The Soul Broker

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It was the night of a new moon, which meant there was a deadline licking at his heels.

An unexpected month-long recess at a palace in Beirut had put Bo off schedule from which he resurfaced with an atypically large quota to meet, one that even by his standards was tight. He didn't sweat it, though. In his line of work, opportunity was never far from reach. Souls aching to be set free were a dime a dozen. For someone who had been in the game as long as he had, he preferred a challenge, anyway. The ones who clung to hope, convinced they could fulfill their desires while retaining their so-called virtue ─ they were the most fun to break.

But, given the circumstances, the low-hanging fruit would have to do.

A balmy Saturday night had the clubs packed with souls. He picked a random one in Manhattan. It didn't matter which one, they were all the same. As he passed through the tightly packed bodies, Bo could taste its patrons' inner torment, more bitter than the liquor flowing from the taps. Each one clawing for an escape through the most convenient forms of distraction, exchanging their hard-earned cash from hours of misery for temporary releases from that misery.

Thank Lucifer he wasn't one of those pathetic fuckers anymore.

It was a cycle he had observed for centuries. The methods changed, but the intention remained the same. A release from the pain of living. Places like the one he found himself in were a hotbed for his business. Still, there was an art to choosing the right mark, especially when the options were so abundant. He watched his younger colleagues make rookie mistakes, get too cocky, read a mark all wrong, and it cost them. He fancied himself one of the best in the business because he understood the nuances that many of his peers overlooked.

If there was anything Bo understood with keen familiarity, it was the pain of desire. When satisfied, it was the greatest sensation a soul could achieve. Left unfulfilled, however, and it would gnaw you into misery.

While his colleagues grew a comfortable distance from ungratified yearning into a state of taking whatever they wanted, when they wanted it, Bo chose to foster the memories of his former life. They faded like old photographs, but he preserved them as best he could, returning to them often and seeking out similar experiences in others to revive them. Most demons couldn't wait to forget their past. He knew the benefits of remembering.

That relationship with the human experience is what drew people to him. He didn't have to scheme and sell. He simply communicated.

It also meant he carried around more pain than his peers, but in his eyes, that made every indulgence and win more satisfying. Even his current choice of vessel was based on increasing the challenge. The man he possessed wasn't handsome in the conventional sense that his earlier vessels had been. The body was tall and muscular, but his facial features were unusual. On his long face stretched a wide mouth with full lips, a crooked nose, and dark eyes framed by a strong brow. His skin was pale while his hair was as dark as night. He was by no means ugly ─ he didn't care to lose all the benefits of an attractive physical appearance ─ but he had to work a little harder to shift people's perspective of him from strange to charming.

He rarely let his quotas run to the end of their deadline. In fact, he was regarded as an overachiever, bringing in more high-valued souls than his entire division combined. But the work had become monotonous and he, restless. He had willfully let the clock run out in an attempt to inject some excitement, and his confidence in his ability left him unconcerned, even as the clock drained to the final hours. Bo filled the time by enjoying the company of three unburdened college students, indulging in top-shelf whiskey, and offering his encouragement free of charge to anyone on the precipice of a bad decision.

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