_The Pawnbroker's Accident_
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|1||how do i live ..|
|7||Zachary Martin ..|
The angry warbling coming from the forgotten phone in her hand jarred Miranda from her daze. She had completely zoned out from the conversation she was having and stood transfixed by the monocular glare of the pawn shop television that dominated one wall of her shoddy walk-up apartment living room.
"Sorry Mom. I zoned out didn't I? It's just been a really long day. I think I'll have a sandwich and a shower then head to bed. Call you tomorrow?" she explained quickly excusing both her lapse and herself to her unsuspecting mother.
She'd always been able to pull the wool over on her mother. Edna Garrity would never suspect her sweet Miranda Jane of keeping secrets from her. That was almost enough to make Miranda smile, but by then the damn commercial was on again.
Colin Delgado. She hadn't thought of him in years. Yet, here he was on the flickering picture tube of her old Magnet-box in a suit that probably cost more money than a month of her rent here in Cedars Flats. Attorney at Law, she could hardly believe it. He'd probably forgotten about her, and she had every intention to make him regret it.
Of course, he wasn't calling himself Colin any more. The caption at the bottom of the screen was showing his name as Andrew Larch, but it was definitely the same old Colin she had known all those years ago.
The volume was turned down, because of the phone call, but she knew this commercial well enough by now not to need to hear it. Colin (or Andrew, or whatever else he called himself) was explaining the benefits of using his legal skills to sue people: ?Have you had a fall? An accident? Been unfairly treated? Then call us now!? It was hardly unusual - there were any number of competing firms trying exactly the same thing, particularly on daytime TV - but how many of them were being fronted by a convicted con-artist?
It had been nine years since Miranda had met Colin for the first time. At the time she had been in her early twenties; still young and na´ve, and she had fallen for him almost from the first moment they met. He was charming and attractive, and she spent almost three months of blissful happiness with him - until she found out his secret. It was too late by then, of course - he had been quietly draining her finances from the beginning, and although the court case went in her favour, he only got two years sentence, and she never did see any of her money again.
She glared back at the TV, and turned the sound back on. There was another commercial on now; someone trying to sell garage doors. She flipped the Off switch - a few times, because it wasn't working very well - and pulled herself out of her chair. 'Time to take a walk,' she told herself, 'get out of the house for a bit'.
* * *
It was the same pawn shop where she had bought the TV, along with half the rest of the contents of her living room. For some reason she found herself drawn to it. There was always so much interesting stuff to look through. Or junk, as her mother would say. Besides, it was the only place she could afford to shop these days.
And then there was the shopkeeper. This was perhaps the real reason Miranda came here so regularly. He was a kindly old man, Allan the pawnbroker. It was not exactly the sort of profession where kindess was a common trait, but she had warmed to him quickly, and he in turn seemed genuinely pleased that to see her, even though she didn't actually buy anything very often.
"You look worried," he said, looking up from arranging the display as she walked in.
"It's nothing. Just that commercial on TV again that always gets to me."
"You don't want to be getting wound up about these things. You'll do nothing but give yourself an ulcer. Take my advice: I haven't watched TV in years; It's just not worth getting stressed over."
"I have the money for the TV you sold me," she said, changing the subject.
"That's fine. I'll get Jim to sort that out later. But for now, why don't you come through to my office? You look like someone who could use a good cup of coffee."
Miranda had never explained the whole story to anyone before; even her mother only knew the bare facts. She'd never even met Colin while Miranda was going out with him, so the advert would probably mean nothing to her. But somehow, sitting in this dirty little office, she felt able to confide in the elderly storekeeper. The coffee flowed, and the story came out, and by the end of it, she had her head in his shoulder, sobbing quietly.
"You know," said Allan, "I have some friends in the legal business. Perhaps I could get them to do some checking around for you?"
Miranda lifted her head, and shook it. "I don't want to cause any trouble for you."
"Fair enough." The shopkeeper shrugged his shoulders, "But if there's anything I can do for you, you'll be sure and let me know, see?"
* * *
It was a few days later when Allan had his accident. It wasn't anything serious: he had tripped on a broken paving slab on the street near the shop. A broken nose and a fractured wrist were the sum total of his injuries, but it gave Miranda an idea: They would use Allan's injury as bait, to get Colin to start a claim case for him. If Colin was involved, it was obviously a con of some sort, but being forewarned, it would be easy to trap him.
So the next day, Allan made a phone call to Colin's legal advice number, from the commercial, and after some effort, managed to persuade them to make an appointment for him with Andrew Larch himself.
It was a glorious triumph. Allan and Miranda spent the next week gathering their evidence. Colin Delgado was not going to get away with it. His con-artist tricks had gone too far this time.
Miranda even made arrangements with a local TV station to film the whole event. They had a consumer affairs program that loved to sink its teeth into crooked businessmen, so this was an opportunity they couldn't pass up.
* * *
The day of the meeting came, and Allan was waiting in the office at the back of his shop. Miranda and the television crew were hidden in an ajoining room, listening intently.
Through the door, they could hear the muffled sounds of Allan's assistant Jim showing someone into the office. Chairs scraped on the floor, and there was some talking, though they couldn't make out what was being said.
Then, after a few minutes, and just as Miranda was getting jumpy, they heard the signal: Allan shouting to Jim for some fresh coffee. This was it! Sweet revenge.
Miranda was the first to burst through the door into the office. The camera crew followed immediately behind her, but almost ran into her as she stopped short. The man in the seat opposite Allan was not Colin Delgado.
"Who are you?" she asked.
"This is Andrew Larch," said Allan, "The man you wanted to talk to."
"But this isn't the man from the advert," she cried.
There was a stunned silence. The cameras carried on rolling for several seconds before Andrew started laughing.
"But what happened to Colin?"
"The man in the commercial was just an actor," he said, "You didn't think I'd do my own commercials, did you? Have you seen how those turn out when real lawyers are in them?"
* * *
Outside, in the rain, an unemplyed con-man turned actor watched the live broadcast on the television in the pawn shop window, and laughed to himself.
Spudley Strikes Again