New Era business

“I’m telling you, Lou, I didn’t order anything!”

Mortimer glared at his business partner, daring Lou to argue more about the mysterious package that had appeared on their doorstep an hour earlier.

The balding Lou shrugged, dropping the issue for the moment. He picked up the small box. It was wrapped simply in brown paper, no return address on it. The partners’ address was hand-written in bold print, covering an entire face of the cube. The package was abnormally heavy for its size.

Lou hefted it in his hand, trying to gauge the contents. He was very wary of suspicious packages and rightfully so. In recent months, many of the smaller partnerships in the district had been wiped out in mystifying circumstances. Someone wasn’t happy about the resurgence of business in the New Era.

“Lou, are you even listening to me?” Mortimer demanded, realizing Lou was lost in thought. “Are we going to open it or not?”

“Not. Most certainly,” Lou replied. “We have no idea who sent it, or what it may be, or what it may do.”

Mortimer reached for the package, intending to open it, regardless of what the overly-cautious Lou wanted.

Lou let his partner have the box, cautioning, “Be careful, Morty. Never know what’s going to happen. I do believe I’m leaving, however.”

The senior partner snatched his overcoat from the hall tree as he moved toward the frosted-glass front door. He threw the coat over his arm and reached again, this time for his fedora.

“See ya, Morty.” And Lou left the tiny office he shared with Mortimer.

Mortimer watched his friend flee the office before he turned his attention back to the package in his hands.

The brown paper told Morty nothing about the contents. He tore the unhelpful paper away, revealing a pristine white box. The small man wiggled a finger under the edge of a handy flap on the front of the box. Mortimer pushed and pulled at the flap, working it loose.

The top of the box gaped open as the flap suddenly gave entirely. Morty gasped at the suddenness of the opening. He gasped again as the overhead light flashed off the pearlescent object inside of the box.

Mortimer pried the box entirely open, searching for anything that might tell him where the amazingly brilliant gem came from. But the only thing in the box was the enormous green pearl.

Gingerly, the small man extracted the gem, gazing on it in wonder. Morty turned the perfectly smooth gem over and over in his hands, caressing the surface with greedy hands. He chuckled to himself, thinking that his hasty partner would just have to miss out on the riches Morty had discovered.

Three buildings down the street, Lou paused to push his arms into his overcoat. He felt the small trigger device lying in wait in the inside pocket of the coat. Smiling to himself, he pushed the button, silently ending his partnership.

The investigation into the death of Mortimer Jameson was short. There wasn’t much evidence left, after the acid ate all it wanted. Even the identity of the body was left mostly up to association. Lou tearfully told the police about the mystery package and his departure before the apparent acid explosion.

Lou closed up his shop for a mourning period of two weeks. But when he came back, his business was stronger than ever.


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