He was standing by the booth in the bar when I first saw him in real life. Call him "Mr. X"; you'd know him if you saw him. We smiled at each other; perfunctory nods of greeting. "Miss K." he said, gesturing me towards my seat; as charming in person as you think he'd be.
"Please, call me Tam." I flagged down the waiter for a Diet Coke with no ice, then slid a bulging folder across the table towards my host. "There's a paper copy of my updated resume in there, plus some extra stuff; a complete list of my current reference library, some written stuff I haven't published yet, things like that."
"Very good," he said with a wry smile, "but you do realize that you already have the job if you want it, right?"
I was still baffled. "I don't get it. Why me?"
"Well, two reasons. One, the catholicism of your interests. I'm not looking for the world's best Luger guy or the world's foremost Garand expert. I want someone who, if I send them haring off to get me one exemplar Type 99 Arisaka from every arsenal that made them, or if I make them take a sudden interest in foreign military Remington Rolling Blocks, won't be feeling like their special expertise is being wasted. The other is that, well, really $18,000 a year plus room and board isn't very much money. Living out in the boonies at the lodge and maintaining the collection is an intangible that most folks have a hard time seeing as a bonus salary enhancement. There's a Mother-in-Law apartment over the garage that will be yours, complete with a private back deck. The view from the porch is nice, all the way out to the 600-yard berm. You'll be able to use the range whenever you want, of course."
"What about travel arrangements?" I asked, still a little light-headed at my good fortune.
"I pay anything business related." he replied firmly "You'll even have the use of one of the trucks at the lodge to run into the FFL in town to pick up acquisitions for the collection that you've made online, so you won't have to put miles on your personal vehicle. If you need to physically travel for research or to examine a potential acquisition, that will be covered as well." He was briefly interrupted as the waiter slid the plate of Scallops Rockefeller between us, then resumed, asking for the sale. "So, Tam, what do you think? You say you've always wanted to be a curator, and here's your shot."
I sat blinking for a second. I'm pretty sure my mouth was hanging open. "I'll take it," I stuttered.
He cocked his head like the RCA dog. "I beg your pardon, I couldn't hear you." A shrill whine started over the bar's speakers.
"I said 'I'll take it'!" raising my voice over the sudden, irritating background noise. I almost had to shout to be heard over it now. "It seems too good to be true!"
The noise was, of course, my alarm clock. I have never, ever tried so hard to go back to sleep in my life.