Crowbridge’s Emporium (Introduction to stories)

Hello.  I work at Crowbridge’s Emporium, New York branch. I do inventory, keep things straight, do the books sometimes.  I work for Denise Crowbridge, a tall dark haired woman who likes to wear t-shirts and jeans, and she has hips and legs like a thoroughbred horse.  But she’s my employer, so I try not to notice things like that.  The Emporium is somewhere near the Village, but I can’t be more specific.  The place is so hard to find, especially once I have had a few at the clubs.

But I did find it once.  I was just out of library school.  I could have applied to every library in New York.  I should have.  I was going to.  I was in this trendy coffee shop drinking an Irish Coffee with a bit too much Irish in it and reading a paper and there was this little jobs add.  “Wanted.  Assistant managing director for inventory.”  There was no phone number, which made me suspicious.  I think it was the suspicion that hooked me.  And, surprisingly, I could see the address from where I sat.  So I got up and went to the corner.

The alley was long, full of trash cans and hidden cats.  It seemed longer than it should have been, and at the far end, the dark end, was a warehouse door and an ancient grey and red sign, barely readable.  Crowbridge’s Emporium.  I moved towards the warehouse door.

The chain had been removed and hung off the bolt.  The door was open a crack as if waiting.  A cat howled.  I turned.

Nothing.  Trash swirled in a tiny eddy of time, trapped, separated, cycling, swirling forever.

“Are you here for the job?”

I turned back.  A woman stuck her head through the crack and smiled, gripped the door and pushed it open.  She stood in the entryway, breathing heavily.

“Well?” she laughed.

I looked at the paper in my hand.  “Yeah?”

“I’m Denise Crowbridge.  I run this little crossroads.  Pleased to meet you.”

“I’m Steven Miles.”

“I’ve been expecting you.  Well I suppose you want to see the place.  Come on in.”

And she turned and walked into the shadows.  And I followed her.

I’ve worked there for forever, it seems.  Our sales material says, “If you think it exists, it probably does.  See us for special arrangements.”  So everything moves through here eventually.  And everything comes through me.  I know all the stories.

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