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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Big trouble in little india - Preview


This is not a sequel or a prequel to the beast within , it's another story, running along a parallel timeline. You have to read ' the beast within ' for context before starting this piece.



New characters, darker scenes.

Painfully darker......



.............................................................................................


Coming in 4th quarter 2018


.............................................................................................






15th Feb 2018

9.00pm



Soh : Jim.... is the phone with you ?


I nodded and turn my attention back to the crowd below.


It's the eve of the lunar new year and the bazaar in Chinatown is at full swing.


The post dinner crowd are starting to fill up the already packed streets. Jingles of Chinese new year songs and stall owners hawking their wares filled the air around me.

I could see men shoving free samples of goodies and sweets to anyone passing by their stalls, another was shouting with his hoarse voice that the price of new year goodies just dropped by 50% at his stall.

Tourist and local alike basked in the atmosphere of the festivities.



The smell of barbecued meat drifted towards me as the wind changed direction.

Countless selfie sticks stretched up high above the heads of the crowd to capture that perfect instagram photo.

The young, the old and the curious filled the narrow pathways made worst by the amount of goods and foodstuff available for sale.


I reckon it would probably take me 15 seconds or so to move a single step forward if i was down on the ground level with the crowd.


Leaning against my hotel balcony on the 3rd floor, i had a good view of everything going on beneath me including the make shift stage set up for the countdown later that evening.



The heavy security presence was a painful reminder of the attacks in the country barely a year ago.


There were police officers at every corner, and even the military was roped in for extra security.

There's even a armored vehicle parked a short distance away from the stage. I know for sure there are plainclothes security personnel hiding amongst the crowd.


A barrier was set up in front of the stage, giving it a berth of open space about 20m wide.



4 screens about 15m tall each formed the backdrop of the stage displaying new year greetings with colourful animations of little doggies hopping about.


In just a few hours, we would be welcoming the year of the dog.



Soh : Jim !...


Jim : yeah ?


Soh : get ready....



I checked the time and it's coming to 9.15pm


It's almost time to get to work.


There was a flurry of activity near the stage and the area behind the barriers were packed with audience and visitors. Most of them were there to get a glimpse of their favorite celebrities that would be arriving to host the countdowns.


Games will be played, cash prizes will be given out.It's the new year after all. Sponsors usually go all out to capture a slice of the new year crowd's attention.

I've seen it happen on TV many times.

Answering a simple question would easily net you a few hundred dollars in cash.



A platform about 50m behind the main stage rose up high into the air. Many were expecting fireworks at this years' countdown.



To ward away the bad luck that has befallen this country so they say.


I checked the phone in my hand and waited for it to ring.



I'm in room 308 with Soh.


Rizwan and Nelson is in 304.


Our job for the night, they're all in 306.



My friends and i have been following the 3 Chinese men for a week.



Today is the day we will wrap this up.


The entire 30 room hotel has been booked by the embassy of a neighboring country who is hosting guests from the region. Important investors who will be bringing lots of money into their struggling economy.


So much so that a customised tour of the neighboring region including Singapore was included. You don't need to be a genius to guess that the tour is but a part of the under table package where bribes are being paid and the right palms greased.

No other guest are allowed in the hotel except those of the embassy. They were hosted here to enjoy the celebration before the formal tour of the island begins in a couple of days time.



The only reason why we got the rooms was because prior arrangements have been made with the management that the 2 rooms needed urgent renovation works and they are unfit for occupation.


Security is tight at the entrance with metal detectors and sniffer dogs.


Nothing should go wrong at this hotel with such important guests about.Important guest with money to throw that is.



You'll be mad to even try to sneak a small cutter through the entrance. The rooms we were in were checked twice, all the supposedly needed construction tools were removed from the hotel prior to the guest arrival.

Not even a small nail remained as the place was cleaned out. An ambassador from the neighboring country will be here the next morning to join the guest for breakfast on the 1st day of the Lunar new year.


I have no doubts many 'red packets' would change hands within the premise.



Even in the kitchen, the knives, the ice picks and anything that could be used as a weapon were noted down and checked every hour.


There were guards at all the exits on the ground floor. The paranoia is real.

The faithful incident changed everyone's views towards security.
 


1 floor up, the heavy security presence gave way to a oasis of calm and the floor was reserved exclusively for guests.



The 4 of us came in as staff of the hotel. We are dressed the part too, complete with uniforms and a housekeeping cart filled to the brim with towels and toiletries. We were assigned to level 3 as part of the service team.

We were to be stationed in the laundry holding room at all times in case the VIP guest needs anything from a clean towel to an extra bottle of water.


Arrangements were made with the actual staff in charge. A old uncle in his fifties.

He's been paid well to keep his mouth shut and to attend to any of the guest as we got about our work.

I didn't even know his name and he didn't ask for mine.

All he did was hand over the prepared housekeeping trolley and i pushed it into the room we were in and shut the door behind us.




I looked at the spare housekeeping trolley that was assigned to me and my eyes drifted to a particular compartment. I was to deliver something to someone.

A package.


No, sorry to disappoint, but there isn't any guns for Hollywood style assassinations. This is a country with strict controls over firearms.


There are only toiletries on the cart and a brown paper bag.

A brown paper bag that i'm suppose to hand it over to someone i have never met before.



It's about A3 in size, feels padded with bubble wrap and not really heavy.



I don't know the specifics of the job but i'm clear what was required of us.


Handover the paper bag, then wait for instructions from the guy we gave it to. One thing i know for sure, the 3 Chinese man will not make it out of this hotel that night.

Once the job is done, Soh, Nelson and i will impersonate the 3 chinese man to get on with the rest of the so call program and tour so no one is missing from the group.




The noise from the crowd grew a notch before cheers rang out from the streets.


Under heavy security escort, our prime minister walked up to the stage where a rostrum was waiting.



The puzzled public grew euphoric, the cheers got louder. People started clapping. Wellie Chin, our Prime minister took the stage much to the surprise of the gathering crowds.


No one expected the prime minister to be here.


If the cheers of support were a indication of his popularity, then the spontaneous eruption of the crowd chanting his name reaffirmed the country's faith in him leading us out of this mess.



I checked my phone again before turning my attention back to the stage.


It took several moments before the crowds calmed down enough for the PM to speak.



The screens behind the stage no longer displayed greetings, instead they showed the best view the cameras could get of the popular politician.





PM : Good evening Singapore...

The past few months has been particularly challenging for many of us.

I still feel the pain of the needless lost of human lives over the attack, and i'm sure for many of us, the wounds are still raw.

Time will heal all wounds, this is something we all know.............. we also know that a wound............. would leave a scar.

That scar will be a painful reminder for all of us....................to never let our guard down again.

.........................................................


It was a humbling moment as the street grew quieter. I could see stall holders and hawkers who were blasting their music before now turning them off.

The hustle and bustle grind to a halt. Never before have the streets of chinatown descend into such a eerie silence.

Not on the eve of the Lunar new year.


More and more people gathered, eager for a view of the stage and the minister.



.....................................................................



PM : It will take a while for the country to walk out of the shadows but i assure you, we shall do it together.

...............................................


Wellie took a deep breath and i could see he went on, with obvious difficulty holding back his emotions.

................................................



PM : Among the activities that will take place these few days, the reunion dinner is the one many families would hold dear. It's the Lunar new year, a tradition for many of us.

The simple act of having your family and love ones around you, safe, warm and with food on the table is a luxury we have taken for granted over the years.

Tonight, many of these tables will be filled instead by empty seats.........................No matter how sumptuous the fare, ...................or how tasty the delicacies prepared,...................... they would not taste as good without the laughter of your love ones beside you.................... 

For some of us tonight, the dinner would also be a painful reminder of our loss.............



.......................................................................


At this point, it felt as if life at the bustling Chinatown had come to a stop.

The silence was deafening.

Everyone stood still, their undivided attention focused entirely on Wellie Chin.



..........................................................................



PM : More than 70 years ago,.............. on this day.............., the Japanese invaded the island on the 1st day of lunar new year.............

We learned about this in our textbooks, we watched it on documentaries, we can see some of the exhibits in our museum...........

You must be wondering why am i bringing up the history of our country in this New year message.

You must also be wondering why would i even deliver a somber one when it's suppose to be a happy occasion.


..............................................................


There was a few seconds pause as the PM took a sip of water from the rostrum before turning back to face the crowd and cameras.



..............................................................



PM : I'll answer that in due course. ..... As a politician..... as your prime minister, all of you have placed your trust in me to make rational decisions no matter how difficult they may be.............. i have been questioned countless times by the public and the families of the victims from the attacks..... why........WHY have we done nothing....... why ?



.................................................................

Murmurs started to come from the crowd as more and more hands shot up with their camera phones pointed at the stage.

......................................................................


PM : My answer has always been the same, we are working on it...... we are working on it..... we are always.... working on it.....


...................................................................


It was at this point someone from the crowd shouted.


" HOW ! " ..... " TELL US..... HOW!!!! "


That sparked off a shouting frenzy and emotions started to get a little heated.



....................................................................


Wellie smiled.

It was a simple and sly smile, one that fooled many of his political opponents.


A smile that speaks volume, yet reveals nothing.



..................................................................


PM : How indeed........ how indeed.....


Wellie's smile never left his face as he started walking backwards from the crowd.


As he walked, his eyes scanned the floor in front of him, nodding ever slightly as if he knew something all of us don't.


PM : How indeed.....


Without a formal goodbye, Wellie turned and started down the steps off the stage much to the bewilderment of the crowd.





............................................................



The screens behind the stage went dark before the 1st one displayed a jerky aerial view of a cluster of dwellings located in the middle of what seemed like a plantation. The bright specks of lights coming from the dull black and white video feed was lit up by dozens more smaller specks that have already surrounded the target.


As if right on que, a squadron of fighter jets roared across the night skies. The crowd turned and craned their necks trying to catch a glimpse, but it was near impossible to see them.


.........................................................



The 2nd screen came on without warning, and the crowd gasped as the screen glowed green with the faces of heavily armed men gathering at the edge of a forest clearing.

I broke into a smile as i saw the unmistakable size of Boon in the background before the camera settled on James.


................................................................


The 3rd screen drew more gasps and shouts from the crowd as a drone fed black and white images of a dozen assault boats slicing across the calm waters before landing on the beach.



It all happened at once.


Gasps of amazement gave way to cheers as the screen lit up wildly.


Bright balls of lights appeared on screen like a angry flare as our men opened up and advanced on the positions of the camps.


I clenched my fist as i thought about Eric, savouring the moment James and his men kicked down the door of a terrace house across the border.


It was an operation that took months to plan with our neighbours across the causeway. The attack on the schools infuriated both Singapore and Malaysia.



We spent months gathering information, Soh and the rest of us travelled to multiple spots disguised as merchants, traders, even going so far as to work in a rubber plantation to gather the information required.


Yes, we are a part of this.

We dug the worms out of their holes, uncovering a intricate network of extremists and the people who are financing them.

From couriers, to the businessmen that bankroll the attacks, we hunted them down.


I made friends and had meals with men that I would not hesitate to kill right there and then on the spot. It took everything I had to hold it in and keep on smiling.

Seeing everything that is happening on screen now is all worth it.





...............................................................................


The 4th screen came on, showing something closer to home.

A lot closer.


The large screen subdivided itself into 8 squares zooming into 8 different spots in the gathered crowd. You can clearly see the stage and the gathering crowd on the screen.

An eerie red square appeared around the faces of 8 men who for a brief moment looked up in surprise before their expressions betrayed their fear upon realising what was happening.

That they were already marked and their game is up.
Before they could react, men, women who were blended into the crowd beside them quickly brought them down. The commotion sent people scrambling in different directions and the barriers in front of the stage were removed, opening up additional exits for the dispersing crowd.


Many scrambled for safety, yet many more remained on the ground, glued to the screens. Eager and hungry to see the payback the country has been lusting for.

I caught a glimpse of some of the men arrested on screen.

A couple of them had sharpened stakes and knives wrestled from their hands.


A black bag was unceremoniously thrown over their head before they were dragged kicking like animals heading to a slaughter out from the area. 



All 4 screens went dark before merging into one giant display.



The 4 screens began to show the series of political attacks both local and abroad on the current administration. When you are down on your knees, you can be sure the vultures are circling.

The laws of nature apply no matter who you are.


When you are weak and ripe for the picking, the predators will come.

The scavengers will come.

They will come for you, trying to shape your opinion, to influence your thoughts, to generate doubt.



Analysts , observers, so called experts living a few thousand kilometres away appeared on the screen in succession. Politicians, dissidents, exiled individuals, business owners everyone you can possibly fucking imagine appear on the screen one after another questioning us.


Questioning the country.


Questioning the leadership


Questioning the citizens



Questioning how ...................... the fuck....................will we survive ................this.....



How ?


How will we defend this island of ours ?


How ?


How can we fight against an enemy hidden among us ?


How ?


How can such a small fucking country survive a threat of such scale ?



How ?


How will this be done ?


How far are we really willing to go to ensure our way of life is not threatened by the ideals of a few individual ?


How far would you go to make sure your kids can run free and safe by the playground ?


How much are you willing to sacrifice ?


How the fuck………. really……



How the fuck are we going to do this ?



The sequences did not happen by chance. It has been carefully edited by the PM's team as part of a offensive campaign against the people who would see us fall.

Every piece on the chessboard is falling in place that night.


Backed with the right soundtrack, the video clip was edited by a Hollywood director to evoke the right emotions from the viewers. It is clear to many of us that you no longer fight a war with conventional weapons.

You need to win the hearts and minds of people. The new media is the new front.




As the clip rolled towards it's climax of a hundred fuckers asking us 'how' when all they really wanted was to see us fall on our knees, the screen went dark amidst the fading screams on the streets as the chaos slowly came under control.



The PM's face appeared again, this time round, he is not in his usual collared shirt and pants. He was dressed in full tactical gear as he answered the question everyone has been asking.



He did not repeat the question.


He did not need to read from a script.


He did not need any prompt from his aide.


He did not even need to think


You could tell he said it immediately when the camera came on live.


It was a soft yet strong reply. You could hear the steadiness in his voice and the conviction he had in his reply.



PM : With my life....


The drone camera zoomed out to show a pre-recorded sequence of the PM leading a section of men as they entered a compound somewhere near a shipyard before turning black.


Right on que, the screen started flashing a succession of answers and replies.


Replies and answers from the true sons and daughters of Singapore.



A father holding his daughter's urn.


A mother holding her son with only one hand.


A husband, eyes red with a photo of his wife.


A wife holding the beret of her late husband.


An old man on clutches wearing his Temesak green uniform


A dog handler with the collar of his best friend.



Paramedics, doctors, teachers, hawkers, officers from the home team, right down to the service men and women who has dedicated their lives to the country.


Everyone of them answered the questions in the same way.



" With my life "



As the drumbeat of the sound track grew in intensity, the screen went dark right on que, You could hear the crowd and anyone watching that live broadcast erupt in cheers in the same manner when the country won it's first Olympic medal.

The shouts came not only from the gathered crowds that new year eve.


You could hear and feel the pent up anger and frustration of a nation in mourning for the past year. The nearby HDB blocks exploded with cheers and shouts, neighbours leaving their homes and coming out to the corridors.



Within less than 3 minutes everything was over.


Soh broke the trance i was in when i heard him muttered it softly under his breath.



Soh : with my life… 





My phone started ringing and i quickly answered.


It was my contact.


He's here.


Jim : Hello...


Contact : I'm heading up to level 3...



The voice.



It's not a he.


It's a she




Jim : i'll be waiting....


All along i thought it would be a man.


This has to be a job for a man isn't it ?



I took the package and told Soh i'm heading out to the lift lobby.




When the lift door chimed open, all the air was sucked out of my lungs as i came face to face with the woman i spoke with.


She had shoulder length hair black that fell effortlessly on her slim and toned shoulders. She wore a sleeveless black dress that hugged so tightly onto her body that it hid nothing from my imagination.

Her legs, her calves, and that perky butt could only mean hours of hard work inside a gym and that pair of sexy killer heels that is black with shimmering glitters of silver sent blood rushing to my groin.



Her features, her looks, it's really hard to describe.


She's really pretty but there is nothing special about her features. It's like she can blend into a crowd easily.


Before i could get over my stupor she was already in front of me.



Contact : Jim ?


I nodded and handed her the package ....


She opened it in front of me.



My jaws dropped when i saw what was inside that bubble wrap.



A fish.



Yes a fucking fish.


Not just any fish.



It's a hard Japanese Katsuo, or the fermented Bonito fish. The same fish that you shave and add it onto your tako balls.



Only in this instance, it's a solid piece, rock hard and shaped into a claw like blade with it's ends wrapped with leather.



My contact handed the bubble wrap and the bag back to me before hiding the fish in her tote bag.


She brushed back her hair and walked confidently towards room 306.


I stepped back into the recessed area of a doorway and watched as she rang the bell.


The door opened and i could hear the girl speak.




Contact : Oh..... Mr Yoshi San ??



The chinese man who answered the door immediately said they did not call for a girl.


The girl smiled, made a show of checking the room number and her phone again before apologising and adjusting her already short dress.


Another of the chinese man appeared and gestured for the girl to head into their room.



Contact : oh... no no...sorry... i'm booked by Mr Yoshi.....


Ignoring her pleas, the 2nd man laughed and pulled her into the room with him despite her innocent pleas not to.



The door closed with a thud and everything was quiet.


I hesitated for a brief moment before walking towards the room.




I could hear something.


Something was happening.



Something heavy fell on the floor.



Someone was shoved against the wall several times.


Furnitures were being moved and dragged around.



The wall slamming sounded a few more times.


If the rooms on either side were occupied, the occupants would surely lodge a complaint.




Then it was all quiet.


My heart was beating really fast as i opened the door and gestured for Soh to come out.



Jim : It's a girl... she went in...


Soh : huh ? ... a girl ?? ... fuck.... you serious ??


Jim : ya... i don't know if she's ok.....


Soh : A girl ? are you fucking kidding me ?



Jim : Yeah…

Soh : The package ??.... what is in it ??


Jim : A fish…


I watched as Soh’s jaws dropped a good 2 inches as he asked me to call James.


Soh : Call James… ask him what the fuck do we do ??


Jim : Call him for what ?? .. he’s in the middle of the fucking jungle…. There’s nothing he can do….


Soh : Then how ? ? …. Who is the point of contact for this job ??


Jim : It was supposed to be James but ever since he passed me this phone, we were just taking instructions from someone I don’t know for the past few days….


Soh and I were deliberating whether to break down the door when my phone buzzed.


It was her.

The girl.


Soh : Who is it ?


Jim : The girl…. She… she asked us to keep our voices down in the corridor….



Soh ; What the fuck….


Jim : ok.. ok… at least we know she’s fine….



We waited another 10 mintues before the door opened and we entered the room.






The girl stood by the door, still dressed in her high heels and tight black dress but her hair was wet. She looked like she just had a shower.



Jim : Are you ok ??


Contact : I'm fine.... come in…



Upon entering, Soh and i saw the 3 bodies slumped at 3 different spots with their throats slit.


Contact : You and your team will assume their identity for the rest of the tour .... give this to the kitchen... they'll know what to do....


She handed the hardened piece of fish back to me.



Jim : What do we do with them ??


Contact : get them into the bathroom….. a team will be here to handle it when you leave tomorrow…


I looked at the girl in amazement as she looked like she had hardly a scratch on her.


My eyes drifted to the bed and saw that was not true.


The dress and lingerie she arrived in were ripped and covered in blood on the bed. One of her high heels is broken.


Yet she still looked the same as when she arrived.


She must have a set of spare clothes in her bag including a new pair of heels.



Contact : Here….


She handed a package to us and I opened it to see forged passports with our faces in it. That should settle the identification part for our so call tour the next few days.


I watched the girl checked herself in the mirror, brushed back her hair before calmly nodding at Soh and me as she opened the door and stepped out.



For a good 30 seconds, Soh and I just stared at the door.


When we finally turned to look at each other, Soh was the one that spoke first.



Soh : Who the fuck…. Is ….she ???



I looked at the 3 men who helped financed the attack on the childcare centres a year ago lying lifeless on the floor a few feet away before looking back up at Soh.



Jim : well......whoever she is….......... I’m sure when the time comes........she will have a hell of a story to tell…….








……………………………………………………………………………………….



Coming soon...... 4th quarter 2018




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