Story Excerpt
A Devil's Bargain

flame div

"It's time to go, Giovanni."

Giovanni nodded. As he looked back out at the sea one last time, he made his father a promise that he would return his legacy to him, and even if it took the rest of his life, he would make his father proud of him once again.

Knowing there was nothing else to say, Giovanni stood. He shook the lawyer's hand because he knew manners were important to his father. He just wished he had listened to more of his father's lessons before he lost everything.

"Thank you for everything."

The lawyer frowned. "Are you going to be okay, Giovanni?"

He truly had no idea, but he wasn't going to admit that weakness. "I'll be fine."

He shoved his hands into his pockets and started walking down the long driveway of his father's villa with nothing except the clothes on his back. He refused to look back at what he had lost. He would see it again one day. Just not today. He had a bit of growing up to do before then.

But growing up is hard to do when you don't know where your next meal is coming from. Giovanni traveled by foot, going from one place to the next. He worked for food and the occasional roof over his head.

Adhering to the lessons his father had taught him, he made sure he never did anything illegal or anything that would bring shame to his father, but not a single one of the jobs he'd found were anywhere close to glamorous.

He picked fruit, moved crates, dug trenches, helped build a barn. He even shoveled shit. He did whatever he needed to do, and still it wasn't enough. He lived hand-to-mouth existence, never able to save a single penny to regain his father's legacy.

Until one day...

Giovanni was sitting beside the road, watching out to sea once again. He was close to the end of his rope. He was hungry, dirty, and cold. At this point, debtor's prison was looking pretty good.

"Would you like to be rich and to lead a pleasant life?"

Giovanni turned to see a very handsome man in an Armani suit standing beside a stretch limousine. It just went to show how deep in his thoughts he had been. He hadn't even heard the limo pull up.

"I'm sorry?"

The man smirked. "I asked you if you would like to be rich?"

"Of course I would, but—"

The man held up a hand to stop him. "I will make you a deal."

Giovanni had heard things like this before. It was one of the things that had gotten him into this situation, but he couldn't deny he was curious. "What sort of deal?"

The man waved his hand toward the car. "Come inside where you can be warm. I have food and drink. You are welcome to it. No strings attached. You can eat while I explain my deal to you."

Giovanni was hesitant, but he was also hungry. Starving in fact. He could listen to the guy's spiel while he ate, then leave if the guy was feeding him a load of crap, which Giovanni was pretty sure he was. He climbed into the back of the limousine and sat down. A moment later, the strange man slid in and closed the door.

"So, where's the food?"

"Ah, yes, the food." The man snapped his fingers and a tray appeared with a small buffet fit for a king.

Giovanni's stomach growled as the aroma of perfectly cook meat wafted through the air. Fresh bread. Fresh fruits. Fresh vegetables. Pastries. Appetizers. Finger foods. Anything Giovanni could conceive of appeared on the tray.

"Please," the man said. "Enjoy yourself."

Giovanni didn't need to be told twice. He grabbed a plump turkey leg and started eating. He didn't realize several moments of silence had gone on until he set a stripped turkey bone down and reached for a hunk of cheese.

He swallowed tightly and turned to look at the fancily dressed man. "You said something about a deal?"

He grew confused when the man snapped his fingers and a black credit card with his name on it appeared between two slim fingers. Giovanni didn't dare take it without knowing what it was or what strings were attached to it.

The man chuckled. "You are not a stupid man."

That was up for debate, but whatever.

"This credit card has an unlimited amount on it. Simply say 'Give me some money', and you will get as much as you want."

"What's the catch?"

There was always a catch.

"This little charm will only work if you promise to go three years, three months, three weeks, and three days without washing your body or combing your hair or even shaving your beard. You can't even change your clothes. You can in no way through deed of your own, change your appearance from what it is now."

Giovanni had already gone months without a decent bath or a shave. He didn't even want to think about the condition of his hair. He had once been a handsome man who stopped people in their tracks when he walked by. He commanded whatever room he stepped into.

Now, not so much.

"Can I wipe my butt?"

It was an honest question.

The man crinkled his nose. "That you can do. I think we can make your groin area a free zone."

Thank god for that. "So, other than that, no bathing, trimming, or changing my clothes for three years, three months, three weeks, and three days?"

Was that something he could do?

The man nodded.

"And I can use this money any way I want?" Visions of getting his father's villa back floated through his mind.

The man nodded again. "It's yours to use any way you see fit. You can buy a mansion, travel around the world, throw money from the rooftops. You can do anything you want with it."

"And when this is all over, what happens to the money?" He would hate to have a glimmer of hope that he could restore his father's legacy only to have it snatched away from him.

"If you spend the money on others, the money stays wherever you spent it. If you spend the money on yourself, then what happens to it depends on you. If you do all these things I've laid out for you faithfully for the allotted amount of time, and you don't tell a single person about our agreement, then when the time is up, you shall keep the credit card for yourself, as well as anything you spent the money on, and the credit card will continue to produce as much money as you want for the rest of your life."

"And if I don't?"

The man's eyes flashed red. "I get your soul."