The fact that this old man knew about the other groups of couriers, gave me the idea that this old man was very well connected to the world of illegal transportation. Which of course surprised me. Not exactly an age to be connected with gangs, nor would he have been a member. Since this business was just a short ten years old, at least to my knowledge.
It pained me to confirm the old man’s horrifying assumption. I could see it in his eyes he had also heard of the other killings. One of which I had seen not so long ago. I hoped with all of my heart that the same thing wouldn’t happen to my group’s people. Hoping some of them were able to get away to safety, just as I did. But no one was here. Just me.
“I am so sorry.”
“Oh dear god, why him, why him?” The old man started to shiver and his eyes filled up with tears.
He quickly dried his eyes with a handkerchief that came from his apron pouch. He looked back up to me and asked me the inevitable question:
“Did anyone escape with you?”
“I don’t know, I was with knife when they started shooting all of a sudden. I quickly got on the ground and crawled to the hatch. I saw Knife hiding behind a desk, but I have no idea if he got away safely. I just ran away as fast as I could. Without looking back.”
I felt incredibly guilty for leaving him behind after all we had been trough. But I would have done it again without a second thought. That’s what he would have wanted. He always got a way out, in the stickiest of places.
“He would have gotten away if you could.” The old man whispered.
“Yes, he would.” I replied.
The old man looked me in the eyes and I sensed a reassuring glitter in his eyes. Somehow he changed back to his old self. He even started to smile a little.
“I guess things moved faster than we planned, huh?” he said. But I had the idea he wasn’t talking to me.
“Uuh plans?” I asked as safe as I could.
“Well, that is what it is going to be I guess. I hope you have prepared everything we talked about. Time to put those years of preparing to good use!” The old man said to himself, and he wove his hand to guide me to the back of the shop. Where a cloth hanged between the front end of the store and the employees room. He pushed it aside with his self-crafted walking stick. Beautiful patterns carved in the wood, fine handwork.
The back was smaller than I expected. There was just room for a small table for two, a small kitchen with a skink, a few empty boxes, a back door and a stairway to the second floor. But it looked nice and authentic like the front of the grocery store. Wooden everything.
The old man walked towards the sink and fetched two glasses from the top cabinet and filled them up with water and lemonade. A bit too much lemonade for my taste but the drink was more than welcome. Although I did feel guilty for not being able to do it myself and let the old man do everything. He put the glasses on the table and said in a grandpa kind of fashion: “Here you go, my dear. That should freshen you up.” All cheerful again. Tough cookie.
After I finished my big glass of refreshment he asked me what actually had happened. So I started to summarize yesterday. About how I had been attacked all of a sudden, how the cop’s had been more violent the last couple of weeks and what had happened at the water towers. The escape and how I got here. Of course sparing the touchy details. He had no use for them anyway. It would only worry him even more. Trough he hid that pretty well now. No emotion but interest to see on his hardened face. Just a nod of understanding once in a while.
After I finished he thought for a while and eventually made a decision. But on what I had yet to see. But he looked at me with very serious look on his face.
“They will be looking for you.” He said.
“You’ll need another identity, a job and a place to stay. If you want to survive, at least until things clear up a bit. But organizing that takes time. As you know.” I knew.
“If you want, you can stay here as long as you like. But I figure you want to move on as well. It could be one or two weeks before the papers get here. You are free to stay here until then?” He proposed.
“But that would put you in danger!” I replied. I didn’t want anyone else to be put in danger because of me, especially not this nice old man. I would never forgive myself if he would be killed for having me here!
“Oh don’t worry my dear. I am just an old man. I have lived my life to the fullest. If that time comes, I had a wonderful life to experience. You have your whole life ahead of you. Plus, a friend of Knives is more than welcome. Besides, no government is going to look for a girl they have never seen in a grocery store.” He tried to reassure me. It didn’t work. But I had no choice, I was lucky I got to this place in one piece. And Knife wouldn’t send me somewhere that would put those people in danger.
“Knife didn’t send you to me for nothing you know. Ha-ha!” He laughed. As if he read my mind.
“Gotcha didn’t I?” He asked me. I just nodded. I wasn’t happy about it, but I figured it’s the way it’s going to be.