This is my first entry in any “challenge” or contest here on LIT. I want to thank jaF0 for coming up with the very creative concept. Up to this point, I have avoided reading any other Amorous Goods submission to keep from feeling like I have to match up with another author’s creation. I look forward to delving into some of these stories.
This story certainly took me away from my initial hazy concept and into the realm of more action and less eroticism. I hope you find it sufficiently entertaining to see it as enjoyable.
A lifelong collector of goods and objects from far and wide has passed and left the entire collection and the business built around them to the only remaining relative, a niece on a career path of her own. Vikki has taken on the task of administering the estate and liquidating the business and collection. However, she has come to find out that many of the goods have been cursed or enchanted with amorous powers that affect those who encounter them. These are the stories of some of those encounters with objects found at Amorous Goods.
The Cel Tradat Emeralds
Sean was wondering if this self-imposed assignment was worth continuing. As he trod the walk leading up to the aged home that was supposed to be a store. He indulged in an inward chuckle. It really was an, “antique”, … “store” and not just an “antique store”. The name “Amorous Goods”, might play well in a new book and lord knows a writer can always use some inspiration to lead them into fresh territory. He was still wondering if the store name and the concept of cursed antiques would be enough to make dealing with an old lady and some probably superstitious weirdos palatable. He hadn’t been able to sell a book in a few years so he needed his interactions to last long enough for him to decide whether it would yield sufficient material to help him write another salable story.
He stood for a minute and stared up at the sign over the front porch. “Amorous Goods”, … why name an antique shop a name like that..? What could being amorous have to do with antiques? How could an antique even be amorous? Well, that’s what makes for a good story, people will want to know. Time to meet the old lady in charge and hopefully get some answers.
He marched up the stairs and into the shop. He stopped and looked around. The place was just what he suspected, a formerly elegant old house that had been converted into a shop. It was apropos that such an old house would be an antique shop. The entire place was antique just like he had joked to himself outside. He turned in a 360 degree circle and took in his surroundings. Furniture, racks of clothes, display cases of everyday items like old tools, gadgets, utensils, even some jewelry. There was no one visible.
Sean walked up to the counter by an antique cash register and tapped a gold colored counter bell mounted on an onyx base. Instead of a single bell tone, the four tones it emitted grew in intensity as they changed frequency and left him slightly dazed. When the tones died out of his hearing, he noticed that a black curtain at the end of the counter was waving back and forth.
“May I help you?”, asked a young lady standing across the counter from him.
He nearly jumped out of his shoes. “Whoah! I didn’t see you come out!”, he clutched his chest in demonstration of his surprise.
“Yes, the bell can throw a person off. That’s one of the many clever items here at our store.”
The person standing in front of him was an attractive young woman in her mid to late 20s. She was attractive in a college librarian sort of way. She might not attract a crowd at a bar, but she was trim with a somewhat athletic look to her. Yes, her shoulders indicated some development and her thighs hinted at some excellent muscle tone. She was a person that seriously worked out with regularity. She was looking at him through a pair of horn rimmed glasses that fit well into the motif of the other items in the store.
He realized he may have been staring for a moment. “Is the store owner here? I’m here to see a Ms. Viktoria Desiderius.”
“And you would be, …?” She trailed off. The man before her was very attractive in the way that a man in his 30s could be. He was clean, smelled interesting and fit his basic business suit – jacket unbuttoned – very well. He didn’t appear to spend a lot of time creating a metro-sexual image, but his clothing, well, .. just fit perfectly, … fit his shoulders, fit his abs with no belt lap-over, fit his waist and thighs. His eyes had a look like he was inspecting something and his hair, .. well, his light brown hair seemed to have natural highlights and an intriguing wave that could only be a natural curl.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I’m Sean Grimes. I’m here about recovering lost items.”
She held out her hand. “Please call me Vikki.” When Sean hesitated, she asked, “Is there a problem?”
“Uh, no, not at all. I was just expecting someone older to be the proprietor of an antique shop.” Her hand confirmed his estimate of someone that believed in a high state of fitness. Her grip was firm without the challenge conveyed by some men, but did indicate absolute confidence. He noticed the definition in her upper arms.
“I get that a lot”, she replied. “It was not a choice. I inherited the shop and am now stuck dealing with it and the items in it. So you’re answering the ad.”
“Yes. Your ad sought someone that was a skilled researcher and finder of objects and who was highly discreet and trustworthy. I am an excellent researcher and have used those skills to enable me to recover several lost items. I would never disclose any sensitive information that we agreed should remain private.” He was sure that any useful information or situations could be used in one of his stories without giving any names or other details that would identify people or provide embarrassment to Vikki.
“OK Mr. Grimes. To what extent do you believe in people being directly affected by such things as magic, spirits, … the occult?”
“I guess I have no real opinion either way. I have run into instances of such things that were never fully explained by purely scientific explanations, but then I have never delved into such things in an effort to disprove or prove them. Is that important?”
“Do I have to be a believer in order to find your lost item and get paid?”
“Not necessarily, but I couldn’t ask you to get involved unless you had at least a basic understanding of what you might be getting into. Are you willing to at least set aside any skepticism and consider it?”
” . . . . . . . . . uh, … Sure! I think I can do that. At least as far as finding out what needs to be recovered and then I can decide not to take on the task and you can decide whether or not you think I can handle it.”
“Good. We need several items recovered, so I hope this works out.”
“Items,..? I thought it was one item.”
“Mr. Grimes, if you can recover one item, I’d love for you to take on more. Let’s start with trying to give you an appreciation of what you might be facing.”
“OK, so convince me about this magic or occult stuff…. and please, call me Sean.”
“I’m sure, Sean, you recall ringing the counter bell.” She held up the golden bell. “Did you notice anything odd when you did that?”
“Yes. I recall it making multiple tones, which I’ve never heard from a counter bell before.”
“Yes, and did you notice anything else happening when I came out of the back?”
“OH! I don’t recall even seeing you come out, but I noticed the curtain moving and there you were!”
“Exactly! The bell is an enchanted or cursed item that steals the perception of all of your senses for a brief time. During that time you think you hear the multiple tones, but it is really just overlaying all of your senses for the time you think you’re hearing them so that you don’t see or actually hear anything else. You don’t notice it, but it actually steals your ability to taste or feel anything you are touching while it sends those tones to your brain. Because of that, it essentially steals that time from you and it’s as though you have jumped forward in time because you are now seeing things in their new locations or positions just as you all of a sudden saw me in front of you.”
Sean thought for a moment. “Then how did you know it went off and were able to come out here?”
“It only has that effect on the person that rings it with their bare hand. To the rest of the world, it is a regular counter bell. I heard it give off a normal ring. You realize that it is physically impossible for those things to take place within a person’s normal interaction with the world around them, so how do you explain the effect this bell had on you, Sean?”
After some more thought, he admitted, “I see your point Vikki. ….. .. So, … the item you need recovered has this sort of effect on people,…?”
“After a fashion, … each item we need recovered has a similarly, unexpected and controlling impact on certain people within its area of influence. They are not counter bells. Each item is different and each has its own unique effect. I have a list of the items, but do not know exactly what effect each item has on people.”
“How were they stolen?”
“That’s part of what makes recovering them a real challenge, Sean. None of them were stolen.’
“I beg your pardon?”
“They were sold and we need to refund the purchase price, if necessary, and recover them back here so they can be stored in a magic proof vault in the basement of this shop. Here is the situation. I inherited this shop from my uncle. He collected the items from all around the world. He began to sell a few of them and then he died and left the store to me. It didn’t fit into my career plans so I authorized an estate sale to sell things and be done with it, then it was discovered that many of the items had these sorts of special properties and I had to stop the sale process. Now that their true nature has been revealed, it is apparent that allowing them to be sold and used is unconscionable. I stopped the sale and have moved here to take over the store personally. We must recover the artifacts to avoid people being injured – possibly even killed or driven insane – in various ways.”
“Do all of these items,” he gestured around the store, “have magical or occult properties?”
“No. Except for the counter bell, all of the artifacts that we know have such properties have been moved to a special vault in the basement. The items you see here are just plain old antiques.”
“OK, I’m in. What can I recover for you?”
Vikki, went in the back and returned with a ledger style book with a black fabric cover and red leather corners. She opened it to a page marked by a red ribbon. “This is a record of what my uncle sold prior to his death as well as the items sold off before we realized how special some of these items might be. Each entry shows the name and address of the buyer and a short description of the item. It does not say what it does to people.” She turned the book around and showed Sean the page. “We need every item either verified as harmless or returned to us to be stored in a safe place. See anything that suits you?”
He looked over a few lines trying to decide if anything looked too dangerous or too inconvenient like too far away. He pointed to an entry. “I’ll go with this one.”
The entry read, “Emerald Jewelry Set, 6″ x 18″ x 2″ Jewelry Box, $5,000, Mrs. Lisa Underwood, 325 Highland Ave., Springfield.”
Vikki took the ledger into the back of the shop and returned with a large envelope.
“Great! So, Sean, here’s a company credit card so you don’t have to keep track of so many expenses, also here in the envelope is $5,000 in cash to refund the price she paid. Here’s my phone number along with Dylan’s. He’s my cousin and we are in this shop together. He’s out chasing down items like you are about to be and you can call on him for extra firepower. If he’s available, he will come and help. If you run into a very serious situation regarding significant magical or occult issues you are not equipped to deal with, let Dylan or me know and we may be able get Morgana out to support you. She has serious experience in this arena and has saved some recovery missions for us. Always remember, the danger is real. Some of the items are no more dangerous than our shop’s counter bell here, but some can have a very significant impact on a person. We do not as yet even know what each of these items are, in terms of their properties and impact on a person. Most have shown to have an effect that ties into a person’s love life, most often sexual perceptions and physical feelings, hence the name, ‘Amorous Goods’.”
“Oh! Can you give me an example?” Sean’s interest was piqued.
“Well, one set of items we recently recovered, was a matched set of necklaces, one shaped like a circle with a wedge missing and the other a wedge that matched the one missing from the circle. The wedge necklace made the man who wore it touching his skin, constantly horny and incredibly stiff while the woman’s counterpart made her relentlessly aroused and in need of some serious sexual relief. They could not remove the necklaces without feeling their hands were burning up, unless the man inserted his pie wedge piece perfectly into the cutout in her circle necklace, then they could both remove them and be back to normal.” Vikki blushed and looked down at the counter.
Sean found the tone of her blush to be wonderfully attractive and realized he had stopped breathing for a moment. “Wow! OK, I get it. The artifacts can have a real influence and I need to be careful.”
After a few more minutes of discussion, he headed out, his head equally split between wondering what he’d gotten himself into and how much he was attracted to Vikki. It seemed that there might even be some good story fodder here.
As Sean walked out of the store, Vikki followed to the porch and watched him walk down the stairs and out to his car. Yes, he looked as good from the back as he did from the front. Hopefully, these emeralds would not be a serious problem. If they could be recovered without too much trouble, maybe he’d stay on and help them with more items.
Getting closer to Springfield as he drove along, he began to think about how to approach this. Should he walk right in and warn the buyer and offer to save them from potential harm?… Case the joint and consider stealing it?…. Offer to buy it back?… What if the item were controlling the buyer somehow…?… Would Vikki think less of him if he asked for help?…
He finally decided her last words were key, “… , the danger is real.” He dialed the number she gave him for Dylan.
“Vikki gave me your number. I put it in my contacts so your name just came up on my phone. Nice to meet you. What do you need?”
“I’d like your advice on how to proceed, Dylan. The occult angle is making me think I can’t rely on past experience for how to handle things.”
“You’re right, Sean. I very much respect that you had the good sense to call.”
Dylan discussed the tactics he recommended and said he expected to wrap his recovery up soon and then he could join Sean in Springfield. Sean felt greatly relieved that he would have on-the-ground support soon and now had a game plan to start on. His new plan was to:
1. Find the item – make sure he knew where it was;
2. Find out who had control over it – who he’d need to deal with;
3. Figure out what, if any, occult power it might have.
The first step in gathering data on all three plan priorities was to stake out the given address and see who came and went. That should provide at least some basic info, – especially if it had some significant power. Dylan had explained that a relic of significant power usually led its possessor to indulge in some relatively abnormal behavior that might make its presence obvious.
After checking into a hotel, Sean went to the address and then scouted the surrounding area to orient himself to the local food/coffee places as well as get a feel for the environment so he could better judge if a set of behaviors might be “abnormal”.
The address was in an older neighborhood. The house was amazingly like the one housing Amorous Goods, a Victorian style house with two stories above ground, a wraparound porch and a pointy cupola type roof over one corner.
His first 2 day’s observation netted the following:
– Several cars came and went making it seem more like a business than just a residence;
– The cars came in groups of about a half dozen to a dozen mainly at three times, mid-morning, early afternoon, and after dinner with a light smattering in between;
– Three cars, all driven by men he thought of as “regulars”, came to all three main periods;
– Though mostly men, about 30% of the visitors were women;
– There were two really good food places about a half mile from the house;
– He recorded the license plates of the cars that came regularly and sent them to Vikki. She thanked him and said she’d use the plates to tentatively identify the people coming to Mrs. Underwood’s, initially to see if they were also buyers of other cursed artifacts.
To try to zero in on his three priorities, he decided to follow one of the cars that left the house and try to talk to the person. He selected one of the three “regulars” and followed him after the morning gathering. To his amazement, the guy went to one of his new fav food places, an Indian food place in a local strip mall. The guy went in so Sean went in.
He was lucky. There were no empty tables so he sat at the table with “Regular”. After asking if the guy minded, Sean sat down and told him his name was “George”. They ate in silence for a while and then “George” asked a few questions.
“Thanks for letting me join you. I’m new in town working in the jewelry business.”
“Nice to meet you, George. I work in an office downtown – publishing. Do you make or sell jewelry?”
“I buy interesting pieces, like antiques and sell them to collectors. Sometimes they are only worth the pieces like the gold or the jewels and not as finished works of art so they are worth a bit less, but I still make a couple bucks. Right now I have a buyer interested in emeralds. You know anybody that has emerald jewelry?”
“Actually, George, I do.”
“Really?!? Who? Where is it?”
“I know a lady that has some really big emeralds, but I doubt she’d sell them.”
“She lives not far from here, but she wears them all the time. Probably sleeps with them.” He snickered.
‘George’ gave a short laugh. “Yeah, some people can get pretty attached to their stuff… especially if they’ve had it for awhile.”
“True. I do not recall seeing the jewelry before a few months ago.”
“Really! What do you have to do with her that you notice her jewelry over a period of months?”
“She used to write books with our publishing house, so I’d drop stuff off at her house since I live in the area.”
“Was that before the jewelry?,… I guess if that was before the emeralds, that you don’t see her about books much any more.”
“Well, .. actually, she wrote books about discovering your true self and making your life more meaningful. She didn’t sell a ton, but the editor kept looking at her stuff – I think she was a friend of his family – now she doesn’t write much, but I still visit her because I attended one of her sessions and I really think she has the answers to having an exciting, totally fulfilled life.”
“Wow! That’s really fascinating!”
“Yeah! I go have a session with her a few times a week and I come out feeling so totally great, it’s amazing”
“Where does she live? Maybe I can talk to her about her jewelry and learn some great stuff about my own life.”