'Twelve hundred pounds! For God's sake are you mad, we haven't got that kind of money anymore'
'Well, it's French, I've been after one like that for years, it would complete the collection'
' I've had enough of you and that damned collection, the house is falling to pieces, the car keeps breaking down, and we've got no money for a holiday, or anything'
Paul snorted indignantly.
'There is nothing wrong with the car, and I'm fed with doing stuff to the house you never like it when it's done. And we're retired now, so we're on holiday all the time! '
Cheryl pushed past Paul and stormed off in the direction of the High Street, he ignored her and continued to gaze longingly at the French flintlock pistol displayed in the window of the antique shop. He had been collecting antique pistols for years, and he owned more than a dozen of them, English, American, German, but he had never been able to acquire a French one, most of them went for auction and he always got outbid in the last few seconds, Twelve Hundred pounds is a really good price for a gun like that, c.1790 it could have even been involved in the French Revolution or the Napoleonic wars and if it was the real deal it could fetch over £2000 pounds at auction. Not that he would ever sell it, even if he did manage to buy it, he would never part with any of his guns.
'Oh yes, it's genuine, there are documents with it that will confirm its authenticity'
Paul stared at the tall, thin and grey-haired antique dealer.
'How did you come by it?'
A young couple brought it in, the young woman had inherited it, they had proof of ownership, I think she was French. They reckoned that it had belonged to some French politician involved in the revolution, Maarat! Or Maraa!, I can't remember. They asked me if I would value it for them, I told them I was no expert on guns and they would be better off taking it to a proper collector'
He paused and gave Paul a slightly guilty look
'I suppose I sensed that they were anxious to get hold of some cash so I made them an offer and they jumped at it, I should take it to auction really, but I'm too busy'
Paul looked across at the pistol
'Could- could I have a look at it'
Eagerly the dealer removed the pistol from the display an handed it butt first to Paul.
'Here we are, primitive contraptions aren't they?'
Paul shook his head and gazed with admiration at the masterpiece of craftsmanship', the gun had been beautifully maintained and was in mint condition, he examined it carefully. Its condition suggested that it had probably not been fired very much, but it was no replica that was for sure. It was the model he had been trying to acquire for years, the improved version of the Marin Le Burgeoys design c.1790, he tried hard to disguise his excitement as he blurted out.
'How about nine hundred pounds?'
The dealer exhaled loudly and took on a pained expression
'I don't think I can let it go for that, I have to make a living you know'
Paul didn't reply and continued to inspect the pistol
The dealer moved back behind his counter and started writing up his accounts.
Paul moved across and placed the gun carefully down onto the counter and started scrolling on his i phone. After some seconds he noisily cleared his throat and said.
'I can do an immediate cash transfer for a thousand pounds!'
The dealer looked up and nodded
Okay Sir, you've just bought yourself a gun.
Paul stored his collection in a safe in the back room of his house, Cheryl would refer to it as his study, but it was really far too modest space for that. He wanted to have the guns on display, but Cheryl just wouldn't put up with it. To her, the collection represented a waste of hard-earned money and had become a blight on their marriage. Having them on display would also be risky, the weapons represented quite a history, the English Civil war, the American Revolution,Trafalgar, Waterloo. It was a valuable collection probably worth well over twenty thousand pounds and their little 2 bedroomed bungalow would be easy prey for burglars. He hadn't yet researched the history of his latest acquisition, usually, Cheryl did that for him on the computer, but this latest indulgence had pushed her over the edge and she hadn't spoken to him for days.
He had also had to visit the Doctor his skin had started to bother him. The Doctor had said it was some kind of eczema and had prescribed steroid creams, but sometimes the only way he could get any relief from the constant itching was to lay in a warm saline bath. He was lying in such a bath when Cheryl burst in waving a letter from the Bank.
'UN- authorised overdraft, a thousand pounds, I've got to go into the bank this morning they're threatening to close our account and default on all our monthly bills'
Paul sat up and read the letter.
'Don't worry my love I'll go and see them, they'll probably fix us up with an emergency loan or something'.
'My love! Isn't it funny it seems as though that French pistol belonged to Jean-Paul Marat the hard-line radical republican, and supporter of Robespierre, the man who sent 16000 people to the guillotine?'
'Nothing very funny about that'
'Well, there is because Marat suffered from itchy skin and he used to sit in a saline bath all day signing peoples death warrants. One day a young woman called Charlotte Corday came in with a list for him sign, and then pulled out a kitchen knife and stabbed him right in the chest, now what do you think about that, ------- my love!.'
Paul slid down into the bath as blood pumped out from his carotid artery.
Henry Miles 2019