Jeff : Why ? …..
I looked at Owen and waited for his reply. There must be a good reason for this.
There must be.
A shit load of things is going through my head at that moment and I have a feeling you might have guessed a couple of my thoughts as well.
Billy looked at the documents on the table and the one in his hands, no doubt trying to figure out what this is about.
Owen sipped his drink and looked at the documents through the glass of drink. He looked tired, as if he hasn’t slept in days.
His answer will pretty much determine my next course of action.
I trust Owen, to a certain degree that is.
He brought me into this shit, we go way back and all but end of the day, I am very clear as to what I am getting myself into.
If things go wrong, it’s every man for himself. He taught me that too. He taught me that the very first time he handed me my bonus for the project.
Shit will go wrong one day.
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
The one whose photo I’m staring at, is a colleague of mine in a way. I don’t know him, I have never met him but he works for the same organisation. He receives the same training probably.
He works for Owen too.
The idea of getting rid of a colleague is unsettling.
If I get a whiff of Owen getting rid of people once they have outlived their usefulness, I’m gone. I may work for him but I’m not someone you use to get rid of people that fight for the same flag.
How could he ask me to do this ?
If it’s really about making people that is not longer useful disappear, I’ll bolt.
I shit you not, I am packed and ready to go. I don’t care.
I cannot afford to care. If this is happening to number 17, one day it will be my turn. I can almost picture Owen having the same conversation with a different team, a different colleague.
Telling them that I have outlived my usefulness, that I need to retire.
I can disappear from the island within 12 hours and no one will know. I can leave everything behind in a heartbeat, my car, my house, my bank account, everything. This is the very reason why you keep your stash all over, not just in Singapore.
You think I walked away with just the Belt and a holster after meeting the Iranian and North Korean that faithful day ?
Of course not.
When the opportunity comes knocking for you to make friends, you jolly well make them. You never know when you will need their help.
1 week after that meeting I went to the North Korean embassy.
The guard asked me what I want and I showed him the belt I received from the guy on the boat. 10 minutes later I was drinking with Min Joon at a patio within the embassy grounds after giving him a gift I prepared.
I left 30 minutes later with an email address. We kept in touch regularly since then doing each other small favours here and there.
1 month later, I was having tea with Hamid at a café 2 streets away from his office.
Iran do not have an official embassy in Singapore yet but they have multiple operations offices and safe houses on the island.
6 months later, Hamid , Min Joon and I gathered for the 1st time for dinner. It was a potluck gathering in a section of the quarry in Pulau Ubin. By potluck I meant sandwiches and water.
We communicated with broken English, using gestures whenever their limited vocabulary cannot express what they want to say.
None of our employers knew about this little gathering and we are happy to keep it that way.
Some cards you keep close to your chest until the final hand.
Jeff : why ??
I repeated the question as Owen drained the whisky in his glass and poured himself another 2 fingers of it.
Billy : are you serious with this ??
Billy waved the picture in front of Owen as we all waited for his explanation.
Owen looked distressed, and he finished the 2nd glass of drink quickly. It’s not hard to see he has a lot on his mind.
Setting it down, he tried to reach for the bottle again but I stopped him
Jeff : That bottle is meant for me no ?? what is this shit about ?? we taking out co workers now ?? is it ?
Owen wiped the remnants of the drink from above his lips and composed himself. I could see he was trying to pick the right words to use.
He knew how sensitive this situation is.
Owen : Yes… he’s one of us…. Number 17….. callsign …… Gshock…..
Jeff : why ? … you haven answered my question…
Owen looked at me and answered immediately.
Owen : He went rouge ….. he defied orders…. He’s a fucking cowboy now…. Running wild….
Billy immediately added, asking if the audit team has gone through the documents and evidence presented.
Owen revealed another stack of document. The audit team has verified all the facts and have given the green light.
All documents are in order.
Owen : I know how this sounds…. It sucks…. It really sucks…. But I have no choice… I cannot afford to let someone like him run around unchecked….
Jeff : Can we bring him back ? as in…. is there a need to kill him ?? … have you had a chance to talk to him ?
Owen exhaled as if I was overstepping my limits. You can’t blame me. I deserve to know.
Would you not have asked the same question if you are placed in the same situation? Surely the employee deserves a chance to explain himself.
Owen : I’ll go straight to the point…. Gshock… also known as Clement. ….. is an operative just like you….. he handles some of the organisation’s business… that generate much needed cashflow…. But he fucked up….he fucked up big time….
Jeff : what did he do ? ?? money… he lost money ?? are you fucking removing employees because of this….
Owen : Shut the fuck up Jeff….. and listen….. He killed someone..
Jeff : That’s our job brother…. You trained us to do this…
Owen : a 12 year old girl…..
The room went quiet. I could feel my body temperature starting to heat up. I was shaking. I waited for Owen to continue.
I prayed he would tell me that he did not make a 12 year old Clement’s target.
Billy saved me the agony of the wait and asked Owen right away.
Billy : Is that girl a target ??
Owen : No…. let me finish…. Don’t interrupt me again…
Owen grabbed the bottle from my hands and poured himself more alcohol. His eyes were starting to get bloodshot. I could see he was angry.
Angry that it had to come to this.
Owen : Clement has dropped off the radar since 3 weeks ago….we flagged him when we realised he had done something behind our back….
Owen told Billy and I that Clement had killed that 12 year old girl for her organs.
Owen : the organ trade is booming in Asia and unknown to many, Singapore is a thriving hub for organ transplant. …. Many of which happens under the table….
Clement runs several private clinics that were entrusted to him by the company. The main clienteles are VVIPs and politically connected people including royalties. It’s a good cash cow arranging for these people to come into the country unnoticed and away from the prying eyes of the media.
They come here for the usual medical procedures, but unlike private hospitals, the clinics Clement managed offers much more.
Personalised protection, private flights, a large premium is charged, making the company the funds needed to continue our operations.
It doesn’t matter if you are a disposed dictator or an ousted premier in another country.
You pay, Clement does the rest. All away from the prying eyes of the media and even your own government.
Yes and the clinics has their own team of specialist to handle the transplant of organs.
Owen : The clinics perform the transplant, but we don’t provide the organs…..the clients usually procure their own…… they are brought in… by their own doctors…. We don’t ask questions……it has always been this way…… But in this case…Clement…. Stepped out of line….
It was made known to us that Clement murdered the 12 year old girl because her organs are a match to that of a VVIP kid that is 1 year older.
Owen : It’s a rare blood type . B- negative…. Only 1.5% of the earth’s population has it…. rarer still to find a ready target within reach that Clement has access to…. The money being offered is enough to make him sacrifice the girl…
Jeff : What the fuck…..
Owen : He took her kidneys, and heart….
The room descended into an uncomfortable silence.
This is fuck up.
Jeff : are you….. serious??
Owen : I have been trying to find him…..he’s gone underground… but I am very sure he is still in Singapore….. the VIP in question is also in Singapore….
Billy : Then why are you here ? ….fucking beat it out of them !!! where the fuck is this fucker… !! take the organs back from that privilege fuck !!..
Owen : That kid doesn’t know !!... he’s royalty….. son of a sultan…. Of a powerful country…..in case you forget your geography….. we are fucking surrounded by countries with Sultans…. With oil… money…. Power…..!!
Jeff : Then the parents must know…
Owen: Oh…. Really… what ? …. You going to hit a member of the royal family ?? fuck off…. There’s geopolitical relationships at stake here…
Jeff : Do I look like I care about politics….
Owen : I’m not done with the briefing…. This is a special situation….I need you guys to understand what is at stake…
Owen said that the girl that was murdered has a twin sister.
Owen : Gwen is born 10 minutes after her sister Gillian…. Both of them are orphans….. they stay in a church managed orphanage…..where the clinics that Clement managed are the main sponsors….. from money to medical services….
Gillian’s body has been retrieved, cremated and laid to rest.
Now this problem is Gwen.
Gwen has the same blood type and compatibility of organs as her sister.
Owen : It has come to our attention that the VIP’s body is showing signs of rejection for the kidney that Clement took form Gillian….. and we have credible information that Clement will be coming for Gwen….
Jeff : fuck off…..
Owen : He will not stop……. He will see this through….
Billy : Where is Gwen now ?
Owen : At the church…. I have 5 men watching her…..but I will be withdrawing them soon…. I have them there for the past 3 weeks….. I can’t keep them there any longer….
Jeff : what… ? please don’t tell me this is some budget shit…. You don’t have money to keep the men there to protect that little girl ?!!!
Owen shook his head.
His eyes betrayed his thoughts immediately.
I slammed my hand onto the table, causing Billy to jump in his seat.
I pointed a finger at Owen as I stood up, unwilling to believe the conclusion I had come to in my head before Owen said it.
He knew I caught on yet he remained quiet.
He did not want to say it.
Billy : woah.. woah… what ?? .. what is going on man… chill…. What’s happening…. I’m not following….
I looked at Owen who maintained a neutral look. He had regained his composure, perhaps the alcohol earlier helped.
His eyes never left mine as I shook my pointed index finger at him, as if I’m reprimanding him for something.
Jeff : how could you even think of this… ?
Billy looked on, puzzled as to what I am trying to get at.
Jeff : You want to use Gwen as bait…. To draw Clement out….
Billy’s eyes widened as he took a step back, unsure of what to say.
Owen poured himself more drinks and he said I got half of it correct.
Owen : Yes…. I’m using her as bait….but….the men….. the men protecting her…. I was ordered to let them go…
Jeff : What the fuck do you mean ? are you serious ??!!
Owen’s eyes closed and I could see him composure finally crumbling down. He’s on the verge of snapping.
Owen : what would you have me do ??? !!
His arms tightened, his fingers closed and curled up like claws, facing each other in front of him ad if he was trying to concentrate an energy ball towards me. His face was scrunched up and he was grinning down on his teeth.
The pressure on him must be huge.
Owen : I …….. am trying to keep this shit together…….. do you have any idea how hard it is for me to do my job… !!! on one hand I have to face the politicians, on the other hand…. I’m managing ….. people that can snap anytime, slaughtering innocent bystanders …!!
He took a deep breath and I looked at his blood shot eyes.
Owen : This is the only way…. The last thing I need is him trying to grab some other kid ….. at least we know he has a target….. do you accept this project ? …..
Jeff : Owen !!.. that girl is 12 for fuck sake… !!
Owen : Should you wish to accept this project …..
Jeff : She is 12 !!
Owen :It is my duty to remind you that if you are caught…. The organisation will not…
Jeff : Are you fucking listening to me !!
Owen : will not be responsible for your actions…
Jeff : Owen !!
I shouted at Owen for the first time ever and he stopped talking. Billy has a hand up in front of me trying to calm me down.
My blood was already boiling when I knew someone killed a girl for her organs, now my boss wants me to use that girl’s sister as bait.
Owen : I want to state for the record that….. the target is Clement… codename Gshock….get him…. At all cost…. If Gwen is going to lead us to him…. Use her…
I could not believe what I was hearing from Owen.
Jeff : Are you even listening to yourself Owen ?
Owen : WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE ME DO !!!
He finally snapped back at me.
Owen : Clement will not stop….he will not stop…..if he can’t get Gwen… he will try to get others….. he will get anyone…. Any one !!! that he thinks might be a match….you hear me ! ?? what would you have me do !!??
The shouting silenced the entire office as we stared at each other.
Billy’s eyes alternated between each of us, unsure of which side to take.
Billy : Come on guys… calm down…. Jeff… don’t take this…..leave it to the others….
Owen looked away first and I could see his shoulders slouched.
There is something else he is not telling us.
He’s keeping something.
I could see it. He’s deliberating whether to let it slip from his tongue.
When Owen finally spoke, he wiped the perspiration from the top of his lips.
Owen : I….. I have 2 sets of orders…..1 is for my ears only…
He looked at Billy and me before saying that he will not force us to take up the project.
Owen : As per the audit team’s approval…… Clement must die….
Jeff : What is the other order….
Owen : If Clement gets his hands on Gwen before you stop him……. we are not to intervene…. The VIP will get his organs…. And you take care of Clement after that….
Jeff : Fuck you…..
Billy : wait… wait… so if we get Clement before he gets Gwen… then it’s all good right ?? .. it’ll all be good right?? There’s still a way around this….
Owen shook his head.
Owen : If you get Clement before he strikes….. Gwen… will still be delivered to the VIP’s doctor.
I shook my head and swept the bottle of whisky off the table and across the room
I could not believe what I was hearing.
Owen : We’re running out of time…. My men will leave Gwen in 4 hours….. regardless whether you accept this project..
I wanted to speak but nothing came out of my mouth.
I was totally speechless.
Owen looked away for a moment. Billy was just staring at the table of documents in front of us.
Jeff : Why me ? … you knew I would not agree to this…..there’s no way I would give Gwen up if I take this project….
Owen replied almost immediately, as if he knew what I was going to say.
Owen : because you have more empathy …… then the rest of the men working for me….
Billy went on to pick up the bottle and glasses on the floor.
Owen : I have no doubt you can take care of Clement…..and you will surely have a way with Gwen….
Jeff : What if Gwen dies before she gets to the VIP ? hypothetically …..
Owen shrugged his shoulders.
Owen : Shit happens right ? ….. there’s no telling what Clement will do… if Gwen dies…. During the confrontation…. I would have no one to deliver to the VIP…
I saw the twinkle in his eyes and I finally understood his intention.
He knew I would not follow his orders blindly.
Owen : if you refuse…. I’ll go down the line… someone will accept this project….
I looked at Owen and I considered my options.
Billy’s attention was on me, he was wiping his palms on the side of his pants.
Owen : don’t feel bad to say no… its your right…. If you are not taking this up…. I’ll go to the butcher…..
Bastard. He’s just out to antagonise me.
Owen : Or the Gourmet ….
I could feel the shiver in my spine as Owen went on, rattling off the callsigns of the colleagues ranking right below me.
Owen : Socket….
Jeff : enough…..
Owen : Iron….
Jeff : I said enough !!..
The callsigns of the men would have offered a glimpse to their capabilities and their methods.
I have no doubt Clement will be dead soon, but I seriously doubt Gwen’s fate would be pleasant in the hands of these men.
Jeff : I accept….
Billy chirped in immediately after me.
Billy : me too…
I immediately saw Owen heave a discreet sigh of relieve as he settled back into his chair.
That wily old fox.
He wanted me to do this. To get me riled up.
Owen : I gave the orders as per the audit teams approval…… as for what you do ….. it is beyond my control….. nor will I be responsible…..
Jeff : How typical of civil servant….. covering their own backsides even before it begins…
Owen : I’ve said all I could… your cover is that of a social worker…. I’ve made the arrangements…. You will report to Mandy at the Orphanage tomorrow at 9am….
Jeff : Tomorrow ? but you are pulling out your men this evening….
Owen : Yes…. Something that I’m not suppose to share….. do what you want with the information….. it’s beyond my control….
Owen pulled out a vibrating phone and walked away to answer it.
Billy looked at me, waiting for me to say something.
The Orphanage is in Punggol.
4 hours, there’s still time.
Billy : Now what ?
Jeff : I need to head to the pawn shop….
Billy and I went to make a withdrawal at the pawn shop, I packed a knife, first aid kit and I emptied the cash box I kept. It’s not a lot, probably about 12k in various denominations.
As I directed Billy to a temple in Sengkang, I closed my eyes and tried to think of a way to get Gwen out of the country.
She’s too young to be on her own and I don’t know where else to send her. I can keep her hidden for a while definitely, maybe bring her to a Kelong operated by a friend of mine. Then when the opportunity arises, get her out of the country. I don’t know.
Or perhaps I can fake her death ? Impossible.
They would want to see a body.
This is some fuck up project.
As Billy pulled up to the temple, he asked if I was going to pray.
Jeff : it’s too late to pray….wait here for me….
I walked into the temple and right past the caretaker into the back room meant for staff.
The old man manning the room told me that place is off limits.
I went to his wooden abacus on his desk and rearranged the beads in the right order without a word.
He checked the inputs before pulling out a wooden case from the wall and left me alone.
Opening the case, I took out another 15k in cash. It’s not going to be cheap to buy a passage off the island for Gwen, not to mention the money she will need to survive.
I checked the time.
1 more hour before Owen’s men leave.
I got into Billy’s van and we headed over to the Orphanage in Punggol a 10 minutes’ drive away. We parked at the multi storey carpark opposite the church and Billy launched a a small drone into the air.
Within seconds the drone sent back an aerial view of the church.
I could see the 2 vehicles parked in the compound. A couple of Owen’s men are milling about.
I’m not supposed to show my face in the church till 9am the next day.
A lot could happen between now and then.
Right on time, Owen’s men loaded into the vehicles and they drove out of the church.
I told Billy I’m going to head down and check out the perimeter.
I pulled a cap low and walked slowly towards the church.
I took a glance through the main gate and I caught a glimpse of Gwen. I recognised her from the pictures.
She was just sitting at the patio, staring blankly into the air. Her legs dangled lifelessly off the bench. It was a heartbreaking sight to take in.
Imagine losing the only kin you have left in the world. Your sister.
She’s still so young.
I saw another lady come out into the patio. A sweet looking girl next door.
She put a hand on Gwen’s shoulder and spoke to her.
I walked past the gate, not wanting to arouse any suspicion.
I trek around the perimeter of the church, security is non-existent.
There are no cameras and the walls are low. Anyone can climb over the walls into the compound if they wanted. Well, this is Singapore after all, who would want to trespass into a church ?
I was completing the loop around the perimeter when I received a call from Billy.
Jeff : Yeah ?
Billy : Grey Toyota…. Passing you in 5 seconds….
I kept my head forward and walked on casually.
A few seconds later, the car came into view. It cruised along a little slowly, making a turn and going past the main gate of the church. It’s windows are tinted, definitely against regulations.
Billy : that’s the 2nd pass….
Jeff : any other beside this ?
Billy : No….
I did not want to go pass the main gate again in case I get recognised so I crossed the road and settled myself down at a coffeeshop, picking a table that gives me an unblocked view of the compound from the main gate.
The gate is shut, I doubt Clement would be that dumb to try anything in broad daylight.
Billy text me that the Toyota made a 3rd pass and it’s gone.
I took a sip of the coffee and shook my head. It’s terrible.
Seems like the rumours are true.
Punggol has terrible food and coffee. One of the worst places in Singapore to get a meal.
Rent is high, food is terrible.
I lifted the cup to take another sip of coffee and I felt the hair at the back of my neck stood on it’s end.
Goosebumps rippled down my spine and my heartbeat increased.
I could feel the rush of endorphins and the tingle of an erection setting in.
My fingers trembled for a brief second as the muscles on my body tensed up. I could feel myself biting down on my teeth.
A man had just sat down with a bowl of noodles 2 tables away from me.
He orientated himself the same manner I did, towards the gate of the church.
His eyes scanned the immediate surroundings, taking in everyone at the coffee shop including what they are doing.
I could not move in time, he saw me looking towards the road and in the general direction of the Church.
Our eyes did not meet but I knew he is paying attention to me.
I continued sipping my coffee and I dropped Billy a text to pick me up in his Van by the side of the road.
Instead of shying away from my current line of sight, I continued looking at the road, making no attempt to change my attention to something else.
The man ate his noodles, his pair of shades rest at a strategic position on the table. The reflection from the glasses gave him a wider range of view even though he’s looking at only one direction.
At moments like this, the hardest thing to control would be your emotions.
The anger seething inside you threatening to derail everything out of control.
Billy’s van appeared a few minutes later and I stood up and gave the van a wave as I finished the disgusting coffee.
I hopped onto the van, looking like any other tradesman or contractor prowling the growing estate.
Billy put the van into drive and I looked at the side mirror towards the coffee shop.
At the same man slurping his noodles looking at the church.
Billy : What’s happening ? …
I replied Billy with only one word.
Jeff : Clement…
Billy : he’s already here ! ?
Jeff : he probably knows Owen’s men are gone…
Billy : Then how ?
Jeff : He can’t march in and just grab a girl in broad daylight…. But we can be sure he is planning something….
I directed Billy to another estate on the other side of the Church.
I don’t want the Van to make a 2nd appearance along the same street. Clement might flag us.
Jeff : I think we cannot wait till tomorrow…. We need to go into the church now…
Billy : ehhh… you’re suppose to be in there tomorrow morning….
Jeff ; Think of something….
Billy : ermmm… walk in and pray ??
I turned and looked at Billy. That is a fucking good idea.
Jeff : Why didn’t I think of that ?!
Billy : You can’t be serious…you would be showing yourself to Mandy even before you met her tomorrow….
Jeff : Doesn’t matter… I can always say I’m here to check out my new work place….
Billy : no no… no… wait… please… think it through…this doesn’t feel right….. what if Clement sees you walking in ?
Jeff : What is wrong with someone going in to pray….?
Billy : Well…. I ermm… I don’t know…. Are you Christian ?
Jeff : is it written on my head that I’m not ??
Billy : but…
Our conversation was suddenly interrupted by a loud crash and the painful screech of tyres on the road.
It sounded like someone just smashed their car against the wall just down the street. I could hear horns sounding.
I got out of Billy’s van and looked towards the direction of the sound.
It’s the church.
There’s been an accident.
I started to run.
As the entrance of the Church came into view, I could see people gathering at gate along with the car.
That same Toyota had smashed itself into the gate of the church, wrecking it’s front and badly mangling the steel. One side of the gate was totally dislodged, the other barely hanging by the hinges.
A few motorists had stopped their car to help.
Billy caught up with me, panting for air as we looked at the scene o the accident.
People had started to gather to watch the commotion.
Some of them had their camera phones up, taking a video of the incident to share with their friends. I nudged Billy a little to cover my body as I looked towards the coffee shop. Clement is still there.
He had finished his noodles and is now taking in the scene while sipping on his coffee.
Everyone at the coffee shop were pointing and talking about the crash.
Within minutes, the police and the ambulance arrived.
People started commenting about what happened. A man with blonde hair was sitting on the floor, he was laughing. A old man pointed his finger at him as if he was giving the man a lecture.
I kept my attention on Clement.
This was no accident.
He destroyed the gate on purpose.
Without the gate, it would give him free access into the church compound right up to the main door. It’s going to be a walk in the park to just drive in, surprise the hell out of everyone and grab Gwen from the courtyard or patio.
A middle age couple crossed the road, coming towards Billy and I. Like many others, they were watching the incident but from up close.
I gave them a warm smile and a nod of my head and asked like a concerned neighbour.
Jeff : Very jia lat leh…. Knock until like that…..
Uncle : Ai yah….. that one young man…. Confirm take drugs one….. knock already still can ya ya papaya….. really bastard this kind… lucky he never hit anyone….
Auntie : God’s mercy…. His gate stopped him…. Amen….
I gave them a wave and checked on Clement. He was still there, eyes on the gate.
The people started to disperse after about 30 minutes and Billy and I retreated as well.
The scary efficiency of Singapore demonstrated itself right before our eyes as the accident scene was cleared within the hour. Only the badly mangled gates of the church remained.
The lady I saw earlier is in the courtyard talking to a civil defence officer.
With some help from the officers and their power tools, the gate of the church has been removed and neatly stacked by the side of the courtyard. They even placed some tape around it.
Jeff : This is it…. Fuck it… I’m going in…
Billy : wait… Jeff !... wait.. !!
Billy tried to hold me back but I shrugged him off. Instead of going to the front gate, I went along the pedestrian path leading to the housing estate beside the church. I entered from the side gate and took in the church.
A gentle gust of wind hit me, as if I just stepped into the middle of a wind tunnel.
Surrounded by tall residential buildings packed so close to each other, the church’s compound feels like an oasis. The garden is in immaculate condition. Not a strand of grass our of place.
If not for the mangled gate sitting at the corner, it would be perfect.
A small fountain fills the courtyard with the sound of flowing water.
There are several small trees in the garden including a cluster of bamboo, they are not matured enough to provide much shade but in time to come, they will be.
In 5 years this garden will be small eden.
I walked along the small stone slabs towards the church. I stepped into the interior and was overwhelmed by the change in spatial experience.
The high ceiling and the spill of sunlight into the prayer hall calmed my frayed nerves a little.
The pews are empty.
I was never a religious person but I believe strongly in something basic, respect.
Looking at a the cross, I said a silent prayer which sounded nothing like one.
Jeff : Boss…. I’ve never prayed to you…..i’m here to stop something bad from happening to someone that believes in you….. will appreciate any help you can spare….
As if my prayer had been heard, a small side door near the alter opened and I saw the same lady. She looked at me curiously.
I gave her a smile and I approached her.
Jeff : Hi…. I’m Jeff…. I’m the social worker that is suppose to start tomorrow….and I’m suppose to report to Mandy….
Her expression change from one of curiosity to one of a more friendly disposition.
She is Mandy.
Mandy : Oh hi…. I’m Mandy…. I thought you are suppose to be here tomorrow… !
Jeff : Yes yes… I am…. I was checking out the neighbourhood…..trying out the buses to see which one works best…..
Mandy : Oh… haha.. ok.. it’s a new estate… it can get confusing…
Jeff : exactly…. I wonder which genius comes up with the road names in Punggol….
Mandy giggled and she brushed back a strand of her hair that flew across her face.
She is about 1.6m tall. She’s slim and dressed simply in t-shirt and jeans. Her breast is small, probably a full A but I would say her figure is quite proportional. Her jeans isn’t exactly the figure complimenting type but I could tell she has a perky ass.
One that you could not resist smacking.
Her eyes are big with natural double eyelids.
She has no dimples in her smile but she has that cheerful outlook that is guaranteed to brighten your day.
Her giggles itself is enough to make me smile. You might not look twice at her along the street but trust me, this is exactly the type of girl you bring home to your parents and they immediately gives you your inheritance if you are expecting one.
Mandy : exactly !! I tried to take a taxi and they have no idea where I want to go…. !!
Jeff : I had to stare at google map for a while as I figure out the place…I guess the planners didn’t learn from their Sengkang experience….
That set Mandy off even more as she nodded her head.
Mandy : I stay in Sengkang….. when I first moved there in 2000,… I told the cab driver rivervale drive…. He took me to river valley… hahaha
Jeff : Oh… you stay in rivervale drive ??
Mandy : yeah I do…. It’s just a short drive away….why ? hahah
Jeff : you see… you belong to be wealthier batch of people in Sengkang….
Mandy : Why is that so ?
Jeff : After building Rivervale drive, the planners realised that cars are so expensive….. people cannot afford to buy them… so they came up with Rivervale Walk….
Mandy burst out laughing, bursting the sanctity of the church.
Jeff : I’m serious… my friend used to stay at rivervale drive….. scrapped his car and downgraded to rivervale walk…
Mandy : you are really funny la… hahah then… then what about the names in Punggol… Edgedale…Edgevale…. Hahah
Jeff : Come on… they already put an ‘edge’ in front of all the names…. you’re already at the edge of civilisation…. Can’t expect them to sugar coat everything can you ?? …
Mandy was half bent over by then chuckling as we walked towards the exit of the prayer hall.
Mandy : What about you Jeff… where do you stay ?
Jeff : I stay in Jurong East…..if you need to go beyond that… you need to bring your passport already…. Because that’s essentially Malaysia….
Mandy : Oh my god… hahah.. that is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard this year… haha
I shrugged my shoulders and walked with Mandy as she said she will show me around the compound.
By the side of the main hall is the administrative office. A short single storey structure with plain looking doors. There’s a fresh coat of paint on the walls.
Mandy : This church was built a few years ago… but the 1st contractor did some pretty shabby work…. Place started falling apart…. We had to do a major rework on many parts of the church…
Jeff : Oh… no wonder it looks so new…
Mandy : We only just completed the works 2 months ago…. Actually we were planning for a grand opening and all but….
Jeff : But what ??
Mandy’s tone became solemn when she told me that an unfortunate incident happened a month ago.
Mandy : A girl that the orphanage took car off passed away….
I tried to keep my emotions in check and asked Mandy what happened.
Mandy : No one is sure… she got up in the middle of the night and left the church…. Something she has never done before… and…. And she ends up getting knocked down by a car….. poor thing….
I did not say anything to that.
Mandy : Poor girl… her twin sister is still here….
We stepped out into the patio and I saw Gwen sitting along on a stone bench. There are several of those scattered throughout the garden.
She hugged her knees and just stared into thin air.
Mandy : She hasn’t spoke a single word since her sister passed away….
Jeff : really ?
Mandy nodded her head.
Mandy : poor girl…. Imagine not having anyone left in this world…. All alone… I cried like a baby when my grandmother passed on…..but Gwen….Gwen is just shell shocked….
Mandy told me that Gwen did not cry when news of her sister’s death was made known to her.
Mandy : I broke it to her in the gentlest way possible….it was heart wrenching…. Her eyes went red….. then I could see the tears dropping silently….but it’s not the same as crying you know what I mean….?? She’s not letting her emotions out…. She’s bottling it all in… it’s not healthy….
I am also bottling all my emotions in at that moment, yet I had to somehow manage a weak smile.
Jeff : Life….. fucks with us all one way or another….
Mandy : woah…. Watch that language cowboy… hahah….chill man…
Gwen is the oldest kid in the orphanage. The other 3 are toddlers who just started to learn how to walk.
Mandy : The younger ones get adopted fast… but older kids like Gwen….it takes a while… and …. And recent developments… have not been helpful….sigh….
Mandy showed me the sleeping area where the kids are settled and introduced me to Auntie May.
Jeff : hello… I’m Jeff
May : Hello… hello…
Mandy : May takes care of the kids full time…. She rotates the shift with Mariel….where is Mariel ??
May : she’s at the back….
Mandy introduced me to her filipino colleague and we walked round the back to the last building in the compound. A smaller stretch of single storey structure with a pitched roof.
Mandy : This is the staff quarters….. here….this is the general store….
She opened the door and tried the light.
Mandy : Oh.. the bulb died a month back…. Still waiting for the handy man to come by…
Jeff : Handyman ? …. No need la… come.. I’ll do it..
Mandy : No.. no it’s ok…
Jeff : The bulb is right here…
It’s literally sitting 1m away on the shelves. I could see gardening equipment, spare parts, even some Christmas decorations neatly arranged on the shelves.
I grabbed the ladder and opened it.
It was a piece of cake.
When I was trying to replace the bulb though, I realised something weird.
Or rather, I felt something weird.
Say you see someone climbing a ladder, you want to offer your help. You would help to hold onto the ladder or whatever equipment the person needs right ?
I was only 2 steps up, the ceiling light isn’t exactly high up so that places my butt right in front of Mandy’s face.
I felt a shiver run down my spine when she asked if I needed help and she held onto my buttocks.
What the fuck.
Jeff : errrr….
This is weird on so many level.
She just pushed my butt cheeks up through my pants, in the same manner I would pretend I’m pushing up the boobs of a favourite teacher when I’m in school and a head shorter than her.
Mandy : Can ? ….. can or not ??
I don’t know what kind of answer to give her as I screwed in the new bulb.
Is she asking whether I can manage with the bulb or is she asking if I allowed her to push my buttocks ?
Jeff : ERmm… yeah.. it’s done… can you try ?
Mandy : Sure.. sure…
She let go and I jumped off the ladder.
The light came on and Mandy gave me a thumbs up.
Mandy : wow…. You are a man with many talents Jeff… hahaha
Jeff :Thank you… haha… you have no idea what I can do…
Mandy : hmmmmmmm…..
I turned and put the ladder back where I took it from and I literally jumped in the storeroom.
Jeff : arghh!!
She pinched me.
She fucking pinched my backside.
I turned around and I looked at Mandy who spoke before I could.
Mandy : That statement of yours… hmmm…. I hope you don’t meant it in a sexual way you know… hahah… hahah… it can easily be interpreted as sexual harassment… towards a colleague… hahaha.. hahah
I was staring at her with my mouth half opened as she shut the light of the storeroom.
Mandy : come on… I’ll show you the sleeping quarters…
I massaged my buttocks and exhaled.
Now not only do I have to worry about Clement, I have to worry about a fucking horny colleague.
Mandy : This room is shared between May and Mariel …..they usually sleep in the kids room…. And this other room…
She showed me the other room at the extreme corner. It’s a nice room, like your hostel in university. Functional and neat with 2 single bed.
Mandy : This is mine… and…. Yours….
I nodded my head with a frozen smile.
Jeff ; Right…. Ok….
Mandy : You mentioned you stay in Jurong East right ?? that’s so far… maybe you’ll want to bring some clothes over….you know… that way.. you don’t need to head back every day….
I have a feeling Mandy might want to rape me. If not for the skills I have equipped myself with over the years, I would have bolted from this place right away.
She’s really sweet and nice but she gives me a feeling she keeps a lot bottled up inside her as well. Something is waiting to explode inside her too. Perhaps her virginity.
This is a good opportunity for me to move in and I immediately voiced my thoughts.
Jeff : well….ermm… you stay just a short drive away right…. I guess you don’t really use the room often…. So I hope you don’t mind if I use it…. Now and then….
Mandy : No… no… no…. of course not… go ahead….well…I could always stay over you know… it’s good to get to know a new colleague…
Jeff : ermmm…I ermm
Mandy : oh…I’m sorry… I’m sorry… are you attached or married ??
Jeff : No.. no I’m single….
Mandy literally drooled, perhaps wet herself as she cast another lustful look at my groin region. She is good.
I mean not many people can make me feel uncomfortable. Not even the baddest ass of fuckers I’ve put away but she, she fucking makes me feel uncomfortable.
Mandy : Well…go ahead and move in…hahha…it’s quiet at night around here….
Jeff : Right…..ok…
Mandy suddenly lowered her voice and told me that no alcohol is allowed on church grounds
Mandy : but we are all adults… I won’t say if you won’t….
She gave me a wink together with a click of her tongue as she opened the mini fridge by the side of her bed.
My eyes lit up immediately as I saw the 21 year old bottle of Hibiki.
Mandy : ahhh…. You know the good stuff when you see it eh… hahah….
Jeff : ermmm…well… I don’t think we should…
Mandy : Not in broad daylight duhz…. Hahah… let’s find a evening you know… we grab a meal…. Then maybe chill out….a drink or two…
I managed another weak smile and told her I look forward to it.
We left the staff quarters and I pointed to the cameras mounted on the columns and ceilings.
Jeff : are those working ??
Mandy : No… they went down about 2 months ago…
Mandy : Management said they will fix it… but it’s been sitting there ever since…. Took all the recordings with them too….
Jeff : What about the gate… it’s trashed… anyone can just drive in… security is an issue…
Mandy : Hahah… come on… this is Singapore… very safe… very safe…. Don’t worry…
We wrapped up the tour ending at the main entrance of the church. Mandy asked me what do I think of the place.
Jeff : seems like a nice place to work… look forward to getting started.. !
Mandy :Really ! hahah.. good… looking forward to spending the night…. Sorry… I meant… you chilling out….hahaha…it’s been a lonely period for me… and aermm… i… I don’t know why am I blabbering… haha
Jeff : ermm…ok… i.. I should be bringing some stuff over… to stay over occasionally…
Mandy :sure.. sure… the… the shared bathroom has some of my toiletries…. Feel free to use them… hahaha….
Jeff : ermm… well thank you… haha..oh by the way…. You know… we guys… having been through army and all…. We get a bit… particular with security and all…. Seeing how open this place is…
Mandy : oh really ?
Jeff : Yeah…Singapore is safe and all but… seeing the gate down… is a little… uncomfortable…. Is it ok if I do something about it ??
Mandy :sure.. sure but… but I have to tell you in advance…. Asking the management for money…. When it comes to big ticket item like this….it’s really…. Really… hard…hahah you know what I mean…
I waved her off with a smile.
Jeff : Haiyah… small issue la… my uncle owns a factory producing gates like this…. I can get it done on the cheap….. it’ll look exactly the same… I’ll do it…. A small contribution to the Church….
Mandy stared at me with her mouth and eyes wide open.
If she hasn’t wet herself earlier, I think she just did. She exhaled, wiped her palms on her pants and brushed back the stray fringes on her head. Her zealousness is really commendable. Mandy is probably in her early thirties, she can be cute depending on the perspective you take.
At the moment, she feels more like a charging bull, eager to bulldoze her way into my life.
Mandy : wow…..
Jeff : Aiyah…. Don’t make a big deal out of it…. Haha
Mandy checked the time on her watch and offered to buy me coffee.
Mandy : Let me get my wallet ….
I followed her towards the area where the kids are staying. We walked passed Gwen’s room and I slowed down, looking into the small simple room where Gwen shared with her sister.
The louvered aluminium windows looked like relics from a different era but it offered me a glimpse into the private lives of the girls.
Mandy saw me slow down and she knocked on the door.
Gwen is inside the room with a book in hand.
Mandy :Hi Gwen…. We have a new staff…. Just want to say hi…
I appeared at the door and made my first eye contact with her.
There was no smile, no nod of acjnowledgement, no greeting.
Gwen stared at me for a few seconds before looking away.
Mandy spoke to me softly by the door.
Mandy : It’s heartbreaking to look at her….. I cry for her sometimes…. I tried to arrange for a therapist to speak with her but their schedule is so packed…. They can only send one next month….
I looked at Mandy and asked her if I could try.
Jeff : Can I try talking to her ?
Mandy : haha… go ahead… everyone has tried…. She refused to even open her mouth… she refused to stepped out of the church compound…. Not even to accompany me across the road to the coffee shop for lunch….
Jeff ; Well…. If you don’t try… you never know right…
Mandy : sure… I would like to see… your…… many talents… hahaha..
I knocked on the door again but Gwen ignored me, choosing to lose herself in the book she was holding in her hands. I looked at the book title, Journey to the west, a classic I’m sure many of us enjoyed when we were little.
As I entered the room, every detail I took in broke my heart a little.
Pictures of Gillian and Gwen adorned the sparsely furnished room.
Some pictures are printed on normal A4 pieces of paper, some are instant polaroid. Most of them without frames, the ones that had were handmade. Like taking a walk through history, the pictures tracked the girls growing up years.
Names of different orphanages are visible at the background of some of them. The number of hands they had passed through.
I wondered what went through their heads each time they moved.
The adults don’t want us, passing us around from one to another.
Their smiles radiated warmth in the old grainy pictures. They are sweet and pretty, pretty enough for me to acknowledge that if I ever have daughters, I would want them to look like Gwen and Gillian.
There are a lot of drawings on the walls. They typical stick figures albeit with a bit more details. There are always 2 stick figures.
2 for 2 girls.
2 for 2 sisters.
The stationaries belonging to the girls are properly labelled. I could see everything that belonged to Gillian remained untouched. The table the girls shared is neatly divided into 2.
The names of each girl proudly decorated in glitters on the top corners.
I could almost see an image of the 2 girls back in happier times, bickering and talking to each other as they draw on that very desk.
There’s a shelf filled with books so old that the paper has turned yellow and blackish. Some of the covers are barely holding on. I looked at the titles that the girls read.
The usual Enid Blyton I read as a kid, most of it are about the famous five, the adventurous four, even one of my favourite when I was young, adventures of the wishing chair.
People read for many reasons, some chose to enrich themselves, some just want to escape the harsh realities of life. There is a reason why people chose to forgo sleep, flipping page after page knowing full well it’s a work of fiction, that it’s not real but we cannot help it.
Choosing to fully immerse yourself in the world of the characters. To see what they see, to feel what they feel.
The girls chose the easiest form of escape available to them.
They can climb the highest mountains, sail across the four seas right in the comforts and safety of each other’s company.
Perhaps they flip each page hoping for the escape that would finally come their way. True freedom to lead their lives by each other’s side.
Jeff : Hi Gwen….. may I sit down ?
She did not answer me, not that I expect one.
I grabbed a stool and sat down beside her bed.
Her eyes never left the book.
Jeff : I like this story…. Have you watched the show before ??
Again Gwen remained unfazed, choosing to flip over a page, hanging on to every word of the novel.
I asked Gwen if I could read to her.
Jeff : Can I …. Read a chapter to you ? ….lend some life to the characters ?
She looked up at me as if I said something ridiculous.
I gave her a reassuring smile and reached for the book, stopping my hand halfway from her. I want to see if she would take up the offer.
She hesitated. I don’t blame her.
Jeff : Just a chapter…. Nothing more… you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to….
Gwen looked at me. Her big round eyes painted a picture of hurt and pain. Inflicted upon her by a world she has yet to understand.
She handed the book over and I could hear Mandy gasped at the door.
I took over the book and I could see scribbles and drawings on them. I cleared my throat and I started to read. I narrated the part the Tang Monk travelled to the Kingdom of the women together with his 3 disciples.
I alternated my voices, going mischievous and squezky when I played the monkey, going dorky when I played Piggy, and being a little goofy when I spoke as Sandy.
It’s an adaptation of the original piece meant for younger audience. The dialogues are simple, some are funny. I spoke each line, animating it as if I am playing the characters.
I could hear Mandy laughing at the humorous part, but not Gwen.
She just looked at me, curious why this man would come out of nowhere and read to her.
From a sitting position, she started to get more comfortable and relaxed. Gwen propped her pillow properly and laid down. Her eyes are open, still looking at me.
At the end of 30 minutes, as I wrapped up the chapter with the Tang Monk and disciples entering the palace, Gwen’s eyes were closed.
Her breathing was light. She had fallen asleep.
I closed the book and put it by her side. Turning to look at Mandy, I could see the look of awe in her eyes.
Mandy : you…… have no idea….. how sexy you looked when you read….. wow…. Are you gay ??
I laughed and shook my head.
Jeff ; No I’m not…
Mandy licked her lips and put her hands into her pocket.
Mandy : ermm.. let’s go grab that coffee ?
I nodded my head.
She walked away , presumably to get her wallet or her purse from the room down the hall.
I was about to stand up when I felt a hand on me.
She held onto my wrist.
She pointed to a drawing pad on her desk.
I went over and picked it up.
Jeff ; This ?
Handing it over to Gwen, she opened the drawing pad.
My eyes lit up and a wave of emotions hit me like a tsunami sweeping up along the beach.
There is the feeling of heat radiating from my belly, spreading like a plague into my limbs as I scrunched my toes in my shoe.
I bit down on my teeth hard as I looked at Gwen.
That drawing made me sick.
It showed 3 stick figures, 1 of them carrying Gillian horizontally.
The dark background, the yellow crescent moon.
Gwen’s stick figure had tears on her face and a frowning mouth.
Gillian’s figure too had tears illustrated with her hands stretched out waving at her sister.
It’s as if her sister is waving goodbye to Gwen.
Someone came in the middle of the night for her.
Clement came in the middle of the night and took Gillian and Gwen saw it.
She saw it all.
Gwen looked at me with her eyes filling up with tears.
She did not say anything. She did not break her silence but her eyes spoke more to me than words ever could.
Mandy appeared at that moment and she entered the room.
She saw the picture and sighed.
Mandy : She’s been showing us that picture ever since the day the accident happened…. People taking her sister away….. I guess it’s her way of dealing with it…
Gwen shook her head weakly, keeping her eyes fixed on me.
My heart felt like it was stab by a heated knife.
That aching is unbearable. It took everything I had to keep myself form shivering.
How painful it must be for Gwen to be dismissed by all the adults around her.
No one believed her.
Who would ?
Who would believe a 12 year old who just went through a traumatic experience ?
Mandy : Put that away Gwen…. Have a nap….Come on Jeff… let’s go…
Turning to Mandy I asked her to give me a moment.
Mandy : I’ll wait for you outside… get some rest Gwen dear…. I’ll buy hot milo for you….
I waited for Mandy to exit the room. Both of Gwen’s eyes are red and heavy with tears. I could see the desperation in them. Desperate to be heard, to be taken seriously.
I held her hand reassuringly and I looked at Gwen in her eyes.
Jeff : I believe you…
Gwen’s lips pressed hard against each other as her eyes shut, setting off a torrential flow of tears. Her face scrunched up as she cried silently, it’s as if she was afraid of other people knowing.
There is so much fear in her. I felt her hands squeeze mine so tightly that her fingers turned red. The amount of angst and pain cannot be described in words.
As she washed her face with her tears, Gwen flipped the page of her notepad, revealing another page.
It was the same drawing with a bit of modification.
The same 3 menacing stick figure but this time, they were not carrying Gillian.
It should them against the same dark and imposing backdrop, illuminated by a lone crescent moon in the sky.
This time they were coming for Gwen.
Not a single word left her mouth. All I could hear was sniffings and all I could see was the relentless flow of tears from her eyes.
Nothing stood between the 3 stick figures and Gwen who was illustrated with a frowning face under a hut with a cross on top.
I choked back emotions and tried to think of what to say.
I could have said anything, anything a little girl would have wanted to hear.
I could have told her who I am.
What I can do.
That I am there to protect her but it will not be enough.
The world of adults has destroyed her live before it had a chance to begin.
I reached for a crayon on Gwen’s table and gestured towards the drawing, asking permission to draw on the drawing pad.
I started to draw a figure in between Gwen and the 3 stick men.
The 3 stickmen that came for her at night.
No. I did not draw myself.
I drew someone she can relate better to.
I drew the Monkey king. Taller and towering above each of the other stick figures.
I drew him facing the 3 men, chin up, fist clenched.
Gwen smiled for the first time as she finished the drawing for me by adding on the magical staff, weapon of choice by the immortal monkey.
I handed the notepad back to her.
She closed it, and brought it close to her chest, her eyes never left mine.
Jeff : I haven introduced myself…. I am…. Sun Wu Kong….. ( Monkey king ) ….
Gwen’s smile did not stop the flow of tears from her eyes.
She laid back down on her bed , clutching her drawing pad close to her chest.
I helped her pull up her blanket.
She held my wrist again, as if asking me to stay till she falls asleep.
I nodded my head and told her I will be right there.
Less than 3 minutes later, I could hear a soft snore coming from Gwen.
I stood up slowly and checked behind me. I could see Mandy on her phone far out into the courtyard.
I brushed back a strand of hair matted on Gwen’s cheeks that are wet with tears.
She’s asleep, she won’t hear me but I still said what I wanted to say.
Jeff : I’ll protect you…….
The next part is not an appropriate thing to say on religious grounds, but I don’t expect to go to heaven.
I’m not a saint.
Jeff : I’ll find them………….and then I’ll kill them………….. I’ll kill them all….
I suggested to Mandy that we have our coffee in the church compound instead of the coffee shop after her phone call. I don’t feel comfortable leaving Gwen alone for now.
Jeff : The environment is so much more pleasant here don’t you think ?
Mandy : of course haha…. More peaceful…. Quiet… no one to disturb us… tell you what…. Wait.. here… I’ll go grab the coffee…. See you in the garden ??
Jeff :ehhh… I’ll be right here…
The moment Mandy stepped out of the church compound, I called Billy. The 1st drone is down and is currently charging. 2nd one is already up in the air.
Billy : the drones are not charging fast enough for continuous monitoring… we’re probably going to loss the aerial feed in another 2 hours give and take…
Jeff : Bring it down… I doubt anything is going to happen today… save the battery…
Billy : Jeff there’s another problem…
Jeff : What is it ?
Billy: I’m seeing another drone….. not ours…
Jeff : What ?
Billy : It’s a older company model…..lower battery life and camera resolution…. It’s been holding it’s position about 30m below us for the past 15 minutes…
Jeff : Can you crash it ? use your drone to knock it to shit…
Billy : Errr……. No…. mine is more expensive… and I signed out for it…
Jeff : Clement is watching the church as well….
Billy : He probably is….. I’ve operated that older model before…. At this height, he can make out figures…. Not in detail… and the rotors are a lot noiser…. He can’t afford to go too low…
Jeff : we’ll have to block his sight…. Not let him see what is going on in the compound…
Billy : you block him… you block me as well….
Jeff : not true… I’m going to get you in tomorrow…. Get the cameras and surveillance up for the church…
I walked right up to the main gate and looked outside and across to the coffeeshop.
I can see Mandy queuing at the drinks stall. There is no sign of Clement.
I was quite thankful for that. I don’t know if I have what it takes to remain calm if I see him.
Perhaps I would just charge right at him, make a mess at the coffee shop and let Owen clean it up for putting me through this.
There’s still a traffic police bike at the junction. An officer was talking to someone, probably asking about the accident earlier.
Further down the road there’s another police car with it’s hazard light on.
I asked Billy to get me a change of clothes.
Jeff : I keep a bag in my office… bring the whole thing…
Billy : You sure… it’s going to be at least a 2 hour journey to and fro with current traffic.
Jeff : Yes…. Go… and stock up on water and food…. I don’t know how long you are going to hole up in that Van…
Billy : I have a fully stocked fridge in here…. Only thing I worry about is a fresh shower….
Jeff : You are welcome to use the bathroom here… I have a overzealous roommate who wants to share her toiletries….
Billy : oh…. I think I’ll take the fountain then… haha…
He hung up and I made the next call to a contractor I worked with regularly. I sent him come pictures of the gate and the space it use to occupy before giving him a call.
Jeff : Hello…. Ah Keong ah….. Jeff ah…..ho seh bo ( how are you ) …. Still helping your dad with his construction business ?? ….ok la…. good enough…. One day you will take over Matthew….i’m good I’m good….
I looked at the mess on the floor and told Ah Keong I sent over some pictures.
James : I need a gate… can send your guys down….i need it yesterday…..
Ah Keong is a contractor that does magic tricks. I kid you not, he is a magician. He can perform miracles. He’s creative and resourceful. He’s actually a rich kid with plenty of money to spare and no where to spend it.
I’m not sure how old he is but he couldn’t be too far away from me in terms of age. His dad owns a pretty big construction company and has their own factory cum warehouse.
We hit it off right away when we collaborated on one of our early projects.
Owen made the introduction, says these are men that don’t talk.
Owen : These people don’t just look at money…. Brotherhood and loyalty actually means something to them…. Old school…
It’s already coming to 5pm, everyone is calling it a day. With the evening peak traffic, Ah Keong estimates that his men will reach the church about 7.30pm
Jeff : Come…just come… I’ll be waiting…
I told him what I needed and he told me he will take care of it.
Next, I called a tentage contractor. Those that erect temporary shelters for night markets and bazaars.
Jeff : Ah Beng…. Jeff here… I need a cover…big one… you come down and measure…. Yes… today… can… can… no problem…. Ok… ok thank you….
I’m going to fucking cover the entire courtyard wherever possible with tentage.
If Clement wants to see what is going on, he can jolly well walk in the front gate and find out for himself.
No one would suspect a thing.
You see these going up all the time during events or openings.
This is a double edge sword. Sure, it stops Clement from seeing what is going on in the compound, but it also alerts him to the fact that there is someone in the compound who knows what he’s doing.
I have no choice. I’m playing defence.
The difficult thing now is to convince Mandy why I’m doing the things I do. I would have to smoke my way out of this. Perhaps cook up a stupid reason or something.
Mandy crossed the road with the coffee in hand, raising them to show me as she stepped into the compound. Her hair caught the breeze and as it lifted up, revealed another side of her.
Her looks will grow on you. I can almost picture her as the goofy girlfriend you would enjoy taking to an overseas trip. It’s going to be funny, humorous and if she is as horny as she makes herself out to be, the sex will be great too.
We went to one of the stone benches and sat down.
Jeff : Thank you for the coffee… I’ll buy the next round…
Mandy : Oh… haha.. sure…. Anytime…. Anytime man…
She asked about my past posting and where I worked, I told her the story as per the cover Owen arranged. He would have made sure everything checks out.
I told Mandy that someone will be here to put up some temporary structures for the gate.
Jeff : I hope you don’t mind…. But seeing you girls…. Alone in the compound… without a proper door and all…. I won’t be able to forgive myself if something happened…
Mandy just looked at me and hung onto my every word.
Mandy : wow….. where have you been all this while….
Jeff : I’m serious… the church is not fully opened…. The orphanage has kids and aunties… and there’s you…. A single pretty girl… alone…. Thank god you don’t stay overnight here…
Mandy rest her arm on the backrest of the bench while supporting her cheeks with the back of fingers and just looked at me talk.
Mandy : Exactly… I’ve heard from a friend that a woman gets raped everyday in Singapore…. It just goes unreported…..
If not for the lustful look in her eyes, I would have asked her what is the statistics for men getting rape.
Mandy : …. The administrators come over once in a while… but until the church is officially opened, it’s quiet around here…… especially at night…
I swallowed a gulp of saliva and I looked away.
Mandy : but now that we have a man around… I would feel safer to stay over…
Jeff : ermmm…well… you stay so near… isn’t the bed more comfortable at home ?
Mandy : hahha…. Hmmm… my bed at home is indeed more comfortable…. How would you know that ?
Oh god. I actually looked towards the church as if pleading for help.
How can she sexualise everything I say ?
Mandy : It’s got a pretty good bounce… and the spring…. The salesgirl told me is individual pocketed….. it makes a difference…
I massage my forehead and told Mandy that it might not be nice if we stay overnight in the same room.
Jeff : I’m afraid it won’t be fair to you… you’re a girl…. I don’t care what people say about me…. But it’s not going to be… you know… nice… if people see us spending a night in the same room….
She cut me off even before I could finish.
Mandy : I’m single Jeff… I broke up with my boyfriend 5 years ago… I don’t care what people say…
I took a sip of the horrible coffee and tried to change the topic of our conversation.
Jeff : Where do you park your car ? …. There’s carpark lots in the church but it’s empty…
Mandy : You know why he broke up with me ??
Jeff : ermmm Mandy… I think….we should…
Mandy : He said I have a high sex drive…. Too high for him to handle.
I dropped my coffee, spilling everything onto the grass as Mandy laughed.
Jeff : What !?
Mandy : Come on chill man…. I’m just kidding… hahah..haha
I have a feeling she isn’t.
Jeff : ERmm.. anyway… I have made some calls… so some contractors will be in to….ermm.. do some work… how to I inform the administrators …. Or the pastor or… who’s the boss here…
Mandy smiled and she crossed her legs on the bench, raising an eyebrow at me.
Jeff : err… yes ?
Mandy : The cross is the boss around here but when it comes to the grounds and facilities…I would day…..ahemmmm… yours truly…is in charge…
Jeff : Oh… really ? great !
Mandy : What are you going to do ??
I told Mandy I’m going to do something to the gate, get a contractor in to fix the cameras and I will be erecting a tentage shelter in the courtyard.
Mandy : Why is there a need for the tentage ?
I had no reason for that. I can’t possible let her know there’s a drone spying on us. So I thought I’ll crack a joke instead.
Jeff : So…. No one from the surrounding HDB will see what we are up to… ?? hahah… just kidding…
I never fucking expect her eyes to lit up.
Mandy : I love that idea…. Go ahead….Erect…… that tent…
I could not help but register how much emphasis she put on the word erect.
Mandy : but… nothing touches the lawn…. Solid ground only….. leading to the patio…. That should do just fine… and don’t assume I don’t know what you are thinking with the tent…
Jeff : Huh ? what ??
Mandy smiled and told me she knew my plan.
My heart skipped a beat as I looked at her.
Mandy : The only power point is at the patio…. You want shelter for the workers that will be working here right ?? hahhaha….. I knew it….. those foreign workers also need a place to rest, to eat…. My god Jeff… you have such a pure heart….a Big…..big…. heart…
Jeff : of course I do…
Mandy : People with big heart…. Usually has a big…..hmmm…
Jeff : Please don’t go there….
Mandy : relax….hahah… big smile…. I meant a big smile…
I nodded with a forced smile and a sigh of relief.
Mandy left work on time, saying that she’s going to head back and grab some stuff, that I should do the same as well. She gave me a set of keys and the password to enter some of the rooms in the compound.
I went over to check on Gwen and she is still fast asleep. I could smell the food Auntie May is cooking. I guess dinner will be served soon.
Ah Keong and his men arrived at 7pm.
I shook his heavily tattooed arms and they got to work immediately.
2 guys started taking measurements of the new gate I would need while others set up the temporary barrier. The same type of red and white plastic barrier you see on the roads.
Ah Keong’s men helped me blocked the entrance before filling it up with water. It’s not going to stop a charging vehicle but at least it’s something.
Ah Keong : No way to finish it so fast brother… the gate is big… earliest going to be next Tuesday…
Jeff : As soon as you can…. Appreciate the help..
He left and when the tentage contractor got in at 7.15pm, Mandy had brought dinner for me. I told the contractor what I needed and he gave me a thumbs up. He will be back the next day with the materials.
I was famished and we ate in the garden. What I did not expect was to see Gwen walking towards us with a plate in hand.
Mandy : are you ok Gwen ?
I did not say anything, cleared the seat beside me of the plastic bags and gesture to the stone seat.
Jeff : Come.. join us…
Gwen ate silently as Mandy did most of the talking.
Mandy was speechless when she saw Gwen tugging my shirt and handing me the same book I had read to her earlier.
It took only half a chapter this time round to put Gwen to bed.
Mandy : I wonder when will I get to see all your hidden talents… hahaha..
Jeff : ermm… I hope you don’t have to…
Mandy left the church reluctantly at 10.30pm, only after I promised I will stay Friday night for beer and a chill out session with her.
Billy was waiting for me to be available before handing me the bag I asked for.
I shifted the barrier and let Billy backed his van all the way into the Church carpark lot.
Jeff : Check out the cameras… they’re all offline…
Billy : Got it…
Within an hour, Billy got it all up and running with the parts he kept in his Van. Like a doraemon pocket, it’s shelves are stocked with everything.
Billy : It’s actually all set up… someone removed all the hard drives and stopped the recording….definitely some funny shit going on around here..
I sat down with Billy in the courtyard at almost 1am in the morning.
21st June 2013
Jeff : long day huh…
He handed me a cold beer before opening one himself.
Billy : you met her yet ?
Billy handed me an ipad with it’s screen subdivided into 9. All the cameras are live.
Billy : They don’t cover all angles… but these are the important ones… how is she taking to these ?
Jeff : She’s scared…. Freaked out….hasn’t spoke since…
We drank our beer quietly in the courtyard. Just when we ere about to discuss who to take the first watch when we heard a shout from the vicinity. The shout shattered the peacefulness of the neighbourhood.
Then the pop pop pop of a series of small explosion came. In the quiet of the night, it’s hard not to notice the popping sound.
We immediately identified the cause of the noise. We didn’t have to look far.
The coffee shop across the road.
It’s on fire.
Billy : Bloody hell…..
Jeff : relax… he’s not coming tonight…
Billy : What the fuck he burnt the coffee shop for ?
Jeff : drinks stall is 24 hours…. There might be people hanging around…..burn it… and there’s no reason for people to be at the shop….. no one sitting across with a view of the church…
Billy : What the fuck….
Jeff : He probably started the fire from the back…. Where the seafood stall is…. Furtherst away from the drinks stall…. By the time it spreads…. It’s too late…. That’s what I would do if I were him….
The fire got bigger and we just sat there, we could already hear the sirens blaring from a distance away. People were just standing around watching the spectacle.
Coffee shop patrons that were sitting at the area moments ago retreated to a safe distance.
Blinking lights illuminated the church compound, our seat offering us a front row view to what is happening.
The whole place will be flooded with officers and firefighters in a matter of minutes.
Jeff : Get some sleep… nothing will happen tonight…
Billy : When will it happen ?
I shrugged my shoulders.
Jeff : Not tonight…
I woke up and took a fresh shower, using Mandy’s toiletries.
My knife is strapped around my calves, concealed by my pants.
I went to Gwen’s room. She’s still sound asleep.
I went to the storeroom with the gardening tools and took stock of what I have at my disposal. I separated a pair of garden shears, keeping one side hidden in a bush and the other tucked near a bin.
An old mallet went to the fountain.
There’s even a pickaxe. I put it under a large canvas covering the compost heap near the staff quarters.
I made sure everywhere I look, there is something I would want to kill Clement with.
I can smash his head in with a rock, I can drown him in the fountain.
Looking at the old rusty spade, I wondered if I could bury him alive.
Before sunrise, I was done with the tools.
Looking across the road, I could still see officers milling around after the fire. There’s a lot of work to be done. Investigation, interviews and the usual. By the time they find something, Clement would be long gone.
Friday went by peacefully.
I had to do some administrative work together with Mandy for 1 of the toddlers, some phone calls, other than that it was just stopping her from putting her hands on my buttocks accidentally.
Mandy dressed different that day, turning up for work in a dress.
She wore glasses with rose gold tinted rims. She carries off the look pretty well, bringing out a different side of her. More demure, still as horny.
Her blouse had it’s first button undone and I would be blind if I did not see the imprint of her lacy bra screaming at me through the thin fabric of the blouse.
She wore heels and a short skirt.
I swear if I was not preoccupied with the project on hand, I would have grabbed her into the room and gave her a good humping.
The word subtle is probably not in her dictionary.
The tentage was set up by 5pm on Friday. Gwen literally followed me everywhere.
She did not stick by my side but she made sure she could see me.
When I’m in courtyard, she would be peeping at me from the patio.
If I’m talking to Mandy, she would be loitering near the back.
She just looked on with curiosity as the contractors erected the tentages.
I kept trying to talk to Gwen but no, still no reply.
It’s ok. Eventually she will talk.
It’s just a matter of time.
I could see reporters across the road trying to ask passer-by if they knew what caused the fire or had any stories to share.
I introduced Billy to Mandy, telling her that he’s a IT geek that would help us set up the cameras and all.
I could tell Mandy is excited about that Friday evening.
I checked her fridge, she had stocked new beers and snacks.
There’s even a pack of condoms I swore was not in the fridge the 1st time I saw it open. Who the fuck puts condoms in the fridge.
Mandy Ordered pizza in, she invited Billy to join but he declined.
I went to have a word with him before he left.
Billy : looks good… I don’t think it will be easy… you think he will hit over the weekend ? you’re pretty well set up here….
I looked at the surroundings and shook my head.
Weekend. Residential estate.
People come back late on Friday night.
I don’t think so.
Jeff : Unlikely…. He just burnt the coffee shop…. Has to wait for the dust to settle…
Billy : what a fucker…. Crashed the gate….burnt the coffee shop…. What’s next…
I looked around the church. There is no way he is not aware of all the structures coming up.
He would know there is someone working against him.
He would need to move fast. The more time he gives me to shore up the defences, the harder it would be for him.
Billy : when would you do it…. If it’s you…
I looked at him, surprised that he would asked me that question.
Jeff : Monday morning…. After 2 am… before 6am… it’s a work day…. People sleep….perfect time…..
Billy : but you’re not him…
Jeff : No I’m not…
Billy packed up and I opened the temporary gate for him. He would be driving across the road to the multi storey carpark to get some shut eye.
Billy : Call me if anything happens…
Jeff: I hope not…
I shut the compound and went to the garden where the stone table is.
Mandy had a 6 pack out, half submerged in a bucket of ice. The Pizza has arrived.
Gwen was standing about 5m away looking at us.
I gestured for her to come over and join us.
Mandy : alright…. It’s a party !!
Aside from the occasional mosquito, the garden is a pleasant place to chill. Mandy asked Mariel and May to join us but they declined.
Mariel told us she is packing her stuff for her off day and May just wants to catch up on her sleep while the toddlers are resting.
I asked Mariel if she needed help with the suitcase but she declined.
I sipped my beer at the table and let Mandy lead the conversation. She is a story teller, an explorer and an entertainer all rolled into one.
Gwen and I listened to Mandy’s tales of her travel adventure. From how she got lost in Prague to having a homeless man pee on her in Bratislava.
Nothing beats her falling off a horse and straight into their droppings when she was in Budapest.
Gwen chewed on a piece of pizza and her eyes alternated between Mandy and I depending on who is talking.
I could tell she is a smart girl. Very observant, eager to learn. That spark in her eyes got brighter when she hears of Mandy travelling alone.
At her age, I bet a pact was made with her sister to travel together.
To see the world when they are old enough.
There is still so much things she has yet to do.
She doesn’t even have a passport, has never been overseas. Chances are I will be smuggling her over to Malaysia before arranging for her to head somewhere else. I don’t know.
I haven planned that far ahead yet. I got to take care of Clement first.
As Mandy’s stories went on, I too allowed myself to drift a little in my thoughts.
I too was a little lost in my own world.
I tried to put myself in Clement’s shoe.
What would he do ?
Time is ticking. The longer he waits, the harder it will get.
Mandy : and….. and Berlin….. I hated Berlin…. Hahha….that’s pretty much my adventure through Europe…. so… I was saying… I’ve got some movies I downloaded…. We can you know….Jeff… pick a show…
I was about to think of a reason to reject Mandy’s advances when I heard a loud crash.
This cannot be a coincidence.
Mandy : Aiyoh… what is happening…..? so many accident along this road this couple of days….
I remained in my seat. My eyes looking at the perimeter wall.
Then my attention went to the road in front of the church. The entrance of the Church is about 15metres away from the Junction.
I can hear commotions, horns but I see no cars.
I started to count.
10 seconds. 20 seconds. 30 seconds.
A typical traffic light at the junction leading to a small road like this don’t take more than 30 seconds. Let’s not forget the left turn with zebra crossing, what are the chances of an accident blocking all the access ?
I kept up my counting, my right hand put down the piece of pizza and went to the side of my pants.
At the 50 second mark, I am sure the entire road is blocked by the accident.
It’s impossible to have no cars passing by the road on a Friday evening before 9pm.
He has some balls. Fucking Clement.
Gwen’s eyes never left me. She too put down her pizza.
She could see I was nervous.
I pulled out my phone and called Billy.
The dial tone went on for a while but he did not answer.
I have a bad feeling about this.
I stood up.
Jeff : Stay here…. I’ll check things out…
I barely took 2 steps when the lights to the entire church went out. Both the compound and the main building.
Mandy : aHHHHHHHHH!! What the hell !
I froze and I lowered my body, back tracking to where Gwen was sitting.
Turning to her, I asked her to go to her room.
Jeff : Go… lock yourself in the room…. Don’t open it for anyone unless it’s me…. You understand ??
Gwen nodded. She turned and started to run towards her room.
Mandy : What is going on ?
Jeff : go stay with Gwen…. I’ll go check on the blackout.
Mandy nodded and the moment her back is turned, I reached for my knife and brought it out of its sheath.
The cold grip and the perfectly balanced knife feels comforting in my hand.
I tried Billy’s phone again. No answer.
Something must have happened to him as well.
I head the rattle of wheels behind me and I quickly hid the knife behind my back.
It was Mariel with her trolley suitcase.
Jeff : Blackout…. Be careful Mariel…
Mariel : I will…. The DB box is over there…
I looked towards the direction where Mariel is pointing and immediately regretted my decision.
She brought up her trolley and swung it towards my head with speed and intensity I never expected.
Mariel : argHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
My head took the brunt of the hit and I staggered to my right, feeling the effects of the disorientation immediately.
She attempted a 2nd hit but I manged to duck in time.
The fury inside my belly started to grow, like a demon that feeds on anger, it grew.
It grew bigger as I connected the dots when I looked at the shrieking Mariel trying to hit me the 3rd time with the suitcase.
Mariel helped Clement get access to the girls.
Someone on the inside.
My fist found it’s target squarely on the nose. Mariel’s pudgy body struggled to balance after my hit. I did not stop.
I continued walking towards her. She swung her right hand wildly at me, I grabbed it easily, driving my knife into the fatty meat of her forearm.
Mariel : arghhhh!!!!!!!
Her screams were cut short when I drove my palm upwards into her nose, breaking whatever is left of the cartilages and soft bones.
Does it bother me she is a woman ? No.
Does it bother me she is probably 60 years old ? No.
Blood cascaded down her chin and her chest, staining her t-shirt. Her mouth was bubbling as she spit out globs of blood and mucus.
Staggering backwards, she fell, tripping against the concrete sidewalk that separated the driveway from the turfing.
Jeff : You….. you gave them Gillian….
I grabbed Mariel’s hair and forced her to look at me in the eye.
Mariel : ….it…..it….. it was…….was…… an act of….. mercy…..they have no one…..to… love…
I punched her so hard that her head literally bounced off the concrete sidewalk.
By the time she turned back, she was blabbering and blood was bubbling around her torn lips.
I pulled out my knife from her forearm, slicing off bits of her flesh and skin as her screams were silenced by her own blood that could not stop filling her mouth.
I turned her around such that she is facing the sidewalk. Grabbing her hair with my right hand, my left squeezed open her jaws and I pushed her against the concrete slab.
Just imagine you opening your mouth wide at the step of your concrete staircase. I pushed her head against the step as her body convulsed and muffled screams reached my ears.
Jeff : Where….. is Clement… ?
Mariel : erhhhh..arhghhh… arhgh!!!
Jeff : WHERE !!
I pushed her head harder against the hard concrete and I heard the sickening grind of her teeth before a couple of snapping sound broke out.
Mariel : arghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Then a loud piercing scream reached my ears.
Gwen : AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I looked up towards the direction of the scream and I saw Gwen being dragged out towards the courtyard where I was.
Gwen screamed and kicked as the man tried to carry her up horizontally, in the same manner as what she had drawn in the picture.
The men saw me.
They saw what I was doing to Mariel.
There were 3 of them.
Clement is not among them.
They paused about 15 metres away from me, staring in disbelief what I was doing to a 60 year old woman.
Gwen never stopped screaming and struggling but her 12 year old physique is no match for that of a full grown man. The man kept trying to cover her mouth to stop her from screaming.
Gwen : aHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mariel : erghhh!!! aRGHHH!! aRGHH!!! ARGHH!!!
I looked at the 3 men and they looked at me.
I pushed harder and harder, driving Mariel’s skull into the concrete as the scrapping sound of her molars complimented her muffled screams of pain. Not only am I pushing, her struggles ensured that I was dragging her along the edge as well, grinding down what’s left of her teeth against the pavement.
Gwen tried to wriggle herself free but was promptly slapped by the man holding her. The hit stunt her for a brief second, the shock of that slap fed the demon inside me, allowing it to grow further.
The man shouted at me to let Mariel go, gesturing that he would hurt Gwen if I did not follow his instructions. I could tell from his accent he is not local.
I let go of Mariel and I stood up.
The man holding Gwen backed 2 steps while his friends each drew a knife.
Gwen bit down on the hand of the man holding her and he let her go. She scrambled over to me, crying and screaming while wiping her tears, barely escaping the clutches of the 2 man with the knife who tried to grab her.
Gwen sobbed and she ran behind me holding onto my pants as she washed her face with tears.
The 3 men started to advance towards us. I held onto Gwen’s shoulder and we backed off , mirroring their steps. I don’t want her to get hurt.
I was hit with a strange feeling. A weird and morbid thought. Our positions is exactly as what we had drawn the night earlier.
Me in front of her facing the 3 stick figures.
We kept backing off, 1 step at a time.
And Gwen, She finally spoke.
She finally called out to me and it seems she was not asleep at all the night before.
Gwen : do…. Do you mean what you said last night ?
I looked at her, surprised that she was not asleep.
She pointed her finger at them.
Gwen : It’s them…. They took my sister !!! they KILLED MY SISTER!!!
The 3 men stopped advancing. Realising for the 1st time there is a witness to what they did previously.
The lights are out.
We’re under the tents.
The 3 stick figures Gwen drew are standing right in front of me.
I could see the desperation and anger in Gwen’s eyes .
Jeff : Promise me 1 thing….
Gwen nodded as tears flowed freely from her eyes.
Jeff: don’t look.
I flipped Gwen over to face the road a little too roughly than I wanted but time is of the essence.
Jeff : cover your ears !
There is no time for touching monologue and a sad sound track in the background.
I covered the grounds we retreated in 2 steps, my right foot went forward propelling myself forward and up back towards where Mariel was lying on the ground. She had barely pushed herself off the side but I timed the landing and position of my left foot perfectly, smashing my foot into the back of her skull as I pulverised her face against the concrete.
A sickening crunch reached my ears as my right foot found the balance my body needed to land.
Mariel was no longer moving, but I could see the twitching in her fingers and her left leg is wobbling as if her muscles were beyond her control.
Pulling up the knife from the ground I charged towards the 3 men who has yet to get over their shock of what just happened.
No shouting, no big movements. Just a silent charging bull knowing exactly where to head for.
Not the 1st, not the 2nd, but the 3rd guy.
I feigned a kick to the first and quickly rolled passed him as he adopted a defensive stance. The 2nd chap was too far away from the 1st to matter, giving me a clear opening to the 3rd guy who is unarmed.
There was no time for him to react, he just grunted and backed away but not fast enough. I pushed myself off the roll, grabbing onto his waist with my legs, spinning to the side using his stretched arms as leverage, bringing his entire body to the ground with me.
The night was immediately punctuated by a cry of pure agony as we land on the floor.
The knife I was holding now buried into his lower back, punctuating his kidneys and intestines.
It’s not that easy stabbing a knife into a body. The skin is tougher that it looks, it can take a while to get used to the feeling when you first do it, which is why I always prefer to let gravity do the work.
Put it at the right place and fall my target on it.
There was no time to lose, he’s still alive but he’s never getting up again from an injury like this.
Rolling myself up into a crouch, I yanked the knife out, pulling the only plug that prevented a massive outflow of blood onto the ground.
I wanted to go for the others but they finally managed to regain their composure and the 2nd guy shouted as he came at me, slashing wildly in the air.
He was holding his knife with the cutting edge downwards.
Swinging and cutting an ‘x’ motion in front of himself as he ran towards me.
I backed away with my knife up in front of me. He was clearly enraged and agitated, his movement is quick, random and angry.
There is no rationale to his movements. It’s just random mad slash. Any hit from him could be fatal. I could parry his strikes but this is not a choreographed performance for the camera, there’s no telling where he would move next.
The 1st chap had his knife up also, he wanted to come at me too but thankfully for me, his enraged friend is doing me a favour.
His big movements slashing about like a mad men is actually making his friend keep his distance.
No one in their right mind would go near a man swinging his knife in that manner friend or not.
I ducked strokes after stokes. Jumping and shifting as I bidded my time and waited.
There is no way he can keep up with that level of movement. He will get tired. He will get breathless.
I found my chance when the 2nd guy did a particular long slashed to his left, before he can swing his arms back up, up jumped in, literally plastering my body against his , blocking his right arm with mine, I tripped him halfway with my right leg.
He fell and grunted his knife waving dangerously close to my face but I knew he’s done.
I dropped the knife from my right hand to my left, driving the sharpened edge into the soft flesh beneath his armpits.
Before I had time to twist the knife back out, the 1st man charged at me.
He’s close, I can’t fight him off in the posture I was in.
I concentrated on the position of his stabbing hand.
I deflected it away, missing the spot I wanted to hit but good enough. I relaxed my body, allowing myself to fall backwards and when I did so, I pulled him down together with me. My right hand grabbed the back of his head, pulling it to my right while my left continued the motion of pushing his chin to the left, swinging his head painfully in the clockwise direction.
I twisted hard, but not enough to break the neck at this angle.
His body reacted naturally to the twist in the head, compensating for the pain by turning his body in the same direction so as to right the position. I held onto his body, his heavier built acted as a counterweight, pulling me upright onto of him as he turned.
It was over in 3 seconds.
Straddling a distressed and beaten man in pain, my left hand reached for the stone seat right beside us on the turfing.
My fingers dug into the heavy stone seat and pulled it down against the man’s face.
1st man : erghhhh!!!arGH!!!!!!!!!!!!
The rough stone left a laceration deep enough to see the tissues and bones beneath his face.
I got up and toppled the stone table onto his face as a crunch that sounded like you stepping on a snail stopped the rest of his body movements.
Walking over to the wailing man with a knife in his armpits, I twisted it, as he convulsed in pain.
Jeff : Where is Clement ?? …
2nd man : arghhhh!!!! aRGHH!!!!
I pulled the knife out and his body went into spasm as I watched him bite his own tongue in pain.
I jabbed the knife tip to his left shoulder.
Jeff : Where is Clement ?
2nd man : aghhhh1!! arGH!H!!!!!
Jeff : Wrong answer…
I hammered the knife into his shoulder like I was getting ketchup out from a new bottle.
I could see Gwen pressing her hands tightly against her ears as she cried. She had gone form a standing position to a squatting one.
Jeff : last chance… where is Clement ?
I was wasting my breath. The man is not in any condition to talk.
I pulled the knife out and look at him.
There was no need for me to do anything else.
He will bleed out soon.
I stood up and looked around, immediately regretting the mess I made.
It’s going to be a bitch to clean up.
I dragged the bodies 1 at a time onto the turfing and towards the side. Piling them on top of one another, I pulled the canvas from the compost heap and covered them.
I was perspiring through my shirt.
I went over to Gwen after making sure my knife is safely back in the sheath by my leg.
She screamed a little and backed away from me when she saw the state I was in.
Gwen : ahh!!
I was covered in blood. Wiping my hands down my pants, I told Gwen it’s ok.
Jeff : It’s ok… it’s ok… they’ll never hurt you again….
She hesitated for 2 seconds before coming into my arms.
I carried her up with my right hand and immediately tried Billy’s phone again.
He’s still not answering.
Jeff : Where is Mandy ??
Gwen shook her head.
Gwen : She said she wanted to go check on the babies….
I went to the staff quarters, she’s nowhere to be seen.
Heading to the nursery, I could smell the noxious smell of petrol and kerosene.
The entire place is drenched in them.
Jeff : Mandy !!.... Mandy !!
I nearly tripped over what I thought was a stool but turned out to be May.
She’s not moving.
Gwen cried and she called out to Auntie May.
I checked her for a pulse, there is none.
I looked at her body and discovered 2 stab wounds.
Swinging around, I looked for the toddlers.
I saw the cribs.
I felt as if someone had just swung a bat in my face as I looked at the 3 toddlers unmoving in their crib. A bright patch of red visible on each of their top with respective prints of cartoon characters.
Gwen was crying.
My head felt like it was about to explode.
I felt like shouting.
I felt sick.
My hand went to my mouth as I checked their pulse with a trembling finger.
Jeff : aRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
I shouted in frustration as I kicked over a table of toys in frustration.
Looking around the place, the darkened room, the chemical smell of petrol and kerosene, Clement was going to burn the place down along with everyone in it.
Gwen’s sobbing was the only sound in the room as I tried Billy on the phone again.
Still no answer.
I heard a door open at the back of the nursery and a figure stepped out.
Gwen instantly went behind my back.
That figure was not alone.
He was dragging someone along.
As the faint spill of light from the exterior cast itself upon the faces in the room, I saw Clement.
I felt a surreal feeling of excitement hit me before it was quickly replaced by the soothing calm of an oasis.
My muscles twitched and I could almost feel an erection building.
That excitement before a kill.
I’ve never wanted to kill someone so badly before.
Clement half dragged the figure out into the open and literally threw her in front of me.
She was bleeding from her nose and mouth.
Gwen : Mandy !... Mandy !!
She’s not responding. I did a visual check of her body, she looked fine. No visible injury. She might have been drugged or knocked out.
I lowered my body and checked Mandy out.
Jeff : Mandy…. Mandy can you hear me ??
She’s not responsive.
My hands reached for my knife and I pulled it out from the sheath as I stood up and stepped in front of Gwen and Mandy.
Clement : I see…. Owen….. has send you to clean up his dirty work….
I refused to acknowledge him.
There is only 1 thing on my mind, that is to kill him.
Clement : your friend…… in the van…
I paused. He’s talking about Billy.
Clement : he ran…..hahaha… some kind of support you have there…
Again, I kept quiet, he looked like he has a lot to say. If he is offering information voluntarily, I’m not going to stop him.
Billy ran, that meant he’s ok. He’s still alive.
Clement : he ran away with his tail tucked in between his legs…. Hahha…I’ve never seen someone run so fast before hahahah…. Some kind of partner you got there…
I started to advance towards him and I saw him pull out 2 knives from his back.
He mirrored my steps and kept to the perimeter of my reach. I don’t have the luxury of space in the small nursery. There is still the crib with the bodies of the toddlers in front of me.
Clement : sucks isn’t it… to know that your partner ran…. Right when you need him the most …
Words. Words meant to antagonise.
People like this come into our lives everyday. You see them in the streets, on the trains, in the office.
People who just wants to put people down in order to feel better. Like the lady who is trying to be difficult to the service staff, the passenger trying to put down the cab driver, the manager trying to make things difficult for the team for absolutely no reasons at all other than to feel superior.
To let their target know they are better. That you are beneath them.
Clement : I was so close….. so close… to knowing who you are… hahahhaha….. your friend looked like he was ready to spill….hahaha….
My eyes never left Clement. I wonder how it would feel.
That feeling of watching his life drain away from his body as I put my hands around his neck.
Clement : You’re not much of a talker are you….. let me guess….. Writer ? … Gourmet ??.... hmmm.. definitely not the butcher… you don’t look like one…. Hitler ? hahah…. Priest ? ….ahhhhh….. butler ?.... yes… I think you look like a butler…hahahah…..
I tightened the grip on my knife.
Oh I am so going to enjoy this that I felt a bit bad. I’ve always seen this as a job, something I do for a living. It’s not right to take pleasure in this but not this time.
Not this time.
Clement : so…did Owen tell you who I am ?? ….. what I did ?? well…. He’s always someone who I fell…. Tells half truths…. Don’t you think ?? … he tells what people wants to hear… ?? hahah…
He may be talkative, but he’s cautious.
He maintained a safe distance from me, and when that is not possible, he made sure there is an obstacle, so I could not spring an attack on him. We paced along the length of the nursery, our eyes looking at each other like 2 predators sizing each other up before a fight.
Clement : my clinics…. Account for 30%.... of the company’s operating budget…. Did you know that ?? ….it’s a dirty job…. Nobody wants to do it… not even Owen himself….hahhaa….
He went on to say that he found it hard to swallow as well when he first started out but eventually he dealt with it.
Clement : Who are we to question what is right and what is wrong ? right ?? hahah…. The things we do…. Wrong…. The things we are made to do….tell me… how did you join the company??? …. Did you have a choice ?? … did it just fall into your lap ?? do they have something on you that you cannot wriggle out of ? hhah
I remained quiet.
I am not interested in having a chat.
Clement : come on…. I hardly get to talk with a colleague…..let’s have a chat… hahah…. Who knows… maybe we can lunch together…. Hahaha
He gave me a cocky look from the side of his eyes together with a raised eyebrow but received no response from me.
He shook his head and sighed, waving one of his knives at me.
Clement : So rude….. you are so rude… hahahha…
He went on to tell me that he has killed a lot of people in his career and the type he enjoys killing most are those that are rude.
Clement : rude people… damm…. Don’t you think rude people deserves to die… ? …. I can’t stand rude people….hahahah
I stopped moving. That’s the limit for my patience.
Clement : Since you are not much of a talker… let’s wrap this up shall we ? …. Hahah …I have one last question for you….
I got ready to receive his attack or initiate mine depending on the situation.
Clement : how do you know who to trust ?? … doing the things that we do ? hahah…
Gwen : aHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!watch out !!!
Gwen’s warning came a little too late as before I could turn my head, I was struck so hard with something that I literally flew to my left before collapsing onto the floor. I was bleeding. I could feel the warm flow of blood down the side of my head.
I can’t hear anything for a few seconds and the room was spinning.
I dropped my knife.
I turned around in time to see Clement coming towards me to finish the job when a shouting and charging figure came into the room.
Billy : aRGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!1 fuck you !!!! aRHGHH
He barrelled head first into Clement from the side, sending him staggering away from me. The precious couple of seconds was enough for me to regain my composure and I grabbed my knife and went immediately for Clement.
Gwen was screaming and shouting.
Clement rolled away and my stab was blocked with a side table he managed to grab hold of in the last minute.
He kicked my foot out from under me and I tried to knee him with the other.
Gwen : AHHHHHHHHHHHH !!! help !!!!
Clement managed to get a kick in but I blocked it with my forearm, still the force was enough to send me a few steps back. The clash of cold steel rang out twice in the dark room as I made 2 attempts to get Clement.
Clement feigned and attempt to stab Billy on the ground and I jumped over to block him, he swung and delivered a kick into the side of my body and I got a hard elbow to the side of his head.
Both of us were on the floor, picking our body up when I cast a glance towards the exit of the nursery.
That was when I realised what is going on.
Mandy is not longer on the ground. She’s already out in the courtyard with Gwen in her arms.
The dots connected itself again as I wasted half a second trying to decide going for Clement or Mandy.
Clement got up and instead of coming for me again, he laughed and ran for the back door.
I cursed, angry at my own indecisiveness.
Billy looked like shit. He was barely conscious. I ran out into the courtyard after Mandy and Gwen.
It was not easy for Mandy to handle a struggling Gwen but she was almost at the entrance of the church.
There is a waiting car.
I ran as fast as I could towards the girls.
The muscles in my claves burned like it’s on fire as I tore up the steps in the church compound, flying through the evening air silently towards Gwen.
Mandy half drag and threw Gwen towards the waiting car where another pair of hands dragged her in and the door shut.
I could still make it.
I was almost there.
Mandy came at me, throwing her body against mine, hugging and pulling me to the ground as the screech of the car tires pulled away.
Jeff : argHH!!!!
I freed myself, grabbed Mandy by her hair and smashed her head onto the ground.
I felt her entire body go limp but she is still conscious.
I stood up and panted for air.
Jeff : why…. WHY!!!
Mandy breathed heavily as she struggled to look at me with blood streaking down the side of her face.
Mandy : money…. Is too good….. to pass up….
I pointed a finger at Mandy, too mad to even speak.
Jeff : I’ll deal with you later…..and you’ll wish you were dead…
I dragged Mandy deeper into the courtyard and away from the entrance of the church.
I grabbed a shawl from Mariel’s spilled luggage and tied Mandy up.
Running back into the nursery, I went straight for Billy.
Jeff : Billy … Billy you ok ?? .. are you ok ??
He looked like he was beaten up pretty badly.
His mouth and face were swollen.
He’s bleeding in his left leg as well and I could see him using his belt as a makeshift tourniquet.
Jeff : Billy…. Billy !!!
His eyes tried to focus on me as he struggled to speak. I could see he had a missing teeth as well when he opened his mouth.
Billy : I…… I didn’t tell them …… I didn’t tell them who you are…. They wanted to know….ha.. hahha…. I didn’t tell them…. What…. What a bunch of fuckers….hahah..
I checked his body for fatal wounds, he is fucked up real good. Three fingers on his left hand were dislocated.
Jeff : I’m calling the clean up crew in….. you’ll be ok….you hear me… you’ll be ok…
The truth is I’m not sure if he will be ok. There is probably internal bleeding, I don’t know if he damaged any of the vital organs.
Billy shook his head as he coughed out blood and tried to speak.
Jeff : Don’t talk… don’t talk…. I’m calling the clean up crew….
I made the call, and cursed at the operator when she told me Owen is not available.
Operator : Clean up crew is inbound. ETA 30 minutes… hang in there…
Billy grabbed onto my shirt, yanking me forcefully towards his face as if asking me to listen.
Billy : G….. GPS……GPS on clement…
I looked at Billy as he nodded his head. Right when he charged at Clement. He planted one on his body.
Billy : less….. less than an … hour battery…. Too…. Too small….go…
He pushed a iPhone with a cracked screen onto my hand together with the keys to his Van.
Billy : go… .. my Van…. is on… level 3…opposite….
Billy opened the application for me and I could see the red beep moving on the expressway.
Looking at Billy , he nodded his head and asked me to tell them who I am .
Billy : He wanted to know…. Hahha… he wanted to know who Owen sent… hahha.. tell him yourself…..you hear me….
I nodded and gave Billy a brotherly slap across his face before I started running,
The roads has been cleared and a car honked angrily at me for dashing across the road. Flying up the staircase 3 steps at a time, I ran towards Billy’s Van.
I stared the engine and mounted the phone onto the stand and sped out of the carpark.
The GPS placed Clement heading towards Changi area.
I had just merged onto the expressway towards Changi when my phone rang.
It was Owen.
Owen : Its me…. We’re here…. Billy’s ok …
I was so angry with him but at the same time relieved. Relieved that he could tell me so much within a short sentence, basically everything I want to know.
Jeff : Mandy….
Owen : is there a reason she is still alive ?
Jeff : yes…. I’ll take care of it after I’m done over here…
Owen : alright then….. she will be at the debriefing depot ….
I overtook a bus and floored the accelerator cutting into the lane of a truck which flashed it’s high beam at me.
The GPS is still moving, Clement is heading towards the direction of changi village.
I could feel the engine of the Van groaning as I slammed my pedal down, coaxing every extra bit of energy from the vehicle.
Owen : You left quite a mess…. Not really your style…
I overtook another vehicle before trying to squeeze my way back into the left lane as the exit got nearer.
Another vehicle honked at me, no doubt throwing curses in his vehicle as he had to slow down in order not to hit me.
I did not answer Owen as I swung the vehicle out of the expressway, getting ready to turn left and catch up with Clement.
Owen : The VIP….. has been admitted back into the operating theatre….they’re waiting…
Jeff : Then you fucking get off your ass and do something !!! something !!!
I hit the steering wheel several times as I cursed at Owen through the phone.
Jeff : FUCK… FUCK you !!.. fuck !!! fuck this !!!argHHH!!!! fuck ! ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!
I panted while I cursed, frustrated at what a shit storm this had become.
Owen did not respond to my outburst at all.
It’s as if he knew that was the way I would react and chose not to acknowledge it.
Owen : I’ll be waiting for your call when you make a claim on the policy…..
Jeff : Fuck the policy…
Owen : Hibiki…… claims….. all his policy….everyone….of them….
I hung up on Owen and I raced up the quiet road leading to the eastern enclave of the island. The GPS beacon had stopped. I looked at the map through the cracked glass.
It’s the location of the old Changi Hospital. It’s been cordonred off and accessed barred to public for the longest time.
I made my turn up the hill and I would see a couple of vehicles parked right at the entrance of the abandoned hospital.
Jumping out of the van I ran towards the old building.
It’s a big place but I knew where to go. I just needed to follow the power cables. There are thick cables being laid on the ground, they are fresh, all leading towards one direction.
My shoes echoed in the quiet compound as I ran.
I saw the figure on my right and my arm came up deflecting the blow to my head as I staggered a few steps before regaining my footing.
I was at the start of a short corridor less than 25metres long. The cables fed directly into a brightly lit room at the end.
A man speaking heavily accented English at the end of the corridor spoke.
Man : stop him
It’s not Clement.
3 other men appeared out of the shadows, placing themselves between me and the door I want to get to.
Man : it’s too late…. You will never make it…
I started walking towards the men, blatantly ignoring his warning with my knife drawn.
Man : stay back !!!... we are here on diplomatic visas !!!
Jeff : arghhhh!!
The 1st man tried to grab my knife only to get knee in his stomach before I wrestled him to the ground and stab him once in his side, once under his armpit and one more directly into his neck.
The men spoke in what sounded like Malay with a slight variation. The 2nd men had a baton out and I blocked off an attempt to smash my head in. Twisting his weapon in his own hands, I relieved him of the baton, swiping the side of his skull with it and barely 1 second later was kicked in my chest by the 3rd man.
I flicked the baton out and went forward again, I threw my knife, aiming for the fleshy thigh of the 3rd man. It hit but not deep enough. The sharp tip punctured his flesh as he groaned in pain but the damage is not deep enough for the whole knife to remain lodge in.
The extended baton cracked the skull of the 2nd man before I slapped it onto the exposed wound caused by my knife on the 3rd mans thigh, splitting the flesh open further.
I stomped on his face and another swing of the baton ripped a chuck of his cheeks off before he stopped moving. The man that was speaking to me retreated behind the door.
I kept moving forward.
Picking up my knife from the floor I kicked the double swing door opened.
The room I entered is brightly lit.
It’s like a clean room or sort. The insides plastered with sterile plastic sheets.
There’s a large wash basin for cleaning up before surgery.
I could see another door in front of me.
I headed for the door but before I could stepped through it the door swung opened.
Clement : you…. Are as persistent….. as a fly….!!!
He pulled out his knives and held it in front of himself, adopting a fighting stance.
I held the baton in front of me as I relaxed the grip on my knife.
Clement : Let’s dance…
All cautions were thrown to the wind as I made the 1st move, smashing the extended baton towards Clement.
He ducked and came at me with his knife. The sound of cold steel grind against each other as we tried to land kicks and knees upon each other’s body.
Our legs tangled as we tried to trip each other off our feet while our hands executed attempts after attempts to slice each other’s face off.
Clement : arghh!!
My baton has a longer reach and I managed to disarm one of his knife but Clement landed a cut on the back of my left wrist. It’s not deep but it stings and the momentary pain caused me to drop the baton.
There was no time to think or hesitate, our bodies became plastered together as we landed blows on each other’s body with elbows and knees. The blades of our knives were locked against each other as we grunted in the room.
A blow to the side of my head was met with a knee to his kidney.
Clement smashed his forehead towards my nose, I ducked just in time to receive the blow on my uppercheek. Blood vessels ruptured beneath my skin as that is sure to leave a bruise.
I slid my knife down against his cutting blade in a gamble, the grinding sound giving me the brief second of distraction that I needed to back away and slam a left kick into the side of his torso.
I know how hard I kick, that would leave a bruise much worse that the one I would have on my face after this is over.
I jumped in again, stabbing my knife from the stop, Clement’s forearm met mine, stopping the blade halfway as he tried to elbow me in the face as he forced a turn with his body.
I blocked the elbow but it was a hit hard enough to feel like I smack my own face with my arm.
Clement : aRGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
He slammed a kick into the side of my thigh and I gave him a punch to the side of his cheek.
Pain shot through our bodies as I charged at him, lifting his leg up in at attempt to force him to the ground but he countered the move perfectly, regaining the balance and landing a blow to the side of my face.
I slashed my knife upwards and he ducked, managing to move millimetres away from the blade before it landed on his face.
Realising the baton is right below my feet, I pick it up just when Clement is charging at me, he realised the added arsenal in time to halt as I swung the baton precariously close to the bridge of his nose followed by another close stab to his body that he deflected with his knife.
I panted for air and so did Clement.
Our eyes never left each other as I went at Clement again. He threw a knife towards me and I ducked but it was not fast enough. I felt the warm flow of blood down the side of my neck as I registered a stinging pain just below my ears.
I threw mine as well towards Clement’s torso, he did not manage to block it as well as my knife sliced cleanly along the surface of his body, ripping into his clothes and flesh, leaving what I would estimate to be a centimetre deep wound running along a 8cm length.
Clement applied pressure onto his chest , holding the knife in front of him.
I touched my bleeding neck, I could feel a large cut as well but it is not life threatening. If it hit any major arteries, I would not even be standing.
I stuck like a fencer making an attempt to hit with my arms and feet outstretched, swinging the baton left and right, I started to land blows after the 3rd attempt striking Clement on his forearm and knuckles.
He grunted and cursed as a hard strike to his knuckles caused him to drop his knife.
I flew in so fast that I surprised myself, landing a knee squarely to his chest. It knocked the air out of his lungs and as he staggered backwards towards the door he came out from, I ran and literally flew towards him with a kick on his stomach , sending his body back and swinging the door wide open.
Clement collapsed onto his knees as the contents of his dinner found it’s way out of his body through his mouth and landed on the floor.
Grabbing his hair, I knee him in his face and it’s over.
I was about to break his neck when I froze.
My body petrified by the scene in front of me.
My lips was shivering.
I blinked several times.
Jeff : uuhhh…. Uhhhhhhhhh…
I felt a lump coming up my throat as I groaned.
I groaned in disbelief as I brought my hand to my mouth.
There is this sinking feeling in my throat as I groaned again.
Jeff :uuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhh~~~~.. no….. no…. no … please.. no….uhhh…
It was a groan choked with emotions as I navigated the boundary between remaining standing or collapsing in tears.
There was a doctor. He was in the midst of stitching up Gwen.
The machines were off. There were no beeping. Gwen’s face was drained of all colours, it was just a pale shade of white.
Her lifeless eyes were opened.
Jeff : uhhh…. Uhhhh….. aghhhh… ahhhhhhhhhhhh.. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
My left hand went to my forehead as I looked at the doctor who was trembling in fear while holding onto the tools he was using.
My feet staggered 2 steps backwards as I looked at Gwen.
Her opened eyes looking at me. I could still see the fresh streak of tears down the side of her cheeks.
The bruises on her arms, the swollen cheeks.
My heartbeat raced through the roof as I looked at Gwen, I was too late.
How could anyone do this to a little girl ?
When my eyes looked up from Gwen to the doctor, it was not the eyes of a human being.
It was the eyes of an animal.
Doctor : no… no wait… I’m just an employee… ahhh..
I grabbed him by his throat and slammed his head back against the sterile walls of the operating room.
Jeff : aHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
His feet gave way, but I held him up, I punched him so hard his center of gravity shifted abruptly , causing him to fall headfirst onto the blood stained floor.
Turning to Clement who was laughing, I saw that he was slowling standing up. He’s trying to get back on his feet.
Clement : too late… hahahaha… too late….
I walked over to Clement and I sent him staggering back towards the wall with a series of punches.
I hit him again and again as he collapsed onto a lowered bed stack in the side of the room.
I did not stop, I could not stop.
My knuckles were bruised, skins are flayed but still, I did not stop.
I punched Clement on his face, again and again.
His arms were up, he tried to block his face like a boxer taking a defensive pose. I don’t care, I continued hitting.
Left, right, from the top, from the side. I punched so hard that it sent his own knuckles hitting onto his forehead.
Jeff : aHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Clement’s arms could hardly remain upright, I kept punching. Over and over again, I rained my blows on him. I dislodged 2 teeth from his mouth when I delivered an uppercut with a right blow.
I could see cut on my right hand deep enough to see the bones of my knuckles. Still, I did not stop.
Punches, knees to the face, kick to the face. It kept coming.
Clement was literally just bobbing against in his sitting position. A human punching bag. Grabbing his arm, I hyperextended it , using his own body as leverage with my foot and I dislocated his right arm from it’s shoulder socket.
His scream was choked back by a punch to his face.
I grabbed his left hand who was trying to block my hits and literally ripped his fingers apart from each other. I stomped on his knees and I wanted to dislocate every joint but I did not know how to do it. I tried hyper extending his legs but it was too hard.
It took too long.
It was faster to keep slamming my fist into his fucked up face.
My heart and lungs were burning as I shouted and alternated my punches and kicks with such intensity that every muscle in my body was screaming at me to stop.
The pain I was feeling physically was nothing compared to the cut I was feeling emotionally.
I shouted and shouted, venting my pent up frustration and anger.
I slammed my left foot to the side of Clement’s face, causing him to fall like a sack of rice. Still I did not stop. Turning and reaching for a stainless steel tray holding surgery tools, I lifted it up and slammed it onto his head several times until the medical grade steel got deformed.
I reached for the trolley and sent it over to Clement as well.
Jeff : AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! AHRGGHGH!!!!
Words could not describe the level of frustration and anger I had inside me.
For a brief moment, I felt I was not a human. That I was not capable of compassion.
The only emotion I felt was anger.
Pure, unfiltered and animalistic rage.
Pulling the tangled mess of steel and equipment from Clement, I dragged him upright.
He’s still alive. Barely.
Blood was flowing freeing from his mouth. His face swollen beyond recognition.
He could hardly support himself.
I sucked in breathes of cold air, filling my oxygen deprived lungs.
I grabbed Clement by his hair, his eyes could barely open as he looked at me.
A portion of his lips was hanging loosely by the skin, exposing the empty slots where his teeth should be.
He looked like he was losing conscious.
I hit his head against the tiled wall, knocking him awake.
The laboured breathes of a dying man greeted my ears as I looked at Clement in his eyes.
My right hand went around his neck.
Clement : ehhh…..ernghhhhhhhhhhhh.eghh!!
I applied pressure , clamping my fingers closed around his neck as I deprived him of air. There was hardly a struggle, there was nothing left in him to struggle.
Clement passed out within 30 seconds.
I checked him for a pulse. There is still one.
He’s still alive.
Turning to see the doctor groaning on the floor, I went to retrieve my knife.
I grabbed his hair and forced him to look at Gwen.
Doctor : please… please…. I was just following instructions…. I’m a doctor !!! please….
I shook his head as I yanked him so close to Gwen’s expressionless face.
Exposing his neck, I placed my knife at his throat.
Doctor : please… please… no… sozb… sobzz… please….
Jeff : did she struggle ??
Doctor : please….. please… sobzz…
Jeff : ANSWER ME !!!
He nodded his head.
Doctor : yes… sobzz.. yes… please… ahhhh…
Jeff : Did she fight for her life ?
He doctor nodded again, I could see a pool of urine spreading from under his knees.
Jeff : Tell me….. what is the oath… you took….when you became a doctor…
Doctor : please… please no… sobzz… sobzz… please…
Jeff: TELL ME !!!
I pressed the blade of my knife harder against his neck and he started to talk in between tears.
Doctor : sobzz… sobz… I… I solemnly pledge….. to …
Jeff : go on….
Doctor : dedicate my life to the service…. Of humanity… sobzz… sobzz…
Jeff: don’t stop….look at her…. Look at her when you speak !!!
I could feel his body shaking as tears poured down his cheeks.
Doctor : give due respect & gratitude to my teacher….practice my profession with conscience and dignity….sobzz… ahhhhh.. sobzz.. I’m sorry…. I’m sorry….
Jeff : shut up…. Go on …
I tightened the grip on the knife.
Doctor : make…. Make the health of my patient…. My first consideration… sobzz..
Jeff : almost there… go on…
Doctor : I’m sorry… I’m really sorry….sobzzz…
I slammed his head against the metal table Gwen was lying on and waited for him to continue.
Doctor : ahhhh.. sobzz… respect… the secrets which are confided in me….sobzz,,,,i…. I don’t remember the rest… I’m sorry… ahhhh…sozbbb… I’m sorry… I really don’t remember the rest…
Jeff : I see can why…
Doctor : Please… don’t… don’t do this… please….sobzz… I’m a doctor… sobzz…
Jeff: Does that make your life more valuable that the others ??
He shook his head as the tried to turn and look at me but I forced him to look at Gwen.
Jeff : I’ll finish it for you……
I closed my eyes and all I could see was Gwen. An image of her.
I took several deep breathes.
Instead of seeing her cold, naked on the operating table, I saw her smiling at me. There was someone by her side.
Jeff : …. You… respect the secrets which are confided in you……respect your colleagues as your professional brothers and sisters….
The images kept coming, flooding into my mind like a invasive thought. Like a silent movie, it kept coming.
Gillian has her arms around Gwen’s shoulders. Gwen was holding her drawing pad.
Both of them looking at me.
Gwen was smiling.
It was a peaceful scene. I knew it was not real, merely images and thoughts conjured up by my brain to help me cope.
Everyone needs closure. Even someone cold blooded like me.
I know it’s not real, I really do but part of me wished it was real.
That this is closure not only for me, but for Gwen as well.
No longer does she have to live in a world where monsters walked the earth beside her.
No longer does she have to live in fear.
No longer alone.
Jeff : you will not allow…. The consideration of race, religion, nationality or social standing…. To intervene between your duties and your patient….
My eyes fluttered for a moment and when I opened them, I was surprised to find my vision blurred. Blurred with tears.
Yet through the blurred vision, I saw that Gwen is no longer on the table. She’s clothed, in winter wear, compete with earmuffs and gloves. It looked like the sisters are going for a holiday.
They were finally going to travel together.
Gillian was adjusting her scarf for her sister.
They are about the same height but I could see the slight maturity you would have expected from a sister form Gillian. Gillian blew on her hands as she finished tying the scarf for Gwen, making sure her sister is snug and warm.
Gwen pulled out one side of her glove, offering it to Gillian. The winter clothes on them looked old, probably hand me downs but it kept them warm and happy.
Their gloveless hand held each other as they waved at me from the corner of the room.
Gwen mouthed the words ‘ it’s ok ‘ to me.
It’s not ok.
I’ve never felt so disappointed before in my life.
I blamed myself.
I was not fast enough. Gwen placed all her hopes on me, and I failed her.
Jeff : you will maintain…. Due respect for human life…. Use your knowledge in accordance…. With the laws of humanity….
Gillian and Gwen started to walk away.
As if something or someone far greater than us had walked into the room, I watched the muscles of Gwen’s eyes relaxed. They started to close.
The doctor sobbed as I held his head in my hand.
I finished up the rest of the code and came to the last line.
Jeff : You make there promises solemnly….. freely…. And upon your honour… ….where is your honour ??!!
Doctor : zobzzz… sobzz… sobzz… please…. Ahhhh !
I turned his head away from Gwen’s body and I slit his throat, letting his body convulse on the floor as his hands tried to stop the inevitable.
I dropped the knife and lowered myself to Gwen’s level.
Touching my forehead to hers, my tears landed on her face.
Jeff : I’m sorry Gwen….. life ….. is not fair…. I’m sorry….
I took in several deep breathes as I shook my head.
Jeff : your sister and you were dealt a bad hand in this life…… you deserve better…
I sat down on the bloodstained floor and leaned against the cold walls of the surgery room.
I felt so tired.
I don’t know if I fell asleep but I looked up and saw Gwen in front of me.
She smiled that radiant smile at me and the only thing it did was break me harder.
The innocence in her smile, her opened arms asking for a final hug.
Jeff : I’m…. I’m really sorry…
I felt her cold body hug onto mine as I broke down.
Jeff : AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!
Gwen’s wiped the tears from my eyes she shook her head.
Gwen : Thank you…. For being the only one that truly cared….
Jeff : No… no…
Gwen :Goodbye…. …..Sun Wu Kong….
Jeff : no…
My eyes closed and I hit the back of the tiled wall as I opened my eyes. My body drenched with sweat.
I took a deep breath and stood up.
I touched Gwen on her cheeks and said my goodbye as well.
Jeff : Goodbye Gwen…. Take care of your sister too….
I tore myself away from Gwen and I went over to Clement. I did not check him for his pulse again. I took my knife and with a continuous stroke using the serrated side of my knife, I sliced his head cleanly off his neck.
When I hit the bone part, I stopped. I did not want to waste the extra energy sawing through bone. I dropped Clement’s head and smashed my feet into the remnants of his head as I watched it fall sideway like a deflated balloon.
I kicked him a couple more times, hardly putting any strength into the attempt to hurt his lifeless body.
Turning to the doctor, he was no longer moving.
I opened the other door at the back of the surgery room.
It was empty. There are benches and drinks scattered throughout the area. I could still see smoke coming up from one of the coffee cup.
I walked to the end of the room and opened the door, feeling the brush of the cold air against my face.
The tracks on the soft grass are fresh.
There were vehicles parked here, waiting, waiting for Gwen’s organs not too long ago.
I headed back into the surgery room and checked Clement’s body for his car keys.
I walked over to his car and unlocked it.
There were stacks of documents inside his car including a suitcase fill with money in local and Australian currency.
There’s got to be at least 2-300 k inside that suitcase alone.
I flipped open the documents.
Names, pictures, medical records.
I looked at the dates, there are about a year ago.
I checked the folders for the ones that were labelled for this year.
Opening it, I flipped it to the middle and I froze.
I was staring at a familiar face.
I flipped the page. That blonde hair.
He was lying. He knew about this.
I picked up my phone and made the call to the operator.
Operator : O’s insurance…
Jeff : I would like to make a claim for my policy….
Operator : policy number please…
Jeff : 442454
A dial tone came up for 2 seconds before the operator came back on.
Operator : acknowledged….. we are on our way…
She hung up on me after that.
I threw the documents into Clement’s car and I took the money, putting it in Billy’s van. Opening the glove compartment, I found passports and air tickets.
There’s another envelope of cash in the glove compartment and I took it as well.
I helped myself to the cigarettes on the dashboard and lit up as I leaned against Billy’s van.
30 minutes later, the 1st convoy arrived. Owen was in one of the cars.
The crew wasted no time as they hurried into the hospital to survey the mess I left for them.
Owen walked towards me and he could read the expression on my face.
He stopped 3 meters away from me and he looked at Clement’s car.
He saw the documents.
He sighed and looked at me.
Owen : yes…. That’s what we do…. But no kids…..criminals…. drug dealers…. Death row inmates….. no kids…. No fucking kids….
I did not say anything.
I finished up my cigarette and threw it on floor.
Owen : Jeff ….
I walked passed Owen, deliberately bumping him on his shoulder as I did.
Owen : It’s over…. Never again…. We don’t need these money…. Not anymore….
I turned and just shrugged my shoulder.
Jeff : Do I look like I care ?
Owen : You do…. More so that you care to admit….
Jeff : Fuck you….
Owen : I mean it…. No more…. Yiling’s drug business is pulling in enough…. We’re cutting this off….
Jeff : where is the VIP ?
Owen : Jeff ..
Jeff : WHERE !!
Owen’s men had their hands on their side arms right away seeing the outburst but Owen waved them away.
Owen : You’re tired… you’re hurt…. You’re emotional… and your judgement is clouded…. This is not the Hibiki I know…
He’s right on all counts yet I find myself still so fucking pissed at him. I turned and made my way up Billy’s van. I could not bear to stay at that place any longer.
Owen : Mandy is at the debriefing facility….. you get yourself some medical attention…. We’ll talk after your fucking head gets sorted out….
I showed him the finger and reversed the vehicle out of the compound. There is nothing wrong with my head.
There is something wrong with this world.
I took a slow drive towards the facility in Defu lane.
There was no longer a need to speed, to overtake.
The pace at which things move slowed down significantly.
It was coming to 2am in the morning by the time I arrived at the facility. I could see security is tighter than usual.
The crash barrier is up and the security guard motioned for me to key in my access code at the keypad.
I entered the code and the barrier came down.
I droved straight to the loading and unloading bay tucked at the back of the building.
I could see armed man stationed near the entrance.
I got out and went to the door.
They were speaking into their walkie talkie.
Before I got to the door, one of them opened it and said nothing.
I entered and the door shut behind me.
There is someone at the end of the corridor.
She looked nervous. Dressed in jeans and t-shirt, she has her hair tied up in a high ponytail.
She was hugging a tablet in front of her chest. She’s armed, I could see her wearing a pistol by the side of her waist.
I kept walking towards her, there was no sign of her giving way to me.
I could see her swallowing a gulp of saliva as I got closer. Her eyes, she was looking at me, she knows.
She knows who I am.
I’ve never seen her before. She better have a good reason for blocking my way that morning.
I was not in the mood for administrative work.
When she spoke, her voice gave her away immediately. That voice.
The voice I have been talking to for the past few years.
Belinda : Hi….. Hi Hibiki…. I …. I meant Jeff…. I’m….. I’m…… I’m your operator….
She was literally shaking as I watched her fingers curled harder around the edge of her tablet.
Jeff : what do you want ? …
She immediately gestured behind her in a nervous manner.
Belinda : ermm… ermm…. Mandy is in room 3…. Billy is in the infirmary with Dr Lynn.
She plastered herself against the wall as I walked past her.
I’m headed to room 3.
I could hear Belinda close behind me. I stopped outside room 3 and looked at her, she better have a good reason for following me as well.
Jeff : Yes… ?
Belinda : I’m sorry…. I know you don’t want me to follow you but…. But Owen said I was not to let you out of my sight !!!... I’m sorry… please don’t make this difficult on me… !
I wanted to speak but I was exhausted. I could not find the right words. This is really the last thing I need right now.
I reached for her side arm and she yelped , trying to stop me from taking her weapon.
Belinda : no !! no no!!! please… NO!!!... I’m just following orders Jeff ….
I sighed and told her I’m just borrowing it.
Jeff : Can you lend it to me…. Please… ?
It took her a couple of seconds to register what I said and she literally jumped as I pulled the weapon out of the holster. Entering the room, I saw Mandy seated in the metal stool in the centre of the room. Her hands were handcuffed behind her, her ankles chained to the floor.
Mandy : Jeff…. Jeff… I’m sorry… I’m sorry….. please !!... I’m sorry… I have money… I’ll give you my share…. Everything… I’ll give you everything….
Jeff : Sure…. Where is the money ??
Mandy : You’ll let me go ?? will you ?? I’ll give you anything…
Jeff : yes… tell me… and I will let you go…
It was then she saw the gun in my hand and she started to beg me harder.
Mandy : Please Jeff… please !!! in the fountain…. There’s a waterproof package in the fountain…. There’s 60 thousand in it… please….
Jeff : anywhere else ??
Mandy : NO!!! NO!!... nothing more… that is all… that is all !!!.
I raised the weapon at Mandy and she screamed. She struggled against the restraints and begged.
Mandy : you promised…..you said you would let me go !!!
I levelled the weapon at her head and lined up the sight.
Jeff : I lied…
I squeeze the trigger in the room. The explosion of the weapon caused Belinda to scream. Mandy bobbed once as the bullet went through the front of her eye and exploded out the back of her head, painting the wall and floor of room 3 a bright shade of red.
Turning back to Belinda who had turned a shade of white, I could see her holding back her vomit. She covered her mouth as I put the weapon to safe and returned it to her holster.
Jeff : Thank you..
I opened the door and walked out.
I heard Belinda retched and vomited behind me as I continued walking towards the infirmary.
I opened the door and was hit with that familiar smell of disinfectant. That so-called hospital smell.
There are 2 beds inside, one of it is occupied by Billy. He was sitting up, heavily bandaged.
The ward trolley extended over his thigh, serving as a table.
There were 2 glasses of alcohol on the trolley.
Our eyes met and I knew Billy knew. He must have been receiving updates.
Dr Lynn stood beside Billy, looking every bit as radiant and beautiful as I remembered.
She’s hot, intelligent and married to a Colonel in the armed forces. The last time I saw her was almost a year ago.
Doing what we do, seeing Lynn is never a good sign. It only meant we got hurt. Lynn is like the sister I never had. If I have a elder sister, I would want her to be just like Lynn. Matured, pretty and always calm and cool.
Her smile works better than the best soothing balm and I credit her for making most of my scars looking better than they ever will be.
Dressed in Jeans, a white blouse with matching heels, Lynn looked at me from head to toe. The man that has her is a lucky guy.
Her hands came out from her coat pocket and she reached for a chair.
Tapping the seat, she gestured for me to go over.
The door behind me opened again and I could see Belinda coming into the infirmary form the reflection in front of me.
Belinda : Hi Dr Lynn…
Lynn gave her a nod and a smile.
Lynn brushed the hair from the side of my head to check out the wound below my ear.
No one said a word.
Lynn quietly prepared the disinfectants and put the tools she needed in a metal dish.
She set the things in front of me as I stared blankly at the wall.
Lynn : Belinda…..do you mind ?
Lynn gestured towards the cabinet on the other end of the room.
Belinda : oh…ok.. sure…
Belinda brought out 2 more glasses and a bottle of whisky. No labels, nothing, but I know it’s the good stuff. Doctors always has the good stuff stashed away.
She refilled the 2 glasses on the trolley in front of Billy before filling up the 2 new glasses.
Lynn looked at me, I could see she felt sorry for the state I was in. I felt her gentle hand touch my wrist.
Lynn : don’t be so hard on yourself….. you can’t control everything….
I nodded but said nothing.
The silence in the room was deafening. It was so quiet I could hear everyone breathe.
If this was out of a motion picture, I would imagine the camera slowly pulling backwards, retreating out of the infirmary with the 4 of us perfectly framed.
No one would move, yet the picture alone would speak volumes.
A vibrating sound broke the tranquillity of the room.
It kept coming.
It all came form Belinda’s pocket.
She pulled it out and checked her messages, aware that all eyes are on her.
Lynn : do you need to go ?
She shook her head.
Belinda : Owen…. Owen wants me to… to keep an eye on…. On Jeff…
Lynn : it’s ok… I’m here… I got him….
She shook her head, clutching onto her tablet in front of her chest.
Lynn started to clean my wound.
Belinda reached for the glass of whisky and drained it in one go, panting and fanning her mouth as it brunt her throat on the way down.
She put down her tablet and poured herself another large serving.
Belinda : I…. i……
She was struggling to speak as she looked at us.
Belinda : I just want to say….. I just want to say……
She took another mouthful of the drink she is obviously not used to having.
Belinda : the VIP did not make it……
I looked at Belinda and asked Belinda where is the VIP located.
Jeff : Where…. Where are they…
Lynn : enough Jeff…… you’ve done enough….
She gave my cheek a light slap, forcing me to expose the wound on my neck to her in a chiding manner.
Lynn spoke without looking at Belinda, choosing to concentrate on my wound.
Lynn : Tell him what you told us earlier….
I felt the sting of the pain as Lynn dragged the line through my skin, closing up the wound below my ear.
Belinda : Butcher will be flying the royal family back to Indonesia…. That flight will not land……. Raptor….. he’s across the border at a Motel…. Waiting for the other men involved…..Gourmet…. he’s… he’s on a yacht …. With another doctor involved… currently sailing out of Singapore waters….none of these have been approved by the audit team… it’ll all be an accident….Owen set it up….
Lynn pushed my cheek with the back of her gloved hand, expertly tying up the stitch and cutting away the excess. She grabbed my face and turned it to the side, before turning back to face her.
Pulling away her gloves and took her glass of drink and raised it slightly in front of me.
Lynn : No child shall ever suffer the girls fate ever again…..Not on Owen’s watch….. not on our watch…
Billy reached for his glass with his good hand.
Belinda sniffed and she was crying. Wiping the tears with the back of her hand, she took her glass as well.
I blinked once and was surprised to feel the last roll of a warm tear streak down my cheek.
I took a deep breath, reached for my drink and touched the waiting glasses.
Jeff : Never again…
Billy : To Gwen….
Belinda : sobzz… to Gillian….
Lynn smiled and with that sisterly confidence that would reassure all around her that everything is ok, she added ;
Lynn : and to the silent guardians around us……men and women……. Who will never be named….you are the reason…..why we are not afraid of the monsters who lurk in the dark…
We drained our drinks and Belinda promptly refilled the drinks, mine first.
Belinda : Jeff…. Can you….
I turned at looked at her with what I assumed would be a pair of bloodshot and tired eyes.
Belinda : Can you…..can you….. write the incident report for why I have a missing round in my weapon ? …. Owen… Owen is anal about … about things like this….
Lynn burst out laughing and so did Billy.
I shook my head and could no longer hold it in and I laughed.
Belinda : what ?... what is so funny ?? !! it’s not funny….. I signed out for this!!
There was a knock on the door and one of the armed guard stepped in. He was carrying a bottle.
A fucking bottle.
He greeted the doctor and handed the bottle to Belinda.
I looked at that 17 year old bottle of whisky that Belinda was holding.
What kind of fucker Owen has to be to do this to me ?
Belinda composed herself and gave me that bottle of drink.
Jeff : Is this what I think it is….??
Belinda : No…. no… no… it’s not a new project…. It’s just something I got… for you…
I looked at her, puzzled and full of questions.
Jeff : Why ?? …..
Belinda : because…..because…..
Jeff : Because what ?
Belinda : I’m …….. I’m going to be your new intern….
I could not even be bothered to give Belinda a reply.
I could hear Lynn chuckling in the background.
Lynn : budget cuts man… we all got to deal with it… hahaha….
Belinda : I know… I know this is the last thing you would want to hear now but… but…. I want thinking it would be good if I can give you some advance notice…. And and….
I put up my hand and wave her off.
Jeff : No… period…
I started to get up and Belinda just went on and on.
Lynn called out for me to go back to her in 2 days to change the dressing on my wound but I did not reply her. She threw a packet of antibiotics at me and I caught it.
Belinda’s voice was drowning her instructions out.
She told me she had a degree in psychology and she has been looking forward to get out into the field for the longest time. I was not in the mood for this and I continued walking towards the door.
Belinda went on to tell me that the company is no longer sending it’s recruits to the same program the earlier pioneers went through. The budget cuts is eating into everyone’s department and Owen thinks it’s time to let the new recruits tag onto someone more experienced.
Belinda : I know you would not like this but… but… after looking through the profile and studying all your previous work, I know I want to learn from you….
I ignored everything she said.
It just went in from one ear and came out the other.
No means no.
I don’t give a fuck.
What the hell is Owen thinking ?
Perhaps he forgot what is it we do for a moment. I walked along the quiet corridor towards the exit and was thankful Belinda chose to stay inside the infirmary and did not tag along.
I might just hit her given the mood I’m in.
I exhaled and went towards a locker room. I kept some spare clothes in the facility and I stepped into a shower stall.
As the cold water pelted my body, I took stock of the sores, the aches and the cuts I had sustained.
It felt like every bit of my body was hurting. I know my physical state would be back to normal in no time, the injuries I had were minor. It’s my mental state that I’m not sure I would be able to cope.
The feeling is just impossible to describe. It sucks.
I needed a break.
Perhaps a couple of months away from all this.
Maybe I’ll even give Yiling a call.
Fucking the local drug lord might be a good way to get my head cleared.
I sneezed a couple of times as I stepped out and dried my body.
Turning to look at the shower, I threw a few curses at it.
All the money and Owen did not even put in a water heater in the place for staff. I made a mental note to get an electric heater and install it myself the next time I’m here.
I did not head back home after the shower. I drove Billy’s van back to the office and I left it at the parking lot before getting into my own car.
I checked myself into a nice 5 star hotel in town and I collapsed onto the comfortable bed.
I woke up at 9am and read the papers while I ate my breakfast. There were a few articles about accidents near a church and an unfortunate fire which killed a few people. I refused to read it.
The articles will only contain the stories spun by Owen and his team.
I flipped to the pages about holidays and travel promotion. This would be a good time to just fuck it all and head off for a holiday. I gave Ah Keong a call about the gate he is going to install, I told him to fix it and send me the invoice.
He said he will take care of it.
I checked out of the hotel at noon and checked myself into another one.
Yes I’m running. Running away from reality. I just want to pretend I’m a tourist, visiting a country I hardly know.
I did nothing except sleep, eat and soak myself in the bathtub before I repeated the ritual again. I bought whatever I needed, clothes, toiletries, shoes, bandages.
I cycled through the few hotels within town.
Pan Pacific, Mandarin Oriental, Meritus, Ritz, then I headed over to Fullerton, working my way down to Sands. After I checked out from Sands, I drove back to the church.
The gate has been fixed. I could still see the barricades within the compound.
People walk by it as if nothing happened.
Live goes on. This is how fast things move in the country.
I entered the compound , there were a few foreign workers painting the walls of the nursery where I last saw the toddlers.
They paid no attention to me.
Walking to the fountain, I looked into the water. My hand reached under and I tried feeling around for indication of a package.
Circling the rim of the fountain, my fingers felt the material of a waterproof bag. I pulled it out and looked at it.
I walked out of the church and back to my car and dropped the dripping package onto the car floor. It’s money, no point letting it go to waste.
I drove around the island, dropping off the loot at various stash.
By the time I’m done, I could not decide if I want to continue burning my money at some hotel. I can afford it.
Before I realised it, I was driving into Sentosa.
I checked myself into another hotel and got into the bathtub again.
I realised suddenly how lonely I was. My phone had only 2 messages and not even a miss call.
Not that I’m expecting anyone to call me.
Billy told me he’s has been discharged and that he will see me back in office.
The next message is from Owen.
He told me I’m on a one month paid leave, thereafter, it will be unpaid leave until Lynn certifies that I’m fit to get back to work.
I spent a good 2 weeks rotating through different hotels trying to get my fucked up brain sorted out.
By the time I checked myself out of Amara Sanctuary, I felt a little better. I’ve wallowed in self-pity for long enough.
Life goes on.
1st July 2013
I went back to office. Billy was in, and he gave me a nod as I went to my terminal.
Billy : You have a lot of emails…..and a very angry doctor looking for you…
Jeff : What…. Why ?
Billy : I think you forgot something….about your dressing…
Jeff : It’s fine…. Won’t die la…
I touched the pharmacy bought square plaster on my neck. I’ve changed it regularly but the wound is not exactly closing well. It’s gotten a bit swollen and I left the antibiotics she gave me in the shower at the locker previously.
I can’t really see the wound but at least I’m not bleeding and dripping pus.
Billy : You know what…. You better go find Lynn…. She told me she will slit your throat if her handiwork is ruined by you not taking care of it and it ends up scarring badly….
Jeff : ermm…ok…
Billy : I fucking mean it man…. I skipped my antibiotics and she almost broke my fingers again.
Jeff : How the fuck would she know if you skipped ?
Billy : Brother… I’m lying on the fucking bed 2 steps away from her desk…. You have no idea how desperate I am to check out of that infirmary….
Jeff : Oh…
I’ve know how feisty Lynn can be. She can be a monster if she wanted to.
You know how rumours of colleagues fly about every now and then about what someone has done in the past.
Word is someone tried to be funny with Lynn. You know, get fresh with her, she’s hot and I can see why maybe some men could not resist that temptation. That sweet face, the fresh look and that seductive smile, she would be the perfect target of your typical alpha male.
The story goes something like that man grabbed her breasts during treatment.
Lynn did not pursue the matter on the surface but she swop his medication, giving him shit that chemically castrated him.
Yes, chemical castration. She killed him, or rather his cock slowly. It took 12 months before that chap realised it but it was too late.
Another story that would make it into the urban myth of the company would be Lynn giving a colleague who tried to rape her a sex reassignment surgery. This I’m pretty sure it’s a myth, but the word is the man woke up only to realise his testicles has been removed, and his cock turned into a vagina.
Owen tells me the colleague now works in finance and no longer in the field. I’m pretty sure he’s fucking with me when he talks about that transgender colleague in finance but one thing I know for sure, Lynn is good with a knife.
Not only that, she can fuck with your head as well if she wants to.
Owen told me before a couple of years ago, Lynn made the butcher cry.
Can you believe that ?
She made the butcher cry !. The butcher is just 2 rankings below me and she made him cry.
As if that were not enough, Owen tells me that while we address Lynn as Dr Lynn, or by her name, the butcher calls her something else.
Owen : Lynn Zeh zeh…. ( Sister Lynn ) …
Jeff : You’re fucking with me….
Owen : oh ho ho ho….. trust me…. Lynn… is the last woman you want to fuck with…. And that’s not forget she’s dating a Colonel in the armed forces… Now you’ve never met the butcher….. but I shit you not….. butcher is someone you see and immediately feel danger…I saw with my own eyes….. butcher sitting upright , legs closed and both hands on his knees as he kept nodding away at whatever Lynn was saying….that…. is …… impressive I tell you….
Excerpts of that conversation came into my head and I could feel a shiver run down my spine.
Add to this a story Lynn shared with me some time back when she switched the medication of a colleague who refused to follow up with his recovery with her, I was suddenly tempted to run. She made him shit in his pants in his car in the middle of the expressway. When he made fuss in her clinic, the next thing he knew, he was on the bed wearing diapers for 3 days.
She can be an absolute bitch if she wanted to.
I could not help but touched my manhood subconsciously as I asked Billy about Lynn.
Jeff : When did she last called ?
Billy : This morning….i almost wanted to give her your mobile number but it’s against the rules…. She knows that…
Jeff : ok… fine… I’ll go look for her…
Billy : Her clinic is on the 3rd floor… good luck… It’s a Monday…. Half the people in there is looking to get an MC….
I looked at my table with documents piled up.
I still owe Owen the report from my last project.
I opened a brown envelope and I saw my knife inside, it’s been cleaned, sharpened and oiled. There was a note from Belinda telling me she was the one that did it.
I contemplated bringing the knife along before I meet Lynn but decided against it as I left the room.
Jeff : Lunch later ?
Billy : No I’m good… you go ahead…. I bet you miss the chicken rice….
Jeff : Yeah I do….
Heading down to the 3rd floor, I entered the clinic and took a queue number.
There are at least 5 patients in front of me.
The clinic looked like any one of those neighbourhood clinics you visit, it’s clean, tidy, with that unattractive white light and walls filled with posters.
I understand the clinic caters mostly to administrative staff in the company and of course, the occupants of the tower we share the office with.
I did my registration and told the assistant my name.
She keyed in my details and did a double take at the computer before looking back up at me.
Jeff : All ok ?
Clinic assistant : Yeah….
I watched her as she went to the glass door and turned the sign to ‘close’
Oh fuck, I should have brought along my knife.
Lynn must have put in a note or something.
I waited for about 40 minutes and I could feel the temperature drop as each of the remaining patient left the clinic. New patients were turned away and told to come back after lunch.
It’s coming to 11am when my name was called.
Clinic assistant : Jeff… your turn…
Jeff : Orh…
I stood up and watch her shut down her terminal and switched off the lights near her table. She grabbed her purse and water bottle, it looked like she’s about to head out for an early lunch.
My right hand instinctively reached to the small of my back but there was nothing there.
I walked up to Lynn’s door and I heard the snap of the electronic lock as the assistant scurried out of the way, leaving me alone with Lynn in the clinic.
I cursed under my breath as I touched my cock again.
I knocked on the door and open it. I was about to give a friendly smile when I saw Lynn with her arms folded, legs crossed with her heels dangling off 1 foot.
She is not smiling.
Her fair and toned legs , that pair of seductive heels and that short black skirt would have given me an erection but I was not getting any that day. Her white blouse had volume , pushed out by her full breast. Her white coat flared widely apart at the bottom near her waist.
Her eyes were emotionless as she looked at me like a teacher about to scold a student for forgetting his homework.
Before I could say anything, I saw her open her drawer and she took the packet of antibiotics I left in the shower and threw it onto the table.
I found myself gasping a breath of air as my eyes widened. My right hand went behind me again and once more, I found that the comforting grip of my knife is not there.
Lynn : Explain…. this..
Lynn pointed a forceful finger at the packet of medication.
There was only one expression that came into my head at that time at it came in the form of a Hokkien dialect.
‘ Ji pai hong gan’ ( Looks like I’m fucked )
Jeff : it… it was a… traumatic …..experience…. I meant.. that night….. a lot happened….
Lynn did not reply me, she waited for me to go on.
My survival instincts kicked in immediately. I’m a survivor.
Situations like this would require me to think on my feet.
My brain ran through the various possibilities that would play out and I immediately chose the one that would give me the highest chance of walking out of the clinic with my testicles intact.
Jeff : I’m… I’m sorry…. I’m really sorry…. My head was… fucked up… this will never happen again…
I held my breath and waited for Lynn to respond. She sighed loudly in the room and asked me to sit down.
I could see her getting ready her lecture as she prepared the tools.
She cursed at me the moment she removed the bandage.
Lynn : Fuck… it’s a bit infected already…. What were you thinking !!! Tsk !... I know you are upset but this is no reason for neglecting your own body…. Respect your body Jeff… you understand that or not…..do you know what I mean ?? …
I kept quiet as I hear the metallic clink of the tools in the dish.
Lynn : What is wrong with you !!! …. Not taking care of your own body is disrespectful….you are not being responsible… !!
Don’t say anything. I kept telling myself that.
Don’t say anything. Think of your testicles, think of your bowels.
Lynn : I take pride in my work !... and nothing makes me more angry… than seeing people like you take a piss in my work !!! …… this is going to leave a scar….a bad one… fuck….arghhhh!!!
I closed my eyes and nodded. Survival instincts still at play here. Don’t say shit.
Don’t say anything.
Lynn removed the old stiches and said I needed 2 more.
Lynn : See.. this part here….arhghhhh !!!... Tsk…It split open… arghhh !! it’s red and god…arghh !!
I looked down on the floor, suddenly realising the pain is a lot more intense compared to the night I sustained the injury.
Lynn worked on as she started scolding me for a good 10 minutes.
Jeff : yes…yes…. I’m sorry… yes…I’m sorry… yes… yes…. Ok… ok…. Never again…. I understand….
After a new dressing is applied, Lynn gave me a tube of cream.
Lynn : use this.. it will help with the scar… and…. Eat this…
I watch her give me a new bag of antibiotics from her drawer, throwing the old one aside.
I swallowed a gulp of saliva.
Jeff : What about the old ones….. I can eat the old ones… don’t waste…
She gave me a glare and I immediately took the new medications from the table.
I’m going to make Billy google it before I eat it.
I did not expect Lynn to pour me a glass of water.
She put it down in front of me and waited.
Jeff : You mean now ?? ermm… shouldn’t I eat it after food or something… ?
Lynn had her arms folded and she was looking at me with her head slightly angled to the side.
Lynn : Now….
Jeff : ok… ok… relax man.. …
I looked at the white pills and sighed as I popped 2 into my mouth before washing it down.
Jeff : done… happy now ?...
Lynn frowned and made me promise I will finish that course of medication.
Jeff : yes… yes…. I will… I swear..
She cleaned up and disposed off the gauze she used and asked me how am I feeling.
Lynn : You ok …. Feeling better ?
Jeff : yes… Owen says I need your… ermm… sign off… before I get back to work…
Lynn : Yes…. If not you’re going on unpaid leave for as long as I say so…
Jeff : I’m ok already…. I’m good to go….
Lynn : No you’re not….
Jeff : I’m serious… look at me… I’m good….
Lynn shook her head and clicked away on her terminal. She said I still have 2 weeks leave before it’s over.
Lynn : you should enjoy it…I wished I could get paid leave for a month…. I hardly have enough leave as it is…..
Jeff : Oh… I heard you are getting married soon….
Lynn nodded and told me it’s going to happen in 2 weeks time.
Lynn : You’re coming right… ?
I hesitated with my reply. I remembered seeing the invite in my mail some time back.
Lynn : I asked you a question…
Jeff : Yes… yes…. Wouldn’t miss it for the world….
Lynn : Where is it.. ?
Jeff : What…
Lynn : Where is my wedding held… ?
Lynn slammed her hand on the table as I stood up laughing awkwardly.
Jeff : I’ll check the invite again… hhaha… I’ll be there….
Good luck to the man that is marrying her.
Lynn : Many of your colleagues will be there….. Owen too…
Jeff : Is this a good idea… ? … for so many of us… to….
Lynn : why ? …. Haha… are you afraid ? …..
Jeff : why would I be ? …
Lynn : there are 300 employees in the company… I invited them all for the buffet dinner…. Not sure who will show up though….. but….
Lynn shut down her computer and took her purse from the drawer.
Lynn : but I only invited Owen, you and Billy for the ceremony….
Jeff : Wow… why the special treatment… ?
Lynn looked at me in the eye before letting it drift down to my body, then to my thigh, my legs and then back up again.
Lynn : Because I patched you up more times than you remember……. Especially in the early days…. When you are clumsy…and rash…. And…
Jeff : Ok.. ok.. enough.. fine… I’ll be there….
Lynn : Owen is my boss… I have to invite him… besides,,, he gives a big red packet…. I invited Billy only last week….
Jeff : Oh… I guess you guys hit if off eh…. When you were looking after him….
Lynn : No…
She gestured to the exit and told me Billy was helping her with her wedding montage.
Lynn : He will take care of the music… the montage…childhood pictures… hohoho…. All the computer stuff…..
Jeff : You shouldn’t be a doctor…
Lynn : What was that again ?
Jeff : Nothing…
Lynn : come… you’ll buy me lunch… there’s nice chicken rice at the café downstairs….
I smiled as Lynn removed her coat and hung it near the reception before we stepped out of the clinic.
Stepping into the lift behind Lynn, I let my mind wandered as I look at that tight ass and toned legs. Some women just look so good in high heels. I felt a slight rise in my cock and my heart fluttered.
Ok, she did not poison me.
We chatted about her upcoming wedding as we walked to the café.
Lala saw me coming and I had my drink ready before I reached.
Lynn : Wow.. you must be a regular…. Haha
Jeff : Long story… haha…
I looked towards the chicken rice stall and Xuehua is there.
She turned and she saw me. She saw me with Lynn.
I could see Xuehua checking Lynn out the way woman size up each other.
I got Lynn a drink and told her I’ll go place the order.
Lynn’s beauty is in a class of her own. She attracted her own sets of eyes in the café, being the resident doctor in the building also meant she knew a few familiar faces.
I saw her nodding and smiling to a few people entering and leaving the café.
I placed my order and Xuehua handed me the utensils.
Xuehua : so pretty…. You’re girlfriend ah ?
Jeff : huh ? …. No la… haha… my doctor…. I where got such fortune… haha
Xuehua smiled as she placed the rice on the tray.
Xuehua : you purposely choose pretty doctors to go to is it ? … hahha…
Jeff : haha...no… I only choose pretty chicken rice sellers to go to…
Xuehua laughed as I watched her uncle sever the neck from a chicken a little too forcefully.
Xuehua : she’s hot…. I would go after her if I’m a guy…. So pretty.. and sweet… I would go for her if I’m lesbian too… hahaha
She handed the tray of food to me.
Jeff : Well… she’s getting married in 2 weeks time…. I don’t think you have a chance…
Xuehua laughed and rolled her eyes at me.
I went back to Lynn who was looking intently at my exchange with Xuehua.
Lynn : She’s hot…. I would go after her if I’m a guy…. So pretty.. and sweet… I would go for her if I’m lesbian too… hahaha..
Jeff : wow… would you believe if I told you she said exactly the same thing ?
Lynn : hahah… no way…
We chatted as we ate, I was facing Lynn and looking towards the lobby whereas she was facing the stalls. I could see her looking at Xuehua a couple of times as she separated the skin from the chicken.
Jeff : Eh give me those… I like…
Lynn : so fatty… will clog up your blood vessels…
Jeff : a clogged vessel is the last thing I’m going to die of..
Lynn : Tsk !..
Lynn kicked me in the leg as she transferred the skin of the chicken over to me.
I laughed and I did not expect her to change her topic so suddenly.
Lynn : What’s her name ?
Jeff : What ?
Lynn : The girl you were talking to….she likes you..… haha..
Jeff : who ? Xuehua…… haha… no way….
Lynn smiled as she sipped her coffee.
Lynn : Trust me…. I’m the doctor….
Jeff : well…. Trust me…. She has a wall around her…. Turns everyone down… I don’t stand a chance….
Lynn smiled and I could see her looking at Xuehua.
Lynn : well…. She has good reason to… she’s hot… can’t imagine the amount of preposition she is getting….
Jeff : well… I like her too but….you know… people like us… we…
Lynn put down her utensils and she stood up.
Jeff : Lynn… hey.. hey… HEY !.. Lynn !!
I watched in horror as Lynn walked towards Xuehua.
Jeff : oh fuck…
I stood up immediately and was about to head over when I saw Xuehua look at me as Lynn spoke with her.
My eyes widened as I saw Xuehua laughed.
I froze. I looked around the café.
Every table that has a member of the male species is looking at the same direction as I am.
The direction where 2 hot girls are talking to each other.
Every few seconds, Xuehua would smile or laugh as she looked at me.
This was punctuated by Lynn turning over to look at me with her arms folded with a cheeky look in her eyes.
My heart was beating really fast. She better don’t make things awkward.
It’s going to be embarrassing if she says something stupid.
The seconds seemed to crawl as I looked on.
The girls look so good together. Lynn in her corporate looking attire while Xuehua is dressed casually in cheap chic clothing.
Even Eddy is looking at Lynn, grinning at the pretty doctor.
Then I saw Xuehua cast me another look before she nodded. I could see from her lips she said ok.
She said ok to something.
I walked over immediately, embarrassed that Lynn had to do something like this.
I heard Lynn talk to Eddy in a casual manner, like a old friend sending a greeting.
Lynn : Eddy…. Cholesterol medicine got take or not ?? …
Eddy : have… have… still have…
She pointed a finger at him and narrowed her eyes in a playful manner that is guaranteed to melt the heart of any man. Paired with a pout and a hand on her waist, Eddy even dropped his knife, smiling in a silly manner at Lynn.
Lynn : Must finish ok ??
Eddy : ok… ok… confirm….ok.. hahaha…
Before I could say anything, Xuehua smiled at me and turned away.
I whispered sharply at Lynn, asking her what did she do.
Jeff : what did you do !!! what did you say to her !!! don’t fucking embarrass me !!... what did you girls talk about !!??
Lynn raised an eyebrow at me as she took her seat.
She crossed her legs and sipped her coffee.
Jeff : Lynn !....what did you talk about !!!
Lynn : Are you going to finish your antibiotics ? …
I nodded my head.
Jeff : Yes.. yes…
Lynn : I want you at my clinic in 5 days to remove the stitches….
Jeff : Yes… yes… anything…
Lynn : hahahah…
I could see she was taking pleasure in toying with me.
She patted her chest as she swallowed her coffee.
Lynn gave me a playful smile with a twinkle in her eye.
Lynn : I invited her to my wedding…..
Jeff : what !
Lynn : I told her you needed a date….
Jeff : what !! why !
I could feel my face flush red as I turned to look at Xuehua. She was digging inside her bag for something. I looked at her come over and my heart beat faster. It was literally slamming against my ribcage.
Lynn : Alright… thanks for the lunch…. Finish your mediation… haha..
Lynn stood up and smiled at Xuehua before making way for her at her seat.
I swallowed a gulp of saliva as Lynn walked away, waving her hand in the air without turning back to look at me. Xuehua sat down, she pushed the dirty dishes aside and just looked at me.
I did not move.
I think all eyes in the café were looking at me.
A good 10 seconds must have passed as we just looked at each other.
Finally Xuehua shook her head as a smile slowly break out on her face.
Xuehua : You’re really like what she said….. a little boy at heart… don’t know how to make the first move… hahaha….
Jeff : what ? …
Xuehua whipped out her phone and dangled it in front of me.
Xuehua : Are you going to ask me for my number ? …. Or I have to ask you for yours?? .. hahah…
I fumbled for my phone and gave Xuehua my number.
She gave me a miss call and she looked at me coyly with her beautiful eyes.
I could not contain my curiosity anymore.
Jeff : What… what did Lynn say to you ?? ….
Xuehua : She asked me not to tell you… hahaha…
She left my table and I found myself smiling in a silly manner as I got up and walked slowly out of the café.
I feel like I’m floating on a cloud.
It’s like I’m high on something.
I could feel this tingling feeling of butterflies in my stomach.
Wow. I’m going on a fucking date with Xuehua. This is better than striking the lottery.
This had to be the best news I’ve received in a long time.
Well, if this works out, I owe Lynn a big favour.
I entered the lift and did not realise it was headed down. It’s ok. I’m not in a rush for time.
When the lift door opened in the basement level, I saw her walk in.
It a he, no, it’s a she. Fuck I can’t decide.
She’s a transgender.
With shoulders as broad as mine and about the same height as me, I could see her entering the lift and taking thein front of me closer to the lift entrance.
Through the reflection I could see her features clearer. The unmistakable features of a man. She has full makeup on, and even a boob job. She avoided my eyes, choosing to concentrate on the stack of documents she was holding.
As the lift headed up, it chimed opened on the 3rd floor.
I saw Lynn at the entrance.
She had one hand inside the pocket of her white coat while the other was holding her phone. She was looking and scrolling through her messages.
The girl, or the chap beside me saw Lynn and I could see the change in body language. She tensed up immediately, backed a few steps away until her back touched the back of the lift.
Lynn looked up and saw me but her attention went to the woman beside me.
In a trembling voice, I heard the transgender woman greet Lynn.
“ Hi…..Hi …… Dr…. Lynn…. “
Lynn barely acknowledged her greeting, choosing to give a toneless murmur.
Lynn : hmmm…
Lynn stood in front of the both of us as the lift went up to the 5th floor.
The woman kept her head down and scurried out of the lift as if she could not wait to get away from Lynn.
Subconsciously, my hand went to the front of my body. I crisscrossed my wrist as if I’m a footballer waiting for a freekick and I needed to protect my nuts.
As the lift door closed, Lynn spoke without turning back.
Lynn : You know Linda ? From Finance….
Jeff : err…. No…
Lynn : He used to be called Lionel….
Jeff : I… I see….
When the lift chimed 6, Lynn stepped out. She turned and looked at me, before she can speak, I immediately said what she wanted to hear.
Jeff : I’ll finish the antibiotics.. ! … and I’ll remember our appointment…
Lynn : good…
I found myself holding my breath in until the lift door close before I exhaled.
Jeff : Bloody hell….
I stepped out on the 8th floor and walked towards my office.
I’m looking forward to the wedding and my date with Xuehua.
Now I’m keen to meet the groom too.
I wonder what kind of maniac would marry a woman like her
Do you remember that kind of feeling you have when you first get the number of a girl you like ?
That fluttering feeling in your stomach that made it impossible for you to decide whether to stand or sit. I got back into the office and I just stared at my phone.
I stared at the number on the screen.
There must be some guide to this, some online guide, perhaps in some dating forum or something. How long must I wait before I make the 1st call or text ?
I tried to google for it and all the answers are different.
Should I even send Xuehua a text considering that she is just downstairs ?
It’s lunch time, she’s going to be busy, would she be irritated that I’m texting her ? I barely got her number a few minutes ago, I might come across as someone being too needy and clingy, that’s the last thing I want her to think about me.
I paced about my office and thought about what to do.
The excitement building up inside me is intense.
I could see Billy looking at me from outside through the glass window, he probably thinks I’m crazy.
Courage is something I’m not short of but I find myself hesitating. I’ve always been a go getter, if I want a girl, I will get her but I don’t know why Xuehua makes me feel nervous.
I’ve never had difficulties getting into the pants of my previous partners before but this is different. I’m not just interested in sleeping with Xuehua, I could feel my heart leaning towards a relationship. Something stable.
Something that perhaps would pull me out and away from the industry I’m in.
I don’t know her well to be honest but there is something I can’t really put my finger to that draws me to her. It’s like I’m a wandering moth in the dark, and Xuehua is that beacon of flame dancing brightly in front of me.
I want to protect her, to make her happy at my own expense if necessary.
I shook my head and laughed to myself, this series of thoughts is really messing up my head.
I really like her, I want to build something together with her, perhaps a relationship.
A relationship would make me quit for good in a way.
I stared at my phone and composed a message but I deleted it halfway.
Then I repeated it again, then I deleted it again. The office phone in my room rang.
I looked out the window and I saw Billy gesturing to the phone.
Jeff : Hello ? what ?
Billy : You ok ? … is there a new project ?
Jeff : no…
I hung up on Billy and I could see he was more curious than ever as to what I am up to.
I grabbed my knife out of the bag and started to work on my footwork and thrusting, grunting and slashing at the air in my office.
Jeff : whuuuarrr !!! Hiakk!!! Whuarrrr!!!!ARGHHH… Hiakk hiakk… WHuuuarr !!! arghhh!!
Billy shook his head and got up from his seat with the help of a walking stick. I saw him exit the office and I kept my knife.
I’m behaving like a mad man.
Finally I decided to man up and send Xuehua the 1st text. The man must make the first move, if not nothing will happen.
I text Xuehua, asking when the drawing she is doing of me will be ready.
After hitting sent, I literally held my breath.
That agonising feeling, that wait.
I must have held my breath for more than a minute as I stared at the phone. I brought it closer to the window to make sure there is reception for my network. I even changed position within the office to make sure the indicator bar for the network remains full.
Jeff : fuck…. This has to be one of the most loser thing I’ve done…. Staring at the fucking phone…
My phone rang and I almost dropped it. I checked the caller ID and it’s not Xuehua. It’s the company.
Jeff : Hello ?
Belinda’s voice came up.
Belinda : Hi.. it’s me…
Jeff : what do you want…?
Belinda : Dr Lynn asked me to try my luck with you today… she says you are in a good mood… maybe you would say yes….
Jeff : what ? … no… NO! … I’m saying no…
I hung up on Belinda and quickly checked my phone to make sure I did not miss out on any messenges.
The phone rang again.
Jeff : What ?!
Belinda : Gwen…. Her belongings…
The mere mention of her name struck a raw nerve. I could feel the anxiety within me calm down.
Belinda : just… want to ask if you want her drawing pad …
I remained quiet for a long time.
Why would I want it ? Why would I want something to remind me of something so sad ?
Belinda did not rush me. She waited silently on the other end of the phone.
In the end I told her yes.
Jeff : ok…. Send it to me…
Belinda told me she will swing by in 30 minutes.
I sighed and put my phone down. The disappointment of my recent failure stirred up my emotions again. I know I’m slowly moving past it, but I’m human after all.
30 minutes later, Belinda dropped me a text that she is at the lobby.
I went down and she was there with shades on dressed in the same jeans and t-shirt setup.
She handed me the drawing pad.
Belinda : There are some drawings… dated the day she…
She stopped herself from finishing the sentence and just turned and left.
The drawing pad felt heavy in my hands. Belinda hopped onto a waiting car and it disappeared around the corner.
I hesitated for a few seconds before I walked out of the office tower. I strolled casually to a café at the next street. I ordered a coffee and chose a seat by the glass window.
I smiled as I looked at the cartoon characters Gwen scribbled on the cover.
The first few pages were random drawings and sketches. I got to the page when the 3 men grabbed her sister.
It did not stir up the same emotions as before. I touched the Sun Wu Kong I drew and I smiled at that silly act of mine. Part of me is glad this is all over. The drawing pad will probably be something I will file away in my storage, maybe it will form part of the memories & stories when I head into retirement.
I was about to flip the next page when my coffee is served. I caught a glimpse of the next 3 pages as I did a quick flip with my thumb.
The next 3 pages were all dated on the day she passed on. Something she drew.
My fingers hesitated, unsure if I was ready to see the rest of the drawings.
I decided not to. I’m not sure if I’m afraid of what I will see, or I just don’t want to go down the slippery road of sinking back into the cycle of blaming myself. I closed the drawing pad and exhaled, clasping my fingers together as I stared blankly into the road.
The work I do is mentally exhausting.
I must have spent at least 45 minutes in the café staring at the cover of Gwen’s drawing pad and the road. I did not even touch my coffee. It’s one of those times when I really let my thoughts drift.
I thought about my retirement, how would it be like. Most likely it would be another country, a different climate. Maybe pick up a new language, expose myself to a new culture. I’ve always like Korea.
Maybe I could move to one of the smaller cities over there.
There was the chime of a bell to indicate a new customer had entered the café.
The place is literally empty on that weekday afternoon.
I did not have to wait long to know who is the new customer as she pulled out the seat beside me and sat down.
Looking up, I saw Xuehua. She was holding her own drawing pad. She pushed aside my cold coffee and she showed me something.
I could not believe what I was seeing.
It’s a reflection of myself, sitting in the café, staring at the road.
The amount of detail in that quick sketch in pencil is amazing. My solemn expression, fingers clasped, deep in thought. I looked at the drawing for at least 30 seconds before I looked up at Xuehua.
Jeff : Wow…. This is….wow….
Xuehua : thank you for the compliment…. Haha…
She told me she saw me at the lobby initially, she was about to head over when she saw me heading across the road.
Xuehua : I saw you deep in thought and I didn’t want to disturb you…. So I went back , got my drawing pad…. And…. Tada !!! …
I laughed as Xuehua took the pad and started to sketch in more details to the road and café exterior.
Xuehua : it’s not done yet…. I still need to work on the shadows… the depth…. And you are welcome….. although I have yet to hear a thank you…
Jeff : Well.. this… this is stalking on a whole new level man…
Xuehua : hahahah ..
Jeff : and… thank you… this… this is amazing….
Xuehua : I humbly accept your compliment…. Hahaha….
I asked her did she do the drawing because I dropped her a text message about it.
Xuehua : haha… no, of course not…. I already said it will be random… impromptu….i saw a moment I think is nice….. and I decided to capture it….
Jeff : a photo would do the trick as well…
Xuehua : nahhh… not as sincere… haha..
I watched her cross her legs and dangled a flip flop off her toe as she added more details to the drawing.
I was staring at her and she did not seem to mind.
There is something sexy about looking at an individual when he or she is concentrating on the task at hand. If drawing is Xuehua’s talent, I dare say I would happily watch her do it all day.
Jeff : Can I get you a coffee ?
Xuehua : sure…. Hot Latte please….
I made the order and went back to her side.
Jeff : How long have you been drawing ?
Xuehua : Not long… a few years I guess… haha…. How long have you been at your present company ??
Jeff: Oh… ermm… very long…. Like… immediately after…graduation in a way…
Xuehua : wow… nice… not many people stay that long n their jobs these days…
The 1st latte became 2, and the 3rd one followed. Before I knew it, Xuehua and I had spent almost 3 hours talking. She did most of the talking by the way. She can go on and on but in an engaging and animated way.
There was never a dull part or an awkward moment. You know sometimes you can be talking about something totally random and both of you started nodding vigorously at each other with your eyes widened and realised that you have the same perspectives to the same issue, it happened so many times that I found it hard to believe myself.
The time with Xuehua just flew past and before I knew it, the sun is setting and the street lamps came on.
However, neither of us showed any signs of wanting to leave the café.
Xuehua : You work must be quite flexible eh…. Seeing that you can sit here the whole afternoon… hahaha
Jeff : Yours too …. I bet many customers are looking for you at the café…. Haha
Xuehua rolled her eyes and sipped her 4th latte.
Right about that moment, her phone rang. I notice it vibrating a few times on the table when we were chatting but it was faced down, I can’t make out who is the one looking for her.
That phone call though, made her flipped her phone over.
The moment it came face up, my eyes caught sight of something.
The long hair, that face of the man at the staircase. The stalker outside Xuehua’s place.
Xuehua spent a couple of seconds looking at the picture of the man calling. I saw that the name on the screen is Aaron. I immediately took in the details of that display picture. He’s sitting in a car with the brand of it prominently displayed by it’s logo.
A Maserati. On his hand sat an expensive watch, probably 50k give and take.
Xuehua muted the phone and turned it over.
Jeff : Not going to answer that ?
Xuehua : Nah…
Jeff : Not your boyfriend I hope ?
Xuehua : hahaha…. Nope… just a classmate of mine…. Who is interested in me…
Jeff : Wow…. He’s driving a nice car… how about you…. Are you interested in him ?
Xuehua laughed and commented on my sharp eyesight expertly avoiding my question entirely.
She opened up her drawing pad and started to add some details onto the sketch she did of me.
Xuehua : What about you ? Are you interested in me ? hahhaha
Jeff : that’s a really direct question but I’m sure you know I am… hahah
Xuehua laughed .
Xuehua : yeah…. Most men are… hahaha… but end of the day, they all want the same thing….
Jeff : Your attention ??
Xuehua : hahahahhahaha….
She laughed out loud as she pushed the side of my cheek with her pencil to look at my jawline, then she went back to darken some lines on the sketch.
Xuehua : oh please Jeff….hahah… I’m an adult too ok… hahah…we both know what it means when men look at you on the surface and say they like you….. they just want to fuck… to procreate….to own you….
She stuck out her tongue in a playful manner before going back to her drawing.
Jeff: well… that tongue stud do give people ideas…
Xuehua laughed again, before jabbing me with the back of her pencil. I saw it coming and I immediately grabbed it, stopping it when it was barely millimetres away from my chest and immediately regretting it.
I can’t help it. It’s muscle memory.
I was worried for a moment she would comment about my agility but she screamed and hit me with her fist on my arm instead.
Xuehua : sick !!!... you all guys… all the same… why can’t we girls express ourselves without being objectified .!! hahah
Jeff : I’m just kidding la… haha
The phone rang again and it’s Aaron.
Xuehua took another look and I could see her contemplating whether to answer his call.
Jeff : He must be really interested in you…. Did you choose that display picture??
Xuehua : No!!.. hahah.. he insisted I use that one…. My god… hahah…
Jeff : what picture did you use for mine ??
Xuehua laughed and raised her phone to take a picture of me but I blocked her.
Jeff: No la… not today… at least wait till I’m dressed up and all…
Xuehua : no need la… stop blocking me… hahah ..
In the end, she managed to take a picture of my dull looking face with a rather grumpy look.
Xuehua : ok.. ok… use this one… ahhaa…
I decided to take a leap and ask Xuehua what kind of men she likes, seeing that she has been rejecting so many advances.
Jeff : What kind of men do you like ?
Xuehua : I kind of hate them all….hahah
Jeff : Please tell me you are not a lesbian…
Xuehua laughed and shook her head.
Xuehua : nope… haha… the thing is…
I saw her go quiet for a bit and there was a subtle change in her expression before it goes back to normal.
Xuehua : I just don’t want to be hurt anymore….so I rather not get into anything… haha…
I nodded and looked down but Xuehua used her pencil to turn my cheek again, commenting on the plaster on my neck.
Xuehua : What happened ?
Jeff : Accident…
She continued to look at me and work on her sketch, kicking off the 1st stretch of silence even since she sat down beside me.
The more I look at her, the more infatuated I am. Her beauty, her grace, everything about her feels like the one to me.
Xuehua : What about you Jeff…. What kind of girls do you like ?
She did not break her sketching stride, she continued her drawing as she spoke without looking up at me.
Jeff : Someone who can draw….?..
Xuehua : haha … bloo
The laugh burst out as she tried to stifle it, causing her to spray a short burst of saliva onto the pad and my arm…
Jeff : and preferably….don’t spit saliva…
Xuehua laughed but did not look up at me.
Even the side profile of her when she laughs is so alluring. That radiant smile really just lit up her whole face.
Jeff : my perfect girl….. would be someone who understands that I need my own space sometimes….someone who loves me for who I am….someone who… hmm… I love and yet afraid of at the same time….
Xuehua : hahah.. go on..
Jeff : she must be independent…. Hmmm.. have her own views….has a sense of adventure….
Xuehua : Aiyoh…. Go marry your right hand la… haha
Jeff : I’m not done yet… she has to be ermmm…humourous….can talk better than me…. And ermm..
Xuehua : ok… ok stop… hahah….
Xuehua closed her drawing pad and she orientated her body to face me.
Xuehua : Lynn says….you would make a good boyfriend…. Hahah
Jeff : really… she said that?... what else ??
I made a mental note to send Lynn a bouquet of flowers to her office the next day.
Xuehua : hahaha… she says… you’re someone who will take care of the people around you…
Jeff : what else…
Xuehua : that’s all I’m sharing with you… hahah…
I was about to continue the conversation when my eyes caught a glimpse of a figure across the road.
He is standing squarely in front, staring at Xuehua and me.
I looked over and I could see Xuehua looking across as well.
Xuehua seemed a little shock to see him and I could catch a glimpse of irritation on her expression.
Xuehua : haizz… alright… I got to go… see you at the café…
Jeff : everything ok ??
Xuehua : yeah.. yeah.. it’s fine… just a clingly friend… hahah
I got up and as I did, I saw Aaron crossing the road.
I exit the café and our eyes met.
There was no hiding that air of hostility as our bodies passed each other. I could not fucking believe how childish he is when he deliberately bumped into my shoulder as he walked passed me.
What the fuck.
I turned and our eyes met and I saw Xuehua coming out of the café.
She has this irritated and exasperated look on her face as she called out her friend’s name.
Xuehua : Aaron !! …
She immediately apologised on behalf of her friend and literally dragged him inside the café.
Good. I like that.
Dumb enough to piss off the same girl we are both interested in.
I gave Xuehua a smile and a parting wave.
I went to the gym before going on a 10km run. I’ve slacked off long enough the past couple of weeks.
It’s time to get things back into routine.
At 11pm that evening, I saw a text from Xuehua. She apologised for Aaron’s behaviour again.
I told her it’s ok and we ended the short conversation with a smiley face each.
10th July 2013
Strange enough though, Xuehua did not show up at the stall for more than a week.
I text her in the middle of the week and she told me she’s not feeling well and I left it at that.
Her reply did not seem like she was interested in an extended conversation.
I noticed Aaron at the café almost on a daily basis. He eyeballed me each time he saw me.
I made sure I visited Lynn during my appointment and my wound is healing nicely, it will leave a scar but not a bad one.
It’s a couple of days before Lynn’s wedding and I was feeling a little nervous.
I haven seen Xuehua for a while and I wanted to know if our so call date is still on. I’m kind of looking forward to attending the wedding with her.
I decided to call her and I heaved a sigh of relief when she did answer my phone. It’s all set and all I needed to do was to wait for the big day to arrive.
Xuehua even gave me her address to pick her up.
13th July 2013
I put on a suit. A fucking suit.
One I had not worn in years but it still fit like a glove.
I want to impress Xuehua yes but the last thing I want is to piss Lynn off with bad dressing. She text me 2 days before to tell me it’s a black tie event.
The exact words are ‘ wear a fucking suit or I will kill you ’
A fucking suit it is.
I drove and waited under Xuehua’s block. My eyes eagerly scanning the estate for any sign of her approaching.
Jeff : oh fuck me…
When I saw Xuehua emerge from the lift lobby, I was literally blown away.
She looked amazing.
Paired with a radiant smile, Xuehua put her left foot forward first as she walked towards my car having waved at me prior after registering my car plate number.
She has on a white silk gown that clings onto her body. The curves that greeted my eyes looked like it can only be sculpted by a master craftsman.
The split along her legs revealed a pair of legs so heavenly that I had an erection just looking at them.
Honestly the dress doesn’t look like it has much design. It’s simple, with a modest plunge at the breast but Xuehua looked amazing in it.
The simple clutch bag in her hands is intricately adorned with beadings of a white peacock set in a shimmering sea of gold.
The light makeup she has on brought out the best of her features and her naturally long eyelashes curled up seductively that I found myself too afraid to look at her in her eyes.
When she opened the door, I felt as if someone had hit the slow motion button.
The dress she was wearing bared her entire back with except of a ribbon like strap running horizontally across where her bra strap should be.
Xuehua sat down first before simultaneously swinging both her legs into the car.
Only the slam of the door snapped me from my daydream.
Xuehua adjusted her pearl earrings and smiled at me.
Xuehua : why ? never see pretty girl before is it ?
Jeff : hahaha. Wow…. i… I don’t know what to say…. You… you look amazing…
Xuehua : hahaha.. thank you… turn up the aircon please… before my makeup melts in this fucking heat… hahaha..
I laughed and we started the 30 minutes drive to Lynn’s wedding venue.
We arrived at a large villa set in the perimeter of Botanic garden.
There was first a long stretch of forested area before the road gave way to flowers and signage directing us to the wedding venue.
Xuehua was singing and humming to the melody of a song on the radio.
It’s been a while since I went to a wedding reception. I don’t have much friends who send me wedding invites anyway, the ones I get are the few I keep in contact with while gaining experience in various industries after my training.
The manicured lawn and driveways are flanked with pink roses. I could see staff attending to every detail.
Xuehua : I always knew Lynn is rich…. But not to this extend…
I jerk my head to the left and looked at Xuehua in surprise as she resumed her humming of the melody.
Jeff : You know Lynn ? … from before ?
Xuehua : would I have accepted an abrupt invitation from a total stranger otherwise ?? haha.
Xuehua revealed that she and Lynn knew each other by face on med school.
Xuehua : She’s like royalty, and she’s hot…. Everybody knows her…. I’ve seen her a few times on campus….
I almost blurted out and asked why she did not complete her course but I held back my tongue and she readily offered the information.
Xuehua : I stopped when I’m just a couple of semester away…. Lost interest in it. Hahaha…
Jeff : What the fuck… you are weird… why would you stop when you are so close to becoming a doctor… ??
Xuehua : because I realised I like drawing more… hahaha…
I saw the gloved hand of a usher directing me to the carpark. A valet approached me and got out.
When I opened the door for Xuehua, all eyes within the vicinity were on me as she stepped out into the humid afternoon.
Male staff stopped what they were doing just to steal a glance at Xuehua. She got out and adjusted her dress, pulling the fabric at her shoulder to straighten some bits.
Xuehua : stop staring at my breast … I’m not wearing bra… hahah..
I looked away immediately and I felt as if I struck the lottery as Xuehua linked arms with me.
Xuehua : alright…. First time attending wedding like this….let’s go…
I stepped away from the driveway to enter a large marquee tent. That tent is enclosed on all sides and the cool air from the air conditioner immediately offered relieve from the heat. The hair on the back of my neck immediately stood on it’s end when I took in what was waiting for us.
My heartrate increased. I was immediately alert.
It’s like a checkpoint of sorts.
Right up ahead are 3 sets of scanners with it’se own security team. They are all armed. These are not your average hired joes from security company, they are all military.
The unsettling feeling in my stomach grew slowly as I looked to my right.
Owen is on his phone, he gave me a nod and turn away, putting his hand to his mouth as he continued talking. His men were trying to argue with one of the officer in the room.
Barely 5 seconds later, I saw Owen’s men checking in their side arms to the lockers provided, completed with armed guards.
To the left I saw more men with earpiece staring at each and every guest.
Xuehua : Wow…. This is really like wedding for royalties.
We showed our invitation and our names were crossed checked against a list before we stepped through the scanners. I crossed without a hitch but Xuehua set off the alarm.
As if she did not have enough eyes on her body already, she drew more attention as she gave a wide eye ‘ I have no idea what is happening’ kind of look.
A female staff came forward with a hand held scanner. It’s a different type from the ones we usually see at the airport and clubs.
As the scanner ran along her body, half the men wished they were the scanner, the other half wished they were the female staff that is about to pat Xuehua down.
The scanner ran smoothly and started to beep when it stopped near Xuehua’s mouth.
Female : open you mouth please…
Xuehua laughed and when she stuck out her tongue to reveal her tongue stud, I think the soldier next to me wet himself.
Xuehua : your scanner very powerful…. Hahaa..
The female staff waved Xuehua through and I handed her the purse that passed through the scanner.
When our arms linked again, I saw the soldier by the exit looking at me with a smile.
He nodded at me as if acknowledging my accomplishment in getting a girl like Xuehua, although I’m pretty sure if he spoke, it would be ‘ you lucky bastard ’
Jeff : why the tongue stud ?
Xuehua : Do you lack imagination Jeff ? hahaha. Men go on their knees in front of me…
Jeff : hahaha..
We stepped out into a bigger tent that looked like it came from the set of a movie.
Jeff : woah….
It’s about the size of a large ballroom. The ceiling tapered down to the sizes, joining the edgeless rim of the circular structure. Soft, silk like fabric danced lazily in the climate controlled interior.
I could see a table set up complete with the necessary decorations for a signing ceremony. The chairs were already set up for the guest.
At the sides of the structure, the buffet spread is already up and there are servers waiting every 10 steps away.
Someone approached and offered us Champange.
Xuehua took 2 flutes and offered me 1.
Xuehua : Wah…. Good stuff leh…hahaha
She edged me with her elbow as we touched the glasses and took a sip.
My eyes looked beyond the fanvy interior and setup and towards the large lawn the structure sat on.
More armed guards are stationed outside. They are all armed with automatic weapons. Some fucking big shot must be a guest.
Xuehua : come… let’s go to the photobooth !
As I posed with for the shots, I noticed a commotion at the entrance.
Men in tuxedoes went forward to shake the hands of the newly arrived guest.
Xuehua : woah…. That’s the Sultan and Crown Prince of Johore …..
I looked at the men smiling for the cameras and I felt a little uneasy.
Lynn : JEFF !!!! yo yo yo !!
I turned to see Lynn in a beautiful pale yellow dress that ended just above her knees. She was walking around in sneakers, looking casual and radiantly beautiful.
There was none of that pre wedding stress as she joined us in the photo booth.
She looked hot, her plunging neckline revealed almost half of her full breast and I could see the glitters of her makeup dancing about near her cleavage.
Lynn : Hi Xuehua !... glad you could make it…
The girls hugged and when they posed for the camera, the amount of flashing lights in the room went up a notch. It’s as if celebrities had just arrived for the Oscars.
I felt my muscles tightened when I saw a group of men walking towards my direction.
Our eyes met immediately and within that split second, I knew who is the groom.
The colonel mad enough to marry Lynn.
Behind him were a couple more of his men I assumed were his staff and bestmen rolled into 1. One of them is huge, built like a mountain almost 2m tall.
The eye contact I made with all 4 of them felt longer than necessary.
These are not the eyes of your regular career soldiers.
I know those eyes.
They are the same as mine.
These men are killers. These men are like me.
Their pace slowed as they got closer.
I orientated my body to face the groom. We are about the same height. He’s slightly beefier than my build.
The distance he stopped is not random, it’s perfectly calculated.
Too close you appear hostile, too far, you’ll appear unfriendly.
He stopped exactly where I would, within striking distance. His men stood further again, giving him the necessary room to back up should there be a need to.
From the corner of my eye I could see Lynn scurrying over to us.
It’s as if she could smell trouble brewing.
Without breaking stride, Lynn put both her hands around our shoulders and pulled us closer for a picture.
Lynn : photo…. PHOTO !!!.. come !!!.. where is the photographer !!!
The lights flashed and Lynn was mumbling while trying to keep up a smile.
Lynn : come come… I’ll introduce you all ok….. this is my husband to be….. James…. And….
Letting go of her arms around me, Lynn introduced me to her husband.
Lynn : This is Jeff… 1 of my very first ermm.. patient… when I started practising….i fix him up many many times… hahaha…
The awkward laugh did not ease the tension in the air.
There is no ego at play, nothing personal.
Just the threat a predator feels from another. The feeling is mutual.
James looked at me and I could see him looking at the scar at my neck.
James : what happened to your neck ?
I answered without breaking a beat.
Jeff : Sharp furniture…. Lousy contractors…
James : I see…
I gestured to his men behind him with a tilt of my chin.
Jeff : your…brothers…. They carry guns for the gate crash this morning??
James turned and one of them suddenly realised his side arm is showing and he buttoned up his coat.
James : yes… it’s fake…. Just for the games…
Jeff : I see…
Lynn’s arms were folded by then and I could see she was starting to get pissed.
Lynn : alright…alright… stop…. James… your boss is here… please… go… ask for red packet…. Jeff….. Xuehua is going to get picked up by that developer’s son if you are still going be here..
Lynn cut in between of us and walked away.
From the corner of my eye, I saw the Prime minister of the country enter the reception area.
James : Nice to meet you Jeff…
Jeff : Nice to meet you too James…
We shook hands.
James : Have i…… seen you before somewhere….
Jeff : I doubt it…. I have that common face look…. You must have mistaken me for someone else….
I added a smile for reassurance, but I knew he could tell it was fake.
James : well…. It is lovely meeting you … perhaps…. One day… we might meet… on a more professional setting… ?
Jeff : I doubt our paths will cross…. My work is boring…. You know… offices… meetings…boring stuff….nothing as exciting at the military…
James : I hope our paths don’t crossed too.
I stepped away after the groom and his men went towards the other politicians that are arriving for their wedding reception.
Now I understand why the need for this level of security.
With so many political big shot arriving, I’m surprised they did not park a tank at the entrance.
Walking over to Xuehua, I heard her excuse herself from the man talking to her.
Xuehua : I’m sorry, my boyfriend is here…. I’ll hold on to this…
She waved his name card at him as I exchanged a pleasant smile with that good looking gentlemen.
My heart skipped another beat as she linked arms with me, guiding me away to a corner of the reception.
Jeff : So is it official now ? … like as in I’m your boyfriend … just like that ??
Xuehua : hahah… you wished… I just want to get away from him….
She waved the name card she was holding in front of me.
Xuehua : Developer’s son leh…. Staying in Sentosa cove…
Jeff : wow…then what are you waiting for ??
Xuehua : nah…. Not my cup of tea…. I’m into the simple life…haha
I immediately beamed her a wide smile and added my life is pretty simple.
Jeff : I go to work and I go back home… simple life..
Xuehua : Simple Jeff…. Not boring… hahah..
Jeff : I don’t understand women…
Xuehua : perhaps you never will …. Hhaha…
Xuehua picked out some food and we shared them at the corner, choosing to stay away from where the action is. There are people lining up for photos with the politicians.
Looking at Xuehua eat really brings about an appetite. She had no qualms about sharing her food, taking a bite of a scallop before nodding her head earnestly and shoving it towards my mouth.
Xuehua : Wah… this 1 good.. good.. must try…
Jeff : Ok. Ok…
This happened with everything. Spring rolls, fancy canapes, smoked salmon, ham, basically anything she can get her hands on, she will take a bite, and pass the rest to me.
I think I was a bit slow to realise but it seemed like I’m the dustbin as she dumped all the food she no longer want to me.
Jeff : Eh… wait… wait… why does it feel like I’m cleaning up after you ah…
Xuehua laughed as she commented how slow I am to realise that.
Xuehua : You slow la.. haha … I kinda have to watch my diet you know… to maintain my figure… it’s a girl thing…
Jeff : but you run everyday right…
She just smiled and waved to a server for more champagne. I looked over the general direction and I saw Owen talking to the Prime minister and it looked like he was trying to say something but the minister is not interested.
Something feels off.
I watched as the prime minister walked away before turning back and talk to Owen again in hushed voice, as if they were trading secrets at a venue not meant for discussion of this nature.
I took another flute of champagne from Xuehua as I continued to observe Owen. After what seemed like another 2 minutes of talking, Owen literally turned and walked away from the prime minister.
It’s like he was pissed with something.
I turned my attention back to Xuehua who was looking at Lynn.
Jeff : Do you ever think about your big day ?.. how would it be like ?
Xuehua : hahah.. definitely nothing like this… maybe just me and my groom… I like privacy…
Jeff : Really…. Me too !..
She gave me a naughty look before rolling her eyes and laughing.
I said nothing and just looked at her.
Xuehua caught my gaze and she returned it, looking at me without a word.
Jeff : I really don’t know why…. why I’m so lucky … to be able to come here with you…
Xuehua : hahaha… really ? …. Honestly… I’m kind of at a lost why I agreed to it as well…
Jeff : Do you… like… you know… like me… as an acquaintance ? … I know im boring…
Xuehua : hahah… I don’t dislike you… is that an answer…? What about you… ? beyond the superficial beauty of my exterior… what else do you see ?
I hesitated for a while before I answered.
Jeff : I feel like…. You are putting on a front… like a mask… I don’t know… to protect yourself from unwanted attention…
Xuehua : hahaha.. go on…
Jeff : You are happy, cheerful on the outside… but I don’t know why… I could detect a hint of sorrow… buried away somewhere…just a guess…
Xuehua pursed her lips for a brief second before asking me to go on.
Xuehua: alright… what else… ?
Jeff : You are afraid of commitment…. Why ?
Xuehua smiled but said nothing.
It was mainly an educated guess but I think I got quite a bit right.
The cheerful people are usually the ones with the most to hide.
Jeff : Bad childhood ?...
She nodded slowly without looking up.
Jeff : Me too…
Xuehua : How so… ?
Jeff : I’ll tell you over dinner ?
Xuehua : Hahahahah… wah.. you are good man… hahaha…
I saw Billy arriving with his laptop and was showed to a corner of the tent where the AV system are set up.
Lynn went over to him and I could see ushers getting the guest to head to their seats.
A server came over and gestured to us to head over as the ceremony will start soon.
I gave Billy a wave when our eyes met.
I settled into a corner with Xuehua, there’s a lot of guest and we are definitely not the front row deserving type of guests, but it’s ok.
3 large project screen showed a clear and close up view of the wedding ceremony.
The justice of peace arrived and I could see Lynn smiling and bouncing a little at her corner of the table.
I saw James come into view. The hostility in his eyes were gone. He looked nervous, almost comical.
The host took the mic and said some customery stuff before asking the couple to exchange their wedding vows.
I almost smiled at James rubbing his palms on his pants if I was not reminded of the eyes he had when we spoke.
Xuehua had her legs crossed, her right leg above her leg dangled so close to me that her heel is almost stroking my calves. She stared intently at the screen.
I wonder what is going through her mind, surely everyone have imagined such a day, such a ceremony before in their head when they are single.
Lynn took the mic first as she stood in front of James.
She looked even better on screen. The hall grew quiet and only the faint melody of jazz music played in the background.
They way the couple look at each other, anyone could tell they are deeply in love.
Lynn : ok… Baby….
Laughter broke out in the crowd.
Lynn laughed and commented that James literally pleaded with her not to call him that in public.
Lynn : Beside the …. Ermm.. usual…. For better for worse and what not…. I have something else I want to say…. Haha
Lynn paused and wiped a tear from her eyes as she tried to fend off the tap with a laugh as she turned to her bridesmaid who were giving her the thumbs up sign.
Lynn : you are…. The last person I thought I would end up with…. Hahaha….but…your sincerity…. Your corny jokes and your down to earth attitude…. They won me over… through and through….
Lynn paused and took a deep breath of air.
Lynn : You…. You are like this…. This… big .. tough guy on the outside… but I know… sobzz… you are the sweetest , gentlest man ever…. On the inside….sobzz… haha..
Someone offered Lynn a napkin but she rejected it, determined to get through this moment on her own.
Lynn : hahha.. that’s not exactly the things you want your… your subordinates to hear but … but I still want to say it…. Haha…
Sporadic laughes broke from the audience as everyone hung on to every word Lynn was saying.
Lynn cleared the throat and wiped away the tears that have rolled down her cheeks.
Lynn : I have had … my fair share of suitors…… obviously…
The laughter got louder.
Lynn : and… you being one of them…. Ranked the lowest initially…. Because you have no idea what you are doing !! .
Xuehua laughed and so did i.
James looked visibly embarrassed.
Lynn told the guests that James brought her to a nature hike on their first date.
Lynn : After 3 hours, … I’m sweaty,… I’m muddy…. I’m covered with mosquitoes bite, my bra is giving me an abrasion….haha… and …. And… there were a troupe of monkey jumping above our head….and James chose that spot to tell me…. That I’m beautiful….
Everyone laughed and I could see the Prime minister clapping a couple of times.
James covered his face and I saw the 2m giant behind him prod him in his back as he laughed.
Lynn sniffed and told the guests.
Lynn : That was one of the most miserable moment in my life…. And this… this man… told me how beautiful I look at that very moment… haha
Xuehua laughed, jerking her body forward and looking at me for a couple of seconds.
Lynn : I…sniffed…. I knew at that moment…. If a guy can tell me I look amazing when my hair was all frizzled with leaves in them, mud on my face, dirt on my arms, my waterproof makeup all gone in the humidity of the forest, not to forget I have a fucking pissed look on my face…… he’s either stupid… or he must really like me…
Shouts and cheers rang from the crowd as the applause got louder.
Lynn : I love you baby….. and I can live with your stupid…because I love you… so.. so much…
Lynn took another deep breath, fanning her face with a smile.
Lynn : I love you Baby,,,, I will stand by everything you do… I will be that woman behind your success…. I will be that pillar of strength when you need to make the toughest decision, I will always be there for you…. For better for worse, …. There will be no sickness… only good health, we will not be poor…. I’m a fucking doctor and my parents are rich…
Whoops rang out and Xuehua laughed again but this time round, she wiped away a stray tear.
I could see James trying hard to hold back his emotion. His fist were clenched. He was shaking. Something you won’t expect from a man like him.
I wonder if the day came for me to be in his position. Will I be trembling as well.
Lynn : I will be your wife…. From this day on,… till death do us part…. Sobzz..
Lynn finally count not hold back her emotions anymore and she broke down, so did Xuehua.
I motioned for a server who was 5 steps away and he was attentive enough to see Xuehua crying.
He handed a stack of napkins to me and I passed one to Xuehua.
Xuehua : thank you…
She wiped her tear as the host took over the microphone.
Host : ok… ok… calm down people…. The groom hasn’t had his turn yet.
The guest laughed and it was a few seconds before the mic was handed over to James.
James : I erm…. I didn’t prepare a speech…
The laughs that broke out from the audience we so loud and some of them were up on their feet, cheering for James. I laughed and I could see Lynn holding her bouquet of flowers with 1 hand, her head tilted sideways and glaring at James in the manner an angry wife would.
James : I erm…. I not good with words….so… erm… I’ll just .. speak my mind…ermm..
James licked his lips and I could see his mind was racing to come up with something. He better, if he wants to keep his balls. I wonder if Lynn told him the story about Lionel.
James : You are the kindest….and … ermm..smartest woman I know….and… and… I think I’m really lucky… to be able to have you as my wife….
James took a deep breath and looked down at his feet. What he said so far are the superficial stuff. This is the moment when the real stuff will be revealed.
You can just tell.
James : I’m not good at expressing my emotions and feelings… you know that… but I love you…. I love you more than I love myself…..not a day goes by… when I don’t have you in my mind…. I look forward to hearing your voice… seeing your smile… feeling your touch whenever we are apart….
Lynn looked like she was about to break down again.
James : I’m not… a romantic guy… I don’t know things like that but I know you do… that’s why I’m willing to learn….i will learn how to romance you with sweet nothings at night before you sleep….. I will learn to be a good husband to you…. A good father to our children… a good son to your parents….i will do anything for you…
Lynn’s bridesmaid handed a napkin to her as she dabbed away her tears.
James : My life… is always about being in control…. But…you came into my life and… haha.. and I just find myself losing control…
Lynn : hahaha…
James : People call me Sir….. you call me Baby…
Lynn shouted her reply much to the amusement of the crowd.
Lynn : You made me call you sir when you wear your uniforms in bed !!!
Xuehua laughed and wiped her tears at the same time.
James looked visibly shocked at that reply as Lynn laughed at him.
He licked his lips and composed himself before coming up with a equally witty reply.
James : That’s because you made me call you doctor first…
Guests : wooooooooooooooooo!!!! Hahahaha
Lynn put her hands on her hips and gave James a warning glare that ended with a smile.
James : I love you Lynn…. More than you will ever know… I will honour you…. Protect you… love you…. For better for worse…. In sickness and in health…. Death will not dare come for you….because I will be there to stop him.
Lynn laughed and made an attempt of throwing her flower at James.
James : I take you as my wife…this day henceforth., we will not part…. Not even in death….this life and the next… I will always love you…
Lynn dashed forward to hug James as the guests clapped for the newly wed.
Xuehua’s eyes are red. The napkin on her left hand is wet with her tears. She did not clap, choosing to nod and smile instead.
Her left hand is faced up holding the napkin.
I reached for the napkin,I wanted to help her throw it away, I gave a gentle 1st tug but she did not let go.
I don’t know what came into me. Perhaps I too was absorbed into the moment.
I let my hand go down, my palms compressing the wet napkin and my fingers touched Xuehua’s fingers.
She sniffed once. I shifted my right hand slightly and closed my fingers around hers, crossing my fingers with hers.
As my digits curled to a close, Xuehua turned and look at me with tears in her eyes.
Xuehua : You really know how to choose the right moment… haha..
I smiled and said nothing as I felt her fingers closed around mine as well.
We held hands.
We held hands throughout the ceremony until the couple put their signature on the wedding document, right up to the point they exchanged their rings.
When the ceremony is over, we stood up, the wet napkin still sandwiched between our hands.
Xuehua : I don’t know anything about you Jeff…. And you don’t know anything about me…
Jeff : I intend to start learning more about you…. Starting from today…
Xuehua : hahahah… ok… please give a better speech…. If this happens..haha
I led Xuehua away from the crowd who were lining up to congratulate the couple.
The projector screen started showing pictures of the couples dating days and the music changed accordingly. Billy saw me holding Xuehua’s hand and I saw his jaw dropped.
I ignored him and the server offered us more Champange.
Neither of us let go of our hands until and we walked around the perimeter of the large structure, chatting with the flute of champange in our hand.
Lynn : aRHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
Lynn’s sudden scream gave us a scare and we both dropped our fingers, the crushed and damped napkin finally dropping to the floor.
Lynn : I saw that… I saw that !!! I saw that !!! Muuuuwhahahahahhaha….
She did an exaggerated evil laugh as Xuehua asked her not to attract so much attention.
Lynn : I knew… I could feel it… ohmmmm…
Jeff : It’s nothing la… we’re just getting to know each other…
Lynn : whatever…come.. come… photos.. photos…!
We took a few shot with Lynn before she shouted for James to come over.
Lynn : Baby… here… here…
We took a few shots and that was when James noticed Xuehua’s tongue stud.
James : Woah… wicked…
Lynn : tsk !.. don’t be an asshole…
The look James gave me then is a different one when Xuehua linked arms with me.
Almost a look of envy that lasted for half a second before it disappeared the moment he laid eyes on Lynn.
James : Enjoy guys… help yourself to the food …
Xuehua : Thank you…
Xuehua and I spent another 20 minutes milling about before we decide it was time to go.
Jeff : I’ll send you back ?
Xuehua : of course la !... did you even have to ask… hahaha.. you brought me here…
Jeff : hahaha…
Walking out to the parking area, I handed the valet my ticket and we waited by the security checkpoint.
I saw Owen again, he looked tired and agitated as he spoke harshly into his phone at a far end flanked by 2 of his men.
I looked away, I’m technically still on leave.
Let the others handle the issues.
When my car arrive, I thanke the valet and opened the door for Xuehua.
Xuehua : Oh look… what is this ?
I got in and saw something at make my heart dropped. The sinking feeling came back.
There’s a bottle of whisky. A 17 year old bottle ribbon wrapped and nicely placed on the back seat.
Jeff : Well… I think it’s a wedding favour gift or something…
Xuehua : Wow… but there’s only 1…hahaha… does that mean we have to share ? hahah
Jeff : I’ll gladly share it with you… hahha…
I brushed the thought of the bottle out of my head and drove out of the area.
I don’t want to waste the day since we are already all dressed up so I suggested to go catch a movie or something to Xuehua.
Xuehua looked at the time and said she can’t.
Saturday she usually heads down to the café to help her uncle do some stock taking and getting ready the stuff he needs for the following week.
I would have thought it was a rejection but thankfully it was not.
Xuehua : I’ll just need an hour or so…besides… it’s too uncomfortable walking around like this… hahaha… let’s change into something more casual… then we meet at the café say at 4pm ?
Jeff : sure… hahah ok…
I brought Xuehua back to her place and although I was not expecting a kiss or anything, but a simple 2 second stroke of my thumb and a smile was all I needed before she left the car.
I went back, got changed and immediately flew back down to the café.
Saturdays are usually quiet. Leng and Annie are just chatting over coffee at the café.
Lala, saw me and knew exactly what to get me.
I could see Xuehua back into her casual and chic street wear.
The cross back white bra with a loose grey singlet. A simple pair of white shorts with 2 pockets behind her.
A squeaky white pair of sneakers glided across the floor of the café as Xuehua helped her uncle look through the delivery items and invoices.
I sipped my coffee and I could feel the butterflies in my stomach again.
Movie. Dinner, coffee, what else do couples do these days. I hear the rumble of a powerful engine pull up outside the driveway and I immediately recognised the car.
The driver took his time to get out and I saw a taxi arriving behind it.
Belinda and Billy got out of the taxi the same time Aaron exited the car.
He literally blocked the driveway and walked into the café with a swagger. The taxi had no choice but to reverse out of the driveway.
Aaron : Xuehua ….
I sipped my coffee and said nothing as I continued observing him.
Belinda had a large file in her hand and Billy gave me a look before shooting his eyes towards that folder.
The same kind that Owen always bring along for a new project.
Aaron demanded to know why Xuehua is avoiding him.
Aaron : what’s wrong with you ?!!
Xuehua : Nothing is wrong with me… you are the one that is pestering me…Aaron… I told you already… I’m not… looking to go beyond friends with you….
Aaron : Why not…
Xuehua shot me a look and Aaron looked over as well.
Aaron : him?.... really ? … that faggot ? ….what does he have that I don’t !!! Look at him… he’s got a fucking loser face….
Xuehua rolled her eyes the same time her uncle came back from his smoke break.
Eddy looked like he was about to start cursing at Aaron.
Aaron dragged Xuehua across the café and I saw the look on Lala’s face change.
Lala : OEI !!!!
Lala’s dad held onto his son as Aaron brought Xuehua in front of me and started to berate me.
Aaron : tell me.. tell me…. What does he have that I don’t !!
Xuehua : stop it… ! you are embarrassing yourself and me !!! I’m sorry Jeff… I ermm…
Aaron : tell me !!... is he rich ? … he got money ?? … richer than me is that it ?? he doesn’t know you… I do…Xuehua…you know how I feel towards you…
Xuehua : Aaron… stop it !! you’re making a scene.. I told you.. it’s not possible between us…
Aaron : oei you !!...
Aaron jabbed me on my shoulder, pointing a warning finger at me.
I looked up at him with hardly any expression on my face.
Aaron : get up… come !... let’s talk outside…who are you !!..
Xuehua : Aaron … stop it !!! He’s my boyfriend !!.. you satisfied now ?!!! stop harassing me !
My head shook as Aaron smacked me across the head.
Belinda gasped and dropped the folder she was holding in her hand and she scurried down onto her knees to pick up the documents.
Billy immediately came over to me and held onto my shoulder.
I could see his face panicking as my relaxed fingers twitched, the allure of clenching them too over powering to ignore.
Lala : aHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
Thankfully, Lala saved me.
He literally leapt out from behind the drinks stall and went straight for Aaron.
Aaron had no time to react.
Aaron : aHHHH!!!!!!!
With lighting like stealth and speed, Lala’s hands went to Aaron’s nipples and clamped down again, sending reminders of the pain into my head as I gasped in surprised.
Aaron : arHHHHHHHHH!!!1 aRGHH!!!! My Neh neh pok !!! arhhh !!! stop.. stop !!!
The pinching lasted for about 10 seconds as the group of us tried to separate Lala from Aaron.
It was easier this time round and we got him off within a minute.
Aaron was cursing and massaging his nipples, swearing that he will make Lala pay for what he did. A couple of cars arrived at the driveway and were sounding their honk at Aaron’s car.
Leng, the security guard finally got his ass off the seat and shouted at Aaron to move his fucking car.
Aaron scurried away as the rest of us tried to calm Lala down.
15 minutes later, Belinda and Billy joined me at the table.
Belinda : We need to go up and talk.
Jeff : Not today… not now…. I have a date… it’s my first date with….
As if the timing could not get worse, Xuehua finished her work and dragged a chair over to our table.
Xuehua : Ok… I’m done…are they your colleagues Jeff ?
Billy nodded and introduced himself and so did Belinda.
Xuehua : nice to meet you all….am I intruding ?
Belinda : no no… of course not… we just need to talk to Jeff for trip to Korea.. we need to attend a trade fair over there next week…
I looked at Belinda in shock. What the fuck is she talking about.
Xuehua : wow.. sounds fun… you’re all going ?
Belinda answered immediately.
Belinda : Well…. I want to go… but Jeff is not keen to take me in as his intern…. So I guess I’m staying in Sg….been hoping around from department to department… I like his working style… but he refused…. I’ll be able to learn so much from him….
What the fuck is she talking about.
Xuehua : Oh… why Jeff ? can teach just teach what… guide the younger ones along…
Jeff : What ?... no.. no.. it’s not ermm..
Belinda : It’s ok.. it’s ok…. I can’t blame him… he’s always busy and… I understand… it’s a male dominated industry….sighhh…
Xuehua : Jeff !... take her… just take her la… company paying right….
I stared at Belinda and Xuehua in shock.
I don’t believe this. I don’t even know the specifics of the project.
Belinda : it’s really ok la… but you know what…you guys are dating ?? … you should go along too…
Jeff : what !
Billy : what !! ??
Belinda : we will be at the trade fair the whole day… company is paying for the room which will be empty…
I saw Xuehua’s face lit up immediately and she immediately get what Belinda is trying to say.
Xuehua : ok.. alright…alright… hahahaha… I know…here’s what’s going to happen… ahem…
She cleared her throat.
Xuehua : Jeff… take her as your intern… I’ll pay for my own air ticket.. hahahaha…lets all fucking go to Korea together… ahhahahaaha….. I’ll help take care of the room while you guys are away…. muuuuhahahah . I can shop !!
My jaws hung 2 inches below my chin as I looked at Belinda. I have half the mind to break her neck right there and then.
If she ever puts Xuehua in any danger, I will fucking kill her myself.
Xuehua : ok ? … ok ? … can.?
All eyes were on me and I just gave her a dazed look.
Xuehua : hahaha… alright… I;m going to the ladies for a bit… you guys chat…
As soon as Xuehua leaves the table, Billy whispered sharply at Belinda.
Billy : What the fuck !!.. are you mad ??
Belinda was unfazed. She tapped to the document in her hand and rattled off a quick summary.
Belinda : 50 year old Singaporean business man….hotel owner… bugged and video cam certain rooms to blackmail the guests, sometimes raping the girl.…there’s proof he is responsible for 2 disappearances….. I’m suppose to play a couple with Billy….by that it meant doing whatever it takes !!! …. Until we get a chance…to… Jeff is suppose to oversee everything….
I took 2 second to register what she just said.
Billy : errrr… okay…
Belinda : But I’m afraid I’m not attractive enough…. I might not be his type… He won’t show himself…he’s elusive…He’s always hiding…. But if he like what he sees….intel suggest he will drug the couple… then take the girl for himself… there’s intel to suggest he has 1 more Singaporean girl hidden away somewhere…
Belinda exhaled a long breath of air.
Belinda : He will surely like your girlfriend…she is so fucking hot! …all we need is for him to show up… that’s all.. you will be with Xuehua… what can happen ?? Billy and I will be in the next room…. He shows up…. I’ll do it… I have to do it with my own hands…
Jeff : No… I will not agree to this… I’m not putting Xuehua in harms way…. There is no room for discussion on this…… I am still on leave… I have yet to be certified…
Belinda whipped out a letter addressed to me.
It’s from Lynn.
Belinda : She’s going on her honeymoon…. Signed it in advance…. You’re cleared…
Jeff : I’m not getting Xuehua involved on this… Period… I’ll fucking kill you if she gets hurt…
Belinda : Many other people are getting hurt…. Right now… a mother is missing her daughter…she don’t even know if she’s alive or dead….
Xuehua came out of the washroom and I could see her walking towards us.
Belinda : please Jeff…. Take it as a short break…. It’s the easiest project Owen could find… Just lure him out…nothing bad can happen…
Xuehua : ok… are we done… when should I start packing ? ….
Belinda : He’s still considering……Always has a lot on his mind about things not going to plan.
Belinda gave a disappointed face, she can really act.
Xuehua : why ? … what is there to consider ? hahha. It’s just a trade show…. What can go wrong ?? hahaha.
Xuehua put her arm around me and added.
Xuehua : Alright… if you would excuse us… I have a date with my new boyfriend….which i just sort of got tricked into during a moment of weakness this morning hahaha… but I look forward to getting to know him… you all can talk work on Monday….
Xuehua turned and gave me a smile together with a raised eyebrow.
Xuehua : Yes ? …. Dear ? Please ? Baby ?
I exhaled with my nose and nodded.
I stood up and told Belinda and Billy before I leave with Xuehua.
Jeff : We discuss in detail…. 9am… Monday…. Book the flight .... we leave Tuesday morning...
I had quite a bit of things on my mind when I went down to the carpark with Xuehua.
Belinda is only holding onto a single stack of document. Doesn’t look very thick, base on experience, it should be a pretty straight forward job.
One that Owen deemed unnecessary to even brief me personally.
Before I could get over the project, I was faced with another trouble issue.
Waiting for Xuehua and I in the carpark is none other than Aaron.
Xuehua : What do you want…. Aaron ? …can you behave like an adult… for once…
Aaron : Sorry… I’m sorry… I was a little … agitated…but i… I really like you Xuehua… I can give you a good life…. You won’t even need to work anymore…. i..
Xuehua : Stop please…. You’re being rude, disrespectful and..and… oh god… I don’t want to continue this conversation…let’s go Jeff…
I walked past Aaron who looked visibly upset and he was glaring at me.
I shrugged my shoulders at him, giving him a ‘too bad for you’ look.
Xuehua walked on ahead to my car.
Aaron lost it and he threw a punch at me. I saw it coming and I ducked easily. He’s too slow. Both my hands were not even out of my pocket. Using my body, I bumped into Aaron hard enough to shove him back a step.
Missing that punch and getting shoved made him even more angry.
He grunted loudly and I saw Xuehua turned around, I relaxed my body and turned my head away, taking the punch to the back of my head.
Jeff : Ahhhhhh !!!,,, aiyah.. aiyah… !
Xuehua : Jeff !!! ..Aaron !!!
Xuehua ran towards me and she shove Aaron away.
Aaron : Xuehua… I….
I did not expect Xuehua to react that strongly. She tried to slap Aaron but has her wrist held onto by him.
Xuehua : let me go !!! arghhh !!
Aaron let go as Xuehua screamed and kick him in his shin.
He yelped in pain. After kicking Aaron, Xuehua helped me up and hurried me along.
Xuehua : let’s get out of here… !... I’m so sorry about that.
Jeff : It’s ok… it’s ok… I’m fine…
I could not resist smiling to myself. I can be such a fucker if I want to.
I got into the car and my heart sort of melted when Xuehua was fussing over me, asking if I’m ok.
Jeff : I’m fine… I’;m fine…. Just a knock….
I put the car into drive and I could tell she felt bad about dragging me into this situation.
As I pulled towards the carpark exit, I saw Leng trying to put more cable ties onto the carpark gantry again.
Xuehua : every week he got to redo one time…. haizz..
Jeff : The management needs to replace this…
Xuehua : A lot of lousy drivers here… every time replace, everytime will dropped off….
We pulled out of the carpark and I gave Leng a friendly wave.
I would have wanted to head out to town or something but I never expected Xuehua to want to do something totally out of the blue. She wanted to go grocery shopping.
Xuehua : Let buy stuff.. and… cook dinner ?
Jeff : Wow… can you cook ?
Xuehua gave me an irritated look as she directed me to a supermarket few streets away.
We chatted about what to get en route to the super market and it suddenly got me thinking.
If we were 10 years younger, the activities we would be doing should be quite different. I’m thinking of the clubbing, the drinks, parties and stuff but now that I’m turning 30, it feels kind of weird that my date with my girlfriend involves getting groceries and cooking them ourselves ?
Not that I mind 1 bit, we’re going to be going up to Xuehua’s place, and we all know what that means. 1 step closer to the bedroom.
She’s hot, I’ll be lying if I say I don’t want to fuck her but this goes beyond just the typical fuck and go I once go for. I want her for eternity.
Xuehua made me feel I’m selfish.
That I want her only for myself.
Heading to the supermarket, I grabbed a basket but Xuehua went for the trolley.
Jeff : Are we getting that much things ?
Xuehua : It’s easier to hold hands if we use a trolley…. You don’t want to hold my hand ?
She gave me a coy look before breaking into a chuckle.
Xuehua : Oh god…. I can’t believe I’m doing this… hahaha.. I think I’m too old for this dating thing…
Jeff : hahah . it’s ok… I like it… do it again…
She rolled her eyes and we started down the super market aisle.
All was good with the bantering and smiles until I got to the 3rd aisle.
I saw a familiar face looking at me.
I remember the faces I’ve seen and this is one I’ve seen often.
Standing at the end of the aisle looking at the nutrition information of a can of beans is one of Owen’s man.
I was immediately on alert as we slowly walk pass him.
He’s not here to follow me, if he is, he has failed even before he started.
I casually look left and right trying to check out the display of the canned food on promotion and our eyes met.
The man said nothing but he dropped the can he was holding together with some others that he accidentally knocked off.
The commotion and sound caught everyone’s attention within the vicinity.
Xuehua bent down to help and he thanked her. Another man turned the corner and while no one is looking, palmed me a note before walking casually down the aisle and out the supermarket.
Xuehua : those dented cans won’t sell for sure… haha… I have to come back on sale day to grab those… sure heavily discounted…
Jeff : You very auntie leh…
Xuehua : hahah.. you’re dating an auntie already…. How does that feel… ?
Jeff : Loving every moment of it….
Xuehua : Please…. Men all go for sweet young things….
Jeff : But you are a sweet auntie…
Xuehua made an attempt of trying to throw a packet of chips at me.
I kept the note in my pocket and continued shopping.
This is unlike Owen.
The nature of our work deals mostly with projects that are pre planned.
There’s hardly if any urgent stuff unless you are in the middle of a project.
I am not.
The one that I agreed to doesn’t start till Monday.
I was still thinking of asking Owen along for the planning.
Some major shit must be up if he needed to ask his men to get in touch with me this way.
He could have called, or text, but I probably would ignore him given what happened recently. I can be childish at times.
Turning my attention back to the shopping, Xuehua bought a dozen live oysters, a good cut of steak. Wine, chips, chocolate, and a whole watermelon. There’s also strawberries, kiwis and even a bunch of bananas.
Jeff : It’s just us 2 right…
Xuehua : yea..i’m a big eater… I thought I should tell you that upfront… hahah..
Jeff : I kind of know when I saw you stuffing yourself at Lynn’s wedding earlier…
Xuehua : hahahah….
Moving to the end of the supermarket, Xuehua picked up some toiletries.
She walked over to the sanitary pads section and I hung back a little with the trolley. While she was checking out her pads, I looked at the note Owen’s men passed me.
I cursed under my breath.
He wants to meet at 5am the morning. In the Zoo.
The fucking Zoo.
As if that was not enough, the coded message included instructions to come masked.
I’ve only done a masked meetup before. When one of the ministers had to be present for the meeting with Owen and me.
A full balaclava, shades, cap, long sleeve top and pants.
It concealed my face alright but try walking around like this in the country and see how many steps you can take before you get arrested.
Knowing Owen, he would not ask me to things unless necessary.
I’m going to kick myself in the nuts if I Xuehua allowed me to spend the night only for me to sneak out before the morning.
Xuehua linked arms with me as we headed to the cashier. I offered to pay for the groceries but she would not have it.
Xuehua : I’m cooking… I’m hosting… you can do the next round….
The chauvinist in me wanted to insist on paying until I saw Xuehua open up her wallet.
A row of shimmering cards from gold to platinum, even the coveted black cards available only via invitation smiled at me.
Digging into the cash compartment, I could see at least 20 fifty dollar bills in there as she pulled out a few pieces to settle the bill.
Jeff : Do you always carry that much money around ?
Xuehua : don’t rob me ah… these are all I have for the rest of the month….
Jeff : Oh… you’re getting an allowance from Eddy ? from helping out at the stall…
Xuehua laughed as if I said something ridiculous.
Xuehua : don’t be silly… I’m helping him for free…. I’m just lazy to head to the ATM more than once a month…
Jeff : errr… ok…
As we groceries get bagged Xuehua added that she is nowhere as rich as Lynn is in case I’m wondering.
Xuehua : Lynn’s literally a princess…haha.. I’m no where as rich as her…so..you’re gonna have to work till you are like 65 or so I think… hahaha.
I smiled and said nothing.
We got to Xuehua’s place in no time and I checked out her unit up close. Her plants provided a wall of green, giving her the privacy she needs staying in such a compact development.
My heart beat a little faster as I watch the door opened up to reveal the interior of Xuehua’s house.
Jeff: You stay alone ?
Xuehua : yeah… don’t worry… Eddy’s not here.. hahaha..
Jeff : hahah ok…
Walking into her house feels like stepping into another world.
The warm coloured walls and the sound of water greeted me immediately when I step into that cosy abode.
The walls are filled with photos of Xuehua when she’s overseas. A nice comfortable sofa with cushions neatly arranged sat to the right on the living room. She does not have TV, what sat in the space meant for the TV cabinet and console is instead a easel for her painting.
There’s a white dining table meant for only 2. I guess she seldom have guests over.
She shut and lock the door behind and I helped her bring the food into the kitchen.
The kitchen is old school, with all the cabinets tucked onto 1 side of the walls, leaving the walkway clear.
Condiments and sauces were neatly arranged on the countertop and I could tell she cook often.
There are a variety of knives displayed on a magnetic board.
Jeff : Wow… this is a damm pro kitchen man….
Xuehua laughed and says it’s for display only.
Jeff : Do you know how to use all those knives ? all different ones you know.
Xuehua gave me a smirk and says she’s an expert.
Xuehua : Don’t try to be funny ok…. I know how to use them…hahah
She picked up a paring knife with a short blade, it’s great for intricate work, peeling fruits , deveining shrimps.
Xuehua : This 1…. Is call bao gao liao knife ( everything can do knife ) ….just right side for my hand… can cut, can chop… can do everything !!..
Jeff : ahaahahaha.
I laughed and she went on to pick up the one with serrated edge. It cuts cleanly though fruits and vegetables without tearing them, it’s good for bread and bagels too.
Xuehua : This 1…. Is a saw…. Meant for irritating boyfriends who bother me when I cook…
Jeff : hahaha
Xuehua picked up the cleaver.
Xuehua : This…. For zombie outbreak ..
I could not resist laughing as she gave me an irritated look and asked me to go to the living room and leave her alone.
I shook my head as I watch her deliberately use the cleaver to open up the plastic wrapping for the steak.
Jeff : Can i… check out your room…
Xuehua : sure…go explore on your own….
It’s a small and cosy 3 room flat.
I turned the corner towards the sleeping area and saw that Xuehua converted one room into her wardrobe space. The amount of clothes she has is staggering.
There are like dresses on the walls with plastic wrappings, stacks of neatly folded clothes on shelves. 2 of the 3 cupboards could hardly close it’s door fully.
Stacks of drawing pads are arranged neatly according to date on one side of a low shelf. A variety of pencils and brushes took the next half.
It’s mainly a storage room from what I can see.
I looked to the room opposite and I could hear the firing up of the gas cooker in the kitchen.
Xuehua’s room has a queen size bed taking up the centre of the room.
A small study table with her laptop plugged in and charging sat at the edge of the bed.
Without a wardrobe in the room, it’s actually quite spacious. I Saw 2 yoga mat on the floor, a kettle bell, some weights and resistance band. She does a bit of workout in the room.
I could smell the aroma of meat being grilled and I asked Xuehua if she wants to close the door to her rooms.
Xuehua : oh yes… please… and don’t stay inside…. I don’t want you messing with my lingerie… I’ve read online on sex forums what men like to do… hahaa
I laughed and shut the door to her bedrooms.
I helped to cut the fruits and set the table.
It didn’t take long before Xuehua finished the simple dinner in front of us.
A nice piece of steak garnished with fruits I cut. Looks colourful but weird but it’s cooked by Xuehua.
I cut the steak and tucked in, nodding in satisfaction at Xuehua who beamed proudly with a smile. It’s a good piece of marbled meat. You can’t get it wrong. Just need to watch the timing.
Jeff : It’s amazing… I love it..
Xuehua : really ? hahah…. Thank you !!.
Nothing out of the blue happened over dinner but I noticed something about the way Xuehua holds her knife. Each cut she made on the steak is precise, a single stroke, severing the small piece of protein from the steak.
Almost with surgical precision. Well, she’s was going to be a doctor.
Jeff : You hold your knife like a surgeon or something hahaha…
Xuehua : hellow…. What is with your fasciation with knives ? … are you a serial killer or something ? hahaha… would you rather I eat like this ??
She stuck her whole fork into the meat and brought it up to her mouth before taking a large bite, staining the sides of her lips with the fats of the meat.
Jeff : hahahah.. that’s disgusting… hahah..
She ignored me and chose to use her hands this time round. Holding onto the meat and taking another bite.
Xuehua : whatever… hahaha… I’m not as ladylike as many people think I am underneath…. Not to late for you to run now…
Jeff: Not gonna happen… hahaha…
I helped to wash the dishes before we settled into the sofa in the living room with anouth bowl of fruits.
There’s no TV, no radio, no distraction.
It was a chat over fruits, Xuehua started first, bringing me up to speed about her live so far. She skipped her entire childhood portion, choosing to start only at the part she first went to medical school.
The men she dated before, the assholes she came across.
Some people can just tell a story so well and Xuehua is just one of them. Relating her past seemed like she is narrating me into her life, at some points I even imagined myself inside her past, as if I’m right along side her.
We continued into the night and when the clock struck 11pm, Xuehua stretched at the sofa, her t-shirt riding higher and exposing her slim waist.
She exhaled and looked at me.
It’s as if she was dropping me a hint.
Not to get into bed but it’s late. Reading her body language, I knew this was a test of sort.
Am I going to just bulldoze and ask to stayover on the very 1st date or I know how to play the gentlemen game and bid my time ?
I have a feeling she is open to both but it’s too soon to make my move.
Jeff: Well.. it’s… late… I better make a move…
I could see a subtle sign of relief and affirmation from Xuehua.
Xuehua : hmm ok.. it’s pretty late…
She walked me to the door and waited for me to put on my shoes. She held onto the metal gate and I stood up to look at her.
That familiar seconds of hesitation from both of us is obvious.
We were both expecting it but since this being the first time, there is bound to be some awkwardness.
Jeff : Goodnight… Thank you for the dinner…
Xuehua : You’re welcome…
I decided to make the move and I leaned closer to Xuehua, she did not shy away. Her eyes darted shyly as she closed the rest of the distance and planted a kiss on my lips.
Xuehua : goodnight.. !
She shut the gate slowly and I could see she was waiting for me to say something.
Jeff : Are you doing anything tomorrow ?
Xuehua : NO! ..haha
I laughed and asked if I can pick her up at noon for lunch.
She nodded and wave me off before shutting the door.
I drove back home and picked out a change of clothes. After that I drove straight to the columbarium in Mandai, not too far away from the zoo.
Heading up to a niche with a fake picture, I checked my surroundings to make sure I’m alone.
I pushed the marble niche inwards and it snapped, the magnetic ball bearing catching the weight of the slab immediately. I pushed the side and it rotated, revealing an empty space where I kept some cash and a dagger.
It’s not my weapon of choice but it’s the closest stash I have to the meeting spot.
The meeting may be set at 5am but I’m not walking through the front door of the zoo.
I need a few hours to get to the spot.
The only reason why I need to mask myself is because there will be other people there. Not just Owen.
You can never be too cautious when it comes to stuff like this.
I went to another niche and pulled out a night vision goggle I smuggled into the country from Thailand. I checked the battery and it’s only 1/3 full. It’s been a while since I charged it. I got changed and left the columbarium
I parked my car along one of the small roads bordering Mandai road and lifted the bonnet up to give an impression that the car has broken down. I finished an entire bottle of water, 1.5 litres in all. It’s going to a while before I get to drink again.
Checking to make sure the coast is clear, I dove directly into the forested area bordering the zoo compound.
It’s going to at least a 2 hour walk by my estimate, I want to stake out the meeting place even before the time Owen scheduled.
This entire meeting stinks of trouble.
The moon is generous with it’s light piercing though the thinner part of the jungle and I proceeded slowly, stopping every minute or so to make sure I’m alone.
Aside from the sound of the jungle and the occasional scurrying of small mammals, it’s just me as far as I could tell.
I got to the perimeter of the zoo at 3am in the morning.
Recalling the map I downloaded before my trek, there’s still a distance before I get to the amphitheatre Owen wanted to meet. I could see the entrance of the Zoo from where I was, there were several cars parked at the entrance.
Using the night vision googles, I could roughly make out a few of Owen’s men.
Owen would have made sure the place is clear but I’m not walking through the front door.
I trust my instincts more.
I closed my eyes and tried to remember the animal enclosures I will be trespassing. The last thing I want to do would be to jump into the enclosure of a fucking lion or a tiger.
Even an angry hog would spell trouble for me. I popped in salt pills and washed it down with a sachet of isotonic drink in my pocket.
Checking my bearing on my compass once more, I started on my slow trek towards the meeting spot.
I reached the perimeter of the amphitheatre at 3.50am in the morning. My night vision googles is almost out of battery having used it more often within the zoo compound.
I found a spot I like and I got on my belly and waited. As far as I could see, there was no one else in the vicinity.
I pulled on my mask and my cap. Only my eyes are exposed.
I tried to slow down my breathing and I kept my ears open. The jungle did not sound right to me.
Having stayed in one for almost a year, I know the noises, the sound, the calls of the insects and nocturnal animals.
Something is off in the same forested area I am in.
The animals know they are not alone.
There are predators near them.
I pulled out my dagger and stuck it into the soft ground in front of me.
The call of the insects came and went periodically. I could see a couple of marquees looking at me from a tree few steps away.
The jungle got quieter, the crickets stopped singing for some reason.
My senses are on fire.
I could feel that weird sensation I get before a kill creeping into me.
I felt a tinge of fear.
I’m not alone.
There are predators and hunters among the darkness. It’s not just me.
Men like me.
The excitement turned into anticipation as the clock ticked closer to the appointed time.
Owen made no attempt to be quiet. I could hear him even before he stepped into the amphitheatre. He walked right to the stage empty handed.
He looked around the empty structure but said nothing.
He simply leaned against a table and waited with his arms folded.
Barely 5 minutes to the appointed time, there were absolutely no signs of anyone arriving.
Owen had his head down, looking at his feet with his arms still folded.
I checked my perimeter visually, I could not see anyone near me but I know I’m not alone.
Owen stood up and stretched himself as he walked to the edge of the stage, looking at a still empty space.
I watched Oven take out the same scanner from before and did a check on the outgoing signals in the area, satisfied that he’s alone, he kept the device and literally spoke into thin air.
Owen knows. He knows whoever he invited is already there. Just that none of us showed ourselves yet. His voice boomed loud in the quiet of the night.
Owen : I know you are all here…. None of you have ever been late before…
There was no response but it did not stop Owen from going on.
Owen : You must be wondering why I ask to meet so urgently…. And at this place… well…
Owen sighed and added.
Owen : An unprecedented crisis is upon us… and we need to response accordingly.
Not only am I listening to Owen, I had gotten up on my feet with my dagger in my hand. Every few seconds, I visually checked my surrounding again.
Owen : I know all of you have always worked alone…and none of you have ever failed…. Ever…
My heart started beating faster. Owen sounds a little worried. I could almost catch a hint of desperation in his voice.
Owen : There will be a project coming up….one we cannot afford to fail….the audit team has given their in principal approval but we are awaiting final approval documentations…..i just want to say we cannot afford to wait on this one…. The intel is time sensitive….when it’s time… we need to do it…. Approval or not…
Still faced with the chilly silence of the night, Owen went on, unfazed by a lack of reply.
Owen : Some of you have ongoing projects… some don’t…. those that do, I’m confident you can finish whatever you have on hand in a week or two…. Those that don’t , there will be none for you from now till the arrival of this project I am talking about.
Owen went on to say that he has never forced us to take on a project we are not willing to.
Owen : I have never forced anyone to take up a project you don’t want to…. Never have…. And I never will….it’s still your choice to make…you are still free to choose….
Owen jumped off the stage and started his way up the steps slowly.
Owen : Target is female. A terrorist. She might have an assistant… we don’t know…
Owen stopped at the 2nd tier of the amphitheatre.
Owen : The bonus for this project is 470k…..each…
What the fuck
I was starting to doubt what I just hear when Owen repeated it again.
Owen : 470… each…regardless how many of you decide to do it together….as long as the target is eliminated….intel suggest target carries about 1.6Mil in various currencies for funding purposes…. Split those… keep it… whatever… I don’t care…
That’s almost half a million in bonus. This is crazy.
The highest bonus I’ve receive so far is just shy of 110.
Owen : I know some of you are thinking of quitting…. This project…together with what you have from previous engagements…. Should set you up properly…. A new life…if you wish to that is….. your choice… I won’t stop you….
This is definitely a tempting proposal.
I’ve stashed away close to 2million during the course of my work. This project could be the golden handshake before I stop for good.
Owen : As I said before…. I say it again now….your choice…. I’m not forcing you..
I looked around the amphitheatre, there are still no signs of anyone around.
It’s as if Owen is talking to the air.
Owen took a deep breath and he said nothing, as if he was giving whoever is listening the time to think and consider.
At least 3 minutes of silence followed before Owen spoke again.
And when he did, all the hair on the back of my neck stood on it’s end.
Owen : Iron ….. ?
My heartrate went up a notch as I saw the black figure of my colleague step out from the shadows on the other side of the amphitheatre.
Owen turned to look at him, clad in the same manner as I am, a full face mask and a hoodie over his head, Iron said nothing.
He simply nodded.
I’ve heard of his reputation. Iron is a hard striker. He once punched a man to death.
Owen called out another familiar name.
Owen : Raptor ?
I tightened the grip on my dagger as another figure stepped out from the shadows barely 30 feet away from me. He was so close, yet I’m not even aware of him.
Raptor is an old hand in this game, having started earlier than I did. He’s fast. Owen once told me he did 3 projects in 3 days.
Raptor stepped out with his hands in his pants pocket. His black balaclava had black spiked studs near the head.
I could see that nod as well. A nod without a word.
Another call sign.
Owen : Gourmet ..?
The figure appeared at the top of the amphitheatre, coming down the steps with a swagger like a boss.
Gourmet was once known as Urchin, but he changed his callsign after a project.
His target was a serial rapist who terrorised a preschool, at least 6 toddlers were sexually violated by the target I one of the biggest cover up in the country.
Gourmet hunted the rapist down and kept him alive for 6 months, ignoring Owen’s repeated orders to kill him.
He cut pieces off that fucker and fed it to him, the meat from his own body being the only subsistence for half a year before Gourmet finally choked him to death with his own intestine.
Word is that the 1st clean-up crew vomited and had to be replaced by the 2nd crew barely 30 minutes into the job. For the 1st time ever in the history of the company, 2 crew had to rotate in a clean up for a mess left by the gourmet.
The gourmet gave a slight bow in a dramatic way like what a stage actor would and nodded his head as well.
Still, Owen did not stop.
Owen : Butcher..
I heard the rustling of leaves to my right and the large build of the butcher came into view.
His name alone left nothing much to imagination. I could see clearly the meat cleaver strapped to his left thigh.
Butcher is a vegetarian according to Owen. He is violent, has a short temper and the clean up crew always had difficulty accounting for all the body parts after he’s done.
Butcher nodded and he was the only one that spoke.
His voice boomed low in the quiet of the night.
He has a voice that would surely give kids nightmare if they hear it.
Butcher : Let me guess the last one…. Hahahha.
Looking around the amphitheatre, as if trying to guess where I am, Owen finally called out to me.
Owen : Hibiki…
I got up and stepped out into the light.
All eyes were immediately on me.
HIbiki, the one holding the coveted top spot in the organisation. I could smell the bloodlust in the air.
The ego, the ambition, and the allure of being the best at what we do. Among the looks of admiration my colleagues gave, I detected the urge, that need to be better.
The need to be the best.
Butcher : hahahhaha….. Hibiki……finally…. We meet….
I stood about 10 steps away from Owen and he waited for my reply.
I felt a certain excitement in my veins.
One I cannot describe. I felt like an animal.
How apt given the location we are in.
Owen did not choose the spot randomly. He choose it because he wanted the animal inside all of us.
And he has 5 of the worst predators the country has bread right in front of him.
I wanted to consider longer, I have questions, questions that needed answers but the animal inside me made the decision for me.
I nodded without a word and Butcher’s low laugh filled the amphitheatre with his hollow echo.
I have only 1 question on my mind.
What kind of prey justify the need for so many predators like us ?
Owen : alright… I’ll be in touch with you all…. The armoury will be open.. for your own equipping….schedule your dates with operator…
No one said anything and we all just looked at Owen.
The armoury has never been opened to us before. Previously when we needed or wanted something, there are forms to fill in, someone needed to sign off on it.
Owen will give you shit about why you need something like that, but this.
This is interesting.
An open armoury.
Butcher : hahahaha….are you high on drugs Owen ? hahhaha…
Butcher’s hearty laugh filled the amphitheatre again.
Owen : No.. there are no restrictions on what you can get….but the responsibility is yours…you get caught with it…outside project execution period…. You bear the responsibility….
Butcher took a seat and leaned back on his large arms.
Butcher : Interesting.. this is really interesting… hahah… hahaha… you looked afraid Owen….are you ??
Owen ignored the question and continued.
Owen : Take what you need…but there’s no guarantee that you can use them…. It depends on where the project will take place…. The target must die… period…
Butcher : hahahha… you are…. Afraid…so are the rest of the mother fuckers standing around… ahhaha… no one spoke a word… hahaha….
Iron spoke next, breaking the silence he kept.
Iron : Are we allowed to kill each other….if someone gets too noisy…. And affects the project…?
Butcher : What the fuck….. what did you just say ?? !!
His cleaver came out immediately off the side of his thigh and he stood up.
Butcher : go ahead and try….i’ll fuckng carve a steak out of you…. Maybe gourmet will digest some of that iron in your blood … hahahaha…
Iron’s hand appeard from behind his back and I could see 2 customised knuckle duster on him.
It has a stabbing blade on one end. You could punch and slice your way out of any situation with that.
Butcher : come on you dick !! those knifes are meant for a girls’ play pen !!!
Owen : Enough !!
I have never seen Owen lose his temper before.
Butcher shook a middle finger at Iron and settled back down on his seat. He grumbled to himself, his voice resembling the growl of an animal.
Owen is always calm, composed. He did not even lose his temper back then when I think he should have with the incident with Kenneth.
He is the kind of man to plan, to think through stuff, strategize, then execute. He has some of the best killers in the country working for him.
There is really nothing much that can scare him if you put things in perspective.
Owen : I know this is a bad idea for all of you to be working together… but this is important… this is the first… and probably the last time….get it done… and don’t fucking kill each other in the process…. That’s a fucking order…
Raptor spoke next. His voice calm and strong. Like that of a newscaster. In fact, I think he has a good voice. He can easily be a voice talent, or a DJ, maybe even a singer if he wanted to.
Raptor : Do you have more information… about the target… that you can share…
Owen took a few moments to consider before nodding his head.
Owen : Aiko Hattori …. Japanese….34 years old…. Wife of Hiro Hattori….
Gourmet could not resists holding back any longer.
Gourmet : Japanese ? ….. really ?
Owen : yes… are you expecting someone from Afghanistan …. Or Iraq ?? Please don’t stereotype people with extremists ideas….they come from all over, regardless of race, language or religion….
Butcher : hahah… they are not here to build a democratic society that’s for sure…
I laughed. I could not believe he just said that shit.
Butcher turned and looked at me before pointing his large hand at me.
Butcher : Now….. that is one motherfucker with a sense of humour….. I can work with him…hahah
I tipped my cap towards him and he did the same.
Iron : We’re only going for the wife ? … what happened to the husband ?
Owen : Hiro has been taken care of 3 weeks ago….by another colleague of ours…Barbwire…
Barbwire. An up and coming newbie with only 3 years under his belt but he is rising fast through the rankings. 3 years and he already has 6 kills to his name. I know Owen likes him, he’s eager to learn, follows instructions and after years of dealing with jaded old birds like us, it’s fresh to have someone listening to your every word.
Owen : Barbwire took care of Hiro… and I sent him to go after Aiko…. He never returned…he’s gone quiet for more than 2 weeks…. He’s probably dead…
The silence went on longer than it was comfortable.
Being told that a colleague died while going after Aiko is hardly reassuring news.
Raptor : Aiko … what can you tell us about her… ? is she formal military… does she work for the Japanese government…. In a different capacity….?
Owen : No… Aiko is a housewife…
Gourmet : Really…. A Japanese housewife…..
Owen : Yes…
Gourmet : A Japanese housewife…. That is a terrorist… really…. This is a new JAV plot ?
Butcher laughed, clutching onto his stomach and pointed to Gourmet this time round.
Butcher : I like that…. But I’m not having any meals with you…. You’re disgusting… ahhhhaa….
Gourmet : My meals are works of art… yours just grows out of the ground….
Butcher : hohoh… hahaha.. hohohhahah…
Owen : Aiko is a teacher….at an international preschool…..Hiro, her husband, use to work for us ….
Raptor : What ? he is one of us ?
Owen : Not in the same capacity as what you all do…. Hiro works in the logistics arm of the company…..we conduct regular checks on all employees… and discovered some irregularities with Hiro…. We probed further… and opened a can of worms… that’s all I can share with regards to Hiro….
Owen went on to say that Hiro passed on information and materials to his wife. Information and materials that can cause a lot of damage.
Owen : She knows we killed Hiro…. She’s hiding now…
Raptor : Any idea where ?
Owen : We’re trying to find her…. A lot of resources are being dedicated to this project…. We know she has help….we don’t know from who….if not, there’s no way we are unable to find her…..whoever that is helping her…knows what they are doing…
I asked my first question.
One that made everyone turned to look at me.
Jeff : Does Hiro and Aiko have kids ?
The hesitation on Owen’s end told us the answer. Everyone could see it.
His expression, the pause as he tried to search for the right words.
Butcher : woah…. I don’t do kids…. Sorry boss…
Iron : Boss…. What’s the play on this… everyone on site has to go ??
Gourmet : It’s ok…. I do everyone… all of us are just pieces of meat once our heart stops beating…
Raptor : I’ll do it…. I’ll make it fast….and painless…
Gourmet : hey…. Are you trying to say I’m slow ?
Raptor : No… but you like to take your time…
Gourmet : hahah….
Butcher : And I thought I was the sick one….
Jeff : How many ?
Owen looked at me and when he finally replied, I could see the hesitation on everyone’s faces.
This complicates everything.
Owen : a 4 year old girl…. And she’s 4 months pregnant…
Iron : you got to be fucking kidding me….
Iron gestured to everyone in the amphitheatre.
Iron : You are sending us…to go after a pregnant woman…and a kid….
Butcher : I think I’m going to be sick….
Owen : I already said…. It’s unprecedented …you are still free to walk away…
Raptor : who is the one helping her ? her organisation ?
Owen : From what we could gather so far, Hiro is working alone on this…. There are no major organisations involved… none of the usual suspects…
Jeff : What is Hiro planning for ?
Owen : I’m afraid I can’t share that….
Owen took a look at his watch and said he needed to head to the airport.
Owen : I have a flight to catch… can I give you all a lift to the front door….? Or you want to fucking go back the way you came…..
Pointing to Gourmet , Owen chided him for taking a baby monkey.
Owen : Give that fucking monkey back to it’s mother…
Gourmet ; How could you possibly know that… ?
Owen : It’s going to fucking give you ebola virus or something…
Gourmet : I never said I was going to eat it…
Owen : Put it back… fuck
I could hear the hissing of brakes of the tram arriving at the top of the amphitheatre. Owen started to make his way up. No one moved, each trying to see what the other would do.
I was tired, drenched in perspiration, I don’t mind a lift to the front gate.
When the others saw me heading up, the followed suit.
No one sat together. Owen went to sit beside the driver while the rest of us chose a section each. The tram started moving and we got to the entrance in a couple of minutes.
I got off and I could see Owen’s car waiting for him.
A staff of his handed him a brown project folder.
He took a look inside and pulled out a few photographs.
Owen handed out the photographs of Aiko and Hiro together with their daughter.
He was holding onto 3 different photographs and I was a little late to gather in front of him.
He gave out all 3 of the photos. I adjusted myself discreetly as the rest of my colleagues gathered to look at the pictures of the family and committing them to memory. I positioned myself behind Owen, pretending to look over at the gathered group while my eyes shifted to the folder he was holding.
Jeff : Any more ?
Owen opened the folder to check for more photos and my eyes did a quick scan of what I can see. Information gathering is all about being sharp at the right time. My eyes took a quick snapshot of what is in front of me as my mind slowly processed it.
I could see the project number . 331390. There were sheets of reports and texts, some black and white photos of a industrial area and a car. I can’t make out the car plate number. All the sheets of paper are loose sheets, unlike the ones we usually received that are properly binded by sections.
The folder is new, hardly any creases, nothing out of the ordinary.
Owen shut the document and looked back towards me as if he had a feeling I was looking at him but I was faster.
I already orientated myself away and I had my hand out towards Butcher, gesturing for him to let me take a look at the photographs.
Owen : No… no more photos… on my end…
I looked at the family portrait.
I’m sure I’m not the only one with questions but no one said anything.
Hiro and Aiko look like your average middle income family trying to make a living.
Still I should not generalise people’s thinking and behaviour with their looks.
Looks can be deceiving.
We all know that.
We handed the photographs back to Owen after passing it around.
Owen : I’ll be in touch once I have their locations…. It’s going to take a while…. Rest up… get ready….
With that, he got into his car and it disappears promptly down the winding road.
I started walking away and so did the rest of my colleagues except Gourmet. He went back into the zoo but not one cared.
It took me an hour to get back to the car. I kept my equipment back at the niche at the columbarium and went back home.
After a hot shower, I put in a call to the operator. The sun is already up that Sunday morning.
Belinda took a while to answer my call. Technically operators are not on standby unless there is an ongoing project.
Belinda : Operator… zzz…
Jeff : It’s me…
Belinda : I know… what’s up…
Jeff : I have authorisation to access the armoury…
Belinda : huh … really ? …. Alright… let me check and get back to you…. Time and location ?
Jeff : Rifle range road….9.30am
Belinda : ok… I’ll call you back..
The armoury we use do not have a fix location. It’s mobile.
The reason why we don’t use a centralised location is because Owen does not want some overly zealous staff that wants to start a massacre to raid the armoury.
Having these amounts of sensitive stuff in a fix location is also hard to explain if it gets discovered by other agencies. Most of the weapons have their serial numbers filed off, some are confiscated off the projects we do.
I shut my eyes for a bit of rest and it was 20 minutes before Belinda calls me back.
Belinda : ok. 9,.30 Rifle range road…. It’s… not for the Korea job right…. We need to take a plane you know…
Jeff : No.. it’s not…
Belinda : Ok… see you tomorrow in office… today is my last day as your operator by the way…. Tomorrow I will..
I hung up without waiting for Belinda to finish and looked at the time.
It’s coming to 8am.
I took a quick nap before making my way towards the location agreed.
I was leaning against my car by the side of the forested area when I saw the truck come towards me. Disgusted as a mover’s truck, the armoury switches location every week. The driver is a 60 year old man, Gerald, with his son Callum, as his assistant.
A legit shell company’s moving contacts and advertisement are plaster on the exterior in bright yellow letterings. Owen uses the company for logistics purposes and of course, to process cash seized from individuals who no longer need them. The cover is perfect. How many times have you seen mover trucks along on the road everyday when you drive ?
No one bothered to question what is in them. Probably someone moving to a new house.
No one gives a fuck.
From what I know, the armoury position is passed down from father to son. Gerald is the 2nd generation to take over. That hardest part of their job is to look away and keep their mouth shut. It’s a cushy job, pays well, most of the time you are free to do anything you want.
The truck parked at the agreed spot and I walked up to the passenger side of the truck.
Jeff : Do you have a street directory I can borrow brother ?
I was handed one and I flipped it to the page and pointed the location which would identify myself to the father and son.
I’ve only seen Gerald a couple of times and it was several years ago.
Callum : let me help you check the GPS…
He fiddled with a machine the size of a credit card reader. He nodded his head and got out of the truck.
He opened up the back of the truck and I climbed up to face a wall with 3D painting of boxes. From far and at a quick glance, it would look just like a delivery truck if anyone looks in.
I keyed in my passcode at the keypad on the side and one of the panels slid open.
Stepping into the hidden compartment of the truck, I stepped into a toy shop, for adults that is. Unlike the fancy interior of a Hollywood production, the interior of the 25 feet moving truck is pretty bare.
There’s a row of screens on the wall showing the concealed camera views covering 360 degrees of the truck’s exterior. I could see Gerald and Callum pretending to check on the wheels of their truck.
If anyone passes by, they would look as if they are checking on their vehicle.
There are no rows of guns sitting on racks with pretty LED lighting. Almost everything is kept within the rows of drawers & cabinets that are custom made and bolted to the floor.
I went to the drawer with the revolvers and helped myself to 2 of them. A Sig sauer with suppressor & one more Chinese made QSZ-92.
I put them into a black bag I pulled from a tray.
I checked the bin in the truck and I saw something in it.
I pulled it up and saw it’s the wrapping for a brand new assault rifle, the manufacturer’s sticker still intact. The oil from the rifle still dripping from the bag.
The trash is cleared at the end of every say.
This meant someone ahead of me just grabbed a big fucking gun. I skipped the knives drawer and I opened the rest of the drawers. The locks on them area all electronic, controlled by the server offsite.
Some drawers will remain lock, it really depends on what kind of access you are granted.
I was surprised to find so many unlocked. The handguns, the automatic weapons, assault rifles. Even the explosives drawer is open.
I could not believe this. Owen basically opened the armoury up for us to get everything we need.
I went to the explosives drawer and whistled when I pulled it out.
That drawer is always locked. I’m talking military grade stuff right there.
Well, Christmas came early, no harm stocking up on some stuff. Others would do it too.
I picked out a coil of detonating cord, and a box of detonator. I grabbed a few primers and took a crimping tool.
I tried the bottom drawer where the electronics are kept but it’s locked.
It’s ok, I can still set these fireworks off manually. I grabbed a coil of safety fuse and added it into my bag.
I’m probably going to bring both my knives and a gun to this project just to be safe. One of our colleagues is missing.
The rest of the stuff I’m taking is more for my own collection.
You never know when you will need them.
You must be wondering what my plan is.
Will I really be able to kill a pregnant woman with her child ?
Honestly I don’t know but I know some of my colleagues would do it.
All I needed to do was to tag along, and go through the motion, and tagging along meant almost half a million in bonus.
This my friend, is call working smart.
Someone makes the kill, I take the money. They can have the kill count, they can have the top spot if they want. I’m already thinking of retirement before I fucked up my head any further.
I was about to walk out of the truck when I saw the only full height cabinet in the truck with it’s door slightly ajar. I tried to close the door but the timber door has warp slightly, it wouldn’t close properly.
I opened it and saw a full row of body armour. Made out of aramid fibres, it has 5 times the tensile strength of steel. It’s a good light weight armour against handgun calibre projectiles.
I’ve tried being shot wearing one before during training. It still hurts like hell and I had the bruises for almost 2 weeks. It literally knocked the air right out of my lungs and I was left gasping like a fish out of water on the floor as my instructor laughed at me.
I thought about it for a moment. This will probably make me look weak. Butcher will probably laugh at me if he sees Hibiki walking into the project with a body armour on.
Fuck this. I grabbed one and added it to my stash.
He can laugh and tease all he like.
I’m not getting shot in the back on my last job. What’s an extra few KG to me when I’m not doing the heavy lifting ? Just hang back a little and relax.
I’ll happily retire with Xuehua after that, get a private property, rent it out for income and takes things easy. Just the thought of it is making me excited already.
I exited the truck after making sure the surroundings are clear on the screens in the truck.
I kept the stuff I took in my car and I gave Gerald a thumbs up.
He nodded and gave me a wave.
I drove out of the small road and made my way to the pawnshop in Chinatown.
By the time I deposited everything in my cabinet, it was almost noon time and for my date with Xuehua.
I’m looking forward to see her.
Xuehua was already dressed and waiting in her living room when I got there.
Dressed in a white dress with white canvas shoes, she looked so pure and seductive that day.
Xuehua : I’m trying to go for the student look….
Jeff : Yeah ?... the canvas shoes works..
Xuehua : Really ? hahaha
She lifted up the back of her shoe and showed me a friendship band that had sunk below her ankles.
Xuehua : See… friendship band ok… don’t play play…hahaha
Jeff : Wow… definitely have that 90s school girl feeling…
She laughed and we linked arms and left the house.
What followed was a relaxing and enjoyable Sunday out in the suburbs.
We text Lynn to wish her well on her banquet day since we don’t plan on attending that. There’s too many colleagues invited and I hate to think what Butcher’s voice would do to my appetite.
Time seemed to fly by when I’m with Xuehua. The more time I spend with her, the more convinced I am that she is the one for me.
How do you decide whether you will get along with someone ?
Simple, just see if your values are aligned.
Values define us more than we realise.
We have similar views towards money, life, the society.
Xuehua’s ideal retirement is a quiet place, out of the fast pace city where she can draw and paint.
I’m not a painter but I want out of this city as well.
Singapore will always be my home, but I know moving to a place with a slower pace of life will be better for my overall well being.
I told Xuehua about my childhood, how my mother died during birth.
Something I have never once revealed to any of my short lived relationships. I was lying down on her thighs and just looking up at the evening skies when I told her about my day dreams as a kid while cloud gazing.
Xuehua brushed aside my hair and she just looked at me with the sweetest smile ever.
Xuehua : My parents… passed away in a car accident…. The driver….was in a truck…. Trying to get her wife who was bleeding to the hospital….
She told me the driver was worried about his wife and the child inside her tummy. He sped, and he ran a red light.
Jeff : I’m sorry to hear that…
A teardrop landed on my face but her smile remained.
Xuehua : He survived…. His wife and child didn’t…. I was angry… so angry… not at him but at myself….
Jeff : Why ? … it’s not your fault…
She shook her head.
Xuehua : I was angry why I was not in that car that day… we could have gone off as a family…
Jeff : Don’t say that… I wouldn’t be able to meet you if you were in that car…
We went to a coffee shop for bottled drinks, and ordered fried crispy squids from the seafood stall.
There is absolutely no airs whatsoever for Xuehua.
Her cheerful personality is infectious.
Within 30 minutes of us sitting down at that coffee shop, she was bantering with the table of old uncles drinking beside us.
Laughter hardly stopped and the drinks kept coming.
By the time I sent Xuehua back at 11.30pm that Sunday night, we were a little tipsy from drinks and we were giggling most of the time.
There were no hesitation when we kissed outside her gate. The moment I felt the cold tease of that tongue stud, I think I wet myself as my tongue shivered in Xuehua’s mouth.
It’s the first time I’ve kissed a girl with a tongue stud. The feeling, that sensation, the raw taste of metal, the tapping against my teeth.
My erection could almost imagine that same tongue on it.
Our bodies pressed against each other as we explored the interior of each other’s mouth.
Xuehua : erngh… shit….is this too fast…. Are we going to fast…
Jeff : No… I don’t think so… it’s just nice for me…
Xuehua laughed and we continued kissing outside her door.
When we finally pulled away, our foreheads connected and we laughed.
I knew I was almost getting there.
If I asked for it, she would allow me to go in.
And once I’m in, there’s nothing to stop us form fucking each other’s brains out.
Xuehua : should we…..or save it…. For the Korea trip ? … hahaha
I laughed as she put her arms around my neck, kissing me against. I hugged her waist, bringing her body tightly against mine.
Jeff : I’m a man…. You should know the answer before you even asked… hahha..
Xuehua : Tsk !...
She gave me another kiss, panting hot air into my face.
Xuehua : couple more days then… hahah…. Something to look forward to ?? hahahah… aside from work…
Jeff : haha… couple more days it is then… hahah..
We parted ways after I made sure she locked her gate and door.
15 July 2013
I was already at my desk when Billy came in with Belinda in tow.
Belinda : alright… shall we get started ?? !!
She looks excited.
We spent an hour going through the primary plan. It’s a simple job.
Belinda told me Owen has gone through it and made some adjustment to her proposal so it’s all good.
Belinda : He’s in Thailand this few days… by the time he’s back, we should be done with this…
The plan is simple.
The 20 room hotel is located a few stops away from the city centre. Intel suggests that when we check in, the staff will decide which room we will be assigned to.
Billy : I’m pretty sure they will give you and Xuehua the…. Erm…. Special room….
I gave Billy a middle finger as he went on.
Billy : They have only 2 staff…. Owner, Ricky, won’t show unless he sees a target he is interested in.
Preliminary investigations suggest that they will drug the girls or couples they are interested in, usually by means of a complimentary bottle of alcohol or pastries like cakes.
Belinda : We got the construction drawings of the hotel, the 2 rooms here and here…. Has a false wall that connects to the freight elevator behind it…. We suspect owner will either rape the girl in the room when she’s passed out, or bring her to his basement…I know you don’t want to use Xuehua as bait but she’s the fastest way we can draw Ricky out….
Before I could say anything, Belinda quickly added.
Belinda : He will never even get to touch her….all we need… is for him to show up… come out of hiding…. And it’s all over…. You will be there with her… every step of the way…. He’s won’t even be able to smell the scent with Hibiki in the room…
I wanted to speak but she cut me off again.
Belinda : We booked the entire hotel…..the rest of the rooms bulk blocked by a shell tour company…. Only we will be there… tour group will be delayed… they will not show…the suspected girl in the basement…. We just need to get her, deliver her to the embassy and our job is done…. Simple… very simple…
Billy : Hardest part is probably you doing it with your own hands…
I was about to give my take when I froze.
My eyes saw something peculiar.
Taking my silence as consent, Belinda asked if we could call it a day so she can go get ready.
Belinda : Ok ? Boss Hibiki ?
Jeff ; Huh…. Er.. yea yea…whatever…
I was lost in my thoughts as I tried to rationalise what I just saw.
Belinda : great… see you guys at the airport tomorrow… i’ll go talk to Xuehua for he details to get tickets for her if its ok with you Jeff…
Jeff : Huh.. oh… yea yea yea… sure sure.. thanks…
When the door shut behind her, I turned to Billy.
Jeff : You have a soft copy of project documents right ?? ….
Billy : Yeah…. I’m always the soft copy person….
I asked Billy to open it on his terminal.
Billy : What’s up ?
Jeff : Open it….
Billy : What are you looking for ?
Jeff : what’s the project number for this ?
Billy : Hmmmm…. Here.. 331390… buying toto or 4D ?
I felt my heart skip a beat as I asked Billy to scroll down to the project budget.
Billy : Hmm… ok…. Here…budgeting….and… woah…what the fuck…
My throat felt dry as I stared at the figures.
It’s almost 3 million.
Billy : There must be a typo…. Bonus for this type of job averages 45 to 68k… that’s catered for under this section here…. Woah… what the fuck….
The budget for this is way higher than the jobs we’ve done. 5 times the amount.
Jeff : go to the audit tab
Billy : err… ok…here…. All in order… approved… Ricky’s a fucking asshole… he deserves to die… I think probably Owen trying to move money around…. He does stuff like that sometimes…
Jeff : Approval date for this….? When did the Audit team start looking into this…
Billy : wow… this started almost 3 months ago… and only now then he assigns it out…. Quite unlike Owen to sit on stuff like this….. ok… I see.. here… look… this date… when another girl goes missing…. Probably wanted more information before acting… everything ok ?? no one ever looks at this section of the documents… why the sudden interest ??
Jeff : Audit approval…. Who approved it ?
Billy : let me see….here… Hiro Hattori….he approved it…. Last week… why are we looking at all these again ??
Jeff : Nothing… just curious….
I went back into my room as the revelations of what I just uncovered slowly sank into me.
Owen’s trying to piggy ride another project on this. Hiro is already dead.
My heart started beating faster. Something is wrong. Very wrong.
I opened my office door and I shouted across to Billy
Jeff : Staff details… how many are Japanese working for the company.. ?
Billy : oooohh…hahaha… there are a few hot ones…hahah… let me see…6… all permanent residents… been here for more than 10 years…with the company for at least 7…
Jeff : ok… thank you…
My mind is in a mess. I don’t know what to make of this.
Owen is trying to pass something off right under our noses.
Billy knocked on the door and I gestured for him to come in.
Billy : Bro… you ok ? … you looked worried…
Jeff : err.. no.. nothing… just… ermm worried about Xuehua that’s all…
Billy : Bro,,,Ricky is 50,… did a double bypass last year… barely survived a heart attack… you would probably scare him to death… don’t worry…
Jeff : Yeah… ok…
Billy was about to close the door when he popped his head back in.
Billy : Oh… if you are interested in the Japanese babes… hahah… ask Dr Lynn for a intro… ahhaa….. she’s close with all of them…
Jeff : what ?
Billy : Yeah… she knows I’m single… ahahah… tried to hook me up… haha… I have my eyes set on one…I mean just in case Xuehua doesn’t work out for you hahaha…
Billy shut the door and I tried to calm my thoughts down.
The puzzle is in pieces.
Nothing conclusive so far.
Nothing fucking make sense to me.
As far as I know, Owen is trying to pull something off. He’s trying to get rid of Aiko and I want to know why.
I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on it’s end as I opened the door and walked out so fast that it gave Billy a shock.
Billy : Wah… what’s wrong with you…
Jeff : Does Lynn speak Japanese ?
Billy laughed as if I said something stupid.
Billy : what are you talking about hahha..? ….. Dr Lynn’s mother is Japanese… it’s her mother tongue…
I blinked a couple of times before turning away.
The pieces started to fall but they are not falling into place. In fact, it’s all over the place. Something still feels off about this.
Lynn is no terrorist.
Yes, she speaks Japanese, she’s a doctor. If I’m a pregnant woman with a child, she would be the one I would go to. She’s the prime suspect.
Let’s not forget she’s the company’s doctor.
Many staff go to her. Being able to speak Jap is a plus point as well.
I would choose to go to someone who speaks my language as well if I’m working overseas. Hiro was a senior executive with the company, Aiko would have access to the benefits he enjoys in terms of medical care.
No way. Not possible.
The man Lynn married, the people her husband deals with. He would have made sure she is clean. Cleaner than clean.
How else are you going to have the prime minister at your wedding otherwise ?
Lynn just got married. She’s going to go for her honeymoon. She’s rich, practically a modern day version of a princess, Why would she get involved with something like this ? Her views are never on the extreme ends of the spectrum.
She is like a sister to me. If she has any ill intent to anyone, I would have been the first one to detect it. Unless she is really that good at hiding it.
And if it’s true, would her husband be able to see through it ?
If he’s blinded by love and we hurt Lynn, it’s going to be a clash beyond proportion.
Men like him don’t do subtle.
They don’t know the art of being subtle.
They are like bulldozers with big guns. They’ll fucking mow everything down in their path, then shoot you again.
The more I think about this, the more I’m convinced I’m wrong. This cannot be.
I’m looking at this from the wrong angle.
This is fucked up. I could feel the area around my jaws going numb and I massaged it a couple of times as I looked out the window and onto the streets below.
Jeff : Billy… go back to the audit approval…. Only the head of departments are authorise for the final sign off … am I right ? what is the structure like within Audit ?
Billy : I’m pretty sure they covered this during orientation…
Jeff : I’m pretty sure we went through different orientation…
Billy : Ehh… ok….what’s wrong with you today man…. ? yes… only head of departments ….. Finance, Operations and logistics…. They are all within the Audit umbrealla……It’s usually the head of operations that signs off…..A lady call…. Ermm… Ailing… Finance and logistics head, they do it too, very rare, mostly to cover of Ailing if she’s not around…
Billy searched the server for a one page infographic given to new employees during orientation.
Billy : Owen’s own team of operators will submit proposals and information gathered to the Audit team….. then it gets passed through the various departments, clearing each level of checks….
Billy pointed to the chart and say that Operations first make sure of the accuracy of the information, then it goes over to logistics.
Billy : logistics checks through the preliminary proposal Owen submitted and makes sure the movement of resources and manpower are available…. This includes the shortlisted agents like you…. Usually 3… They coordinate not only the clean up crew , they are also the people helping to pull the strings with local law enforcements, so everyone knows when to look the other way if this is an authorised hit.…. If you know what I mean….
Billy told me that the agents Owen proposed for the project are screened before hand to make sure they are not connected to the target.
Billy : Distant relatives…. Same surnames…. clan associations….ex lover…. Puppy love in secondary school….. Logistics make sure agent proposed will not complicate the job….. if project requires travelling, like ours… to Korea…. Logistics team are also the one coordinating with the Embassy staff in Korea…. To let them know there will be a team of operators coming in…..
Jeff : I see….
Billy : Finally… finance has to give the green light of course…. Then we get the sign off to proceed.
Jeff : any of the 3 head of department can sign off ?
Billy : yeah….. as long as it’s been cleared by all 3 departments… just need either one of the 3 signatures….i’ve never been inside the office but I know how it is laid out base on some old construction drawings I’ve seen.
Imagine 3 horizontal lines of work stations, on one end is a meeting table for 6. On the other, is the desk for the head.
Billy : The desks of the HOD are aligned such that they are a couple of meters away from each other. ….. open concept office…. Everything in there is confidential and all staff are cleared even before going in…. there’s no need for more rooms…
Jeff : What if say…. You skip a department…and the head of department still decides to sign off ?
Billy : hahahah… bro… you fever ah… hahaha…. No way la…. Got processes, due diligence … we only short of ISO only ok… hahah..
Jeff : so say Finance clears the last hurdle, why not the finance chief sign off, since it’s already at her side of her desk ? why go back to operations ?
Billy : Bro, by signing, I don’t mean bringing 3 cartons of documents to the boss, it’s all electronic…. Gets routed to the 3 chiefs….. any one of the 3 can sign off… trying to safe paper….. green campaign …
I nodded, getting a clearer picture of how this works.
Jeff : so if I have access to the HOD accounts, I can sign off on projects…
Billy : What the fuck man…. ? are you ok ?? why would you want to do that?? …
Jeff : Nahh… nothing… just thinking out loud…
Jeff : but money…. How does finance know how much budget to approve ??
Billy : Well…. Honestly, I have never seen Finance reject any proposal before…. If you get past Operations who vetted the accuracy of the information…. It’s pretty much a go…. Owen has money… a shitload of it… as long as they keep coming in…. Finance won’t say no… it’s up to Owen how he wants to play it… finance are the people that is stopping us from flying first class and staying at the Ritz….hahaha
Jeff : I see…. Ok…. Ok…
Billy : Look bro….. as long as the facts of the target are real, verified, he’s a fucking asshole….the rest usually gets approved…
Jeff :Yeap I got that….
Billy : anything else you want to know ? …. You want to know how to file your taxi claims ?...
Jeff : You can do that ???
Billy : forget I asked….
Jeff : Do you have access to my past projects ?
Billy : Not projects specifics… but general information including approval… yes… hold on…. 29 projects so far…. 27 approved by Ailing… 2 by Finance head, Cassie, and…. Our Korea holiday this week…. Hiro Hattori…. Head of logistics…
Jeff : Are both Ailing and Cassie on leave ?
Billy : No way of knowing that…. Sorry… Bro… seriously…. Are you sure everything is ok ? anything I should know ?
Jeff : ermm… not at the moment…. I’m just a bit confused with some issues….can we go into the audit department ?
Billy : That’s like sacred ground man…. Mortals like us are not allowed…. Owen has access… but if you really want to kill everyone on the way in….
Jeff : ok… fine… fine… I’m good… no more questions… thanks for the help…
Billy : I’m heading to the money changer…you need to get some Korean won ?
Jeff : help me get 2k, I’ll transfer it over to you later…
Billy : alright…
I left the office and went to the clinic on the 3rd floor.
There is a replacement doctor coming in to cover Lynn while she’s away. I asked the receptionist when will Lynn be coming back.
She will be away for a month. I thought of giving Lynn a call to find out what she knows about Hiro and Aiko but I don’t want to disturb her honeymoon. She would surely press me to reveal the real reason for calling her.
I can picture her on the line saying something like ; “ you fucking called me… to ask if I’m a terrorist ? …. You fucking piece of shit…. I’m going to fucking castrate you… you fuck “
I dismissed the thought. Lynn can wait.
I made my way to the café and I dropped Owen a text.
I’m not going to confront him on this yet, not until I have more information. I sent him a text on the pretext that I have something I wanted to discuss with him when he’s free to talk.
One thing I know for sure, Owen is hiding something. He’s trying to sweep something under the carpet and the first victim is Hiro. He killed him and is currently controlling his account.
Hiro knows something. His wife knows something. Something that Owen don’t want anyone else to know.
I reached the café and I saw Belinda and Xuehua talking to each other. Lala gave me a wave and started to prepare my coffee.
I paid for my drink and saw a reply message from Owen.
He says he will call me in a bit.
I sipped my drink and I saw Eddy coming out from behind the stall. He walked towards me slowly.
I took a deep breath and prepared myself mentally.
When Eddy spoke, I choked on my coffee and spilled ¼ of it on the table.
Eddy : I will kill you….
Jeff : bleruhhhhhhhhgggg!... what ?
Eddy : hurt my niece….. and I will fucking kill you… you hear me ?!!!
I stared at Eddy in shock as he literally said that out loud in the middle of the café.
Xuehua : Eddy !... stop it… you’re scaring him !...
Eddy : Scare what scare…. Your boyfriend no balls meh ? VOICE A BIT LOUDER ONLY WHAT !!....he no balls ??!!!
Xuehua gave me a napkin to wipe my mouth as I composed myself for a reply.
Jeff : Eddy… i.. I will take care of Xuehua….i will… it’s just a short trip…
Eddy looked at me and I could see he was about to say more shit but he saw the look in my eyes.
I’m sincere, I mean what I say. I will take care of Xuehua.
Jeff : I mean it….
Eddy : Zhun bo ?? ( you sure ? ) …. You eh siew buay siew ( literally translation, are you sure you have what it takes )
Xuehua : Eddy !.. enough… stop it…arghhh !... I’m old enough !...
What I did not expect was for our resident security guard to step in.
Leng : Eh… let her go la…. So big girl already… you worry for what… ? scare he eat her meh ? ahhahaha
Jeff : what??
I turned and looked at Xuehua, trying to make sense of what is happening.
Then the cleaner, Annie cut her way into the conversation.
Annie : yah Eddy… Xuehua big girl already…. Don’t always worry about her can or not… she can take care of herself…
Xuehua gave me an awkward smile.
Why the fuck does the whole café including the cleaner and security guard know about our trip ?
Lala bounced over, giggling as he rubbed the side of his thighs as if scratching an itch.
Lala : Jeff…. Can buy face mask for me ? hahah… I like korea face mask… the Innisfree type… Jeju island….
Jeff : wow…. Ermm..yeah… sure…
Xuehua started pushing everyone away from the table and shooing everyone away from me.
Xuehua : go go go… shoo. Shoo…. Shoo…. You all very irritating leh…. Shoo shoo. Shooo….
She gave me a sheepish smile.
Xuehua : Sorry…. i… didn’t expect news to travel this fast….
Jeff : It’s ok….
Eddy : Jeff… I mean it…. I will chop you !!... if you hurt my niece…. !! I will fucking chop you !!
Jeff : No no… don’t chop me… I won’t hurt your niece…
Annie : Eddy…. Hahha… I think you better pray your niece don’t hurt him can already… hahaha…
Xuehua : Tsk !...
Xuehua’s hands rest on her hips as she gave Annie an irritated look.
Annie chuckled as she scurried to her cleaning trolley.
Leng chuckled and popped a cigarette into his mouth as he slowly shuffles back to his hideout in the carpark.
Freddy, Lala’s father came out from the drinks stall and half shove and push Eddy back to the chicken rice stall.
Freddy : she’s no longer a little girl…she can take care of herself la… you worry for what… everything also worry…..
Eddy : Her parents entrusted her to me !! of course I need to worry… when I die…. I meet her parents… I need to answer on ok ??!!
Freddy : Please la… your old antique way of thinking….go go… go… got people waiting for you la…
The commotion finally cleared and I could see Xuehua blushing slightly.
Xuehua : sorry… old people like to gossip…. It’s a small café…
Jeff : it’s ok… no problem….
Xuehua told me the flight details have already been made known to her by Belinda.
Xuehua : are you done packing ??
Jeff : ermm.. I have a bag….packed and ready to go… I’m used to travelling….
Xuehua : Nice… so…erm… I guess… I’ll see you at the airport…? Tomorrow ??
Jeff : sounds good…
She turned and I could see she wanted a kiss but there are several pairs of eyes staring at us.
Xuehua : see you tomorrow.
I went back to my coffee and had a short chat with Belinda.
Jeff : all ok ?
Belinda : checked through everything…. Air tickets booked…. All in order….
Jeff : Belinda I have a question for you…
Belinda : Shoot….
I asked her if I’m the only one getting an intern.
Jeff : What about the rest of my colleagues….. are they getting one too ? I’m sure you know the other operators that…. Say work with… Butcher…. Gourmet…?
Belinda : ERmm… we do lunch together sometimes… but we don’t really talk about work….
Jeff : I see… it’s ok… never mind….
Belinda : I’ll text you the flight details…. See you tomorrow….
I went back home after that and Owen called me shortly after.
He sounded different.
A stark difference from the Owen that spoke with us at the zoo.
His voice sounded as if something was resolved.
Owen : What’s up…. Are you packed for your trip ??
Jeff : Nothing urgent…. If you’re busy… this can wait…
Owen : Nah… I’m waiting on the tarmac for air traffic to clear us for takeoff…. What’s the problem…
Jeff : No problem… just erm… want to talk retirement…
Owen : I see… well…. I said it… I won’t stop you guys if you want to…. But Jeff for you… I hope you can consider staying on…..not in current capacity of course…. More of a … mentoring role…. For future…. Employees….
Jeff : I’m thinking of relocating…
Owen : Oh…sigh….ok…. where ?
Jeff: No idea yet…. But… say we finish the last one…I should be packing up and getting ready to leave….
Owen : Alright… I understand… hey..i understand if you don;’t want to give a location…. But at least give me an email address…. In case things come up… just in case…
Jeff : ok…
Owen: anything else ? …. You need a loan or something ? hahahha
Jeff : About the new project….
Owen : What about it… ?
Jeff : nevermind…it’s ok… we’ll talk when you are back…..
Owen : Oh… before I forget…. Your Korea trip…. Belinda has to do it… with her own hands….make sure you see it happen… or else it’s not counted…
Jeff : How long will she be stuck with me ??
Owen : Not long… don’t worry… just need her to clock one before I can move her out to another spot I have in mind….
Jeff : And if she can’t do it ? I’ll do it ?
Owen : no…. get Billy to do it….
Jeff : you’re kidding…
Owen : I don’t joke when it comes to project… will be waiting for your report….
He hung up and I just stared at the ceiling in my flat. It felt like I’m just a cog in a gigantic machine. No one but the person controlling it could see the whole picture.
I went to my storage at chinatown to keep Gwen’s drawing pad in my cabinet.
I’ll look through the rest of the drawings when I retire and relocate.
I was about to shut the cabinet when the familiar sight of my stash brought back a string of memories.
I felt goosebumps rippling across my skin as I stared at the spot where my old HE grenade use to sit.
The pieces started falling again.
My grenade. The meeting with Danzo and Nakamura. The missing Ronins in the country.
Jeff : fuck….
I exclaimed softly to myself as this latest revelation start to hit me.
I shut my cabinet and I drove to the Japanese association when I last met Danzo and Nakamura.
I walked into the association. The receptionist asked me if I needed help.
I hesitated for a moment before telling her I’m looking for Nakamura.
Receptionist : I’m sorry… there is no such person here….
Jeff : I see…. It’s ok then…
I started to walk back to my car.
Before I could get in, I saw a man appear in my path to block my way.
I recognised him. He is one of the men that was in the room with us before Nakamura released them.
I spoke directly to him.
Jeff : I’m looking for Nakamura…
He eyed me with suspicion and I could see a few more men approaching from less than 20m away.
Within seconds, I have 4 men on all my sides.
I shook my head, I can’t believe I need to do this a day before my so call holiday.
Danzo : What do you want ?
That familiar voice made me turn and I saw Danzo standing barely 5 metres away. He waved to his men and they left us alone in the carpark.
Jeff : I’m looking for Nakamura…
Danzo : who do you think you are ??
His aggressive posture and body language is a dead giveaway that I’m not welcome.
I was about to turn and leave but since I’m there, I decided to get some answers.
Jeff : Did my boss get in touch….. ever since the day we last meet… ?
Danzo looked like he was about to curse at me in his native tongue but the longer our eyes remained locked at each other, the more Danzo hesitated.
Jeff : I don’t want any trouble…. I just want answers…
It took another 30 seconds before Danzo made up his decision to answer my question.
Danzo : no.
I asked another.
Jeff : Did you find the men you are looking for ?
Danzo : No….
I could feel a sinking feeling in my stomach. Danzo did not look like he was lying to me. He’s curious. Curious why I would come barging into their turf and asking questions like that.
It’s a bad feeling. I can’t really describe it.
Jeff : How…. How many are missing…. From Japan…
Danzo’s phone rang and he immediately picked it up. From the courteous manner he is answering the call , it is probably his boss. He covered his mouth and spoke quickly in Japanese.
When he hung up 30 seconds later, he tells me Nakamura is not available today.
Jeff : It’s ok then…. I’m travelling for work tomorrow… will pay him a visit when I get back…
Danzo : Japan ?
Jeff : No.. Korea…
I got into my car and started the engine.
Danzo’s men looked like they wanted to stop me from leaving but he waved them away and let me pass.
16 July 2013
It’s a morning flight and Billy set up a chat group on whatsapp that includes Xuehua.
I reminded my colleagues not to accidentally reveal any project details in the group chat.
I arrived at the airport early. I’ve always enjoyed the calm at the terminals before the morning peak.
There is something surreal about stepping into the mega structure.
I leaned against the railings and looked up at the massive green wall in front of me. A couple of hot looking air crew walked by on my right with their branded carry on in tow.
A few cleaners milling about. A toddler ran amok on the carpeted floor while his parents gave chase.
The regulated temperature, the unique smell of the airport. This is truly a one of a kind destination. The travel experience for many of us starts right when we step into the terminal.
I could smell the coffee from the café a short walk away. It’s like stepping into a different world. If you have travelled enough, you would surely appreciate the calm of our own airports compared to the others around the world.
I’m travelling for work but it feels like a vacation of sort.
I saw from the reflection of an advertisement the figure of a women stepping into the terminal with a suitcase in tow.
She looked around for a bit before making her way towards me.
As she came closer, I could see her slowing down deliberately.
She tried to keep the noise down but I could hear the wheels of the trolley getting louder as she drags them closer.
Seconds later, I felt a warm pair of sweet smelling hands cover my eyes from behind as my nostrils was filled with the smell of Xuehua.
Xuehua : enjoying the view of hot stewardess ?....
Jeff : hahaha …
I touched her hands and pulled it down to my mouth, kissing them as I turned around.
I must have done something good in my past life as I looked at her in her eyes.
Her hands went around my neck as she said good morning with a peck on my lips.
Her hair smells amazing, freshly shampooed. Xuehua wore a grey singlet underneath her beige long sleeve shirt. Her sleeves are fashionably rolled up to her elbows, the buttons were undone. It’s like that outer blouse is floating on a cushion of air.
A pair of ¾ capris in baby blue contrasted the fairness of her exposed calves.
Her feet disappeared into a pair of white sneakers with laces that are rainbow in colour.
Very casual dressing but she still look amazing.
Jeff : You look amazing…
Xuehua : I know… haha… many had said so… hahaha..
We kissed again before heading to a café for breakfast.
Billy and Belinda joined us shortly after, arriving within 5 minutes of the other.
We were enjoying out breakfast banter when I caught sight of a man when I lifted up my coffee cup for a sip.
The same man from yesterday at the carpark.
Our eyes met and he turned away, speaking into his phone.
I looked around casually as I pretended to stretch. I went to get a refill of my coffee and I saw 2 more of Danzo’s men walking towards the area we were sitting at.
I’m not worried. It’s the airport. A simple shout would bring help faster than you know it.
I went back to my seat with my new coffee and I caught sight of Danzo. He’s standing near the entrance of a bathroom.
Jeff : Alright…. I better go to the toilet before the flight…
Xuehua : Airplane got toilet one ok…
Jeff : I know… but I don’t want to shit in the plane…
Xuehua : hahah.. disgusting la !!... shoo shoo…
I stepped into the bathroom that early Tuesday morning. Danzo’s men were close behind and I knew they will be at the entrance.
I looked at Danzo who was staring at me in the bathroom.
Jeff : What ?
Danzo : My boss sent me… he has questions…. For you…
Jeff : why can’t he ask them himself ?
Danzo : He is not in the country….
I hesitated for a brief moment before replying Danzo.
Jeff : You answered 2 of mine…. I’ll answer 2 of yours….
Danzo nodded as if concluding that is a fair deal.
Danzo : Did Owen send you ?
Jeff : No.
Danzo : Does Owen know you are asking these questions ?
Jeff : No.
Danzo nodded and I could see him reading me. My expression, my body language.
Danzo : 52
Jeff : what 52 ?
Danzo : The question you asked yesterday…..52 men are missing from Japan….but we don’t know how many are in Singapore… At least 40 by our estimates…
I hesitated for close to a minute as i digested what I just heard. I can hear Danzo’s men turning others away from the bathroom, claiming that it’s spoilt.
Danzo waited patiently for me to ask my next question.
It’s as if he knows I have one.
Jeff : Hiro Hattori….
Danzo exhaled, his hands reaching into his pocket.
Danzo : We know Hiro … He is the one bringing the men into Singapore…. And we know he works for Owen… He is also the one hiding them…. If Owen did send you to find out how much we know…go ahead and tell him….we knew all along…
Jeff : Owen did not send me…
Danzo was quiet for a while before saying that Hiro and family are in hiding. The men stopped arriving a couple of weeks back.
Danzo : All movements have stopped…
Jeff : I see…
Danzo : Someone is playing a dangerous game Jeff…
Jeff : These are dangerous times…
Danzo nodded before saying they only want Hiro.
Danzo : We want Hiro….. I can guarantee safe passage home for Aiko and her daughter….
My heart worked doubly hard to pump blood and oxygen into my body as I dealt with the realisation of what is happening.
Danzo checked his watch and he started to make his way out of the bathroom.
As he passed me, Danzo paused for a second.
Danzo : Sometimes…. The hardest part of our job….. is to figure out who is your friend…. And who is your foe……
He gave me a pat on my shoulder before leaving the washroom.
I washed my hands and my face before drying up with the paper towels provided.
Danzo used present tense when talking about Hiro. He does not know he’s dead.
If what he says is true, Owen is building a small army.
All foreigners, with no links back to him and the company.
Hiro is dead, Owen wants Aiko.
Which meant Aiko is the only person what knows what is going on.
Owen’s planning something.
Let’s assuming I take Danzo’s word at face value. The Japs don’t have her, they are not the one protecting her and her child.
Common sense took over and the pieces started to fit.
Aiko is too scared to go to the authorities. No one will believe her if she walk into a police station and say her dead husband’s employer is building an army with men smuggled in from another country.
Owen could easily play on that and have her declared mentally ill and have everything swept under the carpet. A pregnant woman is no threat to the company, unless….
Unless she has proof of what Owen is up to.
Proof compelling enough for whoever that is sheltering Aiko to help her.
I closed my eyes for a brief moment, trying to recall every single conversation I had with Owen for the past 6 months.
My eyelids fluttered and my breathing slowed down as I cycled through the memories I kept filed away in my head. I felt the hair on my body stand on its end as the images in my head started flashing faster and faster with a few terms that seem to repeat itself several times.
Budget cuts, consolidation, accountability, Budget cuts, training interns. Budget cuts.
I opened my eyes as recalled Owen storming off after speaking with the Prime Minister a few days ago.
I know Owen. He loves his country. He is running the company because he is convinced that it’s for the good of the country.
We are the reasons our enemies are afraid of the dark.
The company is everything to him.
He will do anything to protect it, this includes protecting it from the very people that rules the country.
The foreboding feeling of something disastrous is going to happen made my legs go weak for brief moment as I supported myself on the counter top.
I looked at my own reflection in the mirror and I spoke to myself without realising it.
Jeff : Owen…. What have you done…...
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