“Hello?” The antique shop, tables strewn with papers and shelves brimming with long-forgotten memorabilia, seemed empty. The strong scent of pipe tobacco mingled with the general scent of age. I held up a large pile of letters. “I have your mail here.”
A young man – a man too young to work in such a shop – popped up from behind what I assumed to be the checkout desk. He adjusted his rectangular glasses but left his messy hair the way it was. His eyes narrowed as he finally focused on me, the mailman holding up a stack of bills with a nervous grin on his face. He suddenly seemed incredibly worried, as if I was somehow all wrong and should be ashamed to be so.
“You’re not Quincy,” he said, making his way out of behind the desk. He pushed aside several piles of disorganized items with his feet, in an agitated state. “Where is Quincy?”
“I… don’t really know,” I replied as he finally reached me. He raised an eyebrow and I took a small step back. He blinked a couple of times and then simply took the mail. “I’ll just… see myself out, then.”
He waved a dismissal as he wove through the piles back to the desk, sorting through the letters one by one. I turned to go, glancing around again at the full shelves. Behind a small tin robot, tucked under a monogrammed lunch pail, a small golden badge stuck out. I gently tugged it, after a cautionary glance at the interesting store owner who was mumbling over a bill he had opened, and revealed a small key. The badge, upon squinting inspection, was engraved with the number 210.
“Was this from a hotel?” I asked, turning to the owner. He put the bill down and looked up at me. I could tell he wasn’t impressed with my question. “Which hotel?”
“It wasn’t a hotel,” he replied, and went back to his mail. He lifted a small brown envelope from the pile and squinted at the return address. He immediately opened it and hurriedly unfolded the paper inside. I looked back at the key, examining the badge to see if there were any brand names engraved on it.
“Where was it from, then?” I asked. I looked up to find him standing next to me, looking over my shoulder at the small key. I could see the faint reflection in his glasses and, more disturbingly, in his light eyes.
“I’ll take that.” He slipped the key out of my hand, still holding the letter he had opened. “Quincy was a good man. When do you finish your route?”
“Well, I… What? Around 5, I guess,” I replied, glancing at the key as he tucked it in his jacket pocket. “I was thinking about buying that.”
“Come back at 5 and you can have it,” he said. I must have looked fairly confused as he then held up the letter he had clutched in his hand. “I’ll have a response to this that I’ll need you to mail.”
“You have a mailbox, like, two doors down,” I said, pointing over my shoulder. He shrugged, after a moment’s consideration.
“Not necessary,” he replied, and headed back to the desk. As he sat down, he noticed I was still in the shop. “Five o’clock, please. Thank you.”