I don’t know how long I’ve been asleep. At some point while I’ve been out, someone—Sullivan?—has put a small table beside the cot, and on this table he has put a cup of water and three spotted bananas. I reach out for the cup and drink the water in one fast swallow, leaving the bananas for now.
The light is dim, and it’s coming from a small lamp on a shelf behind me. He called this place a storeroom, and that’s definitely what it looks like. A few metal shelves along the walls, some empty boxes in the corners. I won’t complain, however. At least it’s warm.
I pull back the blanket and see that I’m not wearing the clothes I came here in. I am in an oversized T-shirt and sweatpants, and I know that I didn’t put them on myself. I decide not to think about how I got into them right now. That’s something to consider later on.
It’s hard forcing myself to sit up. My arms and legs ache with the effort, and my spine feels as though it is wrapped in barbed wire. Is this what not freezing to death in the snow feels like? If so, I must make a reminder to myself to never try to do it again.
The floor is concrete, and it is cold on my bare feet. I wobble a bit with my first few steps, but by the time I complete the short distance from the cot to the only door in the room, I am feeling more steady. The door is metal, matching the utilitarian look of the rest of the room, and opens without a sound as I turn the knob and push. The hallway outside is as dim as my room had been, and dozens of boxes line up against the walls, making the corridor feel claustrophobic. One end of the hall ends in a closed door, and the other turns a corner which seems to be slightly brighter than where I am now, so I choose to go that way. Around the turn, there are stairs leading up, and I slowly climb them, my legs protesting with each step, but not giving out on me. I prefer to take this as a good sign. As I near the top of the stairs, I begin to hear voices.
“Doesn’t matter if you want it,” one is saying. Sullivan? I think so. “You have to take it.”
“I didn’t ask for it,” the other says, the words coming out in a harsh bark. “It’s not my problem.”
“It is your problem,” Sullivan says. “I don’t make the rules. I just hold the merchandise.”
There is a heavy drape hanging in front of me, and a sliver of bright light creeps around one edge of it. I hesitate only a moment before peering through the slit. On the other side of the drape is what looks to be a storefront, something like a pawn shop. A vast collection of items are scattered on shelves and racks throughout the store: typewriters, televisions, fur coats and hockey sticks. Sullivan stands behind the glass counter, arms crossed on his chest. On the other side is a young man with a Doc Holliday mustache and black hat, hands pressed to the countertop, looking distressed. Between them on the glass is a small ivory statue, a white giraffe, standing no more than five inches high.
“This isn’t fair,” the young man is saying.
“Nothing is,” Sullivan says. “Take it.”
“You will, or I’ll shove it up your ass and throw you both out. Rules are rules.”
The young man starts to say something else, but he bites his tongue as Sullivan puts both his hands on the counter and leans closer to him. Without another word, the man reaches out quickly and grabs the giraffe, puts it into his coat pocket, and then rubs his hand against his pants as though trying to clean something from it.
“That’s that,” Sullivan says.
“I won’t be back,” the young man growls.
“You will. Miss Keeper will see to that.”
The young man pales, and takes a step back from the counter. He lifts his hand and touches himself in the middle of his chest. “You do the devil’s work here,” he says. “The devil’s work.”
“That might be,” Sullivan says. “But I’m not the one leaving with that statue in my pocket.”
The young man says nothing. He holds Sullivan’s gaze for a few moments, then turns on his heel and heads for the exit. He pulls the door open, and the bell above it tinkles softly as he does so, then rings again as the door shuts behind him as he leaves.
Sullivan leaves his hands on the counter and stands quietly until the last sound of the bell has trailed off into silence. Then, without turning to look in my direction, he says, “You might as well come out from behind that curtain. I’ve got something here for you too, and you’re going to need to take it.”