Punishment

David knocked on the front door of the house. After a few seconds, a man who looked to be in his 30s answered.

“Hello. Are you Mark?”

“Who are you?”

At that moment, the man’s eyes widened as he noticed the box David was holding, and he tried to close the door. Before it fully shut, David stuck his foot across the threshold to keep it open.

“So you recognize the box. Do you know what happened to your ex-wife?”

“I didn’t do anything!”

The force resisting David’s foot eased, and he shoved it wide open. The man had backed away several feet from the door.

“So you didn’t put this box in Jennifer’s basement?”

“Get out of my house!”

David took a step towards him. “Do you know what happened to her?”

“Leave me alone.” His voice had become almost a whimper.

“You know what’s inside the box? Should I show you?”

Shaking uncontrollably, the man crumpled to the floor.

David crouched down near him. “Where did you get it?”

His sobbing suggested he hadn’t summoned the horror himself. But he must have some idea of what had been in it. David needed to find out who gave it to him.

“Your ex-wife killed herself. Because of this box. Because of you.”

“No, no, no . . .”

“Yes. Where did you get it?”

“I just wanted to scare her . . .”

His terror was making it difficult to get anywhere, so David stood up and walked back to the door. After he put the box out of sight behind an end table, he crouched down next to Mark once more. He opened his hands to show that they were empty.

“The box is gone, for now. Take a moment to compose yourself.”

After taking a few deep breaths, Mark seemed to calm down a little.

“You can’t prove I did anything.”

“I suppose not. But I can leave the box here for you. Or you can tell me where you got it.”

“You wouldn’t do that.”

“Why not? Is there something bad about the box?”

“It’s . . . Well . . . No, I mean . . .”

“Just tell me, and I’ll leave you alone with whatever guilt you feel.”

“There’s a place. Downtown. It sells . . . things.”

David held out a notebook and a pen. “Address.”

Mark quickly wrote down an address.

“If this isn’t right, I will come back.”

“It’s right. I swear.”

“Good.” David walked over and picked up the box. “Here.” He tossed the box to Mark who scrambled backwards away from it. The box hit the floor and opened. Mark screamed and covered his eyes.

“It’s empty. I wouldn’t subject anyone to a horror. Even you. Sadly for Jennifer, she married someone who doesn’t have the same respect for others. I have recorded all of this, however, and I’m sure the police will have questions.”

Unsure of how much longer he could keep his anger in check, David left without waiting for a response. Since Mark didn’t seem to be a mage, he would let others handle him. It was better than he deserved.

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