This is the second part to the tale of the Hurdy-Gurdy Man. If you missed yesterdays, here ’tis -> The Hurdy-Gurdy Man
……….Without properly looking, you could see she was terribly drawn.
Worn out, tired, and battered, the tall thirty something year old poorly dressed woman had to stoop slightly to enter his tent; her clothes now two sizes too large for her scrawny frame. Badly applied make-up almost concealed a fist sized purple discolouration beneath her left eye, and, by appearance at least, her nose had recently straightened.
Her mother lived in the nursing home of a town nearly 400 kilometres away, and it was she that sent her to him. Although, it was purely in reference to hearsay that she had thought to do so. Even then, her mother didn’t really know what it was that he did, other than permanently solve problems through means beyond Police or via a criminal element. That had been two months prior. Between then and now she had been beaten senseless by her husband four times, and subsequently had quit her job because of the state he had left her in on each occasion. He had knocked out six of her teeth; broken her nose twice, broken five ribs, all on her left side. Her fingers had been broken and dislocated, and after one extremely violent outburst, she had been rendered unconscious for a little over two days. The stab wounds and scars on both forearms proved to be defensive wounds, the wounds attained whilst protecting oneself. Sadly, as is the way of life for so many people the world over, she did not leave him as she had absolutely no where to go, and the beatings she endured were to protect her three small children from him, taking the thrashings her children would have received had she not been there. But that was only one part of the problem. Up until twelve months earlier, Mr. Jock Hardy had been the perfect husband and father. He had never even raised his voice to her in their eight years of marriage. Sadly, and he was most definitely not alone in the situation, with the mining boom coming to an abrupt, and in the Hardy’s case, unexpected end. Within months of his loss of work, the two higher end cars they had got sold off and replaced by single second hand, less ostentatious vehicle; their house was put onto the market as their mortgage was now well beyond their means. Next came a solid wall of unemployment. After many months of job searching and heartbreak, he finally picked up work as a glassy at the local pub, the wage difference between his work on the mines and that that he now made was in excess of $200,000 annually, and their house, thanks to the collapse in the property market, halved in value overnight, leaving them with a mortgage greater than the house’s value. It was around that time that Jock started to drink heavily, he returned to smoking again after six years abstinence, inhaling at least one $30 packet a day. Gambling and womanising was the final in the trifecta of the downfall Jock. He started pinning his hopes on ridiculously expensive, chronically unsuccessful, lottery tickets, and he worked at both a pub and TAB, Jock developed a taste for slow horses and fast women. Following that path he routinely womanised and gambled heavily. By the time payday arrived there was very little left, what remained stayed in his pocket. Jock didn’t give her one cent to feed and clothe the children. For that, Morag Hardy had to rely solely on Family Benefit payments, which only covered the barest of essentials, leaving her permanently hungry.
Politely walking through the gaggle of children within the tent, Morag sought the Hurdy-Gurdy Man out. She found him with his back to her in deep discussion with a small boy of at least 8 years of age. Waiting for the exchange between man and boy to conclude, she took in the contents of the tent around her. A cuckoo clock ‘cuckooed’ somewhere from behind; a clockwork mouse chased a wind up cat around a small table just in front of her. The sound of children laughing caused her to smile at the magic the small tent created, and by the time her smile finally meet her eyes, the Hurdy-Gurdy Man was standing immediately before her. Without a word spoken, he looked up at her face, nodded, and turned on his heel, walking toward the rear of the tent.
She parted the heavy red velvet curtains with the backs of her long fingered hands, ducking as she stepped through into the space beyond. What she first saw was a small circular dark wooden table with a bottle of Absinthe sitting in the middle, a pipe smoking in a large square glass ashtray, and a seat on either side. She was struck by the deafening absence of noise as the curtains fell shut behind her. The second thing that stood out to her was how dark it was in the little room at the back of the tent. The only light created within was from two rather nondescript candles. Not knowing what to do, she pulled out the nearest chair, and promptly sat upon it. Smiling, the little Romani man withdrew the chair opposite.
“Good mornings to you Mrs. Hardy,“ he said, she found herself having to concentrate hard to understand his words through his thick accent. “I have been expecting you.”
“Ahhhh…………thank you Mr., ahhhhh”
“Hurdy-Gurdy Man.” he finished for her. “You will call me ‘Mr. Hurdy-Gurdy Man’ I am thinking. You are here because of your husband? Yes?”
“Ahhhh……….yes I am.” She said. “How do you know my name?”
“There is little I don’t know child. Now, your husband, he is still beating you I see?”
Unconsciously she raised her hand to her bruised left cheek, took two deep breaths and cast her eyes in embarrassment to the carpeted floor.
“Yes he is.” She replied in a small voice. “I fear for my children.”
“Now before you tell me anymore, let me tell you about me and the services I provide. Your Mama was right to send you to me. I will happily remove your husband from your home, life, and memories. That is the easy part. The hard part is what your life will become when he and his memory has gone, and what you intend to do once rid of him. Have you thought that through?”
She nodded, confirming that she had.
“Now the payment for this task is a soul. The choice of soul is yours, but I am thinking that in my removing him from existence, I would be collecting this rotten soul of his myself. Payment and job complete at once.” Stroking his fine pointed beard, he continued, “That would be the easy method, however, there are some questions I must be asking first. Has your husband sold his soul to another that you know of? To maybe a demon or the devil perhaps? Maybe to the ‘Lady that is Luck’ for a card game to win both hand and night? Has he ever found God and submitted his soul to Him? These are all things that must be considered. For if he has, you will need to provide another soul as payment. Should you not, I will take it upon myself to secure payment by taking the soul of another. But one that is guaranteed, say that of your Mama, or you, or your child. You are understanding this? To ensure you do, we must sign a contract between you and I, and it is a signature in blood, your blood, that is required to bind us to these terms. Now, I will ask you to leave, and if you want this business done, you must be here at exactly the sixth second of the sixth minute of the sixth hour tomorrow morning. If you are even a second earlier or later, our contract will be forfeit.”
She was on time to the second, and horror as she had never imagine folded its grotesque wings about her………………………….
To be continued.
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