Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: A Subtle Zephyr
By Tracy Walshaw
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The gentleman had waited patiently for him to arrive. According to Iris, he had no appointment but “needed a moment of your time; a matter of a critical nature”.
Although lacking the build, he thought him possibly a thug hired by one of the creatures to which he owed a debt. No-Knees Nelson? The man shuddered, thinking of the cold, sodden warehouse where a deal had been made, the chair sitting tauntingly in the center of the room as a reminder: if the deal fell through he quite possibly would not be walking out of that room again. Maybe Righteous Ritchie Richards, who quoted the Bible even during not-so-religious meetings with fellow creatures in crime?
He sat in his imported Italian leather chair, rolling it closer to his desk and feeling under the drawer for the piece of metal security that took the form of a .44 Magnum. He then had Iris send the gentleman in.
The man walked around the desk to offer his hand, but the gentleman walked past him. His long, dark coat billowed out behind him slightly, as though caught in an unseen breeze. A zephyr, the man thought, the word coming to him from nowhere. He stared at him for a moment, then went back to his chair, which squeaked with his weight as he sat back regarding this stranger. A dark hat covered his head, though long silvery strands fell almost to the upturned collar of his coat. The man felt a chill run the length of his spine, and decided the quicker he got on with things, the quicker this gentleman could be out of his office.
The gentleman looked up from under the brim of his hat. His eyes were black as night, his smile a languid line of pleasure across his unwrinkled face. “I have something that belongs to you. It is time to return it.”
“I ’ve never met you before, how is that possible?”
“I have watched you for a long time. You have consistently pleased me, with your business tactics especially. There are still worlds to conquer, young man, and I could use a good right-hand man. Most of mine have passed on or changed loyalty. Loyalty is of extreme importance, as is discretion.”
The man felt a surge of pride; being called a young man was just the stroke his aging, faltering ego needed, and by a gentleman whose very air suggested he was someone of importance.
“What kind of business are you in?” the man asked.
“Oh, the best kind, really. The people business, but we will get into the details later. We will have all the time in the world.” The gentleman reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a box, shiny and black, and laid it on the desk in front of the man, who keenly felt another chill rise up his spine.
“Open it.” the gentleman said.
The man cautiously slid the box to himself and opened the lid. A strange smell, a mixture of sweet and pungent, filled his nostrils.
“What is this?” the man asked the gentleman.
“Your soul.” the gentleman answered. “You gave it to me for safekeeping the first time you committed an act of which you had no regret or repentance. I have kept it since, but now you are ready to make a certain journey and will be needing it.”
The man sat silent as a dread filled his body. The room became cold, as cold as that warehouse.
“No time to get your affairs in order, as they come quickly after I hire.”
“Who comes quickly?” the man said, panic causing him to stand so fast his Italian leather chair flew wildly back against the wall.
The unseen wind caught the gentleman’s coat as he turned and walked to the door. His hand touching the knob, he looked back. His black eyes sparkled and his lips curled up into a heinous grin. And then he was gone.
And here the man stood, waiting.
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