“Hayden, my boy, it’s been a long time.” Smiley said as he leaned back behind his desk, arms spread wide, inviting him in. Holden had forgotten how unsettling Smiley could actually be in person. He could never quite put his finger on what it was about the man, but he never liked actually being around him in person. The man was tall, though not overly so, only a little over six feet. He was also a touch too skinny, especially for someone in his position. He could certainly afford as many rich meals as he wanted in much the same way that he could certainly afford better accommodations for his business.

In keeping with his odd affectation of mediocrity, the man wore a dapper but slightly threadbare suit, certainly nearing the end of its life, though Holden knew from experience that it was a different suit every day and that if Smiley were to stand up, he would reveal perfectly shined shoes in excellent condition. But it wasn’t the shoes or the suit or their incongruity that was unsettling. It may have been the way Smiley moved. Holden had no real clue as to the man’s background, but he seemed to be late into his fifth decade. And there was no telling how many past lives he had had, but Holden often wondered if one of them had been spent as a cat burglar. His movements were far too fluid in everything that he did. Smiley had a way of turning something as simple as reading a sheet of paper into a nearly felonious act.

But no, Holden thought. That was a factor for sure, but ultimately it had to be something in what gave the man his name. Smiley wasn’t just some ironic moniker. The man smiled, it was what he did. Cliche or not, the nickname was apt, and he wore it with pride. He smiled like a shark smiles at its prey: mouth stretched wide over uncannily white teeth, one of which was perhaps a bit sharper than nature had probably intended. What was worse was that the smile never shined through in his eyes, and if it ever did, it only served as proof that it was never intended as a smile of welcome. What Smiley’s eyes did shine with was a deep, troubling intensity, a hunger. When those eyes were turned on a person, they could almost feel them boring in under the skin, seeking out all that they cherished, every desire, every weakness. Smiley’s eyes could unravel a person, decode them in a moment. And when combined with the smile… Yes, that was it. He really wanted this to simply be over.

“It’s Holden, actually,” he said, taking a seat as Smiley indicated, never taking his gaze off of those eyes. “I had hoped that you might remember me.”

“Oh, don’t you worry, my lad,” Smiley laughed. His voice was raspy, but uncommonly deep for such a thin man, another odd combination that only made him more unsettling. “I meet so many people, it’s hard to keep exact names. But I never forget a face, Holden. I never forget a face.”

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