A shadow silhouette walked under the peculiar fingers in front of Cooger and Dark’s Wax Museum, in Babbage Square, and pushed open the heavy door.
The visitor’s eyes scanned the vast hall, shining like two sickly green will-o’-the-wisps in his large gray face. His gaze flickered as it fell upon a pair of scruffy street urchins and another figure, lean and tall, standing in front of the exhibit displaying a man in a pyramidal hat sitting in despair at his desk. They could have almost passed as one of the wax displays, there in the semi-darkness that filled the room.
The tall figure turned his head towards the newcomer, and his grin sparkled as he greeted him.
“Good evening Mr. Gloom, and welcome.”
The visitor shifted the big sack he was carrying from one shoulder to the other as he walked towards tall man, his black cape flowing behind him.
“Mr. Dark. A pleasure I believe.” calmly replied the other in a cavernous voice.
Dark nodded. “Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Gloom.”
Creaky Gloom grinned with malevolent satisfaction.
“How convenient for me.”
The two urchins upon seeing the hulking figure approach did their best to stifle their gasps and hide the recognition in their eyes.
“Oy think we oughter be goin’, Mr. Dark sir”, said one. “We gots stuff ta attend to.”
“Of course. You two run along.”
They did. They ran as fast as they could, swung open the heavy doors together and hurried out into the street.
Dark chuckled, then considered the large creature in front of him with lips slightly curved into a sarcastic grin.
“What brings you back to New Babbage? Holiday, perhaps?”
Gloom shrugged : “I have a certain affection for this city. I feel drawn to it, especially in Fall.”
“ I see.” said Dark. I too.”
“And of course, our potential business.” added Gloom. “I received your message.”
“Excellent. As I assumed so when you walked through the door.” said Dark.
“It was daring of you to send it through a child, but the content of your message did interest me.”
Dark nodded once again. “I’ve heard something of your … appetites, Mr. Gloom. They are of no business of mine, but I did note you eyeballing the two children who were just here.”
Gloom’s thin lips morphed into a hungry smile as he was reminded of the blond urchin boy and the dark-haired urchin girl he had considered with interest before they darted off in a nervous hurry, to his great displeasure.
“I must insist you leave those two unmolested.” said Dark, his eyes locking upon Gloom’s.
“They are employed by me”, he continued, “and are quite useful.”
Gloom let out a deep, disappointed sigh.
“I will do my best to restrain myself…” he said. “If we come to an agreement.”
“And what sort of agreement might you find agreeable, sir?” asked Mr. Dark.
Gloom locked eyes with Dark in return. “As you mentioned earlier, I have certain needs. I would hate for you to put your veto on every urchin in town.”
“Bah!” sneered Dark. “Most are useless.”
Gloom’s eyes shined with satisfaction upon hearing the remark.
“But those two are unique.” Dark insisted. “I have them in my grasp, so to speak.”
“In your grasp, that is interesting… Maybe we could speak more in depth after the contract is signed.” said Gloom.
“They are mine.” grinned Dark. “Part of … a collection.”
“Ah.” said Gloom, glancing around to browse the wax figures. “A collector. I see.”
His attention returned onto Dark and he grinned :
“It seems you are the kind of person I could make a deal with.”
“The agreement as stipulated in the letter I sent is all I require.” said Dark.
“Best we not discuss it further here. Walls have ears in this town.”
Gloom shrugged slightly and shook brutally the bag he was carrying, deadening the faint sobbing noise emanating from it.
Dark raised an amused eyebrow, and moved to end the discussion. He had other business to attend to.
“If it is well with you, we can consider it done.”
“It is well with me, Dark. It is exactly the kind of deal I appreciate.”
“Very well then.” said Dark. “A handshake will do it. I require no paper.”
“Handshakes can bind a contract as well as any other means,” Creaky agreed, “as long as it is done properly.”
On this, the heavy creature switched grips on the heavy sack he was carrying, and held out his right hand. Dark grabbed it firmly and they shook hands, sealing the deal.
Soon Beggar’s Night would begin, as would the deal made between the two men.