G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Pawn novelette (© 2019 by G. S. Norwood) is now available! We published this sample scene and two others on successive weeks. Read them here for free, or buy the entire novelette for Kindle.
The guy on the other side of the counter shifted from foot to foot, taking quick swipes at his streaming nose with the cuff of his beige flannel shirt. His eyes, half-hidden by greasy blond bangs, darted from side to side, as if he was afraid Hell Hounds would appear at any moment, hot on his trail.
God knows, the Hounds wouldn’t have any trouble following his scent. He reeked of sweat, adrenaline, and old urine.
I looked from him to the battered violin case he’d shoved across my sales counter toward me. I was pretty sure what I’d find inside.
“Two hundred bucks,” I said.
“You haven’t even looked at it!”
“But it’s gold!”
Of course it was. “One hundred. Take it or leave it.”
“That’s not fair! It’s worth lots more than that! You don’t understand!”
I did understand. I understood that all his hopes and fears were in that case. Maybe even his life’s meaning. I understood that he wanted his lost dreams and wasted talent to be worth more than one hundred measly dollars. I also understood that he was really, really, bad at striking bargains.
“Look, buddy.” I leaned closer despite the waves of meth sweat wafting off of him, “You used to be a musician, right?”
“I AM a musician!” He tried to stand up straighter, but some old pain caught him between the shoulder blades and he hunched over again. “I played with the Dallas Symphony.”
“Uh-huh. And you were pretty good. Then some guy challenged you to a fiddling contest, which you won, and he gave you his fiddle as the prize.” I rested my hand on the duct tape that covered the violin case. “This fiddle, which is made of solid gold.”
Heat, and a faint vibration, rose up from the case as if the instrument inside was alive.
“It has no resonance. The strings screech like damned souls. And ever since you got it, you’ve had horrible nightmares about giant, slavering bloodhounds with eyes red as fire, tracking you down to carry your soul to Hell.”
My gaze held his as the color leached from his face.
“The booze didn’t help, and neither did the pills.” I counted down the steps. “So you tried the harder stuff. You lost your chair at the symphony, then your cushy apartment, your equally cushy girlfriend, and now even your mother won’t accept your calls. Maybe I’m a sap, but I will take this cursed instrument off your hands and give you dreamless sleep, room to breathe, and one last chance to turn your life around. Plus fifty bucks.”
He blinked. “Fifty bucks?”
“That’s enough to buy you something to eat and a cab to the rehab facility of your choice. I’m giving you your freedom, asshole. You should be paying me.”
He nodded once, and took a step back as I counted out the bills. His fingers didn’t touch mine as he snatched his money and bolted out the door.
He didn’t need to run. The Hell Hounds were my problem now.
IMAGE: The image at the beginning of today’s post is a detail from the cover art, which is © 2019 by Chaz Kemp.