Xia Lei walked out of the shed an hour and a half later. He had memorised all the mechanical structures, electrical integrated circuits, CNC and so on. There were virtual things he couldn’t see but he knew the principles of how they worked. With knowledge of all of these, he was fully capable of producing a lathe that would be the most advanced in the world when he went back to China!
Back in the living room, Xia Lei saw two unfamiliar people. They wore black silicone masks which made them look like black people but Xia Lei could see from the colour of their eyes that they were of the same race as he was.
“Done?” asked Long Bing.
“Done,” said Xia Lei.
Long Bing glanced at the watch on her wrist and said, “There isn’t much time left. Go back to your seat.”
Xia Lei walked to the dining table and sat at his original place. He looked at Annina all sprawled on the table and felt a twinge of guilt.
He knew Annina’s feelings for him; she liked him, really and truly, sincerely liked him with no material desires attached. She had not given up either after finding out he had a wife. Her feelings for him were real but he had deceived her and there was not even a chance for him to apologise. He would die in front of her once she woke up. Her doubts would never be resolved and the hurt she would feel were all unfair to her.
Xia Lei looked silently at Annina’s face and thought to himself, ‘I’m sorry I lied to you. It was not on purpose. There were just some things beyond my control… I don’t know if we will have a chance to meet again in the future but if we do, I will repay you. Take care, Annina.”
At that moment, Josef and Annina stirred.
Long Bing gave her masked colleagues a look and left the room.
The masked men took out handguns and hid themselves at both ends of the dining area, waiting for Annina and Josef to be completely awake.
Xia Lei lay on the table as well to create the image of regaining consciousness with Annina and Josef.
“What happened?” The first to wake was Josef. He opened his eyes blearily to see Xia Lei and Annina lying on the table.
Annina opened her eyes too and shook her head as if to clear it of sleepiness and rouse herself.
“Were we drunk, Annina?” wondered Josef.
Xia Lei opened his eyes and rubbed them, then said, “Josef, is there something wrong with your wine? We got drunk with just two bottles.”
Josef seemed to suddenly remember something and his expression grew anxious. “You guys stay here. I’ll go to the shed and take a look.”
“We’re going home.” Annina stood. “Let’s go, Lukas.”
Xia Lei grinned at Annina. He wanted to leave Annina with a smiling face but his smile was full of sadness.
His smile seemed to have touched her heart in some way; she grabbed his hand intimately, right in front of Josef.
Josef’s expression turned ugly.
At that moment, a stun grenade suddenly flew into the living room and landed on the floor with a boom. Blinding light and a deafening explosion sent the three of them to the floor. Xia Lei held Annina tight the instant they fell, subconsciously protecting her body.
Two silicone-mask-wearing gunmen burst into the living room. Xia Lei was dragged off Annina as one of them pointed at him with a gun and shouted, “It’s him! He killed our boss, Navas! Kill him!”
“Fucker! Kill him!” The masked men sang the same tune. Both of them fired at Xia Lei.
Bang, bang, bang, bang!
Flames shot from gun muzzles and bullet shells clinked on the floor.
Xia Lei collapsed with a scream but the two masked men continued shooting crazily at his fallen body.
They were just bullet shells, however, and no bullets. There was not a scratch on Xia Lei.
Annina shook her head hard but was still unable to see the situation clearly. Her ears were ringing from the grenade and the deafening gunshots could not stimulate her already-numbed eardrums. She was very aware, however, that those two black men were shooting at Lukas.
“Lukas!” She screamed with all her might, trying to wake him up. She hoped desperately for a miracle to occur and for Lukas to get up from where he had fallen and beat up the gunmen. Sadly, a miracle like that happened only in her imagination and there was no chance of it happening in real life.
Josef struggled to his feet but before he could stand steadily, the butt of a gun hit him on his head and he fell to the floor in a faint with a grunt.
Annina heard the rumble of conversation between the two black men and saw them walk towards her in her fuzzy vision. A thought suddenly came to her, ‘Will they kill me? Lukas, please wake up. Please save me…’
She thought of Lukas in her time of greatest danger, and no one else.
The butt of a gun hit her in the head and she, too, lost consciousness.
Annina regained consciousness after an indeterminate amount of time. She rubbed her stinging eyes and saw Josef on the ground, bullet shells all around, but no Lukas.
A mysterious strength flooded her body at the thought of Lukas. She got to her feet and about in a staggering run, looking about as she shouted, “Lukas! Lukas! Where are you, Lukas?”
No one replied. The handsome young man from China had disappeared forever, never to appear before her again.
The horrifying scene replayed in her mind - two black gunmen throwing a stun grenade into the living room and shooting at Lukas…
“No, you can’t die… You can’t die… Wuuuuuh…” Reality caught up with her and Annina’s tears flowed, wetting her cheeks with warmth.
“Annina? Where’s Lukas?” Josef crawled to his feet and looked around but did not see Lukas.
Annina looked back at Josef with hot tears dripping from her eyes. “Lukas… Gang members killed him… Wuuuuh…” She stopped speaking at that point and was overcome by tears.
Josef walked over to her and hugged her shoulders, saying consolingly, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here. I’ll stay with you. No one can harm you.”
Annina leaned on his shoulder and cried.
Josef suddenly let go of Annina while she was crying her heart out and walked towards the staircase, saying as he went, “Oh no! Those assholes must be here for my intelligent lathe!”
Annina froze. “Lukas was killed and you think only of your intelligent lathe! He saved you! Did you forget?”
Josef did not reply. He ran up to the second floor. His steps were so quick that he did not seem like a weak patient at all.
Annina followed him to the second floor and to his study.
Josef spotted his laptop and let out a long sigh of relief. “Oh, good, my laptop is still here. Doesn’t look like anyone touched the things in here either.” He woke the screen and the password field appeared. Josef entered the password and checked the files on his hard drive. He relaxed after checking - no one had touched the files in his laptop either. He was quite confident of the security of his complicated password.
“I said, Lukas was killed by the gang members. Those people would not be interested in your intelligent lathe at all!” Annina felt indignant on Lukas’ behalf; he’d saved a heartless man.
“No, I have to make sure. I’ll check the shed!” Josef made his way to the shed.
Annina did not follow this time. She went back to the living room and looked blankly at the bullet shells on the floor. She had definitely seen Lukas being gunned down and the two black gang members shooting at him madly. No one could survive under those circumstances and that was why she was sure he was dead. But why was there no blood and no corpse?
‘Why would those black gunmen take Lukas’ corpse with them?’ Annina couldn’t figure it out.
After a period of staring blankly, Annina took out her mobile phone and called the police.
Josef returned from the shed not long after with a faint smile on his face. “Those guys weren’t after my intelligent lathe after all. Nothing was touched in my shed. I checked closely, no problem.”
The situation before Josef was a cause for celebration for him. The thing most important to him was still there and his love rival was gone. Without Lukas in the picture, Annina would surely turn to him.
“Enough!” Annina shouted at Josef. “I don’t want to hear anything else about your intelligent lathe.”
Josef wiped the smile off his face and put on a sad expression. “I’m sorry, Annina. I’m sad that Lukas has come to harm too. But you know, the intelligent lathe in my shed is a product of years of hard work. It’s like my baby… We will gain a huge profit from it in the future. Believe me, we will surely make it.”
“That’s your business, not mine!” Annina seemed to have lost control of her emotions. She covered her ears and headed out. “I don’t want to listen to you. I’m going out to wait for the police!”
“You called the police?” Josef looked surprised. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Annina ignored him and stomped angrily out the front door.
A flash of hatred appeared in Josef’s eyes but he did not chase after her.
The moon shone brightly, accompanied by countless stars in the dark night sky. Annina could have enjoyed the great beauty of the night sky at home with Lukas but it had all changed in an instant and she would never see him again.
“Lukas, are you in Heaven? Tell me, are you one of those stars up there?” Annina looked up at the sky full of stars and tears flowed again...Previous Chapter Next Chapter