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Barnabus sorted his keys, finding by feel the one that opened the door to Cafe Ishmael. James was probably worried sick about him. He hadn’t exactly given notice before he disappeared. The people at his office had certainly been surprised. Pleased that he wasn’t dead, then irritated that he didn’t have a satisfactory explanation for his disappearance, and then finally cold when Barnabus refused to give details. The branch manager said something about his poor work ethic, which probably meant that they were in the process of gathering enough evidence of incompetence to fire him.
Barnabus couldn’t get the key to turn. Was it the right one? He pulled it out, but it slipped out of his hands and fell into the ring of keys again.
Two more months, he’d told James, maybe three, and then they’d have to close the shop. He thought about dragging it out until the end of the year, to take advantage of the boost in sales cold weather and the Samhain festival always brought. No, best to end it quickly. Besides, if he did get fired from his accounting job, he’d need the generous finder’s fee he’d get from the buyer he’d found, a private investor who knew the value of keeping his mouth shut about buying a grotesquely undervalued business.
Barnabus found the key again. Yes. That was the right key. He slipped it into the lock. It fit in perfectly, but wouldn’t budge. He tried turning it gently, then with more force. Nothing. He tapped on the glass.
A movement from inside, and then James lifted the blinds. James’ round, cheerful face turned stony. He dropped the blinds.
Barnabus tapped on the glass again. What was up with him? He tapped louder.
Finally, the lock clicked open on the inside, and James opened the door.
“Hey, man, my key won’t work. You change the locks on me?”
James said nothing. His eyes blazed, as if restraining the urge to murder. Barnabus had never seen James angry like this. Barnabus had never seen anyone angry like this.
James handed him an envelope.
James said nothing, pointed at the envelope.
Barnabus opened it. His heart beat faster as he saw the list of numbers, detailed sums, and a loud, red, six figure number at the bottom, circled twice. So. That bitch Albers. It must be.
“Wait, man, I don’t know what Jolene told you, but it’s not like this.” A longshot, even as Barnabus said the words. These sums were accurate. Ironclad. But he had to try. James was a reasonable guy, easy to sway. “See, there were—”
“You have thirty days to pay in full.” James said, in a voice choked with fury.
“Yeah, but, I’m gonna—“
“Thirty days. Pay in full, or I get the law involved.”
Barnabus let his hands fall. “But …”
Shit. He would have to sell everything. Everything.
James shut the door of Cafe Ishmael, and locked it closed.
Like the book, but short on cash? New chapter next week!