The look of horror on Derek’s face scared me to bits. Yes, it was a memory, but they still affected him strongly and I was sure I wanted to know what happened that night. I was more curious of who he saw and why the person had such an effect on him; at least I knew the truth, and it calmed my doubtful thoughts about him. However, they reinforced the thought of how I knew so little about the underworld—who could be so cruel to kill two loving humans and laugh with such glee as Derek had described.
It made me imagine some random underdog doing such things to those poor children, doing such things to little Lily. I would never be able to forgive myself if I found out I was part of such cruelty, but was Derek part of such barbaric act?
Yes, he had taught me how not to kill but hurt someone; maybe he was not like them, maybe he was being forced to do those things in order to keep his head on his shoulders and look strong in the eyes of the Underlord. He was Sylvester’s right-hand man and needed to be tough like his boss.
I had to ask him where his humanity was, it was the only way to know where mine stood. I have come to really look up to Derek after Mr. Fredrick. “Have you ever kill—”
“Hello,” Derek said abruptly, cutting my question short. He signaled that I should be quiet and hold my tongue. I could not hear what the other person on the other end was saying, but I got this: “Dragon view. Got it, boss.” After he was done with the call, Derek faced me and said, “C’mon, kid, we got a job waiting for us and we’d better hurry, the person we are meeting doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Whatever you see, Michael, don’t react. I give you the permission to mimic my facial expression.”
My stunned look gave my reaction away, this was a serious matter and I had to be up to the task. “Let’s do away with that look, shall we? It is for our own good,” Derek said, motioning to my bulging eyes and open mouth.
I shook my head and imitated his expression. “Where is this Dragon view?” I asked.
“It is at the port, it is not a ‘where’, but a ‘what’.” Derek turned and walked out of the park, his twin following right behind him; we looked alike and could be mistaken for twins if not for my quarter-sized birthmark. Our mannerism was the same and our expressions were aligned in all possible ways.
Derek brought his car this time, and I was grateful for that, the bike was just not my favorite mode of transportation. It was a sleek black sports car with enough horsepower to rival time, so getting to this Dragon view on time was an understatement. The car sped through the streets, making perfect turns when appropriate, there was not a scratch on the body even when we narrowly missed a sharp object.
“Who are we meeting, Derek?”
“Someone huge in the underworld.” That was all he said and made no move to explain more.
Derek drove to the seaport. Boats lined the port; boats of different sizes and shapes, but one stood out the most—a yacht with the head of a dragon. I drew my coat closer to me to ward off the chill of the wind, and followed Derek as he led us to the yacht. He kept the pace at a casual one, not wanting to arrive there in time, he was stalling.
“Derek, are you okay?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.
“Yeah, I am fine,” he replied quickly. But his fingers were twitching and that happened only when Derek was nervous about something.
“You don’t look fine, Derek.”
“You have to keep your cool, Michael,” he said sternly.
“You said that the first time at the park,” I teased.
I pulled him and looked at him in the eyes, “Now tell me, what is wrong?”
“We are meeting the head of the Chaos.” I stared at him in shock. The Chaos’ underlord was not famously known unlike the others, he kept to himself and liked to go on long trips to where his own people had no idea of.
“Okay, that is no biggie, right?”
“Yes, it is not, but the situation is not really palatable.”
Together we stared at the yacht in apprehension. We might as well get it over and done with already. So we stepped on the lower deck of the yacht and were stopped by the underdogs waiting as guards.
“Where is your pass?” one asked. Derek brought out his business card and showed the guards. They parted the way and allowed us through; we walked past them and took the steps that led to the private room in the yacht. Derek knocked on the door and it was opened by someone else on the other end and we walked in.
The room was well lit and decorated with furs and painting of wild animals. An aquarium was on the far end and someone was feeding the animals inside; the fishes swam quickly around each other, fighting each other for more of the sweet snack the man gave them.
We waited for the man to turn or acknowledge us. I was clueless about what the transaction was, only Derek knew the details, but he did not want to tell me. I used the time to watch the lavish decoration in the private room, a lot of wealth was spent on making it this grand.
Suddenly, the man dropped the can of fish food and turned. Now I knew why Derek was nervous and all jittery—he knew what we were getting into, he knew what we were about to see and more, he knew everything from the beginning and all I had to do was to follow the crumbs he left on the floor like the dog I was.
I wanted to react, to show how shocked I was to see the person in front of me, to scream in anger or frustration. But I remembered what Derek said at the park and kept my face as an implacable mask. Although inwardly, my mind was in chaos, my consciousness fighting against the restraint I had placed on it.
The person in front of me was someone I had known for a long time and never once suspected, he had put up such a great act, it felt like a soap opera. He looked different though, he looked dangerous, not the fatherly face I was used to.
“Welcome, boys,” Mr. Pablo said. Here he was not Mr. Pablo; here he was Cain Salvo, the head of the Chaos.
“Mr. Cain, it is a pleasure to meet you again,” Derek responded, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Derek. Derek, is that how you greet an old acquaintance?” Cain laughed. He turned to me with a familiar twisted smile that I had seen a handful of times, which was who he was, the smile was a clue to his secret life. “How are you, son?”
This was my chance to show that I was not affected by him. I needed to prove to Derek that I was in perfect control of the situation, and I would not fail him. “I am good, Mr. Pablo, or should I say Cain Salvo?”
“Hope it wasn’t too much of a shock?” he asked, his expression switching into a look of sympathy, anyone could fall for it.
“It was not a shocker, but definitely a surprise to find out that you’re a fraud,” I replied venomously, my face retained its mask of indifference, the same one Derek wore, but my tone carried enough force to crumble stonewall.
“You wound me, son.”
“It feels good to leave a mark on the tiger’s skin.”
“True. How do you love my collection of furs?” Cain inquired, motioning to the furs hanged on the wall, they were of different colors and were quite rare.
“A true depiction of a great hunter,” I praised truthfully.
“I am jealous Sylvester got to you before I did, you would have made a great asset to the Chaos,” he remarked. “I saw the effect you had on my boys, that was some powerful move.”
“I had a great teacher.”
“Ah. Derek. He was always so strong and clever,” he cheered with less enthusiasm that the sarcasm dripped in waves in his tone.
“Why are we here? Sylvester said you needed to see us,” Derek announced.
“Yes, I am certain you have told Michael the story by now,” Cain said, he walked to liquor cabinet and picked a half-full glass of tequila, poured it into a glass cup and drank it. The more I looked at Cain, the more scared I was about how little I knew him; Mr. Pablo did not like anything apart from tea and beer.
“He was smart enough to notice the monster you are,” Derek said, his face impassive.
Cain looked at him with a predatory glance, he was not fazed by Derek’s not-so-subtle outburst, but Derek was clearly getting worked up and I—who was suppose to break down—just analyzed the situation in my mind. I thought about what Derek told me before we came to Dragon’s view, his last comment about a friend in wolf’s clothing. Mr. Pablo was the only mutual friend we both shared and he was also the leader of the Chaos, and suddenly it clicked; Cain or Mr. Pablo was the one that killed Derek’s adoptive parents.
How did it feel to know that the person you trusted your safety with was the same person who took it away? The betrayal must have hurt to the very core of his being to still have an effect on him till now, he must have looked up to Mr. Pablo in the same way I looked up to Mr. Fredrick.
“You know the ways of the underworld, you can’t fault me after so long,” Cain said. He shrugged his shoulders and took a sip of his drink.
Derek growled and Cain just laughed. “Why did you want to see us?” I asked.
“I wanted to give you this,” Cain brought out a flash drive and stretched it out to me. I was tempted not to take it, but we were in his territory and had to play by his rules.
“What is this for,” I said as I collected the flash drive.
“You will find out soon enough. And I am sure you know how Sylvester found you?”
“Yes, he told me.”
“Well, goodnight, boys. Come over for some beer sometime,” Cain said and it ended our meeting for that day and I hoped it would be for ever.
It had been a stressful day for us, Derek and I, and most especially for me. I’d found out more than I’d bargained for when I chose to drill Derek about the reason he lied to me in the first place, maybe it was best I never knew, maybe then I would not feel this crushing sympathy I felt for Derek.
It was terrible what he had to go through, but it was more painful that he lied to me and kept something so deep from me. The experience with Cain had taught me how misinformed I was about the things concerning my present life.
I walked into my house, numbed to the bone. My body moved on instinct, I opened the door and walked straight to the bedroom. I crashed onto the bed, staring at the ceiling, completely lost in thoughts about the scenes of what I’ve come to know recently, the images circulating in my mind like a roller-coaster.
Derek never spoke to me throughout the journey to my place, he just drove off immediately I got down from the car. I guess it was a conversation for another day, he had much to think about and much to let go. Maybe he realized that he could never hurt Cain for what he did to his adoptive parents, but he could live a good and wealthy life.
I brought out in flash drive from my pocket and stared at it for a long time, then I stood up and went to my reading table. It was decorated with books, books that were recommended by the Mr. Pablo I knew. I inserted the flash drive and waited for the contents to come up.
There were different files in the flash drive; I picked a random one and clicked on it. Reading a crime story where the writer used imagery to explain the horrors that happened in the story was not the same as seeing tons of images with horror as the theme. The file I clicked on contained images of death, rape, and torture; images of girls stripped naked with cigarette marks on their skin.
I closed the file and clicked on another. It contained a video of children like the ones I saw at Argos warehouse, locked up in a cell. They were in rags and filled with grime, their skins were covered in rashes from bad hygiene, while some had bruises on their body from being hit by someone or with something.
I closed that file and clicked on another. It was a video of a man getting shot in the head. The file contained images and videos of the most barbaric acts; they were so disturbing that I thought I’d lose the fluids in my stomach. The flash drive Cain gave me was the true definition of the underworld in series of pictures and videos.
It made me think: maybe I was no different, maybe the numerous files I had given to clients and underdogs were pictures, information of people like this one. The Chaos were the warriors of Area 2’s underworld, they did the evil acts for the underworld, it was normal for Cain to have the flash that contained their evil.
“Why did Cain give me this?” was the questioned that filled my conscience. I tossed and turned for hours, my mind pricked by the things I had seen, not only that but what I had being taught and how far I had derailed.