NO GREATER GIFT

Unexpected

3.47am
Pendefig Mall

Talfryn Price sat in the security monitor room of Pendefig Mall, trying his best not to fall asleep. The last thing he needed was to be caught out sleeping on the job, regardless of how lousy he thought the job actually was. Technically he wasn’t actually a security guard. Hell, he wasn’t even on the Mall’s payroll. The truth was he had a mate who was on the payroll as a security guard there, and who had approached him a week ago with an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Specifically, that he couldn’t afford to refuse.

His mate, Aeron, had a hot date that night, only to find himself switched to the night duty shift at the mall. He’d asked Talf to fill in for him while he wined, dined and hopefully fucked his date. Dead easy, Aeron had assured him. Just sit on his arse in the security room, and keep an eye on the monitors to make sure that no one tried to break in. Oh, and don’t fall asleep.

He groaned and stood up to pace the length of the tiny room in an effort to wake himself up. His mate was already past due to come and take over for him. He should have been there a good hour and a half ago. Talf just hoped he did actually show. Otherwise, they would both be up shit creek when the morning shift guards turned up.

He stretched his arms out wide, relishing the sensation, before turning to deposit himself back in the chair.

The lights flickered. Talf froze, looking around nervously. He was almost, completely, a hundred percent sure that wasn’t supposed to happen. A long minute passed, and he was just working towards convincing himself that it was nothing to worry about, when it happened again. This time, in addition to the lights, the security monitors stuttered and went to snow. The interference lasted for just half a minute before everything went dead.

Talf stood frozen, engulfed in darkness, trying desperately to work out what had just happened and keep from panicking. He wasn’t afraid of the dark, not by a long way, but that didn’t prevent his heart pounding hard enough in his chest to nearly crack a rib. With a shaking hand, he reached out for the chair, deciding that the safest thing to do would be to sit down and wait it out until Aeron arrived. He’d just seated himself when there was a loud buzz and the lights suddenly flickered back on.

Talf let out an undignified shriek as the flare of light momentarily blinded him, and when he could see again he was startled to find that the surveillance monitors had come back on as well. His heart in his throat, Talf leaned forward to examine the monitors. Everything looked as it should be, and there didn’t appear to be anything out of the ordinary…

What the fuck…?

As Talf watched, the tiny figure of a little girl came into view on one of the monitors. She was alone, or at least appeared to be, and was dragging something along the floor that he suspected was some sort of teddy bear. He sat there and watched, open-mouthed, as she walked down the long, deserted causeway of the mall’s upper floor, looking around as she went.

Fuck, he thought grimly. Some arsehole parent has gone and left the kid here, and now I’ve gotta sort it out.

Briefly, very briefly, he was tempted to just leave her to wander. Then, when Aeron arrived, he could point her out to him, and then piss off before he got roped into helping to find her. Talf may have been a bastard, but he wasn’t cruel. If it was his kid, he figured he’d probably kill anyone callous enough to ignore her in a similar situation. Then again, he liked to think he wouldn’t be irresponsible enough to leave a kid behind like that in the first place.

Sighing in frustration, Talf grabbed the torch that Aeron had left with him, and went to find the kid.


The mall was a decidedly creepy place at night time. By the time Talf had made it from the security room to the second floor, where he’d last sighted the child on the security monitors, he was seriously regretting his decision to go looking for her. He didn’t like this, not at all, and he was going to bloody kill Aeron when the bastard finally showed up.

He paused in his stride, shining the torchlight around with a deep frown. How in the hell was he meant to find some pint sized kid in a place like this? Even without the added complication of thousands of people wandering around, it was still a next to impossible task.

He was almost prepared to turn around and go straight back to the security room when movement caught his eye. Wheeling around, he found himself staring at the open door of the mall’s toy shop. The lights were on, and from within he could hear the very distinct sound of a child’s laughter.

Feeling more annoyed now than frightened, Talf strode into the shop to find the cause of his interrupted night. It didn’t take him long. Following the sound of laughter, he quickly found the source of his frustration sitting on the floor in the midst of the sea of stuffed animals. She had a rather grotty looking teddy bear tucked up tightly in one arm, and was cuddling a penguin that clearly belonged to the shop in her other arm.

Talf hesitated in speaking, struck by the child’s appearance. He wouldn’t have called her particularly beautiful, but she was nonetheless striking in appearance. Her hair was dark brown, shoulder length and wavy where it wasn’t matted with dirt. It was her eyes that really got his attention, though. Her eyes were dark green, the likes of which he’d never seen before.

It honestly frightened the hell out of him.

Shaking himself out of his momentary reverie, Talf moved forward. Lost or not, dumped or not, enough was enough.

“Hey, kid!”

The child’s head snapped up, her eyes wide with fright as she saw Talf for the first time. He advanced on her, too exhausted and too aggravated to even imagine that he might have been in danger.

“C’mon, little girl. Time to go. You gotta come with me.”

She uttered a squeak of fear and distress as he reached down and grabbed her wrist, attempting to drag her to her feet. The penguin to which she had been clinging tumbled out of her grasp as he pulled her up, and she shrieked in protest. Grunting, Talf pulled harder as she dug her feet in and refused to go.

“C’mon, you little brat. You’re coming with me, whether you like it or not. I’ll get you a nice cup of crappy hot chocolate from the big machine if you behave yourself, and when Uncle Aeron comes, he can call the police and they’ll find your mummy for you.”

“Nai!” the girl screamed, tears filling her eyes. “Nai! Enni ma Dada!”

She lunged forward suddenly, and sank her teeth into Talf’s wrist. Talf bellowed in pain and released his hold on the child. In a purely reflexive move, he swung around and struck her across the face, sending her tumbling over backwards.

“Oh fuck,” Talf groaned, realising just seconds too late what he’d done. “Oh shit… Kid, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to do that. You just… Fuck, why wouldn’t you just come with me?”

Perhaps too late, he realised that the girl wasn’t crying, or making any sort of a scene like he’d expected she would. Instead, she just sat there, staring at him with those creepy green eyes. He fell silent, his heart pounding harder than ever as she spoke one single word in a crystal clear voice.

“Bad.”

It was the last thing Talfryn Price heard before his heart exploded in his chest, and he collapsed to the floor, dead.

Satisfied that she was once again safe, the child got to her feet, picked up both her teddy and the penguin, and stepped almost daintily past the body. Without so much as a glance back, she went on her way with the toys tucked securely in her arms.

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