“Spit,” the man demands. Sal obliges, cupping her saliva in her right palm, where it mingles with the blood pooling from the cut across it. She slaps it into his hand, where their fingers grasp each other firmly. “Sealed,” the man says, confirming it is done. His eyes flare for a second, flame red, across the black enlarged pupil, before returning to an indiscriminate grey.
“I leave it there?” Sal asks, casting her eyes towards the gravel where the crossroads intersect, which shows recent signs of digging. The spade she brought with her is still standing in it, partially buried, enabling it to maintain its upright position. He nods. “Don’t I get to know your name?”
“Nice try, doll,” the dark suited man says. “You don’t need it; not now. Plus, if I tell you, you’ve got leverage for as long as I give you, although it isn’t that long to play with in real terms. Doubt you’d have enough time to do much damage with it. Still, never try to play a player. I’ve been around too long to fall for that. You’ll know my name before the end. Once you do, you won’t want to – but it’ll be far too late by then.” He smiles at her, without apparent guile, though it does not reach his deadened eyes. Sal does not smile in response. “Still your man though, given you’re getting what you wanted.”
Sal opens her mouth to protest, before shutting it again, cutting off the words. “I’m used to high stakes,” she says, instead. Surprisingly, it produces an impromptu laugh from the bony stranger.
“Can’t push the ante past this point,” the man says. “You’ve dealt yourself the dead man’s hand.” His tone is mocking now that the deal is sealed and there is no reneging from it.
“Can’t live forever anyway. Wouldn’t want to,” Sal responds. The words falter as she breaks off, leaving the silence to speak for her once she is done.
“Hmmm,” the man says, pointedly.
“When will it take?” Sal asks sharply. “You’ve got yourself your deal; it’s done. What about Sara?”
“Already taken care of, my sweet. See for yourself shortly. Good as new. She’ll live out a healthy life.”
“Minus a mother.” Sal’s tone is bitter, briefly.
“You knew the stakes when you signed. Gambling’s always been a fool’s game. Take it from an expert; I’ve seen enough of them to know by now. All players in, seats open, playing for the high one; born to lose in life.”
“Nice to know that’s how you get your kicks,” Sal says.
“I haven’t even started,” the man replies. “There’s the second round yet. You’ll like me much better than my final friends, I can promise you that. They like to play more than me, though they’re less polite about it.”
Sal shudders at the words, though she tries to keep from shaking so it can be seen. “Will I see them?” she asks. “The hounds?”
“Will I know when they’re coming?”
“You have about a year, give or take. No more, possibly less.”
“But will you warn me?” Sal prompts, again. “Do I have time to prepare, to make plans?”
“Not so much,” the man says. “Unfair, you think? Maybe so. I told you though - I always make sure I hold the winning hand.”
“The ace,” Sal says.
“The only card I ever need,” the man agrees.
“My need,” Sal clarifies.
“Precisely so,” he says.
“Can I leave now?” Sal asks.
“Enjoy your time,” the man, whose name she does not yet know, invites. “You’ll hear them coming. They tend to bay when hunting their prey.”
“Sara can’t see,” Sal warns.
“Not part of the deal,” is his response. “You’ll have to take your chances – and, after all, how will you know one way or the other, when all’s said and done?”
Sal turns on her heel swiftly, before turning back for a final glance. He is gone. She does not know if recovering the cylinder containing the graveyard dirt covering the sliver of bone and her photo from underground will help. She has less than a year to find a loophole. All part of the game, perhaps.
This last week's Mid-Week Blues Buster entry, based on Motorhead's "Ace of Spades", It was a really pleasant surprise to wake up this morning to find out it had won!