Zayne took a few slow, deep breaths as he stood alone in the empty hallway. He’ll understand. He told himself firmly. So stop panicking.
But that was so much easier said than done.
He closed his eyes for a moment, took one last breath, then finally lifted his fist and knocked.
“It’s open!” A soft mumble came from the other side.
Zayne summoned all the courage he could muster, and opened the door at last.
He found Eun sitting on his sofa, a cigarette in his mouth and his eyes glued to the television screen. He didn’t even look up until Zayne was practically standing right in front of him.
“Oh, Zayne.” Eun seemed almost surprised. He leaned forward to snuff out his cigarette in the ash tray in front of him and quickly turned off the television. “Must’ve read my mind.” An easy smile found its way onto his lips as he reached out to shake Zayne’s hand.
Eun always seemed to greet him with a handshake. But it never felt warm or friendly… It was cold and distant and business-like. And this one was no exception.
“Read your mind?” Zayne raised an eyebrow at him as he released the other man’s hand.
“I was about to head over.” He explained. “I’ve got a couple of runs I need you to do for me.”
A twisting sensation found its way into Zayne’s stomach at Eun’s words. “Oh, um… Y-yeah, uh, actually… That’s kinda what I w-wanted to talk to you about?” He spoke the words as though they were a question. “Can we, like… talk for a minute?”
An expression that Zayne could not quite find the word for seemed to cross Eun’s face for a moment, but it was gone as quickly as it had come. With a small smile, he gestured for Zayne to take a seat on the couch. “I think I know what this is about.”
Eun nodded. “You’re a smart kid, Zayne. You’ve discovered my secret.” A small laugh passed his lips as he spoke. “You caught me… I haven’t been paying you nearly as much as I should be. I guess you could say I’ve been taking advantage of you, and I apologize for that.” Eun’s tone was suddenly very serious. “You’ve been doing some great work for me. So how does a hundred sound?”
“One hundred euros a run… That’s twice what you’re getting now. More than generous, don’t you think?”
For one wild moment, Zayne wanted to tell him that it sounded amazing. That would be hundreds of euros a week! With a soft sigh, Zayne chased the thought from his mind. Focus. Don’t chicken out on this now!
“That’s… incredibly generous of you.” Zayne replied seriously. “But this isn’t about money. I just… Can’t do this anymore. I can’t keep working for you. And I’m sorry.”
Eun’s eyes widened slightly. “You can’t?” He asked skeptically. “Why not?”
“I just… I… I really don’t think I’m cut out for this kind of… um… ‘business’.” Zayne spluttered awkwardly. “It’s not for me.”
To his surprise, Eun laughed softly. “Well, I respectfully disagree. A kid like you was made for this type of work, Zayne. You’re friendly, low-key, blend in well… Minus that big scar, of course. But it hasn’t been an issue so far.” He shrugged. “So I’m not really sure what the problem is.”
Something about the way Eun smiled sent an unpleasant chill washing over him. Zayne’s throat felt very dry as he opened his mouth to reply. “I just can’t. I really can’t. I’m sorry. You’ll have to find someone else.”
He watched as the smile slowly faded from Eun’s face. “I don’t think you understand, so let me put this more plainly… What you ‘can’t’ do is leave, Zayne. You can’t just walk away from this.”
“I have to. And I will.”
“No, you won’t.” Eun’s voice was a bit stronger this time. “How do you plan on affording that little apartment of yours, huh? Paying all the bills? You need this.”
Zayne hesitated a moment before replying. “I… I’ll find another job.”
Eun laughed derisively. “One that pays you as well as I do? I doubt it.”
With a small shake of his head, Zayne rose to his feet. “I’ll figure it out, okay? But this is my final answer. I’m out, Eun.”
“Like hell you are.” In an instant, Eun was on his feet as well. Despite his short stature, there was something terrifying about the way he was looking at him. “You’re in too deep, kid. This isn’t a choice.”
Christ… He really isn’t gonna let me go. Zayne’s heart was pounding in his chest, but he fought to hide his fear. What the hell am I gonna do?! “L-look… I… I didn’t wanna go there, okay? B-but… But if you don’t let me go, I’m going to the police.”
He nodded. “I’ll give them all the dirt I have on you, and they’ll lock you up for a long time, Eun. But I swear to God, if you let me walk away from all this, they’ll never hear a peep out of me.”
Eun did not appear concerned. “Uh-huh… And if you do go running to the police, how do you expect to explain your role in this whole thing, huh? You think they’ll just let you run free? Your hands are dirty too, kid.”
“M-my Onkel’s a lawyer!” Zayne cried. “He’ll protect me… And… And so what if I end up in jail too? At least you’ll get what you deserve.” He narrowed his eyes as he spoke.
Eun shook his head slowly. “This has been real cute… But I’m losing patience here. You say you wanna walk away? Kid, you’ll be lucky if I let you walk out of my goddamn apartment if you don’t stop running your fucking mouth.”
Zayne ignored his threat. “Goodbye, Eun.” He turned and began heading toward the door.
He barely made it three steps.