The Wager

Russell wandered along the street taking in the sights and sounds, looking for a place to have a drink before calling it a night. He was in town for two days on a business trip and wanting to soak up a little local colour. He spotted a small brick-fronted club with red neon burning bright and soft jazz wafting on the air.

Not too many people, which suited him well so he found a nice corner booth and settled in. The waitress took his drink order and he leaned back and let the jazz take him away. When he opened his eyes again he noticed a hot blond in a tight red dress smiling in his direction.

He couldn’t believe his luck and smiled back, raising his glass to her. She got off her bar stool and walked over to him.

“May I sit down?”

“Please, be my guest. My name is Russell.”

“Pleased to meet you Russell.”

He couldn’t help but stare. She was beautiful. “Come here often?” He felt like an idiot even as the words left his mouth but to his relief she didn’t laugh.

“No, I don’t. First time. You?”

“No, I’m here on business.”

She leaned in towards him. “You seem like a game man Russell, what do you say we make a little wager?”

Ah, here it comes, he thought. He knew his luck couldn’t be this good. “For what?”

“I’m going to tell you some things about myself. Only one of them will be true, the rest will be lies. You guess which one is true, you win, you guess wrong I win. Deal?”

Russell laughed. “That’s a new one on me. What do I get if win?”

She leaned forward looking deep into his eyes. “Anything you want, Russell. Anything at all.”

He gulped. “And if you win, what do you get?”

She leaned back and waved her hand with a casual air. “Oh, I don’t know. Um, your… soul?” She said the last word in a theatrical whisper with a mischievous grin.

“Wow. You’re really something…um…you didn’t tell me your name.”

“Lilith. Shall we wager?”

Russell shook the proffered hand, looking into the eyes that had him so captivated.

“Now then Russell, where to begin?” She put her hand on his knee as she spoke.

“I suppose I should tell you where I’m from. I was born in Amsterdam, but my parents moved to the States when I was little. I was sent away to boarding school from an early age and was deeply unhappy there. My parents divorced when I was ten.”

She made small circles on the table with her finger as she spoke and looked at him from time to time and then away.

“Can I ask questions?”

“Certainly Russell. Go ahead.”

“Have you ever been married?”

“No.”

“What happened?”

“Well, I just never met the right man I suppose. Anyway, I don’t dwell on it. Besides, I travel a lot. I have a pilot’s license and I’ve worked all over the world.”

Russell couldn’t disguise a look of disbelief.

“Oh come now Russell, is that so hard to believe?” She leaned over and brushed her lips against his cheek and whispered in his ear. “I suppose if I told you I was the Devil you’d scoff at that too.”

Her warm breath in his ear was almost more than he could bear.

“What else would you like to know about me?”

“Well, if I were to be frank, I suppose I’d like to know if you’ll come back to my room with me.”

She smiled and wagged her finger at him. “We must finish our wager. If you guess correctly I did say you could have anything you want. So then, which of the things I’ve told you is the truth?”

Russell thought about everything she had said. “Well…I don’t buy the bit about your childhood. I have a feeling you weren’t being truthful when I asked you if you’d ever been married. I’ll bet you have.”

She sat back and grinned. “Wrong Russell.”

“Damn. Okay, so you win then. What is it you want?”

Her demeanour changed and with it her eyes. Her pupils turned blood red; her irises were black horizontal slits. She spoke in a deep voice that cut straight through him.

“I told you Russell, your soul. The one true thing I told you was who I am.”

With that she took his hand, palm up and cut an elegant S in it with a sharp fingernail. She got up from the booth and walked away, saying over her shoulder, “I’ll see you when you’re dead.”

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