••• The International Writers Magazine - 23 Years on-line - extract from 'We Feel Your Pain'
Mr Abrams Regrets
The first client of the day.
Delaney arrived at the bookshop late. He went upstairs directly to the proprietor Mr Abams who'd made the call. He'd already ordered coffee for them and waved at Delaney to sit down.
“Talk to me about this ‘We feel your pain’ thing." Delaney asked."I was pretty sceptical when I heard about it today and even more surprised that you were taken. Lily always said you were the smartest guy in town. Or tightest, I can’t remember exactly now.”
Mr Abrams laughed, then sighed. “Should be ‘We feel your wallet’ Mr Delaney. I paid a lot of money to them. Hubris doesn’t cover it. My late daughter Lily I’m sure would have said ‘tightest’ but things change. Some days I’m in so much pain I can’t dress myself. It’s embarrassing. I can’t leave my bookshop to Lily anymore – all I have now is pain. Twenty-four hours a day pain.” He moved back into his chair and winced. “They promised me a pain-free existence. They have testimonials, even one by your Mayor Caesar Stoll himself. 100% pain-free, or your money back. That’s what they promised.”
“And you paid up.”
“And it didn’t work.”
Mr Abrams smiled as the coffee arrived. The girl put it on the desk next to a pile of books.
“Thanks, Lucy.” Mr Abrams said. She swiftly left them too it.
“You’re wrong in that assumption, Mr Delaney. It worked. For one month I was pain free. I felt it was the best thirty grand I had ever spent. I was a new man. I was happy. Ask anyone here. They were talking miracles. I could walk, drive my car, and visit the park. How I used to miss strolling under the trees by the ocean. Now I could do it all again and listen to the waves. The best month of my life.”
Delaney frowned. He hadn’t expected this. “I’m confused. You paid. It worked. That’s the deal, right?”
“And suddenly it stopped working.” Mr Abrams lifted an arm to demonstrate as pain swirled across his face.
“Ah. But I imagine they have clauses in the contract to deal with that. Do you have the contract to hand?”
“Yes. It’s somewhere here.”
“Naturally you contacted them and complained.”
Mr Abrams spasmed a moment and closed his eyes.
“Yes, I complained.”
“And their response?”
“They could repeat the cure. A top-up for another fifteen thousand.”
Delaney whistled. “And you paid this?”
Mr Abrams chuckled. “You might think me foolish, but I’m not insane, yet. That would mean I would have spent forty-five grand and who is to say the pain would not return again? A man is only made of so many thousands and this man is running a bookshop that survives mostly on the coffee we sell.”
Delaney understood. “But I suppose some people will keep paying.”
Mr Abrams nodded. “I’m sure they do. Pain never takes a day off. Never. I could pay them if I took out a loan. But I would be forever waiting for the pain to return.”
“And who’s to say it isn’t new pain?”
“Which is Clause 14A,” Mr Abrams informed him. “My lawyer couldn’t believe I’d paid them anything. Technically if you experience just 24 hours pain free, they have fulfilled their contract and any pain thereafter is new pain. I won’t tell you what my lawyer said to me – it wasn’t polite.”
Delaney could guess. “A fool and his money, right. We hear a lot of scams at the office. Especially people who claim to be calling from City Hall – telling people that their house is built on city land and there is a ten grand fine or face demolition. If they dare to challenge it, the fine will double.”
Mr Abrams seemed surprised. “People fall for that?”
Delaney nodded. “All the time.”
“But people believe City Hall is scamming them.”
“Exactly. No one trusts anyone anymore.”
“So, you don’t condemn me for paying them?”
“My first boss in Paris used to tell us, ‘Never look under the hood – just keep driving. Hit your targets.’” Delaney paused a moment to savour his coffee, appreciating the kick. “They arrested him for major fraud about two months after he told me that. Everyone seemed to be surprised about that except me. I’m a kick the tires type of guy. Pretty impressive coffee Mr Abrams. I must buy some.”
“Ask Lucy when you leave. You didn’t answer me. You think I’m wasting your time.”
Delaney examined his left hand, the disjointed fingers that had killed his sailing days. “My colleague, Asha, asked me how much I’d pay for all this pain to go away. I’ve no idea how much, but if I knew for sure it was real, I’d pay, Mr Abrams. I’d pay.”
Mr Abrams inhaled and wiped moisture from his eyes. “I was stupid. All their talk of this Guru and his disciples swayed me. They even introduced me to former clients who are now pain free. I was convinced they could help. They seemed so professional and welcoming. Now they just threaten me if I try to sue.”
“What exactly would you like us to do, Mr Abrams?”
The old man leaned forward with effort. “Expose them. I can’t be the only one who’s fallen for this. It’s a lot of money. It’s fraud. An elaborate fraud and they are preying on the old and taking them to the cleaners. The Mayor sings their praises, so you have to think he’s on the take. If you fear for your job, Mr Delaney, I will understand. I’ve been fighting corruption in City Hall for years.”
© Sam Hawksmoor 1.1.22
We Feel Your Pain' by Sam Hawksmoor
Published by Hammer & Tong
Print or Kindle from Amazon available now
Review: a captivating adventure that ...could be compared to a Roald Dahl tale filmed by Wes Anderson ... with irrepressible, warm sentiment ...
More Sam Hawksmoor fiction here