Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Agreement

"The Agreement" by J. A. Kornrath, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, March 2005

J. A. Kornrath is the author of the Lieutenant Jack Daniels series (this story, a novella, and the novel, Whiskey Sour, with a second, Bloody Mary, in the works), but this tale doesn't star the lovely Lt. Daniels.

This story features degenerate gamblers and mobsters. The degenerate gambler, Hutson by name, in the way of all such people, doesn't know when to quit. The next turn of the card will fix everything, though it never does. True to form, Hutson loses the hand to the mobster, Little Louie, and can't pay up. Little Louie always makes an agreement with the people he gambles with: pay up within one hour or get hurt in proportion to the amount of money you owe. Hutson now owes Little Louie $30,000. How much hurt is that going to be?

Hutson, so afraid of the consequences, throws up on the card table when he loses the hand. He calls everyone he can think of to get the money. No one will help him, not even his mother. He begs Little Louie to let him do something, anything, that will allow him to avoid being beaten by Louie's two thugs. After a moment's thought, Louie proposes a new agreement that Hutson embraces, however reluctantly.

Kornrath does a bang up job of making the reader feel the fear and pain poor Hutson endures. It is excruciating, even sickening. So much so I skimmed the descriptions the first time through. I had to make myself go back and reread the last few pages of the story to get the full impact. I'm actually rather surprised that AHMM published this story in spite of the violence. It certainly is worth publishing.

In short, an ugly, nasty, horrible story. I mean that in the best way possible. Go read it.


At 1:03 PM, Blogger Candace said...

Hi Bob,
Anything Kornrath writes, I want to read. The guy is simply excellent. This story was good; and as you said, Kornrath's voice was so into the here and now with it, I had to re-read the fear and loathing parts. Wow. it's not for kids.

At 5:51 AM, Blogger Bob said...

And Joe's such a nice guy, too.

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