Holden was careful to leave Smiley’s place at as close to a normal pace as he could manage. His brain was screaming at what he had just seen, but he certainly didn’t want to give Smiley the impression that he was anything less than confident in his ability to pay the man back. He kept reminding himself that he had a sure thing. The check he had in his pocket was worth more money than he had ever had in his twenty seven years. If anything went wrong… but no. It was a sure thing. Certainly. Even so, he kept picturing that table in his mind. He kept seeing his own face, mangled and torn and still alive, silently screaming and twisted with panic. It was a sure thing. He had nothing to worry about. He would turn Smiley’s ten thousand marks into a million, and he would be set for life. The mad man would get his money back, and his interest, and Holden would be done. Done with the mills, done with the Black. Done with the back alley penny games and the slums and the single room apartments. And if anything went wrong, he would be done breathing. No, no, don’t think about Harry, he thought, think about the Rose District, the mansion. The high life.

On the other hand, if anything did go wrong and Famke found out about it, she might actually kill him before Smiley could get his hooks in. He actually laughed aloud at that thought, a nervous cackle, before he noticed people in the street staring at him and made himself stop. He realized he had been walking aimlessly, lost in his own horrible thoughts. He was still on the Hill; best not to attract attention, especially carrying a hefty check.  He had to make it to the bookie to avoid anything going wrong.. But he really didn’t have anything to worry about; his future was locked in. One more day and he would be rich. A few more and he would be living the life he always wanted, and all of this would be a distant memory. He set out again, past the shifty-eyed guards on the border post and out into the Black.

Each step took him further and further away from his thoughts of the gruesome table in Smiley’s back room. Things were finally beginning to turn around for him, finally looking up. One chance moment on the street and a bit of hard scrambling was going to get him to the place he’d been trying to reach for so many long years. He couldn’t wait to see the look on Famke’s face when he brought her around to his new home.


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