Chapter Eighteen – Shadow of a Doubt Pt. 1
The noises of the wild soothed him. At every side was a tree. He made his way down a grassy dirt path to pass a wild stream of water coming down from the mountains. It was crystal clear, and it was calming despite the velocity. Birds were chirping and flowers were blooming, because at long last, it was the time of rebirth—spring. He knew he shouldn’t stay out for much longer, however, as his parents were waiting for him back home.
Daveon looked to the sun reaching midway through the sky. Despite the miles of flora, mountains, and more, he never got lost, as he travelled this way often. It was the only place he could be himself, given his powers, but he also had a passion for the natural world.
It was his eighteenth birthday only a week before. He didn’t feel any different. Was he supposed to? Often he pondered this. Becoming an adult might have happened already, or maybe it’ll come the year after, but will he know?
He asked himself a lot of questions when he was out in the forests, or climbing mountains. His magic allowed him to soar to heights nobody else would climb to, giving him a place to be alone whenever he needed it. When he was sad, he’d come to sit upon a cliff and just breath deeply—a view to rest his soul.
Wizards already felt alone at times. Some blended in well, while others always felt like outcasts deep down. Luckily for him, Daveon didn’t focus that much on his magic. It was his family that brought a warmth to his heart.
A hop and skip brought him through the noisy streets of home. It wasn’t long before he arrived at the building that functioned as his family’s small restaurant as well as his house.
“Hey, Dav,” came a young man’s voice as he walked.
“D-Daveon…” muttered a girl.
He was a popular boy. The town itself was small, so everyone knew everybody, though he never really cared much for popularity. It wasn’t that he didn’t appreciate friendship. He simply preferred having a handful of tight friends over an ocean of acquaintances, but at the same time, he was a dreamer and was often in his own little world.
The druid pushed open the doors and a small bell chimed his entrance.
It was a quaint, cozy place to eat. The shop could only hold a couple dozen patrons at a time, but they got by, albeit barely. They didn’t need a lavish life of luxury anyway. On that day, however, it was almost empty. He spotted his mother and father speaking with a man sitting alone at the corner table.
The gentleman was dressed to impress with a fancy black suit and slicked orange hair. It was not a tangerine samurai this time, however. It was a mango freak-show. The newspaper covering his face slowly lowered to reveal three deep scars on his face, vibrant green eyes, and an expression vacant of sympathy.
He carefully folded up the newspaper. This took what felt like an eternity, but once it was placed upon the table, he locked together his hands and looked between the two.
“Mr. Markani,” spoke his mother. “Please. I promise—“
“You will not speak until I’ve asked you a question,” snapped the man with a twisted glare in his eye. “I have been incredibly patient with you two. I let you open a store in my town, and all I ask is a certain, generous percentage of your profits every month. It’s been a week over, and my hands are tied.”
Daveon recognized this man. A kid would call him the town bully. An adult would say this place wasn’t run by the mayor. It was run by Bryant Markani alone. Though he had men, he was rarely seen with them, and this confidence terrified people. His money and power was the life blood of Mollepata, whether people liked it or not, but he had no idea his parents had anything to do with it. They always told him not to worry about it—that they would deal with Markani if anything went wrong.
“We’ll get you the money,” his father added. “We just barely make any here. The percentage we owe you is most of what we make. If you just give us—“
“I’ve given you an extra week already,” the suited man snapped again.
“Just a little more time. That’s all we ask.”
“You have until the sun sets. If I don’t have the money in my possession by then, from the sky will rise a blood moon tonight. Do I make myself clear? And why don’t I have my stew yet? Go on. Get out of my sight.”
The two hustled to the kitchen. It was then that Daveon and the man’s eyes caught one another. He couldn’t help it. The presence of the man caused his knees to tremble. Maybe he wasn’t an adult after all. Much to his surprise, Bryant beckoned him over with a single finger, and he knew better than to deny.
“You’re their kid, right?” spoke Mr. Markani as he lifted back up his paper to read as he waited.
He didn’t understand. This mobster—this scum—was all by himself. There were no bodyguards around, not even outside. He might have had a gun, but it couldn’t be enough. This man was so arrogant that he paraded around the town he claimed to own without any protection, and it steamed Daveon up. He could take him right now and save his parents. It would be so simple. Yet, something deterred him. He didn’t understand it but he felt an overwhelming fear when he even thought about attacking Bryant in the open like that.
“Tell me, Daveon. What are you trying to be?”
“I’m not sure, to be honest. Maybe a cook like my parents, but maybe I’ll travel the world instead.”
“A nice thought. Travelling isn’t for me. I prefer to find a place I can really dig my roots into. This town, it’s my home. The whole of it. Do you like this place?”
“Then you’d do best to listen to me. Don’t do anything stupid. Don’t say anything dumb. Speak when you’re spoken to. That’s how you get through life when you’re in the position you’re in.”
“You seem like a good kid. Obedient. You do as your told. You answer questions you’re asked.” He scooted his chair to the side and licked his finger, flipping the page of his newspaper to the next. “Clean my shoes.”
“I said clean my boots. Use that stupid beanie of yours. Shine them up.”
He reluctantly knelt down and removed his hat, and with both shame and fear eating away at his core, he rubbed it on the top of Bryant’s black footwear. This continued for a minute. Suddenly, the man thrust the tip of his shoe into Daveon’s upper chest.
“That’s enough!” the man shouted. “Good boy.”
Daveon crumbled. He placed his hand upon the bruise left by the strike, but he still didn’t attack. Something inside was telling him not to. So instead he waited to the side. He waited as his parents brought Mr. Markani his food. He waited for him to finish. Finally, he departed and the day passed by.
Around the dinner table, Daveon looked furious. It was just him and his parents now, alone with a nice meal of potatoes and chicken, but the day’s previous events left a sour taste in his mouth that even his mother’s home cooked poultry couldn’t erase.
“How can we let him push us around like that?” Daveon barked. “It’s unfair!”
“I’m sorry, son. It’s just how it works around here,” his father said softly.
“Just because he has money, he thinks he can own this town and force everyone to do his bidding. It’s not human. I swear, if you just let me, I can fight him and… I don’t know.”
“Son. I know you have a great power within you. But we’ve worked hard over the years to keep that a secret. Don’t waste it now and lose yourself. What if somebody sees?”
“I know. Sorry, dad.”
“You’re growing into a great man. But with that comes the realization that things aren’t the way they seem when you’re a child. This world is run by people just like Mr. Markani, and we have to obey or we’ll just fall under-foot.”
“Are you finished eating, Daveon?” asked his mother.
“I’d like to ask something of you. Can you go to the shop and buy some butter? It should still be open a little longer and I need it for a recipe I’d like to try.”
“Of course. But didn’t you just go shopping yesterday?”
“Oh. Yes. I forgot to pick some up.”
“You don’t usually forget things related to food. All right. Give me just twenty minutes or so and I’ll be back. The sun is setting soon so I’ll try to be quick.”
“Take your time, my darling son. This might sound strange, but I need to tell you something before you leave.”
“Always remember this, no matter what. This is a piece of advice to help you as you grow into a gentleman. Never forget who you are. And when the time comes where you need to move on from this town, and see the world, don’t look back. Let the past help you forward, but never look back. If you let old hatred and negative emotions guide your life, you’ll find yourself trapped forever.”
“Thanks, mom. I’ll try to remember.”
“The world is a large, beautiful place. Find your place in it. I know you will.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll be back soon!”
“I know you will, Daveon. I know. I love you. We both do.”
On his way he went. It was a peaceful journey down the mostly empty streets. It was lit only by the occasional street lamp, and though the sun hadn’t yet completely set, the sky was already filled with gorgeous white specks. He wondered how far away they truly were.
His heart skipped a beat when he stepped directly passed a man in a suit. However, this wasn’t just an ordinary gentleman, but Mr. Markani yet again. He shivered. He desperately hoped he wouldn’t notice him.
“Daveon. Hello again,” came the voice that chilled his spine.
“I’ll excuse your rude greeting because you did such a good job cleaning my shoes earlier today.” Wide eyes turned to stare down at the druid—piercing. “But if you ever disrespect me, kid, there will be hell to pay.”
“Of course. Sorry,” he muttered.
“Sorry, Mr. Markani!”
“Better. Now hurry along. I’m sure we both have things we should be doing. We’re busy men, aren’t we, Daveon?”
Bryant slid his hands into the pockets on his dress pants. He was tall, but in the looming darkness, he looked as if he was a cast shadow—a slender man with ginger hair—to Daveon. He lowered his own toque and minded his own business, and hoped the other man did the same. They went their separate ways yet again.
Eventually the sounds of his dress shoes disappeared into silence behind him. He was once again alone, and up ahead, was his destination.
The shop he went to was small. Behind the counter was the older woman he knew as Angelica. He reached into his pocket and placed the necessary coinage upon the counter to trade for a single stick of butter, which he still thought was odd.
“You’re out late,” the woman said. Her voice was wispy and hushed.
“My mom needed something. How are things?”
“Not bad. You?”
“Just a little upset.”
“What’s the matter, Daveon? You’re usually so chipper.”
“It’s Mr. Markani. Every time anything happens with him, it’s something bad.”
Suddenly the woman seemed rushed. She hurried the exchange, and without saying so, she acted as if she was trying to hurry the young man out.
“Yes, well, I should close up. Work to do. Have a good night.”
“But you’re usually open to—“
With that, he hustled out the door and it locked behind him. He’d think that was strange if people didn’t always act afraid to the man’s name.
The sun finally set, so he hurried home. The walk was nice but he still knew better than to loiter on the streets after sunset. His gaze turned upwards to see the moon rising up from behind the mountains. It was glowing red.
And that was the last time he saw his parents.
Stay tuned for Chapter Nineteen, the second part of Shadow of a Doubt!