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1406

I still wasn’t sure why she wanted me to drive out to the house but whatever her reasons, I had to do something. The settlement I’d gotten from our divorce was all but gone and at thirty-eight, I wasn’t about to go back to delivering pizzas. Hell, I’d never had a real job in my life. I’d always been able to hook up with some well-to-do broad and ride the ‘gravy train’ until it would inevitably crash and burn.

The only problem was that I let myself fall for Liz. Even after a three year stormy marriage and a bitter divorce, I still found her in all my thoughts. I knew I still loved her and would do anything for her.

As I turned my ragged 78 Chevy van onto the highway and headed South, I thought about the strange conversation we had last on the phone last night.

”Liz? Are you buzy?”

”How much do you want this time? She asked with that sick voice she always used when she wanted me to beg.

”Liz, it’s a real good investment. ” I lied.

”How much?”

”The return is guarenteed five to one.”

”How much?” She said again, her patience wearing thin.

”Thirty thousand.” I said and held my breath for what seemed like an etrnity. Finally I heard her sigh in the background and knew that the money was as good as mine.

”Richard?”

”Yes Liz.” I answered in my sweetest voice.

”I want you to do something for me and I’ll give you the money.”

”Whatever you want Liz.” I replied knowing she probably had some humiliation line up for me. But I didn’t care. Thirty grand pays for a lot of embarrassment.

”Richard, I just bought a house up in Westbrook Hieghts. The address is 1406 Bluebird Lane. Can you be there before midnight tomorrow.”

” Yes.” I answered what she had in mind.

”I want you to stay there for three nights starting at midnight tomorrow. If you stay three nights I’ll give you the money. One second less and you don’t get a dime.”

”That’s it?” I asked, not believing what I was hearing.

”That’s all there is to it. The key is under the wooden plant box on the front porch. Call me when you get there. And Richard….make sure you get there before midnight.”

”I thought I heard her laughing as she hung up the phone but I didn’t care. ”Easy money” I almost screamed it outload and started packing my clothes.

After driving six hours straight I finally turned into Westbrook Heights and looked for the address. When I saw it I smiled at the huge three story house. ”Way to go Liz.” I said wondering how much she paid for such a magnificent home.

I admired the beauty of the perfectly manicured lawn for a moment then bounded up the steps amazed at my new found good fortune. I qiuckly picked up the key and unlocked the huge wooden door. When I turned on the lights I nearly lost my breast as I stood in awe of the beautifully furnished house. The place was absolutely immaculate. All the floors were covered with lush white carpet. The walls pure white with a thin blue and white mosaic border around the twelve foot cathedral ceilings.

I quickly went and explored each room of the house. They all had expensive modern funishings complete with big screen televisions and and built in VCRs in every room. I found eight bedrooms, each with its own bath. A den, three living rooms, a library, and entertainment room complete with pool table and jacuzzi. Even two fully stocked wet bars. ”Not too shabby Liz.” I said outloud and picked up the phone.

”Hello Liz.”

”Richard, Darling. I’ve been expecting your call.” She was obviously drunk but I didn’t care.

”You told me to call when I got here. Well I’m here.”

”What time is it?” She asked slurring.

”It’s 10:30” I said looking at my watch and again wondered what I was even doing there.

”OK Richard. The rules are very simple.” She said as I listened to the laughter in the background. ”Starting at midnight, you can’t leave the house until midnight Friday no matter what happens. Do you understand?”

”No problem.” I answered thinking she’d finally lost her mind. What could be so hard about staying here for three days?

”Well…good luck then sweetheart.” She said sarcastically. ”You can come Saturday and pick up your check.”

” I’ll see you then.” I answered and hung up the phone. What the hell was she up to?

I sat down on the huge leather couch and put my feet up on the marble coffee table. This is the life for me I thought, found a baseball game on TV, then fell asleep.

At midnight every clock in the house began to chime waking suddenly. I sat and listened to the many clocks as they counted off twelv chims in pefect unison.

Three days I thought. Seventy two hours, and drifted back to sleep.

I was awakened again by the ringing of the phone. As I answered I glanced at my watch. 2:45 AM.

” Hello?”

”Richard?” A male voice said.

”Who is this?”

”Richard get out of my house!” The man said and hung up.

I get it I thought to myself. One of Liz’s friends playing games.

The next forty eight hours went by without incident. I found myself actually enjoying my stay, even spent some time in the jecuzzi while sipping a Margarita. I always kept the cordless phone close by just in case Liz or one of her friends called again. But no one did.

I was wide awake at 3:00 AM Thursday when I heard the ‘thumping’ on the front door.

”Who’s there?” I yelled and qiuckly picked up my 45 and checked the clip.

The door thumped again.

”I have a gun!” I said standing a safe distance from it.

”That won’t be necesary.” The same male voice that I heard on the phone answered. “I just want to talk to you Richard.”

Liz’s friend again. I thought. OK. I’ll play along. I put the gun in the back of my jeans and peered through the tiny peep-hole in the door and saw a frail looking old man standing outside wearing an expensive looking three piece black suit.

”What do you want?” I yelled through the door.

” I have to talk to Richard…It’s about Liz.”

“What about her?” I asked still not willing to open the door.

” Richard…She’s dead.”

His words hit hard. He could have said anything. But not that. Please not that. I fell to the floor not wanting to believe it. The a thought hit me. Amazingly my first thought was for Liz and not for the money. The money…. Yes! Of course! Thats it! The money. This was probably just one of her tricks to make me leave the house. OK I thought. I’ll go along with this little game.

“Come on in.” I said and opened the door.

When he entered I instantly felt sad and alone. I couldn’t explain it at the time but all the things that were bad in the world seemed to be standing right beside me. I shook the feeling off and asked the man to sit down.

” Micheal Black” He said and extended his hand. When I shook it pain seared through my body like a bolt of lightning.

” I’m sorry.” He said. ” I always forget about that.”

” Who are you?” I asked starting to get afraid and angry at the same time.

” I am known throughout the world but you may call me Micheal.” He sat on the sofa and smiled a dark knowing smile. I felt my stomach churn slightly.

” Would you fix me one of those Margaritas that you’re so font of?”

” How did you…?” I started to ask then realized it must all be part of Liz’s plan. She probably had cameras all over the place. ” Of course.” I answered and made one for both of us.

The old mans expression changed to a much more serious one. ” Richard….I’m sorry about Elizabeth.” He pulled out a piece of parched yellow paper and handed it to me. ” But there is some business that we must take care of.

I smiled weakly and took the paper. It was a simple contract stating that Elizabeth Morgan had sold her soul to Micheal Black for ten million dollars on June 6th 1988. This guy is good I thought. That was the same day that Liz inherited his Uncle’s estate.

“What does all this have to do with me?” I asked continuing to play along with this charade.

“It’s very simple Richard. Elizabeth’s last request was to trade her soul for yours.”

” Right” I said almost laughing. ” She can’t do that”

Micheal smiled. ” Oh I’m afraid she can and did. Remember the wedding vows you made in front of God and 243 wittnesses?”

“Heart, mind, body and soul.” We both said in perfect unison.

“So you see Richard…Unfortunately for you, her soul is now free and this contract means that I own yours.”

“BULLSHIT!” I screamed. ” I’ve heard enough old man. GET OUT!”

“That’s fine Richard.” He said getting up to leave. “But Liz never owned this house. This is my house.” He smiled almost cordially. Never the less it sent chills down my spine. ” You may stay as long as you wish. For all of eternity if you like. But when you leave…Your soul will belong to me.

As he left I heard the same laughter that I’d heard on the phone.

“Crazy old bastard.” I said and picked up the phone to call Liz. No answer.

I didn’t sleep at all that night but decided to stay until midnight so I could get my money. I tried calling Liz all day with no success.

The hours ticked slowly by and I listened carefully as the clocks chimed off twelve midnight. I’d made it. As I opened the front door a thought occured to me. What if Micheal Black was telling the truth? Rediculous I thought as I looked my van waiting for me in the driveway. And let’s not forget my thirty grand.

I felt a chill as I stepped out in the cool night air. But only for an instant. I was suddenly surrounded by walls of fire. I screamed in pain as my skin melted away.

©1998 Steven R. Zellers

“1406” is published in Steven Zellers’ self-published book DARKTALES which is getting wonderful reviews.