“Now, look here, Basit,” said Maurice, stammering as he stood at the train station, “It’s really not my fault.”
“So it’s mine?”
“No! No sir! I’m not saying that,” stammered Maurice, “The train! It was delayed. Something happened to the tracks, th-the Cannonball!”
“Tsk, Tsk,” said Basit, turning on his heels and sauntering a few paces, “For shame, Maurice, old boy. You know there was never a clause in our wager about the tracks or unforeseen circumstances.”
“B-But how was I supposed to know-”
“Not my problem,” smiled Basit, spinning on his heels again and smiling at the shaking man.
Tulio Basit stood almost a head above him, and seemed to tower over the man. Maurice, being a humble supplier of materials commonly used in textiles, was shaking with a mixture of fear and fury.
“The shipment would’ve been on time,” said Maurice, “Hell, it would’ve been here almost a day early! I have no control over the tracks!”
“And I do,” said Basit, gesturing at his chest and blinking rapidly, “Look, Maurice, you’re arguing drops in a monsoon. The fact of the matter is here we are, a week behind schedule, and the wager was simple; I’d pay double if it was here on time, I pay a quarter should it be late.”
“M-Mr. Basit, have mercy,” said Maurice, “That’s an entire shipment at a quarter price. I’d go broke.”
“Not my problem, Maurice.”
“I’d go thirsty! I could maybe do a quarter off, but I can’t take such a loss!”
“Not my wager, sir.”
“N-now, see reason!” said Maurice, getting desperate.
“My men will be by this afternoon to alleviate you of the shipment,” yawned Basit, looking around as if bored, “The wagered price will be deposited in your account by the evening. Don’t be sore, old man.”
Maurice’s fear turned into a flash of anger as the dandy turned to walk away.
“Look here, you crook, how do I know you didn’t have a hand in all this?” he yelled, “You seem pretty smug for someone as surprised about this as I am. How do I know this wasn’t a Demon’s wager and you had a hand in that Cannonball business?”
Maurice barely had time to react. Basit’s two thugs that had been waiting in the wings made a dash forward as if like lightning, pistols drawn. A man sitting not far away had also risen, a pistol in hand. A ticket worker also wasted no time pulling a shotgun from behind the counter, the sights trained on Maurice.
For a frightening instant the calm, smugly smirking face of Basit flashed backward, a crazed look like a Goblin on the hunt and pure hatred aimed at Maurice. It had disappeared, however, as Maurice scanned the station. Four armed men with weapons trained on him and not a single person seemed to see it, or if they did they avoided it expertly.
Basit, his composure regained, sauntered up to Maurice, before leaning in.
“I know you're mistaken, Maurice, there’s no reason to go slandering and making such over-arching suggestions,” said Basit, his eyes glued to Maurice the whole way, “You’re just sore at the loss of an honest wager. Just in case, friend, let me enlighten you on an old Paorrian saying.”
Basit leaned in, his eyes boring into Maurice’s. His voice lowered to a whisper. Even the heat from his breath took on an ominous feeling despite the man’s cold, casual smile.
“It goes like this; ‘If you’re going to dance with a demon, you either better be able to play the fiddle well or be prepared to lose your soul!’ Well, Maurice? I don’t see a damn fiddle.”
Maurice broke eye contact. He looked to the ground, shivering in the heat of his gaze.
“Take them,” said Maurice, “Don’t count on any such wager in the future.”
Basit chittered an unsettling laugh as he straightened up, “Oh, old man, I’m counting on it.”
With a snap of his finger, the goons and their weapons turned and disappeared into their various nooks. Basit twirled his cane, turning and walking down the train station, singing a tune as he did so. Not far behind his two normal goons followed him, keeping an eye on the slumped form of Maurice.
Maurice wanted to cry.