He’d been dealing in time for decades. Living in this same 1920’s terrace house on Glaucester St since he returned from the Second World War in 1945. 72 years ago to be exact, yet he did not look a day over 46. The age he was when he first moved in.
He didn’t think about it much these days; age really meant nothing to him anymore. Today though, with the young woman asking what she had, he had reason to pause; he would be 118 years old this year, in all of that time he had never had someone ask to have time taken away.
Yeah sure he had his regulars, although they had diminished somewhat in the 70’s and 80’s, most if not all dying due to the gangsters Abe Saffron, aka ‘Mr Sin’, George Freeman and others. All that is except Mr Saffron himself who had been a regular right up until he died in 2006.
All of those regulars always asked for time to be added, that is they wanted to maintain their youthfulness, live longer to reap the rewards of their oft ill-gotten gains.
None even Abe himself an apt user of his services had realised that it was possible to take time away. On reflection, he had only contemplated it once or twice himself in the 70 years since he had returned from the western front, from where he had first found the cursed pouch that contained the timepiece.
Still, he was baffled, why would a young woman, who for all intensive purposes had a life in front of her. He’d never seen her before, had never heard of her, she most definitely was not someone of renown in The Rocks or Potts point. If she were he would know about it.
So desperate she was to have the time taken from her he felt he could have asked for anything, but to ask for what he really would have liked from her would go against everything he had lived to preserve. He would not compromise himself now no matter how attractive she was.
She had been very specific; she wanted the balance of her life taken from her at exactly 2 am tomorrow morning. Looking at her he had deduced that meant he had to take 52 years from her as he could see she was meant to die in her sleep at the age of 88.
His payment, he had agreed would be the usual, he did not want for much he had his house, his books, his stool at the pub he did not want for more; adventure and excitement were beyond him now. In the past, he used to travel, explore and experience the world, after 70 years of it as a 46-year-old he was done.
She knew she had to pay in cash, and when he told her the amount due she had simply used her foot to slide an old leather bag towards him under the table, nudging it into his knee. Again surprising him in her knowledge she reached up and unclasped the necklace she was wearing and passed it to him ‘Use this’.
He watched as she stood and walked away, disappearing out the door turning left onto Cumberland Street. He sat still, drinking his beer nice and slowly. There was no rush, he had hours to prepare. Draining his glass he stood, reached down and picked up the leather bag. It felt heavier than it needed to be.
At the end of the hall, he walked into his small kitchen, pulling the string to turn on the light. Like everything in his house it was old, he had not replaced anything in the 70’s years he had lived here. Yes, He’d added some bookshelves down the hall, and into most of the rooms in the house as books where his one continuous pleasure.
From the pantry pulled out a tin of baked beans, opened it and tipped it into a pot on the stove, lighting the burner with a match from the windowsill. He sat at the table and thought about what he was about to do, he had never done this before.
He was about to euthanise someone. It most definitely was not murder, as she had most definitely requested it. She had been clear and very specific in what it was she wanted. Their conversation has been very short and sweet, him simply being the service provider, her being the customer. It was not his place to advise her to try and talk her out of it, to interject in any way. He’d learnt not to ask questions years ago after it almost cost him his life.
But then again, people did not normally ask to be killed by him. He got up from his seat, stirred the beans, put them in a bowl, got himself a can of beer and sat at the table, alone, quietly absorbed by his thoughts. Eating only out of habit not out of any need of sustenance.
The light faded the bowl and can empty in front of him. He could see the luminescent glow on his watch, it was 1:45 am. Standing, stiff from sitting for so long. He walked part way down the hall and lifted the leather pouch down from the top of the second bookshelf.
Returning to the table he sat and removed the timepiece from the pouch. Even after all of these years, he was amazed at the beauty of the device. As plain as it was, dull and grey it sill looked as perfect as the day he had found it.
The two halves opened to reveal the intricate cogs and spindles; ageless. He checked his watch, 2 minutes to 2 am. He adjusted the spindles, winding them in the opposite direction to what he normally did. He wound them back for what seemed like an eternity, 52 years was more than anything he had ever wound before. Normally his regulars would ask for a month or two, a year at the most.
He placed the necklace she had given him into the bowl and closed the two halves around it again. It was 2 am. He sat for a moment; everything was silent, so silent he could hear the ticking of his watch as he waited.
Opening the timepiece one more time; the necklace was gone, she was gone, he had done his job as joyless as it was, he had euthanised someone for the first time in his life.