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Deal 1244: Empty

The room was dark, except for the corner. There, a fluke of lighting picked out the empty birdcage.

The empty birdcage.

The empty gilded cage, whose door was standing open, and whose occupant had fled.

Or had been eaten.

Either way, the empty cage was in the spotlight in the dark room.

It took a while to notice, but more than just the bird was missing. The prince, whose palace this is, is missing too. At that, the general alarm was raised.

And here we are now.

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Deal 1158: Bats

Choices abound, as usual. They vary in quality from the best that can be had to the worst imaginable, with all plausible outcomes falling far away from the extremes.

This time they had gone to far. Their only way out was to go all the way through. And survive.

Meanwhile, the juggernaut began to flex its muscles in court, burning all possible avenues of retreat, narrowing the path.

In its wake, the possibilities evaporate as if never there, as the choices we would prefer evaporate before our eyes.

That brings us to this moment as we stand with the stolen loot in hand in the lobby of the bank, surrounded by police with nowhere to turn. Our plan had been simple. Pull this last heist, and then use the proceeds to obtain transportation away. Far far away. Somewhere we could outrun our previous choices, and live free for a time.

Instead, here we were. The fires we set to cover our escape were already burning and we had to be out the door and moving in seconds for it all to work.

Then it all went pear-shaped. Or perhaps it always was, and this was just the moment we realized it.

Our carefully planned retreat was blocked.

Blocked by a man dressed all in black, wearing an improbable black cowl and cape. And yet, somehow, he seemed to carry it off.

“You know who I am,” he said, “and you are coming with me.”

What else could we do but set our weapons down and agree to face our fates.

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Deal 1156: Why?

Every evening she walked right to the edge, then turned back to her comfortable home.

The edge called to her, tempted her, taunted her.

The edge whispered things to her, things that in the sunlight were clearly lies, but at night sounded different.

And yet, every evening she walked back to the edge.

Perhaps she was testing her resolve?

Perhaps she couldn’t see that the whispers were seeking to betray her?

Whatever she was thinking, we may never know.

Last night, the call was too much for her resolve, too much for her to deny.

She walked right up to the edge, under the rail, and beyond.

Beyond the yellow line.

Beyond the other side.

And disappeared into the darkness, never to be seen again.

Tonight, her daughter walked to the edge for the first time.

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Deal 1155: Pandora’s mine?

A diamond mine is in many ways just an industrialized version of hope. Workers sweat in the darkness for the chance at surviving another day or two with a few spare dollars in their pockets. From their toil, the reward is the occasional sparkly prize. But even that doesn’t look like much more than occasionally shiny gravel until it has been cleaned, graded, cut, and polished.

At the end of the day, the product has value because it is rare and hard to find.

A value that the cartels reinforce through campaigns of intimidation against any who would find markets for the stones outside of their control.

The mine might as well be Pandora’s box. Wars break out over it. Men fight tooth and nail to control it. Lives are spent with abandon in its depths.

And yet, there is always hope.

At least until the mine is worked out.