7:22. The Irish pub was lightly crowded at this hour, but still resounded with the joyous conversations of buddies sharing a drink, the monotone bips of the pinball machine and the delicate hum of the television set above the counter, tuned to low volume waiting for tonight's game to start. Things would get hotter, Ron thought, ten minutes before the start, when an army of football fans would invade the place, screaming, singing and getting plastered. But Ron liked it better than his sad, lonely apartment. Ron Davis was a stout, balding man in his forties, divorced, left all alone with a miserable job and an equally miserable apartment because of his past mistakes. With nothing to hold on to, Ron had gotten in the habit of going to the pub almost every night after work and drinking away his sorrow. He was already at his third beer when a guy appeared at his side, leaning on the counter, staring at him. Or at least he guessed he was staring at him, because his whole head was concealed behind a black motorcycle helmet. Ron looked at the guy, waiting for him to say something, but the guy kept leaning on the counter, the screen of his helmet turned towards him, without saying a word. Ron quickly grew irritated, an irritation made worse by his alcohol consumption. Who was this rude little punk? What did he want? Apart from the helmet, the guy was wearing jeans, heavy-duty motorcycle boots, a black flight jacket made of cheap leather, and black leather gloves. He was shorter than Ron. Not really muscular or imposing, although the loose cut of the jacket prevented him from really appreciating the guy's build.
"Your Mom never told you it's rude to stare at people?" Ron said. "And to keep your face covered?"
No answer. The guy's unresponsive attitude started to get on Ron's nerves. His irritation gradually changed to some kind of anxiety. He took a sip of his beer and asked:
"What do you want?"
Biker guy didn't say anything, but searched his pocket and dropped something on the counter. A folded piece of paper. Ron took it and opened it. It was a photograph. Poor quality, obviously something that was hastily printed out of a website. It showed a young girl, a teenager. Asian. Short black hair. He instantly recognized her, for like about half of the city, he had seen her face on TV forty minutes before.
"Why do you show me that? If you're her dad or big brother, sorry dude. I'd help if I could."
He meant it. But Biker guy wouldn't hear it. As Ron took another sip of his beer, he tapped the picture with his gloved index figure in an insistent manner. Ron put down his glass and said angrily:
"You're deaf or what, I told you I-"
He had no time to finish his sentence as the guy's other hand suddenly lay on the top of his skull and brutally pushed down, slamming his face on the counter. The unexpectedness of this attack, the noise of the shock and Ron's raging roar of pain stirred the bartender who hurried to them and put his hand on Ron's arm.
"You alright, Ronnie?" he asked with a thick Irish accent, before turning towards the biker guy and giving him a serious look. "Sir," he said, "I have to ask you to leave. We don't tolerate this behaviour here."
Just as he said that, a heavy hand lay on the guy's shoulder, who realized that two tall, burly, square-jawed men were now standing behind him, willing to escort him out unceremoniously. The bartender heard a deep sigh from inside the helmet. Not a desperate sigh. Rather, it sounded like the sigh a bull would produce before charging. The guy swiftly shook the hand off his shoulder, turned around and stood menacingly before the two men.
"Oh you want to do it that way?" one of them said angrily, clenching his fists. "Fine!" He threw a right hook that could have stunned a horse. Too slow. The guy saw it coming, and looked down at the last moment, so that the fist would hit the top of the helmet. The man groaned as he felt his fingerbones snap on contact with the hard plastic. He did not feel pain for long, though, as the next moment, two gloved hands had grabbed him by the collar and the helmet was rammed into his face, knocking him out cold. The other man had no time to throw his attack before biker guy socked him in the jaw, knocking him out too. The pub was eerily silent now. In a second, this small guy had knocked down too men who were easily two heads taller than him. He sure knew how to pack a punch, and no-one was willing to try him after seeing that. The bartender stepped back nervously, searching for his phone.
"You wanted it, I'm calling the cops!" he yelled.
The guy didn't pay attention. He took the picture with one hand and with the other, grabbed a groaning, bleeding Ron by the collar and dragged him out of the pub.