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Chapter 4

  • It was only a few days ago that he got a job at the cafe where Hazel worked and got new information that the girl he was investigating based on the last clue Arnold created was often visiting the cafe. Rachel says everything the woman knows about Amanda after he found Edward scolding Rachel and her three friends for throwing him the responsibility that should be their job. He took the opportunity to ask Rachel in exchange for saving them from Edward's tantrum. Luckily, Rachel was the dependable type. And now, his intuition seemed to tell him that Amanda's life was in danger. He was reluctant to follow his intuition because it meant he had to sacrifice his day off, wanting to give his body a moment to rest. Unfortunately, his intuition was always right, so he could not just ignore it. It was thanks to his always precise intuition and a keen sense of smell that he was able to get his job as a police detective.
  • Shit.
  • It left him no option. His intuition was right again. He was outside the cafe that served tea as their main menu near Amanda's school, found that several pairs of eyes were on the students who had just left their school because it was time to go home. He tried to refrain from tapping his fingers on the table for fear that the man in dark sunglasses who was sitting not far suspected him. He tried to remain his move inconspicuous as possible and move one step aside from those people who were tailing Amanda. He did not know their motives, but he was sure that it related to Arnold.
  • His eyes immediately caught the figure of Amanda who had just appeared in front of the school gate. She looked down in the mouth. Ah, no. To be precise, he felt that that girl seemed to be feeling lonely. He did not see her friends who usually walk with her today, and it was strange. His hands rummaged through his third cup of the ginger tea he ordered to ward off the cold weather of sitting outside the cafe, figuring out the right way to watch over the girl without arousing suspicion. He had already memorized all the routes in this city—the ability he acquired after five years working as a detective, so all he needed to do was guess the road she would pick. Based on his observations so far, that girl never returned home immediately after school. Maybe because of loneliness as the girl lived in a house that was quite large to live by herself.
  • He understood how it felt very well because he had also experienced it in the past. But Amanda was much luckier than him. At least, her parents left her more than enough money to support her life until she graduated from university—from what he knew while investigating Amanda. In his case, his parents divorced and left him alone with a little cash that only had enough to meet his living needs for a year once he graduated from junior high school, leaving him no option to find lots of part-time jobs to pay his school fees and living cost. Just remembering it made him feel a little uneasy. If someone asked him why he did not want to use his investigation skill to trace his parent’s whereabouts, he would answer the question quickly: he was not interested.
  • Yes, he had no interest in finding his parents who had dumped him, and he did not care either. After all, if he searched for them and found them, was there any guarantee that they would regret their actions and want to rebuild their damaged family life with him like before? It seemed impossible. Based on his experience, he had never encountered such people. Most selfish parents would use the opportunity to attract their children's compassion if they know that their children they left before became rich and had a stable life while they were living in poverty and end up with cases of extortion of the children's money. Yes, things like that happened a lot when he was working as a police back then. That was the reason why he was reluctant to do so.
  • Shit. His thought was wandering, almost making him lose track of Amanda. As soon as the man with dark sunglasses walked after Amanda, he stayed at his place about ten minutes after gulp his chilled ginger tea. He counted the number of people who were following the girl.
  • Hm, ten people? Wow. Was it not too much? Just to keep an eye on one girl who just turned into sixteen years old last week, something feels wrong. His feelings were getting worse. He guessed the route, took a detour. Very nice. The girl seemed to be going to the cafe that the girl always visits after school. In that case, he would be better to catch up soon.
  • Still staring at the people who were not aware that they were also being watched by him, he whistled softly, leaving the place.
  • ***
  • He could not help but smile when he found the girl right in the cafe she usually visited, sitting near the cafe window. Luckily he moved faster than the stalkers. He had just finished negotiating with Mikeーone of his co-workers who was supposed to be on duty today, changed shifts with him in five minutes before Amanda arrived at the cafe. Making lame excuse by telling Mike he wanted to get used quickly to his new job. The classic excuse managed to convince Mike, and instead, he had to treat the guy to lunch for two weeks. After tidying his wrinkled waiter’s uniform, he approached Amanda's table.
  • ‘Are you ready to order, Miss?’
  • That girl returned her attention from outside the window, surprised while seeing him. She quickly hid her face into the menu book that she held for a long time with her hands trembling. He was confused with that. Did he scare that girl? Strange. He already followed the SOP for serving guests according to Edward's instruction—the manager who was known for his stern face. There should not be any problem.
  • ‘Y-yes.’ Amanda took her face away from the menu book. Her tiny finger pointed at the menu name on the list she wanted to order, not saying a word at all. He did not comment at all.
  • ‘Okay, I'll prepare the order,’ he pulled out the menu book that Amanda placed on the table after she finished ordering the menu, while leaning as close as possible to Amanda, tucking a piece of paper under the napkin that was near that girl.
  • ‘Someone’s watching you.’
  • He walked away after finishing whispering the words to that girl to read the message he slipped, back to his business smile again. This girl covered her face with her hands and nodded. He hesitated a little. Did that girl really understand what he said? Well, better bet on fate. Whether that girl understood his message or not.
  • He secretly used his sensitive nose to smell the emotion’s scents of the people around this cafe. He did not detect any suspicious scents, and since he saw Amanda entering this cafe, he did not see the people watching this girl in this cafe. It means that they were still outside, watching Amanda from afar. Very nice. At least he already made sure to slip the paper as smoothly as possible. Humming softly, he walked away from Amanda's table, delivering the order to the waiter who was in charge of preparing the order.
  • ***
  • Raymond plays his smartphone’s screen. His free hand was tucked into the pocket of a black hooded jacket while humming, walking down the hallway as he exits the employee changing room. His shift for today was finished, so all he had to do was wait whether fate would be on his side or not. If so, that means it should be, the girl named Amanda is currently waiting for him in the back alley of this cafe when she reads the message he slipped earlier. But if not, he would have to think of other options to save that girl. It would be difficult. There would be some way he could try if his first plan failed, but he really hoped it would not happen. Raymond glanced behind him, in case anyone was following him. His nose smelled nothing but a familiar scent, and also a trace of Amanda.
  • Very nice. It seemed that the plan was successful. It was more than enough. Judging from the interior of this cafe, the child should have no trouble getting out of this cafe without getting suspicious. What that girl's need was just pretending to go to the toilet close to the employee changing room, covered by a wall which was a blind spot so it would take the stalkers a long time to realize that the girl had left the cafe. Supported by the current time, when it became the busiest time in the cafe as most people just come home from work, she would not bump into a single employee in the corridor.
  • The plan should be perfect.
  • Raymond slipped his smartphone into his pocket, stopped humming as he reached the back door of the cafe which led into the dark alley used for taking out the trash, opened the door and closed it quickly, then satisfied when he found the expected figure waiting for him there.
  • ‘Have you been waiting long?’ Raymond walked over to Amanda who immediately shook her head quickly. He watched the girl’s body trembling. Her hand took out the paper he had slipped in before, exposing its contents to Raymond.
  • 「Someone watching you. 5 pm, back alley of the cafe. Through the toilet. 」
  • ‘Is it true that someone is watching me?’
  • Raymond ignored Amanda's question, took the paper that was in Amanda's hand. He tore it into small pieces and threw it right into the puddle near his feet, destroying the pieces in an instant. There would be no trace. Without waiting for Amanda's approval, Raymond grabbed the girl's hand, leading her to run down the dark alley. Ten minutes was not a long time, but enough to buy some time. It would be just a matter of time until they realize their target has disappeared.
  • They kept running through the alley until he felt safe and turned down the path that led them out of the hallway into a quaint, old building shop area. The roadway was only fitted for two cars. Raymond looked around, realizing that there were many buildings in this place that needed renovation. There are many buildings full of graffiti, some with faded paint, and some with peeling walls. When he first came to this place to investigate Amanda, he did not really pay attention to this detail because he was busy looking for a route that could take him quickly to Amanda's house if something wrong happened to her. Raymond took his hand away from Amanda, gave the girl time to catch her breath (it seemed this girl was not used to running this far), then invited her to walk down the sidewalk, behaving like a typical pedestrian.
  • ‘Call your friend now. Ask them to pick you up,’ Raymond put his hand to Amanda’s shoulder to get close to Amanda while whispered after two pedestrians had passed them.
  • ‘O...okay,’ Amanda stammered back his words. Amanda's trembling hands pulled out the smartphone. While this girl contacted her friend, Raymond took the opportunity to observe this girl closely. From her fingers, this girl seemed to be good at playing the piano. Maybe this girl used that skill to get a scholarship. It made sense. He put the new information he knew into his brain, turning it into a piece of the puzzle. This method was much safer than using a computer that can be hacked at any time. But it seems that he still needs one more piece to complete the puzzle.
  • Raymond continued to walk beside the girl as soon as this girl finished calling her friend until his eyes fell on an antique shop that immediately caught his eye. He gave a quick glance at Amanda who was constantly nervous as she walked beside him. This girl must be scared. He pulled this girl closer to him, to make her more comfortable and felt secure.
  • ‘I’m here, don't worry. When will your friend come to pick you up?’
  • ‘In a moment,’ Amanda looked down with a slightly flushed face. Maybe because of the weather? Well, today was a bit cold, though.
  • ‘Then we'll go inside first,’ Raymond paused, realizing that his way of getting Amanda had made him look like a suspicious stranger intending to harm Amanda. He hurriedly changed the way he spoke. ‘I mean, it's much better to wait inside than outside.’
  • Amanda laughed softly, then nodded before looking at him with a questioning look.
  • ‘Just say it You can ask me anything,’ Raymond gave up his intention of opening the shop door, giving Amanda some time to speak.
  • ‘I… I already know …’
  • ‘Yes?’
  • ‘I already know that someone has been watching me since last week.’
  • Last week? Shit. He was too focused on thinking of ways to approach Hazel, which made him forget his original purpose for coming to this city.
  • ‘So… could…’ Amanda looked at him doubtfully. ‘Could I trust you?’
  • Raymond smiled, stroking the top of Amanda's head. ‘Well, it depends on you. All you just need to know for now is, I promised to protect you as soon as I found you, Amanda Chloe.’
  • ‘Wait. How did you know my name?’
  • Raymond nodded, not answering her question. He was silent for a moment as he opened the shop door, taking a glance at Amanda. This girl’s surprised expression succeeded in giving him the last piece of the puzzle he had been looking for, which immediately put all the pieces of the puzzle together into one. How could he not have realized it earlier? This girl has the eyes and face’s structures that—if he looked into closely—were similar to Arnold's.
  • Jeez…
  • His body froze, not expecting what he had just found. Then, this girl beside him was Arnold's little sister? Indeed, Arnold mentioned to him when he was drunk, how he wanted to meet his younger sibling who he had not seen for a long time. At that time he thought that Arnold's words were directed at Verdict Walter, Arnold's younger brother who often visited Arnold's house every summer vacation, so he did not bother with it. He thought Arnold was joking back then. Was that mean Arnold's current family was not his biological family? If so, then all his curiosity in the past was clear. He finally understood why he always felt strange whenever he looked at Arnold who looked different from all the Walter family members. All the Walter family had grey eyes, dark blond hair, and pale skin, while Arnold’s hair was purely black with his olive skin. The only similarity between Arnold and Verdict was their stubborn attitude and dislike of commitments in romantic relationships.
  • ‘Brother?’
  • Amanda's voice calling out to him broke his reverie. He invited this girl to enter first, then let the door close by itself as soon as he entered. As soon as they entered the antique shop, both of them were fascinated by the collections in this shop. They looked at each other, then agreed to split up. Amanda immediately walked to the shelf filled with small drawers decorated with Victorian carvings. Inside, he was quite surprised to find that his tastes with Amanda were very similar. If Arnold were still alive, his friend would have been grumbling and complaining to them. Raymond laughed with amusement, imagining his friend was still living and finding that his younger sister had the same interest for antique things like him.
  • Raymond studied the antique glasses on the front shelf as he continued to make sure Amanda stayed close to him. Maybe he should buy things here as a courtesy because he borrowed this place to hide for a while. His eyes fixed on a set of cups, inspired by the Rococo era, caught his attention. It would suit Hazel’s image. Should he buy this set as a present to Hazel? But what if Hazel did not like his choice? Or maybe throw it away in front of his eyes?
  • ‘Raymond? Is that you, Raymond Cooper?’
  • Raymond turned his head to find a woman who had called his name earlier, walking quickly toward him. He froze at once, not expecting that he would meet his old friend who suddenly disappeared from Morozov five years ago in this city. The woman held Raymond's cheeks, turned around his body many times to make sure that what she saw was real.
  • ‘Mar... Martha?’ His tongue was gushing, barely able to say anything. What an unexpected surprise. Without hesitation, he immediately hugged Martha tightly. ‘Where have you been? I thought you died!’
  • ‘There are a lot of things going on,’ Martha rubbed Raymond's head, ‘I should have been the one who asked you that question. Why are you here?’
  • ‘A lot happened,’ Raymond sighed, collecting all his courage to tell her the bad news. ‘Arnold… he is…’
  • ‘I already know about that. Sorry for not coming to Arnold's funeral,’ Martha released Raymond's hug. There was a tone of regret when Martha said it. The woman wore a green cocktail dress with a low cleavage (totally did not match this shop's image but he had to admit, it really suited Martha) and the seven centimetre-high heels turned her body to face Amanda.
  • ‘Oh? Is she your partner?’
  • ‘No.’
  • ‘No wondering she looks so young. Not your type,’ Martha laughed softly. ‘So, does that mean you are still playing around and don’t have a partner? Even though you’ll soon turn to thirty?’
  • ‘Twenty-six,’ Raymond corrected, stared annoyingly at the woman he already considered as his older sister. ‘You’re not in the position to say that.’
  • ‘Well, I’m different. I don’t like thingsー’
  • ‘Which is troublesome and full of commitment,’ interrupted Raymond, knowing well what this woman would say every time he asked that question.
  • ‘Y’know me very well, lil’ brother,’ Martha muttered, then her eyes turned to the set of cups that had caught Raymond's eye. ‘For you, I give a special price. All of the collections here are not mass-produced by the artists, so I can guarantee that there will be only one in this world. There are other collections you can look at if you are interested.’
  • Raymond was interested in Martha's offer, who intends to invite him to look at the items in her shop. Unfortunately, it did not come at the right time, so he was forced to turn it down.
  • ‘Next time, maybe?’ Raymond took the cup that took his interest earlier to Martha. ‘I will buy this one.’
  • ***