Unseen hands grabbed my arms from behind. I kicked out, into thin air, and felt the acute pain of a blow just below my right breast. I shouted out in agony, falling onto the hard cellar floor. I was barely aware of my hands being cuffed, then I was manhandled onto a chair in the dark.
A bright light, like a stab of sunshine, shone into my eyes, hurting, even as I quickly closed them again.
“What you doing here?” The voice sounded foreign, Middle-Eastern perhaps?
“I could ask you the same question. Aagh!” A broad hand gave my right cheek a resounding slap.
“Listen, I can let you go. Just tell me what you do here.”
It seemed like I wasn’t in a position to argue. “It’s my home, our ancestral home. We’ve lived here for three hundred years. Who the hell are you?” My eyes crept open but I could see no face behind the bright light.
“Why you come through cellar then?”
“I lost my front door key this afternoon!”
I heard footsteps, saw a torch flashing, then the cellar lights came on, dazzling me. There stood a stocky young man. Perhaps twenty-five. He was clean shaven with dark, cropped hair. He approached, looked me up and down, then reached for his trouser zip.
“You are attractive.”
“Sorry, I just meant you are nice looking.” He reached behind me and unlocked the handcuffs. My arms and wrists hurt. I massaged them.
“My name is Stavros. I worked for your uncle Trevor. I did gardening, serviced his car. For two years. Before he move back here. Maybe you hear of me?”
“No, sorry. So why are you in our cellar exactly?”
He walked to a pile of small wooden boxes in a corner. “These boxes, they belong to me.”
“What’s in them?”
“Magic beans. When they grow, messages appear on the leaves. Didn’t you know?”
“No, that’s amazing! What messages?”
“Well, normally, they say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Missing you,’ that kind of stuff. These are … different.” He smiled and removed a box lid. “You come and see.”
I walked over and looked down on white beans, each with something engraved on them. I picked one up and turned it in the cellar light. ‘Pay up.’ “What’s this about?”
Stavros laughed. “Your uncle, he’s ex-army. His regiment was the Intelligence Corps. Seems some of the members have scores to settle. He got me to manufacture these. I would plant them in little pots and they would be delivered to the … ‘target.’ Then, as they grew, he … or she … would see the warning on the leaves. They grow pretty quickly, just a few days.”
“Yes, they would have a few days to settle up, or ….”
“Let’s just say, they wouldn’t be walking around without a stick.”
“Oh.” I sat back down. “So why do you want them back? And why do you carry handcuffs for heaven’s sake?”
“The handcuffs are good if I need to … persuade … someone. The beans, well, me and my friends have our own uses for them.” He gave a wry smile. “But now it is time to say adieu.” He pulled out a squat black revolver, fitted with a silencer, from a jacket pocket and pointed it at me. “So sorry.”
“No, please.” I felt hot urine on my cold thighs. “I’ll do anything.”
He took a step back, “I cannot take the chance, I tell you too much.” There was a deafening bang and he crumpled to the ground, his head smacking onto the stone floor.
Footsteps came from the cellar stairs. Uncle Trevor appeared, carrying a smoking pistol. My ears rang.
He gave a crooked smile. “Hello, Marie. Sorry about that. Stavros had outgrown his usefulness. There wasn’t time to fit a silencer. Come upstairs. There’s something I need to explain ….”
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