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A year had almost past and Toney was doing quite well. During this time, he was able to acquire sufficient money to make some renovations on the house.
Jason was now approaching eighteen; which he will have turned during the course of a couple of weeks. Merry had settled in nicely with the villagers, and from time to time will do some curtain constructions for them. The village women had really grown to love her designs with almost any type of materials she could get her hands on.
It was about 8pm Sunday night and Mr. Chin and his two daughters had already gone to bed for the night. Toney and Merry too had turned in as well.
Jason had asked to stay out a bit later and trusting him, Toney had agreed.
The breeze gently ruffled the trees outside. As Toney lay in bed he could only imagine the life that he wanted for his family. He knew that his upbringing was not the ideal but that at present, he had done all he could to bring a measure of happiness to his family and so far, he was managing to do this.
In the distance he heard a faint crackle, and then a slightly louder one. He found it strange, as beaming on the window sill was a bright light. It was a brilliant glow, one that he could not ignore. For a moment he thought to himself that he had left the lamp on in the kitchen but the light was not coming from inside the house.
“Merry, Merry wake up, I smell smoke!”
“What’s that Toney, why do you need soap?” Merry grown as she wrestled to open her scarlet shot eyes.
“I am tired love, come back to bed.” She protested
As she said these words, Toney brushed aside the cotton curtains and pushed his head out of the small window opening which was over their bed.
As he did so, the cool air that was evident during the early evening was converted into a great furnace of gray smoke, churning among the trees. The skies were a red and orange blanket. The teak trees outside became ghostly figures, creatures seeking shelter, bending in one direction but not able to take cover.
“Fire, fire Merry, something is not right out in the trees!” Toney shouted.
“Where is Jason, Toney?”
“I am not sure Merry, I am sure he is alright though.” Toney grabbed his jeans from the corner of the room where it hung on a nail.
Merry threw a shirt at Toney as he ran out of the bedroom towards the kitchen. As he moved past Jason’s bedroom, he looked in but his son was absent. Merry ran after him but stopped short by the kitchen table, a bit shocked. He forced opened the front door, breaking the handle in his haste. Toney does not realized his shoes lay tucked neatly beside the kitchen sink, without shoes on his feet, he jumped down the flight of steps.
Bristly, he moved through the track leading from his house to the main road. His toes are like claws, propelling himself through the air, they seem to barely touch the dirt. His arms flapped clumsily as he tried to gain his balance, as he stumbled out of the track and onto the stone road. He stopped for a moment in horror. As he gazed to the west, just before the street took it’s sharp turn on the side of the cemetery, he saw the terrifying flames appearing to come from Peter’s bar. The street, filled with residence, buckets in hand. But as they threw water on the raging beast, this only served to infuriate the creature further, who by now had gutted the structure.
Toney moved closer to assist in whatever way he can, however on approaching about one hundred feet, Toney made a grimmer discovery, for it is not Peter’s bar being consumed, but Mr. Chin’s grocery; his place of employment.
Toney ran to the back of the structure, where a chain of residence about two hundred strong, snaked their way to the river; which came the closest about quarter mile to the shop. After about five minutes into his arrival, efforts turned from, not trying to save the grocery which by now was lost, but the house of Mr. Chin which was about forty feet off the grocery building.
As the beast of furry showed signs of ending in the grocery store, the famished dragon turned its head to the house of Mr. Chin.
Thick smoke engulfed the house, attempting to blind all who will there predict which section of the house to guard. A faint cough could be heard, emanating from within the belly of the dwelling, it is Mr. Chin, but he is all alone. His two daughters Clara and Ping are not with him. As he struggled to burst through the front door of the house, a voice shouted at him.
“Move away from the door!” The voice sharp and commanding.
No sooner had Mr. Chin dropped to the floor, a loud smashing sound was heard. It was Jameson, chopping into the cedar door relentlessly. It was as if he had rehearsed these movements over and over in his mind, waiting for this night to test the agility of the ax.
For a while, amid the chaos, like a well practiced orchestra, each player was well prepared for the notes they played. Each faces and backs were lit by the light of the flames of Kiskadee; for a moment they all looked the same.
“Where are my children, where are my two girl children,” were the hunting wails of Mr. Chin.
“Clara, Ping, girls!” he called, his voice losing it pitch.
Mr. Chin turned to run back into the smoke filled house, Jameson stopped him, calling his attention to where the girls were.
“Look Mr. Chin, behind the bar, they are behind the bar!” Jameson tapped Mr. Chin on the shoulder while pointing to where the two young girls were, crouched behind some empty wine bottle cases, trembling and icy cold.
The next morning, like a gaping hole in the land, the grocery was gone. Standing alone was the house of Mr. Chin and an ash pile on the side of the road with black murky waters crossing over the street, staining the stone in its path. The surrounding vegetation was not spared the blanket of the coal.
The next day, as residence came to check on Mr. Chin and his family, they could hardly believe the horror that passed the night before and the tragedy in terms of lost of life, that almost befell this family. That morning, out of respect for what had happened, Peter opt not to open his bar but was present with some other friends trying to offer comfort to Mr. Chin. While Mr. Chin will have benefited greatly from the company, he was happy to have people around, as the two girls really needed the distraction.
In the evening, Deo, Shelly and their four girls came to pay a visit to the mournful family. It was but a short time after their arrival at the home, that Deo called to Mr. Chin’s attention, a marking that was inscribed on the fence he saw as he had entered the yard.
Deo raised to his feet, “Shelly, stay with the girls a bit, we men just have to talk about something for a moment.”
Shelly looked at Deo, as if asking for more information, her hands place over her chest. She must have quickly process something was wrong but shuddered to guest what was in her husband’s mind. She had seen that look in his eyes before, it was not pensive as he had grown to be within resent times. It was more devoid of emotion, cold and sinister.
“Okay children, let’s go inside and play with some of Clara and Ping’s toys.” Shelly could think of nothing else but these words, hustling the children into the house.
“Follow me, Mr. Chin.” Mr. Chin followed Deo, as a soldier following the beckons of a trusted general.
“Could you explain this?” Deo was inspecting part of Mr. Chin’s fence.
The fire had destroyed part of the fence, with the gate and the hinges completely gone. During the course of the excitement of putting the fire out the night before, the marking could have easily been missed. But with the failing sunlight, it was very much apparent what it was.
“Now don’t lie to me sir, I want you to come clean.” Deo moved into Mr. Chin, placing his hands on the man’s shoulder. Deo was a parent to Mr. Chin at this point, his voice became childlike as if reassuring him that no harm will come once the truth is exposed.
“What is going on here Mr. Chin? This is Mischief Boys gang sign, is it not?” Deo gripped the shoulder of Mr. Chin a bit firmer. Yet Mr. Chin just simply looked at the green painted symbols on the fence.
“Yes sir, it is. They came to me about two weeks ago. Money, they wanted money. Protection money Deo, what was I to do?”
“I am sorry for your lost Mr. Chin, you are a brave man. You stood up.”
“That is true,” Mr. Chin pulled away from Deo’s firm clutch, “but look at where it got me. They will be approaching others for protection money, Deo.”
Deo dropped his head momentarily and turned north. There is no smile on his face, he looked mechanical, a viper edging itself out of a jar.
“Renegade Hill,” Deo smile begrudgingly, place a hand on his waist and took a deep breath, “the flames it saw last night, will itself see flames.”
Shelly placed her head through the door to look at the two men standing in the yard talking. Though she must have thought her presents will not have been noticed, from the corner of Mr. Chin’s eyes he could see her. It might have been the curiosity of Shelly to see what was taking place outside with Mr. Chin and her husband, however it was a moment not too soon, for it was an opportunity for Mr. Chin to change the ghastly mood.
Returning the gesture, Mr. Chin rest his lanky hand on the shoulders of Deo, he then pointed towards his front door where Shelly stood. Deo turned to look at his wife. She is unable to hear the conversation. Nonetheless Deo chuckled and nodded at her, pretending that the moment outside was mild.
“Get the girls ready Shelly, we will be leaving in about five minutes to head back home.”
As Deo completed his words, Mr. Chin mentioned, “We are family men, Deo, times have changed.”
“Has it!” Deo stated, looking at Mr. Chin in the face, then looking away quickly.
Deo then followed up with, “We will see how it goes, Sir, we will see.” Deo touched his chin while attempting to fold the other hand over his chest. He glanced once more at Renegade Hill in the distance, then move away from Mr. Chin, towards the house and called out for his family to get prepared for their journey back home. Mr. Chin too, hesitated for a moment looked at the hill himself, then to Deo’s back as he moved towards the front door.
In Mr. Chin’s mind, something was not right with the picture which was unfolding before him, yet he felt powerless or possibly frightened by what his head was saying to him.