Cambodian Devourer Boxes

This is in response to a wordle prompt from Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie

The bell above the front door chimed. Lys glanced up at the sound, pencil poised above calculus homework. Two girls, maybe a little younger than her and probably still in high school, whispered and laughed as they picked around the store. She didn’t bother to put any venom in the ineffectual glare towards their backs. Teenagers could be largely ignored as long as neither tried to lift anything.

Lys went back to her work. She wasn’t going to let something as mundane as advanced mathematics get the better of her. Thus when a low moan of warped wood echoed through the antique shop Lys looked up at the interruption first with annoyance which quickly turned to alarm..

She knew that sound, that was the back storage door. Lys cursed under her breath as she hopped from her perch behind the front desk and hurried past corridors of themed kitsch. This was bad, Lys wasn’t even allowed back there unaccompanied by store’s owner. She arrived at the open door breathing a little hard.

The low ceilinged room was dark, shadowed and blocked by rows of crates, books, mirrors, paintings, carvings and clothes. Lys didn’t see the girls. She kept as large a distance between her and the narrow shelves and their dusty looking inhabitants as possible. They were here somewhere.

Audible giggling gave them away. Lys schooled her expression before moving around a kimono dressed mannequin. The two girls had plucked a carved puzzle box from its home and were making all attempts to pry it open by the light of their phones. As Lys gaped one of the snapped a fingernail on the wood  and swore, she sucked the injured digit and looked up. The girl froze. “Shit. Abbie.”

The other, Abbie, looked up face going slack when she saw Lys, who did her best to keep from glaring. “You can’t be back here.” Lys warned, taking a step towards the girls. Another minute alone and there could have been serious damage.

Abbie looked Lys up and down, a small smirk forming on her darkly tinted lips.

“Sorry, we didn’t know.” Abbie replied, wide eyed and a little sing song. Lys narrowed her eyes at the insolent response. The door had been closed and marked off limits, but the girl could have at least made an attempt seem innocent. “Is this stuff for sale?” Abbie  asked, gesturing to the box in her friend’s hands.

“No.” Lys said, definitely not to them. She glanced to the door. “You should leave.”

Abbie’s smile was thick as she looked down at the much shorter Lys. “We’re paying customers and we want to buy this.” Abbie grabbed the puzzle box from her friend and held it up. The pale wood shone as it caught even the dim light.

“Its not for sale and you aren’t supposed to be back here.” Lys repeated.

The two girls, especially Abbie, looked at her like she was kid sister trying to order around older siblings. “Soo we aren’t supposed to be back here, which means ….you could get in real trouble?” Abbie’s blue eyes shone triumphantly and her friend stifled a shriek-like laugh.

Lys closed her mouth before she reacted to idiocy they were spouting. There was a few ways she could handle two teenagers with inflated senses of durability.  But she wasn’t paid enough to deal with adolescent stupidity. “Yah.” She said curtly. It wasn’t a lie, her boss finding any number of them back here would be very bad. But she also wasn’t going to let two amateurs extort her.  “So how about we make a deal?”

The two girls blinked at her and Lys continued before one of them tried to reassert themselves. “You take that, its yours free of charge. But you get out of here. Now.” She paused eyeing Abbie, who of the duo seemed most intent upon throwing her weight around. “Deal?”

“So we just take it? You won’t call the cops?” Abbie’s friend finally spoke up with a sardonic sneer, obviously too world wise to be taken in by such a simple trick..

The thought had not occurred to Lys. “And have to explain where you got it to my boss? No thanks. Do you want it or not?”

“Yah.” Abbie shoved the puzzle box in her purse. “C’mon.” She grabbed her friend by the hand and the two tore out of the storage room, squealing with more laughter. Lys barely heard the front door’s bell over the noise. She sighed deeply and made sure nothing else on the shelves had been disturbed. Then she carefully picked her way out of the room and closed the door with a definitive snap.

******

“Lys.” Her boss walked over as Lys counted cash from the register, .The shop was closed, door locked against the dark outside. They were the only ones here.

She looked up, “Huh?”

“Have you seen my Cambodian devourer box?” He didn’t look her in the eyes, half turned towards the back of the shop and obviously in thought. “Carved, about so big.” He held up his sharp fingers in display.

“The one from storage?” She asked and then answered her own question. “Not recently.”

“Oh.” He frowned, not at her, just at the notion of the item being unaccounted for. “You didn’t move it?”

“Its called a Cambodian devourer box. I am not stupid enough to touch it.”  Lys said, still counting money.

He sighed. “I didn’t think you were. The covenant is going to have a fit. If anyone asks….”

“It didn’t come from here.” She finished with a flash of a smile.

“Exactly.” He nodded. “Finish up that and then you can go home, give my regards to Cyphus.”

She nodded and went back to counting.

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