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The Candle – Final

Nuri and Garret walked further down the sidewalk. Nuri stuck out a hand and said, “We’re here.”

“Really?” Garret looked at the plain door. With the weather wear and dirt, it blended with the wall. “Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure,” Nuri said. “Knock or something.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna—”

“Knock,” Nuri interrupted and nodded towards the door.

Garret sighed and stepped up to the door. Using the side of his fist, he pounded hard on the door. Pausing for a few seconds, he cocked his hand back behind his head. A loud clack sounded and he halted the forward progress of his fist. The door swung inward and a cruel face poked out into the cool night air.

The thick, guttural accent asked, “Yeah?”

“Umm,” Garret shifted back two steps. “We’re here for our friend.”

“You are?” The dark-suited man took up the doorway. His round bald head sat on the top of massive shoulders. A gut protruded under a wide chest. The large jacket and baggy pants hid the rest of his features. “Which friend are youse here to see?”

“Uhhh…” Garret shifted his vision to Nuri then back. “Keith. The guy who owes you money.”

“Does this look like a financial establishment?” The hefty man shrugged, but his face didn’t change from the dull look he held.

“No,” Garret answered. He turned to Nuri and held out his hand. Nuri plopped the heavy yellow brick onto Garret’s hand. “But I bet this will cover the rest of the debt.”

The dark guard looked down at the gold, darted his eyes toward Nuri’s, then centered back on Garret. He muttered, “Come with me.” Turning, he stepped into the building. Garret stepped in with Nuri at the end.

The heavy door slammed shut as they progressed further into the room. The dim security light cast wavy shadows over the room, floor and walls. Heavy storage shelves stocked with different boxes, bowls, and other items took up the room. A small path led the trio toward a cramped hallway. They passed a room with a TV blaring a movie and two recliners facing it.

“Sparse,” Garret said as he peered inside. Nuri grunted and pointed further down the hall.

The large man stopped at a gate and slid it open. “On the third floor.” He pointed into a metal small metal room.

Nuri and Garret stepped in and the guard poked a finger onto the button with the number three. As he straightened, he closed the gate. The elevator lurched up and ascended.

“Something tells me this was a bad idea,” Garret whispered to Nuri.

Nuri rocked on his toes. “Maybe. But we’ll find out.”

The elevator stopped with as rough as it started. Garret reached forward and slid the gate to the side. Both of the men stepped into the alcove and then into the larger room.

“Garret?” Keith called from across the room. “You were supposed to do the delivery tomorrow.” He stood from the chair and walked toward Garret.

“Keith!” Garret took a few steps forward then stopped. “You don’t look like you’re in trouble.” His eyes ran over the table with food and drinks. The three other people in the room turned towards Garret and Nuri. “What’s going on?” Garret’s eyebrows raised as he scanned each of the people in the room.

“Is this the guy with the money?” A man stepped forward. His suit moved with him and had the expensive look to it. Keith nodded. “Do you have the rest of the money?”

“What is this?” Garret asked. “It looks like Keith here isn’t in trouble.”

“I’m in trouble,” Keith said. “I owe these guys.” His hands splayed and he shifted to encompass everyone.

“Garret,” the well-dressed man said. “If you have the remaining balance, all will be right with the world and you can go on your way.”

“Nuri,” Garret said. “Do something.”

“What?” Nuri turned his eyes towards Garret.

“I don’t know,” Garret whined. “This doesn’t feel right.”

“Garret,” Keith said. “It’s OK. As long as you have the money.” His eyes moved to the heavy brick in Garret’s hand. “Where did you get that?” An arm twitched to the bar.

“Well, now,” the well-dressed man said. “It seems you have the remainder of the balance and then some.”

“I’m not paying,” Garret said backing away. “Until someone explains what is happening.”

“Garret,” Keith said. “It’s simple. I owe these gentlemen money and you paid them. I’ll pay you back when I can. Now give them that and let’s get going.”

“You know what?” Garret said with a sigh. “I don’t care. I just want out of here.” He placed the yellow brick on the ground. “Here’s your payment. Keith, let’s go.” Garret turned to leave.

Two of the other men moved to intercept. A signal from the well-dressed man stalled them. Keith slowly walked towards Garret and both of them headed to the elevator. Nuri stayed close behind and entered the elevator with them. The three men remained silent as the slow-moving car descended.

When it lurched to a stop, Garret pulled the gate open and retraced his path to the door. They moved past the open room where the large guard sat in a recliner watching a movie.

At the door, Nuri said, “The candle, please.” He held out a hand to Garret.

“No,” Garret said.

With a chuckle, Nuri said, “Do you remember what happened before? It’ll just get worse.”

“Yeah,” Keith said. “Give him the candle.”

Garret looked at his friend. “How do you know about the candle?”

“Uh,” Keith said. “He just said something about it.”

“This whole thing stinks,” Garret said. “I’m keeping the candle.”

“That would not be a good idea,” Nuri said as he crossed his arms.

“Garret,” Keith said. “You might want to do that.”

“No.” Garret reached for the door.

Nuri held up a hand and snapped his fingers. The guard stepped from the shadows into the dim safety light of the room. “Give me the candle, now.” Nuri’s eyes narrowed and his amiable features flowed to hard.

“I said no,” Garret said. “You did not meet the conditions of our accord.”

A cellphone chirped. All eyes turned to the giant guard as he pulled the black bar from his jacket pocket. He flipped a thumb across the surface. His lips moved as he read the message.

“What do you mean?” Nuri said with a smile. “Your friend is right there and his loaned has been repaid with more than enough—”

“His debt to me has not been paid,” Garret said as he touched his chest with a thumb. “And I’m not forgiving it, either.”

Nuri’s smile faltered and a meaty hand clamped down on his shoulder. He darted his head over his shoulder and saw the tough-looking guard.

“Da boss said to detain you,” the guard said.

“Then we will go talk to him,” Nuri turned to head back the way they came. “Come on Garret.”

“Just you,” the guard said. “Dey are free to go.”

“That can’t be,” Nuri said. “They didn’t get all their money.”

“Mr. Bianchi says just you,” the guard flexed his fingers into Nuri’s shoulder and raised a fist.

“This is some kind of misunderstanding,” Nuri said as he moved with the guard. “That’s a gold brick. Worth more than what was owed.”

“Not according to Mr. Bianchi.” The guard walked toward the back, pulling Nuri with him.

“Well, that worked out,” Keith said, pushing past Garret and into the night.

“No,” Garret said as he walked behind Keith. “Not by a long shot. Explain.”

As they walked to Garret’s car, Keith told the story. Mr. Bianchi approached him earlier in the week about forgiving his loan if he went along with a plan. He continued on with the story as Garret drove them home. Keith agreed as it would clear his debt and allow him to keep his money. Garret asked clarifying questions, but most Keith didn’t know the answer to.

“Look,” Keith said. “I’ll get you the money.”

“Yeah, you will,” Garret said. “Tomorrow when everything opens.”

“Ummm,” Keith said. “I don’t have it anymore.”

“What?” Garret slammed on his breaks. “If you didn’t need it, it should still be in your bank.”

“I placed it on a race for tomorrow,” Keith said. “It’s a sure thing.”

“I doubt that,” Garret said. “You will start paying me and I mean soon. No interest. Just make what you can.”

“Thanks,” Keith said and went silent.

As they drove through suburbia, Keith turned to Garret and asked, “Who was that guy, anyway?”

“He called himself Nuri,” Garret said. “He knows about Gypsy stuff and can do magic.”

“Really?” Keith snorted. “And you believe in that?” He wiggled his fingers.

“I didn’t,” Garret said. “Until I saw it.”

“How so?”

“Nuri knew did magic to find you,” Garret said. “Or I thought he did.”

“What was that about the accord thing?”

“He didn’t want money,” Garret said. “He wanted my candle.” His hand patted the jacket pocket with the bulky item. “It is real and I experienced it firsthand.”

“What does it do?” Keith pointed to the right and Garret turned.

“Well,” Garret said. “When I lit it, it made me pass out and have a dream about the future that involved you.”

“What happened at the restaurant?” Keith asked with a shake of his head. “That wasn’t part of the plan. Mr. Bianchi was the only one to know about it.”

“If you say so,” Garret said. “Right now I’m not sure what, or who to believe.” Garret pulled to a stop in front of a house.

“Thank you,” Keith said and extended his hand. “It worked out.”

Garret shook the proffered hand. “You need to stop gambling.”

“I do,” Keith said. “I’ll start tomorrow. After the race.” He smiled and slid from the SUV.

“What race and who did you bet on?” Garret asked.

“Bored Holiday,” Keith said. “I played it safe and bet for him to place.”

“OK,” Garret said. “I’ll see you tomorrow then.” Keith closed the door and Garret pulled away.

It took ten minutes for Garret to get home. Once inside, he pulled the candle from his coat and placed it back where it belonged. Standing there, he pulled out a book of matches from the drawer. In a fluid motion, he had one burning and placed it on the candle wick.

Garret watched as a double-pronged smoke tendril wove through the air to his nose. He folded his legs and sat, pulling the long wisp with him. “A horse name Bored Holiday.” His shoulder touched the floor and his eyes closed.

Published inSerialshort story

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