Greetings, Stranger

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This writing prompt comes courtesy of The Daily Post

You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?

The stranger sits down. He stared at me very pensively. He was pale, gaunt.  His clothing screamed of someone who wanted to blend in; blacks and browns. He wore penny loafers. I didn’t even know they still made penny lovers, or even more tragically that people still bought them. As I looked at the stranger, I could feel him searching my face.  His gaze was unsettling, and left me watching the condensation slide down my water glass in jagged little streaks.

“So… do we know each other?” I inquired in the most polite voice I could muster under the strange circumstances.

“No”

“Hmm… well would you like to tell me your name?”

“No”

The silence between us was now unbearable. For perhaps the first time, I truly met his gaze.

“Would you please take a walk  with me?”

“I don’t know you, you won’t tell me your name, and you want me to take a walk with you? Why should I?”

“It’s important. It’s desperately important.”

The earnestness of his words nearly ripped me from my chair. Every syllable dripped of desperation. He seemed harmless enough. I took a final drink of my water, and placed my money on the table. I followed behind the stranger as he ambled lazily towards the door.

As we moved into the twilight of the streets I took another look at the stranger. He didn’t quite look sickly. He looked like someone who had a massive weight  on their shoulders.

“So what is this all about?” My patience was waning.

“I’ll tell you as soon as we get to the park.”

I was very familiar with the nearby park. Only a block or so away. It’s the kind of park built on the edge of a forest preserve. Little play gym for the kids. Great place to walk a dog, read a book, or scope out the local divorcees on a Saturday afternoon.

I suppose I was so lost in thought, we covered the distance in what seemed an instant.

We sat at the far end of the park, near the corner.

I was full of anticipation as we sat down.

“So what is the big secret? I can’t wait to hear.”

“You probably could. I’m gonna need you to remain calm.”

As he said that, I hadn’t noticed the gun that he’d slid out of his pocket, and held lazily in his hand, lying limply on his thigh, dangling from the edge of his index finger. As my gaze dropped down, it took a few seconds to register. I finally looked up into his face.

“I have been hired to kill you.”

The words struck me like a slap in the face. It was hard to find my voice, and I immediately jumped to my feet.

“Sit down! Do not make this any harder than it needs to be.”

“Is this some kind of sick joke?

‘Sit down!”

“Or what? You’ll shoot me in front of all these people?”

“What people?”

And that was when the horrible reality of the situation stepped in, as I looked around…we were alone. This park, which during the afternoon was teeming with nannies, and overprivileged children in overpriced strollers…was empty.

It was at this moment my body deflated. An acrid taste entered my mouth, and my knees became rubbery. I had no choice but to sit down. My body was leaving me with no other option.

“Who would hire you to do such a thing?”

“I can’t tell you…nor does it matter.”

“Why?”

“Who doesn’t matter. As to why they want you dead. That information is truly not of my concern. You must have done something horrible.”

“How much? How much is my life worth?”

“$25,000 for you dead. $40,000 if I make you suffer,”

“You can’t do this” I pleaded, tears welling in my eyes.

“I’m sorry. But I need the money. I can’t imagine how you must feel.”

“You can’t do this. I’m a good person. I have a family. I’m a good person.”

“I hope that isn’t true. My conscience will have enough to bear as it is. I want to believe that you are a low person, deserving of the fate that is coming to you. Let us leave it at that.”

“Please…”

“We’re going to walk into the tree line. It will be quick.”

And with that, the person grabbed me by the arm and stuck the gun into my side. He led me into the tree line. It seemed in a flash we were surrounded by shadows, as the sunlight danced it’s last few rays across the tree tops. My mind was in a race. There had to be something I could do to stall, to buy time.

“How can money make you kill another person.”

“Because like you I have a family. They are in need. All this world truly cares about is money. I must provide for my family.”

After a few moments, we stopped.

“Kneel down please.”

My legs simply gave out under me, and I slumped to the ground.

“You’ll get caught. You can’t just kill someone and get away with it.”

The stranger walked around me slowly.

“Someone is going to hear the gunshot.”

“Unfortunately sir, I won’t be using the gun. My family has quite a bit of debt, and I am going to be needing the full $40,000.”

 

The End

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