The outside of the comic book store looked like a roadside newsstand, except this one kept its periodicals in a glass counter, with sample copies lining the back walls. As far as most people cared to know, that’s all the place was. Though its actual name was Delirium Tremens, most people just called it Fat Daisy’s, the namesake of its charismatic owner, Nancy “Fat Daisy” Dayton. This nickname, originally given to her by her great-grandfather, had taken such life that the sign above the newsstand now read “Fat Daisy’s” in large, cartoony, red letters, and “Delirium Tremens” in smaller letters below that.
Behind the main counter was a door, covered by the latest editions of popular news and gossip magazines. Behind that door was the largest anime and comics store in the city, at least in sales volume, with most of the sales coming from the store’s websites. This was due in large part to Fat Daisy’s business partner and longtime boyfriend, Peter Langston, a law student at the local university who had a knack for both business and technology. Of course, it wasn’t all his doing: collectors made it a point to spread the word due to Fat Daisy’s uncanny ability to pick up collectibles no one else seemed able to find. While these were sold both in-house and on the Web, preferential treatment was always given to “folks from meatspace”, as Peter sometimes called in-house customers.
Fat Daisy, who was at the moment taking care of the newsstand, saw the two boys walking back. It had only been about an hour since she sold them the stack of comics left to her by Allen Frost’s father, who had given his son’s comics away as punishment for trying to steal two comics from her shop. Though the value of the unrecoverable merchandise was only five dollars — the boy wet himself when caught, drenching the two comics hidden in the front of his pants — the senior Mr Frost thought this would teach Allen a well deserved lesson. She thought about rummaging through the collection and taking out anything which might actually have some worth, but figured this would likely be just a waste of time. None, after all, were pristine; a quick sale would be best. Nevertheless, he Frost boy had been an avid buyer and the two now walking back had been lucky to grab what they did for as cheap as they had.
Before this year Fat Daisy had been a portly woman, with a round face, and rounder body. Although only in her late twenties, she underwent gastric bypass surgery and had since lost most of the reason for the nickname. To adjust, some people tried calling her Formerly-Fat Daisy, Not-so-Fat Daisy, and even just Daisy. But old habits die hard; nicknames not at all, and the name Fat Daisy stuck. Yet Nancy didn’t mind it. In fact, she somewhat enjoyed it, since it often threw people’s expectations off, something which usually worked to her advantage.
Despite societal expectations of the lady behind the magazine counter as being rude, dumb and abrasively opinionated, most people were quickly disarmed by Fat Daisy’s comforting attitude and a genuine smile which, despite a couple of crooked teeth, was beautiful in a homely sort of way. Her hazel eyes were bright and attentive, and the light brown skin which betrayed her mulatto heritage accented these features all the more. Yet, as anyone who exchanged more than a few words with her would quickly realize, behind those bright eyes and that genial smile was an inquisitive, complicated, and very active mind. Though an initial impression might not reveal it, the woman in charge of Delirium Tremens was nothing short of gifted.
“He won’t even eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” she overheard one of the nearing boys say.
“Who won’t eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?” she then asked, grinning widely at them, leaning on the counter, arms crossed under her breasts. “Whoever it is, they sure don’t know good food!”
“It’s his baby brother,” answered Radley, pointing at Carlos. “He won’t eat anything and is always crying.”
“Oh, I see.” Fat Daisy said this with a smile and a nod. “Maybe I should make him one of my special Fruity Peanut Burgers: peanut butter, jelly, banana, and raisins, all inside a toasty croissant.”
A laughing “Eww!” came from both boys, each now cringing. Fat Daisy hadn’t been joking: she really did like the sandwiches. But she made it a point to avoid them, since eating too many as a kid had been one of the causes of her nickname. Still, she just knew these boys didn’t know what they were missing: the Fruity Peanut Burger was like eating like trail mix on bread.
“Well then, if not my Fruity Peanut Burgers, what brings you two back?”
The boys explained the situation, how one wanted to keep the comics, but the other really wanted to get the comics he had originally come for, and asked whether she would be willing to hold copies for them.
The graphic novels they wanted her to hold — specifically Ultimate Warlock and Occam’s Razor — she knew would sell fast, probably not even lasting the rest of the day. These days, comic book companies were so intensely focused on creating collectibles that they alone determined the number of issues a store was allowed to receive. Any store found fudging the numbers to get a few extras would lose the right to sell any of that company’s titles. This could quickly close a shop down, since other publishers usually followed suit. No inventory, no business. Fat Daisy wasn’t about to risk that. For her, waiting a day might mean a day delay in extra shipments, and being two sales short one day because she was holding some for a couple of kids had the potential to snowball into losing twenty sales the next day, since she wouldn’t be able to get more until the following day. It didn’t help any that this month’s issue of Occam’s Razor was already one of the most sought after in the series, especially because the company which produced them would only do one printing.
“I’m sorry boys, but I can’t do that.”
As soon as she said this, Carlos looked down, slumped his shoulders, and tried to squeak out an “OK then, thank you,” which sounded more like a deflated whimper, while Radley looked at him with guilty surprise. He was about to tell Carlos that he’d get the money today, by this afternoon, when his mom got home. Then Fat Daisy spoke up again.
“But I’ll tell you what I can do,” she started. The boys snapped their heads up, their faces bright with hope. “I need a few things delivered, and it would really help me out if you boys could do it instead. I’ll pay you each a dollar per delivery which you can use to buy the comics you want. That sound good?” The two boys nodded rapidly, each now jumping in jubilant anticipation. “Come inside so we can call your parents and ask them permission, alright?”
The boys walked in the familiar path through the newsstand into the store, past the store’s sales counter, and down the center isle of the crowded sales floor. On one side of the isle were books on learning to read Japanese and on the other were a myriad of mangas. They continued to the back, where the comic book racks for American-style comics were.
Though well lit and mostly modernized, the building’s age showed in almost all facets of is design. The building was old, built in the early 1920’s, during the height of National Prohibition in the US, and had first served as an illegal drinking and gambling establishment. It was run by the Cassola gangster family from then until the mid-1940’s, when the family stopped most of its illegal operations and started business in Las Vegas. Fat Daisy’s great-grandfather, Giovanni Innocenti — who was anything but — had worked for the Cassolas and worked out a deal to buy the place out when they left town. Though the building housed a few different businesses since then, it had stayed in the family, carrying always the same name.
Carlos and Radley followed Fat Daisy through a door beside the comic book racks labeled “Employees Only”, into her small office. In it were a small computer desk and chair, a small maroon couch, and cork board lining along the walls, half of which was covered with papers, pinned and scattered about. The boys, both simultaneously nervous and excited, sat on the couch as Fat Daisy called their parents. Radley crossed his fingers while Carlos closed his eyes and under his breath a prayed to God that his mother would let him do this. God, it seemed, came through for both of them.
After getting approval from their parents, Fat Daisy had the two boys go back into the store while she sorted the packages they were to deliver.
When the boys left the office, Fat Daisy pulled the desk away from the wall and opened a door hidden behind it which led to a secret room. The room, which served now as a hiding place for Daisy’s miscellaneous items and valuables, had been originally constructed to hide alcohol and cash in case of a police raid. The walls were thick, and built so that it was impossible for dogs to sniff through at whatever might have been in there. Paolo “The Sheik” Cassola, the building’s first owner, had found this a particularly handy addition, as had Nancy “Fat Daisy” Dayton.