Tags and Fabergé Eggs
"What do you mean?"
"What you said just now. What do you mean?"
"I said a bunch of things. What do you mean what-do-I-mean?"
"The first part."
"Fuckin' hell, dude. I've got better things to do than sit around here guessing the precise phrasing of something that took me five minutes to explain."
"The bit about the egg."
"Yes, okay. The Fabergé Egg. What about it?"
"I'm asking you!"
"I told you. I want to use it as collateral."
"The use of your kitchen. Until such time as I find a buyer. For the egg, I mean. Then I'll pay you ... For the kitchen."
Terry shifted uncomfortably in his chair. He blinked artificially in an effort to give the appearance of trying to understand. John stood quietly by—his attention quite genuinely fixed on the Bea Arthur On Broadway poster garishly facing him from the adjacent wall. He noticed that it did a very poor job of hiding a safe door. He smiled broadly.
"Whatchya got behind there, sweet?"
"Listen, Johnson, I don't believe for a second that this is a real Fabergé Egg. I can see the seams and everything."
"Whaddaya want with my kitchen, anyway?"
"The seam has to be there, jackass! That's where the egg opens. It's gilt with silver, for God's sake. You make it sound as though they're trying to hide it."
"What do you want with my kitchen?"
"I told you ... A little business venture."
"Yes. Which isn't an explanation."
"I'm starting a catering business."
"With no capital."
"Not as such, no."
John paused. And to good effect too, Terry noticed with annoyance. John grinned.
"Except for this."
"How do I know it's real?"
"Look at the thing for fuck's sakes, Terry! Who could fake this?!"
Still vainly blinking, Terry acquiesced; probed the black silk interior of the box with his fingertips and gently lifted the object from its molded rest. The egg itself was of a highly polished, very dark purple enamel, almost black. It was roughly four inches in height—maybe two across (apex to apex)—and was decorated with a modest, burnished silver lacework, intertwining a pattern of double-headed Imperial eagles, Romanov griffins here and there, and a number of Orthodox crosses. The egg's top—in this case, the big end—was encircled with a crown of thorns in a very light gold.
"The catch is at the tip of the small end there."
A silver seam ran oblong and diagonally around the circumference of the egg. Running his middle finger around it, Terry felt the subtle protrusion of the promised button at its tip. Depressing it, the egg softly snicked opened—hinged where the seam was closest to the big end.
Terry stopped blinking altogether.
The top half of the egg presented, unmistakably, the night sky: concave and solid black, peppered over with vague, diamond constellations—that were, moreover, recognizably reflected in the gloss of the black seascape of the bottom half. There—on the bottom half—raised and in extraordinary detail, a small fishing boat filled with men appeared to be caught in inclement weather: its prow angled upwards slightly (implying the violence of waves), and clearly taking on the black glass water. The men in the boat—figurines each in ivory, silver and gold—were uncannily upset, but with their attention (also uncannily) drawn by the action nearby: a man struggling, up to his knees in the drink, holding his arms out in desperate supplication to a tall robed figure standing fully on the water two miniature arms’ lengths away.
"It's a bonny thing."
Terry realized, with heartbreak, that he was falling for the bauble. That he'd fallen for it.
"So ... You game?"