Author Topic: Fleming storage unit #110 Trenchcoat Tango (finished)  (Read 1420 times)

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I remember it being a crisp sunny day when I turned into the Fleming storage units, the moving van I had rented just a few hours ago squeaked a little as it shimmied over the near flat speed bumps put in to keep people from treating the old unkempt asphalt as a speedway.  From the information I had been given Morrigan's unit was right in the middle of the row in the back facing the alleyway of units I was crawling down, weaving my truck between the other vehicles brought to clean out these units before auction day. I pulled in off to the side and took out Morrigan's key and stooped to open unit 110, the door rattling on its old neglected track as it slid upward. The rattling was suddenly cut off by a loud clatter as a stack of chairs right next to the door toppled over into a clothes rack sending a cloud of dust puffing out toward me.
“Hellfire, it must have caught.” I muttered to myself,  trying not to cough on the rising dust as I looked up to right about where the chairs would have touched the door and expecting to see a scuff mark or dented metal but only really seeing shadows and dust motes. I shook my head and decided to get down to work taking out my phone and taking photos of the opened unit before I touched anything. Morgan can be a touch paranoid about her family members at times and wanted to be sure no one “fucked with what was rightfully hers.”  Of course, she would have been there with me if not for her sparse diet landing her in the hospital with megaloblastic anemia. 
****   
Morgan is my friend, has been for a long time since she tutored me art history in college in exchange for a pile of scarves I was obsessed with crocheting at the time, something that comes in useful in the mountains of Colorado where we met. After the scarves and the long semester, we shared other things and became close, ultimately running an antique and art business together. 
    I finished texting Morrigan information as I wandered over to the front of the truck, leaning into the driver’s side to grab my bag and wrestle my headphones out of the bottom, the large wireless headset doubling as earmuffs in the chill air as I settled them into place and queued up my working music on my phone.  I took a breath, inhaling the smell of enclosed spaces, untouched cardboard and a faint distant spice I could not put my finger on. With that I started moving boxes into the back of the rented truck the heft of the boxes light in my gloved hands, a mixture of blues, jazz, and swing keeping me going as the temperature started to drop, the sun starting to set while I worked and painting shadows.   I paused with a shiver as I debated whether or not I should stop for now to grab something to eat and my eyes fell on a clothing rack off to the side of the unit. A beautiful tan trench coat hanging there separated from the rest of the clothes by a foot of space at the top and tangled stack of chairs at the bottom.

 Well hot damn, if you are granting wishes may I also wish for a museum gig or at least more commissions?” I asked the room in general with a grin, laughing at the absurdity of it as I wandered over to inspect the coat, touching it gingerly at first, not wanting to encounter spiders or crumbling fabric but to my amazement the coat was almost pristine, the smell of cedar clinging thickly to the fabric where it hung on its cedar hanger for so long. There was another smell underneath that, subtle at first then the tan fabric smelled of a crush of so many sweet spices and rich tobacco smoke strong enough to make my head spin. I pulled on the trench coat without thinking then in a twirl, the fabric flaring out around me and spreading that smell in a shield against the otherwise dust /cardboard smell the rest of the unit had.  The trench coat fits perfectly and the smell was relaxing but at the same time, I felt as if I had the energy to finish this whole task in one night.
I got back to work with a spring in my step, the spring turning into a skip, the task made so much simpler with an addition of twirls and spins as I worked with the time of the music coming over my headphones, dancing through the rest of the boxes within an hour. Leaving the wooden bulk of furniture and tangles of wicker that forested the larger part of the unit for tomorrows work along with two large shipping crates I had unearthed while moving the smaller boxes squatting in the rear corner, keeping their secrets for now.
“Battery Low” my headphones said sharply in my ear, the robotic voice jarring me out of my reverie and cutting off the music I was working to.  I must not have charged them like I thought I had earlier in the day.  I pulled them off and my legs trembled a little, I felt almost drained suddenly and a hunger attacked my stomach with a fury I hadn’t experienced in a while.  I checked my phone and was surprised at the time. Somehow 4 hours had rushed past me as I worked.  I needed to eat something as soon as possible. I turned to close up the unit and paused, should I put this trench coat back or wear it?  I shook my head and shrugged the trench coat off of my shoulders, it wasn’t really mine after all and I had only put it on to keep the frosty breeze off. The coat on its hanger rustled as I put it back on the rack.

I left for the night after I closed the unit, the heater in the cabin of the truck being much more effective than I thought it would be, I only had to keep it on the lowest setting in order to warm myself back to human temperatures.  I drove the truck out of the unit complex, passing much fewer populate units than earlier and turning into the next door shopping center and looking over the dinner options available, my eyes locking on margarita madness deciding tacos would soothe the monster at my stomach.
The restaurant was nice, a few more people drinking than eating but the food was fantastic, I ended up having a steak burrito smothered in a smoky red sauce that still makes my mouth water when I think about it. I took my time to eat and chatted with my waitress who was a little surprised to see so many new faces but happy for the business. I tipped her and absconded to my hotel room when she went to make drinks for a customer. I drew for a while in my room before going to bed, letting my body relax after the long day I had and falling into an odd dream.   
In my dream, it was me and Morrigan having the conversation that leads me to be sent here in the first place.  Morrigan looked up at me from where she sat in her hospital bed. Her arm hooked into an I.V. rig.
“Thank you so much for helping me this month but I need you to do me another favor.  I hate that I have to ask all the time now but this one is important.” The machine next to her beeped softly 
I shook my head and smiled, sitting down to get on eye level with her. “You know it’s not a problem, I’m saving up favors for the day something horrible happens and you will have to help me.” I said with a chuckle, nudging her so she knew I was teasing. Her shoulders relaxed and she finally smiled.
“And on that day I will bring you a bottle of gin and a shotgun.” She nodded, teasing back. I felt some of the tension and worry I had for her lifting, I knew it was going to be a while before she was 100% again but it wasn’t going to be as rough as it could. I glanced up at the I.V. rig and noticed the normally clear liquid had a purple tinge to it. 
“ uh ah, no more alcohol for you madam, meaning no more for me. That wouldn’t be fair to you.  So, what are you need’n?  Noise canceling headphones and a golden fleece? “I asked knowing she wanted to just leave here or at least get some rest in this hospital room. 
“Actually the headphones aren’t a bad ideal but not what I need, I got a call from the storage unit place I put our auction shipment into, I need you to clean the unit out for me as the whole place is closing out and I won’t get out of the hospital in time to do it myself.”  Her brow furrowed as she spoke, her smile fading a little as she glanced out the window.
 My eyes wandered from her to the machines supporting her, the I.v. line attached to her arm turning a solid purple that lead into her veins and made them stand out even more against her already ashen skin.  I looked at the bag that held the cocktail of vitamins and medicines she needed to heal and was shocked to see a small creature floating in the purple fluid. It looked like a bundle of roots with a small misshapen lump of a head and tiny beady eyes, its mouth wide open in a scream. 
“Morrigan, what is that?” I asked, pointing at the bag and the creature floating inside of it.  The machine next to her beeping sharply as I gestured.
“Oh that, it’s the mandrake that has been assigned to my healing, I think it’s silly but I am feeling better.  You will need one soon too won’t you?”  Morrigan asked, eyeing me and shifting her position slightly on the hard bed. 
“I’m not sure what you mean but I need to get going, I hope you get better quickly. It’s been difficult without you.”  I said, standing and turning to leave. Morrigan reached up and pulled down the iv bag offering it to me. 
“Just take it, they are good against poison” she said, the bag bursting and the mandrake falling to the floor in a screech that woke me.
I lay in the bed for a moment, drenched in sweat and asked myself what exactly the fuck that was all about.  I know a lot has happened lately but that was such an odd thing for my subconscious to throw at me.  I wrote the dream down and took a shower after that, trying to forget the dream and starting my day, skewed as it would be by the taint of a weird dream.  Everything felt a touch odd, even the expectantly kind of gross free breakfast had a, unnatural sheen to the otherwise cheap cherry Danish, the coffee was so unlike the caffeinated drink I usually have that I wondered whether or not I was still dreaming. 
 I ended up buying a few bottles of coffee on my way back to the storage units, excited to crack into the three shipping crates Morrigan refused to tell me the contents of.   She won most of this stuff in an auction somewhere near here ages ago but refused to say what was in it aside from some imported clothes and the belongings of an art dealer.  I checked the time and sent Morrigan a text to see if she was awake and ready to talk while I got the unit opened the smell of spices and tobacco tickling my nose as soon as I had the door opened. 
I started working at the tangle of chairs, moving them to the back of the truck as the sun warmed me, the clatter of early morning hustle and bustle surrounded me. I started in on the furniture while I waited, untangling  what looked to be a full set of wicker furniture.  The table showing most of the wear across the top with a few strands of the woven material coming away to stick up in sharply pointed curves, I was standing next to the clothes rack debating if I should just leave this set  of furniture and that spicy smoke smell started to tickle my nose again and I figured that it would be weird to break this whole collection up and added it to the truck as well when I got a call from Morrigan.  we talked for a little while and I mentioned the clothes rack.
“ what clothes rack?” Morrigan asked with a note of confusion
“ a normal clothes rack with a few dresses, a very nice trenchcoat and what looks to be a selection of scarves on a bunch of cedar hangers.  Did you not purchase this at auction? “ I replied, playing with the sleeve of the coat as I talked.  Something about this coat made me want to wear it all over the town, maybe with a hat or one of these fantastic scarves.
“ I didn’t buy that, I inherited it from my aunt, I didn’t know her very well. She was always gone somewhere talking with quack doctors and metaphysicians as part of her job.  She wrote for a weird magazine that died out a few years ago.  the wicker furniture goes with it.  I don’t think it’s worth much so don’t bother packing it. Unless you want it of course. “ she said, the beeping behind her soft and sluggish over the phone. I remembered this morning and shivered as much from the memory of the dream as well as the cold creeping through my heavy winter clothes. 
“ do you want me to just leave the wicker and the clothes then?  Are you sure? ” I asked eyeing the stack of wicker in the truck and frowning at the thought of having to wrestle it back into the unit. 
“ Actually, there should be a box of books somewhere in that pile of furniture, I would like to have that and the auction boxes of course.”  Morrigan said after a moment of thought
“ good, I will look for the books in a moment, what about the shipping crates?  Shall I open them now?”  I asked, putting my phone on speaker and setting it on the corner of one of the shipping crates. Taking a moment to pull the coat on, already feeling a little warmer than I did a moment ago.
" not unless you really want too, it would be easier to just bring them in the crate and opening them here. unless you can't get them in the truck. besides, I want to see your face when you open them. I have a feeling you will be wanting to keep the contents of one of them." Morrigan said with a laugh.
" no, that shouldn't be a problem, they are three by three feetsies so I think I can handle them with the doily. um, is it okay if I keep this trench coat, it fits really well and it smells amazing." I asked, looking around the last few pieces of wicker furniture down here and seeing a box between two chairs that I must have missed.
"Robin, what do you mean? I think the signal cut out for a moment." Morrigan asked, sounding a little confused.
“ this trenchcoat smells like really good pipe tobacco and spices, like really strongly of spices. It’s amazing”  I said laughing at how happy I was all of the sudden. 
“ Robin, how long have you been wearing that coat?”   Morrigan asked me, the candor of her voice echoing around the unit. 
"not long, a few hours yesterday and I only just put it on now,”  I said, or must have read, she told me later I rambled for some time before she managed to stop me.
“ Robin, I need you to do something for me, reach into the pockets and look for a jar or leaky bottle, careful, it might be cracked.”   Her voice was warm and I found my hands roving the pockets, looking for an item I had no idea the place of, I had been so enamored of the front pockets that I had neglected to check the chest pockets until this moment, my fingers coming in contact with something rough and slightly oily to my gloved fingers.
“ I think I found it.  It’s a wooden box with something inside.”  I jingled the box to hear a muted clinking it was about the size of a deck of cards and light enough to be barely noticeable. 
“ okay Robin, I need you to take the box outside and open it Away from your face.  Do you understand?”  she coughed after a moment, her voice sounding hoarse and worried. 
I walked outside with the box, pausing to return to the unit to grab the phone and wrap a scarf around my nose and mouth to block the smell a little. I took the phone off of speaker and held it between my shoulder and chin as I opened the box looking inside after a moment.  Inside the box was a pool of oil surrounding a soaked oily felt parcel with bits of broken purple glass and what looked to be slivers of something dark brown and desiccated and orange-brown tendrils, pruned and shrunken the smell of spices was so pungent I could taste it.
“ Okay, what is this stuff? ” I asked after I described what I found, almost dropping the box it was so strong
“I think that it is essential oil of nutmeg, my aunt was crazy about the stuff, throw it away, it’s toxic in anything over three drops a day, causes a bunch of weird effects. There is a book about it in that box I mentioned”Morrigan said,  her voice a little disappointed. “ I’m sorry this is happening,” she said after a moment. 
“ Hush, it was an honest mistake. I’m alive and I can heal. My gloves however are ruined” I said feeling the oil chill my glove as it seeped into the stitching and creep into the lining against my skin, I crab-walked to the cabin of the truck and reached into grab the bag containing the bottles of coffee and dumped the contents one-handed, not wanting to spill the oil that had not soaked into the wood and felt. I closed the box and wrapped the now empty bag around it and my wrist,  the bottles of coffee rolling along the seat as I yanked off the glove and used my freed hand to pull off the remaining one, throwing them both in the bag with the box and tying the bag securely. 
I talked to Morrigan for a little longer before ending the call, promising to be careful and to read up on nutmeg poisoning.  I walked back into the unit when a thought occurred to me and I pulled the coat open to look at the inner lining of the coat, the corner of the pocket stained with a small amount of oil in the faint shape of the bottom of the box. It was stained but not ruined, I would have to get this coat cleaned, I took off the coat and grabbed its hanger. I was going to hang it in the back of the truck like the air freshener that might have killed me. 
I finished packing then, leaving the wicker and the dresses on the clothes rack, the shipping crates tucked safely away in the truck and shielding what turned out to be an Eames chair set which I did keep.  I closed the unit, turned in the key at the office and started my long drive back home to Colorado.