans.

Aunty spoke, breaking the spell of her apparition.

“Joseph. I’m so glad you’ve popped in. Would you like a cup of tea?”

Joe quickly held up a hand.

“No thanks Aunty.”

Suddenly, Aunty’s face was right next to Finny’s, making the little girl take a step backwards.

“What about you sweetie? Would you like a glass of ice cold water? Hmmmm?”

Joe opened his mouth to refuse but it was too late.

“Yes please.”

Aunty’s eyes twinkled.

“Good girl. Follow me, you too Joe. You’ll put customers off standing there.”

Joe and Finny set off after Aunty, who was moving at quite a rate for such an old woman. From a safe distance behind, Joe leaned in and whispered to Finny.

“Don’t say yes to anything else she offers you.”

“Why?”

“You’ll see.”

They arrived in a small back room which was a kitchen, living room and bedroom combined. Aunty Wainwright went to a wonky refrigerator and returned with a small glass of iced water. Finny accepted it gratefully.

“Thank you.”

“Call me Aunty, dearie.”

“Thank you, Aunty.”

“My pleasure girlie.” Aunty held out a hand palm up. “That’ll be one blue please.”

Finny spluttered on her water. Fortunately, Joe dropped a blue chip into Aunty’s hand. Aunty, however seemed to waiting for something more. Joe’s voice provided the solution.

“Drink the water.”

Finny gulped down what was left in the glass and handed it back to the old lady who theen shuffled away to the sink with it. Joe leaned down and whispered out of the side of his mouth.

“Told you. Don’t accept anything from Aunty. And don’t touch anything.”

Finny swallowed.

“’kay.”

When Aunty turned back to them Joe put a hand on Finny’s shoulder.

“Aunty. This is Finny. Finny, Aunty Wainwright.”

Old and young shook hands.

“Ohhh, so this is her. Joe’s told me such a…”

“Anyway.” Joe interrupted loudly. “Aunty, here, is probably the best fence in the Union and certainly the best one in Flagg.”

Aunty preened under the praise, tapping futilely at her straggling locks as if doing such could help put the silver thatch in order.

Joe made sure he had Finny’s attention.

“Household goods, electronics, cars, weapons. Pretty much anything that isn’t jewellery or arty stuff and Aunty is the person to take it too. She won’t rip you off quite as much as the others if you sell to her and she’ll give you an honest estimate of the worth of anything you show her.”

“For a small fee.” Aunty interjected.

“For a small fee.” Joe confirmed.

Finny wasn’t quite sure why Joe was telling her this, but it was an interesting insight into his world even so.

“Erm, okay.”

Finny and Joe left Aunty wainwright’s a few minutes later. They were heading down Santa Fe and Finny was staring at the moth-eaten moose head on the back seat. She wasn’t sure why Joe had bought it, and from the way Joe was grinding his teeth she was pretty sure Joe didn’t know either. Best not to ask, she thought as she turned to the front to see where Joe was taking her next.

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