Allen had been with him for two years. A young man, bright and hard-working. Simpson had favoured him over some of his longer-serving staff, often incurring the wrath. Allen was more than just an accountant, from the very beginning he has shown an acute business sense. The man has a natural flair for it and after 18 months Simpson had made him his assistant manager. And one month after that Allen Chan had taken his wife.
Simpson realised that the room had gone silent. He had been lost in thought, the hatred burning in his stomach like sour indigestion. Then he realised the old man was waiting for him to say something but, as far as Simpson was concerned the deal had been struck and the fee paid. It now fell to the old man to carry out his client’s wishes.
Simpson understood that he would not witness whatever rites the old man was to perform. Coming to his senses he pushed the brown paper envelope towards him.
“Is this sufficient?” He asked, almost afraid that he would be told that there was not enough hair or the gold pen, Allen’s most prized possession would not be suitable, or that the photograph, one of him and Allen taken together in the office would be too small.
The old man opened the envelope and removed the contents. Simpson noticed that despite the man’s age his hands were absolutely steady. The old man ran his fingers through the few strands of hair and picked up the pen. Then he carefully placed them aside and picked up the photograph. He looked at it for a full minute in silence. Then he replaced everything back in the envelope and told Simpson that it was all suitable. He spread his hands out on the table to indicate that their business was concluded but Simpson still had some questions.
“Please,” he said or tried to say. In his excitement, his throat constricted and the word came out in a harsh croak. He cleared his throat and tried again.
“What will happen?” He asked. “How will it happen?”
The old man studied him in silence for a while and then he began to speak and uncannily, the girl was translating simultaneously again.
“It will begin very unobtrusively. First, his eyes will dim. He will think that he requires glasses and have his eyes tested. Then they will be hair loss. Not particularly painful, but for a young, vain, successful man most distressing.”
“Then there will be fatigue and he will seek medical treatment. His doctor will give him a tonic and suggest a rest perhaps. But it will do no good.”
The old man paused before continuing.
“There will be a time when nothing more will happen. The victim will think that his troubles are over. Then he will develop open sores, and lesions on his scalp and genitals. Apart from the pain, the assault on his vanity will cause him equal suffering. He will withdraw from society and seek medical help but the physician’s tests Will reveal nothing and they will be unable to help him.”
Simpson interrupted the old man. “Please,” he said. “A question, Will he at any time become infectious?”
The old man regarded him silently and for the first time, Simpson noticed that one of his eyes was almost clouded over with cataracts. He thought it strange that he had never noticed it but quickly put it down to the pool lighting in the room. After what seemed like an age the old man spoke.
“Your wife will be in no danger. But in the last days, you must be wary of him for he will know what has happened to him and what is causing his death. And your final revenge will be his realisation that he can do nothing about it.
Finally the lesions will spread over his face and body. He will become hideous in appearance and by now the pain will be driving him insane. At this stage, he may commit suicide. No matter, the end will be very near.”
Simpson found that he had been holding his breath and he now left it out in a rush. He felt totally exhausted and drained, no doubt because of the tension and strain of the last few months. He sat back limply in his chair, uncertain of what to do or say next. He looked past the old man to the heavily curtained window. He could see a ray of light in which dust particles danced madly. As he watched the ray turned red and started to fade away. He glanced at his watch in the dimness of the room and saw that it was nearing five. Outside it would still be light and he longs to get out of this place into the sunshine again, to feel its warmth on his face and hands.
He sat up straight and once again became the successful businessman that closed million-dollar deals with easy regularity, the service had been requested, a price agreed upon and now it had been paid. The deal concluded. He closed and locked his briefcase and stood up.
“Thank you, Sir,” he said, “for your assistance.”
The old man did not rise but inclined his head slightly. The girl stood up and beckoned Simpson to follow her. As she walked in front of him she seemed taller, somehow less fragile than she had been when she let him in.
She was wearing pale blue shiny style pants that accentuated the outline of her hips as she moved. She open the front door and stood by silently as Simpson passed out onto the landing. He thanked her and looked into her eyes. They seemed narrower now, less almond-shaped than he remembered. It was almost as if in the course of the meeting she had grown from a girl into a young woman. She did not acknowledge his thanks but merely looked at him as she slowly closed the door, leaving him alone on the landing.
(c) Copyright John Stewart Sloan 2020 – Not for Distribution