Heather froze, one hand halfway towards plucking the shrapnel out of her uncle's hair. "Mr Edwards, you're, you're early," she stammered, her face reddening. Pulling back her hand, she hesitated, glancing around the wreckage of the room in horror. "Please...please sit down." She extricated a chair from the pile on the floor behind them, dumping a bucket full of screwdrivers over as she did so. They bounced and rattled across the cement floor, causing Mr. Edwards to twitch and pull the door in front of him protectively.
"I...I was looking for Owen Gunther, the inventor," he said, emerging a little bit from behind the door. He was a short man, almost on eye level with Heather. His sizable stomach and silk suit spoke of money, and the glint in his eyes spoke of the means by which he had attained it. Despite his nervousness, there was an air of sharpness to him, a way of looking and moving and talking that said he knew what he wanted out of this visit and what it was going to cost him.
"Well, you found him. Owen's my name, and this is my niece, Heather." Owen stood, wringing his hands like he wanted something to do with them. Heather grabbed the last of the screwdrivers and tucked them into her pocket. She slid the chair over to the workbench with the fewest burn marks and stood back, shooting furtive glances at the rest of the room and holding her wrists as if physically restraining herself from going to clean it.
Mr. Edwards sat down slowly, surveying the room, Heather wincing as he did so. Owen stood for a second, then sat as well, facing him. Mr. Edwards turned to look at him, running his gaze along the lines of Owens face and his gray-streaked hair. Moving down, he took in the leather jacket and white tee-shirt, both speckled with burns, the grease-stained jeans and heavy work boots.
"You are not what I expected"
Owen searched his mind for an appropriate response. His conversational skills were somewhat limited, and this situation was not on his short list of familiar ones. Most people coming to visit were slightly more in awe of him. He was Owen Gunther, the genius inventor after all. Not that it mattered to him at all. He mostly stuck to building things, and left the labeling to other people. Machines were much easier to understand.
Mr. Edwards was still staring. Little cogs were turning in his brain, checking over figures and weighing possibilities.
"My uncle's the best there is with machines," Heather cut in hurriedly. "If you need something fixed or a problem solved, there's no better man for the job. Provided you can pay, that is," she went on. "But of course you can, sir, no disrespect intended. Silly thing, fine gentleman like you, of course you can pay."
Mr. Edwards turned to look at her. Heather blushed again, making mollifying motions with her hands. "Don't mind me, sir, I don't know what I'm saying. I'll just leave you men to it then, shall I?" Turning quickly, she shot a glance at Owen, and hurried out of the garage.
Mr. Edwards rubbed the tabletop thoughtfully. The cogs in his head whirred even faster, then clicked to a halt. The figures added up, a choice was made. He leaned forward and took a folded piece of paper from his suit pocket.
"I have an interesting problem for you, Mr. Gunther," he said.