A Price of Freedom

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic

Jack owes a lot of money and the man he owes it to wants it now. When given the choice to play a deadly game in order to win his freedom, Jack takes the opportunity without question. Can he go through with the task or will the price be too high?

 “Come on, you’ve gotta give me a few more days.  I swear I can get the money to you.”  The words echoed throughout the small room, hurting Jack’s ears.  Nervously, he paced back and forth in front of a man sitting at the folding table, cards splayed about on its surface. 

The man leaned forward and spoke.  “I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

Jack stopped and slammed his hands on the table.  “Do you know what I’ve been through to get you this money?  I’ve stolen from my wife, my parents.  Hell, I even stole my kids’ college money from their savings accounts.  All I want is to get even with you and all I need is another few days.” 

 The man stared at Jack, a hint of amusement seeming to cross his face.  He opened his mouth and said, “You stole from your kids?” with a chuckle.  This was met by Jack with an angry frown, his face red and sweating.  The man waved his hands through the air.  “It doesn’t matter anymore, Jack.  The money you lost came from a very powerful person.  If you want to do something about it, you’ll have to talk to him about it.”

 “Why didn’t you just tell me that in the first place…?” Jack mumbled.  He stood up and looked around.  “Where is he?”

“He told me to take you to him.  Follow me.”  The man stood and walked out of the room.  Jack followed closely, anxious to plead his case to this man.  They stepped out of the back room out into the lounge of the bar.  Jack looked around as they passed through, a disgusted look on his face as he again wondered why he ever came to a place like this.  The two men walked out onto the street and headed down to the right.  Finally, they came to what seemed to be an abandoned building.  The man knocked twice and the door was cracked open.  A large head poked out, eyes narrowed and glancing about.  After a few mumbled words, the door was flung open, allowing the men entry.

They walked down a hallway, bland and bare.  As they came to a big open room, Jack began to hear loud noises, noises he recognized.  It was the sound of people betting on something.  As they walked past the open door, Jack glanced in, unable to help himself.  Inside, he simply saw a large crowd of people gathered around something that seemed to be in the middle of the room.  He didn’t get a good look at it.  Jack looked back down the hall and saw the man standing next to a door, obviously his destination.

 Jack had almost reached the door when he heard a gunshot from down the hallway.  He instinctually covered his head and bent down.  When he decided it was safe to get up, he asked, “What the hell was that?” 

A man walked out of the room.  He was a short man, maybe close to five feet tall.  Every hair on his head was white.  “That would be a gunshot, Mr. Staley.  I’m sure you’ve heard one before.”  The voice was unlike anything Jack had ever heard before, a voice that was both quiet yet demanded attention.  He turned his face and looked into the man’s eyes and almost jumped in surprise.  The eyes were completely devoid of color and gave the man’s gaze a creepy feel.  “Please, come in.”

Jack paused for a moment before following the man inside.  The door shut behind him and the noise quieted.  “Have a seat.”  The man was already sitting in a huge chair behind a desk.  A small stool was in front of it.  Jack sat down, occasionally shifting around due to the uncomfortable nature of the stool.  “So, you owe me some money Mr. Staley.  Are you ready to pay your debt?”  The man’s hands were on the desk, fingers clasped together as he sat in the chair that almost seem to dwarf him.

Jack started to speak but the words didn’t come.  He had to clear his throat before he could manage.  “I want to.  I just need a few more days.”  After a slight pause, he added, “Sir.”

  A wide smile passed over the man’s face, almost seeming to split his face in half.  “A few more days, huh?  Do you know how many times I hear those words in my line of work, Mr. Staley?  No, I’m afraid you’ve run out of time.”

Jack wrung his hands together, desperately thinking for a way out of this.  “Please, sir.  I just need a bit more time.”

“Oh, relax, Mr. Staley.  I say you’ve run out of time because I’m giving you a chance tonight to wipe your debt clean.  Are you interested?”  Jack didn’t have time to answer before the man added, “Oh, and before you answer, you should know that someone else may be…displaced if you agree.  I’m sure that won’t matter to a man like you, though.”

Jack still answered very quickly, “Yes, I’m interested.  What do I have to do?”

The man smiled again, nodding his head slowly.  He stood and said, “I knew you would.  Please, come with me and I’ll show you what I mean.”  The man led the way down the hall and turned into the room with all the other people.  As the man entered the room, everyone cleared the way immediately to let him through.  Jack simply followed in his wake. 

They came to a clear spot finally and Jack saw a pair of men sitting at a table in the center.  In between them on the table was a standard six-shot revolver.  Without warning, one of the men picked it up and pointed it at his head, finger hovering over the trigger.  Jack gasped with surprise when the man actually pulled the trigger.  A loud click resonated throughout the room and everyone burst out cheering.  The man sighed and sat the gun down, a smile on his face. 

The small man turned to Jack and asked, “Do you know what this is, Mr. Staley?”  Jack shook his head.  “It’s a game called Russian Roulette.  One bullet is inserted into the gun and the chamber is spun.  We randomly choose who goes first and the players take turns shooting themselves in the head.  Whoever lives is the winner, of course.”  The smile returned, just as ominous as before.

“This is what you meant by getting out of my debt?” Jack asked, afraid to hear the answer.  Before he got his answer, the man turned back around.  The room had gotten quiet again because the other man was taking his turn.  Jack was close enough to see the individual beads of sweat running down the man’s face and his hand shaking on the trigger.  Slowly, he pulled back the trigger.  A loud bang echoed through the room, making Jack jump.  The man slumped forward, a large hole in his head.  The other man jumped up out of his chair and raised his hands in victory.

“Yes, Mr. Staley.  This is the only way you can get out of your bet.  If you play and win, I will let you go with nothing holding you down.  If the other person wins, well, I’ve taken care of you anyways.  Are you willing?”  The man stared at Jack, his eyes twinkling. 

Jack thought about it for a few seconds.  He figured that this man would simply kill him if he refused to play.  Logically, the best way out was to play.  He might still die but he could win too.  “I’m in.”

The man clapped his hands together.  “Excellent.  Please, take a seat.  We can squeeze you in right now.”  As they had spoken, the body had been cleared from the table.  Jack sat where he had been sitting.  On the table, he saw a few droplets of blood, left over from earlier. 

After a few seconds, another person sat down at the table.  Jack looked up and almost gasped in surprise.  The other player was a girl, one whose age Jack couldn’t really tell.  Her face had a timid and meek expression on it and her body seemed so small.  He thought she could probably pass as thirteen or fourteen but assumed she was at least eighteen.  Their eyes met for a second before she averted her gaze.

A man walked up to the table and showed the gun to the crowd.  He chambered a single round and spun the chamber.  Then, placing the gun in the center of the table, he spun it around.  It stopped pointing at Jack.  The man motioned him towards the gun, obviously saying it was his turn first.  As Jack picked up the gun, the room went quiet.  He moved the gun to his head, liking his odds for the first shot.  With a sigh, he pulled the trigger almost immediately.  The click of an empty chamber rang in his ear.  He sat the gun back in the center of the table.

After a few moments of the crowd chattering loudly again, the man gestured towards the girl.  Slowly, she reached out and picked up the gun.  Jack swore he saw her hand struggle against the weight, again wondering how old she really was.  Once she had it though, she pointed the gun to her forehead and pulled the trigger almost as fast as Jack had.  The click broke the silence once again.  The girl dropped the pistol back on the table, breathing heavily.

Once again, a brief surge of activity and then silence.  Jack grabbed the pistol again and put it to his head.  It took him a few extra seconds to pull the trigger this time but he was again rewarded with a satisfying click.  The girl took her next turn, taking even longer than Jack had.  Click.  She sat the back down, her hands shaking this time. 

Jack gulped when it was his turn again.  He knew that this could easily be it.  He also knew that if he lucked out at this point, he was home free.  His hand reached out, grabbing at the handle.  It slipped out of his grasp at first, a fine layer of sweat on his palms, but it eventually rose to his head.  He placed the barrel to his temple and rested his finger on the trigger.  Looking across at the girl, his eyes met with hers, her face a twisted mess of expressions.  He held her gaze as he pulled the trigger again.

He was so surprised by the click that he almost dropped the pistol.  As he realized, Jack’s face turned into one of glee, realizing he was home free.  He sat the pistol back down and breathed easily.  While the room broke out in craziness again, Jack watched the young girl.  She had begun to cry, realizing what was going to now happen.  Finally, the room quieted again and the man motioned to the girl.

To Jack’s surprise, she only sat there for a few seconds before reaching for the gun.  He wasn’t sure he would have been able to willingly subject himself to certain death.  Her hand shook as she raised the pistol to her temple.  Nearly a minute passed of her holding it there with no sound coming from the room.  Finally, she met Jack’s gaze and nodded.  Jack could see her finger begin to tighten on the trigger and the room seemed to suddenly slow down.  Adrenaline rushed through Jack’s veins and urged him forwards.  Without thinking about it, he lunged forward and grabbed the gun, quickly spinning it around and pointing it at his own head, pulling the trigger.

Click.  Jack released his breath, a look of confusion on his face.  The room was still silent and staring at Jack.  He opened the chamber of the gun and found that the bullet had been in the last position.  Pulling it out, he revealed that it hadn’t fired.  With a laugh, he dropped the gun and the bullet onto the table.  The room erupted into chatter.  Suddenly, Jack was grabbed and hauled from the room.  When he was released, he was standing in front of the man, the girl next to him.

“Congratulations, Mr. Staley and Miss Jones.  Somehow you drew some incredible luck.  While I don’t usually like it when people take extra turns, I’ll make an exception this one time.  You are both free to go.”  The short man turned around and left, not saying another word.  The other man opened the door and pushed the two winners out onto the street, shutting the door behind them.

Jack and the girl stared at each other, still a bit shocked at what had happened.  The girl was about to open her mouth when Jack interjected, “Come on, miss.  Let’s get you home.”  He placed his arm around her shoulder and walked with her out of the alley.

Submitted: July 10, 2011

© Copyright 2021 wemibelec90. All rights reserved.

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