The gift

The slim man stopped cold on the sidewalk in front of a blank, gray door. The tiny ebony numbers were barely noticeable under the single black sliding peephole. Uncertain, the young man pulled a single cream, engraved invitation from his back pocket. His blue eyes darted from the four numbers on the page to the matching four numbers on the door. His breath hissed out from between clenched teeth, making a frosty cloud of ice crystals in the frigid air.

Heart thumping in excitement, the lanky man stretched forward to grasp the black painted door lever. His slender fingers trembled before latching hard on the metal. He thrust the door open, putting all his spare weight behind the push. The door was immensely heavy, much heavier than an ordinary door. The young man’s mighty effort carried him into the waiting building.

The interior of the building was bleak, with pale gray walls bouncing brilliant white light across the bare concrete floor. In the middle of the room was an oblong box, wrapped in metallic crimson paper, topped with gold and crimson spiraled ribbons.

The slim man slid forward, peering around the large room with blue eyes squinted nearly closed. Gingerly, he nudged the ornately wrapped box with his black booted foot. Neither sound nor movement came from within.

Curious, he crouched down next to the box upon the plain concrete floor. His fingers twitched toward the ribbons, itching to pull the knot loose. The metallic spirals easily slipped apart. The papered top fit easily in his trembling hands.

Inside the box, nestled in clouds of white tissue paper was another box, smaller and simply wrapped in stiff white paper. The nervous man lifted the smaller package from the nest of white and slipped a slender finger under the stiff taped flap of paper.

The wrapping came off quickly, revealing the square cardboard box within. He pried the top off the smaller box, a smile spreading across his face in anticipation. But inside, to his shocked horror, was an ugly black handgun, with a tactical rubber grip and oiled barrel. Perched on top was another ivory card, boldly engraved with a single name.

He couldn’t tear his blue eyes from the name emblazoned on the card, Harlan Edmonds.

His name.

Then the hot white lights flashed once, then fell dark. He heard the heavy door scrape open once more. In the darkness, he fumbled for the gun.

The stiff creamy card bearing his name fluttered to the ground, name face down on the hard, cold gray concrete.

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