The Debt Coleector

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
A tale from beyond the shadows

Submitted: March 10, 2017

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Submitted: March 10, 2017



Theodore Hawk was a man, who was relevantly content with his lot in life; he had sort of fallen into his position. Theodore prided himself on being practical about things in life; his job was one of these things. It was a simple equation really; if he had turned down the position then someone else would have taken it. After all everything in life came at a price, those who borrowed were meant to repay. Not every person however had the same simple outlook as he had, Theodore lived a frugal lifestyle. He had never felt the urge to take a wife or have a family, he lived in a big house but he had bought it for cash and for the right price. His housekeeper was a widow who struggled to make ends meet; therefor she was willing to work hard for small money. So he had no qualms what so ever of stripping the assets from any one foolish enough, to get themselves in debt they could not repay. He was merciless when recovering what was owed to whomever employed him at the time, the sight of a family on the side of the road awoken no empathy with him. Instead it only served to remind him that, his outlook on life was the only proper one.

Theodore was a firm believer of the old adage, ‘neither a lender nor a borrower be.’ Oh! He had heard what they called him behind his back; it was a play on his name. ‘Theo the Vulture’ they called him, still that mattered not a jot to him. Theodore had no friends and he supposed quite a few that called him foe, but in his practical world this held no sway. He meticulously went about his business and his coffers grew. Theodore could not be held responsible for the foolish actions of others, so for all intents and purposes he did quite nicely on the back of others misfortune. Most others in his trade, of which there were only a few, worked of a basic fee, but Theodore worked on a percentage of what he recovered. This was why he went out of his way, to ensure that nothing was missed. Another thing that he was meticulous about was valuing what he had recovered; he found it worth his while, to pay a fee to a collector to value his spoils. This arrangement had stood him in good stead over the years, employers rarely even bothered now to haggle over his fees. Yes, all in all it was correct to say, that Theodore Hawk was content with his lot in life.

The delivery boy who arrived with the letter stood morosely on the door step, the child moved from foot to foot in a nervous manner. Theodore was not a slow witted man and he knew immediately why the boy lingered, however his take on the situation was, that the boy had already been paid to deliver the note. Therefor it did not fall within his remit to further compensate him for his efforts, with this in mind he closed the heavy oak door in the child’s face. Theodore stood in the hallway feeling the quality of the paper; it was of the finest paper, not cheap by any means. He sniffed the folded note and examined the fine wax seal, a faint odour of expensive cologne wafted from the note and the wax was the expensive ruby red kind. If this was an offer of work as he suspected it was, then he felt it would be a lucrative endeavour for him. The house keeper brought him a bowl of the thin gruel he usually had for lunch, one substantial meal a day was suffice in his mind. Besides he had a supper appointment this evening to discuss the new job, the potential employer would be providing the food. So much saved from his pocket he thought with satisfaction, as he watched the house keeper place the meagre meal before him.

Old Mary was a skeletal figure of a woman; she looked old beyond her thirty eight years. The years of toiling to provide for her family had taken its toll on her body; she was stooped over and walked with the shuffling gait of a woman twice her age. Still he had made a good choice when employing her; she was no longer able for the heavy labouring work of her early days. So now she was willing to keep house for him for a meagre wage, he noticed the black soot marks on her hand as she brought his lunch. Other employers may have chastised her for this tardiness, but Theodore saw something else in this. It meant that she had been busy cleaning out the fires and cooker, it also meant that she had not wasted valuable time washing her hands before tending to the task of preparing his lunch. Theodore waited for Mary to shuffle out of the room, and then he spread the letter before him on the table. He already knew what it said as he had read it when the boy brought it, but now he studied the flowing script and the fine paper with renewed interest. Something about this invitation was beginning to intrigue him, Theodore was not a man taken to flights of fancy. However he had a strange intuition that something life changing was about to take place, perhaps this offer whatever it might be would see his star in the ascendance.

The great city had been spreading its smoky tendrils ever further out into the surrounding country side, now land that had once been fine arable ground was becoming swallowed up by concrete. Of late more and more of the affluent members of society were building great houses here on the outskirts of the city, it being preferable to the smoggy crime ridden streets of the inner city. Theodore now found himself in these new surroundings, he paid the coach driver what he considered an extortionate fare, and made a mental note to add it to his expenses with a small percentage on top. The big house he found himself outside was in his mind, a vulgar display of wealth and affluence, still it boded well for him that the owner liked to display his wealth to the world. Theodore sat opposite the man in the decadent surroundings of the great dining room, a myriad of servants fussed around preparing the table and serving the meal. His host was a distinguished looking gentleman of indeterminable age. At a guess Theodore would have placed him in his middle sixties; he had the most intense dark eyes that Theodore had ever seen. Those dark eyes had an unnerving ability to make Theodore feel he was under a microscope, in truth he found himself almost intimidated in the presence of this man. The meal like the nature of the business was dealt with in a brisk manner, when they shook hands later Theodore felt a shiver down his spine.

The task he had agreed to take on was straight forward enough; after all it was what his profession entailed. However the earlier feeling of enthusiasm for this job had begun to wane, he felt slight uncomfortable about the whole thing. But as to the reason for this he could not say, after all it was simple, he was to go to a certain address and recover goods to the value of an unpaid debt plus interest. They only thing out of the ordinary about this particular job, was the fact his employer had specifically forbade him to accept cash as a settlement. Theodore buried his misgivings on the situation and began to plan the task ahead, he sent Mary to the local taverns in search of the two men he employed as enforcers. She would arrange that they would be available first thing in the morning; he always used the same two thugs to dissuade any debtor from resisting parting with their belongings. The address led Theodore and his thugs to a narrow side street in the heart of the old city; they stood outside the small shop with the dusty windows. Above the door hung a sign with faded print, he could just about make out the name ‘Collectors Corner’, the appearance of the old place gave him a bad impression that nothing of great value lay within. It was still early and the proprietor had yet to show, however they did not have long to wait before a small thin man showed up.

Theodore had heard all the whinging excuses that men could forward, regarding their inability to pay their debts. However the small balding man was the first one, to actually deny there was a debt and to do so convincingly. Something about the man gave Theodore the impression he was being truthful, however the two thugs would demand payment regardless of the fact that nothing of value was recovered. There was also the matter of the cost of hiring the horse and cart, not to mention the large fare he had been charged to go to his employer’s house. Theodore was not a charitable man and he was certainly not willing to lay the loss his expenses, so he chose to ignore the man’s pleas. Theodore went about his business of cataloguing and removing the stock from the dusty little shop, in the beginning the owner had made an attempt to prevent this. However he now sat dazed in the corner of the room nursing a deep gash across his nose, compliments of the cudgel of one of Theodore’s associates. This was where he remained while the stock and fixtures were removed from the premises. By and large the stock was a mixture of collectables of limited value, things changed when they forced the man to unlock the small office in the back.

This was when the man became extremely agitated and tried his best to stop them entering the small room, he resisted with a force far beyond what would have been expected of a man of his stature. A couple of well-aimed strokes of a stout cudgel were required to pacify the man, only then could they proceed to enter the small area. On finally entering the room Theodore was at a loss as to why the man put up such resistance, apart from an old desk and threadbare chair there was nothing else. No safe or valuables of any description were on show, and then he spotted it sitting on the window sill. It was half concealed by an old velvet curtain, the most unusual wooden box he had ever seen. It was cylindrical like a hat box and of a material he could only guess was ebony, the container was covered in meticulous carved symbols. There were no apparent hinges or locks on it, when he picked it up the owner cried out in a pleading voice. He begged and pleaded with Theodore not to take the box; by the time they were leaving he had taken to making veiled threats as to the consequences of taking the box. He appeared quite insane when they left him, he was laughing hysterically and kept repeating over and over again, “What is in that box, you will wish you had never seen”. Theodore held the box on his lap on the way back to the warehouse; he could have sworn that there was something living contained inside.

The man who came could not put a value on the strange box, and in fact showed reluctance to even hold it to examine it. The other items from the shop amounted to a tidy sum, but nowhere near what he had hoped to gain from this exercise. Theodore was now even more desperate to see what this strange box concealed with in, so he locked up the ware-house and returned home taking the box with him. Long into the night he sat in his study by lamplight examining the box; over and over he traced the symbols with his fingers. Until he must have touched the symbols in the correct sequence, a clicking sound followed and the whole top of the cylinder moved, Theodore sat in stunned silence looking at the human head, it was shortly after that the visions appeared in his mind. Visions of the hardship he had inflicted on people played over and over in his mind, starving children and suicidal parents plagued his thoughts. The tightness in his chest grew and grew but he was unable to move, everything that had ever resulted from his work played out in vivid detail in his mind. His heart was racing now and his chest felt as if an elephant had stepped on it, when the severed head spoke to him the racing heart just stopped. Theo the Vulture faded into the dark abyss, followed by the words of the monstrosity on his desk. It said” Behold the sins of your greed Theodore”. Before Theodore’s body was even cold, the distinguished looking man entered the room and resealed the box and then left quietly with his prize.  

© Copyright 2018 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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