What started as a initial confusion soon evolved into panic. The chattering started, the volume of the voices got louder and eventually people were standing and gesturing.
Terry demanded a recount, accusing Tracy of making a mistake.
I almost rolled my eyes at him if not for the grave atmosphere in the room. There’s only 8 votes, how many times you need to count that ?
Tracy held up the tokens in both hands, flashing them to the floor and declared the vote a tie. Uncle Po stepped forward and verified the vote before nodding as well.
The voices from the floor got louder and louder.
Terry was literally shouting while Ben asked him to shut up.
Ah Keong was in a daze, he blinked a few times, looking at Roland, Lucy, Terry and King, and even as he looked at them, he seemed confused and lost at the same time.
Only Fungye grinned and laughed , so did his followers that sat at the same table as him.
Uncle Po : 4 Votes for Ah Keong….. 4 votes for Andy ….
That was all he managed to say when the room erupted into chaos. Ah Keong’s men who were peering through every available crevices and windows tried to push their way into the main hall.
It’s like a switch had been activated, all of the guest’s followers stood up at the same time. With Tracy’s men taking the lead, they formed a impenetrable human wall along the invisible boundary.
It happened so fast I had no time to react.
They just shoved and pushed everyone out of the main hall.
Uncle Po : Only the guest and elders shall remain in the room….
He came down from the stage, and walked behind the men that was chasing everyone out of the room.
I was in a blur as well.
I’m not even sure what to do.
With so many bodies shoving and pushing around, I did what I could to protect Kate, shielding her from the mass of bodies.
Once we were out of the room, I quickly pulled Kate aside towards the edge of the action, closer to where the food and refreshments were.
Jake : Kate… Kate… I need to tell you something….. it’s urgent…
I whispered harshly as I dragged Kate a distance away from everyone onto the grass patch at the side of the house.
Jake : I have the 9th vote…
Kate : WHAT !!!
Jake : I have the 9th vote !!!....
Kate’s eyes widened in shock as she looked behind her shoulder and to our immediate surrounding.
Then she started hitting me seriously with a frown on her face.
Kate : You fucking idoit !!!
She landed several punches on my arm and shoulder, hammering as she cursed at me.
I told her I found it on that day at Bukit Chandu by accident.
Jake : It just landed on my feet…. In front of me… i…. I also don’t know what to do !!..
Kate patted her own chest and tried to calm herself down as she glared at me.
Jake : Look… we can fix this…. Let’s go in… I’ll vote for Andy…. We’ll win… !
Kate screamed and grabbed a tuff of my hair, shaking as I yelped in pain.
Jake ; Ahhhhh…
Kate : I want to strangle you so bad !!!
Kate took a deep breath and exhaled slowly as she paced around the grass patch.
Jake : Quick… tell Gabriel… call him… we need to get inside there now… !
Kate : Don’t be stupid Jake.. !!... the vote works only if you bring it up before the vote !!!! NOT AFTER !!!
Jake : Why not ??
Kate : Have you voted before ??? You dimwit…. You ever saw people waving their vote to tell their MP they haven voted yet after the election is over ?!!!
Jake : Oh… that’s true…
Kate sighed and buried her face in her palms.
Jake : Then what do I do now ???
Kate looked around and lowered her volume before warning me.
Kate : You keep your bloody mouth shut…. You tell no one about the 9th vote you hear me !!!...
She grabbed my shoulders and shook them.
Kate : You understand me Jake ?
I nodded my head.
Kate : Tell no one and keep it safe…. No one must know you have it….not even any of the elders…
Jake : Why ??
Kate : We can still use it…. At the inauguration…. …If Fungye decides to muscle in….as a matter of formality, he needs to throw a banquet…. Introduce himself to the organisation formally….
Jake : I can use the vote then ???
Before Kate could answer me, we saw Uncle Po come out from the back door, he was walking down the side where Kate and I were standing. We were the closest to him and he approached us right away.
Uncle Po : Hey you… bring some drinks… and food in…
Jake : Ok… ok… right away…
Kate and I sprang into action and she went to my parents and grabbed 2 trays of fried wantons, stacking them on top of another while I grabbed 2 cartons of drinks from the table.
Uncle Po gestured to us and we followed him to the back.
As we were nearing the back entrance, some of Ah Keong’s men spotted us and they shouted that the door at the back is opened.
Uncle Po : Quick … come in !
Kate and I rushed into the back of the house and Uncle Po barely shut and bolted the door before a few of Ah Keong’s men arrived and started hammering on it. They shouted to be let in but were ignored by Uncle Po.
2 of Tracy’s men arrived and they stood guard at the door we just entered.
Uncle Po : Follow me…
We fell in step and entered the hall once more. Uncle Po directed us to distribute the drinks and leave the food on the tables. It doesn’t look like another was in the mood to eat anything.
I saw Gabriel trying to reason with Tracy as I set down the drinks.
Gabriel : Tracy !.... look… this cannot be right…
Tracy remained expressionless and she held up her palm at Gabriel with her wrist still resting on the table.
Tracy : Gabriel….. we’re here as neutrals….our role is to validate and enforce the decision of the elders….. the same reason and role that you undertake during our own elections….
Tracy took a drink and opened it , taking a sip before she went on.
Tracy : We have 80 branches , all over the world… if rules are not enforced…. And people object to the results of elections just because it does not align with their choices and beliefs, we would have collapsed a long time ago…… I believe the same applies for you as well…
Gabriel : Tracy…. But…
Tracy turned away from Gabriel, her body language is clear. There is to be no more debate on this matter.
Suddenly Gabriel stood up and announced he would void his own vote.
Gabriel : I concede my vote…. Ah Keong wins…
Ah Keong was still in a world of his own and he looked shocked and puzzled at Gabriel .
Andy immediately followed suit and announced his withdrawal from the contest as well.
Andy : I give up my contest as a candidate…..i’ll concede to Ah Keong….. he wins…
The expressions on Ah Keong’s face is a mixture of pure confusion and bewilderment. He still hasn’t wrapped his mind around what was happening.
Until Uncle Ben got up and said he would void his vote as well did Ah Keong finally get what they were trying to do
Ah Keong : ohh… ohh.. yes… yes…ermmm..errrr… so I win…. I win… they void their vote right… so I win… ??
Uncle Po : Doesn't work that way guys.... and you know it...
Uncle Po raised both his hands to silence the floor before announcing that as per the rules of the organisation, if it comes to a tie, Fungye would preside over the rest of the election.
All eyes went to him and he grinned.
Fungye’s voice was surprisingly loud and powerful given his age.
Fungye : Let’s here what the candidate have to say before I decide…..
He pointed to Ah Keong and said since he was the hot favourite, he would like to know what he can do for the organisation .
Fungye : Get up there…. And tell me…. tell me what can you do…. For the family…
Ah Keong looked a little lost and nervous as he stepped up to the front. Some people are just not used to public speaking or to address a crowd. Ah Keong is one of them .
To put it bluntly, he’s just a grunt.
He was unprepared and he was not confident enough to project his voice loud enough.
Ah Keong : I…. I have….. I have the most men…. Among all the elders !...
I saw Roland closed his eyes and massaged his forehead with both hands as Ah KEong went on.
Ah Keong : I…. my…..I have one of the largest construction company….we also hold several properties….
Fungye : yes… yes… I know all that….. what I want to know… is what can you do…. For the organisation !!.....
Ah Keong : I will take it to greater heights…… I will restore it to it’s former glory !!! We will increase our headcount… and manpower… !...
Fungye just laughed, smacking the table in amusement.
He pointed to Ah Keong and turned to the rest of the elders.
Fungye : Him ??? You all are voting him to be your leader ?? hahaha.. hahaa…
Ah Keong stormed off the front and got back to his seat, fuming in anger from the humiliation.
Fungye turned next to Andy, gesturing rudely to him.
Fungye : Andy !!... you’re up… go…
Andy was a lot more composed and he stepped up confidently.
Fungye : Tell us…. What is your plan….
Andy spent a second too long exchanging glare at Fungye before he started.
Andy : Times are changing…our old ways don’t work any longer…. This is the reason why the family has been constantly evolving as we move along…. We’ve diversified slowly over the years into business, properties and investments…moving forward….
Fungye : Don’t try to act professional la fuck…. A gangster is a gangster…. Hurry up…
Andy was pissed but he continued his speech to the floor.
Andy : We’ve phased out some of our activities over the years, gambling, 4D betting, sports betting….. going forward, our core focus should be on legitimate businesses….
Fungye cut in for the 2nd time.
Fungye : Fuck you understand…. You are just giving up a lucrative side of the business to your competitor…..you stupid fool….
Andy shot back immediately with a salvo.
Andy : What we did….. is right…. This is the very reason why we are out here now…. And not rotting in jail with our competitor. !..
Fungye : It’s a fucking stupid idea I tell you…. You’re burning boatloads of cash by not taking in the bets….
Andy : We made good use of our previous revenue, diversifying into investment grade properties…. Their returns…..
Fungye slammed his hand on the table and shouted again,
Fungye : Don’t fucking tell me about the returns of your properties when you are charging shit rent to everyone you lease to….
Andy was quiet for a brief moment and Fungye continued his rant.
Fungye : Every mother fucker on that table is paying rent so low ….. it’s ridiculous….so don’t tell me about your returns…. It’s shit… it’s time you start bringing drugs back in…
Andy : No. giving up the drug option was the best move Boss made when he was alive…..we need to understand the environment in which we operate…..there are grey areas of the law, where money could be made…. But in areas where there are zero tolerance….. like drugs… we maintain our stand in not………
Fungye stood up and raised his voice so loud that it silenced the people outside the hall as well.
Fungye : That…. Was the MOST…. STUPID…… THING… I EVER HEARD !!!.... AND I TELL YOU….. NOT BRINGING IN DRUGS…. IS THE MOST STUPID DECISION MY BROTHER EVER MADE….
Fungye turned , not only to the elders but to the rest who were peering in from the windows and addressed everyone at the same time.
Fungye : You stupid fools…. Everyday I see news of you bitching….. and complaining about how packed your trains are…. How expensive your cars are….bitching and complaining about your miserable lives in Singapore…… you know the reason why ???
Fungye paused and pointed a finger at the crowd, running it across an arc at the crowd, challenging anyone who would answer his question.
Fungye : That’s because you people… don’t know how to have fun !!... that euphoria of shooting it into your veins… feeling it go into your bloodstreams…
Andy : We shall not discuss this any longer…
Fungye : I’m not finished !!!
Andy : You are !!....
Fungye and Andy spoke at the same time. Each trying to outdo the other with their voices.
Fungye : I can buy every fucker in this room a car with one shipment.
Andy : You bring anything beyond 15 grams…
Fungye : Fuck you and your grams… I’m talking hundreds of KGs….
Andy : Our men… have wives and family !!! who’s going to carry it for it…
Fungye ; This is why you would remain at the bottom of the ladder !!... you only need to sacrifice but 1 man for the shipment …. And hundreds would benefit !!...
Andy : Fuck you…
Fungye : Fuck you Andy … you know who you are talking to
Andy : You have no fucking idea what you are talking about… this is Singapore we …..
Fungye : I am born here as well !.... so don’t fucking go …and…
Andy : We are moving forward…. As business men…. Not some half fuck low grade criminals…
Fungye : The most successful businessmen are all criminals in their own right…. Don’t come and…
Andy : You live under fucking rock….
Fungye : You…. Are not fit to lead …
Andy : No one would buy your drugs…
Fungye ; That’s because you don’t know how to market them !!!! ….
Fungye slammed the table several times pointing a finger at Andy.
Fungye : You have to penetrate the schools….. start them young… introduce them to this wonderful world…. Create the market and demand…
Andy : Go fuck yourself Fungye.. …
Fungye : hahahah… whahaha.. hahaa…
He laughed as Andy stared at him , speechless.
Fungye : Look at all of you…. Like a bunch of loose sand…. Pussies…
He lectured the elders, telling them that they are in that exact position because of their own doing.
Fungye : Your disunity…..gave me this opportunity… I will make this organisation rise again…
He turned to Andy next and added.
Fungye : Don’t worry…. It’ll probably take a few months for me to get into the groove of things….see how is everything being run here…. Then… we’ll see what is the best way to bring my good stuff in here eh… ahahahahahah…
Andy glared at Fungye with a grim expressions with both of his hands in his pocket.
Fungye addressed all who were listening.
Fungye : Don’t worry about the police… or authorities…. I have so many of them in my pocket in Taiwan…. How much does it cost here??? I’ll buy them all !!!hahaahha….
No one laughed , that is until Andy opened his mouth.
Andy : Oh… that is one thing I’m sure you cannot afford….. that’s our politicians…. You know what is the pay they are drawing… ??
Scattered laughs broke out among the men and elders as Fungye glared at Andy.
Fungye : We’ll be reorganising alright….restructure as you call it…. For the future…. And along the way…. If any elders….. wishes to leave…. You are welcomed to do so….
Uncle Po pressed Fungye for a decision.
Uncle Po : Fungye…. Do you have a decision ?
Fungye : Oh fuck yeah….. neither of the 2…. Are worthy to lead…..
Fungye walked to the middle of the floor with his hands stretched out like Christ the redeemer statue in Brazil. With his hands out, he slowly turned anti-clockwise a full circle before announcing his intent.
Fungye : I will…. Gladly accept… the position to lead the family….. into the future…
Voices of protest broke out and almost all the elders stood up at the same time.
Fungye : That is all I have to say… hahah… hahaha…. Hahahahahha…. Haha…
Tracy stood up together with Leonard and Ollie while the rest of their men cleared a path for their departure.
Gabriel went over to Uncle Po and whispered something in his ears. Uncle Po nodded.
Fungye went over to Gabriel and said he looked forward to the handover and for a tour of the country like what Gabriel promised.
Fungye : I hope this won’t affect our relationship….. as relatives….it’s a… practical decision….. and I look forward to the tour….of your beautiful country…. Haha…hahahahah….
Fungye turned and left as Gabriel gathered the rest of the elders.
Everyone else was to leave the room including Kate and me.
I got back out into the open and my parents chided me for staying inside the hall for so long.
Mum : Which part of not mixing with this group of people do you not understand Jake !!
I ignored her and I went over to Kate again.
Jake : What now? ?
She just gestured for me to wait for a minute.
Tracy was still waiting for her ride and she came over to say goodbye to Kate.
Tracy : Maybe we can grab coffee…. This couple of days…when I’m here..
Kate : Sure… let’s do..
I waited till Kate was alone before I went over. She dragged me back to a corner of the courtyard.
Jake : We’re all fucked aren’t we….
Kate : You can say that…
Jake : What do we do now ?? We should tell Gabriel and the others about the 9th vote..
Kate : NO!...
Jake : Why not ??
Kate reasoned that they would be so angry with me that they might just kill me on the spot. If either Ah Keong or Andy had that vote, none of this would happen.
Jake : Shit… what have I done…
Kate : Keep that vote safe…. Tell no one… it will still come in useful…
Jake : Yes… you were saying something about the inauguration …..i can use the vote then…
Kate : Yes… but we don’t know when will that be… the date can only be decided by Fungye…
Jake : We’ll hold out till then….. I’ll vote him out the moment I get the chance to…
Kate stared at me for a couple of seconds, as if she was thinking of what to say to me.
Kate : Who said anything about voting ??
Jake : Huh ?
Kate told me that the 9th vote can only be exercised before election.
Jake ; Huh ? I don’t understand… then why you tell me I can use it during the inauguration ???
Kate : you don’t vote on that day Jake…. You use it to challenge Fungye’s right to leadership. ….
My jaws dropped 2 cm as I stared at Kate.
Jake : What….what if I win ??
Kate : Then you’re the boss…. until the next election… it’s not going to be easy…. Not only would you need the elders to be behind you…. You need the buy in of all the men as well…..every single one….
Kate looked around to make sure no one was near us before going on.
Kate : Which is why you must keep this a secret…..word has gone out that the 9th vote was missing for a while……there were rumours on both sides….…some claimed Ah Keong took it…..others suspected Gabriel kept it for himself………. If Fungye so much as get a wind of what you will be doing…… all he needed was to bribe one of the elder or the man….
Jake : You…..
Jake : Got to be….
Jake : Fucking… kidding me…
I said it so slow because I had to replay what Kate said to me barely a few seconds ago several times just to be sure I was hearing the right thing.
Kate walked up to me , her body almost touching mine.
I could smell the shampoo in her hair and her face was literally less than a finger’s length away.
Kate : Am I smiling right now Jake ?
I shook my head.
Kate : That means I’m not joking…
Kate walked off as she spoke.
Kate : We need to get the logistics of the next few days sorted out…. There’s so much things to be done… we also need to start shifting some documents out of the offices… stuff we don’t want Fungye to know….we… …Jake… Jake… are you listening ??
Jake : yah….yah….
Kate came back and grabbed my arms.
Kate : Get a grip on yourself Jake… this is important…. We cannot allow Fungye to do what he wants…
I nodded again.
Jake : How… the fuck ….. do I get the elders…. And their men…..people that barely know me….. to agree to follow me… ?
Kate pondered my point for a moment before replying with no expressions on her face.
Kate : Start working on a good speech…
Jake : … fuck…
23rd March 2015
I was back at the noodle stall, settling into my usual routine. Kate was not at the coffee shop that day. I left the house the day before around 4.30pm with my parents. The crowds slowly dispersed but Kate dropped me a message at 9pm, saying that the elders were all still in the room.
There was nothing but anger and confusion as they blamed each other for the state of the affairs.
It was a pretty slow day at the stall and we were getting ready to pack up when I received a call from Kate.
Kate : I would meeting Tracy for a while today… you want to join me ??
Jake : Of course… I’ll love to…
Kate : It’s nothing much actually…. Just a meal , coffee and then drop her off at MBS sands.
Jake : Let me know the time and details.
I met up with Kate at Suntec City. We waited for about 10 minutes before we Tracy showed up with a few shopping bags in her hands.
I thought she was alone until I saw her men loitering a distance away. They carried a few bags as well and they looked bored.
Tracy : Hi Kate…
Kate : Hi Tracy…
They shook hands and Tracy turned towards me.
Tracy : Is he your….. bodyguard ?? or your boyfriend ?? poor thing….. he’s stuck with you ?? He should be with Ollie and Leonard….. and wherever your brother and Andy is bringing them to… hahaha…. You know… those naughty places…haha.. who is he Kate ??
Kate laughed and looked at me.
Kate : Just a friend…. He’ll double up as anything if I need him to… haha..
Tracy : Good… can he help to carry my bags too ?? haha…
Tracy passed me her bags and upon closer inspection, I realised why her men stayed so far away.
Tracy had bought lingerie from La Senza and they filled up 2 big bags. With the huge brand name plastered on the paper bags, it’s no wonder her staff stayed away.
I could see them sniggering at each other when the bags landed on me.
Tracy and Kate walked on in front and somehow I just followed them a few steps behind.
I’m not too near that it would make them uncomfortable to talk, but I’m still close enough to catch bits of their conversations.
Tracy’s men were close by, the 6 of them shopped and bought snacks along the way as well, just like any other visiting tourist but at any point of time, at least 3 kept their eyes on their boss.
Tracy : It sucks…. Really does…
Kate : What do you mean ??
Tracy : Being who I am ….
Kate : Why is that ??
Tracy : Don’t you sometimes wished you are just a normal girl in the street ? With none of these burdens to bear ?
Kate kept silent as Tracy went on.
Tracy : I can’t choose which family I’m born into…. And I’m thankful for the material comforts my family has given me…. but sometimes….all we girls wanted… is just to be loved… and have that freedom to do what we want…. No ?
Kate : Are you unhappy ?
Tracy : Should I be happy ? …… there are death threats for my dad back home…. My elder brother is in jail….. people tried to kidnap me…. I get rape threats back home too…. Hahah…
Kate : May I ask how old are you Tracy ?
Tracy : I’m turning 29… … no man…. Dared to come after me…. haha… not after learning who my dad and my brother is… hahah…
She chuckled playfully and nudged Kate on her arm as they walked down the shops in the mall.
Tracy : I like Singapore…. It’s safe…. I feel safe…. There’s just….. order….amidst all the things that is going on.
Kate : Taiwan is safe too… it’s one of the safest in Asia as well no ?
Tracy : Not if you are walking in our circle Kate… haha…
Tracy walked into a clothing shop, flipped a couple of dresses around before picking one up and holding it against herself to look in the mirror.
Tracy : I wished I could do what Gabriel and Andy wanted to do…. To slowly steer the family towards proper and decent business….. but there’s just so much barrier….
Kate : My brother believes that for the family to survive, we all need to move on. …. Technology is improving leaps and bounds everyday…. The old ways… have to go…. We know it’s impossible to remove the stain from the family but as we head into the future…. Perhaps we can redeem ourselves… once we are in a position to do so…
Tracy : I want to do that too…. But you know what… it’s a different ecosystem altogether… some things will work in Singapore, but they won’t work back home…
She put the dress back and they continued walking down the mall.
Kate : Well, if given a chance… what would you really want to do ??
Tracy : Me ? hahaha ? I don’t know…. What do girls my age do if they’re not out bribing people and trying to put your competitor out of business ?? haha…
Kate : I’ll love to travel…. Just work and travel…. There’s so many beautiful places in the world….
Tracy laughed and pointed behind her.
Tracy : Yah… I got to bring them along when I travel… it sucks…. …
Tracy : And you know what… it might seemed I have a lot of people catering to my whims and fancies but it’s a terrible pain in the ass…. I can’t even get them to buy me my pads if I needed them…..look … they don’t even dare to come near me after I bought my lingerie…
She turned around on impulse and snapped at her men.
Tracy : You pussies… !...
Then Tracy came over to me, grabbed a handful of bras out from the bag, she laughed as she walked in a threatening manner towards her man and they scattered in all directions like rats seeing a cat for the first time.
Tracy : Hahaha…
Kate : Haha…
Tracy : See…. !..
Tracy passed her lingerie back to me and I took them and kept them in her bags.
Tracy : Jake right…. Hmmmm….. not too bad…. How much you hired him for ??
Kate laughed and said I’m not very expensive.
Kate : Quite cheap… about 3k odd….. has a degree… speaks and behaves well..
Tracy : Oh… not bad… can I borrow him sometimes ?? hahah… oh wait.. wait… he’s not your boyfriend right ?? haha
Kate shook her head and said no.
Kate : but he likes me though I think… haha…
I gave Kate an irritated look and she stuck out her tongue at me.
Tracy :What about me Jake…. Do you like me ?? haha..
I looked at Tracy, the way her facial features stand out against her shoulder length hair. She is pretty, definitely prettier that Kate if I were to be honest. She’s taller too, about the same height as me, and her smile, Tracy did not just smile with her lips, she did it with her eyes too.
She tilted her head sideways and raised a sweet seductive eyebrow at me.
Tracy : need to consider that long ?? haha…
Jake : haha.. Yes… I like you too…
Tracy laughed and brushed back her hair behind her ears, looking every bit like a sweet girl in a Taiwanese drama.
Tracy : will you go out with me ?? hahaha.. if Kate allows that is…
I turned towards Kate and she folded her arms and pretended to consider her request.
Tracy : I can pay….. I’m richer that Kate and her brother you know..hahahah…
I just smiled shyly without giving a reply.
Tracy : This is what I like about Singaporean men…. Like to pretend to be shy.. ahah…
Kate : Oh please… I don’t know about the others… but this one…. This one is definitely not shy… haha..
Tracy twitched a side of her upper lips and paced around me, stroking her chin.
Tracy : Ok… ok… I’ll consider… haha..
We came to a café and the girls took a seat while I get their orders
Tracy’s men arrived too and out of courtesy I went over and offered to get them drinks.
I bought coffee for the guest and I excused myself to the washroom.
When I came out, Tracy offered to pay me for the drinks I got for her men but I declined to accept it.
Jake : You all are guest…. My treat…
Tracy gave me a naughty smile.
Tracy : I’m falling for you already Jake…. Haha..
I took the next table and gave the girls some space to talk.
Kate and I brought our guest to a seafood restaurant in Clark quay and bought them dinner.
Tracy : I absolutely loveeeeee…. Chilli crab….my god… so nice…. !!!
During dinner, Tracy helped me deshelled a crab claw much to my surprised and I hesitated for a second or 2 before accepting it.
Tracy : haha… still pretending to be shy Jake ? haha…
Jake : thank you… thank you….
Tracy : You know…. You accepted something from me… you have to give something in return…. That’s our rule…
Jake : Are you trying to bribe me ?? with a crab claw…??
Tracy and Kate burst out laughing in amusement as they licks the gravy off their manicured fingers.
Tracy : no… haha…I’m not… but…. I want something in return…
Jake : Say it.. if it’s within my means… I’ll get it for you…
Tracy smiled and crossed her legs, looking at me with her big endearing eyes.
Tracy : I’ll tell you when I think of it. … haha..
The table was cleared and when dessert was served, the conversation became a little more serious.
The casual and relaxed atmosphere was gone.
It was gone the moment Kate asked Tracy for help.
Kate : Can you do anything …. To help us… ?
Tracy wiped her mouth with a napkin and looked at her men. They understood what their boss wanted and all of them got up and excused themselves to the bathroom.
All except 2 who stood a distance away and lit up a cigarette while they kept an eye on Tracy.
I got up too, it’s only right that I gave them space to talk but Tracy asked me to stay.
Tracy : It’s ok Jake… you can stay… .. I just don’t want what I say to get spread among the rest of the men….. Fungye is pretty active in taiwan…. His men and mine hang out often at the same pubs…
Tracy took a sip of water and she turned towards Kate.
Tracy : Rules are rules Kate… there is nothing I can do… the results are cast in stone… it’s a tie…. This is of your elder’s own doing…. There’s no one to blame…
Kate : I know… but.. perhaps… you..
Tracy : I have manpower…. But I can’t fly a planeload of them over…and even if I could… they would not want to get involved in this either… it’s not our fight…
Tracy went on to say that Fungye is a ambitious man, but because he is not a native of Taiwan, he had difficulty getting beyond his current standing. He’s not getting the support he needs to expand.
Kate : Is there nothing at all ??? that you can do ??
Tracy : I’m sorry Kate… I wished it didn’t come to this but…Fungye will be in charge….and our business dealings…. Between organisations…the preferential rates…and all….. We go to who’s in charge… If the vote is not honoured…. No one will deal with you anymore… all your connections your family built up over the years… it will be gone…
Tracy asked for a refill of her drink and went on.
Tracy : I heard that there’s a 9th vote….
My heart skipped a beat when Tracy mentioned that.
Tracy : There are rumours…. That either Gabriel…. Or Ah Keong is holding on to it….
Kate : I… I don’t know about that…
Tracy : Well, let’s hope they do have it…. And that they would have the balls to challenge Fungye the right to lead….
Tracy said that while she could not help us with changing the decision of the vote, what she can do, is provide us with information .
Tracy : I’ll send you everything we know about Fungye….. as a friend…
Kate : Thank you Tracy…
Tracy smiled and invited Kate to Taiwan when things settled down.
I got back home and took out the 9th vote and stared at it for close to 30 minutes before putting it away and heading back to bed.
3rd April 2015
Almost 2 weeks has passed and everything we knew and got used to have started to change.
Fungye increased the rent for my parent’s stall several folds, now it’s a hefty 4000 a month for rental of that stall.
We were not the only victims; every hawker in the coffee shop was affected.
Of course, the logical step would be to quit. I mean all of the hawker in the coffee shop are getting on in age. My parents cannot afford to pay that rent, not with what they are making a month. It’s crazy.
What about Auntie Geok you say ?
Her small corner stall commanded a rent of 3.5k
How the fuck do you sell 3.5k worth of Kuehs when you make mere cents off each piece. ?
She too threw in the hat and decided to call it a day but you know what ?
It’s not that easy.
You think we can just mass quit the coffee shop, pack up and go ?
Of course not.
All of the stall owners expressed their displeasure and everyone decided to call it a day. They’ve done this for decades, it’s time to step back and enjoy their retirement.
On that faithful day, Fungye’s men came down to the coffee shop.
I was right there when they demanded that everyone continues their business as usual. This man, Liuhai. He said we were all indebted to the organisation and that we were obligated to continue our existing relationship with them.
Jake : Fuck you… who the fuck do you think you are ?
Liuhai glared at me and stepped towards me in a aggressive manner. Several more of his men came into the coffee shop while my dad tried to break up the confrontation.
Dad : Ok ok.. enough.. enough.. stop.. stop…
I was ready to punch that fucker right there and then.
I could see Orh pao grabbing the ice pick he used to break up chunks of ice and hiding it behind his shirt from the corner of my eye. He ignored the customers in the queue and stepped out of the stall.
Auntie Geok too came over, too feisty for her age as she demanded that Liuhai and his men get out of the coffee shop.
Liuhai smirk and spit a glob of saliva onto the floor. He turned and pretended to look away but he made a move on me, trying to strike the side of my head with his palms. My dad saw what he was trying to do and he jumped infront of me, taking the brunt of the blow before collapsing onto me on the floor.
There was chaos as customers ran out of the coffee shop. Orh pao dashed over and sent one of Liuhai’s man onto the floor within the split of a second. Everyone jumped him, and my dad went over to help pull him out of the fray, kicking and pushing back the attackers.
I grabbed a chair and smashed it on the head of one guy, sending him onto the floor in pain.
Uncle’s Ben’s delivery truck arrived and several of Johari’s men jumped out.
Bill appeared too out of nowhere.
The voices in the coffee shop were so loud that I could hardly hear myself shout at my Dad to get out of the fight as I hammered another fucker with the stool in my hands.
Ben separated the fight, shouting at both sides.
Uncle Ben : Get the fuck… out of the shop Liuhai…
Liuhai : This is not over…
He left with his men and I immediately went over to my father and Orh pao.
My mum panicked as she saw my dad bleeding on her head .
Orh pao was down as well, groaning in pain.
Everything happened in a blur.
I remembered Gabriel rushing down and he personally sent both Orh pao and my dad to a private hospital.
Gabriel : Don’t worry Jake… don’t worry…. They have the best insurance coverage money can buy….
My mind can hardly register anything that couple of days.
Orh pao had a broken rib while my dad needed 12 stitches on the head.
As if that was not bad enough, he dislocated 2 fingers on his right hand and he needed surgery to pop them back.
My blood was boiling as I stared blankly at the hospital wall.
30th May 2015
Just slightly 2 month after Fungye took over, the organisation was turned upside down.
Terry could no longer get money for his cash flow and Suwen took the opportunity to leave him , not only did she leave, Suwen took close to 150k worth of jewelleries with her when she did.
When I saw Terry at his shop that day, he was but a defeated old man. He lost weight, he looked sad and pathetic.
My dad recovered properly and we went back to the stall to continue selling noodles. Not because we were threatened, but because of Gabriel.
We found out that Gabriel has been paying the shortfall in rent with his own money while still charging everyone the same rate. My parents felt bad, so did the rest of the hawkers and they decided to chip in, make as much as they could and pass the excess to Gabriel to lighten his load.
24th June 2015
Lucy invited Roland and I over to her place for a drink.
Bill was there too.
The mood was solemn.
Roland’s overhead for his spa surged so much that he needed to dig into his savings.
Jake : Can you cancel the lease ?
Roland : What lease ?? haha… I rent from Gabriel… it’s all verbal… hahah …
Roland revealed that he wanted to pack and go as well but he too found out Gabriel was topping up the shortfall.
Roland : It’s not fair to him… not after all that he’s done…
Lucy’s pubs and KTVs too were in a bad shape.
Lucy : Fungye’s man…. They stir up shit so often…. A lot of my regular customers decides to switch spots….they’re just fucking looking for trouble… it’s bad…. My girls are unhappy too…
I found out from our drinking session that day that Fungye had decided on his inauguration date.
It was to be on the 9th of August.
Our national day. Our Golden Jubilee…
Roland : Well…. He sure chose a good day to show us the finger eh… haha..
Lucy : Fuck him… maybe he’ll get a heart attack and die…
There was no hiding the elder’s hate for Fungye.
10th July 2015
Ben, Andy and Gabriel were at the coffee shop. The chose the last table at the corner and were pouring through their documents. I could tell they were trying to hide as much as they could from Fungye but at the top of their worries was money.
I could tell they were running into serious cash flow problem.
Fungye had demanded for control of the finances, squandering away the reserves Gabriel had built up over the years. He rented a place in the middle of orchard road, and several apartments for his men.
He used Gabriel and Andy’s company as a front, employing his men and getting the valid work passes to remain in Singapore.
By Gabriel’s last count, Fungye had close to 80 men in Singapore holding various passes, from work permits to social visit passes. Those that could not remain in Singapore for long, would return home only to be back here again as tourist.
Kate lost a bit of weight as well and I could see she shared the stress her brother was going through.
Ah Keong on the other hand, had not been seen for months.
He never came to his chicken rice stall, he never even showed his face.
I heard from Kate that Ah Keong ‘s factory was used by Fungye to store duty unpaid liquor.
Kate : He’s hopping mad the last time I called him.
11th July 2015
I don’t know what got into me but I decided to drop by King’s shop. It’s been a while since I last saw him too. When I reached his warehouse, I could see trucks unloading deliveries and goods. The lunar 7th month is approaching in a couple of months time, King has already started stocking up on the items for sale.
I walked into his shop much to his surprised.
King : What are you doing here??
Jake : Nothing… just happen to be in the area…
King lost weight as well. I could almost see the bones under his sunken cheeks. If he had looked like a wrinkled old man before, now he looked close to a rotting corpse.
Jake : You ok ??
King did not looked like he wanted to talk but I guessed he needed and avenue to vent his anger and frustration.
He offered me tea in his office and launched into a 30 minute tirade about Fungye.
King : He stashed so much duty unpaid cigarettes in my warehouse !!!! … that fuck…. Piece of shit….
As if that did not make King angry enough, Fungye stashed them in the same space where King kept idols of deities and gods for sale.
King : His men knocked over and damaged so much of them that I prayed they would get struck by lightning …
He was panting, gasping for breath by the time he was done.
Fungye took King’s delivery truck as well for transport for his own men, and King had to lease another one just to make daily delivery.
Nothing short of the word miserable could be used to describe everyone’s situation.
Gabriel used to distribute a modest dividend to all the elders every quarter, base on their contribution to the organisation’s funds. That too has been stopped till further notice.
As the news of Fungye’s inauguration banquet spreads, everyone dreaded the arrival of that day.
My parents and I worked harder than before, toiling away at the noodle stall everyday.
We started work 2 hours earlier, trying to catch the crowd in the wee hours of the morning and we ended 2 hours later too, desperately trying to grab onto a few late lunch goers.
Gabriel initially refused to accept the extra money the hawkers put together for him, but as the months went by, he had no choice but to take it even though it was barely enough.
Gabriel : I swear….. I will return all of you…. Every single dollar…
Auntie Geok waved Gabriel off.
Auntie Geok : I so old already… bring with me to die ah…. No need la…
Gabriel wanted to laugh but instead I saw him tried to choke back his emotions.
9th August 2015
It’s our national day.
Our golden Jubilee.
I could see families decked out on red and white, smiling as they made their way to the train stations, no doubt to join in the celebration.
I was tired, really tired.
My parents had gone straight to bed upon washing up but I could not sleep.
I could not close my eyes no matter how tired I felt.
That fatigue of working such long hours was beginning to take it’s toll on me.
Even Kate lost weight as she rotated and manned the coffee stall together with Orh pao for 24 hours on weekends. The family or organisation depending on how you call it, has fallen onto it’s knees.
It’s pathetic no matter how you look at it. Morale was low, hardly anyone smiles anymore.
It’s like the elders fell so hard onto the ground that they could not pick themselves up again.
No schemes from Lucy.
No naughty plans from Roland
Nothing from Gabriel as well, he’s burning himself out trying to cope with the finances.
I walked across my place to the bustling mall and ordered myself a cup of coffee for take away.
I walked around aimlessly, Staring blankly at the cup in my hands, I just zoned out until I was snapped out of it by a commotion in front of me.
A toddler had fallen down, and she was sobbing away. Someone was playing with those soup bubbles and she was happily bursting it until an older boy came along and they fought for the same bubble.
The older boy shoved the little girl to get the bubble and she fell, bawling away.
I saw her elder brother rush forward, a young kid of about 5 years old.
He shouted to his parents that his Meimei ( sister ) had fell because the other boy had pushed her. The commotion attracted a few onlookers but they soon lost interest.
The older boys’ parents came and apologised, scolding their son for being naughty. The girls parents just smiled and said it’s fine. They’re just kids.
The boy pulled his sister up and helped to brush her hands and knees.
A few steps behind the parents, a old man with a head of grey hair and wrinkles on his face came to the little girl as well.
The little girl ran to her grandfather, complaining to him that the boy pushed her.
Little girl : Ah gong… ( grandpa ) korkor ( elder brother ) push me.. …. Sob.. sob…
The old man laughed and he bent down to the little girls height.
Grandpa : It’s ok.... hahaha.. it’s ok… just pick yourself up when you fall…
It was a pretty sweet scene , grandfatherly advice for his precious granddaughter, and I smiled as I sipped my coffee until something happened that caught me totally by surprised.
The grandpa turned and checked to make sure the parents are out of earshot before he gave more advice to his grandchildren.
Grandpa : If someone pushes you…. You push back… heee.. hehe…
He giggled in a naughty manner and so did the kids.
Grandpa : You push them back so so hard….. that they would think twice about coming near you again…. Hheee.. heheh.. ahha… ssshhhhhhhhh….
He put his finger to his mouth as the kids giggled, as if trying to tell them it’s a secret between them.
The kids ran off again to play and I locked eyes with the grandpa. He gave me a smile and walked back after his grandkids.
I went back home and sat down at my desk.
I took the pen I had kept in a wooden box out and stared at it.
For a good 30 minutes, I just stared at that pen as countless thoughts raced through my mind.
The fatigue, the lack of sleep.
The miserable state of affairs.
Everything that happened within the past few months just kept coming into my head as I stared at that pen .
The longer I looked. The angrier I got.
The angrier I got, the more irrational I became.
My breathing got faster and I could feel my heart thumping away.
I closed the wooden box with a snap and I looked up and out of my window at the same time, talking to myself in the empty room.
Jake : You want a banquet …… I’ll give you one you’ll never forget…
I remembered I was but a small boy of barely 10 years old when I experienced first-hand our nation’s very own Kallang roar
It was in May 1994.
I held my father’s hand as we stood amongst the crowd in the old national stadium. It was my first time seeing the grand old dame in real life. The stadium was magnificent, that structure that rose up high into the skyline, it struck a chord in me and stirred up emotions I still remembered till this very day.
Can you imagine how huge that place was to a small little kid like me ?
I thought that structure was built by giants and titans. It was only when I was much older when I realised that stadium was not built by mythical creatures from my story books. They were built by us, man.
Concrete and steel formed the backbone of the stadium, but the soul of the old national stadium was the people that filled it’s seats. Common folks like us.
Like a quiet guardian overlooking the city, the stadium’s seats were filled to the brim with people from all walks of life that day. A sea of red surrounded the green field. I was never a fan of football, but my father insisted I join him that day.
Dad : I have this feeling…. It’s going to be a hell of a day today…. It’s just going to be…
I hardly knew the rules of the game , I could hardly hear myself speak with the crowd cheering at every move the players made. It was an amazing feeling. Something money can never buy.
I wondered how the players felt when they were on the field with a crowd of 55000 cheering them on. Countless cameras followed their every move, broadcasting them to the millions of households across the country.
Jake : Pa… the players in red … they are our team right ??
My Dad bent down, looked at me in the eyes and told me something that stayed with me till this day.
Dad : Not players Jake…. Not players……… when those men are on that field, wearing that jersey….. they ….are …our… lions ….. the pride of our nation.
He broke into a smile before returning to join the crowd in the cheering frenzy.
I watched in awe as the sheer speed and agility in which our team moved on that field. There was this gracefulness within the chaos.
Their attacks fed the fervour of the cheering crowd, it churned up the dinner I had earlier, causing me to gasp in excitement whenever they were close to their opponent’s net.
I could feel that excitement in the very air I breathe.
Then right before my very eyes it happened. There were no warning, the ball flew forward, crossed over the field right in front of our striker and he flew. He flew straight at the ball , hitting it right into the net it a beautiful header.
The entire stadium erupted.
The cries of joy and cheers shook the very foundation of the stadium that day as my dad shouted with the veins on his neck bulging so tight I was worried it would burst. He literally looked towards the skies and shouted, his fingers clenched into a claw like stance for a few seconds before he turned and started hugging strangers.
Grown men hugged and high fived each other at the crowd continued it’s unbelievable roar into the night. The sound of that roar crept right under my skin, causing every hair on my back to rise up.
I looked around me and took in the sights. All the different faces, people of different race, religion and beliefs united as one as our lions basked in the cheers of the nation. It was not a simple goal.
That very goal carried with it the dreams of a young nation.
I could hardly sleep that evening when I got back home. My dad was so happy he opened a can of beer and ate peanuts in the dining room, describing the feeling to my mum.
As I grew older, that day in the stadium was never far from my mind.
I was happy that I got to be there.
On the other hand, I was sad because I never got to experience something like that again.
How I longed and craved for that very feeling I felt that day in the stadium. That fire in my small tummy. It never came. Not once.
I went to the box by the side of the room where 8 folders sat by the side of my bed. Remember the folders of documents that I poured through at the beginning of the story ?
Yeah, those were some of the stuff that Gabriel wanted to hide from Fungye. A detailed collection of information that they don’t want him to get his hands on. Fungye probably had his own information about the elders but they doubt it was as detailed at the ones sitting in my room.
I was helping Kate pack them up one afternoon when I asked if I could have them. Kate thought about it for a minute before saying that it was probably safer at my place. She made me promise to keep them safe before turning away to pack other sensitive documents.
I opened each folder and looked at the history of each elder.
They are not saints. Each of them had their hand in some shady business at one point or another. Creative accounting, getting adventurous with taxes, blatant disregard of building safety guidelines and stuff. However if I were to hold out a balance scale and put one token on the left for every shady business they did, and one on the right for something good they had done, the right far outweigh the left.
Every single elder.
Sure, they’re still not saints but if we’re talking about having to choose the lesser of 2 evils, the elders are a much better choice than Fungye.
I took another cold shower before calling Kate.
Kate sounded tired and weary. We had spoken about the vote I held a few times the past few months but nothing came out of the discussion. To her, it was an impossible dream.
Perhaps even a distant fantasy.
I would to be mad to even think I could stand a chance against Fungye. Kate eventually dispelled the idea and even urged me to let it go. You could tell the fight was gone in her too. She’s already settling into the survivor mentality.
Being able to survive the next few years trumps anything else.
Jake : Can i… go for the banquet ?
I had to ask out of courtesy because end of the day, I am not one of them.
Kate : Please tell me you are not planning on doing anything stupid Jake…. It’s not going to work…
Jake : I’m not…. I’m just curious how it’s like….
Kate sighed and kept quiet for a while before revealing that actually we were all invited. As in all the hawkers in the coffeeshop, but she knew none of us would want to go. My parents don’t give 2 fucks about Fungye and you would stand a far better chance of striking the lottery than to expect a stubborn old granny like Auntie Geok to show up.
Kate : Just promise me you don’t do anything stupid….
Jake : I won’t …
Kate gave me the address of the banquet and I did a google map search of the location. It was a huge factory in the west side of the island. Smack in the middle of an industrial estate, only one bus serves the area.
Google earth showed that it was a sprawling compound, it belonged to a construction company. This must be Ah Keong’s site, the one he took over after his dad’s passing.
It’s big, it’s like a huge warehouse, or factory, whatever you want to call it. The metal structure rose at lease 15m up.
It makes sense to have it there .
You can’t exactly book a restaurant for such a gathering.
I thought of hitching a ride down but in the end I decided to just grab a cab.
It wasn’t exactly a happy occasion for everyone and I doubt anyone would be in the mood to give me a ride. Even Kate did not offer to meet me prior to heading down.
I arrived at the industrial site at 5.30pm. The evening air felt cool and dry. The skies were clear and a steady breeze greeted me as I alighted from the cab.
As I walked into the compound, I saw that a lot of the heavy construction vehicles had been parked to the side of the site. Quite a few civilian cars had taken up the middle of the parking area and more arrived with each passing minute.
I cut across the huge parking compound and walked towards a gate. I recognised a few of Ah Keong’s men smoking by the exit.
Smoke and steam came from the back of house to the left of the gate, out of curiousity and to avoid having to meet Ah Keong’s men directly, I walked over to the back of house and saw the mobile caterers hard at work. Dishes waiting to be plated and served and the serving crew which consisted mostly of old aunties waited at the side.
I saw the company name for the caterer and it was a famous one, known for serving good Halal Tze char dishes. Well, even if the day is going to suck, at least everyone gets good food.
After Ah Keong’s men were done smoking, I entered the gate into a corridor. There was another gate at the end of the path, about 20m away. Beyond that I could see some of the banquet tables already laid out and men loitering about.
There were photos on the walls of the corridor. Photos of Matthew and his men.
Framed photos of them standing at a vast vacant piece of land before the factory was built.
There were pictures of Matthew and a young Ah Keong, laying the foundation for the factory. Matthew’s men and staff each signed their names on the pillars that supported that factory in the early stages of constructions and the photographs documented all that.
It was like travelling back in time as I look at the photos on the walls.
Aside from awards from being a outstanding company, most of the space were filled up with photos. Photos of Matthew and his men. I even saw Spencer’s photo up on the wall with Matthew , pictures of Spencer carrying his new born son beside a laughing Matthew.
There were pictures of them having dinner, beer and celebrations in the factory compound, even overseas trip as a company.
I passed by a set of timber door, they were opened and I could look into Ah Keong’s office past the reception counter. His office had a view of the banquet as well since the top half of an entire length of wall is made of glass.
I walked to the end and exited the corridor from the 2nd gate, stepping into the main banquet area.
Air coolers were blasting cold breeze towards the tables. The interior of that vast factory felt cool as well. It was not as humid as I expected it to be.
A makeshift stage had been set up in front of the tables. At the back of the stage, I could see the opening where the cooks from the caterers are at. Several TVs were set up along the side of the tables as well. Screens showing the start of the national day celebrations played as the guest loitered around in a listless manner.
The tables took up about ¾ of the floor space and the exit at the other far end of the factory was opened as well. Men I don’t recognised loitered around that entrance and I assumed they were Fungye’s men.
I walked around a little before coming up to the stage.
There were something interesting on top of the stage. There was a metal panel on top of the table, it had Chinese characters that says loyalty on it. It served as a backing for the items on display. On a table with red cloth sat 2 transparent acrylic box. Sitting in each of them was a 9 in Parang. I went closer to have a look and I could see Chinese characters carved into the blade itself.
One was Fung ( 风) ， The other was snake (蛇) . The twin blades sat beside each other on the table. The blades were old but you could tell they were maintained regularly. The handle’s wooden grip had to be new, or recently refurbished.
The cold steel gleamed brightly in the light of the factory and I could see that they were oiled and cleaned recently.
Almost all the elders arrived around the same time. Perhaps they had made arrangements to, I don’t know. The banquet would start at 6pm sharp and it seems none of them wanted to be seen waiting for Fungye for too long.
Everyone wants to be just on time.
Lucy and her girls got settled down first. Huimin and Jane were there too together with a few others I saw at Kate’s grandmother’s birthday. They were all wearing jeans and casual tops. Nothing grand but they all had heels on at least. The only odd one out on Lucy’s table was none other than Bill.
I could see the girls teasing Bill as he helped Lucy wipe the side of her lips much to her annoyance.
King and Terry arrived together and they shared a table together with King’s staff.
Gabriel, Andy and Kate arrived next with their grandmother in tow on a wheel chair. Kate gestured me towards their table and I said hi to her grandmother. She just smile warmly at me and nodded.
Ben and his men, including Johari and company arrived next and they too took their seats. They just spoke softly within themselves.
Roland came in next.
He had more men than the day at the birthday. I counted 7 of them. All 8 of them looked like they could throw a 25kg barbell weight as a Frisbee. All of them wore black, as if they were attending a funeral, an obvious jibe at Fungye’s ceremony.
Another group of men arrived, about 9 of them. I saw Andy gesturing to them to take their seats at the assigned table, Gabriel went over to talk to a couple of them too. They must be Gabriel and Andy’s staff.
Ah Keong was the last to be seated. He looked like he was running the show since the banquet was held on his site.
His men took up the most tables and they too looked tired and disgruntled as they sat around, talking softly to each other.
Fungye arrived with 9 of his men, walking right up to the front of the stage and took the seat. The rest of his men slowly filled the back seats. Not all of them were present, I overheard some of them talking that it’s so out of the way, some of them got lost. A driver went missing with almost 15 men and they were trying to guide them to the factory.
About half of Fungye’s men were present, scattered throughout the few tables and Fungye decided that it was good enough to begin.
My heart was thumping as I sat on my seat.
It was beating so fast I was sure everyone around the table could hear it.
I was nervous. Fucking nervous.
I never felt butterflies like these in my stomach before.
There was a lump in my throat and it felt as if it was choking the air out of my lungs.
Fungye got up and slowly made his way to the stage to give his speech.
I was shaking where I sat and I closed my eyes, taking in a deep breath of air and slowly exhaled. Kate tapped me on my arm, asking if I was ok.
Kate : Oei… you ok or not ?
I nodded my head.
Fungye started on his speech to a listless crowd.
Hardly anyone was paying attention.
Lucy was looking at her nails, Uncle Ben was digging his nose while Ah Keong lit up a cigarette as Spencer spoke by his ears.
Fungye continued to speak, bringing up the history of the organisation back when it consisted of only him and his brother, Kate and Gabriel’s grandfather. I took out my phone and looked at the 8 messages I had prepared before hand.
8 messages, addressed to each of the 8 elders.
I even double checked their numbers against the ones in the folders before leaving home.
I had to be sure.
I pushed my chair back slowly and got up.
No one paid me any attention. I would have looked like I was going to the bathroom or something but I was not.
I was not.
With my phone in my hands, I walked slowly towards the stage.
No one gave a fuck until I was right by the steps leading up to it.
Fungye’s men stood up, shouting at me. Liuhai was one of the first to point his finger at me, asking me what was I trying to do.
I ignored their shouts and walked up to the stage calmly standing a few steps away from Fungye.
Fungye stopped talking and turned towards me in a cocky and arrogant manner.
Fungye : What the fuck !!... do you want ??
I could see Roland and Lucy looking on with amusement while Terry’s voice rang out as she commented I forgot my medicine that day.
Terry :Jia lat la…. Jake buay kee jia yok… ( Damm.. Jake forgot his medication that day )… haha…
Kate’s mouth dropped an inch and I could see her mouthing the words ; ‘holy fuck’ as she stared at me in disbelief.
Fungye looked at me with his chin up pointing at me, as if daring me to even say a word.
Fungye : You want to speak ??? is that it ?? har ?? you want to talk ??? is it ??
He sneered at me before throwing the microphone onto the floor at me, in the same manner he would give a bone to a dog.
Fungye : Take it then… take it…
Jake : Why are you speaking….. when no one is even listening … ??
Fungye : Fuck you… you think anyone would listen to you then ?? hahaha.. go…. Go ahead….
I took out my phone and went to the 8 messages I prepared.
I clicked the sent button 8 times, addressing the message to each of the elders.
I sent each of them a name.
The name that no should other than them should know.
I sent them the very name of the elder whose dirt they were holding onto.
Lucy has Matthew .
Terry has Lucy
Gabriel has Roland
King has Terry
Matthew has Ben.
All these information fell onto my lap one way or the other over the course of the past few months.
This leaves me with 3 other elders which I don’t know.
I made an educate guess with the other 3.
Roland would be holding either Andy, Gabriel or King’s dirt. I eliminated Gabriel from the list because from my observation of the list, no elder would hold onto each other’s dirt. It doesn’t work that way and Gabriel is already holding onto Roland’s.
That leaves Andy and King. Which is a 50% chance of me getting it right.
I chose Andy because it made sense to me, they’re on opposite sides of the camp since the beginning.
Andy and Gabriel’s family had always been close with the baton being passed among them for the longest time. If I were Kate’s grandfather, and I had to give something of value from my family to another elder, I would give it to a family I am close with.
Andy would be holding Gabriel’s dirt.
This just leaves Ben, who would be holding onto King’s dirt.
A succession of taps sent all the messages out to the elders and I could see Fungye glaring at me, waiting for me to make my move.
Fungye : Why ??? calling for help ah??? Calling your daddy??? Or mummy ??? hahahah…. Call police ah ?? come and save you ?? hahaha…
Thanks to the beauty of technology, within seconds of me sending out the messages, I could hear the beeps and notification from the elder’s phone.
Within seconds, I heard several palms hit the table in anger. King, Terry and Ah Keong stood up immediately, shouting at me. I could see Andy’s jaw dropped while Gabriel stared at his screen in disbelief.
The sudden outburst caught Fungye by surprise and he glared at me .
Jake : You don’t need…… a loud voice …. To get everyone’s attention.
All eyes were on me as more and more of Fungye’s men arrived and streamed into the factory from the entrance at the far end.
Terry : What the fuck !!...
King : What is this !...
Ben : JAKE …. What did you do ??!
Voices rang out from the floor as I turned towards them.
Fungye shouted for everyone to shut up.
Fungye : Shut the fuck up…. All of you !!... you lowlifes….pieces of trash….
Then he turned to me , took two steps towards me and raised his hand in an attempt to slap me. I stepped back, easily avoiding his palm causing him to stager a little. This enraged him even further as he waved his walking stick at me.
Fungye : WHO…..
Fungye : THE FUCK……
Fungye : DO YOU THINK……
Fungye : YOU ARE !!!!!!
Liuhai and his men shouted and cursed at me, jeering at me to get off the stage.
Fungye : Get off this stage…. And join the rest of your shit family down on the floor where all of you belong !!....
Fungye’s face flushed red as she struggled to speak. Good, perhaps he might get a heart attack.
Fungye : you have no right !!!.... no right to even be on this stage…. Get the fuck off it !!!...
The noises of protest from the floor rose and it was worse than a market on a Sunday morning. Everyone was just shouting , raising their voices to be heard.
I too had to shout and I was surprised at how loud my voice were. I manage to project my voice towards the floor and beyond without the microphone . It was loud enough to even surprise Fungye
Jake : I HAVE EVERY FUCKING RIGHT…. TO BE HERE..!!!
Before anyone else could comment even further, I took out the old relic, the 9th vote that I had kept hidden for so long and raised it high about my head.
Gasp of surprise and shock came from the men as Fungye glared at me in disbelief.
I was not satisfied with just flashing that fucking vote at Fungye.
I wanted to give him the biggest fuck you I can muster.
I brought that pen down so hard, smashing it onto the cover that was protecting Fungye’s blade, the impact cracked the cover with a loud smack. The crack line ran along the entire cover before eventually collapsing upon itself.
Jake : As the holder of the 9th vote….. I challenge you …. On your right to rule. !!
The entire banquet erupted into chaos as Fungye tried to swing his walking stick at me but I stepped aside once more, avoiding it easily.
Fungye : You are shit !!!... all of you are SHIT!!!!..... useless …. Good for nothing !!!.... You will not survive without me !!!!.... This organisation will fall without me !!!..
Ah Keong and his men were shouting at me, nothing could describe the anger on everyone’s faces. They had every right to be angry at me, for concealing the 9th vote.
Fungye was so angry that he stumbled a little and Liuhai came up immediately , helping him down to get a seat.
Even as he helped him off the stage, Fungye was cursing at me. Vulgarities from a few different languages flew at me as Liuhai and his men tried to calm Fungye down while I was shouted to get off the stage by a few others.
I pointed to Fungye and looked at the rest of the people down the stage.
Jake : Is that the man you want to lead you ?? …. Someone like him… ??
Terry : You are no fit to lead us too !!... get off the stage… !!!
Jake : I’M NOT FINISHED WITH WHAT I HAVE TO SAY !!!.
I shouted directly at Terry and he too was shocked at my outburst.
I looked at as many of the men and women before me as I could in the eyes and I told them I was not there to lead.
Jake : I’m not here to lead you…. I don’t care about leading all of you ….. I am here to challenge Fungye’s right to do so !...
Fungye : FUCK YOU !!!..
Fungye tried to lift up his in an attempt to kick me but he fell backwards, luckily for him, he was supported by his men who helped him onto his seat.
Fungye : You will never get the support of this bunch of useless, SELFISH… thugs ..they are all good for nothing……… you are all pieces of shit !!!.... fuck you !!!
His men tried to calm him down as Fungye appeared agitated and out of control.
Jake : You heard that ?? !! did you hear that ???!!!
I pointed to Johari and his men.
Jake : He call you thugs….
Then I pointed to Ah Keong and his
Jake : He called you pieces of shit !!...
I looked directly into Roland’s eyes.
Jake: He said you all are good for nothing !!!
There were still pockets of discussions going on and I have yet to have the attention of the entire floor.
I turned and slammed my palms against the metal board, the sound rang out angrily in the factory. It echoed loud and hollow when the sound waves hit the interior walls of the factory.
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Johari and most of his men stared shell shock at my ouTburst, unsure of what to do. They probably thought I was due for my medication too from the looks on their faces.
Jake : But you are not thugs !!! … all of you are much better than what he makes you out to be !!
I slammed the metal backing again, louder this time and that got the attention of all of Johari’s men including Uncle Ben.
Jake : DID BEN NOT PUT ALL OF YOU THROUGH SCHOOL !
I hit the board again, the pain in my palm driving up my anger.
Jake : DID BEN NOT PULL ALL OF YOU FROM THE JAWS OF JAIL AND A LIFETIME OF CRIME !!
Johari’s jaws dropped as well and several of them in his group stood up from their seat.
I hit the backing again, turning to King and Terry .
Jake : King !!! How many funerals and cremation have you paid for in all, for the old folks that passed away alone in their home with no one to claim their bodies….!! How much have you given to all the different religious organisations !!!
King too was speechless as I moved on to Terry.
Jake : And you ..!... Did you not hold on to all your staff despite your wife asking you countless times to replace them with someone younger and cheaper…. More than half your staff are above 70 !!...
For the first time, Terry stared at me in shock and disbelief. He didn’t know what to say.
Jake : Did you not pay for their medical bills as well !!?? … did you not join King on all his donations ?!!
I slammed the backing again, it creaked angrily at me as the sound got louder.
I pointed to Roland’s men.
Jake : Who paid for your studies !!! ….
Jake : Who took you in when you are rejected by your family just because you loved someone from the same sex !!..
I pointed to Lucy and asked how many girls has she helped out of her own dime who were cheated by their agents to work in Singapore.
Jake : How many have you secretly helped to go back home on your own dime as well !!
Turning to Ah Keong who by then was in shock, I pointed my fingers first to his men.
Several of them at the back still had trouble realising what was going on.
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
I hit the board 3 times, the sound of angry metal rang out so loud it hurt my own ear drums when I did it.
I got all their attention and most of them started moving closer to the stage.
Jake : LISTEN TO ME !!! ALL OF YOU !!
I slammed the backing again and I was surprised that the sound was amplified several times that round. I looked towards Johari and his men and realised that all of them had rose to their feet.
Roland’s boys too had gotten up and out of their seats. They too slammed their fists on the table the same time I slammed my against the metal.
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Jake : LISTEN TO ME !!!
Jake : YOU ARE NOT MINDLESS THUGS FUNGYE MAKES YOU OUT TO BE !!..
I pointed my finger out into the crowd, exclaiming as loudly as I could.
Jake : YOU ARE BROTHERS !!! …
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Jake : YOU ARE SISTERS !!! ….. YOU ARE FAMILY….
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Jake : AND HE….. IS THE ONE THAT IS TRYING TO TEAR ALL OF YOUR APART ….!!
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
At least half of Ah Keong’s man were up on their feet, nodding their heads and acknowledging what I just said.
I stared right at Ah Keong
Jake : DID YOU NOT LAY THE VERY FOUNDATION OF THIS FACTORY WITH YOUR FATHER !!!
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
I addressed Ah Keong’s men before the echoes of the previous slam disappeared.
Jake : YOU BUILD THIS VERY BUILDING WITH YOUR OWN HANDS !!! ….
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Jake : YOUR NAMES ARE ON THE PILLARS, YOUR BLOOD AND SWEAT ON THE VERY WALLS THAT SURROUNDED US !!
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
I pointed to Fungye and his men. Liuhai had Fungye up on his feet by then. They were surrounded and he knew they were in a vulnerable position. The rest of their men were at the back of the factory and at tables further away.
Jake : AND THIS MAN…. HE IS HERE TO TAKE ALLLLLL OF THESE…. AWAY FROM YOU !!!
Right at that very moment there Liuhai broke out from the gathering crowd with Fungye and managed to escaped through pockets of space towards the back of the factory. They walked briskly towards the exit, shouting and rallying their men along the way.
You could see the split in the crowd as men loyal to Fungye moved towards the back of the factory while the rest gathered closer to the stage. 2 trucks rumbled up at the entrance on the far end.
More of Fungye’s men alighted and jumped off the back.
“lai liao…. Lai liao…. ( coming… they’re coming already )
Pockets of voices rang out as Liuhai gathered his men on the far end.
They clearly outnumbered us as least 2 to 1.
Jake : ALL OF YOU WADED THORUGH SHIT AND MUD FOR 50 FUCKING YEARS TO GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY !!! .
Jake : Who is he to tell you what to do !!! ..
Jake : He has taken so much from all of you… leaving you with nothing but scraps off his plates.…!!!! ….
Everyone on the floor were on their feet, except the ladies.
I paced up the stage, clenching my fist into a harden ball.
Cheers rang out from the bottom of the stage and Lucy was the first to react.
They say a woman’s intuition and 6th sense were accurate and Lucy demonstrated to me what that meant that day. I saw Lucy whispered to Jane and Huimin and as instructions were passed down, the hair on the back of my neck rose when I saw all the girls slipped off their heels.
She knew what was about to happen even before it did.
They took off their heels, and walked barefoot across the floor towards the office.
You might think they’re bolting, but they’re not.
A few of Ah Keong’s man ran towards the storeroom, knocking and breaking the padlock with a fire extinguisher. Seconds later, trolleys were pushed out. Metal bars, rods and timber clubs in all shapes and sizes were brought out and distributed.
There was this frenzy in the air
This lust for action.
Uncle Ben was laughing in a hysterical manner, like a hyena out for blood. He grabbed 2 metal rods and I could hear Johari giving instructions for his men to hold Ben back.
Roland ‘s boys started stretching their sculpted muscles.
Bill remained seated beside Lucy.
Lucy’s girls had gone into Ah Keong’s office and from the glass panels, I could see they had sealed and shut the door by the reception. They even pushed a couple of tables against the door.
Files, stationaries were swept off tables. Bottle waters from the pantry were gathered. I saw Humin brought out the first aid box while Jane was on the phone.
Liuhai had gathered and formed up his men at the far end. They stretch across the entire breath of the factory, 3 man deep with Fungye and Liuhai right in front.
Fungye : FUCK YOU !!!... FUCK ALL OF YOU!!... WHAT CAN YOU DO ??? HAR ?? WHAT CAN YOU DO ??!!!!! HAR !!!!COME….. COME !!!!
Liuhai kept trying to hold Fungye back, preventing him from charging towards us.
Liuhai shouted at his men and they started advancing towards us.
Terry : Coming already… they’re coming…
A metal rod was passed up the stage for me and I took it.
Jake : LET THEM COME !!
I slammed the rod against the metal, sounding up the informal war drum.
Jake : I SAY LET THEM COME !!
Everyone that were on their feet smashed the tables with their fist, or whatever that they were holding in their hands, It created such a thunderous din and I could see the caterers ditching their stations and running away.
Jake : Look at them …. Look at how afraid they are !!!
Jake : They’re just catering to the whims of an old man.
Terry :They have so many more men than us !!!
Jake : They bleed just like we do… !!!
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Cheers rang out, filling the entire space and it slowed the advance of Fungye’s man. They looked scared and unsure of what was happening. They were not prepared for this. Most of them stopped advancing, looking towards Liuhai for instructions as he tried desperately to rally up his men.
Jake : LET THEM COME !!
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Jake : YOU FIGHT TO DEFEND WHAT YOU HAVE !!
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Jake : You fight for the future of this organisation !!
Wham !... Wham !... Wham !...
Jake : You fight !!!............................... FOR THIS FAMILY !!!
The shouts that greeted me shook the very structure of the building we were in. Men punched their arms into the air, raising their makeshift weapons. Several of them taunted and shouted for Fungye’s men to come towards them.
Uncle Ben wanted to charge forward but was held back by Herman and a few more guys.
Uncle ; Whahaha… ahahaha.. LET ME GO !!!... FUCK..AHAHAHAH… CHEEE BYEE… WHAHAHA… LET ME GOO !!!!! AHAHAH..
Kate’s eyes were wide open, do was her mouth as she stared at me in shock. It looked like she was going to faint anytime now. Grandma struggled to stand on her feet and Kate helped her to get up.
I have never heard grandma speak before.
At the sight of the family matriarch getting to her feet, the crowd settled down a little and I could see Gabriel asking Kate to get their grandmother out of that place.
Grandma waved for Gabriel to stopped as she walked into the middle of the gathering. She pointed her walking stick towards Fungye and bodies parted to give her a clear line of sight.
I never expected grandma to do what she did but when she did it, she showed everyone else she truly deserved to be the wife of Kate’s grandfather.
Grandma pointed her walking stick at Fungye, a look of defiance across her face.
Grandma : BEAT THE SHIT…………. OUT OF THAT …………..MOTHER FUCKER !!!
The roar was louder than before and everyone took that as a signal. Tables were flipped and over turned. Chairs were kicked out of the way.
I jumped off the stage and I could see Bill coming towards me on my right.
Roland appeared magically on my left.
It’s as if they both knew the moment I ran in, I could get beaten into a pulp but it’s not going to stop me.
As the 3 of us made our way to the front, Roland chuckled and said something to me.
Roland : There was only 2 paths for people like you Jake….
Jake : And what is that ?
Roland : You lead….. or you rot in Jail…
Jake : Why ?
Roland : Because you have that spark…. That spark… to lit the fire in the belly of men…. You would be the first to get arrested in a riot… ahhaa…
Jake : but I don’t want either…
Roland : What do you want Jake ?
I turned towards Roland and gave him my honest answer.
Jake : I want to sell wanton noodles..
Bill and Roland laughed at the same time as we neared the front of the line.
Lucy : Keep an eye out for that idoit ok ?? haha..
I knew she was referring to me.
I got to the front of the line and stared at the columns of men in front of me.
They were barely 40m away from us.
As I stood at the front of the line, I looked down both sides.
All of the elders were right up front. Gabriel was busy giving orders. He shouted to Johari to hold Ben back but I doubt they could as Ben laughed heartily at the gathering of man. Gabriel shouted to a few of Ah KEong’s man to look out for King and Terry.
King and Terry might as well have the pioneer generation card stamped on their forehead. This is definitely not going to end well.
Gabriel was running up and down the line, shouting for the men to close up, for Kate to get out with grandma, for Lucy to join the girls in the office.
Andy on the other hand and removed his belt and coiled it around his left hand while his right held onto a wooden rod about half a metre in length.
The factory grew quiet suddenly.
I don’t know why.
It just did.
The entire factory grew quiet.
The silence was deafening.
Far louder than the shouts and cheers we did earlier.
The only noise came from the TVs that were still playing.
Live footages from our golden jubilee national day celebration continued to stream as the 2 groups of men stared at each other.
I could not see Ah Keong anywhere.
Then his voice rang out, loud and clear in the silent factory.
Ah Keong : GABRIEL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That had to be the first time he called Gabriel’s name since they fell out.
Gabriel pushed through the bodies and came out front.
Ah Keong appeared on the left and he held 2 blades in his hand.
The 2 same blades that belonged to Gabriel’s grandfather and Fungye.
He walked towards the centre of the line from the left while Gabriel did from the right . They converged towards me and 5 steps away, Ah Keong threw one parang towards Gabriel.
Gabriel caught it with the blade facing down and I caught a glimpse of the engraving on it.
He was holding onto his grandfather’s parang.
Ah Keong and Gabriel looked at each other without a word yet that moment meant more to them as brothers than anything else in the world.
Like a well-choreographed sequence, Gabriel raised his arm with the parang into the air the exact same moment our mobile column for the parade appeared on the screens beside us.
Roland : ahhhh…. What I wouldn’t do to have one of those leopards right now… ahaha..
Scattered laughs broke out among the men.
I saw a smile break out on Gabriel’s face as he turned around and looked at all the men behind him.
His smile disappeared as soon as it appeared.
With the sharp crack of his throat , Gabriel’s voice rang out and filled the entire factory .
Gabriel : MAJULAH !!!!!!!!! ( onwards )
Everyone in unison : MAJULAH !!!!!!! ( onwards )
I could feel the metal roof and the side panels of the factory shake and vibrate as if a hurricane had hit us.
Ah Keong and Gabriel charged towards Fungye and his men.
The extreme left and right tips of our line converged like the wings of a phoenix, fanning flames towards her enemies. Ah Keong’s man ran to him, Uncle Ben was eager to get to the front as well with Herman and Johari close by his side.
The entire body went forward except me.
I panicked for a moment.
I was scared.
This was something I had never done before.
I thought Roland and Bill would have gone as well by now but they remained by my side.
They were calm and composed.
I froze for about 2 seconds before Roland took a step forward and turned round to look at me.
Roland : You want to live forever Jake ?? haha..
Jake : hahah..
I tightened the grip around my metal rod and took a deep breath.
Jake : Here we go...
This had to be one of the most stupid things I have ever done in my life. I thought of saying a prayer but who do I pray to ?
No decent religion would preach violence as a means to an end.
There were hardly any time for me to think before I heard the clash of bodies. There was this sickening crunch, that heavy smack of flesh against bones as both groups connected in the middle of the factory.
Shouts, grunts, screams and cries of pain filled the air.
It’s like I was suddenly thrown into a crowded dance floor in a club, the only difference is that everyone was trying to beat the shit out of one another.
Everything was happening at the same time around me. Someone fell on my left, clutching onto his head, another fell on my right with blood coming out of his nose. Men came towards me from the left but Roland got tangled with him as I waved my rod aimlessly in the air.
Bill pulled me aside, literally throwing me onto the floor as a heavy metal rod narrowly missed my head by a few inches. It was so close I could feel the whoose of air on the hair of my ears. Bill punched that man in the face, sending him down onto the ground.
I got up and bull charged a fellow that was trying to whack Bill from the side with his baton.
Jake : Oooff.. agghghgh…
I hit him several times with my rod but in that chaos, it was impossible for me to each take aim, much less land a proper hit. I ended up hitting him on the stick he was holding about 3 or 4 times before someone knocked me off my feet.
I probably got a couple of hits on his arm though.
I landed on my elbow as I fell, cursing and swearing in pain. Barely a minute into the fight I had already scraped my elbow, that stinging pain was like a slap in the face as I struggled to get up.
I got up and before I regained my balance, someone knocked onto me, sending me tumbling down onto my butt. Another guy stepped on my fingers as I struggled to get off the ground .
Jake : Ahhh…
I ducked my head just in time as a swing came out from nowhere. That rod connected with another chaps arms, causing him to reel in pain.
I was like the ball in a pinball machine. Bodies shoved about, pushing me as I struggled to stay on my feet and balance myself. It’s a fucking mass orgy.
There were more pushing and shoving that actual swinging of punches. Everyone were packed too tightly together.
Someone hit me at the back of my head with his fist.
Jake : Arhh.. fuck…
I turned around and was about to throw a punch onto the first guy I saw when he shouted at me.
Guy : Oei oei oei…. Jake…I’m Ah Keong’s man !...
Jake : Huh… ohh… ohh…
Before we could communicate further, both of us were pushed to the floor. Some fucker stepped on my calves, I tried to get up but another guy fell onto me.
This is fuck up.
Why is it that in Hollywood movies there always seemed to have a pocket of space around the lead actor, enough for him to move about ?
I grunted and gripped onto my rod, shoving my way through the chaos. Several men fell on top of one another, giving me about a metre and a half of opening in front of me. My eyes struggled to find and recognise people I knew.
This has got to be the ultimate fuck up !..
Aside from the elders and guys I’ve seen before, I don’t recognise most of the men in the chaos. I can’t tell who’s on our side and who’s not. Yah, there’re a handful of faces I know but with everyone happening at such a fast pace, I don’t even have time to process whether that guy is on our side or not before I was whacked.
I caught a glimpse of Roland taking a hit on his kidney and I immediately ran towards him, before I could get to him, Bill grabbed me by my shirt, one moment he was pulling me towards him then the next he gave me a kick on my chest, sending me flying away from him the same time I saw Liuhai smash a wooden bench onto the ground when I was standing barely a second ago.
The sight of him ignited the anger within me as I quickly got onto my feet. I shouted and charge towards him with my metal rod, I aimed for his head and swung as hard as I could from the top down.
There was a loud crunch as he blocked my hit with the bench. It was a really hard swing, the resulting vibration from metal hitting timber was so strong that I dropped my make shift weapon from the reverberation.
Liuhai’s bench splinter first as he staggered backwards, trying to use the damaged bench as a support to stop his fall but he broke the bench into 2 before falling backwards onto his butt. I was ready to charge at him again but I don’t have the luxury of fighting him one on one.
I registered a punch to the side of my head and I fell onto another guy who was trying to get onto his feet. The guy beneath me I recognised at Fungye’s man , he tried to grab my by my hair but I landed a punch straight at his jaw, putting him back down.
I immediately felt the sting in my knuckles and fingers and I shook my hand several times to ease the pain. If you had seriously punched someone before, you would surely know it’s not just the other guy feeling the impact.
It’s your flesh and bones against his and I’m not exactly some pro fighter in a ring.
I turned and looked for Liuhai but one of Roland’s man had him in his grip, I can’t even see what was happening when a kick to the side of my ribcage sent me rolling onto the floor.
Jake : Fuck….arghhh…
This was definitely not turning out the way I expected.
Before I could get to nurse my bruised ribcage, another kick came out from nowhere on the side of my right thigh, sending me tumbling down onto the ground. Someone tripped over me, another landed his elbow on my calves.
I was registering so much pain all over that I did the only logical thing I could. I tried to get out of the fray. It’s too messy, I can’t see shit, and I can’t do shit.
What happened to those kungfu show where the heroes duelled one on one in the middle while the rest waved their flags and pretended to dance around at the perimeter. Someone fell onto me again, and another fucker stepped on the back of my right hand.
Jake : ARhghh!!!...
I tightened my body and shoved my way out of the chaos.
Another punch hit me, closer to my left eye this time round and I could feel myself almost blacking out. I staggered backwards only to be rescued by Uncle Ben. He sent the man who punched me into the abyss of bodies with a kick and he grabbed me by my collar.
Uncle Ben ; whahahahaha…. Ahahaha…. JAKE… ahaha.. you can do better than this !!!.. ahahaha…
He righted me up and gave me one of his dual wielding rods before charging into the fold, grabbing a guy that had Andy in a choke hold.
Bill appeared out of nowhere, his nose was bleeding and he had wiped with the back of his hand, a streak of red ran diagonally across his lips and down his chin.
Bill landed 2 continuous kicks , clearing 2 of Fungye’s men from his path as he came to me.
Bill : Get back… go to Lucy !...
I nodded my head and Bill grabbed a scrawny chap from the opposite camp and literally threw him 2 metres away onto a collapsed table.
I saw an opening at the side and decided to make my way towards it. I scrambled over with my rod and with my back against the bathroom wall, I decided that was a good spot to me. The crowd was a lot thinner.
Someone came at me but I bent low, swinging the rod at the side of this ribcage, causing him to bend over in pain before I delivered a knee to his chin. I kept to the side of the walls, making my way back down the line towards Lucy and her girls.
Barely 3 minutes into the start of the fight, you could see the crowd thinning. It’s a fast hit and run thing or so I thought.
Lucy and Jane were standing at the entrance into the office armed with a metal rod each.
I think I’m just pure bad luck because it didn’t looked like anyone paid them much attention until I started going towards them. I heard a couple of shouts behind me and saw Jane tensed up, bringing up her rod into the swing position.
I turned around and saw 2 of Fungye’s men that were frequently by Liuhai’s side.
They broke from the crowd and started towards me.
I was about 6 steps away from Lucy and Jane.
Lucy : Get back here Jake !... we’ll shut the door !!
I hesitated for a moment and decided to head for the 2 guys instead.
As I landed on my back, my eyes caught another 2 chaps heading for Lucy and Jane.
I head butt the guy that tackled me but instead of using my forehead, somehow my nose hit his, sending pain shooting up both our faces as we groaned in pain.
He turned to his side and I could see he was bleeding. There was a weird wet feeling in my nose and I touched it gently just to be sure it wasn’t broken. Thankfully it’s still where it should be.
Lucy and Jane were overpowered within seconds as the 2 men forced their way into the office but not for long. Lucy and her army of girls descended like vultures on the 2 poor sod. It was like a cat fight gone wrong. Their nails tore flesh and clothing off the men as they screamed, Huimin gave one of them a bald patch as she ripped out a clump of his hair before a rain of stomping feet sent them back and away from them.
I staggered towards the girls and looked at the situation.
We managed to push most of Fungye’s man out of the factory, only a few scattered pockets of resistances remained. We were winning but we were not without casualties too.
Another 30 seconds passed and the fighting stopped gradually on it’s own.
The smell of sweat filled the air. Those that could walk pulled their friends off the ground.
Gabriel looked ok aside from a torn shirt and some deep red scratches that look ready to bleed anytime on the back of his neck.
Andy’s left eye was swollen and Ben was patting his back as he spit out a mouthful of saliva streaked with blood.
Bruises, cuts, lacerations, thankfully no one seemed to be seriously hurt.
Herman and Johari’s forearms were covered with blood and they had makeshift bandages from torn pieces of clothes around them.
Gabriel was asking if they were ok and they said they were just cuts.
King and Terry were stretched out on the stage, groaning in pain as 2 guys massaged their backs.
Roland’s shirt was ripped off totally, dark red marks of scratches and bruises were visible all over. He was perspiring, blood mixed with sweat and loads of dust and dirt splattered on his chest and chiselled abs.
He was checking on his men and they looked fine too. When the group of them gathered, they looked like they had just fought off the Persians together with Leonidas of Sparta.
Fungye’s men were regrouping as well. I could see them being helped and carried outside of the factory and onto the open air carpark.
Ah Keong was breathing heavily by a table as he poured himself some tea. As the tipped the pot, blood trickled down his fingers and into his teacup.
He drank it up anyway.
Just 5 minutes of carnage and I could not believe the damage it caused.
I entered the office, the soothing touch of the cold air was a stark difference to the exterior. Even being in the office felt like I was transported to another world.
There’s even music playing on the speakers on the ceiling. Old classic soundtracks by Alex Toh buzzed overhead as the tables and chairs were filled with groaning men.
Lucy and her girls were busy trying to attend to the wounded. I could hear Jane on the phone with Rizwan, asking where the hell was he.
I heard the rumble of truck engines and someone mentioned that quite a few of Fungye’s men had loaded up and left .
Cheers rang out and I heaved a sigh of relief.
We pay no heed to Fungye’s men outside the factory, Gabriel concentrated efforts on tending to his own men. RIzwan arrived soon after and he was not alone. He got a few of his friends who were off duty paramedics, the first thing he did was to start fucking everyone verbally starting with Gabriel.
I never knew his command of Hokkien was that good as he gave everyone a piece of his mind.
RIzwan : WHAT THE FUcK MAN!!!... are you all still kids ??!!! FUCK… what were you thinking !..?
You could tell he was seriously angry and he was trying his best to keep it in.
It took about 15 minutes for Rizwan to get the situation under control, those men that needed immediate medical attention were loaded up into several cars , they will all be sent to Rizwan’s clinic. They even borrowed the caterer’s truck for transportation.
Rizwan carted close to half the men away from the factory including King and Terry .
I hydrated myself with a bottle of water and I was about to reach for the 2nd one when something happened .
Something I never expected to.
The remaining scattered men of Fungye were quickly helped out of the factory at twice the usual speed. It’s weird, you could see them suddenly speeding up their actions. Something was off.
It didn’t feel right.
I looked at the people around me, none of them noticed it. Lucy was trying to dress Bill’s wound, Roland and a couple of his men were smoking. Ben too was pouring water on a long cut that was swollen and starting to bleed.
The rumble of a truck filled the factory the same time I saw Kate running towards me
Kate : Are you ok ?? … i sent grandma off together with one of Lucy’s girls in Rizwan’s car …
I looked at Kate but before I could answer her, the rumble of the truck got louder. The bright headlights appeared at the entrance and the truck drove right into the factory. Liuhai jumped out from the passenger seat, following behind him, at least 20 men alighted, fresh and unhurt.
They must have been one of the trucks that got lost along the way.
I could tell these men were not the usual grunts. They’re beefier, and they looked more determined. I found out much later that they were the personal guards to Fungye himself back in Taiwan.
There were no warning.
It happened so fast.
Andy and a few of Ah Keong’s men were the closest to them and he was just sitting around on a chair.
They charged towards them before anyone could react.
Jake : ANDY !!!!!
I shouted just in time for Andy to turn and take in the situation. My warning alerted the rest of the remaining men as well. We had almost the same number as them but we were already spent and hurt in the earlier confrontation.
Andy got up, shouted for the men to follow him, they ran towards us, retreating to the safety of our pathetic numbers.
Gabriel was fast, he reacted immediately , picking up a stool and a sharpened rod stained with blood as he shouted for Lucy to bolt the door.
Gabriel : LUCY !!.... bolt and lock the doors !!!
Kate and I were closer to the other end of the stage, there was not enough time for us to run in, we were locked out.
I pointed to the exit at the back and was about to ask Kate to run when I saw a handful of Fungye’s men started running towards us from the back.
They fucking flanked us.
Kate and I were cut off.
Those that remained on the outside were Ben, Ah Keong, Gabriel, Andy, Bill, Roland , Kate and me together with 4 other guys.
I grabbed the closest wooden stick I could find and I held Kate’s hand, pulling her towards the corridor. We can get out from there.
The 2 groups connected and within seconds, 2 of the guys were already down on their backs, trying to fend off the attacks.
Gabriel saw Kate and me running towards the gate, he called out to Andy and the 2 of them ran towards us, cutting into the path of the 5 men approaching from the rear.
Gabriel shouted and Andy cursed as they threw everything they got at the 5 men, creating an opening for Kate and I to get out. Kate screamed as a hit narrowly missed her while I swung the baton I had in my hand at the man’s head, sending him crashing against the wall.
Gabriel : GO !!!!.. get her out of here !!!
I grab Kate’s hand and entered gate 2 but waiting for us at the other gate was 2 more of Fungye’s man. The shouted and ran towards us and I pulled Kate behind me.
Jake : FUCK !...
I met their charge head on, lowering my body as I got closer before jumping up and towards the man on the left. I felt a slight concussions as my head connected with the bottom of his chin, blood gushed out of his mouth as I deflected a few hits with my left arm and shoulder.
My opponent landed a punch on my face and I collapsed onto the floor.
Kate screamed as that man went to grab her, trying to pull her back into the office from the gate we just entered.
Kate : FUCK off!!.. aHHHH…
She kicked and tried to scratch him but he gave her a slap so hard that she fell to her knees.
The man that hit Kate had to be at least 1.8m tall, he was slightly on the plump side with a noticeable belly
I got up on my knees and my eyes widened in horror as that man tried to rip off Kate’s dress.
He pulled and yanked so hard, Kate’s grey dress went out of shape immediately near her left shouler, he yanked and pulled, tearing the straps holding up Kate’s dress, exposing her breast.
Jake : AHHHHH..!!!1
I ran forward and swung a punch at his head right when he turned to look at me. My knuckles connected with the side of his forehead with a crack.
A sharp excruciating pain shot through my body as I lost my balance and fell to the floor. I immediately tried to get up and swing another when I realised the last 2 fingers on my fight hand looked weird.
They had popped out of their sockets and I could hardly move them.
The man ignored me as Kate screamed and tried to kick him.
He was pulling off Kate’s bra, exposing her breast, there was a snap and I saw Kate’s bra cups flew across the floor.
Kate : NO!!.. no.. no!!!! STOPP!!!!
He cupped both his hands on Kate’s breast and tried to spread her legs. I could see Kate’s white underwear as her dress was bunched up towards her waist.
I grabbed the heaviest photo frame from the wall with my left hand and swung it as hard as I could, smashing that guy’s face with it.
He shouted in pain and she got off Kate for a while.
He got up on his feet and came towards me. I shouted for Kate to run as I tried to land a kick in his stomach but instead he managed to grab my head, smashing me into the wall, cracking the plaster and the drywall a little.
My head was spinning as I sank to my feet.
My vision looked blur but I could still make out Kate kicking and struggling.
The door to the reception opened a little, just a crack. I could hear Lucy shouting for help to unblock that door to get Kate.
I spit out a mouthful of blood and grabbed another photo frame, and another , and another, smashing them one after the other onto that man who by then had torn off all of Kate’s dress.
Kate : FUCK YOU!!!.. FUCK!!! NO!!!...
I grabbed onto the man’s neck with my left arm, putting him in a choke hold and yank upwards but I don’t have the strength to hold on. Kate manage to squeeze herself out from below. She grabbed what was left of her clothes and ran towards the exit but fuck, another man appeared and she screamed.
I was backed up against the wall as the man slammed his body against my, driving the air out of my lungs.
Kate ran back towards me when I saw 3 other men enter the corridor.
Before I had time to react, one of those man flew backwards and disappeared into the factory floor.
Gabriel appeared, he swung his rod left and right, shouting for me to get Kate out.
Gabriel : Get her out !!.. get her out !!!!
The men converged on Gabriel as Kate and I ran towards gate one.
I took a look outside and the compound was cleared.
I could hear Gabriel shout in pain as he got pummelled by the group of my in the corridor
Kate : Gabe … Gabe !!!! NO!!!... KOr… ( brother ) … KOR !!!! KOR!!!! ( Brother ) ….
I dragged her out, trying to stop her from entering the corridor again as Gabriel tried to shield his head from the relentless blows raining on him.
There was a shout, a grunt much like the hulk approaching the battle.
Ah Keong appeared, knocking down a few of them men like bowling pins. He stomped one of them on the face, elbowed the other on his mouth as he fought to get Gabriel out. Ah Keong bulldozed a path while taking in blows and hit on his head and face.
You could tell his eyes were swollen, his lips badly cut and his cheeks bruised, but he hung on. He pulled Gabriel out of the fray before taking on the men himself.
Gabriel’s fingers on his left hand looked like they were dislocated as well. I shouted for Kate to stay where she was outside the gate and I ran in to get Gabriel.
I dragged Gabriel back, cm by cm with my left hand as Ah Keong fended of 4 men on his own. He was getting hit bad. Ah Keong was barely landing any punches.
He’s literally a walking punching bag as they rained blows on him.
I could not fucking believe it when I saw 3 more man appear at the other end of the corridor.
The pushed and squeeze their way towards us.
Kate came in, dropping her dress that she was using to cover her modesty. She helped me pull Gabriel back but Ah Keong could no longer hold back the advancing men.
Ah Keong : JAKE !! FUCK!!!.. GET KATE out of here !!!!
Ah Keong collapsed backwards , pinning Gabriels’ legs down as Kate and I fell onto our backs from the sudden change in momentum.
Fungye’s man shouted to grab Kate, they tried to step over Ah Keong but he held onto their legs despite them kicking him on the head and face.
Ah Keong : GOOOO…NOW!!!!
Kate screamed and cried as I dragged her out of the corridor. I was about to rush back to help them but Gabriel had gotten to his feet. He threw 2 punch, pushing them men back a little to give Ah Keong some space to get up, then he turned around and kicked me so hard, sending me out of the corridor and landing on my back.
Gabriel : GET KATE OUT OF HERE !!!
Kate sobbed and cried, begging me to do something as I massaged my aching chest on the floor.
It was complete chaos.
Ah Keong landed punch so hard that it broke a teeth of the man that was trying to rape Kate.
There were some commotions at the end of the corridor. Bodies parted and I could see Liuhai.
Gabriel and Ah Keong took the opportunity in the break to make a run towards us but they were not fast enough.
Kate : Come on!!! .. come on !!!!
Ah Keong was faster, he was out the gate but Gabriel tripped and fell.
Instinctively, Ah Keong went back for Gabriel.
He knew it was too late for both of them to get out without leading them right to Kate and i.
Ah Keong grabbed Gabriel by the collar, dragging him with strength that rivalled a charging bull, he threw Gabriel out the gate and grabbed the handle to close it.
Gabriel must have taken a hit to the head or something, he just laid on his stomach face down, not moving a bit.
Ah Keong shut the gate as he looked at Kate.
Nothing could describe the look of horror on Kate’s face as she plunged her body towards the gate Ah Keong was trying to shut.
No words in my limited vocabulary could describe that moment.
Kate : NO.. NO.. NO!!!! FUCK NOOOOOOOO… NO DON’T DO IT…. DON’T DO IT….AH KEONG !!!!! NOOOOOOO
Tears streaked from Kate’s eyes, staining her cheeks as time slowed down. The creaked on the hinges, the slow swing of the gate closing, Kate’s cries, all of these.
All of these were nothing compared to what I saw on Ah Keong’s face.
That look in his eyes.
That slight uptick of his lips.
That smile that he gave Kate as the gate snapped with a clank.
Kate : NO.. no… DON’T YOU FUCKING DO IT !! I’LL HATE YOU!!! .. YOU HEAR ME !!! NOOOO.. I’LL HATE YOU …. KEONG….. KEONG AH!!! .. I’LL FUCKING HATE YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE !!! …NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…. SOBZZZ.. SOZBBZZ.. SOBZZ…
It was no use as Kate bawled like a baby, looking at Ah Keong.
My heart ached and I teared as I look at Ah Keong.
That look of affection on his face for Kate.
You could feel his emotions, his feelings , his soul in that smile.
In a moment like this, Ah Keong was still trying to tell Kate with his smile that everything is ok.
That everything would be alright.
Kate’s legs had trouble supporting her as she hammered on the gate with her palms as Ah Keong bolted it from the inside.
Kate : NOOOO… NOI… NO….. PLEASE…. FUCK… PLEASE… NOOOOOOOOOO… KEONG !!!! COME OUT… SOBZZ… KEONG !!!!! NO… I HATE.. YOU.. I HATE YOU !!!!
I struggled to get up on my feet in my state as Kate’s knees buckled.
Remember earlier when I said the office was playing old classic hits by Alex Toh ?
It seemed fate had this funny way of fucking with people when the classic track that all of us would know back in the 90s rang out. It was ‘把你藏起来’ loosely translated as ‘to hide you from others’
It’s a song all the boys would definitely know, a track many of us sang countless times at KTV back then.
It had been playing for a while it seemed but I only took notice of it then.
Kate : PLEASEEEE........KEONG…. NO!!!..NO…
Ah Keong gave Kate a final smile that same moment the chorus repeated itself towards the end of the track.
Then he stood up, raising his body tall, defiant of the threats he faced.
A sharp stab of pain hit my heart when it dawned on me how much Ah Keong loved Kate when he let loose a loud roar and charged towards Fungye’s men in the narrow corridor as Kate screamed for him to get out.
Kate : NOOOO.. NOO.. KEONG !!! …Keong !!!! …
No matter how many hits Ah Keong took, he fought to stay on his feet, knocking, kicking , smashing bodies into the dry walls of the corridor.
He made sure no one got pass him to the gate.
His face was bloodied and I could hardly see his eyes through the blood.
Kate : JAKE !!!.. do something!!! Please !!! sobnzz.. sobzzz…
My body and muscles ached in places I never knew could ache as I looked around the empty carpark. There were no one around.
I started to run.
I ran as fast as I could around to the back where the caterer’s make shift kitchen were.
Entering from the entrance behind the stage , I shouted to Roland.
Jake : ROLAND !!!!
He dispatched off another guy with a knee to his face and looked at me.
I pointed to the corridor.
Jake : Ah Keong’s cornered and stuck inside !!...
The look on his face hardened and I could see him shouting to Ben and Bill.
Andy delivered another punch to a man that got tangled with him before running towards me.
Andy : Where’s Gabriel ??
Jake : He’s outside with Kate…
Andy ran past me to look for them, I was about to run after him when the door to the office opened. Huimin came running to me, pulling and dragging me in.
Huimin ; NO you’re not !!..
The door was bolted again after I went in. Lucy came running to me with a pair of scissors.
Huimin held me down on the table as Lucy bent down to my pants. It was then I realised my right leg was soaked through. Lucy cut away the pants to revel a long cut of about 8cm. It didn’t look that bad.
Lucy : Ok.. doesn’t look that bad.
The fight was still going on outside.
Bill and Ben desperately trying to hold of the remaining attackers while Roland was trying to get to Ah Keong at the corridor.
Lucy took a look around the room.
Those that remained were hardly in any condition to fight. A couple had pulled their muscles, one had a bad sprain from a fall. Swollen eyes, bleeding nose, you name it.
She looked at the situation outside the office and Lucy rallied up her girls.
Huimin and Jane grabbed pair of compass each, the drawing tool with a sharp end while Lucy took a small letter opener about the size of the free pencils you get from Ikea.
Lucy addressed the whole room of injured men including me.
Lucy : None of you have go….….. but we’re the only help they have….
Like a switch being thrown, everyone clamored to their feet, grabbing whatever they could from the office.
The door to the office was pushed open and Lucy was the first one out.
I could see Andy and Kate carrying Gabriel into the factory from the entrance behind the stage.
Gabriel was conscious but he could hardly walk.
A guy charged towards Lucy but Jane and Huimin went up to meet him.
There were no slapping.
No pulling of hair.
The look on their faces was of sheer determination.
Adversity can only be overcome by your fighting spirit.
Jane grabbed onto the man’s shirt, plastering her body against him as she stabbed him several timed on his chest and arms. Huimin did the same too with her compass.
He shouted in pain as pin size globs of blood appeared on his shirt, causing him to scramble and fall in pain. It won’t kill him, but the pain would keep him away for a while.
Lucy and her girls advanced towards Bill and Ben.
Small pockets of resistance along the way were no match for our ragtag team of fighters.
2 guys ran towards Lucy after turning their attention away from Ben. I took one of them down , forgetting I had deformed fingers on my right hand for a moment and immediately regretted it.
The other guy managed to grab Lucy’s hair, yanking it back, exposing her neck but Lucy was calm and composed. She did not even squirm as she drove the letter opener into the man’s cheeks.
Blood spurted as he screamed, pushing Lucy back and running away from her.
As we advanced towards the men, more and more of them took their attention away from Ben and Bill, they chose to come after us instead. A mistake they shouldn’t have made.
Shouts rang out and a few of them came out from the corridor, Roland fought his way in and disappeared from sight.
We got closer and closer to the centre of the action.
Ben wielded 2 metal rods of different length, shouting and cursing at the approaching men.
Bill had a short baton he used as a sort of a shield while his knuckles were red and caked with dried blood.
A mass of bodies fell from the corridor as Roland emerged with Ah Keong slung over his shoulder.
Then everything happened faster, more intense.
It’s like everything was speed up.
My eyes struggled to capture everything that was happening in front of me.
My heart was beating so fast I thought I might have a heart attack.
It’s like a snap shot of things happening before me and yet I could hardly digest the information before it jumped to another snap shot.
2 of Ah Keong’s injured man took Ah Keong from Roland, the moment he was free from Ah Keong, Roland dove straight back into the fight.
I struggled to breathe as I look at Jane stab another man in the back of his shoulder several times, pulling him by his hair to his knees.
Huimin drove her compass onto another man’s cheeks as well, causing him to convulse in pain as he fell to the ground.
Lucy grabbed a stool, sending a guy face down onto the floor.
Roland delivered a hard blow to the huge guy that tore Kate’s dress with his knees, he doubled over and Roland gave him a hit to his cheeks, sending him down to the ground.
Lucy and her girls kept advancing, so did the rest of us.
Fungye’s men were dropping like flies.
Liuhai appeared with 2 more guys.
Roland elbowed one of them on his face, kicking him down the pile of groaning bodies beneath him.
Bill punched the other on the side of his head, sending him down as well.
Liuhai shouted as he charged towards Uncle Ben.
He had a sharpened stake in his hand the size of a short 15cm ruler.
Liuhai : AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….
Ben turned as Liuhai raised up his hand to deliver the strike at Ben.
Ben calmly received with his opened left palm, allowing it to drive partially through his flesh before whacking the side of Liuhai’s ribs with his metal rod. Pain did not even register on Ben’s face.
More men appeared, spawning out of nowhere towards Ben, Bill and Roland.
Bill shouted and kicked a guy on the side of his ribcage, causing him to tumble, pulling down another guy at the same time.
Uncle Ben fended off a hit on his head with his rod, whacking the other into the man’s legs before kicking him away.
He turned and threw a rod towards Roland, missing him by mere inches as it hit another man who was trying to hit Roland with a chair.
Roland swung under Bill’s arms, his head butting into the belly of a guy trying to grab onto Uncle Ben.
Bill orientated his body, shielding Ben from a fatal blow to the head from a club by blocking it with his back.
Roland came back up, driving his knuckles into the soft tissues of the guy’s nose.
Uncle Ben’s rod swung, deflecting another club that flew towards Roland.
Bill’s legs buckled from a hit to his knees, Roland kick that man in his face, blocking a blow to Bill’s head with his arm. Uncle Ben grunted as he swung his remaining metal rod, striking a guy on the side of his head before he could grab hold of Roland.
The trio of them fought and grunted as their bodies backed against each other above a pile of fallen men.
Bill kicked one last time.
Roland head butted the last guy in front of him.
Uncle Ben delivered his final blow to a poor chap as the rest of us led by Lucy approached and gathered in front of the 3 standing fighters of the family.
Like a strike of lighting streaking across the cloudless skies, Ben shouted with no prior warning, sending every single hair on my body to stand upright as a wave of emotions shot through my body.
Uncle Ben : BEI ZHUAR BA ONGgggg !!! ( 白蛇霸王!! ) ( Triumph to the white snakes ! )
Everyone single man and women left in the factory shouted at the same time, causing the very glass panels on the office to shake and vibrate with their thunderous voice.
Everyone in unison: HUAT AH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Their unified voices echoed into the distance and faded away ,plunging the factory with a blanket of silence.
Like a petrifying spell, that last shout cast it’s effects on Fungye’s men, sending them scurrying out of the factory.
Ben, Bill and Roland stood, breathing heavily as blood and sweat rolled down their bodies.
I slowly sank to my feet against the wall as I groaned painfully.
I looked at the men and women who were left standing.
I finally heard the name of their organisation. I wanted to laugh at how silly I was a few months ago when I was still eagerly asking for their gang cheer and shit.
It was unlike any of those techno infused gang cheer I heard before. Not those concocted by kids with a few tattoos, eager to chant their composed cheers to the whole world.
That was not some gang cheer.
It was a rallying cry for the family.
A family that fights together despite their differences.
Kate ran to Ah Keong, sobbing as she tried to wake him up.
Lucy was trying to hold back her tears as she scolded Bill before hugging onto him.
It took close to an hour before Rizwan came back to attend to the rest of us with his friends.
I don’t remember what happened after that.
I remembered Jane giving me another bottle of water.
My eyes felt tired and weary.
Then I closed my eyes for a while and i blacked out.
I drifted in and out of sleep after everything ended that day.
I’m ok, I knew I was ok. I’m just tired.
Coupled with aches all over my body and the fingers I fucked up, I was literally stoned as I stared at everything happening around me.
I saw Huimin running towards Kate with a long cardigan, she probably took it from Lucy’s car or something.
Andy was helping Gabriel onto a chair. Gabriel looked ok, just a little disorientated.
Andy was limping on his left foot, his shirt was ripped and I saw him checking out a cut under his left armpit.
Ah Keong was the first one Rizwan attended to the moment he could get a grasp of the situation. It was pretty chaotic, there was a crowd surrounding Ah Keong as they tried to wake him.
I could hear someone shouting to make some space while Kate desperately pleaded for Rizwan to save Ah Keong.
Roland and Ben were the closest to me, they sat on the floor barely 3 metres away. Both of them looked on in horror as they pulled out stick after stick of crushed cigarettes. Some of them looked wet, damp in fact. Their perspiration had soaked through the packs and most of the sticks were ruined.
They had multiple bruises, cuts but other than that, they looked ok.
Ben heaved a sigh of relief as Roland managed to salvage 2 decent ones out. A smile lit up their faces as they quickly searched for a light. A small flame danced on Roland’s lighter for a few seconds and soon they were both inhaling a deep puff of smoke.
A cloud of smoke formed above their heads as they exhaled and turned towards me.
Jake : Those will kill you…
Roland : Yeah…. I know…
Jake : You know every cigarette takes away 5 minutes of your life ??
Roland raised an eyebrow, gave me a questioning look and smirked at me.
Roland : Yeah…. That’s because I spent 5 minute smoking them…. Haha…
Ben laughed too and gave me a middle finger while expertly holding onto the cigarette at the same time.
There were a couple of shouts and cheers and I could hear Rizwan giving instructions to load Ah Keong up into the car. They will be sending him straight to a private hospital. Rizwan looked damm pissed as he made phone calls after phone calls.
He was literally begging on the phone, only after a few phone calls did I hear him heave a sigh of relief, muttering thank you non stop.
It was a public holiday, it’s not easy to get help that day. Not to mention help that would keep their mouth shut after everything is over.
I must have closed my eyes for a while again after that because I don’t remember Rizwan approaching me.
I only remembered opening my eyes and hearing him say I needed an x-ray on my fingers.
Jake : Can you just pop it back ??
Rizwan : You think I superman ah…. Got xray eyes ??
He gave me the once over, asked a few questions and said that I’m fine, just needed to fix the fingers and I needed a few stiches on my arm.
A friend of his dressed my wound and I drifted off again.
The next thing I knew, Huimin was nudging me with her foot, asking me to load up into her car.
I had to drag myself to the carpark and I must have passed out again once I got in.
I could only remember stopping at a traffic junction and Huimin asked if I was ok.
The adrenaline was gone and I would feel myself sinking into this dull state of mind.
Huimin : Oei…. You ok or not…
Jake : Yah… I think so.. how about you ??
She shook her head in a gave manner before showing me she broke one of her manicured nails.
I rolled my eyes and she laughed.
I don’t even remember how long the ride was but I remember Huimin parking in basement carpark of Gleneagles hospital. She made a phone call and we went up to one of the private clinics.
I attracted a couple of stares in the state I was in but other than that, no one asked any questions. Huimin double checked a message on her phone and knocked on a glass door before pressing the door bell.
The lights were off in the clinic, it didn’t look like there was anyone in. In fact, the entire floor looked deserted.
A shadow of a man appeared and he released the magnetic catch of the door, gesturing us to enter.
He looked like a caretaker of the clinic. Dressed in a crumple t-shirt and berms, he looked as if he had just woken up from a nap. His black hair were streaked with grey as he shuffled deeper into the clinic as he munched on his curry puff snack.
He opened another door and revealed another world altogether.
Spread out on the floor and corridor were familiar faces I saw back at the warehouse. Most of them were playing with their phones, watching a movie, surfing facebook. Bandages here, a couple of small cast there, thankfully no one looked seriously injured.
Huimin saw one of her girlfriend and she went over to her as I followed the man into another room.
Man : You’re Jake right…
Jake : Yah…
The man spent some time checking out my fingers and asked me some questions. He tried to move them around a little and I squirmed in pain.
He grabbed a heavy lead apron and put it on for me.
Jake : Are you a doctor ?
Man : No… I work the pantry…..
Jake : Huh ?
Man : as far as anyone is concerned, I’m back at home, enjoying the holiday with my family the entire day…. Do we understand each other ?
Man : put your hand here… yah… like that…
He left the room, the xray light came on and it was done.
I went into his office and realised that that man was not just any doctor, he was a specialist.
Man : Ok… doesn’t look too bad… we can just massage it a little and push it back…
Jake : Ok…
Without wasting anytime, he took my hand, felt around the fingers a little and he fucking popped the 1st one back in. My shout was so loud, that the door to his office opened and I could see people peeping in as tears rolled down my eyes.
Jake : AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH….A !!!!!
I have never felt pain like that in my life.
That level of intensity.
That searing hot pain was the worst I ever experienced.
Tears rolled down my cheeks freely as I gritted my teeth, all my toes were curled up and my muscles tensed up tightly as if I had an electric current pass through my body.
Man : Not that bad la…. One more to go…
Jake : WAIT… WAIT !!! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
I sobbed like a baby as I trashed my body backwards into the chair as I felt my finger pop back into the socket as another round of searing pain surged through my body. It was so painful that mucus came out of my nose and I fucking washed my entire face with tears.
My teeth were chattering by the time I managed to compose myself.
A bandaged was applied and he gave me a brace for the fingers before removing the dressing on my arm that needed stitches.
He cleaned my wound, prod a little before saying that he can close it with 3 stitches.
Jake : Ok… just get it over and done with.
I watch him prepare the tools, cleaned my wound again and brought up the needle with the needle driver.
Jake : Wait wait wait !!! … don’t you need to give me anesthesia or something ??!!!
Man : Ohh…. Finish already … not enough… your friends all used a lot …
Jake : WHAT !!...
Man : 3 stitches only… come on la… it’s like ant bite…
Jake : Wait.. wait… AAAAAAH!HHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
I literally choked on my saliva as I felt the needle punch through my raw and swollen skin. I could fucking feel the thread as I dragged itself through my skin. Tears flowed down my eyes as if a tap had been turned on, my knees connected squeezing my balls together while my teeth clenched down so hard I through I would crush them.
It was the longest few minutes of my life and by the time he was done, I was drenched in sweat. I might have peed my pants too as I rest my forehead flat down on the table.
Man : Ok.. ok.. done already…. Not that bad la…
I had no more strength to reply him.
I heard uncle Ben’s voice behind me suddenly and I turned around.
Ben : Why ? so painful meh…… you shout until like that…. People think you giving birth ah… !
I was made to give way to Ben as he too needed stiches.
Fuck. You want to talk like a hero right.
I’ll see how you scream when the pain hits you.
Ben needed multiple stitches on a few spots. He offered his left arm to the man and helped himself to the mints on his deck.
My jaws dropped as I saw the man filled a needle with some liquid and started jabbing them into the wound where the stitches needed to be done.
Ben hardly flinched except a couple of spots where the sting made him frown and breathe deeply.
Jake : Why didn’t I get this !!!
The man waited for the anesthetic to take effect before removing his gloves and asking me to wait a minute.
He took out his phone from the drawer and scrolled to his messages.
Man : Ok.. I read word for word ah…. From Rizwan…. Errrr….. Tell Jake….if want to be a hero…. Don’t be afraid of pain….. let him feel the full impact…no anaesthetic for him..
Jake : You got to be shitting me…
Uncle Ben was just laughing as he shook his leg.
Ben : Rizwan was asking around who instigated the fight….hahaha… everyone said it was you… hhaahha…
My jaws dropped as I turned and let myself out of the office and settled onto a couch.
I waited about close to an hour before another lady came. She called out our names and when it came to me, I got some antibiotics and painkillers.
I washed up as much as I could in the bathroom before grabbing a cab back home.
By the time I was showered and ready for bed, it was already midnight.
As I laid in bed, I could not believe what happened that day.
It took a while for reality to sink in .
What the fuck have I done.
I drifted off to sleep only to be woken up by my parents in the wee hours of the morning.
They were horrified to see the state I was in with the bruises. They asked me what happened and I told them a condensed version. My mum was on the verge of tears as she scolded me for doing something so stupid.
My dad just shook his head at me.
I could see the disappointment in their eyes that morning.
How did their son go from having an iron rice bowl, a cushy job in the civil service to that state in a matter of less than a year ?
They had to be asking themselves that question at least a hundred times a day.
10th August 2015
I had slept through breakfast and was only woken up by my parents when they bought lunch back for me.
As I sipped the soup , both of them sat down opposite me. I could tell what was about to happen. They hadn’t done this to me in years, the last time was when i’m still in secondary school and got into a scuffle with a classmate.
Mum : Jake… you’re old enough to know what’s right or wrong…. We can’t tell you how t0 lead your life…. But spare a thought for us…. We’re getting old… all we want is to see you grow up… get married… have kids…. That’s all we ever wanted….
Dad : Please don’t do something stupid like this again…. You could have died…
I could tell how heartbroken they were and as much as I would like to say something to defend myself, I couldn’t.
There really was nothing for me to say.
We left it at that and I spent the next few days really thinking things through.
It’s pretty fucked up once you frame it up and put things in perspective. If I were a parent and seeing my child go from having a nice decent job to being a hawker, only to get caught up in such a situation, my heart would be broken too.
Seriously, what the fuck man ?
Parents worry about their kids mixing with the wrong company in their teens while I made my parents go through this shit when I’m 30.
I probably would get a stroke if my kid comes to me when he’s 30 and says he wants to join a gang.
I dropped messages and some calls to Kate and the elders. I wanted to know if everyone was ok, and what was the current situation.
Gabriel told me that he had informed all parties and organisations that they were in contact with about the challenge to Fungye’s right to lead. Since we had the entire group in agreement , it was passed through.
There’s a vacuum for the spot at the head of the family.
Kate told me technically, I was supposed to take the reins but I wasn’t a member of their organisation to begin with. This was something they needed to clarify with uncle Po. This has never happened before.
Lucy and her girls are fine except for some broken nails and scratches.
Roland and his boys were up and about after a couple of days of rest
King and Terry needed several visits to a traditional Chinese sinseh, but other than that, they’re alive and kicking.
Andy was already back at work after the long weekend, while Ah Keong remained hospitalised.
Ah Keong’s injury was considered to be the worst among us. He had a couple of toes that were crushed, his shoe came off during the fight in the corridor. Ah Keong needed close to 30 stiches, and his left forearm was in a cast.
He lost 2 teeth, dislocated his left thumb, and his entire face were covered in bruises.
Kate told me that Ah Keong was recovering in a private suite in the hospital, He should be up and about in a week or so. Kate was at his side almost every day.
I asked if she was ok, she said she just felt guilty that Ah Keong got into that state because he was trying to protect her. I offered to drop by and keep her company but she declined.
The only word I got about Fungye and his men was from Roland.
He told me that his sources told him they got treated in 3 different clinics, those clinics were known to be friendly to a rival gang in Singapore. It seemed he had prior dealings with them before. If not , they would not readily offered his help.
No one knew what his deal was with them. I tried asking Gabriel about the rival gangs but he was pretty tight lipped about the matter.
Gabriel : We have moved on …. From inter gang rivalry…. Those were in the past….. in this current climate…. It’s all about doing business… to progress…
14th August 2015
I was at home the entire week. I wasn’t in any condition to cook any noodles or wrap any wantons.
I browsed a few job ads and considered sending my resume out. Perhaps it really is time to wake up from this fantasy and get a proper job. There is no light at the end of the tunnel down this path.
I can’t exactly print Director of White snake gang Pte Ltd on my name card.
Perhaps CEO had a better ring to it.
Chief entertainment officer.
Where my sole role is to entertain.
That Friday was an important day.
A meeting was scheduled together with Uncle Po that evening.
It was an important meeting for all the elders. I was asked to turn up too since they needed to decide what’s going to happen next for the organisation.
The meeting was scheduled for 5pm at the same house where we first had the vote.
This time round, it was a more hush hush affair.
Only the elders were present, and even Ah Keong came in a wheel chair ferried by a private ambulance.
While waiting for Uncle Po, Gabriel pulled me aside into the yard.
Gabriel : I need to talk to you for a minute Jake….
Jake ; Sure…
Gabriel lit up a cigarette and offered me one but I declined.
He looked at me and said that he’ll go straight to the point.
Gabriel : Jake… I’m not going to beat around the bush…. So this is as straightforward as I can get….
He took a puff, exhaled and told me to join them.
As in join the gang.
Gabriel : join us… I meant it…. Really…. Join us…. Be part of the family…or perhaps it might sound better if you see this as a employment opportunity….. join the company…
It was something I found very hard to give a direct reply to. You can phrase it differently but the fact is I’m entering what amounts to a triad. A shadow organisation.
Sensing my hesitation, Gabriel tried to put things in perspective for me.
Gabriel : We…. Are not exactly some…. Hobby club…. Or….. or… what’s that word…. I don’t know…. Gentlemen’s club or…. Grassroots or whatever…. I understand your apprehension….. I really do…. But…
He took a deep breath and went on.
Gabriel : We are trying …. To change…. Slowly… but surely…. We are changing…. And eventually that day will come…. That day will definitely come…. When we put this family on firm footing….and we will all never go back to the old ways…
Jake : I don’t know Gabriel… this is all…. It’s overwhelming…. i… I don’t know…
Gabriel : look at how far we have come….. we’re done with illegal gambling….we don’t do drugs….. we don’t even touch duty unpaid stuff…..we’re practically a normal company….
Jake : I…erm….
Gabriel : This is not like what you see in the movies…. We won’t slash our fingers, drip our blood into a bowl and make you drink it….. we take personal hygiene pretty seriously… haha
Jake : hahaha..
Gabriel : You see… it’s actually very simple…. Just compare us… to…. Any organisation…. Companies…. Countries… anyone…
Jake : har ?
Gabriel : Anyone…. Anyone can say how good or how bad we are….. anyone…. But…..but…..Talk is cheap…. Now… the question is …. How can you change it for the better.. ?
Jake : i….
Gabriel : You see something, that you feel is not right….. you can spend your time talking shit about it… how bad it is…….. how shitty things are being done….you can take photos, videos… post it online…. Add some shitty captions….. gangs are bad…. Gabriel is a pai kia ( gangster ) ….. then what ? What changed ? what has changed ?
He waved his hands in the air and added.
Gabriel : Nothing… why ?? …. Because talk is cheap….. … end of the day… nothing changes…
Jake : What are you trying to say ?
Gabriel pointed to me.
Gabriel : You are now in a position to affect the future of this organisation…. I want change… Andy wants change… we all need to move forward….
Gabriel took a deep breath and said something that I could not help but agree with.
Gabriel : We cannot remove the stain of who we once were…….but we can write a new history with who we will become….
Gabriel snubbed out his cigarette and blew the last of his smoke away from me.
Gabriel : join us…. We can do this together… maybe in 5 years….10 years… we can move beyond all these….. I believe we can change for the better….
Gabriel spread his arms and gestured around the estate.
Gabriel : Look around… look at how fast this country is moving…. You think we can keep up if we don’t change who we are ??
Uncle Ben walked out from the back of house with a cigarette in his mouth as well.
Ben : How… you brainwash him already ??? hahaha…
Gabriel : I’m not brainwashing anyone…. Jake is free to make his own choice…
Ben : Jake…..do you know why we’re still here…. When many of our rival gangs are in shambles??
I shrugged my shoulders.
Jake : I don’t know ….. you stop doing illegal stuff ?
Ben : we didn’t….not 100%.... but we’re moving towards that goal…. Breaking the law…. For a quick buck…. Is getting harder…. It’s not worth it… there’s money to be made everywhere…. People sell popiah skin can also become billionaire…
Jake : hahaha…
Ben : Don’t laugh…. I’m serious…
Jake : Sorry ..
Ben : If I know sell popiah skin can become billionaire… I won’t join gang liao… I’ll sell popiah skins…
Roland popped out from nowhere and cut into Ben’s statement.
Roland : Popish skin ? …. Sell your foreskin la… fuck..
Ben : KNN….diam la ( shut up ) hahah…
Roland : Jake…. Don’t listen to them…. Go lead your own life….
Gabriel : I thought you were in with us on this Roland ??
Roland : hahah.. I am… but I know Jake has already made up his mind…
Jake : I have ?
Roland lit up a cigarette too giving me a smug and confident look.
Roland : If he wanted to walk away…. He wouldn’t have turned up….. he can’t walk away… it’s just who he is… hahaha…
I wanted to rebuke that but I can’t.
Roland hit the nail on the head.
Andy came out too and he looked at me.
Andy : Jake….we’re not asking you to sell illegal DVDS on a makeshift table in a bus interchange…… we’re also not people who get into fights ….
He paused a little and everyone turned to him.
Andy : not….all the time…. Yah… not all the time…. Hahaha
Everyone laughed as he continued.
Andy : we’re hoping you would join us and help to transform this organisation…
Terry and King came out together and joined the group of elders surrounding me.
Terry : If he got no balls forget it la… KNN…. Nowadays…. Their generation all cannot make it one….
King : You diam la…. You yourself also half past 6 , half a bucket of shit…. Haha..
Everyone laughed and Lucy appeared.
She looked lovely that evening as she walked up and put her arms around my shoulder. I really wonder how can Lucy smell so good and alluring all the time.
Lucy : Jake….. You have something very unique…. A gift…. A gift none of the elders had…. You’re like a glue… you bond everyone together despite their difference…. There is no corporate ladder for you to climb here… and there is no need to…..
Lucy walked away from me, turn around to join the rest of the elders looking at me that Friday evening at the yard.
Lucy : Why climb……. When you start at the top ??
I looked at each of their faces as they waited for me to give them a reply.
Before I could digest what they had said to me, I heard Uncle Po call out from the house. All the elders were to gather for a meeting while I remain outside for a while longer.
I could see Kate behind the wheelchair Ah Keong was sitting on a distance away. They too were looking in my direction. There isn’t a proper path for the wheelchair and it’s near impossible for it to go on the grass patch.
Gabriel : The choice is still yours….. don’t be afraid to make it…
He gave me 2 taps on my back before he entered the house.
Kate pushed Ah Keong in before joining me at the yard.
Kate : So…. You in ?
Jake : I don’t know…
Kate : Roland’s confident you will be… he’s usually right about things like this ….
Kate and I sat down on the grass patch and we looked up into the skies, staring at the stars.
Jake : Are you staying so close to Ah Keong lately because of guilt ?
Kate : I don’t know… it might be…
Jake : But…
Kate : Jake stop…. I don’t want to talk about it right now…
I nodded and kept quiet. For a good 45 minutes, we sat outside without a word, looking up into the clear skies.
When Uncle Po came out to call us in, it was close to 9.30pm
I entered the hall and all 8 elders sitting around the table followed my every move.
Uncle Po brought me to the table and invited me to take a seat.
He cleared his throat, took a sip of tea and started to brief me on the outcome of their discussion.
Uncle Po : Jake…. There is a bit of a grey area here…..
When the 9th vote was created, no one expected anyone from outside the organisation to get hold of it.
Even if they did, they would not know what to do it it, much less use it to challenge Fungye. I could do that because of my intimate knowledge of the organisation. It would not be possible for me to gain that knowledge if no one trusted me in the first place.
Bit by bit, despite being an outsider, I began to earn the trust of a few of the elders.
Uncle Po : So…. If you were a member of the family…. You would no doubt be the head of this organisation since you successfully challenged Fungye’s right to rule…..but you are not….
Uncle Po gestured to the gathering of men and women in around the table and said after in depth discussion, they have made their joint decision.
Uncle Po : These people….. have a lot of differences….. they have their own opinions and ideas but this is one of the rare time they are all in agreement of this decision.
Uncle Po turned to me.
Uncle Po : Should you choose to accept this and join us…… you will continue to hold the 9th vote as a neutral party.
I would not be made an elder, nor would I vote in future elections. The only time I needed to exercise my vote was to break a bottleneck situation. Something they hope would never repeat itself again.
In order for me to remain a neutral party, I would be offered a job, with each of the elder.
Uncle Po : You need to see things, from each of their perspectives….. only then will you understand the challenges and issues they faced….. you will remain neutral, above their petty squabbles and childish antics….
I could see Uncle Ben trying hard to hold back a snigger.
Uncle Po : Stay out of their internal politics….. their shit stirring games…. Stay out of all of them…. You will exercise that vote when needed to….. in whatever way you deem is best for this organisation….
It was a lot for me to take in and Uncle Po waited a good 10 seconds before asking if I had any questions.
Uncle Po : Questions ?? No ?? Don’t you want to know your annual leave ? …. Your pay ? got bonus or not ??
Everyone laughed including Kate as I managed an awkward smile.
Uncle Po : Insurance ?? transport allowance??? What do you usually ask during an interview Jake ??
Jake : hahaha…. Ermm… I don’t usually ask this… but…..what is my notice period I needed to serve if I want to quit ??
Everyone remained quiet while Uncle Ben reached under the table and pulled out a large knife concealed in a hidden compartment.
Ben : No need notice period la Jake….. just leave behind 2 fingers…
My facial expression changed and everyone of them burst out laughing.
Ben : I’m just fucking with you hahaha…..
Roland : You wouldn’t leave Jake……but if you wish to…. You can go anytime…. On the condition that you don’t mention any of this to anyone….. ever…
I nodded my head as Uncle Po got off his seat.
He opened a cupboard, took out a bottle of whiskey.
Uncle Po first poured a glass and placed it at the altar where the tablet of Kate’s grandfather sat.
Uncle Po gave me a glass too and gestured to the tablet.
I used both hands and offered a toast to Kate’s grandfather.
Turning around, Uncle Po gestured to the elders with 8 raised glass.
I raised my glass to them, looking at each of them in the eye and nodded my head.
There were no loud gang cheer, no cries of joys, no hearty congratulations.
We raised our glasses, and we drained it bottoms up in a single gulp.
Uncle Po : Welcome to the family Jake….
As the elders slowly filed out, Kate came over and hugged me.
Kate : Welcome Jake…
Jake : Thank you…
A vote was cast that very evening. To ease the tension about the rein of the organisation always being passed among Andy and Gabriel’s family. They elected Ah Keong to head the family for the next few years.
Gabriel and Andy will be there to help Ah Keong manage this responsibility.
Everyone walked away that day, satisfied and happy.
The next few weeks that followed was like a blur. There was a small banquet thrown to welcome me and introduce me to the rest of the men and women in the family.
My parents knew what I had done. They were disappointed but in the end, they said since it’s a path I chose, there was nothing else for them to say.
Mum : Be careful Jake…… don’t do anything stupid….
Jake : I won’t…. don’t worry ma…. I’m just treating this like a normal job….. or help do some reorganisation to a company…
Dad : I have seen how much the organisation have changed over the years…… it is a far cry from what they were when they started……but still …. Be careful Jake….
Jake : I will….. nothing stupid…. I promise…
My parents finally decided to retire. They’re not young anymore and I could see they felt a little guilty for being associated with the organisation. I guess they felt that if they were not in a way indebted to them, I would never have gotten involved.
I reassured them that I’m just looking at this as part of a job experience and that I have the option to leave anytime although I doubt it would be as easy as me submitting a resignation letter.
I helped them plan a few tours, and signed them up for one of those that were led by local celebrities and they loved it. They spent their mornings at community gardens, afternoons cooking at a old folks home, and taking evening strolls in the park.
There was this warm fuzzy feeling in my heart when I see both of them back in the evening, perspiring from their walk in the park. After toiling for so many years, they could finally take things easy.
1st August 2016
Within the span of a year, I’ve worked at Terry’s gold shop, selling jewelleries to tourist and to old men with young foreign girlfriends. I’ve visited his gold factory, and watch the furnace melt gold down to be recast.
I’ve helped King on his business, taking it online, Setting up a platform for ordering religious offerings through the web. There’s even a web chat help that advises you on the type of incense to buy for different types of prayer needs.
Andy’s firm exposed me to some basic accounting skills. Within a couple of months, I could churn out a completed set of unaudited financial statement for small companies. Gabriel linked me up with businessmen, bankers, and an army of middlemen.
People who make things happen. What’s the best way to borrow money, which are the loopholes in the current policies we can exploit. It was an eye opening experience.
Uncle Ben offered me free gym classes.
Uncle Ben : Rice is rice la….. it’s not as if you are going to grow them… help to carry and deliver lor….
What initially sounded like mindless manual labour turned out to be a great networking opportunity. I’ve talked to executive chefs of hotels, I’m friends with the famous stall overs that sells popular hawker food, I skip queues for famous chicken rice, I get extra roast meat from the HK roast stall.
More than once Uncle Ben sent me home with a 50kg sack of rice.
Jake : How to finish… they’re only 3 of us at home….
Ben : Fuck la… find a girlfriend…. Get married… make babies la…..Singapore short of babies…… by then confirm can finish all the rice….
Jake : If like that… can you distribute milk powder instead…. I think those will be more useful..
Ben : Fuck you la…
He gave me a kick and shoved me out the truck as I laughed.
I learnt how to manage small renovation projects from Ah Keong and his men. I knew where the best suppliers were and which to avoid like the plague. There was always something new for me to learn everyday.
I felt like a student again. Everyday was like going back to school, learning something I never knew. There was this excitement, that fresh excitement of starting a new job. Going to a new environment.
Roland’s spa business was one of my favourite.
I spent time sitting in the sauna, soaking in the hot tubs as we chatted about his business.
When there were no appointments, I got free massages from his staff.
I made sure I only chose the female ones. Most of them are nice to me and on a couple of occasions, I got lucky with them. Extra services not in the menu.
I travelled with Roland too. Heading to resorts and small boutique hotels around the region. Roland had bought over a shop house he intended to convert into a hotel. That was one of the main project I was helping him with.
We spoke to designers, chose furniture, talked to chefs, interviewed really hot front desk babes, and of course really good looking guys too.
Life could not be better.
2 months split among Terry and King.
3 months split between Andy and Gabriel.
2 months with Ben
2 months with Ah Keong.
3 months with Roland.
And at the end of the 3 months with Roland, he bought me a car.
A modest 2nd hand Korean car.
Roland : you drop your soap later in the spa ok…. You drop it long and good …. And take your time to pick it back up……??
Jake : Errr….. I don’t think so…
Roland : hahaha…
Life was truly good that year.
Fungye’s reputation took a big hit once word spread that he got beaten by a newbie. Someone not even from the organisation that challenged him, and won. It doesn’t look like he would be back anytime soon.
He had a few hundred thousand worth of illegal goods, duty unpaid cigarettes and liquor with us. Gabriel wanted to burn it all but word was sent through, or rather a request was put through Tracy.
A phone call was all it took.
Fungye wanted them back and Gabriel could not be happier to get rid of them.
I was there when a container truck arrived at Ah Keong’s factory , and I was there too when 4 vans arrived at King’s warehouse. We watch them load up their shit, and heaved a sigh of relief after they fuck off.
What about my love life you say ?
Kate and I grew closer together, but not as lover. As friends.
We went out, coffee, meals, the occasional movie but it just never developed. Like a flower that would not blossom. We’re just good friends.
On the other hand, Kate grew a lot closer to Ah Keong. I could see it happening over the months. They got together with each other eventually.
Keong started to change.
He lost a bit of weight, dyed his hair black. Got rid of his earrings.
He wore clothes that covered his tattoos.
I got to know him a lot better when I was working with him. He’s actually a very simple person, with simple needs. He doesn’t care for branded stuff and shit, he has more money he can ever spend yet he is satisfied with a 3 dollar lunch and a 90 cents coffee.
He’s not picky about food, he laughes, he jokes, he even gave up smoking for Kate.
I’m a little jealous but I knew it was never meant to be me anyway.
I’m truly happy for the both of them when Ah Keong proposed and Kate accepted.
2nd September 2016
I was back at the coffee shop.
Orh pao was the only original hawker that remained.
He saw me, gave me a nod and within a minute, brought me a coffee.
Jake : Gam xia ( Thank you ) ……
It was a special day that day. A small reception will be set up at Kate’s place. It was also the day Ah Keong would take his wedding vows with Kate after the buffet.
I was in charge of the catering and decorations. All the arrangements were made and I just wanted to be there early to make sure things were in order.
It’s a small reception, mainly for the elders and a handful of their men.
Ah Keong was the next to arrive. He was dressed smartly in shirt and pants. With his hair cut short, he wore a pair of spectacles. You could see how nervous he was as he came over to my table with the flower bouquet in his hand.
Ah Keong : How Jake ?? … how…. Very nervous leh….
He took out a piece of paper with his wedding vows, asking me how to pronounce a few words.
Ah Keong : this one.. this one…..eeeden ner ty….
Jake : eternity ….
Ah Keong : This one leh… this one…
Jake : oh… Cherish….
Ah Keong : Cherryyish. … tio bo…
Jake : Chin chye la…. Kate understand can liao…
King and Terry arrived together and waved to us. They took a seat inside the coffeeshop.
Andy and Gabriel arrived shortly after, taking the table next to us.
Uncle Ben arrived next with Herman, sharing the same table with Andy and Gabriel
Lucy came with Jane, Roland arrived alone.
All the elders were gathered at the coffee shop, having their drinks while chatting on that lovely morning. I made some calls, the caterers were just a junction away. Everything should be ready and up in 30 minutes or so.
I saw the balloon guys arriving and I excused myself, I pointed them to Kate’s place and they made their way up to start the decoration.
Then something interesting happened.
It was almost amusing to watch.
Ah Keong looked nervous and geek like sitting alone at a huge table for 8. He kept looking at the piece of paper, trying to memorise the vows.
Then the interesting thing happened.
A group of kids, they don’t look like they were older than 16. Still dressed in their school uniforms, they walked as if they owed the road. The 8 of them came to the coffee shop, they had their shirts tucked out, spoke loudly, threw curses in hokkien.
3 of them blatantly took out cigarettes and lit them up , they did not care that they were wearing their school uniforms.
Curses and vulgarities like’ CCB’ , ‘KNN’ flowed freely from their mouths. They had a stuck up attitude , the few bigger tables were occupied and so they eyed Ah Keong’s table.
One of them walked up like a gangster to Ah Keong.
Kid : Brother… you 1 person…. Sit such a big table….. can fuck off to the smaller table or not….KNN…. coffee shop you buy one ah….
From my angle, Ah Keong’s clean shaven and tidy looks made him look like a fresh graduated geek from university. He just stared at them, totally speechless.
Kid : Kuar simi kuar ( what are you staring at ? ) buay song si bo ?? ( you not happy with me ? ) ….. KNN……
As the kid raised his voice, his friends came over as well, surrounding Ah Keong.
Uncle Ben smiled and nudged Herman on his arm, shaking his leg and lighting up a cigarette.
Roland and Lucy looked on earnestly.
I folded my arms and leaned against the pillar of the coffee shop as Bill arrived, asking me what’s going on.
Jake : Nothing… watch show… haha..
Kid : CCB,…. You don’t understand English is it….. be considerate la…. What the fuck…. You one person occupy the big table…… you know this is my sor zai ( turf ) or not….
There was a look of disbelief on Ah Keong’s face as he stared at him.
Kid : ko kuar…..kuar simi lan ( still stare at me ??? what the fuck are you staring at ?? ) ….. lee chap tor lor eh… ( which gang are you from ? ) ….. lee por choot lai…. ( announce your gang name ) ….. PCB…. Buay song… diao zhui lai la…. ( Fuck you cunt… you not happy… ask your ppl down )…..
I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry as that kid spit a gob of saliva on the floor beside Ah Keong after smoking his cigarette.
A few more lit up but they were not smoking. They’re just blowing smoke. Sucking the cigarette and blowing out puffs of smoke. Then they started spitting gobs after gobs of saliva on the floor.
What the fuck was that man ?
Uncle Ben laughed so hard that he was clutching both sides of his stomach, banging his head against the table.
Kid : Siao eh ……aaee gao si bo ( fucker… are you dumb )….. kee hor gao gan la… ( go get fuck by a dog ) ….. kee lai la… ( get the fuck off this table )….
More men stream into the coffee shop, equally puzzled and amused by the incident.
The interesting thing was that no one help.
No one said a word.
Not spencer with his table of 6 men.
Not Johari who arrived with 3 more.
Not Roland’s man who was sniggering as they waited for their coffee.
Then that Kid had to act like a hero.
He flicked his cigarette butt at Ah Keong’s shirt, trying to antagonise him into a fight.
Kid : Lai la… buay song… kee lai… ( come… not happy… get up ) ….
Kate came down from her place, dressed in a blue dress that ended above her knees. Her heels gave her a couple of inches. With her hair done up, and the make up by the make up artist, she looked amazing that day.
Beautiful and elegant.
Like a queen.
She appeared beside me and I straightened my body, giving her a nod.
Jake : Morning….Your highness…
She gave me an irritated lookJake : You’re the boss’s wife… I should address you properly..
Kate : stop that shit Jake… what’s happening….
I gestured towards Ah Keong and the group of school kids and told Kate they were bullying Ah Keong.
Kate’s eyes narrowed and walked over to that table.
Bill and I went to Roland and Lucy’s table and took a seat, waiting for the show to begin.
Kate : What is this ?? … you kids should be in school….
The leader of the pack laughed as he look at Kate’s dress and cleavage.
Kid : Neh neh nice leh…. Jie jie…. ( nice breast sister …. ) your boyfriend ah…. Hahaha..
I could see Ah Keong take a deep breath as he tried to control his temper.
Kate : How dare you smoke in public like that… I’ll write in to your school !!!
Kid : Write lor…. I don’t give a fuck…. I tell you la… I always liked older girls…. Be my girlfriend la….. don’t stay with a loser like him…. Hahah…
I watched Ah Keong’s fingers closed into a fist. Kate’s hand rest on his shoulder, giving him a squeeze, trying to calm him down.
Kate : Who do you think you are ??
The kid laughed.
Kid : Lim peh is from Joo chiat 17 King kong… …. You stay with me… I guarantee you… no one dare to touch you…. How… haha…
I saw Uncle Ben choke on his coffee , laughing and spilling everything out onto the table as Herman passed him tissue paper to clean up.
Kate : Do you know who I am ??
Kid : You’re just a girl la…. With a pussy… dying to get fucked…. Hahah…
Kate slammed her palm down on the table with a smack, jolting a few of the kid, one of them even dropped their cigarette.
Kid : Why??... want to hit me ah…
He pointed to all the tables around him.
Kid : So many witness…. I take video and stomp you ah… hahaha…
As the kid laughed, he looked around the tables and everyone was staring at him.
His laugh tapered off slowly before he eventually stopped.
He stopped when he realised no one spoke or move in that coffee shop.
Everyone was just staring at him.
His friends looked a little worried to as a blanket of silence engulfed the coffee shop.
No one moved.
Everyone just stared at him.
There was this frightening tension in the air and he looked like he was about to cry.
Kate : Don’t ever…. Let me see you smoke again…
Kid : What…. What business…. Is it of yours ??
That stubborn kid just don’t know when to shut up.
Kate : Let’s ok… they’re just kids….
Kate turned to leave and the Kid was still determined to have the final word.
Kid : She ask you to go la ….. understand or not !!...
Ah Keong stood up, and at the same time, everyone in the coffee shop got up as well. Sound of chairs dragging along the floor rumbled throughout the entire street , creating a loud din.
At the sight of everyone standing up at the same time, the Kid stumbled backwards, lost his footing and landed on his backside. His friends had a shock. 3 ran off immediately.
Uncle Ben walked over, still laughing.
Ben : xiao peng you…. !!! ( little kids ) ……hui qu du shu la… ( go back to school ) …. Hahaha… King kong….. king kong extinct liao la….hahah… Joo chiat 17 king kong….. simi lan jiao… ( what the fuck is that ) … hahaa…
They helped their friend up, grabbed their bags and ran as fast as their legs could carry them down the street.
It was truly an amusing morning and Ah Keong had a good laugh about it.
During the buffet, Kate and Ah Keong thanked everyone for being there that day. It was a casual gathering.
Ah Keong said his wedding vows with much difficulty but he still said it amidst much laugher and tease
Kate gave a speech as well, telling everyone present that, together with her husband, they will take this family to greater heights than ever before.
Roland : Long may she reign …
Jake : Hahah… Long may she reign…
The ceremony itself was a simple affair, Tracy flew in specially for it too. Kate and Ah Keong would be flying off to Maldives the next day for their holiday. Everyone was invited, anyone that was interested are welcome. All expenses paid.
Lucy and Bill couldn’t wait, they flew off immediately after the ceremony.
Tracy left after the ceremony, that she had some errands to run.
I only got to speak with her for a while before she told me she would be at Lucy’s new club that night.
I had just started working for Lucy for a couple of weeks and I’m still getting the hang of it.
I walked towards one of the popular clubs in town owned by Lucy and was surprised at the long line of people waiting to get in. It stretched all the way to the back and around the building. I followed the queue, getting to the front of it.
A standard scene greeted me, a few bouncers and 2 door bitch chatted with each other.
I tried to make my way past a few guys and they told me the queue is right at the back.
I smiled and walked right past the barrier much to their surprise.
The bouncer recognised me and gave me a nod while I approached the 2 door bitch from behind. The guys that told me to head to the back of the queue stared at amazement as I grabbed both ass of the 2 girls in front of me at the same time.
They yelped and drew a few stares, cursing at me.
Huimin : You’re a pervert Jake…!!
Jane : that’s sick !... I’m having my menses la… I think you shifted my pad a little… haha
Huimin : ewww…. Ahaha..
I gestured for the guest list and asked Huimin if the guest at the vip room were here.
Huimin : Not yet…. Tracy is here though… room 10…
I tapped the names on the guest list and thanked Huimin for the information.
Since Lucy had already left town with Bill, I was to help her meet an important guest.
Friend of hers she said.
Lucy : She’s a old school mate of mine….i’ve been wanting to catch up with her…. She probably wants something…you know…. They always do…. Can you help me see what is it ?
Jake : Sure..
Those were the instructions she left me.
I entered room 10, Tracy was drinking, looking absolutely bored as her entourage of 8 men sat around with their beer.
Jake : Hi Tracy…
She came over and gave me a hug.
Tracy : This is fucking boring Jake….
Jake : I can see why… who brings their babysitter to a club man ?
Tracy laughed and poured me a drink.
She pulled me aside and whispered in my ears.
Tracy : Are you joining Kate in Maldives ?
I nodded and said I would be heading there in 2 days time with Andy.
Tracy’s eyes lit up immediately.
Tracy : Take me…
Jake : What ? !!
Tracy : Take me with you !!! help me ditch my baby sitters.
I shook my head vigorously and I saw one of her minders got up.
Tracy : You owed me Jake…you owed me…for the crab claw….
She narrowed her eyes at me and gave me an angry stare.
Thankfully Huimin knocked on the door and came in.
Huimin : Jake…. Room 12 is here…
I quickly excused myself and went into room 12.
There was a man and woman in front of me.
Jake : Can I get you anything to drink ?
Woman : No need…. We’ll get straight to the point…
Jake : Ermmm.. ok…
The woman is hot, pretty and classy. Her features are sweet and sharp as well, I would definitely fuck her. The man too, look decent. Base on their body language, they don’t look like a couple.
Woman : Lucy owes me a favour… and I’m calling that favour now…
Jake : Ermmm ok… tell me what it is… I’ll past along that information…
Woman : Tell her I need to get my son back ….
Jake : What ?
Woman : Help me kidnap my son ..
My jaws dropped an inch as I stared at her in disbelief.
What the fuck did she just say ?
Woman : Tell her….. Lucy will know…
She got up in a stuck up manner and left the room, leaving me with the man who has yet to say a single word.
Jake : Is she joking ?
Man : No…
Jake : I think….there might be some misunderstanding…. Lucy runs, clubs…. KTVs…. Not a kidnapping ring….
The man nodded as he looked at me.
Man : well… anyway…. Please tell Lucy what was said…. she will understand….
He got up as well, preparing to leave.
Jake : Wait… how do I address you ?
I offered my hand and he shook mine.
Jake : I’m Jake.
Man : My name is James…..
Jake : Oh… hi James… and your friend ?
James : Her name is Ruhui…
Jake : Alright… I’ll be sure to pass the message along then…
I sent him off and got myself a beer at the bar.
See, everyday you meet new and weird people.
Weird people with weird request.
I drank my beer as Jane came over and whispered that she’s not having her menses by my ears.
I smiled and asked for another drink as Jane rubbed her body against mine in the club.
I hugged her by the waist, pressing myself against her as we kissed.
There is never a dull day.
I don’t know if this is going to last but for now, I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.