Aaron was dusting the bookshelves in Jon’s study.
Usually, it was their maid, Nancy, who would do all the clean-up around the house. But this morning, she called in and took a sick leave. So, Aaron decided to do the chores himself instead of bothering to call someone else. He didn’t have to attend any training session today anyway; the coach had given everyone in the team a week off after a restless season and Aaron had got plenty of free time in his hand. Jon had insisted calling the agency to request for a substitution so Aaron could rest but he persuaded him not to. He reassured Jon that he actually wanted to do it and Jon shouldn’t worry too much as he’d got other things to take care of. After a lot of talking, Jon was finally convinced, but didn’t stop showing his concerns when he left.
So far, Aaron had bought the groceries, done the laundry and vaccuumed the living room. It was a bit tiring at first, but he shortly got used to it. The last thing on the checklist was tidying Jon’s study. Fortunately, Jon always kept his workplace in order so there was not much to do. ‘Except for the bookshelves that needs dusting regularly’ was what Nancy wrote in her notes. Aaron chuckled, Jon was such a huge nerd and owned a great deal of books. His collection must have consisted around three hundred books or even more. They were mainly science books since he was really keen on the subject. Aaron liked reading, too; but not as much a bookworm as Jon. He only kept a few copies of his favourite titles in their bedroom. Most of them were crime fictions or baseball players’ autobiographies.
Once he had finished cleaning the bookshelves, Aaron decided to tidy Jon’s desk. He put the scattering paperclips back in the drawer and placed the pens in their holder. While he was collecting the documents, something familiar caught his eyes.
Aaron immediately set the paper aside and found an old book beneath them. The cover read ‘Quantum Terror’, by Steven Queens. Ah, he remembered this book very well; it was both his and Jon’s favourite title. Obviously since it was probably the only book that revolved around a super criminal who manipulated science to get away with his crimes.
But there was more than that. The story behind the book happened three years ago, when Aaron was still a new recruit at Kreaton Eagles and Jon had just founded his first enterprise.
It was a rainy Tuesday evening, Aaron was on his way to the same usual bookstore after his training session. He whistled delightfully, knowing that ‘Quantum Terror’ had finally been published after a 2-year delay. He had always been such a huge fan of Steven Queens: his writings were so exceptionally good that Aaron barely skipped any of his books, and ‘Quantum Terror’ would be no exception.
He finally stopped at an old store at the street corner. Aaron pushed the door and the heard the familiar bell. He got in the bookshop and hung the coat on the hanger as beads of rain drops rolled down his face. Aaron let himself dry for a while before walking over to the counter.
“Oh, hey, Aaron!”, the cashier girl greeted.
“Good evening, Sam.”, he said, “Did you watch the game last week?”
“You bet I do! Robert’s homerun was spectacular! And you, mister, you were very good as well.”, she commented.
“Glad you enjoyed it. Oh, here’s Jake Kingston’s autograph. For you.”, he pulled out a signed photo and handed it to her.
“No. Fucking. Way!!!”, she howled, “I thought you were joking when you said you could get me his autograph!!!”
“Well, I guess it was a long story. Anyway, did you save me a copy of Steven’s new book that I’ve asked you to?”
“Oh, of course I did. Boy, the books sold like hot pies just right after I loaded them on the shelves. Fortunately I managed to sneak one under my coat and almost got caught.”
“Great! Where are you keeping it right now? I’m dying to know whether the killer survived the plane crash.”, Aaron inquired.
“Let’s see, in the cookbook section, shelf number three. I tucked it under the ‘How to master Irish dishes’. Gotta keep it away from greedy customers and Mr. Louis.”, she laughed.
“That old man. Ugh, I can’t never compromise with him.”, he shook his head. “Anyway, thank you so much, Sam, imma go fetch it right now.”
“Just returning my favour. No big deal.”, she replied.
Aaron happily strolled to the cookbook shelves and tapped his index finger on the boring titles. Ah, here it was! The Irish recipe book, just like Sam had described. He picked it up and put it aside. Beneath it was a book wrapped in brown jacket cover, with a title in gold foil that said ‘Quantum Terror’ printed on it. After two long years, he was finally holding this very book in his hands. His face lit up with joy.
Aaron wanted to go back to his apartment immediately, where he would indulge himself with a hot, warm cup of coffee while enjoying the book. So, he decided it was about time to pay and leave. When he got back to the counter, he noticed that Sam was busy talking to a customer, a guy in a black suit who seemed to be a businessman. They must be arguing about something serious because their voices were quite loud. Aaron couldn’t help but overheard their heated conversation.
“What do you mean they’re out of stock? The book has just got released today!”, the guy exclaimed.
“I’m terribly sorry, sir.”, Sam insisted, “Our store only managed to get a limited number of copies. Perhaps if you come back in 8 days, we could…”
“8 DAYS? Are you serious? I’ve waited for 2 years and you’re telling me this is how I end up with???”, he went on furiously.
Alright, Aaron knew he had to do something to help Sam get out of this heated conversation. So, he came over to them and tapped on the guy’s shoulder.
When he turned around, Aaron was completely struck. In front of him was a strikingly attractive guy with black, sleeky hair and sharp eyes. He seemed rather disturbed because god-knows-why.
“Yes? How can I help you?”, he questioned, with a puzzling look.
“Uh,… Right, um, is there a problem here? I, uh, noticed that you might be in a troubling situation. So I thought… Is… there anything I could do to help?”, Aaron gulped, he could almost felt himself blushing.
The guy shook his head. “Nah, I don’t think so. Well, you see, this BRILLIANT bookstore thought it would be a terrific idea to miscalculate the number of books they need to get. Now they’re trying to tell me that there’s none left and that they wouldn’t restock in 8 business days.”, he glared at Sam. She looked at Aaron, begging for help.
“Um, it doesn’t happen to be ‘Quantum Terror’, does it?”, Aaron nervously asked.
“I’d love to say it’s not.”, the guy sighed, “But it is. I’ve gone to every bookstore in this city and come back with nothing. Can you believe it?”
Oh boy, here we go. Aaron breathed in deeply; he just hated what he was about to do.
Sam just stared at him. “What are you doing?”, her eyes said.
He scratched his head. “Well, um, if you don’t mind. I, uh,…”, he took out ‘Quantum Terror’ and presented it to the stranger.
The guy’s eyes widened; he looked at the book, then Aaron. He immediately understood and pushed it back to Aaron.
“No, I can’t do this. Not a chance. I can’t just take it from you.”, he demanded.
“Yes, you can. And you will.”, Aaron smiled. “Besides,” he continued, “I wouldn’t have time to read it; I have to attend a lot of training sessions. So, why don’t you do me a favour and take it?”
The stranger gaped. He reluctantly took the book from Aaron with his trembling hands. It was hard to tell how he felt from his blank expression. But his eyes, Aaron swore, were sparkled with immense joy.
Suddenly, he pulled out a cheque book from his pocket. “How much do you want for it?”, he asked Aaron.
“Oh, no, no. Just take it. I just try to be helpful. It doesn’t matter. Consider it a gift from me.”, Aaron insisted. He could see Sam’s mouth dropped to the floor.
The guy didn’t give up. He offered 50 bucks, then 100, then 500,… but Aaron just plainly refused. He finally gave up and reluctantly agreed to take the book from Aaron.
“You have no idea how grateful I am right now.”, he declared. “I know it’s never enough, but thank you, thank you so much. Mr. …?”
“Reeds. Aaron Reeds. Call me Aaron.”
“Right. Aaron.”, he reached in his pocket and flashed a name card. “Whatever favour you need from me, just call this number and say your name. I’d be more than happy to return it. Now, I am sorry for being unecessarily rude, but I have to leave immediately for a meeting.”
Aaron took the card and shook his hand. But before he could say anything, the guy then hurriedly got to the door. He turned around once more and said:
“Hope our paths crossed again soon, Aaron. I really look forward to it.”. Then he walked out, got in his car and drove away.
“I could NOT believe what you just did.”, Sam raged. “Are you aware that you have just given away your favourite book to a complete stranger, for what? Oh, that’s right. NOTHING!!!”
“Jeez, Sam, relax.”, Aaron tried to calm her, “A thank you would be nice. I did a good thing and I’m good with it, alright?”
Sam suddenly froze and narrowed her eyes. “No way. No fucking way. Please don’t tell me that you’re hooked on this douche.”
Shit, he got caught.
“Noooo, no. Of course not.”, he denied. “I just did it out of my good will, okay? End of story.”
A faint smirk crept to Sam’s face. “I don’t believe you, Aaron. Just look at you. Don’t you even think I didn’t notice how you were drooling over his charming face.” Then, she bursted into laughter.
Aaron sighed. Fine, just believed what you wanted to, Sam. Say, he still didn’t know the guy’s name. Curiously, he read the card in his palm.
JONATHAN W. DARREN
Tel. 386 869 907
Jonathan Darren, huh? That name sounded quite familiar, Aaron knew he had heard it somewhere.
“Hey Sam,”, he called over, “Got any idea who this ‘Jonathan Darren’ might be?”
“Wait,”, Sam flinched, “you really don’t know who he is??? Dude, that’s the rising chairman of Technoblaze you’ve just talked to. Don’t you watch the news lately?”
“No, I… haven’t.”, Aaron inspected the card closely. He thought it was just a regular businessman, not the owner of the most valuable enterprise in Kreaton city.
“Well, famous or not,”, Sam commented, “he’s still a douche. Don’t you agree?”
“Well,… yeah. Oh dear, look at the time. I need to go now. Guess I’ll see you tomorrow then?”, Aaron said while checking his watch.
“Sure. Hope to see you on the field tomorrow. Good luck.”
“Thanks, I’ll need that. Have a nice evening.”