Chapter 2

London, England

The night had fallen and the sky was aglow with bright city lights. He sat down in front of the television after filling his plate with chicken cutlets, mashed potatoes, and peas. He glanced over his mother who was sitting on a single couch, weaving a red scarf, "Mother," He called, gaining her attention. She turned to him and gave a questioning look. He rubbed the bridge of his nose thoughtfully, a thing he did only when he was thinking or hesitating.

"Why did we leave the island?" He asked reluctantly after careful consideration. This wasn't the first time. He had asked the same questions but his mother always brushed him off. He was thirteen when her mother suddenly told him that they had to leave the island and move to her homeland. 

"You had been acting cold and unfeeling towards Uncle Hoon," He concluded, wondering if his uncle was the reason for it. Since he was a kid, his uncle was a father, brother, and friend to him. He loved and respected him. But his mother appeared to be indifferent towards his uncle even avoiding him purposely. He wasn't the only one who noticed it since his uncle gradually distanced himself. 

"He taught you weird things," Her mother finally spoke.

"It was for self-defense," He defended. Every morning his uncle would take him deep into the woods and teach him long-distance shooting. His uncle would install his mount and scope, firing a rifle at distances of two - hundreds or even three hundred yards. His uncle had never missed a single shot and that left him astonished. He knew her mother didn't like the whole idea surrounding it but he was sure it wasn't the only reason. 

"From what?" Her mother rebuked, tying the last knot and putting the scarf aside. 

He shrugged, "I don't know, bad people?" 

"I don't want you to get involved in that kind of thing,"

"What things? He was just teaching me how to use a gun----"

"Austin, that's enough," Her mother's voice had raised as her eyes glared daggers into his. He looked down, avoiding her piercing gaze, "You don't need it and won't need it, ever. Law enforcement agencies exist for a reason, to manage the public's safety. Let them do their work. We are done talking about this and I do not want you to ever mention gun aga----" Before she could finish her sentence, she started coughing violently. A sharp pain made its way through her head. 

Austin immediately rushed to her mother's side and kneeled in front of her. His eyes filled with concern, "Mother," He placed an arm around her shoulder and helped her to stand, "Come, I'll take you to your room. Let's visit the hospital early in the morning. You've been ill since last week," He guided her to the bed and tucked her in as she'd done when he was a child. He turned off the lights and waited until her mother had fallen asleep. When he was sure her mother had drifted off, he cautiously tiptoed out of the bedroom and shut the door. 

He continued to finish his meals then washed the dishes. He would wash and wash, polishing the brass hardware until it shone like a new penny. Then he was a happy man. He liked cleaning. It gave him satisfaction. He even dreamed to become a cleaner but her mother opposed it, obviously. He went straight to the bathroom and changed into his work uniforms. He had finished his degree in engineering and worked as an electrical engineer during the day. At night, he secretly worked part-time at a convenience store without her mother's knowledge. There was no particular reason, he just liked to mop the white tiled floor and organize the shelves. 

He rode his bicycle to the neighboring town and stopped at a twenty-four-hour convenience store on the side of the road. He left his bicycle chained to a nearby bench and walked inside the store.

"You're late," His co-worker exclaimed, crossing his arms across his chest. 

"Am I? John" Austin glanced to his wristwatch and he was five minutes early, "No. I'm not. You just got used to leaving early before your shift ends," He chuckled, walking to the cashier's desk.

"Well, you are late than usual," John jumped from the desk and grabbed a candy bar off the nearest rack, "You usually show up thirty minutes before your shift starts," 

Austin was wiping the cashier's desk thoroughly with a damp cloth but his co-worker's mischievous act hadn't been able to escape his eyes, "Pay for that," 

John smiled shamelessly, "Thank you for the treat, buddy" He walked out, waving the candy. 

Austin shook his head, sneering. His phone buzzed in his pocket. He dug it out and checked for messages. John had sent a picture of a barcode. Austin chortled, scanning the barcode, and placed his cash in the till drawer. There were barely any customers except the same old man. He was wearing a checkered brown coat, black homburg hat, a white scarf, and round black sunglasses. He had a gray stubbly beard and his long gray hair was pulled back neatly. Austin had a hunch that the old man was not an ordinary person. 

He knew what the old man wanted. Every day, the old man would arrive at the same time and buy the same brand of cigarettes. Austin reached to procure a pack of the old man's brand of cigarettes from the glass display behind the cashier's desk. The old man made his way towards him and gestured to the cigarettes display case, "I'll take a pack of my usual,"

Austin waved the barcode of the pack across the portable scanner. The scanner beeped as the infrared light captured the barcode's information, "Do you have any identification?" He asked the old man. 

"Little man, I'm fifty- four years old. I'm old enough to buy cigarettes," The old man explained. 

"Law is law, sir. I need to see your identification," He had never asked for any because it wasn't needed. The old man obviously looked above twenty-seven years old. Today was an exception because he was curious about his identity. The old man stared at him wordlessly then took out his wallet. The store bell rang when the door suddenly swung open and a group of armed, masked men rushed inside. 

"Oh man, come on. Again?" Austin groaned and raised both of his arms. This happened too often that he had got tired of it. There were two of them in total.

"Don't move! Take that out. Give me the fucking cash and put all the money into the bag," The man with a ski mask shouted, throwing a black bag towards him while pointing the gun. The other accomplice was clutching the old man around the neck with the gun pointed towards his head. Austin obeyed and scooped all the money from the cash register drawer then stuffed it inside the bag. 

A gunshot cracked through the air, quickly followed by two more. Austin instinctively ducked and hid under the desk. A brown stain on the floor caught his attention. He took out wet tissues from his pocket and wiped them clean. He wondered what had happened. Usually, the robbers never dared to open fire. He waited patiently and heard another gunshot and the sound of breaking glass. 

"You can come out now, little man,"

Austin frowned and slowly peeked from under the desk. The old man looked down at him, smiling. Austin sprang up and roamed his eyes around, "Well, that's a surprise," He exclaimed, staring at the blood trail going out the exit door, "That will be a hassle to clean," 

"Are you all right? Austin Park," The old man asked. The robbers were nowhere to be found and he had assumed that the blood belong to them. He scanned the old man from head to toe. The old man appeared calm and unharmed. 

"My hunch was right. You are not an ordinary person," Austin speculated. A frown immediately formed across his forehead when he realized the old man had called his name, "Do I know you?"

"Oh kid, you don't me but I know you really well. I know your father," The old man slid a card across the desk, "I have the answers to your questions. You can come and see me anytime. I'll be waiting" He walked out and disappeared around a corner.

Austin picked up the card and examined it. On one side, there was a red-eye drawing. He flipped it around and saw an address written on the back of the card. Austin shuddered, "Creep," He put it inside his pocket and proceeded to clean the mess. He stayed until the sun came up, waiting for John who arrived an hour late. 

Austin finished his shift and rode his bicycle back home, "Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind but now I see," He mindlessly sang then stopped cycling. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and took out the card, staring at the address.





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