In Jack's Arms (Fighting Connollys)

By: Roxie Rivera

Chapter One




Exhausted and suffering from an aching back, I rubbed my blurry eyes and tried to focus on the serial

number etched into the bottom of the DVD player so I could compare it to the pawn ticket tag. Conducting

a spur of the moment inventory on thousands of items in our storeroom? It wasn't exactly the way I had

wanted to spend my Monday, but an overnight break-in and burglary had pretty much scuttled my plans.

"Hey, Abby?" Mark, one of my brokers, poked his head into the backroom. "One of our regulars is here. He's trying to pawn a silver chain but…"

"It's under weight?"

"Yeah. I wouldn't bother you with it, but he's one of our best customers. I know you like to give them a break every now and then."

"Who is it?"

"Big Carl."

"Oh." I thought of the sweet older man who took care of his ailing mama. She was torn up with

diabetes and on dialysis, and he was barely scraping by with his hardware store job. "What's he want?"

"He wants eighty, but I was thinking of giving him, like, thirty-five or forty."

"It's the end of the month, Mark. I bet he's trying to scrape together enough money for his mama's

meds. Give him the eighty. He's good for it."

I didn't say what we were both thinking. On the first, Carl would start receiving the disability and Social Security deposits that kept their household just this side of the poverty line. Like many pawn shops,

Kirkwood's Jewelry and Loan provided a needed service to folks who required a little extra money to tie

together the ends of their dwindling budgets.

There weren't a lot of choices for households on the fringe. They could come through my front door,

pawn a television or watch and walk out with some cash to be repaid at a high but fair interest rate, or they could take their chances with one of the payday loan places that were popping up all over the place. The

really desperate ones visited loan sharks like Besian Beciraj or John Hagen, although the latter was rumored to be winding up the illicit side of his business.

Mark looked less than thrilled with my decision but shrugged. "Whatever you say, boss lady."

He didn't say it meanly, but I sensed he didn't approve of the small favors I did for our regular

customers every now and then. He had been at the shop only a few years and had come from a personal

finance place across town that did things differently. I had learned the business by trailing my granddad

around the store as a kid. Customer loyalty and word of mouth were huge in this trade, and I leapt at any

chance to ensure both.

Letting it go, I got back to work comparing the serial numbers and pawn tags in our company database

to the items remaining on our shelves. Since being called up to the shop just after six that morning, I had crawled and climbed and sifted through hundreds of items. I had never been more thankful for Granddad

insisting on upgrading to barcodes and scanners a few years ago. This ordeal had been bad enough that the

thought of having to manually flip through the inventory logs made me want to weep!

A knock at the storeroom door interrupted my work. The police and insurance crew had been in and

out of the shop all day, but it was nearly seven in the evening so I doubted it was either of those two paying me a visit at this hour. Wiping my dusty hands on the towel slung over my shoulder, I crossed to the door

and wrenched it open. The jovial, handsome face of Detective Eric Santos greeted me. "Hey!"

"Hi, Abby." He gestured to the storeroom behind me. "Would it be all right if I came in to chat for a few minutes?"

"Sure." I stepped aside and motioned for him to join me. "It's been a while since you've visited the shop. Not since those punks in the 1-8-7 crew tried to unload all those stolen cell phones, right?"

"Has it been that long?" He shook his head and raised his eyebrows. "Man, that's been seven months?

Eight?"

"About that," I said. "Granddad was still puttering around the place."

The corners of his mouth dipped with sadness. "I still have a hard time believing Mr. K is gone. I

walked in the door and expected to see him behind the counter, to hear him laughing and telling his

stories."

"It's been five months, and I still do the same thing, Eric." Feeling a fresh wave of grief welling up inside him, I quickly changed the subject. "So are you working the robbery beat now?"

He leaned back against one of the sturdy shelves. "No, I'm still working guns and gangs."

"But this was a robbery. Unless…" I put two-and-two together and exhaled roughly. "You think this break-in last night was gang related?"

"I do."