A Shopping SPREE

Submitted into Contest #122 in response to: Write a story about a limited edition item going on sale.... view prompt

5 comments

Crime Fiction

The large oval room was eerily silent except for the rhythmic clacking of hard sole shoes on the 

glossy granite floor. Nine heads turned as a well oiled metal door swung soundlessly open. The man in the entrance looked like he had just stepped off the cover of GQ magazine. Inwardly the four men and five women groaned at the prospect of someone else in competition for what they wanted. The man himself seemed unfazed by their angry glares. In fact a small impish grin played on his face as he met each of their eyes. He apparently was unimpressed with what he saw as he shrugged and sat in the last row in the farthest seat away from the group of men and women. He looked down at his designer watch as though he were already bored with the whole affair.

Just then a small man in a pinstriped suit walked in from what must have been a hidden door. The nine men and women all turned towards him with eager anticipation on their faces. The excitement was so thick in the room that when the man cleared his throat to speak three of the men jumped in their seats. A quiet chuckle came from the man in the back row, earning him another round of angry glares.

Just then a panel in the ceiling slid back as a metal coil with a microphone on the end slid down before coming to a stop in the small man’s hands. When he finally spoke everyone was surprised at his deep gravelly voice. “Welcome ladies and gentlemen. I know that you know why we are all here.” Nine heads eagerly nodded as they moved to the edge of their seats. “What I don’t know is how you came to be here.” The small man looked eagerly around the room as though he hoped people would begin volunteering information. When no one did he frowned slightly and continued. “The invitation that allowed you to walk through these doors wasn’t just given to anyone. Our selection process was so strenuous and secret that even I, your beloved host, doesn’t know all of the particulars.” The small man’s discontent was plainly evident to everyone there.

Suddenly a feeling of unease began to settle over the room. Everyone’s excitement quickly turned to nervousness and uncertainty. Everyone except the man on the last row. He sat with his hands folded over his chest looking completely at ease, if still not a little bored. Seeing the people’s unease, the small man cleared his throat and continued. “Forgive me, I digress.” Clapping his hands two times, the secret door opened again and out stepped a statuesque woman all in white. She pushed a large rolling cart into the center of the room and brought it to a stop in front of the group. On the cart sat a wooden box about the size of a large microwave. The box itself didn’t look like anything impressive, but everyone there knew it was what was inside the box that mattered. The small man rested a hand on top of the box, patting it gently. Everyone on the front two rows strained to get a better look.

“As you see there are ten of you here today, and only one item available to purchase. This is indeed a very limited edition specialty item. Only four have ever been made. One is in use at Buckingham Palace. One is in our very own White House. Of course, one is here.” “Where is the last one?” A pudgy older gentleman on the front row asked before the small man could continue. “Why that one, I’m afraid, isn't currently on this planet. If my calculations are correct it is somewhere between here and Mars. That, however, shouldn’t matter to you. All that should concern you is the one in front of you, and what you are willing to pay to possess it.” Greed was evident on the small man’s face as he scanned the room of the people around him. He had them hooked and he knew it. When his eyes met the man’s in the back he frowned slightly at what he saw. “Will it really do what the invitation claimed?” A thin woman with a face that strongly resembled a horse blurted out, bringing the small man out of his thoughts. His smile was almost viperous. “Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, all that and more. Imagine this. You are gone for a week on vacation only to come home and find the power has been out and every ounce of food in your fridge is ruined. You are devastated. You have spent all of your grocery money already. What are you going to do until payday? Well, with this item you never have to worry about such trivial things like that again. Anything you can imagine wanting to eat, this machine can give you. Just type in the name, correct spelling, mind you, into the machine and within twenty-five seconds to a minute the food will be in front of you and ready to eat. It can even produce a whole baked turkey for the holidays in fifty-five seconds. Why the possibilities are endless.” He knew just how endless the possibilities were but it wasn’t his job to talk up the item for sale. These people wouldn’t be here if they didn’t see the potential for this very unique item.  

“Now, I think it is time to start the bidding. Shall we begin at oh, $100,000? Nine hands holding fans with numbers immediately shot into the air. Somehow their host managed to see who was first. You ma’am have the opening bid. Let’s continue, shall we?” The lady who had won the opening bid barely had time to lay her fan down when the host began to talk like a true auctioneer. Fans were being thrown in the air left and right as the nine people on the two front rows frantically tried to outbid each other. Normally their host would have been giddy with how things were proceeding. Today, however, there was one obvious sore spot. The man in the last row wasn’t even paying attention to the chaos in front of him. He just sat smiling, looking down at his watch. It was just a stupid time piece, thought the auctioneer, when this glorious invention would bring its owner more fame and prestige than any one person could handle. For the hundredth time that day the small man had to quickly reign in his anger at simply being the auctioneer. As the evening slowly progressed the bidding grew higher and higher and the raised fans became fewer and fewer. Pretty soon only two men were still in the running. Everyone else sat dejectedly fanning themselves in a room that had grown almost unbearably warm.

“Our current bid is 4.7 million. Do I hear 4.8?” Two shaky fans stretched up in the air as their owners wiped sweat from their sagging jaws. The auctioneer was extremely disappointed at the current outcome so far. He had sold far less extravagant items for far more than what was being offered here. He had expected the wealthiest men and women in the world to have invitations to this event. These people seemed to be wanna  be richies, in search of the proverbial golden goose. He knew better than anyone that a golden goose like this couldn’t be bought with the chump change these whelps were offering. He still didn’t know why his boss, whoever he was, had demanded he start the bidding so low. Still there was nothing for it. He didn’t get paid to ask questions. He looked up to see nine weary faces staring back at him and he flushed from embarrassment at letting himself get distracted. Squaring his shoulders he continued with the bidding. The two men in the running obviously didn’t want to continue bidding but neither did they want to stop. They knew just like everyone else what awaited the one who had the final bid. Regardless of what the auctioneer thought, five million dollars was not chump change to these people. They had not gotten an invitation because of their wealth. If you had gone around the room and asked how they had received their invitation no one would have breathed a word. In fact if anyone had found out what they had done they would have all found themselves in water so hot no limited edition item, even of this magnitude, could have helped them. While they were dressed in their finest their hands were stained with the blood and pain of many. Still, they had done what had been asked of them just for the chance at receiving an invitation in the mail. No promise had been given but the opportunity, though slight as it might be, to own this remarkable machine was more than enough for these men and women to agree to do the horrible things they did.

Now it was down to two. Seven sat slumped in their seats, some crying into their fans. Two looked determined if not more than a little queasy. As for the man in the last row he just looked at his watch disinterested. After two more bids the pudgy older gentleman threw his fan sharply to the ground and stormed towards the door. He was actually blubbering as he quickly rushed out. The room sat in stunned silence, the bidding momentarily forgotten. After a few awkward seconds the remaining bidder smiled broadly at the remaining men and women. “I won! He gave up so I won!” The auctioneer cleared his throat shaking his head no. “I haven’t finalized the bid yet.” The man on the front row puffed out his chest then growled. “Get on with it then.” The small man looked incredulous for a moment then slowly continued. “Very well, 5 million going once, 5 million going twice…” “10 million dollars.” Every face in the crowd turned to the man in the last row. “Excuse me sir, what did you say?” The man looked up from his watch as if just realizing there were other people in the room. “My bid is 10 million dollars.” The auctioneer beamed at this turn of events. “I have 10 million, does anyone want to bid 11 million?” The man in the front row stood up in a rage and pointed a beefy finger at the auctioneer. “Now wait just a minute. I won the final bid. This man hasn’t been bidding this entire time. He can’t just throw in his bid as you are about to give it to me.” The auctioneer pushed the seething mans finger out of his face and glared up at him. “Actually sir, he can and did exactly that. Now if you would be so kind as to sit down or get out. I have an auction to run.” The man was so incensed that he looked around the room for help. When no one spoke up for him he did the only thing he could do. He straightened his tie and walked out the door in a huff.

“Well then, now we can continue. I have a current bid of 10 million dollars. Do I have 11 million? Anyone? His smile began to fade as everyone sat stone faced staring at the floor. He had no choice but to close out the bid. “10 million going once. 10 million going twice. Sold to the man in the back for 10 million.

The people who had been softly crying began to openly sob, as the reality of what they had done, and what they had lost hit them. The lady who had won the opening bid took one look around her and dropped into a dead faint. Two security guards appeared out of nowhere and carried her out the door.

The man in the back slowly stood and made his way to the front to pay the auctioneer. When the check was signed and cleared the man gently picked up his purchase and slowly walked out the door. As he walked down the hall away from the granite room his breathing got easier and his steps became lighter. It was done. As tortuous as this day had been it was over and he had won. A mischievous smile formed on his face as he loosened his hundred dollar tie and untucked his pressed white shirt. Oh how he hated penguin suits. Still, he had a part to play in all of this and if it required him to dress up like a butler he would. He had strict instructions not to exit by the front entrance, but to go out the back way. He knew just how desperate the people in the granite room were to get their hands on the limited edition item. He didn’t want to risk coming in contact with any of them. As much as he hated wearing a penguin suit he would hate to get blood on it, his or anyone else’s. Not many people even knew the covered alleyway even existed behind the auction house. Of course he wasn’t just anyone. Stopping next to a large pile of rubble the man laid the wooden box down and flipped the lid up with his foot. The man looked down into a completely empty box. He couldn’t help but smile as he filled the box with the surrounding rubble and then laid more rubble on top of it for good measure. Looking around him he took a left out of the alleyway and walked quickly for the next six blocks until he came to a small wooded area. Looking at his watch one more time he gave a long whistle and waited. After half a minute a man dressed all in black stepped from behind a tree and stood at the edge of the woods. “Well, how did it go? Did you get it?” He looked expectantly at his companion. “Of course I did. That’s what you paid me to do, and I am nothing if not thorough in my work.”  “Was it hard?” The man laughed before running his hand through his wind blown hair. “Hard, you could have sent a monkey in to bid and he would have been bored out of his mind. I thought I was going to strangle the other bidders, and don’t get me started on the auctioneer. A more pompous man I have never met.” “Good.” The man in black smiled, showing a mouth full of perfectly white teeth. “The more obnoxious and haughty the auctioneer, the more legit the auction will appear. Did anyone ask to look in the box?” “Of course not, these people believed whatever they were told sight unseen. I was concerned at first when I realized it was being presented in a plain wooden box, but nobody even questioned it. I tell you I do believe people are getting more and more stupid with each passing day.” The man in black leaned lazily against a nearby tree and chuckled. “Well I guess that is good for us then. It makes our job a lot easier. Are you sure the authorities aren’t on to us?” After looking down at the ground for a moment the man finally spoke. “We are good. We made no promises, left no paper trails. There is no way they can trace the crimes that were committed back to us. Even if the people get caught and talk they have no way to link them to us, not without going down a million rabbit holes and through a hundred hidden doors. I’d say we are completely in the clear.” The man in black nodded at his friend as he absently played with a leaf from a bush. “ So what are we going to do next?” The man smiled broadly and threw the leaf over his shoulder before going to stand next to the other man. “Why, do the same thing we do every time. We are going to find more people willing to do what we want in the hopes of owning the next big limited edition item.” Both men smiled devilishly at each other as they turned and walked back towards the busy town. “Oh by the way boss, instead of using a plain wooden box can we use something with a little more pizazz next time?” The man in black laughed loudly as he slapped the other man on the back. “Why of course my friend I’ll even let you pick it out this time. What do you think our next limited edition item should be?” After a few moments the other man smirked at his boss. “I’m thinking a machine that can perfectly fold a fitted sheet.” The man in black stopped and looked at his friend for a moment. “A machine that folded a fitted sheet perfectly. Na, no one would be that gullible to believe we had one of those. Keep thinking. We will figure something out.”

December 02, 2021 02:37

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5 comments

Heather Z
14:58 Dec 10, 2021

Flora, this story is excellent! From the very beginning it was filled with intrigue and mystery. Also, what an appropriate commentary on humanity and all its’ greed and gullibility…so perfect for the holiday shopping 🛍 season! Your descriptions of the handsome mystery man we’re so spot on…his hundred dollar tie, the way he casually glanced at his watch….I was there in the room with all of those people! I thought this was such an original idea and I loved the twist at the end that it was all a hoax driven by these criminals to manipulate peop...

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Flora Posey
15:38 Dec 10, 2021

Thank you so much!!! I definitely wanted to showcase people's greed. So glad you picked up on it!!!

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Swan Anderson
04:11 Dec 09, 2021

Wow, I couldn't put this down. I think it was P. T. Barnum who said, "There's a sucker born every minute," or something like that. You sure gave some strong examples! (One suggestion for next time: you might want to break up the paragraphs more.) Great job!

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Boutat Driss
08:21 Dec 06, 2021

nice tale. Well done dear Flora!

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Flora Posey
23:40 Dec 06, 2021

Thank you so much!!! Happy Writing!!!

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