True Intentions
By: Gabriella Balcom

Thumbing through the last bundle of money, Giles smiled, then put it with the others in his sock drawer. He'd cashed the newest checks today. Adding the latest $42,450 now brought the grand total to $345,870. He'd been promised $12,000 more in two days, but didn't plan to collect it; he already had enough.

"Giles, you're a genius," he said, eying his reflection in the mirror over the dresser. Then he smirked.

Last year, several tornados had hit Texas, leaving trails of devastation in their wake. Forming a "Rebuild Ravaged Homes" campaign, Giles had spoken of his desire to help the victims who'd lost their homes. He'd asked for investments rather than contributions and promised that each dollar people invested would be returned to them doubled, courtesy of generous, wealthy backers who'd already given their commitments. So many individuals had delved deeply into their pockets, including a good number of those personally affected by the tornados.

None of them knew the full scope of Giles' plans or his true intentions.

Smiling, he imagined himself on a tropical island somewhere—sandy beaches; clear, sparkling water; brilliant sun overhead; and long, lazy days filled with intoxicating drinks, the best food, massages, and women. Plenty of women. All these things and more were his for the taking and he couldn't wait.

However, when he turned away from his dresser, he flinched to see a woman standing only a few feet away, watching him. "Who are you?" he demanded.

"I've been called many names, including Justice," she replied. "Also Vengeance. But you may call me Ria." She glanced past him at the now-closed drawer. "You have a lot of money."

Giles studied the woman—from the long, ebony hair cascading down her back to the white robe covering her slim figure, to the tips of her red, high-heeled boots. He guessed she was in her mid-twenties. "My doors were locked, so how did you get in?" he finally asked. Although his voice was calm and only mildly curious, he felt his anger rising.

"Easily," Ria replied. "Did you win the lottery?"

"In a manner of speaking. Now—what are you doing here?"

"People trusted you. Many of them gave you their entire life's savings. And you don't even care."

Giles narrowed his eyes. "How do you know—?"

"That you're a cold-blooded swindler?" she interrupted. "I know everything. Discerning the truth is one of my gifts."

He snorted. "I'll tell you some truth." Walking toward her, he grabbed her neck with both hands, and squeezed as hard as he could. "I'm not interested in anything you have to say, and I couldn't care less what stupid name you call yourself. You shouldn't have come here, and I can't let you leave. Not knowing what you do."

Ria didn't respond in the way he'd expected. Instead of crying out and struggling to get free—or even dying—she laughed and brushed his hands aside as if they were nothing. "You'd commit murder with the same lack of remorse you felt while stealing," she stated, then gestured toward his dresser. His sock drawer promptly opened. Stacks of money rose into the air and the bands on them slid off. Hundred-dollar bills separated from their bundles and floated toward him.

Giles' mouth gaped open for a few seconds before he snapped it shut. As the first hundreds neared him, he just stared at them wide-eyed. The first darted forward to lightly slice his cheek. He barked in surprise and pain when another did the same, but cut him deeper. Blood beaded in the wound, then ran down his face.

Dozens of bills swooped toward him, gashing open his skin in turn, and red droplets flew through the air.

Shrieking, Giles threw up his arms to protect his face, but the money flashed around him, targetting the rest of his body and slashing through clothing and skin alike. Blood soon dripped from his arms, stomach, and legs. "Make them stop," he begged. "I'll return the money."

Expressionless, Ria merely watched. More blood hurtled through the air, some landing on her cloak, some on her cheek. She reached up to dab the moisture with a finger, then tasted it.

Although Giles screamed again and again, the attack didn't stop. His voice had already gone hoarse, and soon, he lost it completely. Blood poured from dozens of deepening wounds.

Eventually, the room stilled again, and the money fluttered to the ground—but only after he lay unmoving on the floor—in a pool of blood.

With a snap of Ria's fingers, the droplets splattered across her robe disappeared. A second snap restored the blood-soaked bills to their original condition, after which they stacked themselves into piles on the dresser.

Ria looked up into the air. One by one, then by the dozens, faces appeared—all those who'd been swindled by Giles. When she nodded, the money vanished, returned to those from whom it had been unrightfully stolen.

Glancing around, Ria surveyed the rivulets of blood all over the room, then smiled. She stepped over the man's lifeless body, opened the door, and went outside.



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