Quitting time came and Garret left with the large picture frame sticking out from under his arm. Putting the bulky item in his back seat, his phone chirped. He unlocked his phone as he slid into the driver’s seat. It was a notification about the message forum. Sliding his finger over the phone surface, he read the email. It was a private message from Gypsy Runes and Curses. The sender’s name was Nuri.
“Great.” Garret sighed and rolled his eyes. “Just what I need now. Spam.” He tapped the link to the email.
Did you light the candle?
Garret sat looking at the email, his finger poised over the link. After three eye-blinks, he tapped the link. He entered his password and viewed his profile for Gypsy Runes and Curses. Touching the message link, he tapped the reply button. “I did. What does it matter?” His finger landed on the send button and he touched the phone lock button. As he stuck his started his car, the phone chirped again. Rotating his head to the small shiny device, Garret viewed the notification. Using a single thumb, he saw the email. Following through to the notification, he viewed the email. It was the same sender.
I know. Call me. A phone number showed after the text. A few finger slides and he turned on Bluetooth. Once connected to his radio, he backed out of his spot. After he exited the parking garage, he touched the phone number making his phone dial.
The phone rang once. “Yeah.” The voice carried the sound of too many cigarettes as an undertone.
Garret’s voice was loud. “Is this Nuri?”
“Yeah,” the voice said. “Who else would it be?”
“My name is Garret,” Garret said. “I’m the one with the—”
“The Candle of Foretelling,” Nuri’s voice scratched over the speakers. “I know. What happened when you lit the candle?”
“Ummm…,” Garret said as he navigated the streets. “Nothing, really.”
“Nothing?” Nuri said, his tone going flat. “Or you don’t want to say?”
Garret went silent as the raspy voice breathed over his speakers. “Something happened.”
“What?” It was a question, but sounded like a demand.
“I blacked out and had a dream.” Garret recited what he remembered of the visions and how he felt when he woke up two hours later.
“Alright,” Nuri said. “Did you intervene?”
“Did you intervene?” Nuri repeated his question, his voice getting harder. “Did you tell this Keith person about what would happen? Or did you prevent it from happening?”
“Ummm…,” Garret said, his voice going soft. “I guess I prevented it from happening. There was this guy, and he was talking to Keith—”
“I don’t care about that,” Nuri interrupted. “What did you change?”
“Look,” Garret said as he turned off the highway and merged onto surface streets. “I don’t get it. What does all this mean?”
“You altered history,” Nuri’s voice was flat as if he was reading a grocery list.
“No I didn’t,” Garret said. “I saved my friend from having beef jerky for a face.”
“Yeah?” Nuri’s voice raised in pitch. “You altered history, but history doesn’t like to be altered. So now, it will be normalized.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“If someone was supposed to get beat up, someone will get beat up,” Nuri answered. “How did you help your friend?”
“He took out a loan from a thug,” Garret answered. “So I gave him money to pay off his loan. Or most of it.”
“So when the thug ask this Keith guy where he got the money,” Nuri pulled in a long breath. “What’s he gonna say?”
“Uhhh…well…umm…” Garret gripped his steering wheel, turning his knuckles white.
“Right,” Nuri said. “You don’t know. This thug will go after the money, which means Keith will still get his face rearranged. And now, he’s going to say your name. Which means the thug will come after you. Do you have the intestinal fortitude to take a beating and shut up?”
“I’m not a simpering wimp,” Garret said, his voice loud and his face turning red.
“How about when they pull out a knife or take a pound of flesh?” Nuri asked. “Literally.”
“Exactly,” Nuri said. “Let me tell you what’ll happen. You’re gonna give up the candle, maybe even show ‘em how it works. They’re gonna kill you and take it. Next, they are gonna use it to get money or some other thing, and then chaos will happen. People will die, things destroyed, life as we know it will cease.”
“Now you’re just making this up,” Garret said with a snort and smile.
“Did you see the future?” Nuri’s breathing sounded over the speakers.
Garret went quiet for three turns and he pulled into his garage.
“Exactly.” Nuri’s voice quieted said. “We need to meet. Where do you live?”
“I’m not telling you that,” Garret said.
“Fine,” Nuri responded. “Tomorrow morning. Henderson Park. Seven am. Bring coffee. Black. None of that fu-fu crap.” The line clicked and Garret’s phone disconnected.
Garret slid from the driver’s seat and pulled the frame from the back seat. Inside, he propped it against a wall on top of a low bookcase. He stared at the cards and sighed.
His phone rang. Pulling it from his pocket, he looked at the caller. Keith.
“Keith, what’s up?” Garret walked to his kitchen and pulled leftovers from his refrigerator.
“Hey, Garret,” Keith said. The sound of cars in the background came on the heel of the introduction. “Thanks for helping me out today. I need another favor.”
“Keith,” Garret said. “All of my money is tied up with you now. I don’t have anymore to pay off your loan.”
“Right,” Keith said. “That’s what I told them.”
“Them?” Garret put the salad bowl on the counter.
“Yeah,” Keith said. “Since I came up with a lot of my loan in a short time, they want it all.”
“Sorry, man,” Garret said. “I can’t help you. Maybe your wife or another friend?”
“Sarah can’t find out,” Keith said, his voice getting loud. “My friends are all gamblers like me. They don’t have it.”
“Look, Keith,” Garret said.
“Hey,” a new voice came over the phone. It sounded like the tanned man from earlier, but the background noise made it difficult to be sure. “You the guy bankrolling this loser’s loan?”
“I’m not bankrolling anything,” Garret said. “He paid you enough to cover most of his loan. Let him go.”
“Oh,” the new voice said, carrying a hint of laughter. “He paid a lot of his loan off. However, by doing so, we have lost out on the ability to make money from this venture.”
“I’m sure the loan is not paid off,” Garret said. “He’ll come up with the next payments and then you’ll make your money.”
“You don’t get it, smart guy,” the rough voice said. “We’re calling in the loan. This means he has to pay. You got money, you pay. Or else it’s the end of your friend.”
“I don’t have that kind of—”
“We’ll call you tomorrow.” The line disconnected with a dull sound.
Garret’s fingers flew across the screen as he redialed the number for Nuri.
The ring sounded in Garret’s ear when it was interrupted by the familiar scratchy voice. “Let me guess, your friend’s in trouble and the thugs contacted you.”
“How did you – Nevermind,” Garret said. “You’re right. I’ll text you my address. You have to be here in an hour.”
“Fine,” Nuri said and the phone disconnected.