Scarred lips curled haughtily, baring yellowed teeth as the cripple man spoke. “Everything has a price, sonny.” He cackled. “Can’t pay with whatcha don’t ‘ave.”
“I swear, I’ll pay you back. I’m Leon Garfield, I can give you anything. Anything at all. Just please—save my wife!”
Wicked black eyes flashed with sudden clarity. “I dinna ‘ave t’ do anything, but I’ll make yeh a deal.”
“Anything!” Leon cried, tugging at his blond curls. “Amelia is my life—I-I could never live without her.”
The cripple snickered. “Ah but she live without yeh?”
Horrified blue eyes fixed on the cringing figure. “W-what are you saying?”
“I’ll settle for the suit.” Greedy hands rubbed together, stiff with age. “Shoes too.”
Leon swallowed hard, then cast a look over his shoulder back at the brightly lit street. He turned back to the old man and gritting his teeth, began to strip.
Four hours later, he cradled Amelia’s head to his chest, relieved that the kidnappers had returned her unharmed. He smiled indulgently when she babbled about him moving heaven and earth to find her. He didn’t answer her question of how he’d done it. He only stroked her face, learning her all over again.
Eight years later, he sought that same dark alley, briefcase in hand, a distraught Amelia left in the car parked on the other side of the street.
“Knew yeh’d be back, sonny,” the old man said, gleefully.
Leon licked his lips. “I-it’s my son, Jared. He’s been—some business associates of mine, they thought it was the best way to get to me. If the police are involved, they’ll kill him.” He lifted his chin. “I won’t risk my son’s life.”
The old man clapped his hands together. “We be makin’ a deal then, sonny.”
“I’ve brought money,” Leon began.
“Keep yer money.” The old man wheezed. “Gimme th’ suit.”
Defiant blue eyes glared at him, but Leon set the briefcase down and began to shrug out of his Armani suit.
Four hours later, he clutched his precious son to his chest, unable to keep a few tears from watering the boy’s head. “Oh Jared,” he breathed. Amelia tried to hug them both and they sat together, comforting each other for the rest of the day.
It was five years later when Leon ventured down that alley once more. He looked about, uneasily, as rats slunk along the shadowy corners. From the shabby pile of cardboard, the old man emerged, black eyes glittering in the dim light. He didn’t say a word, simply waited.
Leon stood tall. “I have a business matter that is—important. I would like to-”
“Be sure ‘bout this, sonny.” The old man warned. “Be dead sure.”
Leon’s lips curled into a smirk. “For what? I’m more sure than you, old man,” he mocked. “Still need another suit?”
A flicker of sadness flashed through those black eyes as the old man bowed his head. “Watch too,” he said, softly.
Leon snorted. He unclasped the new Rolex and threw it at the man’s feet.
Four hours later, Leon ran for his life, pure fear coursing through his veins. His entire world crumbled around him and he couldn’t figure out why. The very shadows rose up to swallow him it seemed.
He’d never seen a business deal turn sour so fast. Everything should’ve been perfect. That’s why he’d gone to the alley in the first place. And it’d been worth it, after all a suit was nothing compared to the multi-million dollar contract he was about to settle.
Until he’d seen them.
Shadows everywhere, with blood-red eyes.
And then the voices.
He lurched into the familiar darkened alley. “What did you do?” He screamed. “You cursed me!”
The cardboard heap shifted and instead of an old cripple, a distinguished fellow rose, clad in the suit Leon had traded hours before. “I dinna have to do that, sonny. T’was yer own doing.” A look of pity settled on his chiseled features.
“Take it off! Fix it!” Leon threw himself at him, clawing at the suit.
“First for love, then for family, but the third time, for money?” He clucked his tongue. “You dinna need it.” He patted Leon’s head. “That’s called greed.” Thin lips curled into a sneer. “World don’t need yer kind.”
Too late, Leon recognized the tone of finality in his voice. He turned in time to see the red-eyed shadows pouring into the alley, and then they were upon him.
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