Even with the light from the gibbous moon, only partially obscured behind a layer of clouds, the streets were dark. Yellow streetlamps buzzed at the intersections, casting a sickly light over the road, but the alleys remained in deep shadow. People walking this late at night were either so inebriated as to not notice the potential dangers lurking in the shadows, or hurried home as quickly as possible, casting glances over their shoulders and keeping any purses, bags, or backpacks tucked close to their person. He lurked in one of these dark alleys, leaning up against a grimy brick wall, eyes trained on the door of the only building for a couple of blocks that had every light turned on. The bar was a haven for the drunk, and the single bouncer on the premises meant that almost anyone could get away with anything without consequence. Those who came here were looking for one of two things, to have the night of their life they’d never remember, or to drown out unimaginable sorrows. For many it was both. The hours rolled slowly by, but the man leaning against the wall did not move an inch. His attention was absolute, and the one thug that came close to him, wondering if he’d found an easy target, was immediately chased away at a single bloodcurdling look. But, in the early hours of the morning, something finally changed. Another man stumbled his way out of the bar, so drunk it was only by pure luck that he managed to stay upright. But the strange man shifted, and the sudden tilt of his shoulders made it clear he had finally found his target. He crept quietly out of the shadows, drawing up behind the man, who did not notice the approaching threat to his life. The man closed strong hand around the drunk’s shoulder, before bodily hauling him into the alley, one hand clamped over his mouth to muffle any scream. The drunk was crying, and as he looked up at the face outlined in shadowed moonlight he let out a broken hearted sob. “You.” There was no surprise in his voice. “Me,” the stranger agreed, his pleasant voice at odds with his tight grip on the drunkard. “Please,” the drunk man bawled, “I don’t want to die.” “You made your deal, and your ten years are now up. You knew what was coming when you signed the contract.” The man shook his head wildly, hands clawing at the stranger’s arms. “Please,” he repeated. It was all he could say, over and over again. “Please, please, please.” "I know, I know." One of The Collector’s hands let go of the man's jacket and he reached up to cup his face gently, almost like a lover. A brief expression of sorrow flashed across his face, but then his expression went blank again. The man's blubbering slowed under the touch of The Collector, and he took a couple of heaving breaths. "Just close your eyes," The Collector murmured gently in his ear. The man let out one last panicked sob, before his eyes fluttered shut. The hand on the man's face dropped down, pressing against the man’s chest. Slowly his hand sunk into the man’s chest, before he pulled it back out. The drunkard went limp, and in the Collector’s fist something unknowably bright flashed between the cracks of his fingers. Carefully he lifted his fist towards his face, before shoving the brightness down his throat. A faint scream of pain came from deep within his throat as his eyes briefly flared pure white, and he collapsed limply to the ground. For a moment he lay there, right next to the cooling corpse of the drunk man, quivering in pain. Finally the man’s shaking came to an end, and he pushed himself to his feet. He rubbed a tired hand across his face, before pushing some of his black hair back into place. He staggered to one wall, where he leaned, gasping, as the pain subsided. Finally he straightened. The night was still young, and there was still so much work to do. Every fulfilled contract needed to be replaced by a new one, as soon as possible. How ironic that the very place that the drunkard had come to try and escape his fate would be the same place where someone else was drawn into it.