Mr. Tenor, Relic Hunter (Past Tense)

by Thomas Edward

Bursting out through the doors of the barbershop and sliding on the dirt road, the hectic dash resembled a slapstick comedy skit for this desperate man, Mark Tenor. His boots slick bottoms were a hindrance as he tried to escape. The traffic of horses and carriages knocked him around, making him drop his cargo. A scramble to pick it up proved unsuccessful, but a second try got results. Holding on tightly, he continued his slipping and sliding ways. Having few routes from the busy street, he jumped over a water trough, landing on the wood planks surrounding a host of businesses. With no time for a plan, the choice for a hiding place became the next closest door.

He made a surprise entrance into the local bordello. The scantily clad women screamed, while the men who were present stared uncomfortably. He scanned the available avenues to get away. Seeing only disappointment, he desperately turned back to the dusty road. Before his boots could settle in the dirt, he saw a couple of horses coming his way. A nervous twitch of his hands was followed by a deep sigh. Sprinting hard, his destination across the crowded street became an exercise in dodge em, allowing some sinister men on horses to close the distance.

Shots were fired and bullets whizzed by, with each one missing its target. The man, for whom they were intended, scampered around a few horses hitched to posts. Getting solid footing on the wood decking, the desperate dash ended when he charged through the doors of the general store. His abrupt entrance surprised the shopkeeper, Jacob ODell, and his patrons who took cover when bullets followed close behind.

As the mother jumped back, hiding behind a large pile of bagged onions, her young son stood still. He recognized the man instantly and ran over to him. Mr. Tenor! Mr. Tenor!

Jacob lifted his head over the top of the counter and saw a familiar face. Mark? What ya doin there?

Mark put his back against the counter and shouted, Stay down and cover your heads!

But sir, ya cant jus come in here like- Jacob was forced to take cover with the sound of more bullets tearing through the building walls. Broken glass was sprayed throughout the room. The relentless barrage tore countless holes throughout the wall, allowing sunlight in.

Without warning, an eerie silence engulfed the store. Hands lowered and heads rose to an uncomfortable quiet. Jacob looked over and asked Mark, Whod ya get all soured now?

Oh trust me, you dont want to know. Everyone kosher? Uh, anyone hurt?

The boy crawled closer. Im alright, Mr. Tenor. What happened?

Mrs. Baumgaurt reached out in an unsuccessful attempt to grab her son Kenny! Git back here! Cant you see? Hes done no good! I told ya he would!

I assure you, maam. Nothing bad is-

Git yer scrawny carcass out here and give back what ya stole! The distant voice brought shutters of fear, as Mark bowed his head

Dear lord help us! Mrs. Baumgaurt quickly hid.

Mark exclaimed, Hey! Its just a misunder-

The frightened shopkeeper crawled over toward Mark. Ya done pissed off da Gerritt boys?

Well, I might have again. But-

Jacob peeked from behind a stack boxes. I dont need no trouble here. Dey dont got no problems with me.

Its only Leftus and Wayne, Mark stated. Its only two of the three stooges. It could be worse. Moe could be here.

Mr. Tenor, ma boys tell me ya got somethin that don belong to ya!

Mark rolled his eyes. Great. Moes arrived.

Its Homer Gerritt! Kenny exclaimed.

Mark motioned with his hand. Shh he doesnt know youre here. He only wants me.

I want my property back! Homer threatened. You can give it back, or Ill burn you and the store to the ground!

Just give it, and hell go away! Jacob exclaimed.

Mom, Mr. Gerritt aint so nice. He wont stop. Remember what he did to pa?

Mark turned around. What happened to your pa, Kenny?

Dont you tell him nothin, boy. Your pa dont matter to him. And they only want him, not us, Jacob said, looking for another safe place to hide.

Yeah, I am who they want. Mark scouted the stores environment. Do you have a backdoor, Jacob?

Jacob pointed with a shaking finger. Sure do. Youd better run fast.

Im not looking to increase my cardio. Mark received a confused look from Jacob. Running, keeping your uh, right. Its not that century yet. Can you guys do me a favor?

Sure can, Mr. Tenor!

Kenny, no! Mrs. Baumgaurt shouted racing to grab her son.

If theyll leave my store alone, Ill do it, Jacob assured.

Mark opened the cylinder on his revolver, eying only one bullet remaining. Alright, once you hear the gunshot, run out front and yell that I ran out the back.

Mrs. Baumgaurt exclaimed, Mr. Gerritt will kill us all! He don care none bout us!

Kenny retorted, Mom, Mr. Tenor helped us so Homer Gerritt wouldnt take all our animals and home. Now Im gonna help him back.

Mark headed toward the rear of the store. Just act a little scared. They need to believe youre afraid.

Times a running out! If I get down from here, people will die! Homer yelled.

Mark opened the backdoor carefully. The creaking sound caused a moment of caution. Peeking outside and seeing no one, he opened the door wide. Pulling back the hammer of the revolver, he swung his arm back and threw the gun high in the air.

Homer took his first boot out of his stirrup when a gunshot rang out from behind the store. Jacob ran out, followed by Kenny. Jacob shouted, He headed out da back, hurry!

Homer sat back in his saddle, turning his horse around. His sons followed suitas the horses started a fast gallop, kicking up a plume of dust. They disappeared from sight, as Jacob and Kenny watched. A few seconds passed before Mark sprinted past them out the front of the store. He hit the dirt road and headed toward the edge of town.

Once the Gerritt gang had reached the back, Leftus slowed up, finding a familiar revolver on the ground. Pa, his gun!

Everyone stopped, with Homer looking back with a confused look. What are you talking about?

Its right here. Whyd he drop it? Leftus dismounted and bent down, picking up the gun and showing it to everyone.

Something aint right. Homer squinted as he scanned the buildings. The town was quiet, except for the sound of the wind against the rooftops. A light cloud of dust blew by, forcing the men to shield their eyes. Once the dust passed by, Homer pointed between a couple of buildings and yelled, There he is! The men gathered themselves and turned their horses to the main street of town.

Mark kept his crazed pace, not looking back until he heard the thundering sound of hooves. A partial glance put a hint of desperation in his step, while the bullets being shot at him provided the rest.

Homer and his sons filled the air with constant gunfire, only stopping to reload. Their stampede gained ground with Marks limited speed. Mark's only advantage was that he was a lot closer to the tack shop. Each second that went by saw the shots getting closer. The door to the tack shop was within reach when a bullet grazed his leg, doing only minor damage.

With only a few meters between him and safety, a glowing light began to shine brighter. The doorway became engulfed and blinding. As the horsemen approached closer to unleash one last hail of bullets, Mark made a final lunge with no regard for his personal wellbeing.

Mark opened his eyes, squinting to readjust his vision. Like awakening from a deep sleep, he rubbed his face to clear the sleepiness away. He realized that his hand held a silver pendant on a well-crafted, leather necklace. Before he had a moment to think, his concentration and focus were interrupted.

You missing sleep again, or should I ask what her name is?

Mark looked up to see his boss Oscar walking by. Oh, sorry. Uh, its Margaret. I had something I needed to do for her, Mark replied, quickly turning off the monitor of his computer.

She got a sister? Oscar asked.

Mark looked up with a puzzled expression. Sister?

Yeah, Oscar responded, leaning against Marks desk. Any man being that tired as much as you are, it would be worth my time to meet her siblings.

Mark quickly lowered the necklace under the desk. Sorry, shes an only child.

Figures, I guess the club girls are calling me. You coming out tonight? Dwayne from advertising is buying.

Seven oclock? Mark inquired.

At the usual, and bring your girl. Oscar stood back up. I want to meet this frisky dynamo you have.

Ill see if shes available.

Oscar began to walk away, but pointed back. Im holding you to it!

Mark glanced around the office, surveying for any prying eyes. As the last of his exhausted coworkers exit to the elevators, he opened his bottom draw and pulled out a large padded envelope that contained a piece of paper. He took the paper out, looking over the words:

Dear Margaret Schall,

I heard about your story and it made me think back. I realized the pendant you spoke about was the same one I had found. Im returning it to you and your family so that the memory of your ancestors will forever be remembered and cherished. I hope that it brings closure to the past that can be buried and forgotten, while bringing about new and wonderful memories. Have a wonderful life.

Sincerely,

Mark Tenor

With careful precision not to harm the necklace, Mark wrapped the letter around it and placed it inside a padded envelope. Once sealed, he slid it inside his briefcase and secured the latches. About to put the briefcase down, he realized there was blood on his pant leg. Looking up, he saw that everyone had left the office, so he placed his hand over the stain. A grimace finally showed up on his face. He lifted his trench coat from the coat rack and put it on. The length covered the blood, ensuring discretion. He turned the computer monitor on, but was disappointed to find a blank screen. With an exhausted sigh, he powered down the computer and secured the contents of his desk. Picking up the briefcase and heading for the elevator, a slight pain in his leg guaranteed an eventful and long journey home.

Every step up to his third floor apartment was becoming tougher. Upon finally reaching the last step, he took a deep breath to gather a little more energy. The rest of the distance was manageable with the sight of his front door very welcoming. The door swung open to the satisfying feeling of being home.

Placing his trench coat on the hook on the back of the door, he noticed a blood stain on the lower portion. Checking his pant leg, he headed to the bathroom to tend to the wound. Once down to his briefs, he cleaned what appeared to have been caused by a bullet, grazing the skin and outer tissue. The pain of the cleaning process brought back the reality that seemed to blend with fantasy. The sink swirled the mixture of bloody water away, as the stinging faded like a distant memory.

Feeling the relaxed comfort of a nice robe, Mark poured a glass of bourbon. A substantial mouthful brought a welcomed relief that had been much needed. He picked up the mail sitting on the table near the entryway, as well as the briefcase. A casual assortment of timely bills and annoying junk mail were all that was delivered as he found his way into the den. With no pleasing surprises delivered by the postman, they were pitched to the crowded desk for later review.

The den had become his sanctuary, with multiple boards adorning the room, both chalk and cork. Scribbles and comments painted a colorful picture, while printouts and newspaper articles created a myriad of collages. Several encyclopedias and textbooks were scattered about, with heavy highlighting. One board of articles had a spot that needed attention.

Standing in front of the middle corkboard, he searched for one specific paper. Finding the heading that read, A Necklace That Could Bring Closure, he reached up and removed the pushpin. Taking it down, he walked to the desk and found his stack of folders, buried by opened books. Pulling out the folder labeled, Completed, he placed the paper securely inside and returned the folder to the stack. He reached down and lifted the briefcase, placing it on a partially empty table. He unlatched the top and opened the lid. Pulling the padded envelope containing the necklace from inside the briefcase, he looked it over one last time to insure the proper address had been printed on it earlier, before leaving it to settle on a stack of outgoing mail.

He turned to face the plethora of boards, leaning back against the desk. Another pleasant drink helped to clear his mind. A glance at the collected articles gave way to a discouraging feeling. So many people with so many things being lost, and each article represented another task. With one more swallow and a deep exhale, he realized there was still a lot of work ahead of him, and he had no idea when the next time he would be hunting for relics back in time.

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