Life could be mean. In one hand he held a swath of red silk. The other, a stuffed envelope. Neither choice was good…
“There a problem, Fucker?” Paul asked from across the desk.
“No,” Matt said, and dropped his gaze to the items in his hands.
“Caroline! Get your ass in here,” Paul bellowed.Matt moved to stuff the scarf and envelope into his jacket pockets.
“No you don’t,” Paul said as the door behind Matt opened.
Though he could not see her, Matt felt Caroline approach. She stopped right behind his left shoulder. He did not dare turn to look at her. Her breath sounded short, rapid.
“Ah, Caroline,” Paul, still seated, exclaimed stretching his arms in a faux hug to her.
“Daddy,” she said.
“Do you know this boy?”
“I don’t know. I can only see his back.”
“You, Shithead,” Paul commanded. “Turn.”
Matt looked at Caroline. She was tense. He offered a reassuring smile, but she looked past him to her father.
“No, Daddy. I do not know this boy.”
Matt turned back to face Paul.
“See. I told you so,” he said and began to put the envelope and swath of silk back on the older man’s desk.
“Hey, Fuckhead!” Paul roared. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Er, I thought…”
“You thought nothing. She’s lying. You’re lying. Stay right where you are and shut the fuck up while I talk to my daughter, you hear? Do you hear me?”
Paul sank back into his chair and lit a cigar. He took a few drags, relishing the smoke.
“Caroline,” he said, “you’re a liar. You know this boy, this Matt character in front of you. In his hands are two items. One is an envelope filled with an undisclosed amount of cash. A small fortune. Or is it merely an envelope stuffed with paper? The other item is a strip of red silk. A symbol of both passion and danger. Do you know why he holds it in his hand?”
There was a prolonged silence.
“Tell her,” Paul instructed Matt.
“To… I must choose. I must choose the envelope or the silk. If I pick the silk, I must strangle you to death with it.”
Matt turned to Caroline. He was unable to decipher her thoughts at that moment.
“Hey, Numbnuts, don’t look at her. Look at me,” Paul said. “It’s time to decide.”
“I know who you are,” Matt said. “I know that people fear you. I fear you. But you will never take away what Caroline and I have shared. I love your daughter. She will die with that knowledge.”
Matt tossed the red silk swath on the desk along with the envelope and turned to Caroline. He drew her into an embrace.
“Sorry,” he whispered.
There was a loud bang. A gunshot. Matt felt a terrible pain in his stomach. He looked over his shoulder at Paul, who smiled and shrugged.
“Me too,” Caroline said as Matt slumped to the carpet.
“Aw, come on,” Paul called as Caroline walked to the door. “The right one is out there somewhere. We’ll find him, Sweetheart. Promise.”