50. The Real Edward

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In the backroom of the Diamond Club, Edward Benedict hovered behind a colored man, a hawk looming over a helpless field mouse. Animal heads stared back at them, mounted on the mint-green walls, including a ten-point deer, a Yukon moose, and even a golden-orange Bengal tiger. Edward circled to the front of the little man and fixed him with a glare.

"Maurice Jones," Edward said. "You're in a whole heap of trouble."

Maurice gave Edward a tentative look. He glanced over to the door, dead bolted shut and flanked by two colored henchman. One sported a light gray suit. The other wore a black tank top and dark-olive military pants, his veined arms as big as the former Rook's thighs. "I can pay back the money," Maurice said, his voice low and shaky. "I just need some more time."

Edward burst out laughing. "Where're you going to dig up a grand? Besides, I've already given you two extensions."

"It's not fair," Maurice mumbled.

"What'd you say boy?" Edward sat on the edge of a desk, admiring the boar's head, hanging on the wall over a long cream-colored couch.

"We were gonna take the lead when the fighting broke out."

Edward shook his head. "You know, it's a shame the Rooks lost the exhibition game by forfeit. Now you may be asking yourself, Mr. Benedict, why can't you forget the wager ever took place? Well, I supposed I could. But if word ever got out, what would that do to my reputation as a bookmaker? To my gambling enterprise? Why, it wouldn't be good, that's for sure. So I'm afraid I can't make an exception, not even for a former player."

Edward looked over at his henchmen before swinging his chin back at Maurice. "Take him to the Sanctuary."

"S-Sanctuary?" Maurice cried, a tremble in his voice. "What's the Sanctuary?"

Edward grinned, the electric ceiling light gleaming off his gold tooth. "Let's just say, it ain't no church." He said it with a chuckle.

Edward rested his hand on the suited henchman's shoulder. "You know what to do. Remember, no broken bones. The man can't pay me back if he's all busted up. But I want him to suffer so much pain, he begs the Lord for salvation."

A devilish grin spread across the suited man's face while his large partner's expression remained an unflinching mask of stone.

Edward glanced at Maurice and the little man remained as quiet as death. Though Edward had no intention of taking the former Rook's life, at least not yet, he would do everything in his power to protect his financial interests. If murder was necessary, he would not hesitate. Not this time.

The henchmen seized each of Maurice's arms.

"Come on, Mr. Benedict," Maurice said, pleading. "You don't have to do this."

Edward waggled his index finger at the former Rook. "You really disappoint me." He placed his hand over his heart. "You were one of my favorite players, and now look at you. You're a whining deadbeat. And you have until the end of the month to pay back my money."

"I need more time than that!"

Edward leaned over, his nose so close Maurice's sweat-beaded face that he could smell the little man's fear. "You're out of time. If I don't have my money by the end of the month, I'm gonna start charging interest. Ten percent on the unpaid balance plus a trip to the Sanctuary every month." Edward straightened up and nodded to his men. "Take him away."

As the henchmen hauled Maurice out of the room, Edward savored the little man's cries like sweet ragtime music.

The door banged shut behind the three men.

With that minor matter addressed, Edward Benedict could now pay full attention to his next interest.

Sarah Stewart!


Author's Note

I'm releasing this chapter without a lot of fanfare. I decided to release it this week (and not next week) for 3 reasons:

1) I didn't have a lot of revisions.

2) I wanted to try a new writing technique I learned. I think it worked.

3) I really want to wrap up this draft as quickly as possible. I've already started to plan the revisions cycles before publishing. If only I could do this full time lol.

Take care! And thanks again for stopping by.

Best Regards,

Tom

P.S. The Chapter Image - A five dollar bill from the 1910s.



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