No time to think. It's now or never.
"Tell her it wasn't a problem," Nathan said hurriedly, pushing his way past the waiter to chase after the stranger. He wove his way around the tables, almost knocking down another customer as he rushed out the door. He caught a glimpse of the stranger's white jacket as he turned the corner at the intersection. Nathan jogged after him and turned the corner seconds later.
As Nathan rounded the corner himself, he tripped, mouth falling agape at what he saw. The man was only walking, but he was already an intersection ahead. "The hell...?" Nathan shook his head, breaking into a run to catch up. He must have been seeing things. But by the time he'd gotten past that intersection, the man was turning another corner, down into the alleyway between a couple of shops. Nathan couldn't lose him, pushing himself as hard as he could to catch up. When he turned down that same alley he spotted the man just vanishing onto the roof, apparently having climbed up the fire escape. Nathan growled in exasperation, but started his way up. Clambering up the ladders was a pain in the ass, and as he finally climbed on to the roof he paused to catch his breath. At least there wasn't anywhere else he could...
He was gone. Nathan's sigh of relief turned into a growl of frustration as he banged his fist on the barrier around the roof. "God damn it!" He crossed his arms, taking a good look around to be absolutely sure he had lost him. Someone had taken great care to create a pleasant rooftop garden of rosebushes, which by itself wasn't all too unusual. What was strange was the apple tree growing smack in the middle of the roof, branches stretching out towards the sky, leaves deep green and blowing gently in the breeze. Nathan walked towards this tree, staring at it for a moment, trying to figure out how someone had gotten something so big to grow there when a tap on his shoulder answered his question.
"What are you doing on my roof?" Alton asked, turning off his mp3 player and pulling the earbuds out of his ears. He raised an eyebrow at him, pushing his glasses up while he waited for an explanation. Nathan rubbed the back of his head sheepishly.
"Well... I... I was following someone," he told him. "And I saw him run up here..."
"The only person up here is me, and the only way down is through that door..." He gestured towards it. "... Which is locked, or up the fire escape, which I presume is how you got here. You must've been mistaken."
"I could have sworn..." Nathan began, but shook his head, throwing his hands up in the air. "That's it. You know? I've been having a really shitty day. First, my car is stolen. Then, just when I'm sitting down to eat, a fight breaks out at a nearby table. I try to be a good guy and stand up for the waiter, and instead I nearly get my face smashed in. And then, to top it all off, some creepy-ass stranger steps in, scares the shit out of the guy who was trying to kill me, and walks off like it was nothing. I try to thank him, and end up chasing a ghost." He took a deep breath. "What a day."
Alton chuckled, rolling his eyes. "It certainly sounds like it. Why don't you take the steps inside to get down instead of using the fire escape? It'll be much easier..."
Another figure came scrambling up over the ledge of the roof. It was his waiter, Avery. The teen looked extremely winded and braced himself against the wall while he caught his breath. "You... forgot... to pay... your..."
"Fuck!" Nathan ran his fingers through his hair, walking towards Avery. "Jesus Christ, I am not having a good day. I am so sorry. I'll go back with you right away and..."
Avery waved his hand. "Nah... it's alright. You... you only had a soda, your meal hadn't made it to the chef yet, and the owner wanted to give you your meal gratis anyway, for helping her son."
Nathan was stunned and froze in place. "Well. Huh. Okay then..."
"If you haven't eaten," Alton said, rubbing his temples. "You're welcome to stay for lunch. I was going to fix myself a sandwich, but I don't mind making two more."
"Oh..." Nathan laughed with some embarrassment. He'd gotten so wrapped up in the fight not only had he forgotten to pay, he hadn't even gotten the chance to eat. Now that he'd been running around on an empty stomach, he was really feeling the hunger pangs. "Sounds like a great idea."
"Good thing I'm off the clock," Avery sighed, straightening, giving Nathan a weak smile. "After that run, I could really use a sandwich."
"Wait, you chased after me because I forgot my bill, and you're not even getting paid for your time?"
The teen shrugged. "It seemed like the right thing to do. You were supposed to be my last customer for the day, so Mrs. Xu said I could go home early. She's still paying me for the time I would have worked, given the circumstances. She's a great boss."
"I can see that..."
"Gentlemen." Alton stood in front of the tree and reached up, plucking one of the ripe fruits and offering it to them. "Why don't we go inside?" A disquieting smile spread across his face as he tossed the apple towards them...
Is he tossing that to me or Avery? Should I catch it or let him?