“Don’t move, and you won’t get hurt.”
The sawn-off barrel of the shotgun waves an inch from the bald man’s face.
“I’m sure we can come to some arrangement,” he says, smiling.
“Just give me the money,” the man shouts. “I just want the money.”
“How much money do you want?” the bald man asks. “And why?”
The man with the gun narrows his eyes a little. “Why do you want to know?”
“Because, as I say, I think we can come to some kind of arrangement. A quid pro quo, if you like.”
“What do you mean?”
“You do something for me, and I will do something for you.”
Eddie thinks for a minute, and lowers the gun a little. Then he raises it again, pointing directly at the man. “No.”
The bald man continues to smile. “Why not?” he asks. “If you need money, I have something that can get you a lot more money than is in my till. More than this entire shop is worth, actually.”
Eddie frowns. He feels there might be a con here, but he’s not sure whether he can’t just con the guy back.
The bald man cocks an eyebrow, tilts his head on one side and asks “Interested?”
“Tell me,” he says.
“Have you ever heard of ‘The Monkey’s Paw’?”
Eddie shakes his head. “I don’t want any hunting trophy, if that’s what you mean.”
“Quite right too,” the shopkeeper smiles. “Let me show you something.”
He turns his back, gestures with a finger and leads Eddie to the back of the shop, and stops at a cabinet filled with rings.
“Most of these rings are valuable,” the bald man says, pointing to a ring with a black stone. “But this one I daren’t even touch myself, for fear of damaging it, even though the stone itself is onyx, which isn’t valuable at all.”
“What’s that got to do with me?”
The bald man turns to look at him. “Everything, dear boy.”
Eddie looks at his watch. It’s just coming up to two. The time when he’s supposed to meet Sutton’s “boys”. He doesn’t have the five thousand, of course, but if the antiques guy is right, that doesn’t matter any more. He’s waiting on the corner of the road, as instructed. There, just turning at the end of the road, is Sutton’s limo. This is it.
He taps the ring three times, like the man told him, to wake it up. As he said, it turns a dark, fiery blood red. He whispers his wish to it and kisses it, as instructed. “Ciao,” he says, and the ring turns black again. Ten minutes starts now. Eddie hopes the timing is right.
The black car draws to a halt at the kerb. One of the darkened windows is open a little.
“Get in,” comes a hoarse voice from inside. That, Eddie thinks, will be the big guy. The one who cracks his knuckles a lot and laughs in a mean way. Eddie’s never been on the receiving end of this guy’s attention, and he’s glad of it. Still, after tonight, he never will.
The door opens, and the big guy gets out. Eddie gets in, and the big guy sits next to him.
“Hello Eddie,” says Sutton. “Have you got my money?”
“No,” Eddie says.
Sutton cracks a fake smile that doesn’t look friendly, and Eddie has a sudden jolt of fear that they’re going to kill him before his first wish can come true.
“That wasn’t our arrangement, Eddie.” Sutton says.
“All I mean I don’t have it on me,” Eddie replies, panicking a little. “We gotta go meet a guy who’s bringing it me. He just called – he’s running late is all.”
“You better be telling the truth, Eddie Gene,” Sutton grunts. “Or you’re a dead man.”
“I’m not planning on dying today, Mr Sutton.”
“Good boy.” Sutton’s smile gets a little bit more friendly. “Where are we going? Let’s meet this friend of yours.”
Sutton knocks on the window and the driver opens it.
“Where to, boss?” he asks.
Eddie tells him, and the window closes. They start driving, in silence. Sutton grins at him.
“Near a bank, huh?”
“So that’s why you’re so confident. You had the damn money in the bank after all?”
Eddie shakes his head. “He does. But he owes me.”
The big guy in the next seat cracks his knuckles. Eddie gulps, nervously.
The car turns right, then left, then slows. Eddie looks out of the window and sees the bank.
The big guy opens the door, and Eddie gets out. Sutton gets out of the other side. He sees the driver get out of the front, and that’s good too. All three have left the car, meaning everything is, so far, going according to plan.
Eddie looks up and sees the bank door open. Out burst two men in black masks, with sawn off shotguns.
Sutton grunts something, and the big man shoves Eddie against the wall. Dazed, he sinks down as the back of his head hits the brick wall behind him. Slumping down, he vaguely sees Sutton and his boys shouting, reaching for something, and then the two men shoot at Sutton, and the driver. Consciousness slips away as he hits the floor.
Eddie opens his eyes to see a nurse looking at him.
He nods, but it’s painful.
“There’s a policeman to see you,” the nurse says.
“Send him in,” Eddie says.
“Are you sure? The doctor said -”
“Send him in,” he interrupts. “I wanna know what happened.”
The nurse mutters something, nods, and goes out. Eddie hears some murmurs past the door and a plain clothes inspector and a uniformed police officer enter the room. The plain clothes man pulls up a chair and sits by the bedside, while the uniformed man sits at the door.
“Mr Gene?” The inspector asks.
“I’m Chief Inspector Lennox and this is PC Durrell, we’re just here to ask you a few questions about the bank robbery yesterday and whether -”
“Yesterday?” Eddie’s eyes grow wide. “What the hell happened? It feels like a couple of hours ago.”
“You had a mild concussion,” the inspector replies. “Nothing serious, but you’ve been unconscious for about thirty hours.”
Eddie moves his left hand over in the bed and feels his right hand. The ring is gone.
“Where’s my ring?” he asks. “Have you guys got it for evidence or something?”
The inspector shakes his head. “You’re not a suspect in anything here, just a witness. All we want to know is what happened.”
Eddie thinks. It’s not worth him trying to work out what they know. For a start, that will make them suspicious. Stick to the truth, as close to it as you can.
“I owed Sutton money,” he says. “He was a loan shark, but I can’t afford the repayments. I’ve already paid more than double what I owe, and he still wanted more. So I asked him to take me to the bank, and then I was going to run for it. Lay low. Maybe come to you guys. I don’t know what I was going to do. I thought I could talk to him, but he wasn’t that kind of guy.”
“You’re saying was,” the inspector says, looking up from his notebook. “As if he’s dead?”
“Yeah,” Eddie continues. “I mean, isn’t he? I saw it. We got out of the car, I’m gonna make a break for it and these two guys come out of the bank, and one of them, big guy -”
“Jorgensen,” the policeman interrupts.
“Him, yeah, so he pushes me and I hit the wall and I start to go down and I see Sutton get a shotgun blast in the face and I’m wondering why.”
“Yeah,” Lennox says. “We’re wondering it too.”
“All I saw was Sutton and his guys reaching for their shooters.” Eddie shrugs. “Maybe they thought they were going to be heroes or something, like they were in some action movie.”
“Perhaps,” Lennox replaces the pencil in the side of the notebook. “We’ll leave you now, Mr Gene.”
Lennox shrugs. “We’ve other witnesses to interview, Mr Gene. Thank you for your time.”
Eddie lies back, relieved. He presses the button to call the nurse, to ask for the ring.
Eddie isn’t sure if he’s heard the guy right. The lawyer is a sober-suited individual, stick thin. The kind of body that looks like it will snap in a high wind, yet you know is wiry and honed with lots of work at the gym. Someone who enjoys their workout and takes it far more seriously than anybody should in Eddie’s opinion. The sort of man that pork pies and bitter were invented to avoid.
The lawyer coughs and looks down at an elegantly manicured hand, and flits through papers for a moment, trying to put off saying something uncomfortable.
“Of course, that’s in the case that you’ll never walk again.” The lawyer leaves a beat, as though trying to imply that there’s hope, when they already know the reverse. “It’s pretty much the top level of compensation that I can get for you, I’m afraid.”
Eddie down, looks at the ring. The silence goes on just a little bit too long.
“It must be a shock, of course,” the lawyer continues. “Having seen something so distressing, and had such a terrible accident.”
“Yeah.” Eddie shakes his head. “And to think I wished for this.”
“I’m sorry?” The lawyer stares at him, eyes wide. “You wished for what?”
Eddie looks up, realises he’s said too much.
“For money, I mean,” he says. “Wished for money.”
“Can you undo what the ring has done?”
The bald man shakes his head. “Unfortunately, you can’t wish away the results of its wishes. I did tell you that. I did tell you to be careful.”
Eddie nods, pulls the ring from his finger and places it on the counter.
“It’s too damn dangerous,” he says.
“I did warn you,” the bald man says. “Jacob here did say you ought not to take the ring.”
“I did, Mr Munro,” Jacob says. “I said that.”
Eddie puts one hand on the wheel of his wheelchair and sighs.
“I wanted money,” he said. “I didn’t specify how I got it.”
“Ah,” says the bald man. “That sounds like a mistake there.”
“Well,” he says. “Thanks for the loan.”
“Any time,” the bald man says. “Any time.”
Jacob goes to open the door and Eddie wheels towards it, crashing into a display case as he goes.
“Sorry,” he says. “I’m not used to this thing yet.”
“That’s perfectly all right,” the bald man says. “No damage done.”
“Except to me,” Eddie sighs. “Except to me.”
The post “The Onyx Ring” first appeared on simoncollis.com and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.