“Sir,” Kate called out as she approached the gentleman, “can I help you with something?”
The man jerked upright, his limbs all appearing to flail wildly for just a moment before he regained control. He straightened up as he turned around, and Kate realized that this man was well over six feet, most of his figure hidden by a bulky overcoat. He towered over her short, squat little five-foot-nothing figure.
Still, Kate told herself, a customer is a customer, and a commission’s a commission. She plastered her patented “retail smile” across her face as she gazed up at the man.
“Snakeskin, very exotic. Buying a present for your wife, maybe a girlfriend?” she asked, nodding her head slightly towards the high-heeled shoe clutched in the man’s hand.
Kate did have to admit that, despite his creepy factor, the man at least had good taste. He’d bypassed most of the cheap crap that the store carried, instead going straight for the Louboutins, which were one of the few non-knockoff brands. The shoe he now held was made from authentic snake skin, and came in a deep, shiny black, with red on the bottom and a price tag that was higher than what Kate made after a full day of work.
“Er, yes,” the man stammered out, after a few seconds of silence. “Yes, of course. What you said. Do you have any other styles?”
There was something odd about how the man spoke, Kate thought to herself. He seemed to lack a sort of rhythm; his words would get jammed together, then come tumbling out en masse. Furthermore, he seemed to be wearing silver boots, and occasionally she caught other flashes of silver from beneath the man’s coat. Was he a designer of some sort?
“We do have a couple of other styles of those,” she remarked, nodding towards the shoe still in the man’s hands. “Is there a size you’d like me to check for?”
“Size?” he repeated blankly, looking down at the shoe in his hands. He stroked the texture of the snakeskin. “How many do you have?”
Kate blinked. Something definitely seemed off, but the dollar signs of her commission popping in her eyes made it tough to focus on what was wrong. “We might have eight or ten pairs, total,” she guessed. “Across a range of sizes, of course.”
“Ten pairs?? Yes, yes, I want them!” the man exclaimed, throwing his arms wide in a gesture of delight.
As the man’s arms spread wide, his coat flopped open, and Kate caught a quick glimpse of a strange silver suit beneath the overcoat. She only saw it for a moment before he pulled his coat shut, but that quick glance was enough to convince her of his weirdness. Were there tubes attached to his silver suit beneath that coat??
“Let me go grab them for you,” she told the strange man, ducking away.
Once in the back storage area, Kate grabbed a quick breath, leaning up against a nearby shelf. “A sale’s a sale,” she whispered to herself, ignoring how the man was obviously crazy.
Yes, she decided after a second. She’d bring out the shoes, but would keep an eye on them to make sure that the guy didn’t try to do a runner or anything. If he ended up buying even a single pair, the commission would be enough to double her daily take-home pay. Worth the risk.
When she brought out the boxes and showed the strange man the shoes, however, he seemed utterly delighted. “Yes, yes!! All of them!” he cried, clutching the shoes to himself as though they were bars of gold. “I pay, you give them to me!”
Her heart pounding as she ran the mental numbers on her five percent commission, Kate scanned the boxes. “How would you like to pay, sir?” she asked, hearing the blood pounding in her ears.
Still beaming, the man reached into his overcoat and pulled out a messy lump of cash, which he dropped down on the counter. After a moment, Kate reached for it cautiously, feeling that sense of oddness continue to prickle as she leafed through it. Many of the bills in the wad of cash looked strange and foreign, and some of them seemed to have writing in other languages!
Still, there were plenty of hundreds and fifties in amid the other bills, and she quickly counted out the correct amount. “Here’s your change, sir,” she said, pushing the rest of the wad back. “And your shoes-“
Before she could even finish the sentence, the man grabbed the cash off the counter with one hand, the bag of expensive shoes in the other, and went sprinting away, letting out some sort of high-pitched cry as he sprinted from the store.
For a second, Kate just stared after him, her mouth wide. In her head, however, she was already doing cartwheels.
Eight pairs of authentic Louboutins! At roughly thirteen hundred dollars each, that was a little over five hundred dollars in commission, just from a single sale! She felt stunned, amazed at this incredible turn of good luck.
As she stepped out from behind the register, however, a little scrap of something green on the floor caught her eye. She reached down and picked up another hundred dollar bill, although something looked odd about it. “Sir!” she called out, waving the bill over her head, but the man was long gone.
Kate lowered the bill back down, peering at it again. What was so odd about the thing?
“100” in the corners, check.
Green and about the right size and dimensions, check.
Ben Franklin in a 3-dimensional hologram, waving at her – hold on.
Kate rubbed her eyes, but when she opened them, the mysterious bill was still there, complete with a little 3-dimensional hologram of the head and shoulders of Ben Franklin gazing back out at her. He gave her a kindly little smile as she waved.
For a long time, Kate just stood there, the little wheels of her brain spinning, but no actual thoughts clicking or making sense. It wasn’t until her manager came over to congratulate her on the massive sale that, perhaps coming to her senses, she shoved the bill deep into her pocket and made her best futile attempt to put it out of her mind.
As he headed back towards where he’d parked his time machine (which, for some reason, had apparently decided to disguise itself as a 1998 Buick Regal), Xarthanurx couldn’t keep from hopping up and down, chirping to himself with delight.
Real, authentic snake skin! And he had more samples than he had even imagined discovering! Once the gene extractors and the mechanosynthesizers received samples, he’d be able to produce yards and yards of the stuff, maybe even resurrect the extinct species itself! He’d be wealthy in credits beyond his wildest dreams!
He pulled one of the strange shoes from the bag and held it aloft, bringing it back down to press it fervently against his lips. Such a strange design, he wondered to himself. Why would a shoe need a spike at the back? Was it for defense? Clearly, he’d landed in barbaric times, and should leave as quickly as possible.