Even though he knew it was coming, the knock on the door startled James. Through the peephole, he saw two men wearing dark suits. Without taking the chain off the door, he cracked it open.
“Who are you?”
“Are you Mr. Steinbeck?”
“Again, who are you?”
“We want to talk to you about your lottery wins.”
“Can we come in?”
“I haven’t done anything wrong.”
“No one said you did. We just want to talk to you.”
“No.” James slammed the door shut and turned the deadbolt.
They shouldn’t know about the winnings. He had worked very hard to keep the money low enough so that he wouldn’t draw attention. It seemed he had still been too greedy. And the men . . . They had been in his dreams. That was all, he decided; they were only dreams. Of course, the lottery numbers had been dreams, too. That meant the men were here to take him away. If only he hadn’t answered the door, they wouldn’t know he was home.
He wondered if he could go back to sleep and change things. Would they leave him alone long enough to do that?
Another knock at the door ended that hope.
“Mr. Steinbeck. Please open the door.”
There was no back way out of the apartment, but he could try to climb down the fire escape. When he pulled back the curtains, however, another dark suit was waiting for him.
Defeated, he walked back to the door, took off the chain, and opened it wide.
“Mr. Steinbeck, thank you for seeing us.”
“I didn’t have much choice, did I?”
“Perhaps not.” Only one of the men had spoken. The other was wandering around the apartment and looking for something. “But we really do just want to talk.”
“Okay, go ahead.”
“We were curious about your luck with the lottery. How did you pick your numbers?”
James shrugged. “Just lucky, I guess.”
“Mr. Steinbeck… Any relation, by the way?”
“None that I know of. Everyone asks, but no one in my family could write worth a damn.”
“Mr. Steinbeck, you cannot really expect to believe it was all just luck.”
“It’s the truth. Believe it or not, that’s up to you.”
“Your wins are too consistent, and you never win more than a couple thousand dollars, as if you are intentionally trying to stay unnoticed. We simply want to know how.”
If they found out about his dreams, James knew that they would never let him go. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You must have some way of predicting the results. This could be a very useful talent for our organization. We need you to tell us.”
“What is your organization?”
“Maybe later. For now, answer my question.”
“I don’t know what to tell you.”
A nod from the man who had been speaking caused the other suit to grab James from behind.
“If you won’t talk to us here, you will have to come with us. We need to know what you can do and how.”
“I can’t do anything!”
The suit ignored him as he was dragged from his apartment and disappeared into a unmarked black van.