It’s Adam! And he’s very confused.
The name Ibrahim Khan struck fear into the hearts of many. He was ruthless and terrifying and the people he’d surrounded himself with were equally so. Adam had been warned more than once to steer clear of Khan and his mercurial moods and at first, he’d bought in to the rumours and hysteria.
But a year ago, that had changed. Adam had finally come face to face with Khan, in the most undignified way possible.
He’d been sleep-deprived and ill, in no condition to be dong anything but curling up in a ball and waiting the sickness out. But he’d been arrogant and stubborn and had chosen to work anyway.
It should have cost him his life. If not for Ibrahim Khan, it would have.
And now, it seemed the debt he owed was being called due. The summons had come this morning in the form of a letter that had been pushed under his door. He’d opened it to find a single half-sheet of thick cream paper, more suited to a wedding invitation than a message from a killer.
The message had been short and to the point. His presence was requested by Mr. Ibrahim Khan to discuss the repayment of a favour. He hadn’t recognized the address printed below but a quick search had provided the directions he needed.
There had been no time on the letter but Adam had a feeling that if he delayed much longer, the two strange guys who’d been standing outside his apartment all day would be trying to fetch him for their master.
No point in overcomplicating things for himself, Adam thought with a mental shrug. The rules were clear – he owed Ibrahim Khan his life. Erasing that debt took precedent over absolutely everything. Even delaying answering Khan’s summons too long would give the man a justifiable reason to have Adam’s throat slit.
There might be some grumbling about overreactions but no one would truly object. So if Adam wanted to keep breathing for the foreseeable future, he would get off his butt, get the name of his new target and get the job done – fast.
But first, he had to get ready. There was a duffel bag in the trunk of his car with everything he needed for a short trip – two passports, clothing, ammunition and a decent amount of cash. All he really needed to do was leave a message that he’d be gone and make sure that the Will he’d had made years ago was put in its usual place while he was gone – dead centre on an empty desk in his office.
Fifteen minutes later, Adam was ready to go. He’d cleaned up automatically on his way out, his mother’s voice echoing in his ears. ‘Never leave your house in a state! Just imagine how embarrassing it would be to have people know you lived in filth if you ended up dying while you were out?’
She’d told him that at least once a week until he’d stopped living with her. Somehow she’d never appreciated him pointing out that dead people weren’t likely to feel embarrassment.
Even now, years after he’d moved out, he still cleaned before he headed out on a job. He was half-convinced that if he did end up dying and leaving a dirty home behind, she’d come to the after-life just to scold him.
She’d probably kill him herself if she knew that he’d landed himself in enough danger to be paying back a debt like this, never mind that she was about half his size.
Adam shuddered just imagining it. With a little luck, he’d finish this job quickly and his tiny mother would remain none the wiser about how careless he’d been getting.
Later, as he sat in Ibrahim Khan’s library, he’d wonder if he’d somehow jinxed himself with this thought.
“I want you to marry my granddaughter,” Ibrahim Khan announced matter-of-factly, once Adam had settled into a chair across from him.
Adam choked on the mouthful of water he’d just drank. “I’m sorry, what?” he croaked, in between coughs.
“You heard me,” Khan said calmly. “I’m calling in the debt you owe me. I’ve decided that you will do well for my granddaughter, if she approves of you.”
Adam laughed uneasily. “This is a joke, right?”
Khan didn’t smile. “No,” he said shortly. “It is not.”
He’d lost it. Ibrahim Khan had gone senile. It was actually quite a shame, Adam thought, slightly hysterical. By all accounts, the man had had a brilliant mind before he’d gone and lost it all.
Did debts still count if they were owed to insane people? Adam didn’t know.
“I am not insane.”
Adam’s head jerked up. How?
“You’re very easy to read.” Khan said, answering his unasked question. “I am not insane, just practical. My granddaughter would like to get married and I find you acceptable.”
“But… that’s not how it works.” Adam blurted out.
Khan tilted his head. “I beg your pardon?”
“I owe you a life. You’re meant to ask me to kill someone.” He felt foolish, explaining such a fundamental concept to a man who’d known it longer than he’d been born.
“I can ask you to kill yourself instead,” Khan offered pleasantly.
Adam’s mouth went dry. He swallowed hard, trying to calm his suddenly racing pulse.
“You owe me your life,” Khan reminded him. “I can ask you to do whatever I’d like and you’re bound to fulfil the request.”
“But… why?” was all Adam could think to ask. “Why can’t she just find herself a husband the normal way?”
“That is unimportant. As for why I chose you… I have a large number of enemies. My granddaughter’s husband will need to be a man who is capable of keeping her safe from those enemies and indebted to me enough that he will never think to betray either her or myself. You fulfil my requirements.”
“I don’t have any choice, do I?” Adam said slowly.
Khan shook his head. “None. If you decline, you’ve broken the most important rule of our business.”
“And the penalty for that is death,” Adam finished unnecessarily. He closed his eyes for a moment, taking in a deep breath. “So, when do I get to meet her?”