Van Man Go dropped the last pieces of his airbrush into the cleaning solvent. It was time for a beer and a smoke. He dipped his hands in solvent and scrubbed them off with a rag. He grabbed a beer before he sat down in wooden chair.
Not bad, he thought as he looked over his latest work. It was another tribute bike – this one was desert camouflage background and scenes from Iraq. The work was detailed and lifelike – all premo – just like all his work.
He looked around – it was 2 am – the bars on Bridge Street were closing down. There weren’t as many bars as there had been, back in the Harbor’s heyday of the 1980s. Not that he cared. So what if the street was turning into a tourist trap? His business did just fine – there were plenty of people who were willing to pay very well for his work.
There was a breeze off the lake – bringing in the smell of fish and faint whiff of storm sewer. A sleek black Camry pulled up, the engine raced once before it shut down.
He took a drag off his cigarette – no need for a pack – he had them whenever he wanted them; a perk, one of many, from his Bargain.
The Camry door opened, a man stepped out, young, arrogant with surfer looks and tourist’s clothing. He sauntered across the parking lot, looking around with a slight curl on his lip. The Harbor was old, well over a hundred fifty years, and time had not been kind.
Van sneered, he knew trouble when it landed on his doorstep. This young pup had come from elsewhere, thinking to mark out some turf. Thinking it would be easy to make a name for himself in a small town. He wanted to be the big dog on the block. All well and good – but age and cunning would always win over youth and enthusiasm.
This should be entertaining.
“Hello,” the newcomer said with a broad smile. “Jeff Raven, new in town.” He took one look at Van’s paint stained hands didn’t offer to shake hands.
“Call me Van,” he took a deep drag, and waited.
“Quaint place,” Raven said. “I see that you’re an artist.” He approached the finished bike, whistling with appreciation.
“I dabble.” Van hid his smile behind his cigarette.
“I’m a teacher.” Raven studied the bike. “I’m teaching Humanities, Social Studies and Phys Ed, for the new High School.”
“Is that what they call it, these days?”
“What?” Raven stood up, gave Van a narrow look. He looked down at himself, checked his hands for jewelry.
“I’ve been around long enough to know my own kind.” Van snorted. “Have a seat, there’s beer in the cooler.” He pointed to the cooler, the chair moved from the shadows next to him, as if lifted by invisible hands. Raven paused for a moment, looking from the chair to Van.
“I’ve got a million of them.” Van gave him a dry chuckle. “What brings you to my turf, kid?”
Raven’s cocky attitude came back. He grabbed the beer, straddled the chair, resting his hands on the back. “I wasn’t aware this area was claimed.”
“I’ve been around a long time.” Van grinned. “Surely you’ve heard of me.”
“Of course.” Raven took a long swig of beer. “But you aren’t taking advantage of the situation. A place like this has a lot to offer.”
“Do tell?” Van took another drag. “I always appreciate an outsider’s view of things.”
“Poor town, lot’s of young blood wanting what they can’t have, and willing to Bargain to get it.” Raven flashed a smile. “All those young girls yearning for love. Or ambitious enough to trade sex for good grades. Surely you can remember back that far?”
“Dropped out when I was sixteen.” Van shrugged. “I learned how to make money and keep books, that was all I needed.”
“Sure it was.” Raven drank more beer. “You have what you want – I’m just looking for stray bits that might fall in my lap.”
“Bullshit.” Van flipped his cigarette at Raven’s feet. “You’re kind doesn’t pull up stakes unless it’s something really important.”
Raven shrugged, eyeing Van for a moment.
“I lost something that belongs to me,” he said. “I’ve tracked her here and I’m going to get her back.”
“A woman?” Van took a deep pull on his beer. “It’s always women with you young pups.”
“She’s a very special woman,” Raven finished off his beer.
“Aren’t they all?” Van laughed.