Joe wasn’t sure if he was more confused or frightened by the little man.. He backed up a step as he answered. “What do you know about my problems or my business? I haven’t said a word about it.”
“Oh, but you have. Not to me, no. But the empty streets have ears, even if most have forgotten, and there are still those who they’ll speak to, rare as they are nowadays.”
Joe was now very uncomfortable, and he decided that it would probably be wise to get as far away from the stranger as he could. But as he moved to walk away the little man under his pile of cloth nimbly stayed in his way. Before Joe could protest the little man continued “I ask only that you listen to me a moment longer, and consider what I offer.” Joe was trying to find a way past the strange little man without getting too close, and he wasn’t having any luck. The man made his pitch quickly. “Listen, you open up the little place of yours the next week, and you won’t be able to help paying all your bills. You keep it up for the next year, and that place’ll be known all over the city. You’ll have more money than you ever thought. And if it goes that way, then you just have to remember this little talk, and the next time you see me you pay me back the favor.”
Joe didn’t really pay attention to what the man was saying, but the man wasn’t asking him to hand anything over, so he hastily agreed. The words were barely out of his mouth and the man quickly backed into the shadows and was gone. It happened so quickly that being alone again wasn’t a relief, but another mystery. It felt as wrong as the stranger’s familiarity with him. But a few short blocks later and he was once again walking familiar streets, and by the time he’d found his way home he had nearly forgotten the few unsettling moments.