They arrived in front of Amanda Chloe's house. There was no activity in the house, indicating that the girl was at Gerald Tan's house. While continuing to hold onto Hazel's hand that he had not let go of since earlier, they walked past three houses before finally arriving at Gerald Tan's. Almost all the houses here had a similar design because they are located in a residential area, making people a little confused if this was their first time visiting this place and did not pay attention to other details that describe the profile of the owner of the house. For example, Amanda's house has a black gate, while the house in front of her has a white gate with a golden lion carving. Raymond took out his smartphone briefly before putting it back in his pocket to check the time.
9 PM. It was still early. Those two should be still awake. A little hesitant, Raymond pressed the button for the bell near the fence.
‘Who is that?’ Gerald's voice came from the voice box above the doorbell, answering in a curt tone.
‘It’s me, the one with Amanda before.’
It did not take long to wait for Gerald because, in less than a minute, the boy was already running out of his house, opening the gate.
Raymond caught a hint of irritation when the boy said that. He noticed the boy's gaze towards Hazel, who was hiding behind his back.
‘She's my girlfriend. You don't mind if I bring her too, right?’
‘Ah. Suddenly I feel bad for Amanda.’
‘What do you mean?’ Raymond was confused at what Gerald said. But the boy shrugged instead, not intending to explain it, allowing them to go inside immediately.
Raymond invited Hazel to come in first, then he closed the door of the house and put the shoes he was wearing on the shoe rack near the entrance of the house.
‘Excuse me,’ Hazel said with a slight bow. Gerald, glancing briefly, flashed a delighted smile at Hazel's polite demeanour, and shot a glare at Raymond who was avoiding his glare by looking at the surroundings. Following Gerald, they stepped in, through various rooms before finally arriving at the living room, which was located at the corner of the house. The interior was weird. It seems that the owner of this house was not the type to like receiving guests. Raymond saw Amanda's face, who was initially happy when she saw him, then looked disappointed when she saw Hazel's figure who was standing beside him.
Hm, just a moment. It seemed he understood what Gerald meant by now.
‘Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate?’ Gerald walked into the kitchen room which is behind the living room, adjacent to the dining room.
‘Coffee,’ said Raymond as he sat on the chair, leaning his head against the back of the chair.’ Black with less sugar, please.’
‘Do you really think my house is a coffee shop?’ Gerald rolled his eyes, holding back, resentment. But it seems that the boy still made it because he smelled the coffee scent from the kitchen.
‘Er ... just hot chocolate, if that’s okay with you,’ Hazel hesitated to sit beside him. Her eyes continue to watch around this house, while occasionally observing objects around her. For someone who often helped out with detective work, Hazel was very clumsy. It seems like Hazel was not the type who often helps her father with matters in the field, but rather to search using data. Wait a minute, then, did that mean his girlfriend was also from the same city? As far as he knew, only the people from Morozov were obsessed about data. Maybe he should ask Hazel someday when the opportunity came.
‘Anything for you,’ Gerald's attitude was much friendlier when he spoke to Hazel, which irritated him a little. Damn...
Never mind, he better ignore it. There was no time for the fuss over trifles. The wound from the bullet shot had throbbed again, apparently because the effects of the anaesthetic had started to wear off. He needs to drink his pain-relief pills, but not now. His desire to drink strong black coffee and smoke was much stronger than the pain, so as soon as Gerald came back from the kitchen with four cups—one of them was hot black coffee as he wanted—he took it right away before Gerald gave it to him and took a sip. He did not care for Gerald’s glare who after gave Amanda and Hazel each a cup, muttering and cursing at Raymond, making this boy look even more like a mother figure.
This was better. If he could smoke, maybe he would do it by now. But it seemed impossible considering he forgot to bring ashtray portable and he did not find an ashtray in this house.
‘To be honest, I don’t want to invite you here. But you owe us an explanation,’ Gerald nudge his glasses up a little higher on his nose while he sat on a chair a little far away from Raymond, looking at him suspiciously.
Raymond put down the cup that was now half left, then took a deep breath. Actually, he was not ready to say it. But what Gerald said earlier was true. He did owe them an explanation.
‘Let's jump to the important point: I came to this city to investigate my friend's death two months ago.’
‘I don’t find any relation with Amanda.’ Gerald leaned forward. His knees were facing him, indicating that that boy was interested in the story.
‘Actually, yes. It is. The clue is on a piece of paper that my friend left when he died. And it led me to you, Amanda.’
Amanda looked surprised to hear that. ‘Me?’
‘Yes. That's why I came to this city. I didn't know that you were my friend's younger sister until today. Anyway, I'm afraid that the person who killed my friend is now targeting you.’
Amanda looked shocked at his explanation, looking at him with disbelief. ‘No way! I really remember that I was the only child in my family!’
‘At first, I thought that, too. But that's just my guess for now.’
‘Just a moment,' Gerald interrupted them as he was about to continue his conversation. ‘Do you mean, my best friend actually has an older brother that she didn’t know for a long time, and now she is in danger? How come it looks like a fictional story that I often read!?'
‘As for the fictional stories you often read, it's none of my business,’ Raymond held his irritated. How could that boy equate his friend's current situation with a fictional story? ‘Tonight should be safe. The people won't come tonight, I guarantee it. But I want you to let Amanda stay at your house. Only for several days.’
‘Well, because it looks like you can't defend yourself, I will search for a safe place for Amanda to keep her safe for a while until things return to normal. That's my plan.’
Gerald cuddled his words for a moment, then looked down limply. ‘It's annoying to hear that from you, but you’re right.’
‘I don't know,’ Raymond could hear a hint of hesitation in Amanda's tone as he allowed the girl to speak. 'About me who actually has an older brother. I'm the one being targeted by people I don't even know. I… I…’
Raymond took a deep breath, clutching his gunshot wound, which was so painful, looking at Gerald comforting Amanda, who was starting to cry. ‘Gerald, is Priska familiar with martial arts?’
‘I don't know, really. But Thyme, they can.’
What? Thyme? Seriously?
‘Their body is small, but as far as I know, their father is a mafia in this city, so they are used to defending themself. Guns, martial arts. That’s what I heard from them.’
He laughed sadly inwardly. No wonder he had been struggling to find out what Thyme's background had in all this time other than publications about the wealth and company of the Umberbridge family. ‘Can we ask Thyme to let Amanda stay at their house for a while? At least until the situation is safe.’
‘I can’t promise, but I’ll try.’
‘Then everything is done,’ Raymond rose from his chair after sipping his black coffee, which had cooled until nothing was left, ‘we will stop for today. Thanks for the coffee.’
Raymond drank his medicine as soon as they arrived at the apartment, then leaned over a sofa chair. Damn pain! Why did it show up at the wrong time?
‘Raymond, I told you. You should drink your medicine after you eat,’ Hazel frowned when she found out that he had taken the medicine without waiting for Hazel, who had gone to the room to change into a yellow panda pyjama pattern that matched her figure. The woman crossed her hands in front of her chest, waiting for his explanation.
‘I forgive you this time,’ Hazel sighed, then walked toward the kitchen. ‘Do you want to eat the cake?’
‘Okay. Oh, I forgot. Don't try to smoke, at least until your wound heals. That was what the doctor said before you left.’
‘Yes, I understand,’ Raymond replied, somewhat reluctantly, as he was just about to get out of his couch and pick up the stock of cigarettes in his room. Shit. His mouth was itchy because he wanted to inhale cigarette smoke which usually calmed his frantic mind. He could die if he continued like this.
But, there was a point that he was hit by a bullet earlier It made him know the other side of Hazel who was caring for people. Maybe the conditions were not that bad. He better just enjoyed it. Opportunities like this would not come twice. Even if he had to sacrifice his desire to smoke.
Raymond saw Hazel, who was now back in the living room, handing the plate filled with yesterday's cake and mineral water to him. Then, putting it on the table, Hazel sat beside him. Touching his forehead with the back of her hand then comparing with her own body temperature to check his body temperature. Taking off Raymond's clothes a little, checking the wound then closing it again after finding that it was not open. Just a second. How does it feel like he was living with a nurse?
‘Hm?’ The woman tidied up the medicine pack, which was messy because he took medicine in such a hurry earlier, not turning to him.
‘Can you feed me the cake, please?’ Raymond put on his puppy-dog eye.
Hazel laughed, then took the plate, spooned the cake at Raymond who did not think his girlfriend would actually do it for him. ‘Open your mouth.’
Raymond lowered his head, then opened his mouth. The sweetness of the cake spread throughout his bitter mouth, coupled with Hazel's adorable smile, had made him forget his desire to smoke.
‘I have something to ask you.’
‘Yes?’ He opened his mouth again when he finished eating his first bite, taking the second.
‘So, the reason you came to Cirillo City is not to find a new atmosphere, but to investigate?’
Raymond shook his head, swallowed the cake then stopped Hazel's hand that was about to spoon out the cake for the third time. ‘Not really. I was looking for a new atmosphere apart from investigating my friend's death. But meeting you is a bonus that I’m gladly taking without hesitation.’
Hazel immediately turned her face away from him. ‘W-wh-what’s with sudden…’
He laughed softly. Seeing the shopping bag lying on the table made him remember that he hadn't given the thing he bought earlier to Hazel. He took her hand away from Hazel, leaned forward a little to reach for a shopping bag made of brown paper and gave it to Hazel. ‘For you.’
Now, it remains only to wait for Hazel's reaction. This woman put down the plate, looking enthusiastic as she opened the shopping bag. Her eyes sparkled as she found the contents of the bag, staring at Raymond in disbelief.
‘It's so pretty…’ Hazel looked closely at the cup. Looks like Hazel liked the present he gave. His decision to purchase this expensive set of cups was very precise. Luckily, the negative thought that had crossed his mind was not true.
‘I bought it earlier because I thought the design will suit you very well. Do you like it?’
This woman nodded and immediately ran to put the set of cups he gave into the kitchen, jumping for joy. Forgetting her job to help him eat the cake. Well, never mind. Seeing Hazel happy because of his present made him happy. He looked at the remaining cake reluctantly and finished the cake. Then without realizing it, he was asleep on the sofa as soon as the effect of the medicine worked.