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“It may lead you to treasure.”
The words echo in my mind, reminding me of my dire circumstances. If anyone needs a little treasure, it’s me. I grimace at the small piece of fluff in my hands. Just looking at it, you’d think it’s a kitten, or a very fluffy puppy. But the truth is, it’s neither.
Actually, it’s a scrap of sheep’s hide with the wool still attached. On the skin side there are ancient runes etched into it.
In the upper right hand corner is the shape of a lobster. A sinister shape. A symbol of one of the most feared groups in all of Greece.
Gathering my pen and paper, I sit down to decipher what the runes say, glad of the light that is all around me as a result of my hypethral work room.
I recognize a series of runes in the middle as the word “sparkles”. Maybe it’s a riddle.
I work for a while in silence, and then realize my neighbor is standing in the door. She quietly watches me till I pause and turn to her.
“Mr. Stratham?” Her gentle face twists with concern.
“What is it, Helen?” I rub my eyes and lay down the scrap of fluff that I’m now starting to call the “Last Chance”.
“There are some men at my door.” she said timidly. “They keep saying they need to talk to you.” She creases her apron in her hands. “Please come and talk to them, Mr. Stratham.”
I glance down at the Last Chance, then get up and follow her. “They didn’t hurt you, right?”
She shakes her head. “They just seem uncouth.” Her hand trembles as she lifts the back door latch of her house. “Come in this way.”
I follow her inside, and to the front.
“Please be careful, Mr. Stratham.” She glances up at me through her eyelashes, and backs away toward her kitchen.
I can’t help but smile. Helen has been a life-line for me. She brings me food, and sometimes comes over and cleans my bachelor pad for me.
I turn back to the door, wondering what these men could possibly want. I open it, and step out.
The two men standing outside the door look uncouth, alright. Between the missing teeth and their unkempt appearances, it’s no wonder Helen was scared.
Then I notice what I should have noticed first. Among the many tattoos on their bare arms is the symbol of a lobster.
“What can I do for you gentlemen?” I ask, fighting to not appear intimidated.
“Mr. Stratham, we have heard of you from many others.” The smaller man speaks first.
“We believe you have something that belongs to us.” The larger man wastes no time in this observation.
“I’m not sure what you mean by that.” I pretend confusion while trying desperately to find a way out of this mess.
The smaller man chuckles. “Mr. Stratham, you know who we are. We know who you are. We know you have our map. We’re willing to make a deal. If you give it to us, we’ll make it worth your while.”
Fifteen minutes later, the map has changed hands, and I am sipping tea with Helen.
“They didn’t harm you?” She grabs my arm to get my attention.
“No, they didn’t.” I smile as I think of the amount of cash I got out of giving them what was theirs anyway.