FOREVER – FREE PDF
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The sun was making its first appearance of the day. I left my home; crossed the street and entered the park. Running frees the mind. And for the next hour that is exactly what I did. I ran, breathed and sweated. But I did not think.
The shower scalded my skin. Before getting out I turned the hot water off completely. For five minutes the ice cold water reminded me that I was alive. I dried off and mentally began to prepare for the day.
Black hand-tailored suit, Saville Row, of course. White cotton shirt with spread collar, no tie. Italian loafers. And a Patek Philippe wrist watch.
While walking to the cafe the cell played John’s ‘Imagine’. Continue reading
Connor Jones is a major character who can be found in #37-A Picker Mystery and the short story Three Strikes. I’m currently working on a new story tentatively titled Connor Jones. It should be available on Amazon before the end of June. The following is a preview:
Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.
“I think he’s dead.” The words were clear but I couldn’t identify the voice. “Someone call 999. There is no pulse.”
Here’s the funny bit. I felt great. Never better. For some inexplicable reason I was at peace for the first time in my life. Although I could not see a thing my hearing was crystal clear. Lots of voices but I was not able to untangle the thread. It did not matter. I was completely unphased.
What occurred next was more than a little disorienting. My body was lying on its back; leaking blood and I stood some eight feet away while observing it. There was no hot or cold, no pain, no nothing. The only thing that I experienced was detached calm.
Then, in a flash, I was elsewhere. I couldn’t see a thing yet sensed being in an entirely different place. It was dreamlike. Foggy; dark; the lack of control; in a daze but utterly peaceful. For the moment time ceased to exist. Before/after were irrelevant. Everything in the universe was occurring simultaneously.
Without warning the darkness exploded revealing a thousand, no, a million suns. It was not blinding. It was beautiful.
This brilliant light went on forever. Love began to well up in my chest to the point where it was almost overwhelming.
Knowledge suffused my being while not being either presented or weighed down with specifics. The experience was full of grace, holiness and the divine. And to this day I could not tell you if God was involved.
I flew. Unfettered without weight or worry. Joy seemed to radiate from my center to the far reaches of creation.
A voice whispered, “You have to go back”. I turned and looked into my father’s eyes, now gone almost a decade. The world imploded.
A sharp explosion in my chest sent me plummeting. I was cold. A voice shouted, “He’s back!” The siren pieced my skull as the ambulance raced towards the hospital.
I couldn’t help but smile. I was alive. I could finish my work.
My name is Connor Jones. This is what happened.
It was pitch black, reeked of garbage and I had just banged my head on something that very much felt like metal.
It took a moment to orient myself. I used my hands to explore. It didn’t take long; it smelled like garbage because it was garbage. I braced myself and forced my legs to push upwards. The metal door swung up and back exposing a mostly blue sky.
Son of a bitch… I was in a dumpster. Touching my head revealed a lump the size of an ostrich egg. Hurt like hell. For a moment I had trouble focusing.
After taking a deep breath, I scrambled out of the dumpster. I had to think. Where was I and how in the name of God did I get here.
It was an alley with a row of dumpsters behind one very long building. Hotel, I bet.
Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing. Oscar Wilde
“And, the winner of this year’s competition is…”
Excuse me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
This particular adventure actually began the previous evening. It was a beautiful spring night with clear skies and crisp air. I had checked into my hotel room an hour earlier. After making my way down to the ballroom, I now stood in front of a long table. Dinner was about to begin and there was barely enough time to sign in.
Sitting behind the long table was a lovely young woman. Blonde hair piled on top of her head and bright blue eyes and tortoise shell glasses. Every lad’s fantasy of what a librarian should look like. Before her was a computer printout of the expected attendees with name tags scattered over the table’s surface.
The young woman inquired, “Your name sir?”
“Picker.” I gave her one of my better smiles.
She took a few moments to find my name on the list and locate the appropriate name tag.
“Well, here you are Mr. Picker…”
“No mister, just Picker,” I interrupted.
The young woman was momentarily flustered. “Well then, Picker, this is your name tag. I hope that you enjoy your dinner.”
Thanking her, I put the tag into my pocket and made my way into the banquet room. Personally, I can’t stand name tags. Found my way to the assigned table. Sat down. Introductions were made all around.
They were all strangers. Antique dealers with stores, those that worked at high end flea markets, others that sold primarily at shows and one collector. But, no other pickers.
Oh, I neglected to mention that this was the annual National Antiques Association convention. And, my profession is that of a picker.
1. someone who picks antiques for a living
Basically, what I do is run around locating hidden treasures; purchasing said treasures for the right price and then sells them to someone higher up the food chain.
Case in point: Walking the flea market at 6:00am this morning (before driving up to New York) I came across a doll. Picked it up and examined it closely (Lesson 1: always hold the item in question in order that no one snatches it out from under you and Lesson 2: always look for damage and repairs, either will greatly affect the value).
Danny Boy Boyle is a young African American. He obtains all his stock from women that were previously maids employed by the wealthy of Main Line communities (Philadelphia suburbs). It was not uncommon for these domestic workers to receive discarded items from their employers. You would be truly shocked at the valuables found in North Philadelphia homes (not to mention that the houses themselves sell for less than ten grand). Literally, a cornucopia of antiques and collectibles: lamps; dishes; silver; oriental carpets and even furniture.
Anyway, Danny Boy’s wife; Mai, was working the tables when I spotted the doll.
“How much,” I asked.
“For you sweetheart, $800.00.”
Truth be told, that was too cheap. A Kammer & Reinhardt Toddler with a bisque socket head. Clearly marked “K*R-Simon & Halbig – 126 – 28″. She had blue sleeping eyes with feathered brows; an open mouth showing two upper teeth and tongue; a brown wig composed of mohair; and a jointed wood and composition body. Easily worth $3,900.00 – retail.
“That’s too little, Mai.” I removed some bills from my pocket and counted out thirteen one-hundred dollar bills.
She gently wrapped the doll in some white tissue paper and placed it into a paper shopping bag. Coming around to the front of the table, she stood on her tip toes and planted a kiss on my cheek.
“Thank you, Picker.”
You may not realize this, but honest antique people (not that you can find any) deal in thirds. With the doll being worth what it was, I should easily be able to pass it on to a brick and mortar dealer for $2,600.00. That leaves another $1,300.00 on the table for the guy or gal with all the overhead.
Now that you have a clear idea of what I do, we can get back to the story:
It’s true that I did not know anyone at the table. However, it does not mean that I didn’t know anyone. Rubbernecking the room I had spotted half a dozen pickers from across the country. At one time or another we had crossed paths. Plus, there were sure to be at least a few more that I didn’t know at all.
Within a short time dinner was served. Pleasant conversation ensued. Most of it lies, some bigger lies and thank God, no statistics. The dishes were cleared, coffee served and the president of the National Antiques Association took the podium.
George Dish stood there for a moment and scanned the room. A small, unassuming man with stooped shoulders; thick eyeglasses and a poor comb over. He had become president of the NAA due to one fact only: he was the least offensive choice from those available.
Georgie, now in his sixties, got his start in the antique biz in quite an unusual way. Abraham Dizinovich had immigrated to this country at the turn of the 20th century. Abe had an encyclopedic knowledge of antiques but unfortunately seriously lacked funds. The obvious choice would be to get a job in the field. But no, Abe was independent, strong willed and had a serious problem with authority.
His solution was simple. Abe would take his five children when visiting an antique store with the pretense of selling some ‘rare’ find to the owner. In the process, the children would learn some real world skills. The most practical of these skills was shop lifting. It was in this manner than Abraham Dizinovich acquired his merchandise which he would then sell to other dealers.
Over the period of twenty years Abe was able to put a roof over their heads, put food on the table, send his children to college (producing two doctors, one lawyer and a university professor) and eventually open his own antique store.
Ironic side note: The one thing that Abe would not tolerate in his store was stealing!
There was; however, one hold out. Georgie. The youngest of the immigrant brood stubbornly refused all of his parents nagging and prodding when it came to higher education and becoming a respectable professional of any sort.
In his late teens he became a runner (scrounging antiques) and ‘running’ them to the smaller of the local auction houses. After accumulating some working capital, George anglicized his last name and took his show on the road. Traveling to small towns, taking up residence at Holiday Inns and placing full page ads in the local papers. Thirty-six point type at the top of the page read ‘Free Appraisals’. The body of the ad stated than an ‘experienced antique dealer’ would provide an honest evaluation on any of the items listed below. And, the list was, let’s say – inclusive.
To Georgie’s credit, the appraisals were relatively honest if not leaning towards the low end. When something of particular interest caught his eye (which happened quite frequently), George would make an offer to purchase.
George’s success in this business was due in no small measure to one thing that his father had taught him many years earlier. ‘Bought right is two thirds sold’ he always said. And it was in this manner that little Georgie Dizinovich, now George Dish, acquired a small fortune.
In time, George Dish was able to scrub his family name and reputation completely clean. Over the course of his lifetime he was able to accomplish what his father desired most and could not accomplish – being legitimate.
George Dish had a good reputation and was highly respected in the antiques community. After accumulating a lifetime of good will he became the president of the most respected antiques association in North America.
Where was I?
Mr. Dish had stepped up to the podium. Made some pleasant introductory remarks and a brief speech which was not memorable in the least. Then he got down to business.
“As you all know, each year at these gatherings we hold the Annual Picker’s Competition. The conditions are simple: (a) each picker begins the day with nothing; no money or jewelry or cell phones and (b) he or she may use any means possible, short of stealing, to acquire the most valuable antique or collectible and finally (c) IOUs are permissible but not with acquaintances, friends or known associates. All transactions must be with complete strangers.
“We’ll meet in this room tomorrow morning at 5:00am. Each of you will be inspected in order that you begin with little more than the shirts on your backs. Everyone will return here by 6:00pm with their newly acquired treasure.
“A panel of three judges will determine their value. The picker with the most valuable piece will be announced as the winner.”
And that was, as Alice said, that. Almost. George wished us all good luck and promised to see us bright and early. Everything was fine until I stood to leave the room.
Now, I realize that in this day and age that people do not have an arch nemesis. With that being said, across the room I spotted what was certainly the closest thing -
A Big Pain In The Ass!
It Saturday morning.
“Hey Picker. What have you got?” John, from the duo John and Fred, wants to know what I’m selling.
Like most Saturday’s, I’m at the flea market.
The Golden Nugget Antique Market was founded in 1967. Two miles south of Lambertville, New Jersey; dealers buy, sell and trade antiques, collectibles and art Wednesdays and weekends year round.
At four this morning I grabbed a painting from the stables; threw it in the backseat; called the beast and set off to the market.
Popped the trunk; removed and set up an easel; grabbed the painting from the backseat and set it up.
It was early summer. The sun was just starting to come up and it was about 70 degrees. Kenny, who specializes in early twentieth century smalls, asked “How much?” Continue reading
This is a copy of the crossword Connor did this morning while in bed. Under normal circumstances he would go out to breakfast first thing. However, today he is avoiding bad guys due to recent attempts on his life.