Henry, being a collector himself, knew the risks Helen was taking in meeting him at this coffee shop. She was legendary in the community as having the largest collection of cartridges for the 2600 game system: nearly two hundred and fifty. Henry found the 2600 items too difficult to find, and he preferred the old Jaguar system, although anything from the now legendary Atari company was all right with him -- if he could afford and find it without risking his life too often.
What kind of gamble was he getting himself into this time? Was he going to live to see the cartridges he had heard about?
There had been talk about Helen for years. He had summed it all up in one sentence in the past: She was a cunning, beautiful bitch who was as eager to slit your throat as bring you to bed. She didn't care who she pushed aside to collect her treasures. Her collection made her one of the richest women in the world, although she claimed she would never part with any of her rarities.
Rarities. That was what this meeting was all about, wasn't it? How many street people had heard the stories of a cache of cartridges being dumped in New Mexico in the late twentieth century? Most everyone thought it was just an old story. But there were still people who spent great parts of their lives searching the New Mexico badlands in hopes of finding that fabled, abandoned treasure trove of cartridges. In fact, there were always rumors that someone had found something, but it always turned out to be nothing. Henry never believed those stories... until two weeks ago.
That was when he had received a package that included a new, sealed-in-the-box, mint-condition 2600 cartridge. It was one that he had never heard of before: Pele's Championship Soccer. The cartridge was worth several months' pay for any average worker. There seemed to be no way to reach the person who had sent the item to him. Who would send such a gift? Or had it been a mistake?
It turned out to be Helen. She was one of the few people who could afford such a gift. What really amazed Henry was that Helen must have had another copy of the game. When she contacted him, she hinted that she had a great many cartridges he might be interested in. What was she after, letting him in on the deal? It couldn't be money. She had enough of that already. Well, as soon as she arrived, he would find out -- he was certain of that.
The coffee shop was pretty deserted for this time of day. Henry wondered if Helen had arranged it that way; after all, she had all the influence to do it. There were just a few people eating lunch. Helen said to be prompt at one o'clock. He arrived a half-hour early, just in case. His watch said he now had about five minutes to wait.
It was ten after one when Henry looked up from his iced tea to see a tall man walk through the door. He looked like a pretty rough guy. Henry continued to watch him as the man approached his table.
"Who wants to know?"
The stranger glared at Henry. He didn't look pleased. "I'll ask the questions."
Henry decided he had better answer right quick. "Yeah, I'm Henry."
"Well, then, come with me. Someone wants to see you."
Without another word, the man walked toward the front door. Henry followed close behind. He was glad he had paid his bill already.
Outside, the man asked him to step inside a car. "You are about to meet someone very special. Think you're ready?"
Henry was ready for anything.