The Royal Mail Delivers


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Identical Uniforms

The Hispano moved magisterially down the street. Donnie, naturally, was driving but Ian, one of his new assistants, was beside him as a footman. Their uniforms were identical. Dad-o and Gary rode in state. Gary was fidgety.

They stopped in front of the sidewalk dealer who had sold them the Raphael; Ian dismounted and opened the door, Gary and Dad-o, dressed casually but expensively, descended upon the dealer.

“Hi,” Gary began. “You may not remember me, but I bought a painting from you the other night, an oil on panel of a young man.”

The dealer was a bit flustered. He remembered the transaction and the bargaining that had been involved. He wouldn’t have thought that someone with uniformed employees and so handsome a limousine would have been such a spirited bargainer. His usual policy: ‘All Sales Final’, went on indefinite hold with this customer. Future sales, not to mention other opportunities, could be lucrative indeed.

“Yessir. I remember you and the painting. I hope it satisfies.”

“One wonders,” the older gentleman inquired. “How long did you have the picture in stock before the Prince here, bought it.”

‘Ah hah’ the dealer thought to himself, ‘a prince is it?’ “It was ’bout a week ago. But the lad I bought it from is still around. He was by day before yesterday with this really horrible poster.” He thought the best potential for profit might be in cooperation.

“I sent him on down the block to see Alphonse who deals in posters and signs. Stuff like that.”

“What does he look like?”

“Well. ’E’s young. Not one of the folk. Slender. Brown hair and eyes. Strange accent. Nice looking lad. Clean and neat.”

“What was he wearin’?” Gary wondered.

“Nothin’ fancy. Just typical kids’ clothes.”

Gary and Dad-o waited expectantly.

“I’m sorry. If you ask me in two weeks about the two of you, I’ll be able to say. Yer summat unusual don’t ch’er know? But this kid? He wuz just a pleasant kid on the street. I see dozens of ’em every day.”

Gary smiled and handed the dealer his card. “You can leave word for me at the hillside villa. Please do so if you see him again. If you can buy something else from him, drive a hard bargain for as long as you can, but make the purchase. It’ll be worth your while.”

Gary and Dad-o turned to enter the Hispano and Donnie, in response to a signal from Gary that only he had seen, stepped forward and gave the dealer a £5 note. They proceeded down the street looking for Alphonse who dealt in posters. They did not have far to go.

While they were doing that, a pigeon was settling into a position where she had an excellent view of the dealer’s stall.

The afternoon rolled into early evening and the pigeon had not even had time to become hungry, when she observed the approach of two young men carrying a painting.

The two young men approached the dealer and presented the painting for his consideration.

While the three of them were concentrating on the painting; Cal was trying to start the preliminary bickering that would lead to a price: but the dealer was hemming and hawing very effectively and it only took ten minutes before the Hispano swung smoothly to a stop just beside the dealer’s stall, Ian stepped down and opened the door, and a lovely German shepherd hopped down from the back.

All right boys. They heard him without needing their ears. Bring the painting and get in the car. Mind the painting.

Cal and Charlie’s first thought was to run; then they wondered what would happen if the other was caught. Then they found themselves turning toward the car even though they had not decided to do that.

“He’s a familiar,” Charlie said.

You’re exactly right. Your friend’s magic won’t work so don’t try it. You can’t run and you’re really not in any danger. Get in the car. Mind the painting.

They got in the car. An older gentleman dressed for dinner, got in behind them and took the painting from Cal. “My God,” he said.

Donnie stepped down and gave the dealer £10.

Ian closed the door and resumed his seat after Donnie had reclaimed the wheel. They moved smoothly away.

The pigeon followed, but her passage was not noticed on the street and she did not long remain a pigeon.