Dennis opened the door to let the landlord in. Mr Riley greeted this courtesy with a grunt and marched right in. Dennis shut the door and followed the grumpy old sod into the living room.
“It’s right there,” he said, pointing at a wall. He’d pulled the bookcase a couple of feet away in order to display the stain a lot better.
Mr Riley barely glanced at it. “How long’s it been like that?” he grumbled.
Dennis shook his head. “I don’t know. I only noticed it yesterday, when I reached behind the shelves to -”
Mr Riley silenced him with a raised hand. “I don’t want your bloody life story, son. Looks like it’s been there a while. But I’m glad you told me. I can sort it.”
“You know what it is?”
“Uh-huh. Now, I’ll see to this and you pop the kettle on like a good boy, okay?”
“Um. Okay.” Dennis scurried to the kitchen, which was gleaming like a television commercial after his frenzy of pre-landlord cleaning. He filled the kettle and rather than try to make small talk, stayed in the kitchen to watch it boil.
In the living room, Mr Riley peered closely at the large, amorphous shape on the wall. It was black and glossy – there was no mistaking it. It was back! He straightened as the tenant came in with two mugs of tea.
Dennis scuttled back to the kitchen. Mr Riley’s heart sank. The lad was a good tenant who always paid his rent on time. A little bit messy but never any trouble. Riley would be sorry to see him go, never mind all the faff of finding a new tenant.
He looked at the stain, which appeared to have spread since his arrival.
“Just this one,” he said grimly. “And no more.”
The stain contorted into a malevolent mouth, grinning, baring fangs.
“We have a deal,” a whisper rippled through the stain. “I must be fed.”
“Just this one last time,” Mr Riley was determined, “and then you’ll give me my daughter back.”
“We’ll see about that,” said the stain. It rushed up the wall and across the ceiling to hover over the doorway. Mr Riley looked away.
Dennis came back from the kitchen with a packet. He stood on the threshold.