Mr. Ambassador: Episode 7

Larry Grinburg's pawn shop is located in a scruffy part of New Washington City, as such things usually are. It's important to be in just the right location: upscale enough to minimize the chance of robbery, downscale enough not to intimidate the customers ... or attract too much high-level attention.

Larry manages to juggle the requirements of the job rather well; not surprising, since he's been working the shop for decades since taking over from his father Barry. He has the local police well in hand, in particular; for a very reasonable price they keep him safe and don't inquire too closely into his affairs. It's part of the cost of doing business.

Larry has the usual display of musical instruments -- too big to easily heist -- in the window, which makes the occasional desperate fiddler mistake him for a repairman.

Larry is at the moment standing behind the high counter, waiting for someone to walk in. It's been a slow day and evening, and Larry hopes that's about to change.

Layna leads the way down the somewhat questionable street, checking the alleys ~~ eagerly ~~ in hopes of finding a mugger to give her some exercise.

Yilma, her supervising professor, isn't at all eager to find a mugger. Fortunately she hasn't told him that that's what she's hoping for.

Layna points at Larry's sign.

Layna: There it is!

Yilma peers in the window through his thick glasses.

Yilma: Do you think so? He just has musical instruments in his window.

Layna: It's a pawn shop. He'd hardly have the good stuff out in the window. Particularly if its provenance is questionable.

Yilma: It's quite interesting how these modern out-T instruments resemble Ancient ones. Perhaps because there was no influence from shiltprons.

Layna: Well, you wouldn't find instruments that require tentacles to play out here. Should we go in and look around?

Yilma: Of course. Why not?

Larry is familiar with the phenomenon of new customers hanging outside the door checking him out before they come in. Based on their clothes, they have to be buyers, not sellers.

Yilma feels brave exploring this district, especially since he has a sort of Dar bodyguard with him.

Layna leads the way through the door.

Yilma follows, looking around curiously.

Layna glances around, too, automatically identifying the placement of the owner and various objects that might become weapons if necessary.

Larry: [fluent Simelan] Respect to Householding Frihill and Householding Dar.

Yilma is startled.

Larry: Welcome to my establishment. What can I interest you in?

Layna checks out this pawnbroker closely.

Yilma: My goodness, how unusual to find a speaker of Simelan.

Larry grins.

Larry: I was born in Valzor, actually, and grew up bilingual.

Layna notes the potential in-T connections required by a cross-border smuggling ring.

Yilma: I see. And you chose to live here in Genland.

Yilma wonders if he's one of those few unfortunates who can't adapt to living among Simes.

Larry: Well, I'm not a family man, so there are advantages. I do donate, though I don't exactly tell that to everyone.

Layna: It's not something your neighbors would understand?

Yilma: It is strange, the stigma donating seems to have here.

Layna moves closer to the counter.

Larry: Neighbors and customers. Umm, do stand back, Tuib ambrov Dar? I'm sure you're trustworthy, but rules are rules.

Layna shrugs, and takes a step back from the counter. Which places her conveniently close to a shelf of glass and pottery objects.

Yilma: We're looking for antiquities. We understand you have a specialty in that line.

Yilma scans the shelf with an eye attuned to spotting form in dross. It's all common mass produced or recent, mostly in poor condition or badly restored.

Larry tugs on his short beard.

Larry: Well, Tuib ambrov Frihill, I'm sure you understand that I don't exactly specialize in items with documented provenance. If it was a personal matter, jewelry, say, I could oblige you there.

Yilma: Small items are more likely to have survived intact, of course.

Larry: That's true. Naturally I don't keep the valuable items out on the open shelves, either.

Yilma: Will you show us what you have?

Larry: Of course.

Layna: Provenance is less important to us than a few good examples -- we couldn't bring what we require with us.

Larry turns around and goes into the back of the shop, returning with a box under each arm. He takes apart both boxes into a set of three trays each.

Larry: Here you have some coins, and some of those black plastic blobs, whatever they may be, and some potsherds with Ancient inscriptions. All prices very reasonable, and for such a distinguished Householding I could waive the house rules.

Larry points at a large sign saying "CASH ONLY".

Yilma examines a few coins and spots them as artificially aged fakes. The dates don't match certain details of the designs. But they're pretty good fakes.

Yilma: Ah. This one is authentic!

Yilma picks up a stainless steel coin in fair condition of which many thousands have been found.

Larry: Hmm. I'll keep that in mind, then.

Larry makes a ledger entry.

Larry: That particular item is still in pawn, but perhaps I'll lend more on it next time.

Yilma: Well, they are very common. They're not very valuable unless they're in perfect condition, and from particular years of certain mints.

Layna looks over the plastic blobs, a few of which have melted together.

Yilma: And what do you think of those, naztehr?

Layna picks up a particularly recognizable, three-colored blob.

Layna: This one is certainly... distinctive.

Layna recognizes it, in fact.

Yilma: Yes. And?

Layna: It might make an interesting paperweight, don't you think?

Larry shrugs.

Larry: Rather expensive for the purpose. The ticket on that one has expired, so if you are interested ...?

Yilma: Not quite heavy enough, either, I'd say.

Layna: It is overpriced, for what it is, true.

Layna moves on, planning to acquire that item along with a few others.

Larry: As for what it is, nobody really knows, do they?

Layna is ~~ happy ~~ to have found evidence of stolen items that do not involve Jacind Rittenberg.

Layna: True enough, although there are plenty of ideas.

Layna moves the potsherds between herself and Yilma for closer inspection.

Yilma pokes at the potsherds. He's seen literally tons of similar chips and trash.

Larry: I brought out some of the pretties I mentioned as well; after all, they do descend from Ancient times, don't they?

Larry indicates the tray of assorted rings, earrings, and loose gemstones.

Yilma turns his attention to the jewelry.

Yilma: Hm.

Layna glances at the tray of pretties, and pounces on a pin showing a very ornate hummingbird.

Yilma wonders if the pawnbroker realizes how extremely rare it would be for fine wires of silver and brass to survive uncorroded for millennia in a ruin or dump.

Layna: Look at this one! It must be from Gulf, pre-Unity!

Yilma takes it from her and holds it to the light.

Yilma: The setting is modern of course. As for the ceramic....

Yilma examines the back, then takes out a lens to examine the front again.

Yilma: Could be. Why do you think Gulf, Layna?

Yilma playfully tests his student's knowledge.

Layna: That shade of green glaze. My grandmother had a Gulf vase made of glass with that same green.

Yilma: Could be. But the glaze is used elsewhere as well, of course. It's a nice bit of costume jewelry, not very old, but nice.

Layna: It would go nicely with that blouse I got yesterday. And the price isn't too bad.

Layna enjoys dressing up on occasion, almost as much as she enjoys sparring.

Yilma: Yes, but it's priced as an antiquity, not as something probably not much older than your grandmother, if that.

Larry sits back and listens while the customers sell themselves. Always delightful when that happens.

Layna: Is that all the Ancient artifacts you have?

Layna looks at Larry ~~ hopefully ~~.

Larry: As of today, yes.

Larry has no compunction about lying to a bunch of Gens, even if they come from in-T.

Layna: Do you know anybody else who might have examples of larger artifacts? We were hoping for something showy for a presentation.

Layna notes that Larry's body language isn't entirely consistent with the denial.

Larry smiles professionally and shakes his head.

Larry: I'm afraid not.

Layna: Drat. Do you think we could get a loaner or two from the museum?

Yilma: I'm quite disappointed. We'd heard such good things about your establishment.

Layna: Nothing but trinkets. Still...

Layna looks ~~ longingly ~~ at the hummingbird pin.

Layna: I really have been good on this trip. And we do have that official reception tonight.

Yilma smiles fondly at his student.

Layna ~~ decisively ~~ hands the pin to Larry.

Yilma: Perhaps the proprietor will sell it to you for more what it's really worth? After all, we have provided him with a free expert evaluation of some of his other goods?

Larry mentions a price consistent with his cost, plus reasonable profit, plus the trouble of sending a bill to the Householding, minus a discount for professional courtesy, explaining each line item as he goes.

Layna: That's very courteous of you. Oh, and I promised my little sister a bauble.

Layna reaches for the distinctively colored blob of melted plastic.

Layna: I can make up a suitably dramatic story for this one, I think.

Yilma smiles, but wonders why Layna is so pleased about this bit of Ancient trash.

Larry nods and duly writes up a second bill in the same style.

Larry: Billed to Frihill, then, Tuib?

Layna: Dar, if you don't mind. This isn't for official purposes. Although frankly, considering the fuss my sister can make, keeping her quiet should be counted as a service to the whole of Dar.

Larry patiently tears up the first two bills and makes up a third itemized bill. It's not like he has to write bills every day.

Layna signs the bill with a flourish.

Layna picks up the hummingbird pin and attaches it to her shirt, smiling ~~ smugly ~~.

Layna: I think it looks good on me, don't you?

Yilma: Why yes, it does indeed.

Layna: Could you wrap that other one for me? No sense in having it get smashed on the train.

Larry reaches beneath the counter, not where the gun is, and pulls out some old newspapers. He deftly wraps the remaining piece in them.

Layna: Thanks.

Layna bounces towards the door.

Yilma follows her out.

Layna: Come on, Professor Yilma, we've got to get moving or we won't get to dinner on time.

Layna, Gen-like, is very concerned with meals.

Yilma: Well, Layna, I'm glad you're pleased with your purchases, but we haven't gotten any farther in tracing the stolen goods. But maybe we've opened a relationship as knowledgeable customers, which could progress, eh?

Layna: Oh, we did much better than that.

Layna pats the pocket where she stowed the plastic.

Yilma: We did?

Layna: Yes. I remember this bit of plastic quite well. I wasted half a day trying to convince myself that it was a valuable find. It's documented quite well in those photographs we brought. And this stolen artifact doesn't involve Senator Burgess and Jacind Rittenberg.

Yilma: Ah! Well done, naztehr!

Yilma is proud of his clever student.

Yilma: As you say, let's hurry. I don't want to be late for dinner either.

Larry is glad that his new customers are happy with the merchandise. He's also glad to have one of the black-market items back where it belongs, and at a tidy profit too. Of course, that's the Grinburg side's attitude.

Larry ambrov Joiffre, dutiful son of his House, begins writing up a report on the whole affair for his naztehrhai.

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