IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL April morning, though some might call it a bit chilly. So far, I had done alright, selling several dozen paperbacks and a few hardcovers. Now this old man had stopped by, and he sure was taking his sweet time. I hoped he would decide soon, because I was in the mood for some ice cream from the shop across the street.
“Um, excuse me,” he said finally. “What do you make of, uh”– the old man’s nervous voice dropped to a whisper– “page one hundred and thirty-two?”
So that was his angle. “One hundred and thirty-two is an interesting page,” I replied in an even tone. The old man didn’t look up from the book. Most people don’t when they order my special services. I suppose they want to know as little about me as possible. “Would you like to make a purchase?”
“Yes,” he said after a moment’s pause. He closed the book and set it down, almost dropping it because his hands were shaking so much. He reached into his jacket and pulled out a full, sealed white envelope. Carefully avoiding eye contact, he handed it to me.
“Will that be everything?” I asked, depositing the envelope into my coat pocket.
The question surprised him, but he managed to stammer, “Yes, yes. It’s all in there,” before walking off.
I packed up my little bookstand and walked across the street to order a banana split. At the counter, I opened the envelope enough to see the beautiful green of 50 $100 bills. I slipped out a scrap of paper that read, “Douglas Serlnik, works at 1500 Market, lives at 2214 Spring Garden, gray Lexus, license AL9-43A2.”
All the information I would need was there, but that work address sounded familiar. “Hey, what’s in the building at 1500 Market?,” I asked my waitress.
“1500? You mean the IRS building?”
“That’s it,” I said with a nod. “Thanks.”
I ran my fingers across my handgun, thinking, “IRS. I should’ve given the old man a discount.”