The Minister heard the door click.
“You’re free to go, Maggie.”
“She’s already gone. She was kind enough to make tea before she left.”
A man entered the Minister’s office, carrying tea on an ornate silver tray. He was tall and thin, wearing an immaculately tailored black suit.
“Who the hell are you?” The Minister demanded. “I strictly do not accept guests without an appointment.”
“I won’t take much time Minister,” he said, pouring two cups of tea.
“Answer my question,” The Minister prompted. He flipped the switch under his desk that would turn on the security light outside.
“I’m a friend,” the man replied politely, handing the Minister a teacup. “If that’s what you want. The late Minister, Mr. Pearce, was a good friend of ours.”
“Ours?” The Minster asked, though he didn’t really expect an answer. Where the hell was security?
The man sat down opposite the Minister, taking a leisurely sip from his tea and watching him with a placid, but deliberate expression.
The Minster took a sip of his own tea, stealing a glance at the door.
“I understand you’re a busy man, Minister, so I’ll be frank: I am a respectable member of this community. I pay my taxes, I help the less fortunate…Do I deserve to be treated like a criminal?”
“I don’t understand.”
“Two armed men came to my estate this morning, demanding to see my purification permits. I obliged, but it seems that the documents, signed by Minister Pearce himself, are no longer valid. My boss isn’t too pleased by all this confusion and I am not too pleased at having my breakfast interrupted.”
“Pearce’s system was messy. Your boss must re-apply for permits, like everyone else, through standard paperwork. I am not Pearce, I’ll not be bullied into looking the other way.”
“I don’t come where your children are playing, flashing a gun and demanding things. I am not the bully.” His voice was unshakably friendly.
The Minister preferred it if he’d shout.
“I simply want to make a business arrangement with a reasonable man.”
The man checked his pocket watch, considering it for a long pause, then reached for something inside his jacket.
The Minister pulled his own pistol before his guest even looked up.
The man stared into the barrel of the gun, his dark eyes brimming with a fiendish amusement as he retrieved a small tin from his coat.
“I’ll not be…” the Minister’s voice shriveled up in his throat. His heart raced. The gun fell. His vision tunneled.
The man ate something from the tin and placed another on the Minister’s desk: a small pink capsule. The Minster could not move his arms to reach for the pill.
“Antidote,” he explained. “Pity some men cannot be reasoned with.”
The man stood, his dark suit stretching upward, a haunting shadow, as the Minister slid from the chair. His throat burned with each breath.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t come to an agreement.”