Free Kusanagi by Clem Chambers

Book: Kusanagi by Clem Chambers Read Free Book Online
Authors: Clem Chambers
    Brandon didn’t want to cast any doubt but he asked anyway: ‘Do you think a store can pay like hundreds of thousands of dollars for the slab?’
    Reece nodded approval. ‘Good question. I don’t know. Those guys paid over fifty Gs like it was small change, but I have no idea about more.’
    â€˜Take it abroad?’ said Casey.
    â€˜Cowboy!’ said Danny. ‘Nice idea, but we might be trafficking, like, antiquities. That would be serious.’
    Casey’s head sank into his thick shoulders.
    â€˜That’s a good point, Danny,’ said Reece. ‘The slab is either a nice piece of junk or a super artefact. Either way, we need to act innocent. I reckon I take it to the old man in the first place I went and see what he says.’ Reece was imagining him writing a number. The offer was big, but somehow not so big as to bring the roof crashing in.
    â€˜Maybe we should just hand it over,’ said Brandon.
    The three looked at him. ‘What if it’s worth a million dollars?’ said Danny. ‘Would you hand it over then?’
    â€˜It might be the right thing to do.’
    â€˜Yup,’ said Reece, ‘but let me go to Tokyo and see first.’
    Reece stood at the antiques shop door. Nothing had changed since he was there a few weeks back, except that a cigarette stub had blown into the corner of the step. It seemed wrong, so he bent down, picked it up and put it into his pocket. He would throw it away later.
    He pulled the door open and went in, ducking under the flagged lintel.
    The old man came out from behind the beaded curtain and smiled in recognition.
    This time Reece paid more attention to the cabinets as he passed them. There were swords and armour of every era, and he realised that many of the artefacts on display must be far more ancient and precious than he had previously thought. Some items were centuries older than the United States. They had belonged to generations long lost and forgotten, atoms from the past that had somehow survived while everything else had perished. When he was gone, in a few short years, no one would remember him; nothing would be left. He would be absorbed into the dirt. Yet here there were fragments of a momentous past, preserved like chicken legs in a freezer.
    He felt his stomach flutter and the GI duffel sag on his shoulder. He took a deep breath. He felt like a kid on his first date. ‘Hi,’ he said.
    â€˜Hi,’ said the shopkeeper, smiling and bowing.
    Reece sat down in the little chair before the desk and dropped the bag gently to the floor. He unzipped it and lifted the heavy slab onto the counter. ‘Please,’ he said.
    The shopkeeper gasped, in an unsettling way, at the sight of it. The old man’s mouth was open. He began to nod fast. ‘May I?’ he said, opening his palms to Reece.
    â€˜Sure,’ said Reece.
    The old man ran his right hand over the decorated face. He looked up at Reece in what seemed to be shock. He traced the carving, then ran his index finger around the circumference of the sun. He looked up at Reece again, a tear escaping from his left eye. He was smiling. He was shaking.
    â€˜Would you like to buy?’ said Reece, clumsily.
    The old shopkeeper lifted the top of the slab and, magnifying glass in hand, began to study the face. He laid it down carefully and looked at Reece again. He dropped the magnifying glass and stared up at the ceiling as if in thought. He made a throaty gurgling sound. His forehead was suddenly covered with sweat. The colour drained from his face, which faded from pink to white to grey to green. He turned in his seat and pitched stiffly from his stool onto the floor.
    â€˜Jeez!’ said Reece, jumping up. He vaulted the counter. He pressed his finger into the old man’s neck. There was a pulse. The bead curtain moved. The little old lady hobbled over as fast as she could and looked anxiously down at

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