“I’ll pay you as soon as possible. Really!”
“That promise won’t elicit more ‘n a hollow laugh from my hollow tooth,” the goon said.
I wondered about a graduate word like ‘elicit’ from such an uncouth mouth.
“Look, if I had the money, I’d give it to you – gladly. I don’t like debts.”
“Neither do I, neither do I, my dear boy. That’s why I’m here.”
He moved his right hand to his back, and it returned holding a gun.
My mouth dried up another notch, and I instinctively retreated a step.
He clucked with his tongue.
“If you weren’t Don Caprese’s son, my boy, and thus family, so to speak, I’d shoot you in the knee now.”
I felt like saying, ‘glad you’re not gonna,’ but he might have thought that too flippant and done it after all, so I just stood there.
“That gambling streak runs in the family, and it’s all right ‘s long as one’s lucky. But you ain’t. And that’s the crux.”
“As I said, I’ll pay it back ASAP. I’m already working on it.”
He gave a laugh that sounded indeed as if it came from a hollow tooth.
“I know you’s working on it. You been playing the races again.”
“But let me tell you it’s not gonna happen that way. You gonna be my slave from now on, my boy, and do as I tell you, until every penny of that 5000 is paid back.”
“What do you want me to do?”
“You know, I’m like a modern-day southern sheriff, ‘cluding the rattlesnake whip. I run a bunch of slaves that owe me money. … I’m having another house built right now, and I can use your hands, my boy. At five dollars an hour. So you’re gonna work your sorry little gambling ass off for me for a thousand hours. How many weeks is that, my boy? Eight hours a day, Sundays off?”
“I don’t quite know. … But you can’t do that … it’s illegal!”
He chuckled and made a nasty metallic noise with the gun.
“See you there tomorrow. At 7:30 on the dot.”
He put the gun away behind his back, pressed a card with an address into my hand and left.
– James Steerforth (© 2012)
Posted for Trifecta and ‘hollow’.