Tollin’s brows lowered. “Ten dollars? That’s all?”
“Yeah. We asked if he had the book for it — you know, so we could figure out how to use it — and he shook his head. We asked if he knew the make, the model, anything — and he just shook his head. ‘It’s a pawn shop, ladies, not a friggin’ IRS auditing station, you wants it or not?’ That kind of attitude. You know?”
Tollin nodded again, a smile just easing the corner of her lips. “Yeah, I can imagine.”
Mel snorted a mirthless laugh. “Stupid. We were stupid. We said okay, but without the book or model or anything we were only going to offer him ten bucks. And he didn’t even blink. He just held out his hand until Jenna handed him a ten. We had like thirty, but we didn’t tell him. I mean, he didn’t even — what’s that word? — bargain?”
“Yeah! He didn’t haggle. He just … took the ten bucks, did something at a register, asked if we wanted the receipt — Jenna did — and then … well, that was it. He starts grumbling at us to get out, he wants to close, has to lock up and all. So we got the heck out as fast as we could, but … damn. I mean, it seemed weird to me, even then. You know? Why wouldn’t he try to get more money for it? He could see we were desperate.
“Now I know.”
She sat forward and served herself more water, drained it and sat back again.
“So we went back to the theater. Mr. Penderson was starting to freak a little … you know, four teenage girls out in the wild city after dark and curfew all alone, with rapists, murderers and druggies on the loose. He’s like that, kinda.”
Tollin chuckled. “I see. At least he cares.”
“Yeah, I guess. Anyway, we get back and he’s all, like, ‘Oh thank God, oh my God, I was so worried, what took you so long, where have you been, I shouldn’t have let you go, I could be sued, blah blah blah.’ You know. Really nervous and stuff.”
Tollin nodded, still grinning. “Yeah, I get it. I know the type.”
Mel nodded, stared off into the air over her head, and sighed again. “So we show Charlie the camera, and he’s all, ‘What the heck, where’d you get this antique, how’s it work?’ He didn’t know anything about it either. So we just kind of set the camera aside and did our stuff. We practiced for something like another hour. It was almost midnight when I got home. Most of us called our folks by then, though, so nobody had a cow. But it was school the next day, and we were wasted.” She darted a glance at Tollin and rushed an amendment to the statement. “Tired, I mean.”
Tollin laughed. “I know what you meant.”