Chapter 2

A Forgotten Past! A Fated Encounter?

Minutes passed by, then hours, and before she knew it, the time had come to return home. Not a bad session overall. Four miles of constant jogging, three water breaks, and no deviant encounters. Overall, a pretty good morning. Yet, her time spent with Al felt oddly familiar. Like they'd met before. Strange. If so, the memory had long since faded. Walking in, she found the air smelling of veggie stir fry. A personal favorite of hers.

"I'm home!" She called out.

"In the kitchen!" He called back.

Normally she'd have a quick bath first, but an empty stomach, food took priority. Heading to the room closest to the front door, revealed a hard-working father, who'd taken it upon himself to prepare a delicious meal for the both of him. Now, if she were to give him a cooking score, the outcome would probably be between 7 and 8. He wasn't bad by any stretch, but there were some dishes she felt the need to cook in his stead. It sure smelled good though, while he brought the veggie and meat filled bowl to the table.

"Stir fry?" She questioned, with a smile.

"Yeah. I thought you'd like a good meal after having eaten next to nothing for breakfast." He told her. "It's got squash, bell peppers, zucchini, and little chunks of baked chicken."

"Yum. How long did it take to cook?" She wondered, after taking a seat across from him.

"Not too long. Maybe 60 or 70 minutes." He answered, while bringing over two plates, forks, and a large spoon.

"Nice. What's your secret?" She pressed.

"Love." He answered with a straight face.

"Cliché…" She stated, giving a hard stare.

"You got me. I threw in some spices for a bit of a kick." He corrected. "Certain ones that'll boost your energy levels."

"Never heard of that kind, but it smells really good." She replied, obviously excited about trying it out.

Grabbing the spoon, each dipped themselves a fair amount. Their hunger levels having risen since morning's meal. I certainly smelled good, but what of its taste? The answer: pretty darn good. The flavors of all thee vegetables blended together really well, but the spices were what interested her. In a way, they seemed to have enhanced the content's natural flavor. Giving them more of a kick. Seeing the smile of his little girl, it made him sigh with relief.

"Mmmm! That's really good." She said aloud, shoveling more down.

"Heh. I'm glad you like it, but you don't have to eat so fast. Or else you'll get a stomach ache." He warned.

"Nope. I've got a stomach of steel." She claimed.

You know, to some extent, she was right. The amount this girl could consume would upset professional eaters everywhere. However, she knew not to push it. One extra mouthful too many, and she'd be looking at a large head of post digested gunk.

"I'm sure you do." He chuckled, before taking a bite. "So, did anything interesting happen this morning?"

"Um…kind of." She nervously answered.

"Kind of? So nothing?"

Biting her bottom lips, she readied herself for the response to come.

"I met a…boy."

Boy, the word alone sent shivers down his spine. While placing his spoon down, the look on his face changed. From soft and caring, to suspicious and strict.

"A boy you say? Tell me, what's the name of this person who interacted with my daughter?"

The aura coming from him nearly made her want to leave and review her decision. But no, doing so would only raise more suspicion.

"Al." She answered calmly.

"Al? And what does he look like?"

"Do I have to answer?" She asked, slightly frightened.

"Yes."

"Long…black hair and orange eyes." She answered, hoping he'd stop.

Silence fell over the dinner table, as the overbearing aura receded. Had she said something right? It seemed that way, until he stood up from his seat.

"Al…black hair and orange eyes. Black hair and orange eyes…" He muttered to himself, while walking towards the door.

"Dad? You okay?" She asked.

"Black hair and orange eyes…I wonder."

"What's with him?" She wondered.

Curiosity sat in, as she quickly got up to follow. They were rare, but it wasn't the only time she'd seen him like this. Moving along, they stopped in front of a bookcase outside the room. Its shelves lined with several varying genres. Sci-fi, fantasy, fiction, non-fiction, young adult, adult, yet, he cared not for either of them. No. Instead, he reached for an old photo album.

"You're not going to beat him over the head with that, are you?" She worryingly asked.

"Huh? No. Why would you think that?"

"Just making sure."

"Uh huh. No, I'm looking for something specific." He finally told her, while flipping through the pages. "It's a picture from several years back, but I plum forgot about it until now."

The dates written on each photo went back as far as 1990, nearly a decade before her birth. However, one stood out among them. A single picture, tucked away behind a small sleeve in the very back. Possibly put there from a lack of space.

"I knew that description sounded familiar." He said to himself, after taking it out.

"What is it?"

"Have a look." He asked of her, flashing it in front of her face. "Do you remember this?"

Two children stood front and center; a little girl with hair and eyes resembling her own, but the boys', it couldn't be. Short, black hair, and orange eyes, the same as Al. Both looked around 4 to 5 years old. Looking over it again, the resemblance was there, excluding the long hair.

"Not one bit, but the hair and eyes-Are you sure it's him?"

"I'm almost 100% positive. His father and I use to talk a lot back then. So naturally I'd meet his son from time to time."

"Strange. So we met before."

"Yep. When you were 5 years old." He began explaining. "Fall had just rolled in and we needed some supplies. So we left for the supermarket, only to bump into them. We talked for a little while, but their son, Al, seemed to take an interest in you."

"Like how?"

"He wanted to pet you?"

"Pet…?"

"Yeah, but I tell you what, you were one shy little girl." He said to her. "Always hiding behind daddy's legs when kids your age walked by."

"I'm not buying it." She stubbornly replied.

"Well, it's true. Anyways, he ended up getting the sneak up on you, which made you grab my leg. He didn't stop though. Oh no, he was pretty persistent. But when he started doing it, you actually smiled. It took me by a surprise when you let go. Shortly after, we took this picture and went on our way."

Amazing how she couldn't remember a single detail. Then again, not everyone could have such vivid memories. Still, thinking back to the arcade, it might have explained why he felt so familiar. If it was him though, would he remember? Only one way to find out.

"Can I ask you for a favor?" She asked.

"What is it?"

"You see, me and Al were planning on going to festival tomorrow, and I said I'd try and meet him there by 12. So…"

"You want to go, don't you?"

"Yeah…"

"Hm…"

"I promise nothing will happen. We're only going there for some fun, that's all." She promised. "And besides, I'll have my taser. If he tries anything, I'll give him a good shock."

"It's not really him I'm worried about. More so, the area. But if you're sure you can handle yourself, I guess I'll have to trust you and him."

"Really?! No joking?"

"No joking."

"Yes! Thank you!" She exclaimed in happiness.

"Just be sure to keep him on a tight leash. No funny business."

"I promise." She told him excitedly.

Finally, after so many years of constant overbearing parenting, he'd decided on letting her handle herself for a change. A strange turn of events, but a welcomed one, for sure.

"Alright. Let's say we finish up our lunch, then you can go straight to the shower and wash up, because you wreak."

"Psh. No worse than any other day."

Returning to the table shortly after, they continued with their meal. Savoring every bite, knowing once it was gone, it was gone. He may not have been a 5 star chef, but the man knew how to cook a filling meal. By the time she finished, her stomach felt ready to burst. Following their meal, she took to the upstairs bathroom. The sweat from earlier had already seeped into her top, leaving it soaking wet and smelling like a large gym sock. Once the water started running, everything came off. Before jumping in for a nice, relaxing soak.

"Mmmm. This is good, this is really good." She sighed with relief, while slouching back. "I know my memory's not so good with these sorts of thing, but I wonder if he remembers."

And if so, how couldn't he have recognized her earlier? It wasn't like there were a lot of red-headed, purple eyed girls running around. Ah well, she'd find out tomorrow. No reason to get all worked up. The most important thing at the moment was cleanliness. Giving her body a good scrub down with a plain, white wash cloth, she made sure to get every nook and cranny. Didn't want any sweat remaining. All the while, anticipating the fun to come.

"What'll we do first tomorrow? There's so many choices, it's almost impossible to choose." She thought to herself. "Plus, I'm pretty strapped for cash."

Thanks to her little hobby, the money she'd earned from helping out around the house, had gone towards new games. Leaving her with a measly 30 bucks to spare. Damn her obsession. Well, they'd get to take in the uplifting atmosphere at least. So, yeah, there was that.

"Maybe I'll ask dad for a little more." She told herself, while getting out. "No-no, he does enough for me as it is. I'll just have to pinch by pennies and spend carefully."

Refreshed and re-energized from the 10 minute soak, she slipped into a fresh camo t-shirt and black pants, before heading to her room across the hall. For a young adult's room, its appearance wasn't anything special. The usual king sized bed, a single book shelf full of varying genres, a desk top computer, two game consoles, and a flat screen TV. She hadn't any interest in playing games though. Oh no, something else had captured her attention a few days ago.

"Let's see what's new for today." She said, while pulling the P.C out of Sleep Mode. "Wonder if they've been caught yet."

The past week hadn't been good for Magnolia. Up to ten had been found dead in a string of murders, including an elderly man, three teen girls, four adult men, and two children. Their limbs severed, and the pavement covered in their blood. Police were left clueless every time. Whoever this person was, they knew how to clean up after themselves. Not so much as a fingerprint had been left behind. All that they had to go off of, were the slash marks around the scene.

"And here we are." She said nervously, after logging into the Magnolia News website.

A popular site used by many to keep up to date on the current news. Several articles had already been posted about the most recent attack. Another young adult: 19-year-old Missy Hamel. Such youth, gone from the world, because this sick bastard had to have his kicks. Already a week, and the blood of 11 innocent lives had already been spilled. Such a tragedy it was. But, without the proper evidence or a pattern to the murders, there wasn't a chance in hell they'd capture them.

"Sick scum." She muttered, only for her eyes to wander over to the family photo standing next to the monitor.

Riana Scott, a beautiful woman, taken too soon from their lives. Not by natural means, but by murder. A stab through the chest, that's all it took to end her life. The bastard may have faced execution, but in the end, it left him without a wife, and her, motherless at 10 months old. Never would she hear her voice, or see her beautiful face. No. All that remained were a few pictures, one of their wedding, another of their anniversary, and the last, of a new mother cradling her newborn. Just seeing her sweet face made her heart quiver.

"This isn't right…" She said softly, while clutching her chest.

Her father hadn't been wrong when labeling her as mom's double. The same beautiful, red hair, the same sparkling, purple eyes, the same lovely figure, and the same bright smile. But while a saddening thought, at the same time, it too brought on great determination. The innocent deserved protection, and that's what she'd give them. One day, she'd achieve her dream job, and to her family proud.

"It's okay, they'll be caught and that'll be the end of that." She told herself, after turning back to the article.

There wasn't much she could do, besides hope and pray the scumbag slipped up. Then and only then, would their city find peace.