The one thing David Kaplan excelled at was looking busy without actually being busy. This served him well several years ago when he was working as a lawyer for one of the mid-tier law firms in Washington, DC. It also served him now, when a customer obviously needed his help in Heroix Comix, the Comic Book Shop where he currently worked, when what he wanted to do was read the latest edition of Green Lantern. He had just gotten to the good part--Green Lantern’s nemesis Sinestro was offering him a chance to reclaim his magic ring-- when the customer saw through his brilliant ruse and took things into her own hands.
It should be noted, though, that his brilliant ruse involved cleaning the counter in front of him with a rag, while reading the comic as it was perched on the register. The years not working at a law firm had made him lazy.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said, throwing down something in front of him, “but I’d liked to be helped.”
“Wouldn’t we all, sister. Wouldn’t we all,” he didn’t move his head from the comic book. Green Lantern was accepting Sinestro’s offer. He couldn’t leave now.
Sensing authority, she quickly turned her eyes on the only other living soul in the shop, Assistant Manger Elizabeth “Amy” Smith. That’s what it said on her name tag, at least, despite the fact that no one called her “Amy.”
Kaplan was also in charge of the name tags.
“Excuse me, ma’am, your employee is not doing his duty to the customer!” the woman said loudly, “Don’t you want people to shop in your establishment?”
The truth was, Heroix Comix was actually doing very well. Turns out in times of economic, political, or just about any hardship that existed, people wanted to escape. And what better way to escape than by reading about a man that could change into a superhero in a telephone booth, or a kid that could crawl up a wall? Admittedly, Wednesday Morning at 10:00 was not the best representation of their cliental.
“I’m so sorry, ma’am,” Elizabeth “Amy” Smith said, running up the cash register. She knocked the comic book off and shot Kaplan a look, “what can we help you with?”
“I’m looking for a comic for a friend of mine. Something good. Something exciting. Something that will impress him.”
“So, what is he a fan of?” Kaplan asked, not breaking eye contact from “Amy”. At this point, he realized that he wasn’t going to find out what happened between Green Lantern and Sinestro until after this lady left.
“What?” the woman was shocked. Kaplan, for the first time, was kind of shocked that she was in the store at what was now 10:04 on a Wednesday Morning. Washington, DC was full of high-powered, high stress individuals that were constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown at any given moment. This described this particular woman to a T. Blonde hair tied back so tight that it looked like it was going to snap. A nice designer coat that he was sure hid a designer dress. Huge sunglasses that she didn’t bother to take off. What was odd was that she was their at was now 10:05 on a Wednesday morning. (It took him a minute to make these observations, a fact that she noted while she clicked her red fingernails on the counter.)
Kaplan could have been this woman. Only in the man-equivalent of what she was currently wearing. He hadn’t worn a dress since a drunken dare in Law School, which earned him the nickname “Versace” for a little while. He survived Law School much in the same way he survived High School and College, mostly by staying in the middle of the pack and going unnoticed. Then Professor Tab, his Law and History Class Professor (Called “Tablet” by most of his students because of his near photographic memory), did the unthinkable... he noticed Kaplan. He noticed that his test scores were amazing, but he hid in class. He noticed that Kaplan was apparently a brilliant brilliant mind... one of the greats the law world might ever know, according to Tablet. So for the next two years Kaplan became Tablet’s prized project.
Of course this pushed Kaplan to the top of his class. By the time he graduated, he had offers from one of the top Law Firms in Washington DC, and was set to represent American Royalty in any snafus they may find themselves in. He quickly found himself in a world where the hookers were called “call girls”, drugs were delivered via special couriers, and any legal problem could be quickly explained away with the wave of legalese so complex it barely counted as “English”.
Once, when a high-ranking Congressman was caught doing 95 on the Beltway with two hookers... that was, “call girls” in his car with a drink actually still in his hand, Kaplan was able to sue the company that made the Breathalyzers, the cop, the bar that served him, and was able to dummy up several years worth of paychecks that made it appear that both hookers had been part of his staff as “Tantric Yoga Specialists” and they were helping him with his bad back. (Which also explained the pills.)
David Kaplan won that case. And never felt sicker afterwards. Which is why when that same Congressman was found beaten to death with a pool cue following a disagreement over lost funds in an underground poker game, and his wife took over for him exposing many of the firms misdeeds, Kaplan was somewhat relieved. He went to work for a smaller firm for a few years before realizing in addition to being burned out and tired of what he’d done, he was better off doing what he loved.
None of this backstory mattered, of course, to this woman who was now impatiently waiting for a comic for her... son? husband? lover?
“Friend,” the woman repeated, almost reading his mind, “I’d like a comic book for a friend, who loves this sort of crap.”
Elizabeth not Amy looked at Kaplan, then at the woman, “his question was kind of valid. What kind of stuff does your friend like?”
The woman glanced back and forth between the two of them. She checked her phone for a second, then looked up at them, “Superhero... stuff. Crime fighting. That sort of stuff. No magic.”
Kaplan sighed then pointed her in the direction of the nearest display that looked as though several superheroes were bursting forth to save the day.
“Anything over their might be good.”
“But what do you recommend?”
There was a moment of tense silence. Kaplan narrowed her eyes, and he imagined she did the same behind her ridiculous sunglasses. Then, Kaplan opened his mouth, and spoke.
What followed was a never before rehearsed, near perfect steam of analysis, stats, histories of at least 45 different characters spanning well over two hundred comic books. He went through superpowers, weaknesses, villains, cost of the comic, type of the comic, humor, facts so obscure that many of the creators themselves would have had to look them up in past interviews. By the end of it, it was 10:20 on a Wednesday Morning, and both the woman and Elizabeth not Amy stared at him, both their mouths hanging open. The woman’s was hanging open in sheer surprise. Elizabeth not Amy’s mouth was hanging open in sheer awe. At the tender age of 19, she knew she want this man’s knowledge.
“... is that specific enough for you?” Kaplan finished. He turned around and picked up his comic book, leaving Elizabeth not Amy to finish up the transaction.
Had Kaplan been a more cliched man, he would have noted that the wind was taken out of her sails. Because he wasn’t, he noted that she had gotten a Kryptonite Bullet to the chest, and left it at that.
Things happened. Elizabeth not Amy took the woman’s money as she slowly slipped a book in front of the register. Kaplan continued to read his comic book. The woman then left the store never to return. Kaplan wanted to silently add, “never to cross paths with the mighty Kaplan again” but that wasn’t going to be true for very long.
“Whoa,” Elizabeth not Amy said.
“I know, I’m pretty impressive,” Kaplan let out a smile as he put down his comic. He’d reached the end and would have to wait a month to find out what happened next. Fortunately, he’d saved the newest Flash for just such an occasion.
“No, not that. Check out that chick’s money,” Elizabeth not Amy held up several of the golden coins that the woman and slipped her. “I thought they were just some of those new funky gold dollars that the Government is trying to pimp out to everyone... but look!”
Kaplan held one of the golden coins in his hand. She was right. It wasn’t one of those funky golden dollars that the Government was trying to pimp out. It was actual gold. With what looked like Caesar’s face on it.
“Is this real or did you just get played?” Kaplan asked.
“I don’t know... but Mr. Herkabee is going to be pissed off if he sees I got taken!” Elizabeth not Amy said.
Kaplan wasn’t going to let that happen, he’d take the blame. Mr. Herkabee hadn’t fired him yet. Besides, he was going through a pretty big divorced and enjoyed the free legal advice despite the fact that Kaplan didn’t have near an understanding of DC’s divorce laws as he might of let on when he was hired.
“No, we go get them checked out,” Kaplan replied, eyeing the coin, “then if it’s real, we go celebrate. I know this great bar in the city. You’ll love it.”
“I’m too young to drink,” Elizabeth not Amy said because she’d not been to a bar with someone as old as Kaplan just yet. What she meant was, “I have a fake ID and I’ve been to every bar so I’m sure you can’t surprise me and I’ve been waiting for you to ask me to a bar for a little while now but I’m not sure how cool you are and if this is going to be ok.”
“Details...” Kaplan said.
Things were indeed happening, mostly in the details. For instance, one detail that neither Kaplan nor Elizabeth not Amy could see was the fact that the woman kept checking her phone to see who she was there to “interview.” Another interesting detail was the fact that yes, those golden coins were 100% authentic. And of course, the invitation to the bar was the doing of the woman who had been deciding which comic book she was buying for her friend just a few minutes earlier.
The woman hadn’t counted on the fake ID from Elizabeth not Amy. That was one detail that she may have wanted to check out, first.