SKIN GAME by Nick Hahn, due 2014

isearch“May I ask a question Mr. Slim?”

He looked at me with surprise, he was not used to be questioned by subordinates, especially a new recruit.

“ A question, hmmm, why not, what’s on your mind Cosita?”

“If one of your assets does an especially good job satisfying a client, attracting repeat business, are there incentives or rewards for exceptional performance?”

The look on Slim’s face was incredulous, how, he wondered, could this unremarkable child from a barrio outside of Panama City be schooled in the art of negotiation. Where did she get the nerve to ask for a bonus when her safety and well being were all she had a right to expect.

“My young friend, now tell me, did you learn to bargain on the streets of El Chorrillo?”

I looked back at him and smiled.

“Put your left hand on my desk Cosita, palm down,” His voice was unusually soft and quiet, this was a strange request but I did as he asked.

As my hand slid across the polished mahogany his movement was so fast I barely saw the knife flash in the sunlight streaming through the window. The blade struck the back of my hand, artfully missing the bone, and pinned it to the desk. My blood erupted from the wound, Slim glared at me, and yanked the knife out. “This will be your bonus for a dissatisfied client, for a happy one you will be rewarded with your life and continued room and board in my building, am I making myself clear Cosita?”

I gasped, sucking in huge amounts of air as I wrapped my hand with the towel Slim had thrown across the desk. He told me to wipe off the desk, go to the infirmary and return to class. I’d be getting further instructions about my meeting with Hassan.

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