September Contest: Life & Deliverance by Suzanne Williams

June 1863, New York City

“Cain’t … cain’t b-believe you didn’t … didn’t …” The man hiccupped and the odor of whisky smacked his tablemate in the face. “Die,” he finished. Through bleary, red-rimmed eyes he lifted his glass, draining the contents in one swallow. “I’ll have s-another,” he slurred.

His tablemate nodded and generously refilled his glass. Worthless drunk. But then getting him drunk was the idea.

The man gulped at the golden liquid, dribbling it on his chin, and slid his hand down to his crotch. “L-lice,” he garbled, scratching vigorously. Emptying the glass, he extended it again across the table.

But this time, his tablemate corked the bottle.

“N-now, friennnd,” the man said, the words dragging out interminably. “Y-you promisssed me. You sssaid even trade.”

“Indeed,” his tablemate said in a rumbling voice. “And so where’s my part of the bargain?”

“Yyyour part is upstairs. I gots … gots her all ready for ya.” His eyes filled then with great, salty tears. “She’s … she’s all I got. Speshhhal, she is.”

The tablemate, a burly man in his mid-forties, hardly doubted that, though he’d seen her and she was a pretty thing. Fresh. Pure. Like he liked.


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