This is a work of fiction.

All characters are fictional.

The landmarks, locations of actual sites in Singapore are used solely for storytelling purposes.

The author has no affiliation or stake in any of the cafes, restaurants, hawker stalls or landscape nursery mentioned in the story.

Some road names are fictional made up solely for story telling purpose.

 

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CC

 


25/3/20 – updated

30/3 – 3/4 – Rajahs don’t bend – end of part 2 Combining last 2 updates for end of part 2.

 

13/4/20 – Part 3 begins

 

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if you flip through my report books documenting my progress as a student , you would see several remarks like this from my teachers.

“ Jackson needs to put in more effort “

“ Jackson needs more motivation “

“ Jackson requires the right drive to excel “

“ there is still chance for Jackson to Excel”

The teachers are just being nice.

The word they would love to use on me is lazy.

Jackson is the laziest student in class. That is a fact.

I could remember as far back as when I was in Primary two when my grandfather was called into the teacher’s office for behaviour problems.

The teacher complained that I always slept in class. She questioned if I was staying up late at home. My grandfather said no and that I go to bed on time at 9.30pm.

However he could not explain why I kept falling asleep in class.

After the meeting, he asked me why I kept doing that.

I simply told him that the class is boring.

Jackson : I already know and understand what the teacher is teaching…..

Grandpa : don’t be a smart ass…. You are not as clever as you think…

I just smiled.

I never argued with my grandfather. He is my only family and he practically raised me on his own. My grandpa had my dad when he was 18. My dad had me when he was 18. This meant my grandfather had me when he was 37.

What the fuck does this do to someone who is 37 ?

37 in this time and age, some of us have yet to become fathers.

Things could not haven been worse for my grandfather. I was an unwanted child. My dad is a sailor according to my grandfather. He met my mum, who is some sweet girl in a good school.

Their romance is something right out of a fairy tale.

Just that the fair tale does not have a happy ending.

I was an accident, it could not have been clearer than that. 1 month after my mum gave birth to me, she left me with my grandfather together with close to two thousand dollars and a weeks worth of baby supplies.

That was it.

My grandfather told me when I was older that she needed to go overseas to continue her education. A bright future awaits her and there was no room for a child in her life.

So at 37, my grandfather is saddled with a newborn, with hardly any idea of how to care for a child and make a living at the same time, he struggled. He really did.

There were few pictures of me when I was a child, even fewer of my grandfather. We simply could not afford pictures. My grandpa did odd jobs and together with the help of neighbours, we fumbled along and the next thing I realised, I was already in primary school with teachers scolding me for being lazy.

It’s true, I am lazy but I’m not stupid.

I just want to find the most efficient way to something with minimal effort.

It’s as simple as that.

It is exactly a mentality like this that got my grandfather an invite for another visit to the school when I was in primary 3.

I was already in the office when he came and I felt bad seeing my grandpa in his dirty work shirt having rushed over from the factory.

My form teacher laid out all my examination papers.

No, I did not get zero.

I got exactly 50 for all my papers except composition.

Wait a minute you say, 50 is a passing grade right ?

You’re right.

Low grades or the lack there of was not the reason my grandfather was invited down to the school.

I got 50 marks because I counted exacted 50 marks and only answered the questions that gave me 50 marks.

Why  ?

That was the mark to pass isn’t it ?

Of course, an attitude like this did not sit well with the adults.

I don’t see anything wrong with this.

Let me explain why.

The whole idea of examination is to make sure you comprehend the subject, and you are able to effectively apply the concepts learned.

You will then be graded.

50 is a pass.

50 means you are ok.

Why then do I have to answer all the questions ?

What did I do with the rest of the time during the examination you ask ?

Sleep of course. What else is more important than sleep.

After the lecture by the form teacher, my grandfather asked me why did I do something like that .

Grandpa : studying is good for you… it’s the path to a better future… do you want to end up like ah gong ? …. Doing odd jobs…. Earning so little money…. With nobody to love….. ??!!

I hugged my grandfather and he stopped talking.

Jackson : I love you ah gong…. With all my heart….  I love you….

My grandpa laughed as he stroked my hair.

Grandpa : ah gong will not be around forever… you must learn to be more mature… you must learn to take care of yourself….

Jackson : don’t say things like that Ah gong…. I will take care of you.. don’t worry…..

I patted my chest first and added,

Jackson : this is for my promise…..

Next I tapped my shoulders.

Jackson : this is for my responsibility….

Then I held up both fists in a mock battle stance.

Grandpa : what is that for.

I gave him a smirk look and added.

Jackson : for glory….

He threw his newspaper at me, cursing as I ran away into my room.

Grandpa : SI GINNA!!  ( Irritating kid ! )

So if you remembered your primary school days, you will need to take some special exams that some adults come up with. The answers you put down on that paper determines if you are meant for the gifted program or if you are destined to become a farmer like the rest of the population in this elitist society of ours.

Since I was tired of my teachers saying I’m stupid and lazy, I answered all the questions.

When the results came back, my teach could hardly believed his eyes.

Yeah. Jackson is not a dumbass. He is just lazy.

So what if I got good results and an offer to join the program.

It’s not for people like me.

My grandpa is hardly making ends meet.

Transferring school ? New uniforms ? School bus ? new materials ?

Fuck off .

I’m happy if I could have food on the table and spare change for a candy at the end of the week.

I continued my wayward ways with my examination papers and when I was Primary 5, my grandfather got another invitation. This time it was to the principal office.

The same scenario happened. From Math, to Science, to social studies.

50

I answered exactly 50 marks worth of questions.

I got a 95 for composition though.

Again, the same lecture only this time round, the principal put the fear of PSLE into my grandfather’s head.

PSLE I tell you, it’s just an exam but to a illiterate old man charged with raising his grandson, PSLE sounded like stage 4 terminal cancer.

I shit you not.

My grandfather was worried as hell. He took on extra shifts and wanted to get me a tuition teacher. I refused.

I insisted that he stop the extra shifts or I would stop going to school.

He was at his wits end until I sat him down and told him don’t worry.

Jackson : ah gong…. Look at me…. I give you my word…. There’s no way I will mess the PSLE up… ok ??

He relented eventually.

I scraped through Primary 5 and when the faithful day comes for the dreaded PSLE, I answered all the questions.

Yes I know, there’s the bell curve, the averaging and shit but I don’t care.

I just didn’t want my grandpa to worry.

Grandpa : did you fill in all the blanks ? did you answer all the questions ??

Jackson : yes ah gong… yes… I did… don’t worry… hahaha

To celebrate the end of the last paper, my grandfather brought me out to parkway parade. Wywy wonderland, that place is magical.

Grandpa wanted to change $5 worth of tokens for me to enjoy myself but I said just $2 is enough.

Jackson : It’s not easy to make money….

My grandpa smiled and ruffled my hair before pulling my body against his.

Grandpa : If only your father is half as good as you…. If only…

When my results came back, I had 280 out of a score or 300.

My score was only 3 points short of the national record then.

Within days, letters of offers came from schools that the sons of ministers and businessmen go to. Expensive schools.

Ok expensive aside, schools that are far away.

Schools that need to take long bus ride.

Why the fuck would I want to go to a school so far away, when there’s a secondary school just a fucking 5 minutes walk away ?

I don’t care about schools and grades.

At 12, I only want what’s convenient.

And I know saving 4 years of bus fare travelling to and from school would save my grandfather a lot of money.

And so that it. The nearest school, for the laziest kid.

It did not take long for the teachers in my new school to realise what I was up to.

It was a big issue. I’m talking detention, counselling, more invitation for my grandfather.

By then my grandfather had sort of zoned out of the lectures by the teachers and principals. He just nodded and smile, says that he will keep a closer watch on me.

At secondary two, I had a particularly nasty form teacher.

He has a poisonous tongue and he spits words that cuts deep into your skin.

Now, given how thick skin I am with my don’t give a fuck attitude, I was immune to what he says until during a parent meeting session he insulted my grandfather.

That was when I snapped.

Teacher: aiyah…. This kind of kid… from broken family… raised by odd job labourer… sure no future one la….. I’m sure the grandpa outside also lazy lazy kind…..that’s why the grandson follows in his footstep…. Whole family no future and hope one…. … he’s going to fail all the way till his ‘O’ levels….

He was saying it to another teacher but we were well within earshot and he knows it.

I could see it hurt my grandpa and something snapped in me.

I blocked his way and demanded an apology.

Jackson : my grandfather raised me single handedly….!!! He did more for me than anyone ever has….. who the fuck are you to say things like this about him ??

Teacher : what did you just say !!! ?

I repeated my words as my grandpa dragged me away, apologising for my behaviour.

Jackson : fuck you !!

Okay, okay, you don’t need to be a genius to know what the consequences are for a student to give the ‘f’ word to his teacher.

1 stroke of the cane was melted out but oh boy, that’s not all.

That’s not all.

I waited till all the papers were over for the end of the year examinations.

And during one busy recess period where everyone is enjoying their food, I walked right over to my form teacher who was happily chatting with a full plate of food in front of him.

I lifted his plate and smashed it onto his head.

The screams and cheers that erupted etched itself into my head.

Jackson : that’s for insulting my grandfather….now…. watch me fail all my paper….

I walked away as bodies parted for me. My form teacher shouted at me and in a slip of his tongue , mouth obscenities in the middle of the canteen, causing the cheers and jeers to go up a notch.

Other teachers tried to calm him down but the damage was done.

A teacher reciting a string of expletives in front of the whole school ?

Good luck to him.

And as for that dumb act of mine, another 3 strokes of the cane, in public this time, on the fucking stage.

I took all 3 strokes and endured a 15 minutes of shaming and scolding in front of the whole school.

It didn’t bother me at all.

I don’t care.

After the discipline master was done scolding me, I was made to remain on stage for the rest of the speech and prize giving day.

I smiled at the next teacher coming up on stage.

She’s that motherly teacher that you wished is your form teacher. If there can ever be a standard mould for moulding a mould that moulds the future of our nation, Mrs Koh should be that mould.

She’s soft spoken, always polite and all the students respect her.

Respect is something you earn.

I’m not talking just about the studious group of kids, even the most badass gangster in the school bows and speaks properly to Mrs Koh. Students will go out of their way to help her with the books or files she is carrying.

That’s the amount of sway she holds in school .

Mrs Koh started the ceremony by announcing the top student for our cohort that year in each subject.

I saw her shot me a look and it was a particularly awkward moment for the teachers.

Mrs Koh : 1st….. in English….. Jackson…

I did not have to get up from the floor to go up the stage.

I did not have to walk pass rows of students to get on the stage.

I did not have to walk pass teachers sitting at the side of the hall to get to the stage.

I am already on the fucking stage.

The thunderous applauses I got was the small act of defiance my classmates could show. Nobody liked our form teacher and he was nowhere to be seen.

Whistles and cheers rang out as Mrs Koh continued.

Mrs Koh : 1st in…. Literature…. Jackson….

It didn’t stop.

It never stopped.

History, geography, science, Chinese, higher Chinese.

Every fucking subject there is, I aced it. It’ not that I’m smart, it’s just that the bar is low. Half the school is not studying, we’re at the age where we just want to have fun.

From that day on, no one bothered me again. Ever.

Even in secondary three, I did exactly what I used to for my exams.

50 points.

No more, no less.

50 points.

I was marked of course.

Marked and labelled.

Jackson, the problem child. Leave him the fuck alone to his own demise.

Someone probably has a note like this somewhere on my name.

Not only did teachers left me alone, even the school drop outs hanging around with their so call gang members gave me a wide berth. They raised their cigarettes and nod at me as I walked past the void decks where they hung out in droves.

What about the girls ? Of course I got the girls.

Girls like bad boys, they always do.

I have girls lined up stabbing each other in the back to be my girlfriend.

I’m not a robot, I’m a growing kid. I am not immune to growing breast and shapely legs. Especially not when the girls chose to wear fancy cross back bras or those in bright pastel colours while tucking in their white blouse so tight, I wonder if they deliberately bought it a size smaller.

I’ve touched enough breast and kissed all the hottest girls from those in the 1st express class to the Ah lian in the last class.

Upper secondary is definitely an enjoyable period for me. My grandpa finally got promoted to a full time staff in a supervisory position after so many years of doing odd jobs at the factory.

It seems by taking on all the shit that no one wanted to do, my grandpa eventually because the only person to know what is going on.

The factory owner’s son saw the effort my grandfather had put in over the years and the first thing he did after taking over the reins was to give him the position and pay he deserved.

$2900 excluding bonus.

That is a lot of money for my grandpa after having worked and survive on less than 1k for so many years.

Things were finally starting to look good for the 2 of us.

I got Mrs Koh as my form teacher in secondary 4. She knew what I was up to and the only thing she said to me was not to hesitate to ask her anything, if I need to. She left me alone when I slept in class but she would always do one thing the other teachers never did.

She would wake me up after her period was over, asks me a few questions to make sure I understand the essence of that chapter or what shew as trying to teach. If I got it right, she would nod her head.

There are times I got it wrong though and she would smile, before retracting it and throwing me 3 hours of after school detention for me to revise.

I enjoyed her class and I enjoyed my last year in that school. I love it.

The school, the girls and their fancy bras and their sweet smelling hair.

O levels came and well, there’s not something you want to fuck it up. So I did it properly.

Straight As and this time round, invitation letters to some of the best junior colleges in the country.

My grandfather was doing a lot better now as a supervisor and if I wanted, I could go to a JC and then on to university but I didn’t.

I did not want to.

At 16, all I wanted was for my grandfather to rest more while I take up the burden of supporting us. I started work part time after school ended at a landscaping company.

I went the polytechnic route and I worked whenever I had no classes at the same landscaping company. The extra income I brought home, I gave half to my grandfather and the other half was my own allowance.

I love landscaping and plants.

The plants don’t complain, they don’t bitch about people. You can’t have office politics with plants. It was my kind of work. I love getting my hands dirty too and I’m not afraid to say I have green fingers.

Plants thrive under my watch.

You might have bought something from me too if you frequent the landscaping companies located in Kovan just beside the carpark.

I know the plant species well and during Chinese new year, my salesmanship and my business acumen always put the widest smile on my boss’s face.

Plants.

I sell them, I plant them, I nurture them.

I fucking love them.

Selling plants is considered boring on many fronts, it’s one of the most uninteresting jobs ever.

However, my life was about to change because of my love for plants.

I just did not know it yet.

My love for plants would eventually lead me to a house.

A house where the chapters for the rest of my life would be written.

…………………………………………………….

 

I started with the basics of course at the nursery, mostly manual labour. The foreign workers at the company thought it was weird a kid like me would want to work in such a place.

I did exactly the same things they did. Unloading pots of palms and flowering shrub off trucks under the hot sun.

It felt good working up a sweat. After the unloading, it’s pretty much free time for me since customers don’t come in droves unless it’s around the festivities.

I would wander around the large garden, do a bit of pruning, some rearrangements, sometimes I would just sit and enjoy the shade and smell of the freshly watered plants.

Daisies, roses, sunflowers, palms, frangipanis, bamboo, being surrounded by them on almost a daily basis made me feel as if I’m working in a different country, a different place.

A far cry from the concrete city we live in.

When it comes to selling, it’s simple. Prices were clearly labelled but I was given the liberty to give a bit of discount.

Everyone loves discount.

From $6 pots of mint to a $68 dollar large shrub of rosemary, I can sell anything. I could bullshit about how bamboo would fit into a rich man’s garden and how having a water feature would help keep his mistress from straying.

I even sold a Japanese pagoda to a English man who left his wife and married his Chinese colleague.

I shit you not, I sold Venus flytrap and pitcher plant to the boss of a pest control company.

He says no way my plants is more effective that his chemicals in controlling pest population.

I gave him my honest reply.

Jackson : of course la boss… your one is weapon of mass destruction ley… insects sure die en mass..…. My plants…..is for national geographic documentary one….conversation starters……i ask you I ask you…. You single right…. You single….

Boss of pest company : what has that got to do with this…. ??

I noticed he is without a wedding ring but what really gave him away was I overheard him on his phone earlier asking his friend to hook him up with another girl for a date.

High chance single eligible male.

Jackson : imagine you trying to strike a conversation with a girl about your work….which one is a better conversation started…. Bottles of chemicals…. Or these….

I pointed to the 2 pot of carnivorous plants.

Jackson : Natural…. Organic pest control….the inspiration behind the values you founded your company on….. Striking a necessary balance…

I stopped talking and wait for my bullshit to sink in.

Boss of pest company : that is absolute bullshit bro…….

There was a 2 second pause as he looked at the plants.

Boss of pest company : …………….. but i’ll take it…

Jackson : thank you boss….

I would give the occasional bags of fertilisers if I like the customers, sometimes I threw in a free pot. If I see kids running around, I might pass them a marble or two while their parents browse my wares.

I knew the other bosses and employees along the entire stretch of nursery.

Some of them gingerly commented that their kids don’t even want to come down and help out, choosing to settle for work in an airconditioned office.

Well, it’s their lose.

I come to work in shorts, singlet and flip flops most of the time. There’s really not a lot of work out that that can go with my choice of attire.

My grandfather told me manual labour and gardening don’t pay. I know that, but it’s something that I enjoy doing.

Grandpa : Singapore is not a place you get to make a living doing things you enjoy…….

Jackson : but if I don’t try….i’ll never know right… ? hahah

Grandpa : hahaha…. True.. true… ah gong don’t have much for you but I can guarantee you a roof over your head…the rest… you got to figure it out….

Jackson  : That is more than enough for me….

My classmates thought my choice of part time work is weird too.

I don’t blame them.

I did a business course in polytechnic and my friends were saying if I loved plants that much, I should have gone and do something related.

Botany or something, landscaping, built environment.

I told the girls I wanted to start my own business and manage my own empire in the future. Shit like that sounds good to girls.

I was a little more candid with the guys.

I went to the business course for the girls. I hooked up with my first girlfriend in polytechnic within the 1st month.

At the end of the 1st year, I pretty much went though all the girls that looks above average that any guy would want to bed as long as you are not gay.

This pretty much meant I was labelled as a jerk by the end of the 1st year.

Well the truth is I don’t want to be too specialised in something. Dreams may be dreams but I’m well aware of the need to pay my bills and to take care of my grandfather.

I went through the list of courses available, not interested in engineering, not IT, not really into design. Business is pretty broad base, covers a wide range of subjects and it allows me more options when it comes to looking for a proper job after graduation.

I continued working part time for the landscape company until I graduated and when it’s time for me to enlist in the army. My boss wanted to go back and help whenever I can and I agreed.

Weekends after I book out, I would pop by for a few hours, make some extra dough, then head back to spend time with my grandfather.

The longer I worked at that landscape place, the more convinced I was that I wanted to go into it full time.

Not as an employee.

I wanted to be my own boss.

I told myself that every hour I put into the part time work then was me getting my experience level up.

One day, when I’m ready, I will take the plunge.

One day.

First, I need to get my national service out of the way first.

Now when it comes to the military, I have it all figure out. It’s really simple actually so for those who has yet to serve, take it from the old bird here.

Just stay low profile and invisible.

Really invisible.

No, I can’t do the minimum in the army, you’re going to get marked for death literally.

I can’t go all out thumping my chest, people will roll their eyes at you.

Stay in the middle of the bell curve.

Average brother, average.

Don’t be the first, don’t be the last. Stay in the middle and keep your mouth shut.

I ran at a comfortable pace, I did what I was told, and I kept my head down and smile. 2.5 years will pass in a breeze.

When it’s time for the acting session for everyone to demonstrate who has leadership qualities, I had to stop myself from laughing at some of the antics my fellow army mates were displaying.

Almost everyone wanted to be a commander, it was drama at it’s best.

Boys in the middle of transition to men or so they say are expected to roleplay and within that few hours, someone will determine if you are meant to be a leader.

When it was my turn to cross an obstacle as the commander, I did not even hesitate. I immediately asked for suggestions and I took the one that made most sense and needed least effort.

Least effort is the key. I didn’t even want to think of a solution on my own.

Jackson : that is an excellent idea brother…. We shall do that… hahahah…. You’re in charge…. Let’s do it.. come on !!…

After the whole situational test is over, I was pulled aside by the officer who was evaluating us.

Officer : Recruit Jackson…. Why…

Jackson  :why what Sir…. ?

Officer : While everyone is trying to demonstrate what they can do….….. I see you spending the time trying hide from others what you are capable off…..leadership…. cannot be taught… it’s either in you or it’s not….. some people struggle with it their whole lives…..

Jackson  : I just want my 2.5 years to pass…… I don’t want the responsibilities of having to take care of others….. and… I’m pretty sure I didn’t demonstrate any leadership qualities….

Officer : No you didn’t demonstrated any…….you merely put in the extra effort to hide any that you might have………

I was a little taken aback by that statement as he walked away with a smile.

Officer : …….what a waste….what a waste… haha…

Keeping to myself worked out pretty well for me for the first couple of months until something happened.

A man paid me a visit once day.

It was out of the blue, I was pulled out of my bunk and told to report to the office for some administration matter.

A man named Owen introduced himself to me.

Owen : Hi Jackson…. My name is Owen…. And I have a proposition for you….

Jackson  : huh ? … why me….

Owen : We’ve been keeping an eye on you for a while….. since back when you were in school in fact…. You’re athletic….you’re fast… you can talk….and of course…. You topped your cohort in terms of results…… you are smart…. And you are low profile….. You’re raised by your grandfather…..I could go on…and on….

I said nothing and I just looked at that man.

He’s not in uniform, he came empty handed.

There were no other officers or staff in the office, just the 2 of us.

He’s waiting for me to talk, to ask him what he wanted but I’m not doing it.

Why should I ask when it was him who came to make me an offer.

We stared at each other for close to a full minute before Owen smiled and nodded his head.

Owen : We have…. An offer for you …. A career…. Like no other….

Jackson : err…. I’m not interested in signing on with the army….

Owen laughed.

Owen : I’m not with the army…..

Jackson : then where ?

Owen smiled and just raised his eyebrow.

Jackson  : ermm… Navy… ? Air force… ?

He shook his head.

Owen : We…. Are a special group of people….and we do things that needs to be done…. In unconventional ways…… if necessary…

I slammed the table with my eyes wide apart and pointed excitedly at him.

Jackson  :OH!!! OH!!! OH!!!…. FUCK!!!.. James Bond shit !!! you’re doing those James Bond shit right !!!!

Owen was a little taken aback at my outburst and with my enthusiasm.

Owen : Well… not exactly….

Jackson  :No need to explain… sign me the fuck up… !!!! will I get paid… ? Do I get to drive an Aston Martin !!!! Bentley!!!…. I want a suit….. a tailored one…. What about my annual leave… bonus….. is this considered signing on ? …. Is there an official contract.. ?

Rubbing my hands eagerly I could see Owen trying to get a read on me.

Jackson  : what ?

Owen : I usually don’t get this level of enthusiasm …. From potential recruits….

Jackson  : Why not…??!!!

Owen leaned back on his chair and asked me some questions. I gave the right answer to them all.

Jackson  : I will die for my country !!!!!! I WILL!!! I swear !!! confirm plus chop!!! Anything !!! I’ll do it !!! I swear my loyalty…. My allegiance…. Anything ….!!

Owen nodded his head after talking to me for 15 minutes before saying he will consider all applicants before getting in touch.

I smiled and shook his hands eagerly, giving him a thumbs up before he went out the door.

The moment the door closed, the smiled disappeared from my face.

He came in so cock sure he had me.

He came in empty handed, he said he’s been keeping an eye on me for a while.

I assumed he has access to my academic details, my performance in the military is average at best. Someone probably tipped him off about seeing someone with potential, that’s why he came.

He wanted to see if there is an unpolished gem for him to discover.

What made him come is not my academic past, it’s the notion that I can remain unnoticed and exists as an unpolished gem in a place where most are looking to excel.

He wanted that sense of control, or in my case, my desires to remain unnoticed.

I massaged my jaws and face, the exaggerated expressions must have pulled some muscles I seldom used. I left the office and I saw Owen talking to my Platoon commander.

I waved excitedly at him and gave him 2 thumbs up eagerly.

He put on his sunglasses and left.

Well, that’s the last I’m going to see of him I think.

Money, fame, glory , James bond stuff ? Not my style.

Simple, comfortable and a happy life with my grandfather, that’s what I’m talking about.

Bringing him overseas, sightseeing, holidays. Those are what I really wanted.

My time in the military flew by and I started work at a logistics company as an operations executive.

On weekends, I would still go back to the nursery to help out, not so much for the money, but more of my interest and to reconnect with my bosses and colleagues who were so kind towards me all these years.

With a stable job, I finally did what I wanted to do ever since I was a young boy.

I can confidently say that was the proudest moment of my life.

For others, it would be owning a fancy car, a nice watch, a big house, maybe a trophy wife.

For me.

That moment came when I took a taxi with my grandfather to the airport together.

He held in his hand the first passport he ever owned in his life.

The look on his face, the expression, that anticipation and nervousness cannot be easily described with words.

My grandfather had never been on a plane, he had never been out of the country. It’s just a short 4 day trip to Bangkok, something most Singaporeans would not even bother mentioning.

To my grandfather though, it was the experience of his lifetime.

He was so excited to be on a plane, I will always remember that grin when that SQ stewardess came and asked what he would like for lunch and he smiled cheekily at me while watching her bend low to serve him his meal.

He was always laughing and taking pictures with the digital camera I gave him.

He wanted to try all the street food, we drank beer at A go go bars, we zoomed through traffic in a Tuk Tuk. At the end of every day, he would collapsed in exhaustion in the hotel only to get up at 5am in the morning.

Grandpa : Jackson !… get up…. I’m ready….

That was the first of the many trips we would take together and it was the happiest period of my life.

China, Korea, Japan, Australia, India, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia.

We did them in that order. 2 trips a year, 1 short, 1 long.

Malaysia was reserved for the last because it’s right beside us. My grandfather wanted to keep it towards the end when he was no longer as mobile. We can do a self drive trip up north, maybe visit his distant cousin he kept in contact with.

We were going to do Europe next and I had the itinerary planned but something unfortunate happened.

My grandfather had an accident in the bathroom.

He fell.

He was not seriously hurt, had a minor fracture on his ribs because he hit the basin on the way down, but the xray revealed something else.

There appears to be some fluids in his lungs.

A more detailed checked revealed that my grandfather has lung cancer.

Stage 4.

I didn’t know what to say.

I don’t remember crying much as a child but I cried that evening.

Not in front of the doctor, at home, in my room.

What the fuck is this ?

Lung cancer for someone who has never smoked in his life.

My grandfather was affected by the news too and the thought of spending money on his treatment bothered him the most.

He didn’t want to waste money.

Grandpa : Ah gong old aready… don’t waste money on me….

Jackson : don’t you dare say things like this !!….

Grandpa : Jackson…..

Jackson : NO!… don’t worry about the money….. just get well… we still have so many places to visit together… !

Grandpa : Jackson …. I know you meant well..but…

Jackson : I will not have this discussion….. this is not negotiable….i have money… a lot of money….. don’t worry about it and just get well…..

We stared at each other for a while before I hugged him.

Then I broke down.

Life is so unfair.

My grandpa held onto me and he told me softly.

Grandpa : all men must die…..

Jackson : Please don’t make me beg…. I have never begged you for anything before….

I spent the night planning everything out in my head.

I know how much I can put away each month in terms of savings. I can double up my hours at the landscape company for a little more. On weekday nights, I can take up some part time shift at fast food restaurants.

My grandfather is insured but only the a very basic plan. We’ve live on bare necessities when I was young, no reason why we can’t do it again now.

It was an emotional evening and when I finally went to bed, it was close to 4am in the morning.

When I work up with a  jump at 10am, my heart was slamming against my ribcage.

I jumped out of bed.

I knew something was not right the moment I open my room door.

My grandfather is gone.

He packed some clothes, took his passport, his phone and charger and he’s gone.

I immediately tried his phone but it was off.

I dashed out of my place, running to the nearby coffee shops and places he usually hangs out.

There were no signs of him.

The neighbours he usually drinks coffee with in the morning says they never saw him. I went to his work place and was told he called in and quit.

He did not even want to collect the rest of his pay. His boss asked me what happened and I filled him in.

I went back home and tried to calm myself down.

Surely he would have left behind some clues as to where he is going.

I went to his room and started to open up every cabinet and drawer.

He left me a letter placed beneath 3 metal tins.

3 biscuit tins, clearly labelled with his own handwriting on old pieces of recycled paper.

Jackson university.

Jackson wedding

Jackson house.

Inside the tins were rolls of money. A mixture of old and new notes going as far back as the bird series.

I opened the letter and the contents broke my heart into so many pieces.

I expected a long letter, a lot of words. Stuff he wanted to say to me, things he wanted to tell me. It struck me then that my grandfather was illiterate. Aside from the very basics like his own name and mine, he hardly ever wrote anything.

It was written in broken English. The handwriting is uneven and the alignment is non-existent.

My grandpa’s vocabulary is limited but with those few words, his intent and what he wishes to communicate could not be clearer.

“ Jackson, You always in Ah gong heart. I love you .

Let me go. I don’t want to die in hospital.

I don’t want needle inside my body and rubber out of my nose when I die.

I want to be free. You are very young, you have to live your life.

I cannot be heavy luggage. I cannot be useless old man pulling you slow.

Jackson, if you wear my shoes, our place change, you will do the same. I know.

If I can choose my life again, I will still choose the same, with you together.

I have no regrets be your grandpa. I love you Jackson. “

I sank onto the floor.

Sometimes I feel like strangling that stubborn old man but what he said is true. I would have done the same if I was in his position.

I made a police report to say that my grandfather is missing.

I kept trying his phone but it was off all the way.

2 days later I was informed that my grandfather had left the country into Malaysia the day I reported him missing.

I knew he had a distant cousin he kept in touch with occasionally in Kedah but other than that, I have no other information.

I checked his personal belongings and he brought along his atm cards.

I taught him how to withdraw money overseas during our first trip to Thailand.

That’s a good sign, bringing money and atm cards gave me some hope that he is not going to do something stupid.

I just need to follow the money trail.

There was no need for private investigators or anything dramatic.

It was a joint account with me but I don’t use it.

I had opened it for my grandfather for his savings that he wants to keep aside for travelling.

I updated the bank book and I saw withdrawals made in Ringgit. I called the bank and asked for the location.

It’s in Kedah.

Now all I need is to verify that it was my grandfather who was the one doing it and that he is safe and sound.

I rented a car and I drove all the way to Kedah, to the town of Bandar Alor Setar. It took me 9 hours and I went straight to the location of the ATM that the withdrawal was made.

I opened up a map of the area.

It’s a small town and the ATM which the withdrawal was made is at a petrol station near a Macdonald.

He withdrew 500 Ringgit, not a big amount. He’s alone in a foreign land and I don’t think that amount is going to last him for very long especially if he needed to find lodging and food.

I scouted every ATM within a 300m radius. I crossed out those that are too far out of the way from the initial ATM the withdrawal was made.

Those that are in dimly lit places, I cross them out too.

Within the immediate area, I reckon that’s only 3 that my grandpa would visit if he needed to get more cash and if he is still within that area.

Being a small town, a lone traveller especially one like my grandfather would surely stand out. He probably took a bus, then perhaps a cab. In a country where most people drive, someone walking about on foot would surely stand out.

I tried the staff at the petrol station, asking workers from both shifts and showing them photos of my grandfather. They didn’t notice him.

I know my grandpa is a creature of habit. He needs his coffee in the morning.

There are 4 coffee shops within the vicinity.

I went to the one closest to the petrol station and waited.

It was the only thing I could do.

It took me 3 days. 3 days of living out in the car and washing myself up in public toilets before I saw my grandfather.

It was 6am in the morning and I had just washed my face at the petrol station bathroom. I was holding a soft drink in hand when I saw him.

He’s not alone.

Looking every bit the fit and strong man that raised me, my grandfather was pushing someone on a wheelchair.

The man in the wheelchair looked familiar. I cycled through the old photos on the wall in my grandfather’s room in my head and finally put a finger to that man.

It’s his cousin. He visited us a few times before many years ago.

I kept my distance and watch them go to a nearby coffee shop for breakfast.

They spent an hour there before heading back.

I tailed them and saw both of them enter a nursing home tucked away in a quiet street of residential units.

I waited till I saw staff driving out of the nursing home and I followed the staff to the restaurant where they are buying their lunch.

I identified myself and showed pictures of my grandfather to the 2 staff who was too surprised to say anything.

They confirmed that my grandfather had checked himself in and his cousin is staying there too.

I begged for them to put me in touch with the nursing home administrator.

It was a lady in her fifties. Mrs Toh.

When we parted ways, I settled all financial matters with Mrs Toh.

If my grandfather wanted to stay there, I can’t force him to come back.

I stayed in the area for another day before my grandfather called me.

I answered immediately.

I could see him from where I stood. I had parked my car diagonally across the street from the nursing home.

Grandpa : Jackson….

Jackson  : Ah gong…. Are you ok ? … are you feeling better…. ?

Grandpa : yes.. yes I am…. I am in Malaysia….

Jackson  : why don’t you want to stay with me….?

Grandpa : You have a long journey ahead of you…. I don’t want to…. Hold you back….

Jackson : what about me… ? how about your own journey in life when a baby is thrust into your arms more than 20 years ago….why didn’t you just let me go so I won’t drag you down….

Grandpa : Si Ginna !! ( you rascal ) … ! don’t be rude to me ! ….

Jackson : You can come back and hit me if you want….

He stayed on the line but said nothing for a while.

Grandpa : Jackson……I don’t want you to worry about me….. I want you to chase your dream…. Can you do that for me…. ?

Jackson  : my dream … ?  to be a gardener …. ?

Grandpa : ahahahah… if that is what you want….do it…. Do it properly…. Be the best there is…..

I was quiet for a while before I told my grandpa that when he is ready to come home, I will be there to pick him up.

My grandpa was walking around the yard of the nursing home when he froze.

He suddenly realised my presence across the road.

He turned and our eyes met from where we stood.

I could hear the nasal voice over the phone. He sniffed and I knew he was crying. I felt the warm roll of tear fell down my cheeks as well as we acknowledge each other from that distance.

Grandpa : stop crying !… what did ah gong tell you …? !! real men don’t cry !!!

I laughed.

Jackson  : I’m not crying…. My eyes are sweating….

He laughed too before turning his back at me. His left hand shot up and gave me a curt wave before heading back inside the nursing home.

Getting back to Singapore, I spent a few days thinking about what to do next.

I’m not doing what I really wanted to in my day job.

So I quit.

I went back to the landscape company and asked for a full time position.

My boss, Mr Keng, could not afford to pay me too much. 1200 is the max he could afford.

It’s ok. It’s a start.

I value added to the company by offering gardening and landscaping services on the side.

In that way, I can cross sell the plants and my services.

Mr Keng did not take a cut off my gardening and landscaping services, he knew it was something I enjoyed doing, besides, I’m helping him move his plants sales with every new job.

I used my savings and bought a cheap weekend car, it was for my drive u to Kedah. It was cheaper than renting. Sometimes when needed, I used it for work too. The boot held all my gardening tools.

It took about a year or so before I started to make a name for myself in the market. The young and hot gardener they say.

Somehow most of my clients are wives of rich businessmen.

They were upfront when I arrived at their place.

“ If weather is too hot….. need to shower…. Or wash up…. Come in for a drink ok…?  Singapore weather so hot… “

The hint could not be more obvious.

I did not get paid for sleeping with the rich men’s wives, I get paid to keep my mouth shut.

The first was a hot milf in her mid thirties watching me toil half naked in her garden while she leaned against the patio and eating a banana with a grin.

Jackson : Ok mdm, it’s done…. Don’t step on the carpet grass for 2 weeks…. And I will come back to check on the frangipani….. leave the support there for a while….

I told her that while holding a dirty spade in my right and muddy gloves on my left, all the while my sweat was dripping down my head and onto my half naked body.

I pointed to the patch of grass that is right beside the swimming pool to remind her to keep that area clear from the swimming pool water if possible. The chlorine might wreck havoc on the new plants.

Jackson  : don’t get that spot wet….

I never expect her to throw the banana peel on the patio as she dragged me into her house by my arms.

Hot milf : It’s already wet….

I didn’t expect that to happen honestly. It was an accident but somehow news got around.

A discreet gardener that is guaranteed to satisfy your needs.

There must be some rich wives club I’m not aware off but I’m not complaining.

Out of 10 jobs, at least 1 would end with added services.

I used to think men are the sick ones, that we have fetishes and desires that are too dark to be shared.

It seems that the women held their own court too, it’s just that they are more discreet about it.

In the pool, on the dining table, on the staircases, their private home gym while balancing on a gym ball.

The weirdest one ever was having her 2 helpers do housework right in front of us while I fucked her brains out standing doggy at the grand piano.

I asked her won’t she get into trouble if the helpers tell on her.

She told me the helpers told her that her husband does the same thing with whores in their house, no reason why she can’t do the same.

Rich people and their weird world, something I would never understand.

The helper even brought me a towel to shower after I was doing fucking her boss.

I work 6 days a week, and on the last weekend of the month, I would make the 9 hour drive up to Kedah to visit my grandpa.

He’s generally ok, you can’t tell he’s ill from the surface. He isn’t getting any particularly bad symptoms as well. He looked totally normal. I wanted him to come back for a checkup just to see his condition but he refused.

He didn’t want to know, besides, he’s enjoying himself.

The slow pace of life, the gardening. Walking and helping with a bit of cooking in the nursing home.

It kept him busy and active.

He asked if I was happy doing what I did and I told him yes.

Jackson : working and creating gardens in homes that I would never be able to afford in my life….. it’s my dream man…

Grandpa : hahahah

 

I didn’t see the need to tell him about my extra activities of providing pleasures to unsatisfied wives.

Now, at the back of my head, I knew it was a matter of time before some angry husband realises the gardener is fucking his wife. I’ll probably get punched or have someone create a ruckus at the nursery, there is nothing much I can do but prepare myself mentally for that day.

I wanted to stop but it was quite hard to because when the clients came, they came with recommendation.

“ Mrs Fong recommended you, I hear you are a hard worker “

“ Mrs Theresa says you gave her garden a good trim “

“ Stefanie told me you made her scream in joy with your handiwork “

“ You come highly recommended by Mrs Koh…she told me you ploughed her garden up real good…. Something her husband never did “

I did not want to sink too deep into this mess so I made a deliberate attempt to taper down my extra services and I rejected a few recommendations, but some are just too hot to resist.

That day that I’m afraid of finally came. I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw the vehicles.

It was a Monday morning in December of 2014.

15th December 2014.

11am

I was checking off a list of plants I needed to do up a small garden when I saw 3 cars pulled up in front of the nursery.

They did not park, they stopped and a dozen men got out. The cars drove off, leaving the men at the entrance.

Jackson : oh fuck…

At the back of my head, I knew they were here for me.

I tried to remember who was my last client that had extras and remembered it was a 29 year old mistress of a developer who was neglecting her.

She came out to the garden in sports bra and her panty. I shit you not, a cotton panty. Then she offered to help me when she was just trying to reveal more of her body to me.

My snapping point was when she straddled my spade and held it up like she was riding a broom stick.

29 year old mistress  : do you like Harry Potter….? This is me riding Nimbus 2000…..hur hur….

She yanked at my spade a few times and asked she wondered if Jackson would make a better ride than her Nimbus.

We fucked for 2 hours straight and she was trying to cover her mouth with her hand as we plastered our bodies against the full height windows overlooking an expressway.

She wanted to keep in contact but I told her I will be done with the garden in a couple of hours. I would prefer for the project to end if you get my drift.

The men were talking loudly up front.

This is it, I’m so dead.

I slowly backed away to the yard behind the nursery.

I can climb out through an opening at the back. Maybe I’ll drive straight to my grandpa’s nursing home and lay low for a couple of weeks.

Mr Keng : Jackson !!! JACKSON!!! …

Jackson : huh…. Yes… yes…

Mr Keng :  come… come !!! hahaha… come !!! there are people I want to introduce to you….

Keng literally held my arm as he dragged me behind him. He was never this eager before.

I reluctantly followed my boss into the office. I was trying to think of an appropriate excuse but my mind could not work fast enough.

The men in the office all turned and looked at me.

I could tell the 3 up front are the ones in charge, the rest hanging around the back are the henchmen.

There’s a bald guy with huge eyes glaring at me.

His head is not straight but slightly angled to his right. He was in berms and t-shirt and he’s wearing an expensive pair of sneakers.

There are multiple visible scars on both his legs.

He was the one closet to me. He came closer and eyeballed me. I looked at him and gave an uncomfortable smile. He’s looking at me as if he was short sighted and forgot his glasses.

Declan :  Seven …. Back off ….

Seven, that bald guy is called seven ? “

It suddenly struck me why he was called Seven.

He looked like the guy who acted as ‘ghost leg seven’ in the classic Huang Fei Hong show. The guy who’s good with his legs.

Declan : Hi Jackson….. My name is Declan…. My friend Keng….says you are a good gardener…..

I looked at my boss who was wiping perspiration from his face.

His expression and body language did not tally with Declan’s claims that they are friends. He’s looked nervous as fuck.

Declan is probably the oldest in the room. I would put him to be at least early to mid sixties. He’s fit, well dressed. He was in pants, shirt and a chic black vest.

His moustache gave him an air of authority and he looked like some old Marshal in a Chinese civil war movie.

Jackson : err… hi…. What can I do for you…. ?

Hong : WE NEED A GARDENER LA….. WHY ELSE WE COME HERE !!!!

I jumped when he shouted almost point blank into my face.

What the fuck is his problem.

Declan : Hong…… Hong…. can you…. Lower your voice…. You’ve going to make me deaf….

Hong : MY VOICE IS ALWAYS LIKE THAT ONE !!!

Hong looked like someone who skipped legs days even though he visits the gym regularly. He’s big, broad shoulders and arms, his blonde hair is dry and messy, gives off a vide that he belongs in another era.

He wore a black top with the words ‘ I tea dance at Sparks’

His eyes is small compared to Seven but his presence nevertheless is felt not only visually, my eardrums are on the verge of being damaged.

Declan : Jackson … I apologise for my…..

He was waving his hands in the air trying to search for a word to use for the group of men around him.

Jackson : colleagues….

Declan snapped his fingers and lit up with a smile.

Declan : yes… yes… colleagues…  you see… erm….. my…. My…… my…..

He looked around him and I could see him trying to think of something.

He had the word but he didn’t want to use it.

I looked at the gathering of men inside my boss’s office.

These guys are thugs.

Definitely gang affiliated. Keng looked like he was on the verge of shitting himself. I saw him shoo the other workers away when they were approaching the office.

He even waved for his wife to go away when she came back with coffee from the nearby hawker centre.

I looked at the needle marks on one guy’s arms and he rolled down his sleeve as he blew his nose onto the floor of Keng’s office.

I swallowed a gulp of saliva.

I don’t remember fucking the wife of a gang leader or triad.

Declan  : I can’t think of a nice word….. to describe…. Ermm…

I looked at Declan and offered one.

Jackson : organisation….

Declan snapped his finger at me excitedly.

Declan : yes… yes…. Organisation !!!… hahah… organisation…. You are brilliant…hahaha….

He told me that they needed someone to maintain and build a new garden for their employer. They have went through a few but none have made the mark and their employer is very disappointed.

Declan : When my employer is disappointed….. she gets angry…. When she gets angry…. We… as employees…. Suffer…. You know what I mean…. ?? we have heard very good reviews about your work…. And we like the fact that you operate as a one man outfit….

Jackson  :errr… ok….

Declan : because you see… my employer… takes security very seriously….and the lesser ….. err….. strangers we let in…. the better it is for all of us….

Jackson  : errrr… I see…. Ok….can I know… what is unsatisfactory…. About your past gardeners….

Hong : YOU ASK SO MUCH FOR WHAT !!! GIVE YOU JOB YOU KNOW….

Declan : Hong please… my ears….., please wait outside with the rest of your men….. Seven can stay….

Turning to me, Declan added at Seven can’t speak, so there’s no risk of him damaging our eardrums.

Hong did a weird chomping motion with his jaw at me as he gestured with his men to head outside.

Declan : well… the past gardeners we got…. They have a bit of a checkered past… you know… they stole stuff… they don’t really perform and the garden is in terrible shape….and we have such a nice piece of land……it’s a very big property of course….a lot of potential…

I looked at my boss and his eyes were literally pleading for me to say yes. It was not hard to put two and two together. He owes them something, probably money.

There is that guilty look on his face, as if he was ashamed that he had to use me to get out of this fix.

Jackson  : ok sure… I mean… if you…. Can give me some pictures…. Drawings…. I can work out a proposal…. And send you a quotation…. ?

Declan leaned back on the chair and looked at Keng.

Declan : You didn’t tell him… ?

Keng : I… I was going to….i didn’t expect you to come first thing this morning….

Jackson  : tell me what ?

Declan : that you are going to be my full time employee…..

Jackson  :what ?

I turned to my boss who was at a lost for words.

Jackson  : I… I can’t… I love my work here, besides, I can’t just….

Seven  : arGHHHHHHHHH!!!!! aRGHH!!!! ARGHHH!!!

I jumped again as I watched Seven flew into a rage. He went to this large tree trunk that was reserved for another client. He started kicking it with his legs.

His rapid and continuous kicks reinforced the rationale behind his name.

He kicked it so hard that the bark chips off and I could see the sturdy timber being damaged. He just kept stomping on it aggressively with both legs as I sucked in a deep breath and back myself closer to Keng.

Declan : Seven… please stop !!…. oh god…. I swear… one day I would get a heart attack….  sigh….. I apologise….. I apologise……. He has anger management issues…

Seven stopped kicking and shouting as he stormed out of the office 3 seconds before the whole trunk toppled onto the floor.

Keng : I’m sorry Jackson…. I wanted to talk to you about it tonight…. i… I didn’t expect….

Declan : it’s fine… it’s fine…. It’s fine…. Keng….

Declan tapped his own chest and said he will do it.

Declan : Jackson…. I want you to understand that….this is no different from what you are already doing…. We really need a good gardener…..we will pay you…. Reasonably well…. Give you the creative freedom to design….don’t worry… we’re not gangsters…. Or anything… you are free to leave if you don’t like the job….

Jackson : oh….ok..

Declan : don’t mind my colleagues… they are actually very nice people once you get to know them….

We heard some shouting outside and I turned to see Hong jumping in the middle of the nursery.

Hong :  ARGHHHHHH… HAHAHAHAHAHA…..

I saw Hong head butt a hanging orchid, shattering the pot and spilling charcoal all over the floor as his men clapped. His head was bleeding a little but he was still laughing.

There was another smash as Seven leapt up and swipe 2 pots with a spinning kick.

Turning back to Declan, he continued to appeal sincerely to me.

Declan : I am certain you would enjoy yourself with us…. And I am proud to say we have zero attrition rates for the past few years….

Jackson  : what about the…. Gardeners… who ermm.. didn’t quite make the mark… ?

Declan: oh them… they were redeployed… into other roles more suited to their areas of expertise….

Jackson : I see….

The door to the office open and a Indian man spoke directly to Declan in Hokkien dialect.

Kamal : Declan !!!. EH SAI BO ? WU DAI JI BO ?  ( Declan, is everything ok ? is there a situation ? )

He was skinny but tall. He had large eyes like that of a praying mantis, I say that because it looked like they were about to pop out of it’s sockets. He wore construction boots, and he had a measuring tape on his waist.

Kamal : dee ji kor is Jackson ?? ( Who is Jackson ? ) why so long !!

Declan : everything is fine… thank you Kamal…. And please… get Hong and Seven out before they destroy the place….

I watch as Kamal head out, a string of Hokkien expletives left his mouth as his middle fingered and shove his friends out of the nursery as they traded curses n broad daylight.

Declan turned back to me and in a very serious tone, continued to sell his organisation.

Declan : so….what do you think…

I looked at Keng before turning to Declan.

Jackson : I… ermm… do I get to think about it… before I reply…. ?

Declan press his lips together before nodding his head.

Declan : of course… of course….. can I leave the contact of either of my 3 associates earlier… they will follow up with you regarding your decision…. And please….. let them know why if you are not interested in taking up the job…… they need to let our employer know…..Which one do you think you can click better with….….. Hong…. Seven …….or Kamal….

You got to be shitting me.

I don’t even want to go near those crazy fuckers.

Jackson  : how about I get back to you directly…. ?

I said with a smile.

Declan smiled too.

Declan :  well… then all you have to tell me is whether you will be starting today………. Or tomorrow….

Declan handed me a card with his name and contact number on it.

I accepted it and looked at the plain white card. It’s thick, good quality paper, textured. Declan’s name and number embossed in black with a copper outline.

I would have thought it’s from some design firm.

Well, it’s just a garden.

I’ve done so many. Even if it’s a big plot, it shouldn’t take long. I will double up my speed, finish it and get the fuck out.

Jackson : Ok…… ok…. I’ll start tomorrow……where is the property ?

Declan :  alright !… hahah

Declan rubbed his hands in glee as he added and finally got up off the chair.

Declan : It’s a house….. A house in Bukit Timah…

…………………………………………

 

When Declan finally got up, he went over to my boss and they had a short chat. I could not hear what was exchanged but he looked visibly relieved after the conversation.

He kept thanking Declan over and over as he walked him out of the nursery.

Keng : Thank you…. Thank you Declan…. Thank you.. I will never forget your help…. Thank you….

I shook my head at the mess those assholes left in the middle of the nursery as I picked up the broom and dustpan.

Jackson : Boss… you should have called the police….

Keng : Don’t talk nonsense… you don’t know who they are….

Jackson: They’re fucking gangsters…. Look at what they did…. Who’s going to pay for all of these….

I swept the broken pieces up and shook my head at the damaged plants.

Keng came over to help but I told him it’s ok, I can take care of it.

Jackson : this place is your life’s work…. They should all be arrested….

He bent down and tapped my shoulder gently.

Keng : Jackson …. I no longer own this place… since a year or so ago…

Jackson : what ?

I looked at my boss in surprise. What he says don’t make sense.

Keng : I own this place in name, but we fell on hard times a couple of years ago….Declan …. Bought and finance the day to day operations…..

Jackson  : what…. But ….

Keng : The amount we make…. Is barely enough to make ends meet….and…. my son….he wanted to go study in Australia…. The… the financial strain is… i… I had to take a loan for his fees and accommodation…. And…

Jackson  : I’m sorry… I didn’t know… I just assume all is fine…. Your plants are selling….i mean… things are moving….

Keng : How much can we make selling pots of mints and herbs… ? The competition is intense…. Only festive periods are better…..There’s also the workers’ levy, their dormitory fees…. Maintaining a business is not easy…… I’m also running on credit with our suppliers…. Sigh…. Sometimes I just feel so tired… it’s as if I’m struggling to pay the bills…..

Well, I wanted to say that maybe if his son is not spending a fortune enjoying himself in Melbourne, he would not be in such a state but who am I to comment.

It’s his decision.

I just thought perhaps the son should have been a bit more aware of the family’s financial constraints.

Jackson : Ok la… ok la…. don’t worry…. I’ll go fix their garden…I doubt they can appreciate the plants though….

Keng : hahaha…. I owe you one Jackson…. Don’t worry… I’ll keep your position here for you when you get back….i promise….

Jackson : How big is their garden… ? I will probably take what…. A couple of months ? …. Max… ? …

Keng : I don’t know…. you’ll have to go take a look and find out….

I finished up my work for that day and headed back home.

Looking at Declan’s name card, I realised I don’t know the address of where I was supposed to go the next day.

I dialed Declan and he answered within 3 rings.

Declan : Housekeeping…..

Jackson : errm…. This is Jackson…. I’m the gardener….

Declan : oh hi….what can I do for you Jackson…

Jackson : I need to know the address of where to go …..where is the property…. ?

Declan : Ahhh…. I shall text you in a minute….

Jackson : ok…

Declan : Another thing, I don’t believe we discussed remuneration….and staff benefits….let’s do that tomorrow shall we…. ?

Jackson : ok sure….

I hung up and waited for the address to come in.

Why did he answer with ‘housekeeping’ ?

Is he a housekeeper ?

I bet he’s going to lowball the hell out of my pay with either Seven or Hong standing around him.

Who knows, maybe he might get them to perform some more of their acrobatic stunts, breaking shit with their head as we talk about my pay.

With the odd jobs I’m doing on the side, I’m getting almost 2800 a month easily. On a good month I could get 3500, especially if the owners are happy with my services, including the gardening work of course.

There’s no way I’m going to accept anything lower than 2800 unless my life is in danger.

Maybe I got to factor in an additional 100 for petrol since it’s so far from where I stay.

Ang Mo Kio is not exactly near to Bukit Timah.

My phone vibrated and I looked at the road name.

Binjai hill.

What kind of place is that.

I keyed in the location in google map and was brought to the neighbourhood of bukit timah.

There is a secondary road along Binjai Park.

The property is located right at the top of the hill. It’s really in the middle of nowhere.

I mentally thought of the road I would need to take to work and plotted out the shortest route in my head.

I started surfing around for nearby coffeeshops or foodcourts and was horrified to see that the nearest hawker center is fucking far away. I would need to waste petrol to drive out just for lunch.

I mean come on, I’m just a general worker. I need my tea break, coffee, I need to eat my lunch. Working in such a isolated place, I can’t imagine having to drive all the way out, find a place to park, quickly wolf down my food and drive myself all the way back.

Unlike other landscaping jobs for horny stay at home wives, I doubt I would have the luxury of getting to enjoy a dip in the pool, or maybe an hour or two in the airconditioned interior of the house.

From the looks of things, I doubt anyone at this place would enthusiastically offer me tea or a drink while watching me sweat in the middle of the day.

I can’t make out how big the property is from the map and what is the extent of green space I need to fix. Guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

I shut my laptop and went to bed.

I don’t frequent the neighbourhood over there and I don’t know if there will be a jam in the morning.

It’s not my style to be late for work, and definitely not so if I’m working for people like Declan and his associates as he calls them.

16th December 2014

7.30am

I left my place in Ang Mo Kio and made the drive towards my new workplace.

Traffic is a little heavy but it’s moving.

There’s a slight drizzle and I could see lightning in the distance.

Not a good sign for 1st day of work.

Declan never said what time I needed to be at work so I assumed 9am as the standard.

I got to Bukit Timah at 8.10am and decided to take a drive around the neighbourhood.

The main roads are busy but once I turn into the residential area, it’s like entering another world. The skies started to clear and I could see the crown of the taller trees swaying gently in the breeze.

Matured trees stood tall and imposing along the side of the narrow road looking out of place with the manicured ones behind the walls of the houses I pass by.

Rows of neatly pruned frangipani with purple flowers changed abruptly to a thick row of bamboo rustling in the morning breeze. I could catch a glimpse of the houses behind the trees and landscaping, it’s beautiful.

From modern houses with flat roof and large glass facades, to the traditional pitch roof with the signature red tiles, every one of the houses there had a character of it’s own.

Some of the gardens looked like it need a bit of work. Who knows, if I do a good job, I could use it as a portfolio to enter this neighbourhood.

I even passed by a large house with it’s own security gazebo.

The Gurkhas on duty locked eyes with me as I drove pass slowly, their fingers never far away from the trigger of their weapon.

Probably some minister staying there or something.

I continued driving as I head deeper into the large private estate.

I could hear the roar of a super car engine as it went by my beat up Kia.

Jackson : woah…..

I could literally feel my small car vibrate as we pass each other.

I slowed down when I got to the small road leading up to the address on the namecard Declan gave me.

I could see the road sign indicating that it’s a dead end once I turn up that road.

I made a left turn but my car barely went 5 metres in when a large black SUV drove out and blocked the entire road.

I stopped and waited, thinking that driver must be on his way out or something.

I waited for him to move but it remained there.

I sounded the horn, feeling a little irritated.

Yes I know you are rich, but that road is still public property man.

No one came out of the car and I looked around, there’s no alternative road up to the top of the hill.

It’s the only way in.

I sighed and got out of my car and walked towards that large vehicle. I was about to knock on the tinted windows when it rolled down.

Staring at me from inside the vehicle was Kamal.

One of Declan’s so call associates.

Kamal : OEI !!!

I decided to increase the distance between Kamal and me as I asked if he could shift his vehicle.

Jackson :  I’m heading up to look for Declan….

Kamal : I know !!… I’m suppose to bring you to him ….

Jackson  : oh….

Kamal looked like he just woke up. His curly hair is all puffy and unkept.

I could see old scars of what looked like needles marks on his arms as he rest them on what’s left of the rolled down window.

Some of his tattoos were faded, there is an incomplete drawing of a spider on his left forearm. I can’t tell how old or young is Kamal. He’s definitely not a young punk but he don’t strike me as old as well. Probably in the late thirties range.

He had a gold chain around his neck. It’s pretty thick, there’s something hanging at the end of the chain.

Kamal saw me looking at it and he stuff it deeper into his t-shirt.

Kamal : park your car there….. you cannot drive in….

He wound up his window and I looked over to the direction he was pointing.

Jackson : I need my tools…. Some of my gardening stuff are in my trunk….

Kamal : You will get them later… not now….

The gate to the first property on my left opened up automatically.

I drove in and parked on the large porch that could comfortably fit at least 5 vehicles. When I got out of the car, I saw a few men stepping out from the house.

They definitely don’t fit the demographic of the people I was expecting to stay in a property like this in such a neighbourhood.

The 4 men looked at me with the same kind of stares that is guaranteed to start a fight.

One of them was about to ask who the fuck I was when Kamal whistled across the open space and gave them a wave. The 4 men stepped back into the air conditioned interior of the house without a word.

I looked away and over to Kamal who is now pointing aggressively at one other man near his car who looked like he did something wrong.

His head was bowed and he nodded quietly as Kamal let loose a string of expletives. I could make out the last sentence as I went closer.

Kamal : wake the fuck up…. Or you can fuck off…..

The man apologised several times and scurried away into the house while Kamal gestured for me to follow him.

I walked over to the car blocking the driveway expecting to get in but Kamal shouted at me.

Kamal : OEI !!!! over here !! not that car !!

I walked over to Kamal who was standing at the entrance to the 2nd property up the hill. I’m beginning to wonder if shouting and speaking loudly is part of the job requirement.

Looking inside I saw 5 golf buggy parked neatly side by side.

Kamal got into one and gestured me to get in.

I turned and look all around me.

The houses are all different, built in different styles by different architects. They have their own numberings, letter boxes and even utilities meter.

Something doesn’t fit.

I got into the buggy beside Kamal and he started to drive, leaving the SUV blocking off the entire road leading up the Binjai Hill road. It’s as if he owned the whole fucking road.

As we drove along the tree lined road, I quietly observed every property we pass by on our way up.

Instead of seeing helpers washing cars, rich owners walking their dogs and talking to their neighbours, I saw instead a gathering of men.

A lot of men, scattered throughout the sprawling grounds.

In 1 particular property, I saw at least 8 men standing around smoking in the porch.

Suddenly I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand on it’s end when it became clear to me that whoever Declan worked for, she don’t just own the property at the top of the hill.

She owns the entire stretch of property from the bottom of the road, right up to the top of the hill.

All the men probably works for her.

Kamal stopped the buggy at a large black wrought iron gate that is at least 3m tall. Gold painted leaves and iron sculpted gargoyles adored the imposing gate. At the side of the gate , there’s a smaller entrance.

Hidden from view is a guardhouse that is almost the size of a badminton court.

Inside the guardhouse, a dozen screens flicker and change every few seconds and the men inside the guardhouse looked more serious and menacing that the ones at the bottom of the hill.

These are no grunts.

There’s even one of them piloting a drone that gives an overview of the whole neighbourhood.

All of them stood up and greeted Kamal, clearly he is someone to be respected.

Kamal : Empty your pockets….

Jackson : what… ?

Kamal said nothing and waited for me to remove my car keys, wallet and mobile phone.

I was surprised when I saw another guy checked me out with a metal detector.

What the fuck is this man ?

I’m here as a gardener, and I need to go through this ?

Kamal : your stuff will stay here…. You can collect them when you leave…

He grabbed my stuff, threw them into a locker, turned the lock and handed me the key before asking me to follow him.

As I left the guardhouse and entered the ground of the property I was suppose to work on, I was simply blown away by the sheer size of it.

I never knew a place like this existed on the island. It’s huge.

I could see a large house at the top of the slope but it was obvious that’s not where we are heading.

We got back into the buggy and Kamal drove me along a stone path around the circumference of the property grounds.

I counted at least 4 men that I could see stationed on the exterior of the property.

Like the guards at Istana, each of their post offered an unblock vantage view of the ground in front of them. They are no less equipped as well. A large beach umbrella provided shade while a portable fan stood on a customised shelf.

The shelf had bottles of water and at the bottom of it is a 50 litre fridge, similar to the ones in hotel rooms.

The men waved at Kamal who gave them a cursory nod as he drove with one hand.

The house itself is nothing to shout about. A seemingly normal 2 storey house with an attic. It’s definitely big. I could see some recent additions to the house as I turned the corner towards the back.

A stark contrast from the boring white walls and sloping roof, the back had a new wing. Sleek steel columns, double volume glass panels with thin black frames clad the exterior of the new structure.

There is small balcony with an assortment of hanging plants. I could see birds flirting in and out of that balcony, trying to get to the bird feeder hanging off a small fountain the size of a bowling ball.

I saw a squirrel taking a drink from the fountain before quickly scurrying up a nearby tree.

Above the new wing lies a large patio, stretching the entire length of the new addition.

It overlooks the back of house which essentially is a large piece green, stretching almost a football field in length before giving way to a thick screen of untouched forest.

Beyond the old trees, I could see a glimpse of the other properties beyond on another road.

Something tells me the owner might have bought those as well.

Kamal : here….. inside…. They are waiting….

I looked at the small structure in front of me.

It’s rectangle in shape with a flat roof that is overgrown with wild shrubs.

It’s small, maybe the size of 4 carpark lots arranged 2 by 2. It’s probably a storeroom or sort.

I could hear the hum of the compressor and noticed that the air con is new.

Surrounding the small structure, are several sad looking trees about 2m tall.

2 are dead for sure, I could tell it’s rotting.

There are also several large tree trunk in various state of decomposition on the ground. I could see fungi growing all over the side facing the sun.

It appears as if someone had wanted to use the trunks as outdoor seating or something. Those are going to be a bitch to get rid of.

Almost 2.5m in length and about 50cm thick, you’ll need a large excavator to drag it off the ground.

Kamal opened the door and I could immediately hear the din inside the small space.

Declan was trying to reason with Hong who was gesturing and grumbling while pointing at Seven.

Seven was chewing a sugar cane and pacing up and down the narrow width of the space.

When Kamal stepped in and announced my arrival, everyone quiet down.

Seven and Hong made way for me at the small table that will comfortably sit 4.

Declan : Morning !! Jackson… so glad you could join us…. Please… sit….

I felt my heart skip a beat when I hear the door close behind me.

Turning around, I saw Kamal leaning against the door.

Seven leapt onto a wooden bedframe with a mattress and sat with one leg up, balancing his elbow on his knee as he continued chewing the sugarcane.

Hong had a sling bag slightly bigger than a laptop bag slung across his huge body and he went to stand behind Declan.

Ok, calm down. I prepared for this.

I mentally rehearsed this.

This is the part we are going to talk about remuneration.

They are going to lowball the hell out of me and I know the perfect counter.

It’s not about the absolute dollar amount you pay, it’s about the value you get.

That’s not bullshit. There is value in my skills.

Declan  :alright Jackson…. Before we start … can we look at your hands….

Jackson : what…. ?

Hong : SHOW US YOUR HAND !!!

I leaned back on the wooden chair and flipped my palms upwards.

Jackson : You trying to see if our fortunes match ?? you need my birth hour and dates as well ???

Seven : hahaha.. ahahhaha.. hahahah….

That was the first time I heard Seven laugh. His laugh came off a bit weird, sounded mechanical at times.

Declan : no.. no.. nothing of the sort… just want to be sure….

Declan looked at my hands with delight before Hong asked me to strip.

Jackson : what the fuck…. I don’t do guys….

Hong : fuck you la…. I also don’t do guys….

Declan : Jackson please…. I assure you… there is very good reason for this….

Jackson : and what is it…. ?

Declan, sensing my resistance, changed tack immediately.

Declan : how about we talk about your pay first……

Jackson  : alright…  that’s important….

Declan clasped his hands together and I quickly made the first move.

There is always the first mover advantage. I’m going to go high, they will counter offer lower, and I would counter again, this process repeats until we come to a sum we are all comfortable with.

Jackson : I’m looking at 3.5k …..i’m already doing around this amount monthly at my old place especially with the landscaping jobs on the side…..plus… now that I need to work here full time… I will be missing out on opportunities…. The distance I need to travel to work is also significantly longer and further…. As such… I believe a reasonable compensation relative to my fuel cost is justified.

I got it all out in one breath and waited for Declan to reply me.

He will ask for something lower definitely, then we will negotiate. If he’s good, he will go 2.8, I will go 3.4, he goes 2.9, and I’ll suggest we shake hands on 3.2. He’ll definitely want to win though, so I’ll accept his offer of 3.1. I could already see it panning out in my head.

I hardly breathe as Declan nodded a couple of times while I tried to appear calm.

Jackson : errm…. So…. Ok ? you serious ??  … 3.5 k ?

I almost wanted to jump for joy when i saw him nod.

3.5k a month to do gardening work, something I enjoy, where to find this kind of a deal ?

Declan leaned back all of a sudden and shook his head.

Fuck.

I knew it.

Declan : I’ll offer 5k…. if you take off your clothes for a quick inspection….. no touching….

Jackson : what ?

I looked at the men in the room, they didn’t look like they are joking.

What the fuck have I got myself into ? I must have walked into some gay den or some shit. Maybe they want pictures of my cock to blackmail me.

Maybe all they wanted was to rape me all along.

My eyes drifted to the sugar cane Seven was chewing and I thought about how badly the fibres would hurt.

Hong : OEI !!!

Jackson : what…ok…ok….

5k is a lot of money. With that I can probably persuade my grandfather back to get a checkup or something. If I do this for 6 months, 30k, I limit my expenses, I can bring him to a specialist at a private hospital.

Jackson : fine…. Whatever….

It’s not as if I have never been naked around men before.

I removed all my clothing, striping to my underwear.

Hong and Kamal checked me from head to toe.

They even asked me to pry open the space in between my toes.

It finally dawned on me what they are looking for.

Needles holes. They wanted to know if I’ve taken drugs before.

When Declan asked for me to remove my underwear, I did so without complain and after a quick inspection, he gestured for me to get dress.

Declan : I’m very sorry for having to do that but we just want to be sure….

Jackson : that I don’t take drugs… ?

Declan smiled.

He told me he already did a check with Keng about the kind of person I am. The reason why they are interested in me is because of their boss.

Jackson : Your boss ?

Declan : well… you see… after the first few gardeners….ermm…. inability to perform….she set some pretty strict rules on the new one we are to get….

Aside from not having a history of drugs, she wanted someone with no criminal records, someone who doesn’t smoke, someone educated, works independently and with no history of violence or gang affiliation.

He has to be local, good with landscaping and works alone. By working alone, he meant everything from buying, delivering right down to digging the hole for the plants to go into and working with fertilisers.

At no point are these works to be outsourced or given to another contractor.

Declan : so you can imagine how hard it is to find someone like that…… i’ve gone to so many landscape nursery looking for someone suitable …….so I hope you would forgive me if we seemed too…. Ermm…. Overly eager….

Jackson : errmm… I see….

Declan : I know you don’t smoke…. Keng says you are never one to touch drugs…. And so…. Here we are…. You are a god sent…. Hhahaha.. hahaha…

Hong : hahah.. hahaha… Boss lost her bet… ahha…

Declan shot Hong a look and he shut up immediately.

Something about a bet.

Their boss must be thinking it’s near impossible to find someone with the kind of requirements she gave.

I nodded while looking around the room uncomfortably.

Declan : ok…. Back to the money…..the offer is 5k a month….working hours is as and when you like…. But you need to get shit done …. Or a lot of people are going to be upset…. Especially Seven over there….anger management issues remember ??

Jackson  : as and when I like… ? what… ?

Declan : You want to take weekends off ? …. Weekdays off…. Work 8 hours…. Work 10 hours… your choice…. As long as we get a garden that we can all be proud off….. if it rains, I can’t expect you to come also what…. For what ? pray for the rain to stop…. ? hahaha

Jackson : errr… ok… can we put it as ….ermm… 9 am to 6pm in the contract…. You know…. better to have it in black and white….

Hong : contract ??? what contract ?? our word…. Is our contract ???!!! you think we bluff you one ah !!!

Declan shot Hong a look and asked him to shut up.

Declan : contract… of course…. Of course…. Having things in black and white is good for everyone. …

Declan reached into his pocket trying to search for a pen and paper.

Kamal pulled out a old crumpled piece of paper which was the advertisement for a hotpot restaurant and pushed it to Declan together with a pen.

You got to be shitting me.

Declan asked what other employment terms I would like to have.

He started writing on the crumpled piece of paper.

Oh god, I’m going to get screwed so bad at this place seeing how things are going. A contract on the back of a piece of advertisement.

Jackson : What about medical …. ? ermm… sick leave …. And annual leave…. Can I claim for if I fall sick… ?

Declan : oh…. Sick ?  no problem…. Dr Kamal can help you…

I turned around and my jaws almost dropped. This is definitely a joke.

Jackson : Dr….Kamal … ?

Declan : yes.. he’s our resident doctor…. Graduated from NUS…. Went on to UK to do his masters… he’s a qualified surgeon by the way…….but unfortunately…… got struck off the registrar….

I turned and looked at Kamal again.

He was squatting down, knees spread, his knee length denim stretched tight at the crotch area as he played with his mobile phone with his right hand, elbow resting on his knee.

Declan : he is a good doctor…. Believe me… he stitched me up before…. Look….

He went on to show me a scar at least 6 inches long on his forearm.

Jackson : hooohhhh…kay…..

Declan : ermmm.. annual leave……errr… what is the standard number of days now ?? ….

Jackson : errr…. I don’t know… would be nice if I get 14….

Declan : 14… ? take 21…. 21 just nice…

Hong : 28 la…. got number 8…. HUAT HUAT ( to prosper )

Declan : good idea…. 28….

28 days leave ? Who in the work gets 28 days leave in this country. I’m beginning to think this whole thing is a joke.

He went on to scribble it on the paper without waiting for my reply.

Jackson : what about CPF ? you will be contributing to my CPF account right… ? it’s the law….

Declan paused before turning to Hong.

Hong shrugged his shoulders.

Declan : tell you what… we’ll count the contribution portion…. And give you in cash.. then you put in on your own… how’s that… ?

Jackson  : … err.. ok… I don’t mind…. Then what about the budget for doing up the garden…. Who do I pass the invoice to….? As in who approves the things and plants I need to get….

Declan : you of course…. You are the one that knows about plants….

Jackson  :me … ? just me… ?

Declan  : why not….

Jackson  : errr… ok….

Declan : if you need money… get from Hong….he’ll hook you up….

Hong : I’ll give you your 1st month pay first… plus errmmm.. the CPF is what ar…how much….

Hong unzipped his bag and took out a stack of thousand dollar bills.

That lousy sling bag is packed full of money.

He counted 6 pieces before pushing them across the table.

Hong : enough ? is this enough ???

I could not believe what I was seeing.

He started counting another 10 pieces.

Hong : 10k enough to buy plants and stuff you need to start working or not ??? or you need more… ?

He pushed the mess of notes all over to me and I stared at the money while holding onto the side of my chair.

This is worrying.

Who the fuck walks around with stacks of thousand dollar bills in a faded sling bag across his chest ?

Declan : oh… we deal in cash only by the way…. I hope that is not a problem… I assure you… these are real notes…. Hahaha… sorry….. we’re a bit short on 100 dollar bills these days… and the 500s are pretty rare as it is….. I have 10 thousand dollar bills though but they are harder to break into small notes….

Jackson  : what about 50s ?

Hong : you go bank ask them break for you !!!

Declan : Hong… please… I’m really going to go deaf one day…. Stop shouting by my ear….

Turning to me with a smile, he quickly added ;

Declan : And Jackson…..i need to remind you that…. Ermmm… how do I put this….. we are…errr… we trust you…. With money…. As you can see…. But…. Ermm……

Hong : He trying to say….. if you ever try to fuck with us…. Especially with money…. You is die….. YOU IS DIE….. understand …. I confirm…. You IS DIE…

Jackson : you mean ‘ you will die ?  “ … got it…

Hong : No… I mean ‘ you IS die ‘

I nodded and told Hong not to go on.

He turned to Seven and asked him which part of ‘ you is die ‘ do I not get.

Jackson  : I understand….. I understand… I got it…. I got it…. Thank you… ‘ I is die’….. confirm…. ‘ I is die ‘

It’s my fault, I should not have bothered to pick on his language skills.

Declan went on to say that the shed we are in is the store and rest area for me.

Declan : You can do it up if you like, you can put a bed, stay over…. It’s up to you…there’s a bathroom on the side over there…. A little cramp but it will do…. This…..

He gestured to the small cozy shed and added,

Declan : This is your lair…. Abode… studio …. if you prefer a nicer term… hahah….

I nodded.

Jackson : ok…. Thank you…

Someone knocked on the door and handed Kamal an electronic key card.

Kamal passed that card to me.

Kamal : …. this unlocks this door, the gate, the recreation area …. , basically anywhere that you are allowed to go…. If the door doesn’t open for you…. That place is not for you…. Understand… ?

I nodded as I palmed the card and kept it in my pocket.

Declan : Jackson…. I need to explain to you….some rules….so please listen carefully….. the house you see over there….…. We call that the castle….

Declan did not use his hand, instead he nodded over to the direction where I saw that large majestic house looming over the property.

Jackson  : It sure looks like one to me…

Declan : hahaha.. yes…and in that castle….

Jackson  : lives the queen…. Ok… I got it…

Declan nodded, happy that I understand where he’s coming from.

Declan : Do not go in there…..do not attempt to go near there….your key card allows you through the gates, and guard house and to your shed here …..most of the other places are out of bounds…. l

Jackson : yes… I’m the farmer….. I stay away from the royalties….no problem….

Seven chuckled again, no doubt amused by my lame joke.

 

Declan : good…. Good…. Food…. Is catered…

Jackson  : what !….

Declan pointed to the building beyond the wall of trees.

He told me that food is available 24 hours a day at the house at the end, I just need to follow the small path leading into the trees and I would see the entrance. A small gate leading onto another property from the back.

A team of 5 cooks rotates round the clock to keep everyone fed and happy.

Declan : You can always head out to eat if you like…. Your car… stays outside….you want to go anywhere beyond the road leading up to this place…. You use the buggy….

Jackson : what about my tools…. All the things I need to buy and transport to this place….

Declan : I’m sorry…. It’s a hassle but it’s necessary…. Don’t worry…. The main gate to this place can be opened….the guards will be notified that we have a new gardener. …… they’ll get use to you in a week or so….

Jackson : ok… where can I go and dispose of stuff…  where is the bin centre…. ?

I was told all trash should be brought to the cookhouse. There’s a disposal area with several bins.

Declan : You can’t miss it….

Jackson : what about trash that are too large to move or put into the bin… ?

Declan : for example…. ?

I gestured outside the shed and talked about the few rotting tree trunks at are lying by the side.

Declan : well.. you’re the gardener…. Think of something…..

Jackson : Can I call in a….

Declan  :No… !… no calling anyone in… no cranes… no trucks…. Just you….remember ??

I sighed and I saw Seven opening up the top of the wooden bed frame.

I could see some tools inside, I didn’t know the bed double up as a storage box.

Seven chuckled and put 2 axes on the table as he giggled in his weird way.

Hong laughed.

Hong : Seven… ahaha.. you very fucker you know.. hahaha… hahha…

I touched the 2 axes and nodded my head.

Fuck yeah.

5k a month brother, 28 days leave. I’ll chop down a forest if you need me to.

I’ll do it.

Jackson : ok…. I’ll deal with it…. So who do I go to for the proposed design of the garden…. Who signs off….and say ok… I like this design….proceed ….

Declan smiled and said nothing but I could probably guess what he would say if he did reply.

I’m the gardener.

I’ll make the decision.

Jackson : ok…. I understand… I understand….

Declan : good…. Look forward to working with you Jackson…. Any questions… give anyone here a call….

The group of them left me alone in the room and I sat back down on the chair and took a deep breath.

The room is clean, hardly any furnishing. I did a quick check, no cameras. There’s a working fridge, this could be cozy if I put a bit of work into it.

I mentally made a list of things I needed to get before walking all the way back down the hill to my car.

I drove back to the nursery to look for Keng.

I gave him a list of things I needed. Compost, fertilisers, sand, granite chips and so on.

Jackson  : send them to this place….

I gave Keng the address where I needed to park my car and told him to unload it over there. I’ll have to slowly transfer it on my own.

I stocked up on some stationaries, drawing paper and several large 1.5 litres of water into my car.

Since there’s a bathroom for my use, I went home to pack some clothes and toiletries as well. I had a quick lunch at the food centre near my place before making my way back to my work place.

By the time I got back to Bukit Timah, it was already past 1.30pm

I chose the biggest buggy and loaded up my stuff to send them from the bottom of the hill to my farmhouse.

I kept an eye out for Declan and his associates, but they were nowhere to be seen.

I was literally left on my own to get things done.

A couple of guards stopped me since I was a new face around but they let me go upon scanning my access card.

It took me 2 trips with the buggy but I got my stuff into the small cozy shed.

I hung a signage of the word ‘farmhouse’ on the back of the door. A souvenir I brought from home. I got it when I was travelling with my grandpa.

Jackson : there…. Something homely….

I did some cleaning up, divided the shed into zones.

Tools and equipment that I don’t need immediately goes under the bed.

I began to have more ideas the more I look at my so call office.

I can almost picture myself here on a rainy evening, enjoying s steamboat meal while looking out to the garden I built. This could be fun.

I laughed to myself as I kept the bottled waters in the fridge, leaving one on the table.

Picking up the both axes Seven handed to me, I balanced them on my hands.

It has a good firm grip, the cutting edges are a little rusty but still usable. Just needs a good grind.

I checked to make sure no one is looking before doing a funny rendition of a dance I saw in a Stephen Chow movie.

Jackson : dah… dah… dah. …. Da dah dah…dah…AXE GANG!

I thrust my hand into the air and burst out laughing.

It’s ridiculous but nevertheless a good stress buster.

I made a mental note not to do that outside in case someone sees me

I’ll start by cleaning up the area outside the shed for a start.

The 2 rotting trees has to go.

The sun was setting by the time I was done with the 2 small trees. Their roots went pretty deep.

I was perspiring badly and I noticed there are no lights around the farmhouse.

The only light source is a hanging lamp above my door and the lights from inside.

I continued working, determined to get a bit more done before the sun sets.

I started to chop the rotting wood into smaller chunks for easier loading.

It got pretty dark by 7pm but this being Singapore with light pollution everywhere, the ambient light from the surrounding properties and street lamps is enough for me.

It was a beautiful moment as I looked at the setting sun lit the sky up in a dreamy orange glow.

Cirrus clouds peppered the horizon as I split the last bit of the rotted tree before loading it into the back of the buggy.

I looked around, it’s dark enough and I don’t think anyone will mind me cooling off a little.

I removed my top which was drenched in sweat by then and wiped my face down.

Walking over to one of the rotting trunk infested with fungi, I threw the axe down , lodging the blade 2 inches deep into the soft fibres.

I picked up the bottle of water I brought outside and exhaled.

The cool evening breeze felt amazing on my naked torso. It’s peaceful and quiet out here.

I unscrewed the cap and started to hydrate myself.

In between gulps of water, my eyes noticed something a distance away.

The castle.

The lights to the patio came on and someone walked out.

A female.

I could not make out much of this person, all I could see was the dark silhouette of graceful woman. I can’t tell her age but with that poise, she must be beautiful regardless of how old she is.

She walked alone towards the edge of the patio.

Her arms are folded and she looked like she was deep in thought as she takes slow deliberate steps towards the railing. The woman looked like she just came back from work.

She’s in formal clothes. Long sleeve blouse and a tight-fitting pencil skirt.

When she got the edge of the patio, she opened her arms and rest both palms on the metal railing as she looked far ahead into the horizon. The wind flirted with the soft fabric of her blouse and I could see the loose flaps under the entire length of her stretch arm swimming like the tail of a morel eel in the corals.

I looked at her from where I stood and for a brief moment, I was transfixed by that picturesque view. Her hair is tied up but the setting sun caught several loose fringes, turning it a shade of bronze.

It felt like a painting, a piece of artwork I would love to have on my wall.

I didn’t know how long I was staring at her before she noticed me.

A sudden jolt of her head in my direction was enough to snap me out of my stupor.

She saw me, or rather, she knows someone is looking at her.

I bent down to pick up the axe and I kept my line of sight towards the lady as I slowly backed away into the shadows of the trees.

I went to the shower and was surprised that it came with hot water.

As the water rises off the grim and dirt from a day’s work, I suddenly felt butterflies in my stomach and goosebumps on the back of my back. It’s as if I was starstruck after seeing some hot celebrity in real life.

I rinsed off the soap and laughed when I realised the goosebumps was not because I saw a Hollywood celebrity or some famous personality.

I was star struck because I think i just saw the Queen.

…………………………………………………………………………….

 

G1

 

FH 1

 

 

……………………………………………………..

 

It took me about a week and a half to clear up a 10m radius of the area around the farmhouse. There were so much trash hidden below the ground, from old sandbags to construction debris. I even dug up the ends of a spade and an old car tyre.

Clearing the ground also revealed some stone path that got swallowed up by the turfing over the years. The overgrown grass hid a lot of other structures from stone benches to pave flooring. There’s even a large concrete plinth that will comfortably fit a small table with a couple of chairs.

Some of the wild grass and weeds are as tall as me. You could probably use it as training grounds for the military if left untouched.

Someone did good work on the original landscape many years ago. With no one to take care of the ground, the wild grass just swallowed everything up.

Many of the stone slabs are still in good conditions, I followed the direction which the slabs were laid and like digging up hidden treasure, I uncovered the remains of an intricate well-designed garden constructed years ago.

Some parts just need a good wash.

I did a rough sketch of the site and soon I have a pretty good idea what I want to do. I placed the orders for materials and the plants I wanted with Keng and slowly transported everything over to the farmhouse.

I planted the bamboos first, an entire load of 40 bamboo plants about a metre tall each I ordered. I encircled the concrete plinth which is about 3 metre in diameter and I lined up the 5 metres pathway leading away from the farmhouse towards the concrete island with the same plant.

With the bamboo as the centre piece, I added some small shrubs and flowering herbs to give the walkway a bit of layer and depth.

A small bamboo forest is thus born.

Isolated planters dotted along the side of the existing stone path are quickly filled with a variety of shrubs and flowering plants.

By the end of the 3rd week, you can slowly see everything coming together.

Change is coming.

I thought Declan was joking when he said I could come and go as I like when I work, but it turned out to be true. My initial worries about one of those crazy clowns coming to harass me was uncalled for.

No one really gave a hoot about me after a week or so. No one cared what time I came to work, no one asked when I leave work too. During my break times, I would wander the grounds of the large property, I would wave to the guards at the perimeter of the castle.

They would nod in acknowledgement out of courtesy, but we never exchanged words. Not when they are working. I get the occasional glance when men pass me by on the way to the cookhouse, but no one ever came to talk to me.

The large ground is made up of so many plots of different property. There isn’t an exact boundary, every property comes with its own gates and walls. I can’t tell where the kingdom of the queen begins and where it ends. What I can gather so far is if I see a property occupied with all mean looking men, chances are it belongs to the group.

The smiles and small chats at the cookhouse are more casual but other than the simple greeting, everyone pretty much kept to their own circle.

I sit alone usually in the peculiar cookhouse.

I don’t exactly belong into any of the groups, not that I did not try.

When I asked if I could share tables, they would give me a weird look and say that the seats are taken.

Some would just point to any of the empty tables scattered throughout the ground floor.

The men working in that place varied in their age. From youthful looking 18 year olds to men in their mid fifties. Tattoos are a common sight, several spotted visible scars on their limbs.

From their conversations, I could tell most of them have a checkered past.

The food hall sat along the street like any other of the private properties on the road. From the outside, you can’t tell the special function it serves.

A large 2.5 storey private bungalow converted into a food hall of sort sure gives a new perspective to the usage of the property.

Instead of your typical living room with a sofa and TV, the whole of the ground floor is filled with tables and chairs of different sizes and design. It’s as if everything has been scavenged from different places.

They look different but everything is well maintained.

The ground floor alone can comfortably fit 60-70 diners at any one time.

There are tables set along the sides of the railings on the 2nd floor as well overlooking the dining area below.

They are seldom occupied though.

There are always empty seats on the ground floor, why would you want to carry your food upstairs ?

A team of 3 cooks managing a team of 9 others staff the kitchen on a 24 hour rotation.

There’s one who has shades on permanently even though we are indoors, everyone calls him Bran. He sometimes will just stare into space and just zone out. I don’t think he’s blind, he obviously can see.

Another never spoke a single word, he just gestured with his hands. I’ve heard people call him Meng. For some reason, he always walks around with a knife and it seems he is always cutting something.

Fruits, vegetables, potatoes, there seemed to be a never-ending list of stuff he is cutting and preparing despite the helpers doing most of the stuff.

The last one seemed to be hard of hearing, I’ve seen a few men shouting at him to tell him what they needed. Deuce. Deuce is also the most jovial of all, always smiling and waving to everyone.

The 3 cooks felt like the representation of see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Peculiar men they may be, but they left everyone in no doubt who is in charge of the kitchen and the cook house.

They run a tight ship.

You take more food than you can finish, you can be sure to get a scolding.

You don’t return your dishes after you are done, a shouting match will ensue.

You mess up the table with your food and don’t clean up after, things will get ugly.

From what I can see, it’s usually the newcomers that get into trouble with the cooks. The old birds know exactly what not to do.

During lunch, I would usually see Hong bringing a few new guys into the cookhouse. He would explain loudly that they will go there for their meals, it’s as if he’s giving new recruits a tour of the cookhouse.

I’m good with faces. I estimate about half of them never stayed after their first meal. I can’t exactly say that place is a halfway house for ex-convicts or men who need help but it seems as if employment opportunities are presented to the newcomers, it’s up to them if they want to accept it.

Most of them did not take it up. I wonder if the terms of employments are not good, or it is the men themselves who are not up to par.

I know because I eat all 3 meals there from the 2nd day onwards. Some of those new faces never appeared again.

During mealtimes, some men would come with take away containers and the cooks would promptly fill them up.

Sometimes I would see a couple of men coming in with food bags similar to the kind we see in the army. They would take away food for about a dozen men before disappearing. It appears as if some of these men have to take their meals at their assigned posts or job.

Every new observation I make about my employer raises more questions. It’s like being given just the background piece of a children’s puzzle. A large rectangle with colourful borders and no pieces to fit within.

The cook house is great, I like the food, it’s free.

What’s not to like about it ?

The spread is good too.

Not exactly like a hotel buffet but still plenty of choices. For lunch and dinner, there’s 4 dishes and a soup. Out of the 4 dishes, there will be 2 types of vegetables and 2 meat dishes. Aside from the main dishes, there will be a variety of cold side dishes from kimchi to preserved cucumbers & turnips.

There is also a large tin of crispy chicken floss available too.

You get your choice of either white rice or multi grain.

Breakfast is a variety of bread and rolls with your choice of spreads. There’s usually a pot of porridge and a large fridge facing the kitchen is always stocked with cut fruits throughout the day.

There are 2 coffee machine, a beverage dispenser that churns out a variety of hot drinks from Milo to Macha Latte. There is even a soft drink dispenser.

From 9.00pm to 3.30am, the supper kiosk will be up. It could be Ikea style hotdogs bun, hot soy milk with fried dough sticks, sandwiches, fried beehoon or once a week, live burger stations.

Never in my dreams did I expect to be able to get a greasy Ramly burger at 10pm in the middle of a private estate in Singapore.

I could not help smiling as I bit down on my burger while sipping a hot cup of coffee as I stretched my aching legs.

This might well be in the list for one of the top 10 companies to work in if not for the shady dealings I suspect they are involved in.

Without even realising, I started to come to work earlier, and I would leave later. When I’m home, I would look forward to come to work.

I don’t clock a 9 to 6 schedule. There isn’t one for me to follow anyway.

That place felt magical to me almost surreal.

I don’t know why, I just can’t explain it.

Everything just seemed so strange, it’s like stepping into a different world.

I know it’s a matter of time before I start staying over in my little farmhouse which is why I started to bring more and more of my stuff over. I even stocked the shelves with food and snacks. I filled the fridge with some simple groceries and I even brought along my steamboat hotpot.

It makes absolute sense.

I go back to an empty house anyway, why not spend it at my work place which I have grown to like so much.

On a particularly windy morning, I barely stepped into the farmhouse when it started to pour. It rained heavily and I could barely see beyond a couple of metres of the window.

Well, the good thing about being a gardener, when it rains, I can’t work.

I set up the hot pot, threw in the instant broth and started a mini steamboat session while listening to music and enjoying the rain outside.

I dunked the thinly sliced beef into a sweet tangy sauce as smiled to myself.

The song might be right.

Heaven might just be a place on earth after all.

As the 1st month draws to a close, I started doing my sums and getting all the documents in order for Declan.

Every invoice was filled properly. I accounted for every cent that I spent on gardening supplies and equipment. With my basic bookkeeping skills, I neatly entered the figures and tallied up the balance.

I decided to get new tools for the garden and keep my own in the car. No point damaging my tools of the trade for this since they can well afford it.

I barely saw Declan and his associates other than Hong. Hong would pop by the cookhouse during lunch for a bit and that’s it.

I once saw Seven walking out from the castle before disappearing around the corner. He looked angry and I could hear him grunting and making weird noises even though he is out of sight.

Kamal walked by my farmhouse a couple of times but he’s always on his phone speaking expletives in different languages. I would give him a wave and he just return a nod.

Everyone seemed to be busy with something.

No one has time for the gardener. You can’t miss the obvious transformation the plain piece of land is going through; I get the occasional pop by of a couple of guys trying to see what else I was up to.

I eventually realised they are looking for a shady corner to smoke.

The queen doesn’t allow smoking near her castle.

I could not stand the cigarette butts they leave behind so I decided to do something about it.

I can’t stop them from smoking, but I can control where they go.

As long as it’s comfortable, has a seat and plenty of shade, they will go there. I ordered a patio umbrella that comes with a solid base you need to fill with water. I set it well away from the farmhouse within a cluster of 3 matured trees.

I put in a bin for the cigarette butts and within a day or 2, I could see a constant stream of smoke rising from the oasis. I’ll just keep adding more plants to that spot, linking it back to the main garden.

There is another reason why I wanted to work late everyday other than the fact that I love my job.

I would look towards the patio of the castle in the evening, hoping to catch a glimpse of the queen, but I never saw her again.

I would walk around the estate, poking my head about, trying to see if I can see the queen going about her business, with such a large place to manage, surely she must make sure everything is in order.

However, the queen proved to be as elusive as the scarlet pimpernel.

I spotted Declan several times near the entrance to the castle. He would go about his day in his usual prim and proper manner. Always well dressed in shirt, pants and leather shoes, Declan stood out from the rest.

Like a professional butler, he takes care of everything on behalf of the queen.

I work 5 days a week as agreed, but I clock almost 10-12 hours each day, sometimes I would leave well after 11pm. The amount of effort I put in is worth every cent of the 5k pay they offered me.

On the last weekend, I decided to pop by on a Saturday afternoon.

I had no reason to head back but I had nothing to do. I had my lunch and I figure I drop by to check on some of the shrubs I just transplanted onto the ground.

Satisfied that everything is in order, I did some cleaning up for the farmhouse before walking towards the cookhouse.

It was then I noticed something interesting happening.

There seemed to be an increase in the amount of activity on the property.

It was my first weekend here, I thought it would be like any other day but I was wrong.

I noticed a significant increase in the amount of food being prepared. It’s a whole buffet spread like I’ve never seen before. 7 dishes excluding dessert lined up on the tables.

The cookhouse is also a lot more crowded that afternoon with more men loitering around. Everyone is waiting for something to happen it seems.

I took my coffee and retreated to the back of the dining area on the ground floor. I checked my watch and it’s coming to 4pm.

At 4.15pm , I almost dropped my coffee when I saw several girls walking into the cookhouse. They are all dressed in a provocative manner. Low cut blouse and skirts so short there’s no need for a upskirt picture to see the colour of their underwear.

Whistles and cat calls rang out as the pretty ladies waved and flirted with the waiting men.

At the hour passes, more girls entered the cookhouse.

By 5.30pm, there are least 20 girls having their meals and talking to the men.

From the way they are dressed and the way they are behaving, I have no doubts what their roles are.

I saw a sweet looking babe slipping her hand down the pants of a guard I recognised.

Another had her breast openly cupped and kneaded as she moaned in front of her half-eaten dinner.

Hong entered at 6pm with another 2 hot looking girls as the men cheered.

I can’t help but wonder if this is part of the employee benefits.

The girls are a mix of Thais and Malaysians based on the way they speak, I could easily pick out a handful I wouldn’t mind having myself.

I took another refill of coffee as I walked back out to the farmhouse.

I could see the men heading to the 2 properties beside the cookhouse with the ladies in their arms. That must be the place where business is conducted if you get my drift.

When I was halfway back to my garden, I heard Hong call out from behind me.

Hong : JACKSON !!! come !!! COME!!!

He gestured me over before doing a crude action of himself thrusting into thin air and his middle finger disappearing into a circle he made with his thumb and index finger.

Hong : hahahahah!!! AHAHAH!!! Jackson !!! join us …. Hahaha….

I shook my head and wave goodbye to Hong before quickly walking away.

Some of the girls are pretty but the idea of having an orgy with all your colleagues waiting in line didn’t sound particularly appealing. That is if I can call the men my colleagues.

I never expect Hong to hammer on my door, asking me to man up and join him.

Hong : JACKSON !!!! COME OUT!!!.. come out you pussy…. Hahahaha..hahaha…. you shy is it…. Are you shy ??

Jackson : no thank you… you go ahead….. I don’t need….

Hong : come out !!! come out you wuss. !!! hahaha… come… I pick one pretty one for you….

Jackson : It’s ok…. It’s ok… don’t need….

Hong : Come la !!!….

I refused to come out of the farmhouse and after a minute or so, Hong gave up and left, not before shouting out loudly several times; ‘ Jackson is gay ‘

Not wanting to take the chance of being dragged over to the whore house, I quickly left and went back home.

15th January 2015

Wednesday

It was exactly one month to the day since I started work at the strange place.

Declan had called me the night before to say he would be dropping by the farmhouse before lunch to have a chat with me.

I reached work early at 7am to do some simple cleaning up.

The garden looked vastly different already from one month ago.

Most of the plants I added are growing well. The few that did not root well were promptly removed and replaced.

I laid out the invoices and bookkeeping records on the table.

The leftovers from the initials sum Hong gave me was neatly sealed in a plastic bag.

Now all I can do is wait for them to show up.

10.30am

It started to pour heavily at 10.30 in the morning.

From the looks of it, it’s not going to let up anytime soon.

The walk from the castle to my farmhouse is pretty far, slightly less than a 100 metres by my estimate, unsheltered. I doubt Declan would go to the trouble of making his way down in that weather as well. Not in his pressed pants, leather shoes and straight shirts.

No gardener is worth that trouble.

Since I didn’t have breakfast, I set up the steamboat again and got the broth I kept in the fridge boiling.

The fridge had just been refilled with fresh vegetables and sliced meat. As I emptied the ingredients into the pot, I started to make plans for a small space to grow fresh organic vegetables.

I barely got started when I heard commotion outside the door.

I opened the door to see Declan and Hong totally drenched because they shared a single umbrella. It’s pouring and the wind is blowing the rain into the farmhouse.

I can’t believe they took the trouble to come over.

They peered in and saw the bubbling pot of hotpot.

Hong immediately shoved me aside as he rubbed his palms together.

Declan : Ahhhh… just in time…. how kind of you Jackson… hahaha…

Hong : wah….. steamboat….. bo jio… ( Why didn’t you invite us ? )

Hong didn’t need any invitation though, he saw the tray of disposable utensils I kept and helped himself to it.

Within minutes, the 3 of us were doing shabu shabu while Hong tried to convince Declan I was gay.

Seven turned up 10 minutes later and so did Kamal.

I don’t know what happened but I ended up hosting all 4 of them and I emptied my entire fridge. Kamal even took the 2 cans of razor clams I had on the shelves.

Kamal : god… it’s been so long since I had steamboat man…. This is fucking good…..thanks man Jackson…. Can I have more of this sauce… ?

No one seem interested to talk about my work in the garden and I was left busy topping up the soup with a mixture of instant broth and boiled water. They even dunk 2 packets of instant noodles to soak up the remnants of the broth and slurped everything up.

When the soup dried up and after I served the apples I kept in the fridge as desserts, Hong was back onto the issue of me refusing to utilise the staff benefits.

Hong : Oh back to the topic… Jackson is gay…

Jackson : I’m not gay… I like women…

Hong : he refused to fuck the girls on Saturday…it’s free and he refused…

Declan : Leave him alone… you think he as horny as you ?

Kamal : Yah… you would fuck anything with a hole…

Hong : fuck you Kamal…

Kamal : No thanks….

Seven : heet… heet… hahaha.. heet.. heet….

Hong raided my fridge and started to distribute the beer I kept inside around the table after he was done with the apples. I was hoping he would not find that.

Hong : what the fuck man.. hahhaa… got beer some more… good shit ahhaha….we should come here more often…

I declined to have one and told them it was technically work hours for me.

Hong looked at me as if I said something ridiculous.

Hong : whatever la… crazy….

Kamal tore open a packet of chips and none of them offered to help clean up after eating. Seven opened a packet of cashews I wanted to save for my beer. The 4 of them chatted and snacked as if they are in a restaurant and I’m the service staff.

Fine, they’re my bosses, middle management in a way. I’ll just take it with a pinch of salt. Just think of the pay and the freedom I get when doing what I love.

After I was done clearing up, I brought the books and invoices over to Declan.

He took a look and I could see he was genuinely impressed.

Kamal was peering over his shoulders as he looked up at me as if I was mad.

Kamal  : Wah…. Gloves….. $2.40…. like that also need to write…you eat full too free is it…. ??

Declan : hello… this….

Declan pointed to the book and added.

Declan : This is accountability……

Hong : hello… I also accounts one ok… ??

Kamal : please la… you are like a fruit seller…. Go by KG one… haha

Hong : eh…. Boss ask me to measure by weight…..

I saw an obvious kick Declan gave to Hong and the room became awfully quiet for a few seconds.

Someone said something they shouldn’t have.

Whatever these guys are doing, Hong, apparently is measuring and counting money not by the face value. He’s doing it by weight.

I wonder how much money they are talking about.

Declan immediately changed the subject and commented on the work I’ve done so far.

Declan : everything is looking good so far…. you’re good with money from what I can see so far….

Jackson  : I just want to make sure… everything is in order…. Not nice if you know… there are money unaccounted for….

Hong sniggered and nodded his head as if I hit the nail on the head.

Hong : there are 3 things the boss hates…. So listen carefully…. Or you are fucking dead….one……. you take something that belongs to her…. Things get ugly…..real ugly…..two… you look at her wrong…. I mean if you even have any dirty thoughts while looking at her… you’re dead…. If you touch her…… I mean even by accident….. god bless your soul….

Hong did a slow slash of his neck with his thumb while staring at me with his eyes bulging.

Kamal : tell him the story about the cooks….. all new employees should know about it….

Hong stood up and wiped his greasy hands from handling the chips and nuts on his shirt.

He started to pace around the table while the rest went quiet.

Hong lowered his voice a notch and spoke with a low voice, like the leader of some camp trying to scare the newbies on their first night in a tent.

Hong : Bran….. he always has his shades on….. because…..he…..

Hong sighed before continued.

Hong : He tried to peep at the boss while she change…..

Jackson : what !!

Kamal did a popping sound with his mouth before doing the act of his right eyeball dropping out onto the table. Seven chuckled and threw a nut onto the table to illustrate the eyeball as I jumped a little.

Hong : those were early days….. before we grew to this….she’s known for her bad temper…. Today… she might just fucking shoot him in his head…

Declan shook his head but said nothing.

He would usually tell the guys to shut up but not this time. It appears as if he felt it was necessary I listen.

Hong smiled before putting his hands on my shoulder.

Hong : and for Meng…….Meng’s tongue…… was…… removed….

Jackson : what the fuck…. how does he cook ? doesn’t he need to taste ?

Hong : Don’t interrupt me….

Hong revealed that the boss found out Meng was skimming money off food orders for the kitchen. She confronted him, he denied.

Hong : she presented the proof…. And….. he still tried to insist he did nothing wrong….

Jackson  : and… ?

Hong : Oh……. Somehow…. Meng….slipped in the shower that night…. Bit off his tongue…. Cleanly…

Kamal : POP!

Seven threw another nut onto the table as I looked at Hong in disbelief.

Jackson  : what about Deuce….

Hong shook his head before taking the seat again.

Hong : Deuce….. got drunk……even when told not to do so when he’s working…. He had a glass too many…. Boss told him to sober the shit up or get out….. Deuce smiled and put his hands around boss’s shoulders….

Hong lowered his voice another notch.

Hong : She warned him…..she gave him a chance….he didn’t listen…..

Kamal : POP POP!

Hong : as a punishment for not listening to her warning…. His eardrums got popped. …

My mouth was slightly apart by then as I listened to the incredible tale Hong was telling me. I don’t know how much to believe.

Jackson  : this is staff abuse isn’t it…. ?? but….from what I gather… the boss …. Ermmm.. must be very pretty…

All eyes turned to me at that moment.

Kamal : Oh…. Boss is pretty…. Real hot… but…. Don’t say we didn’t warn you….

Hong gestured to the skies with his palms trying to illustrate a benchmark for me to visualise.

Hong : boss is here…. Queen….

Lowering his hand down, he added ;

Hong : We are here…… farmers….

Kamal : don’t get funny ideas if you want to survive here Jackson….don’t get funny ideas….

All they are doing is making me more curious about the queen. If she’s really that hot and pretty, I would want to see it with my own eyes.

Jackson : why only the cooks….?  How about the rest…. ?

Hong : oh…. There are others of course…. They usually meet with…. Unfortunate accident….. they are easily replaced….the cooks however…. She is willing to turn a blind eye and give them another chance…. It’s not easy to find good cooks these days….

Well, at least not those who would want to work here, that’s what I was thinking about in my head but I did not share my thoughts.

Declan : alright enough….

Hong : Not yet….you need to know about her personal guards…. The elites….

Kamal nodded and he continued for Hong. He drew an imaginary circle around the table. The way things work around here, they go by layers, with the queen in the centre while her support staff forms layers radiating outwards.

Kamal : The queen has a circle of 4 female guards….. they are deadly…. Don’t say I never warn you….. have you watched John wick ??

Jackson : yes…… have they killed someone with a pencil …. ?

Kamal : oh you think it’s funny do you…. Hahaha….they will kill you with their lipstick…..

Jackson : bullshit….

Kamal : rumours said the boss killed someone with her high heels before….

Before I could say anything, Hong added;

Hong : I’ve seen 2 of those girls take on 8 men before…..no joke…. Don’t fuck with them….

Kamal : and I’m seen one put Hong on the ground with one hand…. Hahah

Hong got irritated with that and gave Kamal an elbow shove. Apparently it’s not something he wants to share. Determined to get the spotlight away from him, he directed it towards Seven.

Hong : Seven can take them on…..he’s fast….

Seven shook his head vigorously and waved his hands, making a motion of his fist hitting his own head several times.

Declan : Seven can only take 2 of them at most…..

Kamal : those are the 1st layer around the queen…. Then… there’s Declan….he is the only one on the 2nd layer…. He manages…. Us….

I nodded as I digested the information.

Hong : and we… manage the 4th & 5th layer… which are the rest of the men you see…. The girls don’t deal with the day to day operations…. They just protect the queen…..

Jackson : am I in any layer ….  ?

Kamal : I’m afraid we don’t have one dedicated for landscaping….

Declan : ok ok… enough with the stories…. Back to business…. Jackson….the garden is coming along real fine…. I like it a lot and the boss likes it too…

My ears perked up the moment I heard Declan mentioned his boss.

Jackson : You mean the Queen loves my work ??

Declan : of course… she gets a birds eye view of the garden from where she is… you can’t miss the transformation of a barren piece of land….

Jackson  : that’s good to know….

 

Declan told me to add more shrub on a particular side of the garden and to reserve a special spot for a small tree.

Declan : Boss has a pot of lime she always wanted to transplant….. but couldn’t find a suitable spot. …. And make sure it’s away from the smoking point you did…. It’s proving to be too popular….

Jackson : No problem… I’ll identify a good spot for her….

Declan : I’m also please to inform you that with immediate effect, your pay… insurance and stuff will be park under a new company…. So just text me your account details…. Don’t worry about dealing with cash… hahaha… I know it’s hard to break big bills without raising eyebrows….

Jackson  : oh… that’s good to know…

Hong : ok… now that we’ve got the work part out of the way…. Jackson … what kind of girls you like…..

Kamal : fuck you la….sighzz….

Hong seemed very determined to see me take up the employee benefit.

Hong : You like women… but you don’t want… is it because you virgin ? …. I know a few that takes very good care of virgins…. Serious… serious….

Jackson : No…. i.. I’m not a virgin…. And I don’t… I don’t want any….

Hong : Only a virgin would say he is not a virgin…

Hong clapped his hands together before shaking his right index finger at me as if he had it all figured out.

Hong : virgin… confirm virgin…

Declan : ignore him… and thank you for the steamboat….

Seven gave me a weird frown before showing me the thumbs up sign and raising one leg up in the air for no apparent reason at all.

Kamal burped loudly before thanking me in Hokkien;

Kamal : Kam sia… ( Thank you ) …. Ho Jiak… ( delicious ) please restock your fridge…. Speaking of which… I think we should do this more often…. I’m sick of the food at the cookhouse…..

Hong : I agree…!

Jackson : what !!??

Declan : well… I don’t mind…. That is if Jackson is willing to host us that is….

I looked at the eyes on my waiting for my reply and I quickly smiled and gave a thumbs up, indicating that I’m ok to host.

Hong : SWEE ! ( nice ) see… all virgins are very steady one….

As the group talked about when is the next day to gather, there was a knock on the door.

There shouldn’t be anyone else coming.

I opened it and the moment the group saw the man standing outside, they quiet down immediately.

He’s about my built, bespectacled, well dressed like Declan and he carried a large umbrella. The rain had slowed to a drizzle, he remained relatively dry compared to the rest when they first got here.

Jackson  :Hi…. You are…

Aaron : I’m Aaron … you must be the new gardener…..

Jackson  : yes hi… I’m Jackson ….

Aaron gave me a polite smile before telling Declan that the arrangements are ready.

Aaron  :We are ready to move…

Declan : ok… I’ll be right there….

In the next few seconds that followed, I quietly observed the men go about their stuff.

There is no doubt that Aaron reports to Declan as well. However, he is not as close to Declan as Seven, Kamal and Hong.

From the corner of my eye, I could see Hong making looks at Seven and Kamal while they did the same.

You don’t need to be an expert in behaviour science to know he is not welcomed.

Aaron has the neatest outlook out of the group, aside from Declan of course. He’s well groomed, hair neatly gel and I could see he spends time on his eyebrows as well.

His clothes fit him well, most likely tailor made.

Compared to the other 3 who looked like your typical gangster, Aaron looks educated. He strikes me more like a banker rather than someone who would work for the queen.

Honestly, if I were to line Aaron, Seven, Kamal & Hong up in a row, from their looks alone, everyone would definitely point to Aaron and say he is the good guy while the rest are crooks.

However, something feels off about Aaron. I can’t put my finger to it but he strikes me as someone who would fit the role of a villain. A good looking villain doing good on the surface while stabbing you in the back.

I’m not saying Hong and the rest are goody two shoe but we have instincts for a reason. Hong and the rest didn’t exactly leave a good 1st impression as well but for some reason I cannot explain, I would rather have them over for steamboat rather than Aaron even though I barely know him.

Aaron : did I miss something here…. ?

Declan : we’re just here to evaluate the work of our new gardener….

Aaron : I see…. He’s a lot better than the previous few…. I love what you did with the garden Jackson….

Jackson : thank you….

Aaron : keep up the good work….

Jackson  : I will….

Kamal rolled his eyes and rubbed his nose with his middle finger as Seven looked away.

There’s no hiding the level of disdain they have for him.

Aaron  :Now if you would excuse us…. We need to get down to business… boss is waiting….

Turning to the rest, Aaron added that boss is changing and will meet the rest in the garage in 15 minutes.

Everyone got up and made their way to the door.

The once jovial mood Hong and the rest had was gone.

I don’t know what these guys are up to but I guess it comes with it’s own set of stress and responsibility. It feels to me as if they see my farmhouse as a sort of a refuge, away from the shit they do on a day to day basis.

Declan thanked me again for the food and I told him I will keep the fridge stocked.

Jackson : come by anytime you guys want to eat…. I will make sure the fridge is always stocked…..

Declan handed me a card of the so call new company he set up, he told me to address all invoices to that company and he will take care of the rest.

Declan : alright… I’ll see you soon…

I watched the group step off the concrete and onto the grass turfing leading towards the castle.

Aaron walked on with his large umbrella angling slightly to the left.

Declan followed, Aaron noticed Declan and offered to share his umbrella from the light drizzle.

Seven, Hong and Kamal walked angling slightly to the right but they are all heading towards the same place.

I leaned against the doorway and folded my arms, looking at the back view of the men walking away.

Turning to look at the grounds of the large estate, I could not help smiling.

I can still remember the apprehension I held before I start work with this bunch of weird and funny men. I was sure I would not enjoy my time here, in fact, my plan was to quickly finish up my work and leave but I could feel my opinion towards my employer slowly changing.

My curiosity grows stronger every day.

Besides, there’s free food, good pay, interesting dynamics and power play between different men, out of the world staff benefits, shady dealings and a beautiful queen.

What’s not to like about this place ?

………………………………………………………………………………

 

The rain cleared up soon after and I went to work in the garden once again. The softened soil makes it easier for me to start cleaning up the rest of the large space.

As I pulled up the wild weeds and overgrown grass, I wondered where Declan and his team is going with the boss.

 

It must be something important since it involves all of them.

 

I went to the cookhouse for a coffee and was surprised to see the place empty.

 

There’s usually at least a handful of guys there for their tea breaks.

 

I casually asked Bran where is everyone and he just shrug his shoulders. I sipped my coffee and had a slice of fruit before leaving.

 

That steamboat meal marked the first of many gatherings in my farmhouse.

For some reason I cannot explain, Declan and the guys seemed to enjoy popping over every now and then. It started to feel as if I’m operating some special gentlemen’s club with only 4 members.

My farmhouse not only functions as my home base, it became a club for the guys. Club in the daytime, and my new home once the sun set.

I started staying over at the farm house, from once or twice a week, to eventually 5 days a week.

 

Some weekends I would stay over too because I have nothing else to do anyway. I would take my time, tend to the plants, go for a jog and head over to the cookhouse for free food.

 

On the last weekend of every month, I would make my monthly pilgrimage up north to visit my grandpa.

 

I would spend a day there with him, telling him about the weird employers I am now working for. He told me to be careful and not get involved in illegal stuff.

He still could not believe I was getting 5k in pay a month and he says he is convinced that soon, they will start asking me for kickbacks.

 

As in on paper, I’m getting this amount of pay. Of which I need to give back an ‘x’ amount. It’s happening all over the country, you just have to open your eyes to see it.

 

I reassured my grandpa that everything is fine and I will be careful.

 

As if determined to make the most of the money they pay me, Declan and the guys started to visit me more often at the farmhouse. Not only do I have to work on the garden, I became the unofficial service staff in the unusual club.

 

I could be raking up dead leaves 50m away from the farmhouse and Declan would walk by and gestured for me over.

 

He would sit down with a stack of documents and files, 3 mobile phones in hand before asking me for a drink.

 

Declan : What do you have…. ?

 

Jackson : Beer…. Greentea…. Or 3 in 1 coffee….. ?

 

Declan : I’ll have a coffee.. thank you…

 

Jackson  : ok…

 

I would serve him his drink and leave him to settle his paperwork.

There can’t possibly be a lack of space for Declan to do his work in the massive castle, and I’m sure the coffee at the cookhouse taste much better than the instant one I kept.

 

Eventually I came to the conclusion that they see my place as a sanctuary of sort. A place to get away from it all.

 

Kamal would come by with Seven too.

 

Kamal : 2 beer….. and whatever snacks you have….

 

Jackson : ok…

 

I would set the drinks down for them before going back to my work. Sometimes I wondered if they would pay me for the food they consumed, especially when they started demanding for macadamia nuts instead of the usual ‘thumb’ brand groundnuts.

 

Hong comes usually on Fridays.

 

Brutish he might be, Hong is the only one that actually bought stuff over.

 

He would bring snacks, nuts, chips and the occasional carton of beer. It’s not much but I’m spending almost 500 in groceries and steamboat ingredients a month by then so every bit helps.

 

It comes out of my pay but I didn’t mind. My expenses took a dive ever since I started working there. Even my utility bill dropped since I shower and stayed over in the farmhouse most of the time.

 

If only Hong doesn’t leave a mess every time he comes around, I wouldn’t have mind him coming over that much.

 

Seven would come and use my toilet often. I have no idea why. I suspect he likes the lemon grass scent I kept in there. He would spend up to half an hour at a time inside playing candy crush with it’s volume on at it’s highest.

 

After a while, he started to come and use my shower after working out.

Seven would emerge smelling of the soap fragrance I like and beaming with a wide grin. He would give me a thumbs up, towel over the shoulder and waddle off in his flip flops, looking no different from someone who just finished gym.

 

Seven has his own brand of green tea bags which he wanted me to keep only for himself. It was not meant for the others.

Only when he comes alone, will he ask for those to be served.

 

A cup of green tea after his shower.

 

The garden expanded outwards with the farmhouse as the centre of it all. The transformation of the large plot is almost complete. Most of the new plants introduced rooted well, even my organic vegetable patch is blooming.

 

Beans, cucumber, leafy greens and even lettuce, all of them are doing really well on the fertile soil. They should be ready for harvest in another month or so.

 

I’ve sort of reached the boundary or the edge of the plot Declan wanted me to work on, so I started moving on to the landscaping of the individual houses in my spare time.

Almost every house I went into, the men knew I was the gardener and the first thing they asked me for was a nice shady smoking area.

 

The plants for the houses leading to the castle are in bad shape. Many shrubs littered with cigarette butts, there were hardly any trees matured enough to provide shade as well.

 

As I surveyed each and every of the houses owned by the organisation, I began to piece together a bigger picture. I could access the common area of the houses but not inside the house itself, still the large glass windows along the ground floor pretty much allowed me to catch a glimpse of what is going on.

 

Remember on my first day, I parked my car on the 1st unit up Binjai Hill ?

 

The unit opposite that housed an ambulance. No shit.

It’s a private ambulance that at times when I past by, had a full crew sitting in it, driver hands on steering wheels and engine running. It’s as if they are waiting for an emergency call to come along.

 

That entire house was designated as a medical centre. I’m talking trained paramedics and a doctor. Not Kamal.

 

There is a gym for all to use at the house closest to the castle gate.I tried my access card and found out I was given access to that place even though no one told me about it.

 

It’s well equipped, there’s 5 threadmills, 4 bench and a variety of workout machines. There’s even a large room with padded floor not unlike those you see in a martial art studio.

 

I saw Seven in it once but he was already sitting down on the padded floor totally soaked with perspiration.

I even saw the wooden figurine in Ip man movie but it was just for display only.

 

There are houses that held 2-3 cars with seemingly no other activities being carried out. Some looked totally empty and abandoned with overgrown landscaping.

 

Anyway, Declan told me to take care of all the plants within the estate. So as long as there is anything green, it’s mine.

Anything outside the castle ground that is.

The castle had a few small plots of turfing which is maintained by the helpers that staff and run it.

 

Once a month, the group would come over for steamboat.

 

Somehow someone decided that the Friday before the girls come to visit will be they day to have their hotpot gathering. The 2nd Friday of the month, without fail, the group would turn up at the farmhouse at 6.30pm.

You can imagine the amount of heckling I get from Hong trying to get me to try one of the girls.

I always said no even though I could tell his patience is wearing thin.

 

Hong even went to the extent of saying he would get the girls to do a reverse gangbang on me.

 

What about Aaron ?

 

Aaron comes by too. He would approach cautiously, pretending to be interested in something else but I knew he was there to look for people.

 

Yes, the only reason Aaron came to my farmhouse was to look for either Declan, Hong, Seven or Kamal. He must have figured out that the farmhouse is a gathering spot for his co-workers.

 

I did invite him to come in but he took a look at the simple and sparse interior and declined.

I eventually found out that Aaron and the boss will be away on the 2nd Friday every month without fail. I suspect it won’t be long before I figure out why the guys hate Aaron so much.

 

By the 4th month, I find myself starting to enjoy the monthly meal.

 

Honestly, I still don’t know these men well but I enjoyed listening to their conversations, of which they are careful not to reveal too much. Declan is always there to make sure.

 

I found out that the boss saved Seven’s life. It sounded like it came out of a triad movie.

He had acid poured down his throat by another rival gang.

 

Seven would have been left for dead if not for the boss. She came in guns blazing literally and saved him.

Hong told me that Kamal and him literally dragged Seven out from a old warehouse with blood spurting like a fountain from his orifices.

 

Hong : phussttt… phusstt….. like that.. the blood is really phussttt… phusst…. Shoot out…

 

Kamal : don’t exaggerate la you fuck….

 

Hong : I’m serious !!

 

Back then, the boss’s organisation was still in it’s infancy, she did a lot of things herself.

 

Hong : she visited Seven everyday in the hospital…. 1st class ward….

 

Hong gave a doeful eye look as he pouted his mouth and spoke in a high pitch voice as if trying to mimic the boss feeding Seven porridge.

 

Hong : come ~~ eat ~~

 

Seven shove Hong and showed him the finger as everyone laughed.

Hong pulled down the side of his loose t-shirt, showing off his shoulder and wiped his brow in a dramatic manner before exclaiming in that same high pitch voice.

 

Hong : you have to get well ~~~ have to~~~

 

Declan threw a used tissue at Hong and everyone laughed.

 

Seven gestured something before patting his chest.

 

Declan : He’s trying to say he’s a simple man…. Not educated…. But he always remember who is good to him….the boss saved his life….and let’s not forget, Seven was once from a rival…..

 

Declan was about to say the word gang but stopped himself in time and changed the word to company.

 

Jackson : what about you Kamal…. How did you come to work for boss…

 

Hong clapped his hands several times, eager to share Kamal’s embarrassing past.

 

Hong : GAMBling !!! hahaha…. Gamble and gamble…gamble… win never mind… always lose…

 

Kamal : Fuck you la…. I send in my resume….. call up for interview…. Then I impress boss with my experience….Lim BEI IS DOCTOR OKAY ( I’m a fucking doctor ) ….

 

Hong did his high pitch mimic of the boss once again, sticking out one of his hairy legs as he struck a pose, taking care this time round to try and boost his man boobs.

Seven threw a piece of lettuce at him and Hong caught it. He used it as a mini fan, fanning himself near his chest with his lips in another pout.

 

Hong : Kamal ~~ you have an interesting history…. I shall hire you…. And give you more money to gamble…do you pledge your loyalty to me ~~~ ?

 

Kamal did a mock punch at Hong who ducked in time and laughed.

Hong’s high pitch voice is quite harsh on my eardrums to be honest but there’s no way you can hold back your laughter looking at his silly antics.

 

Kamal : If boss sees you doing that…. She will fucking shoot you….

 

Kamal stood up and I could see him reach for his cigarette. He walked out to smoke and Seven joined him.

 

Hong lowered his voice and filled me in the moment the door closed, as if worried Kamal might overhear the conversation.

 

Hong : Kamal operated on this lady back then… ….. an accident victim…. She’s pregnant….. he did his best but he could not save the baby…..the accident kill the woman’s 2 year old on the spot as well….. when the mother came to…. …She took her own life….

 

Jackson  : oh my god….

 

Declan : The mother was knocked down by a drunk driver…. Some hot shot fund manager…..he wasn’t even sorry…he claimed the woman was jaywalking….says she deserved it.. she should have used an overhead bridge..….. that fucker punched another doctor as well……

 

Jackson : Jaywalking… ?

 

Declan : the light was in her favour….it was a discretionary right turn….well… you know how these junctions are…..but that fucker …. Ploughed her and her son down and mounted the railings….and continued drinking till the police came…

 

Jackson : was he hurt from the crash ?? why wasn’t he arrested… ? where’s the husband… ?

 

Hong : Husband died of a stroke at work barely few months ago…. It was too much for her to handle…

 

Declan : The driver was warded for minor leg injuries….needed a minor op to remove some bone chips….Kamal was the one who fix it too….

 

Jackson : what…..

 

Hong : that’s not all…. That guy groped a couple of nurses…. And 3 months later….. got into another accident….this time round, a retired teacher in her 70s…… died on the spot….

 

Jackson  : what a fucker…. Why is he not jailed or something….

 

Hong : He was waiting for the trial….when the 2nd accident happened…

 

Hong leaned closer to me, giving me the most sinister look I’ve ever seen.

 

Hong : That fucker hurt both legs this time round and he wanted Kamal to operate on him because he did a really good job the last round…….Kamal….. Operated on him…..and removed his testicles….

 

I gasped and looked at Hong in disbelief.

 

Jackson : what the fuck… how could that happen ….. ?

 

Hong : he fixed his legs first….then went for his balls….

 

Declan : The story was that the medical team in the operating theatre were horrified and they all fled screaming in horror……and by the time Kamal was forcibly removed from the OT, that man already had his dick cut into pieces, testicles removed….

 

Jackson  : … what…. The fuck….

 

Hong : Kamal was arrested, charged and went into a downward spiral after that … gambled heavily… took drugs while waiting to be jailed…..

 

Jackson : what happened then…

 

Hong : Boss found him…. Cleared his debt… got him to clean his shit up…. And made it all disappear…. Poof…. Magic….

 

Jackson : you are fucking with me are you not… ?? how is that possible… ?

 

I looked at Declan, trying to see if he would clear up the air and call this bull but he did not.

 

Declan : it’s sad…. Really sad….

 

I turned to Hong and asked.

 

Jackson : what happened to that fucking fund manager ? he changed sex… ? is he in jail ?

 

Hong shook his head.

 

Hong : Boss made a call…. I heard her talking to whoever is on the line she needed a new project done to take care of a potential problem…..

 

Jackson  :and … and ??

 

Hong : 1 week later…..that fucker passed away…. Accident…

 

Jackson  : you are shitting me…. this is bullshit….

 

Hong : I’m serious… he was on a wheelchair… reversed down a slope near his place and right into a construction excavation site…… impaled himself on exposed reinforcement bars the workers are working on….

 

Jackson  : ouch….

 

Hong : Tsk… tsk… tsk…. Painful….awfully painful…. But like magic… everything just went quiet…. No news report… nothing…. Kamal …. Quietly served 3 months…. And I was there to pick him up when he was released…. It’s like nothing ever happened…..

 

I nodded and came to the conclusion that whoever the boss is, she must be one hell of a woman with connections beyond imagination.

 

Jackson : what about you… how did you come to work for the boss … ?

 

Hong laughed and said he has no story.

 

Hong : I’m nothing…. I send in my application…. And she interviewed me… hahahahah… and she was impressed with my resume…. then she offered me the job.. hahaha … I am the 1st employee after Declan ok !

 

He laughed at his own joke, unwilling to share his past.

 

Declan shook his head and by then Seven and Kamal came back in.

 

Jackson : what about you Declan… how did you come to work here ?….

 

Declan said he was assigned to help boss when she first started.

 

Jackson : Assigned by who ??

 

Declan smiled and said in a joking manner.

 

Declan : If I tell you… I’ll have to kill you… ahahah

 

The rest of the guys rolled their eyes and told me to ignore Declan as that was always the reply he gave. It seems as if they don’t know his story as well.

 

We finished up our dinner and I served sliced fruits to the group.

 

After we polished up a whole papaya and half a melon, Hong said he has something planned for me.

 

 

Hong : ok ok… Jackson …. We have yet to…. Officially welcome you…. With a party…. So…. I have made special arrangements…..for you tonight…. Hahaha….

 

Jackson  : err… no… no it’s fine… don’t need…

 

Hong : Too late… it’s already done…. She’s on her way…

 

Jackson  : no… no way… I don’t want…

 

Hong : you have to…. I insist….

 

Hong stood up and started to announce to the group.

 

Hong : you will love her… if not…. I chop…

 

He did a side swipe in front of his privates, confident that I would like the sex worker he arranged for me.

 

Jackson : it’s Friday…. They usually come tomorrow no ??

 

Hong : well… for you…. I made an exception… so you better appreciate it…

 

Right in front of me Hong started to collect the wagers.

 

Hong : COME COME !! Kamal… COME !!! place your bets… !!! will Jackson fuck the girl or not !!! hahahaha !!

 

Declan : no way…. My money is on ‘No’ hhaha…. here….$50…

 

Kamal : who you sending ??!!

 

Kamal rubbed his chin and Hong smiled sneakily.

 

Hong : I’m calling Xiaoyu…

 

Kamal : you fucker…….  $300 on yes…..

 

Jackson : what… ? 300 ??

 

Seven dug into his denim pants and pulled out a wad of fifties as well, putting 100 on yes.

 

Hong : hahahah… good good good….. Declan… you sure… ? want to change your bet ??

 

I turned to look at Declan who was obviously regretting his decision.

 

Declan : sorry Jackson… it’s not about the money…. I just don’t like to lose….

 

He shifted his wager of 50 from No to Yes and Hong laughed even louder.

 

I turned to him in disbelief.

 

Jackson : what are you so happy ?? if they win you need to pay !!

 

Hong : I will gladly pay hahahaha….hahaha…. just to see if you are a virgin or a gay… hahahahaha ..

 

He laughed so loud that the table shook as he hit his palms on it.

 

Jackson : sorry guys…i… I’m not going to do it…

 

Hong : hahah.. we’ll see…. We’ll see…..

 

Jackson : I’m helping you win money here dude… I don’t do it… you keep their money…..

 

Hong shook his head and waved his finger at me.

 

Hong : do I look like I need the money ??? hahahah …….No man…. has ever rejected xiaoyu before…. none…..and mind you…. Xiaoyu….. doesn’t just take every man….hahaha.. hahahah….

 

Hong stood up and announced that he had place a wager with Paige, the brothel owner.

 

Hong : I told her that…. There is a chance….. that Xiaoyu might get rejected…. By Jackson…. And she replied that… if that were to happen…. She will supply her girls for free for a month….

 

Jackson  : what do you mean that Xiaoyu don’t just take every man ?

 

Hong : Xiaoyu is like Paige’s right hand women…. She’s like a precious gem… the pearl……she gets the freedom of choice… whether or not…. To take the men that wants her…… so far….. word is…. Only 1 man has had her within the group…..

 

Jackson : who is that….

 

Hong shrugged her shoulders.

 

Hong : We don’t kiss and tell here…. Hahahah….. I give you my personal guarantee…..haha…Xiaoyu has done less than 3 men in her life…. given the line she is in…. that’s pretty rare…. Hahahah…

 

Jackson  : oh god…. Forget this…. I don’t care….. I’m not doing it….

 

Hong : We’ll see…. We’ll see….. hahaha… if you’re going to cost Paige a month worth of income…. Hahaha… I wonder what she will do to you…. Haha … by then…. A reverse gangbang might seem merciful… ahhaha….

 

The rest of the guys shook their head and Seven gave me a couple of pats on my shoulder.

 

Kamal : Xiaoyu is hot Jackson….. I would do her… serious… sweet young thing…. Innocent big eyes….

 

I looked at Kamal and could not help but notice Declan nodding his head as well.

 

Jackson : she can be as hot as she want to be….. I’m not doing it…. No way….

 

I stood up and cleared the table and Hong was checking his phone.

 

Hong : ok…. Ok…. She’s on her way over… we need to clear the place hahahaha.. hahah… good luck….

 

I shook my head as I went to the bathroom to do the dishes.

 

I’ve had my share of hot milfs and mistresses before remember ? I don’t get tempted easily. I’m not taking the moral high ground here, and I have nothing against sex workers. From my perspective, this is my work place.

 

It feels fucking weird to fuck at my workplace even though it’s initiated by my superiors.

 

Still, I could not help but wonder how pretty Xiaoyu has to be with the guys so confident I would not be able to resist her.

 

She’s just a sex worker, rejections should not be anything new, besides, looks and preferences are subjective. Beauty in the int eye of the beholder.

 

I finished washing up and hung everything up to dry.

 

I had planned to stay the night but now that Hong has this girl coming over, I think I better clean up and leave before she arrives.

 

I skipped the shower and grabbed my stuff.

 

When I opened the door, I realised I was too late.

 

Standing in front of me was a beautiful girl in her mid-twenties by my estimates.

She was about to knock on the door.

 

It took a few seconds for me to process what my eyes was seeing.

 

Xiaoyu was dressed in a sleeveless black dress that redefined the notion of what I held for a hourglass figure. She smiled at me and turned her side to face me as if giving me an orientation of her body while pointing to the garden I did.

 

Xiaoyu : Hi… my name is Xiaoyu…. Did you do all these… ? it’s looks amazing….

 

When Xiaoyu turned to face me again, I could not tear my eyes away from her body. Her breasts are a good and full ‘C’ cup and they are really testing the stretchable fabric her dress is cut from.

 

The dress is long, reaching down almost to her ankles but the slit at her left of her body opened up generously like a banana skin with most of the fruit exposed. The fruit in this case is Xiaoyu’s smooth and hairless legs.

 

A pair of blood red peep toe Mary Jane high heels gave Xiaoyu’s shapely figure a boost of at least 2.5 inches.

 

Her eyes are big with naturally long lashes. She has makeup on but not too thick, with features like that, she has no need of thick makeups.

 

She was holding onto a small clutch bag as she waited for me to acknowledge her presence.

 

Xiaoyu raised an eyebrow at me before breaking into a chuckle.

 

Xiaoyu : Are you… going to at least…. Invite me in for a coffee….. ? haha

 

My jaws could not close. She is hot.

 

Xiaoyu did not hurry me and she just waited for me to make the next move, brushing a strand of hair behind her ears, Xiaoyu bit her lips and looked shyly away as she saw me looking at her body.

 

Ok, this is really tempting.

 

I can see why Declan changed his bet when he heard her name.

 

I saw some movements at the trees at the back leading to the cookhouse. Hong and the guys are all there.

 

They were looking at me, waiting for me to make my decision. Hong was clutching the money in his hands as he pumped his hands excitedly as if he was urging his race horse to reach the finish line.

 

Xiaoyu : You don’t look like the kind to keep a lady waiting outside the door…. Or am I wrong …. ?

 

My eyes traced Xiaoyu from top to toe again and I could feel blood rushing to my groin. She’s really beautiful and sweet but something feels off.

Something is weird about her.

 

I can’t say if it’s the hands, or her toned body. She is too lady like, even more lady like than a female.

 

Xiaoyu came closer and looked at me and I could smell the sweet fragrance she doused her body in.

I could feel my resistance slowly being worn off until something snapped inside me.

 

I looked at Xiaoyu again before grabbing her neck with my right hand, turning her about and pushing her against the wall of the farmhouse abruptly.

 

Xiaoyu : ernghhhh…. You’re in such a rush……

 

I could hear Hong whoop loudly in a cheer in the background as Xiaoyu dropped her bag on the floor and put her hands around my neck.

 

She smells really good. Her lips are glossed and plump, it’s the kind of lips that would associate with a good blow after a wet kiss.

 

Xiaoyu : ernghhhh ~~!… not so hard….. I didn’t… ernghh.. know you like to play rough… ernghhh…

 

I tilt her head up slightly and smiled as I went close to her cheeks as if I wanted to kiss her but instead, I whispered softly by her ears.

 

My finger went to the only tell tale sign on Xiaoyu’s neck and I touched it. It was a dead giveaway. The really prominent adam’s apple on her neck.

 

Jackson : Pre op….. or post op…. ??

 

Xiaoyu’s innocent act slowly gave way to a seductive smile as she flirted with her eyes.

 

Xiaoyu : clever boy…

 

She allowed me 2 seconds to bask in my sharp observation skills before twisting my wrist away from her neck, kneeing me on the back of my knees to collapse me onto the ground.

 

Her sweet smelling arm went around my neck in a chokehold before I could even react. I could see Hong and the guys laughing in the back as they clapped and whistled. Hong was whooping and jumping up and down like a teenage girl in a pop concert.

 

I tried to break free but I can’t, Xiaoyu is amazingly strong for her size. I tried to throw her off my back by attempting to roll forward but she adjusted her weight distribution perfectly, countering my feeble effort.

 

She giggled by my ears as I tapped several times on her arm to indicate I give up and for her to stop.

 

I felt the slightest relaxation of her grip as she whispered by my ears.

 

Xiaoyu : now……would you prefer…. That I’m pre op….. or post op ??

 

I gasped for air and tried to process the question but there was only one thing on my mind.

 

Between Xiaoyu forcing herself onto me or into me, which one is going to hurt more.

 

……………………………………………………………..

 

Xiaoyu released her hold on me as I coughed and sucked in deep breaths of air.

 

I could hear Hong laughing at the top of his voice and I glared angrily at his direction. He quickly pushed the rest of the guys away towards the cookhouse and I could hear him ask me to enjoy myself.

 

Yeah, they’re having a good laugh at my expense.

 

Xiaoyu picked up her bag and smoothed out her dress before asking if I needed help.

 

Jackson  : I’m fine…. I’m fine…

 

I picked myself off the floor and looked at the sweet looking girl, no guy, I don’t know. She looks exactly like a girl.

I don’t know what to call her.

 

Xiaoyu : You going to invite me in…. or we’re going to stay out here the whole night… ? don’t worry… I won’t rape you… I think… hahah…

 

She folded her arms and raised a playful eyebrow at me as she checked me out from head to toe.

 

I still have trouble coming to reason with what my eyes are seeing.

 

Jackson : come…. Come in… for a beer or something…. Nothing else…

 

Xiaoyu laughed and gave a seductive swing of her hair before walking into my farmhouse.

 

I thought about leaving the door open in case she decides to rape me but decided otherwise. I discreetly checked that my zip and my button on my pants are secure, some of my work pants are pretty worn out.

 

I’m glad the pair I had on that day is the good pair.

 

Xiaoyu removed her heels and held onto her bag as she took a look around the small place I call my 2nd home.

 

I handed her a beer from the fridge, making sure to keep a distance from her. I handed the can to her with a fully stretched arm, I don’t remember handing anyone a beer like that before in my life.

 

Xiaoyu : haha.. thank you….

 

She took a seat at the table, crossed her legs and flashed me her manicured nails.

 

Xiaoyu  :do you mind… ? I don’t want to spoil my nails…

 

I opened the drink for her and got one for myself before taking the opposite side of the table.

 

She proposed a toast, took a sip while looking at me.

 

Jackson : what…. ?

 

Xiaoyu : do you like what you see…. ??

 

I looked away, unsure of what to say.

 

Xiaoyu : you want to touch my breast… ? it’s done in Korea…. Pretty good and natural….

 

I looked at Xiaoyu in disbelief with my mouth slightly open.

 

Xiaoyu : haha… what… ? it’s not illegal to touch a man’s breast….especially if he is willing….. my nipples are nice and pink….but it’s not as sensitive ….

 

Jackson : No…. no thank you….

 

Xiaoyu : or would you like to hear my real voice… ?? it takes years of practice to….

 

I shook my head immediately eliciting another round of girlish laughter.

 

She sat up straight and straightened her neck, rotating her head slightly left and right.

 

Xiaoyu : look at much as you want….hahha…. you can touch if you like…. Don’t be shy….

 

Jackson : err… no… it’s ok…. i…erm…..

 

Xiaoyu rolled her eyes and called me a pussy.

 

Xiaoyu : do I have fangs or something… ? hahaha…. I won’t bite you….

 

Jackson  :But you can choke me….

 

Xiaoyu laughed.

 

She said since I’m keeping quiet, she shall do the talking. She took a sip of the beer and I could see the faint lipstick marks on the can surface.

 

Xiaoyu has undergone no less than 20 surgery over the years to get to where she is today. I asked her why.

 

Xiaoyu : I have always felt that I am a girl…. My family is supportive…. So…. Why not… you only live once….

 

Jackson : It… it must have cost a lot….

 

Xiaoyu nodded.

 

Xiaoyu : It did… it’s expensive… but luckily…. I got a good job….

 

My eyes widened and she laughed.

 

Xiaoyu : No.. it’s not what you think….. hahah… my body is not for sale….. but….

 

I felt her leg under the table rub against my calves before reaching to my groin area. I could feel her feel pushing up against my pants.

 

I tensed up immediately and she laughed.

 

Xiaoyu : It’s only available… when I say it’s available… hurhurhur…. Haha

 

I pushed her feet away and she gave me a childish pout that can only be describe as cute if I don’t know she is male.

 

Jackson : so… what do you do… for a living… ?

 

Xiaoyu : I teach….. self defence skills…. Krav Maga….. I spent my childhood in Haifa, Israel…. My parents work there…. My siblings are there too…

 

Jackson : You are shitting me….. why are you back ??

 

Xiaoyu : National service….came back…. Stayed with grandparents… and one thing leads to another….got a good job….started with the transitioning….. And viola….

 

Xiaoyu put down her drink and asked me the next question seriously.

 

Xiaoyu : do you want to see me naked…. ? I could show you…. hahah

 

Jackson : no… no… no thank you….

 

Xiaoyu : hahha…

 

 

I found out that Xiaoyu is teaching right where I work. Yes, she conducts regular classes for anyone who are interested, and she even provides one on one class.

 

Xiaoyu : you just have to book it via the intranet….

 

Jackson : intranet…. This place has it’s own intranet… ?

 

Xiaoyu : hahah… why not…. ?

 

She handed me a card with her details but I told her I don’t have an employee login account.

 

Xiaoyu : ask Declan for it… he will give you one…

 

I looked at Xiaoyu again, it started with me unable to believe what my eyes are seeing, now I’m having difficulty digesting what I just heard.

 

That sweet young thing in front of me is a martial art instructor ?

 

Xiaoyu : I do spin class as well….. pilates … mostly for your core muscles….but it’s only for guys I like…. so they can fuck me harder and longer…… haha

 

I almost dropped my beer as Xiaoyu laughed.

 

Xiaoyu : kickboxing…. And…. I’m in the midst of picking up jujitsu….

 

Jackson : err.. ok… I will think about it…. Thank you….

 

Xiaoyu : Boss trains with me on Wednesdays….. so I’m not available on Wednesdays…

 

My ears picked up immediately when I heard Xiaoyu mentioning the boss.

 

Jackson  : the queen…. ? you train with the queen ?

 

Xiaoyu : yeah…. She is soooooo hot man…. I wish I was her….bad temper though… don’t ever piss her off….

 

Jackson  :tell me more about her…

 

Xiaoyu narrowed her eyes and shot me a sideway glance.

 

Xiaoyu : a toad… lusting for the swan I see….

 

Jackson  : I’m just curious…. I’ve never met her before….

 

Xiaoyu : Well, she’s always busy…. What do you want to know ??

 

Jackson : do you … ermm.. have any pictures of her… ?

 

Xiaoyu  : nobody has…. You try to take a picture of her…. You’re dead…

 

Jackson : err… ok…. What is she like as a person… ? is she young… ? or old ??

 

Xiaoyu avoided my question about the queen’s age but she revealed that she finds the boss matured.

 

Ok. That’s a nice way of saying someone is old.

 

Xiaoyu : hmmm.. she is serious…. Task orientated…. Seems to have a lot on her mind all the time…..but she is a good boss…. I enjoy working for her…. I would say boss is the closest female friend I have……

 

Jackson : does she know… you are….

 

Xiaoyu : who do you think is paying my salary so I can have all these surgery… ? hahah….

 

Xiaoyu added that during the low seasons when the boss is not that busy, the 2 of them would hang out at cafes, go for manicures, spas, all the girly stuff you would expect 2 BFF do together, they would do it.

 

I nodded as the short conversation with Xiaoyu slowly unveiled more of the mystery surrounding the house in bukit timah

 

Xiaoyu had 2 beers before asking if I would like her to spend the night.

 

Xiaoyu : I can suck you off….. or….. you can come inside me….

 

She used the tip of her left index finger to flick my chin in a seductive manner.

 

Xiaoyu : I’m fine too…. If you want to suck me off…. Hahah…

 

I stood up immediately and thanked her for the offer.

 

Jackson : No thank you….i’m fine….

 

She laughed and shook her head.

 

Xiaoyu : what a pity…. I’m pretty sure you would have made me moan out loud….

 

Heading to the door, she added that Paige, the brothel owner was in on the bet that I would fall for her charms. Most men do.

 

Xiaoyu : I’m quite a good actor I think….. you are the first to figure me out so fast……usually the men don’t realised it until it’s too late…. Hahah…. Well…Paige is going to be mad you didn’t fall for this…….  hahaha

 

Jackson : you are really pretty Xiaoyu….really hot and attractive…. But I can’t get over the mental barrier….i erm…. Ermm..

 

Xiaoyu : save it… you’re just a wuss……. Hahah… I don’t care… hahaha…. Come for my class ok?

 

Jackson : I will…. As soon as I get an employee login ID.

 

I watched Xiaoyu put on her heels and I sent her to the door.

 

Holding the bag in front of her while facing me, she looked at me like a little girl who just finished the first date with the man she loves.

 

She reached for a kiss and I offered my cheek instead when i saw her going for my lips.

 

Xiaoyu smiled as she ask if she’s going to get one.

 

I gave her one on the cheek in a gentlemanly manner.

 

Xiaoyu : good night Jackson…. Thank you for the beer….

 

Jackson : you’re welcome…..

 

As she turned to walk away, she added ;

 

Xiaoyu : Paige is going to send her best girl after you now….. and I assure you…. She is going to be lot harder to turn down….i think I know the type you are after….. hahah…

 

Jackson : If the girl is as attractive as you….. I might just go for it…

 

Xiaoyu gave me a naughty wink before sashaying off towards the direction of the cookhouse.

 

I closed the door behind me and exhaled.

 

That was a close one.

 

Xiaoyu’s looks would easily pass of as a Korean actress or a singer. Her actions, her moves, from putting on her heels to holding her beer, they are more lady-like than a real woman.

 

I clenched my fist, pissed at the guys for pulling this shit on me.

 

Relieved that it’s over, I went to take a shower.

 

I never expected the guys to come back into the farmhouse.

I could hear them talking loudly outside the door as I dried my hair.

 

Hong : Jackson !!! open up…. Hahahaha…. Hahaha… do you like what you see ?? hahahah

 

I opened the door and the group of them are still laughing and giggling away.

 

Jackson  :what the fuck man….

 

Kamal : aiyah…. Don’t angry la…. just a joke…hahaha

 

Hong : hahaha….. cannot take a joke ar…… ask you fuck girl you don’t want… then you say you not gay…. I find someone in between….. you also not happy… hahaha….

 

Declan tapped me on my back and ask me not to take it to heart.

 

Declan : just a joke…. Hahha…. I will get Paige to send a good one to you if you like….

 

Jackson : no need… no need… it’s ok… serious…. I’m ok… ermmm.. Declan… I heard from Xiaoyu….. that I can get an employee ID for the intranet…..is that true… ?

 

Hong : ooohhhhhh…… hahaha… you fucker…. Send her to you… you don’t want… you prefer to book online !!!! hahahahah!! I see…. haha

 

Jackson  :It’s not about that…. What the hell….

 

Declan laughed and said he will give me the details once ready.

 

With the employee ID, I would not only get my personal email, I would be kept up to date on the activities and team bonding events the organisation hosts on a regular basis.

 

There is even a monthly newsletter written by the Queen herself.

 

Kamal : No one logs into that shit one…. Don’t bother….

 

Hong : Not true… I log in to book the rooms and the girls…. Ahhaha

 

Kamal : Just call Paige will do… login for what… ??

 

Hong : aiyah… you won’t understand…. Booking online comes with a…. certain kind of thrill…. Right Jackson ?? hahah

 

I ignored his jibe and Declan finally put a stop to the teasing.

Satisfied with their good laugh, Seven lugged into the farmhouse a small insulated trolley with a ice box sitting on top.

 

Jackson : What is that….

 

Kamal : We keep eating your food…. Paiseh la… return you some….

 

Hong : all Ho liao ( good stuff ) ok ?

 

Jackson : It’s ok la…. once a month only….

 

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box and bag they brought along.

Aside from trays of thinly sliced premium beef, there are also sea cucumbers, snow crab legs, scallops the size of a large Chinese chess piece, there’s even a large bunch of bamboo clams.

 

Jackson : what the hell hahahha… are you serious… ?

 

I exclaim in disbelief as I brought up a tray of Uni, sea urchins flown in from Japan.

Hong : Oh… that is Seven’s favourite…

 

There are at least 5 cans of Mexico Abalone, that wheel brand that housewives love, together with a variety of other usual steamboat goodies.

I kept taking cans out of the bag and they commented I am the most ‘auntie’ guy they have ever met.

 

Kamal : What the hell man Jackson …. You are very auntie you know that…. You get excited by groceries….

 

I held up a tray of shrimps each the size of a small cucumber like I’m holding my graduation certificate.

 

Jackson : how much did you all spend on these man… hahah…

 

The guys helped me fill up my fridge and stock up the shelves.

 

Jackson : These are fresh ingredients….!!

 

After the fridge is filled, Hong rubbed his hands gleefully and added that they would like me to host dinner the next day.

 

It’s a Saturday. The day the girls will be coming.

 

I was immediately cautious and my face was easy to read.

 

Declan : Relax Jackson ….hahah…. we wont force you if you don’t want to ok…. Hahah…. But we will all be here for work the whole day tomorrow….and we are hoping to be able to have a nice meal after it’s done….. we can invite Xiaoyu too if you like…

 

Seven chuckled and did a comical rendition of me getting choked.

 

Jackson : ok … ok… fine…. Fine… looks like we need to get a bigger table soon…. I’ll get the stuff ready for tomorrow…. What time ?

 

Declan : 7pm works for you ?? if you have plans for the weekend it’s ok to say no….

 

Jackson : 7pm is fine…. I don’t have plans…. Let’s not waste the fresh food…

 

Hong : alright… see you tomorrow … hahaha…

 

It’s already pretty late, and since I’m going to host dinner the next day, I decided to just sleep over. I usually change into my loose fitting pyjamas, but for that night, I slept with another clean pair of work pants, with good zip and button.

 

 

16th May 2015

Saturday.

 

6am

 

I was up early and I set off for a jog around the estate. I could see the most of the lights are on in the castle that morning. I wonder if I would ever bump into the queen on her jog, if she jogs that is.

 

I didn’t.

 

I tended to the garden once I’m done. Some of the vegetables I’ve grown are ready for harvesting, I made a mental note on what to use for dinner later from the garden and what I need to get from the supermarket.

 

By noon, I had returned from the supermarket and I got about getting ready for dinner.

 

I woke up that morning feeling really good, I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I thought of a new idea I wanted to run by Declan.

 

I want to do a compost bin for food waste. The by products can be used as fertilisers. I spent the afternoon doing some research on my laptop so I could float my idea with Declan over dinner.

 

I started preparing and cutting the vegetables at 5pm.

 

By 6.30pm, the table is set.

 

Everything is ready. You just need to get the steamboat boiling and we are good to go.

I used a large bucket I usually used for tools as a chiller. Bottles of beer and cider soak themselves in the icy water waiting to be opened.

 

7pm

 

No one showed up.

 

I stood outside the farmhouse and looked around.

 

There’s no one.

 

This better not be another one of their stupid prank. I don’t think it is one, no point asking me to waste all those fresh ingredients on a stupid prank.

 

They must be held up with work.

 

I went back in and waited for another 20 minutes or so. I tried calling Declan but his phone was off.

 

None of the other guys answered my messages as well.

 

Well, I’m fucking starving, if they don’t show up, I’m just going to start eating on my own.

 

I decided to wait till 8pm.

 

8pm

 

I opened the door and stepped out again, this time round, I saw someone in the garden.

 

It’s a woman.

 

She was squatting down near the organic vegetable patch I did.

 

My mind immediately went on high alert.

Ok , calm down Jackson.

 

This must be another one of their stupid tricks.

 

I observed the girl quietly from where I stood. She is not dressed to the nines, nor is she in high heels with seductive cleavage exposed.

 

Her hair is still a little wet, she’s freshly showered for sure. She slowly got up, allowing my eyes to feast on her tight and tone body.

She has a fucking great pair of legs. The pair of grey cotton shorts looked casual, you wouldn’t take a 2nd look because it’s not skimpy short as well, but it’s the firm butts that pushes and stretch the pants that drew my eyes repeatedly over.  At the bottom of the pair of shorts hung little cute furry balls going around both her thighs.

 

I started to wonder how that feels on your skin. The softness of the balls rubbing on your thigh.

 

Her legs disappeared into a pair of white sneakers with purple laces, she doesn’t look like she wore any socks.

 

She noticed me at the door and she turned to face me.

 

The moment our eyes met, I felt as if my soul had been taken away together with my breath. She is beautiful beyond words. I could not believe my eyes.

 

Without any traces of makeup on, her facial features are dominated by her naturally large eyes. Her lips are slightly glossy, she looked confident, intelligent and I could see she has clocked a certain mileage in life.

 

This is no fresh face sweet young thing with a squeaky voice, the girl standing in front of me is the embodiment of what I would call a proper woman.

 

The t-shirt she was wearing is a simple graphic print top. No brand, with a couple of cartoon characters at the bottom I could not identify.

 

She rest her hands on her waist and nodded towards the garden.

 

“ You did all these ?? Nice work… “

 

Jackson : yes I did…. I’m the gardener….

 

She looked around and nodded. I watch her do a 360 degree turn slowly before taking in a deep breath, puffing up her chest as she spread her arms and displaying the fullness of her love pillows like a proud peacock showing off her feathers.

 

Blood rushed to my dick as I gave her body another once over.

 

She’s fit, she works out. She must be one of Paige’s girls, another one that they sent to test me.

 

She is exactly my type. Paige is good. She knew someone seductive and foxy like Xiaoyu didn’t work, so she chose to send someone more casual, down to earth without seductive clothes on.

 

I was overwhelmed by my hormones as I looked at the woman in front of me.

 

I don’t usually say things like this, but I have to admit, I really like her. She’s my type.

 

I’m starting to get the same vibe I get when I work for some of those hot milfs in their garden. The kind of horny urge. Well, if she’s she for me, I’m going to fuck her for sure.

 

She started to walk towards me and I braced myself for her advance.

 

I felt a tingling in my dick as she closed the distance between us.

 

A weird and erotic thought started to creep into my head.

She is so hot, that I decided that even if she used to have a dick, I might just do her.

 

Even the way she walks, she oozes confidence, power and the way she speaks, she is no ordinary whore. Maybe she herself controls a team of girls.

 

Jackson : what’s your name… ??

 

She unfolded her arms and looked at me for a couple of seconds.

 

Yiling : My name is Yiling….

 

Even her name sounded nice to me. Almost poetic.

 

Jackson : my name is Jackson…nice to meet you….. you know what… I’m hosting a dinner… but my friends are late…. Would you like to join us ??

 

I gestured to the farmhouse behind me.

 

Yiling : Dinner…. Inside there ?? are you serious ??  hahah … shouldn’t that be filled with your gardening tools and stuff ? hahah…

 

I nodded with a smile.

 

Jackson : well…. Only one way to find out….

 

I extended my hand and pointed to the door with my palm faced up like an usher showing guests to their table.

 

Yiling : alright….. we shall see.. haha..

 

Yiling put her hands behind her and walked boldly towards my farmhouse.

 

Yiling : You’re not going to abduct me right… haha… feels like you are trying to trick me into a gardening shed… haha…

 

Damm she’s good, her girl next door act only served to send more blood to my groin.

 

Jackson : it’s real… no funny business…. I swear… haha…

 

Yiling : alright…. Alright… sure….who are the friends you are hosting….?

 

Jackson : Declan….. Hong….. Kamal…. Seven….. do you know them…. ?

 

Yiling nodded.

 

Yiling : of course….who doesn’t….

 

I opened the door and Yiling exclaimed at the spread of the food on the table.

 

Yiling : wow…. You got to be kidding me…

 

The look on her face was one of genuine surprise. You can’t fake that. Maybe the guys didn’t tell her I prepared dinner.

 

I watched Yiling lift up one of her leg behind her butt, remaining perfectly balance on 1 foot as she removed her shoe. Everything she does seemed to have a sexual vibe to it.

 

By the time she sat down, crossed her legs and asked for a pair of chopsticks, I was prepared to use my employee benefit right there and then.

 

I realised I didn’t have condoms but she is like a goddess with an imaginary aura around her that I was toying with the idea of fucking her raw even though she is a sex worker.

 

She must be the legendary right-hand girl of Paige, the brothel owner. The one that gets to choose. This is the real deal.

 

Yiling did not hesitate at all, she turned on the steamboat and started putting the food in.

 

When I saw her do that, I was convinced that this is the girl sent to tempt me.

 

She did not even wait for Declan and the rest, it’s as if she knew they won’t be coming or something.

This must be the guys plan after all. Set me up with a good meal and a hot girl. What better way to end a sumptuous dinner than a good orgasm ?

 

What a welcoming party this is turning out to be. I told myself to work doubly hard for the organisation starting tomorrow.

 

Jackson  : … help yourself…. Don’t be shy….

 

Yiling : can I get a beer please…

 

Jackson : Sure….

 

I opened a bottle for her and sat down beside Yiling. We filled the steamboat to the brim and waited for it to boil.

 

Yiling looked around the farmhouse and commented that it’s a cosy place.

 

Yiling : can’t tell at all from the outside…. Nice… do you like your work ?

 

Jackson : of course… I love it….. it’s a really nice place to work ….  How about you… how’s work today…. All good ?  ….

 

I immediately regretted asking Yiling the question the moment it left my mouth. What an asshole I am.

 

Who the fuck asks a sex worker about her work and how’s her day. It’s as if I expected her to tell me about the men she had to serve and spread her legs for.

 

I was about to tell Yiling it’s ok if she doesn’t answer that but she already started talking.

 

Yiling : it’s …. It’s been a long day for me today…. Not a particularly pleasant one… not to mention it’s a weekend…..

 

Jackson : I see….

 

She frowned and pointed the tip of her beer bottle at me.

 

Yiling : You know… ….

 

She paused and took another sip of her beer.

 

Yiling : …… Taking care of so many men….sigh…… it can be quite taxing…. Mentally…. I’m serious…

 

I nodded without a word. So much so for being selective about her clients. She did not seem picky at all.

 

It’s ok. I don’t mind she has been taken by so many men.

 

I would still fuck her.

 

Yiling : not only do I have to manage their expectations…. I also need to swallow…..

 

I nodded again understandably. Yes, I do have friends likes to cum in the girls’ mouth and watch them swallow. I like to do that too sometimes.

 

Yiling continued almost breathless as if she was exasperated.

 

Yiling : my pride and …. Choose my words carefully to deal with the size of their…. Their fucking….

 

I nodded again, trying not to look disrespectful.

 

It’s not easy.

 

I mean all the different cocks and dicks you need to put inside your body for a living every day.

 

Respect.

 

From the bottom of my heart.

 

This is what I call professionalism. You don’t discriminate against size.

 

Yiling : ego…. You know….?  men and their ego….

 

Well, my ego is ok sized. That is all I know at that moment as I tried hard not to drool at Yiling’s sweet face.

 

Jackson : yeah…… it’s… not easy….

 

Yiling : don’t interrupt me….. the size of their ego… drives me nuts sometimes….

 

She went on about how hard it is at times to get the men to see things from her perspectives and that we don’t see the big picture.

 

Yiling : you know what I hate most….. is when I see them taking their own sweet time when I’m obviously in a rush…. Time is precious…. I hate wasting time… it makes me angry… and when I get angry…. Everything just goes out of control you know….

 

I nodded emphatically and made a mental note not to drag it out.

 

Fuck and cum, maybe keep it to 1 or 2 positions.

 

Yiling : anyway… these are just things I have to deal with…. Comes with the job…. Not exactly a good position to be in…. if you get what I mean… you think I like to be at the top ?? … if given a choice…. I would rather not be….

 

I nodded.

 

Ok, no top.

 

She prefers to be at the bottom, noted. Maybe I’ll do a standing doggy although I quite like the idea of Yiling riding me while I cup onto her breast.

 

I gather it’s a good time to change topic, no point harping about her choice of work.

 

It’s a honest living.

 

Jackson : I understand perfectly…. Well….. at least you don’t need to be at the mercy of the queen…. I heard she’s quite a handful from Hong and the guys…

 

Yiling was about to reach for a piece of vegetable in the boiling broth when she paused midair for a second.

 

Yiling : The Queen ? ….

 

Jackson  : yeah… the lady boss that runs this whole place….i’ve heard quite a bit of stories about her….

 

Yiling looked at me as if I said something ridiculous.

 

Jackson : Haven you heard ?? …. You’ve been working here for a while right …

 

Yiling : well…. I have…..

 

Jackson : surely you’ve heard something about the queen …. ?

 

Yiling :  well…. Do share please… what stories are there about the queen….

 

She started to fill her bowl with an assortment of seafood and vegetables including a giant scallop. She’s not shy at all when it comes to food. I never expected her to put 2 giant shrimp on my bowl though.

 

I thought it was meant for me but she just asked if I could help her deshell them.

I started to peel the prawns as I spoke.

 

Jackson : I’ve heard she’s bad tempered, has violent tendencies….. she digs people’s eyes out and stuff……. Not only that…. She speaks with a high pitch squeak……. Sounds like she’s some kind of a witch that escaped from a fairytale……Hong does a really nice mimic of her I think… hahha..….  You should see it….. hahaha.. it’s quite funny……

 

Yiling smiled and dipped a tofu into the dipping sauce I made and popped it into her mouth chewing slowly as she savoured it’s taste before reply.

 

Yiling : sure…. Looking forward to it…

 

…………………………………………………………..

 

Jackson : well… I think they are coming any moment now…. It’s better to hear it from them… I can’t describe it as well as they do…. You should see Hong do it with a lettuce while stretching his hairy legs… hahaha….it’s awesome …. hahah

 

Yiling smiled and continued eating.

 

Jackson : how’s the food… ?

 

Yiling : It’s nice…. Which of these vegetables are grown here….?

 

Jackson : over here…. The leafy Caixin, lettuce, spinach……. Baby tomatoes…. These are from the garden…. Organic… it’s not a lot… .. so I supplemented with some from the supermarket…. I think in about another couple of months, the yield will be enough for a good meal once a week…

 

Yiling : they’re delicious…. You should grow more….

 

Jackson : I’m glad you like it…

 

Yiling got up and went over to the shelves, going straight for the can of abalone.

 

She gestured to the can, asking me to open it.

 

Yiling : I like this….… do you mind… ?

 

Jackson : Not at all…. Come… allow me….

 

It’s quite an enjoyable experience watching Yiling eat. You know, some people just makes everything look delicious with the way they enjoy their food and Yiling is definitely a foodie from the looks of it.

I would have offer to slice the abalone into smaller slices but Yiling just took a bite out of it once she dunk it into the hotpot for 2 seconds.

 

Yiling : ohhh…. This is so good…

 

We started to talk and I was surprise at how opinionated she is on certain issues. She’s smart, articulated and not afraid to offer a different perspective on sensitive subjects.

 

As we put more food into the steamboat, we drifted to the topic of right and wrong.

 

Jackson : I mean right is right…. Wrong is wrong… there is nowhere in between….

 

Yiling : No…. that’s not true.. I don’t agree with that statement at all…

 

Jackson : why not ? …. I mean if you kill someone….that is wrong…

 

Yiling : What if by killing that someone…. You are saving others… are the police wrong if they need to shoot a terrorist ? …

 

Jackson  : Ok… I don’t meant that…

 

Yiling : But you said killing someone is wrong……

 

Jackson  : ok …. Maybe strapping a bomb on yourself and denotating it in the middle of a crowded room…. That is wrong… surely you cannot disagree with that…

 

Yiling : What if the person is a soldier ? … that room is full of terrorist…. Murderers…. People who would kill again and again…. And by sacrificing himself…. He prevented more deaths… ?

 

Jackson : You don’t know that….

 

Yiling : You don’t know that either….. coming back to your right and wrong theory….. there’s no easy way of saying your actions is right or wrong just by looking at the surface……without understanding the whole picture….

 

Jackson  :errr…. Ok….. robbery & stealing is wrong…

 

Yiling : It is… but what about a father stealing bread for his hungry daughter….. People robbing the masterminds of ponzi scams….

 

Jackson : Those only happen in movies….

 

Yiling : where do you think they get their inspirations from….

 

Jackson : ok… taking drugs is wrong….

 

Yiling : Paracetamol is a drug, leftose is a drug….

 

Jackson : Come on… I don’t mean that…. You know what I mean….

Yiling : Some drugs…. When administered properly…. Are powerful pain killers…. It all depends on your perspective….

 

Jackson : smuggling drugs is wrong….

 

Yiling : Every day…. People risk their lives smuggling drugs, vaccines, antibiotics into war zones…..just because it doesn’t happen in Singapore….it…

 

The argument went back and forth, and I was stumped several times, unable to give a reply.

 

This is something I was not expecting from a sex worker but despite me losing several arguments, I could feel my erection getting harder. There is this strength coming from Yiling I cannot put my finger on.

 

That confidence, the way she speaks. It’s turning me on more and more. Intelligence and confidence have always been my weak spot. The best fuck I’ve ever had did not come from the girls with the biggest breast or the longest legs, or the tightest ass.

 

It’s always the smart ones. Usually, they have the looks to compliment those brains of theirs as well.

 

Yiling stopped eating for a while and asked for some napkins. She’s perspiring from the hotpot but written on her face is a look that can only be described as satisfaction.

 

We started talking about the garden and I offered Yiling a guided tour.

 

Yiling : sure… why not… I could use a walk …. And we could go for another round….. the food is delicious….

 

Jackson : thank you… you’re welcome to drop by often….

 

Yiling : do Declan come by all the time… ?

 

Jackson : once a month usually…. For dinner with the guys….. other days….. they might pop by occasionally….. no fixed schedule…. He likes to do his admin work here……

 

I brought Yiling out and we started walking through the miniature bamboo garden I did. The plants are growing well, in a few months, they would tower over our heads.

 

Jackson  : Not as grand as the bamboo forest in Sagano…. But it’s a start…

 

We took the winding path and I told Yiling the reasons behind my choice of plants at certain sections.

 

I would have expected cursory nods and smile but I never expected her to be really interested in what I am saying.

 

Jackson : this… a very common palm tree… we call it the lipstick palm or sealing wax palm…. The crownshafts and leaf sheath is bright red…you can extract the colours and make a dye with it…..

 

Yiling : to make a lipstick ..???

 

Jackson : hahah…. Err… I think it’s better if you just pop by the makeup store…

 

Yiling : hahah… good idea….

 

We ventured down the far end to the smoking corner as well. It’s empty that evening but I could still see a couple of smouldering butts smoking in the ashtray.

 

I took a bottle of water I kept in the bush and put the butts out.

 

Yiling : so you maintain the smoking area as well…. ?

 

Jackson : yeah… a lot of the guys come here …. So you can see it fills up pretty fast…. Some of them has the habit of flicking the butts all over too….

 

Yiling : do you smoke… ?

 

Jackson : I don’t… do you ??

 

Yiling : me neither…

 

Jackson  : anyway…. I think I was hired partly because I don’t smoke…. Among other things….

 

Yiling : what other things… ?

 

Jackson  : a string of weird requirements by the queen of course….i think Declan and the guys won a bet of sort…..hahha…. they seem pretty pleased about it…..

 

Yiling : I see… hmmmmm

 

We went around the perimeter, taking the longest route possible encircling the garden. I know it’s just me over thinking but it felt like a date of sort.

 

The conversation just kept flowing.

 

Yiling : you know what you should start planting…. Durians man… get some good saplings or something… start filling the garden with them…. Hahaha… Mao Shan wang… black pearl…..golden phoenix….

 

Jackson : those take a decade or more to fruit… hahha… but that’s a good idea…. We can start putting more fruit trees…. I’ve seen bats and a couple of cockatoos before…. Maybe some fruit trees would bring them in….

 

Yiling : papayas are easy to grow… maybe start with those…. And definitely start sourcing for the durians….. lime should be easy to grow… hmmmm… lime with tequilas ….  Ooohh….

 

Jackson : hahha… ok… I’ll check with Declan when I see him….. I mean… if these don’t sit well with the queen….we better not do it…. Not everyone likes durians..

 

Yiling nodded and smiled before asking me what I thought of the owner of the property.

 

Yiling : what do you think of the queen…. ?

 

Jackson : I don’t know…. I’ve never met her…. Seen her from afar once….. cant really make out anything other than a silhouette….. my guess would be someone in her…. I don’t know… fifties…old auntie with too much botox injection……. Have you met her before… ?

 

Yiling : yeah… I have….hmmm… go on… I’ll see if your description is accurate….

 

Jackson : alright…. Hmmm… early to mid fifties…well maintained… I don’t know… probably a virgin…. Good reason for her to be too… I mean… with this amount of power and wealth….. you got to be careful with anyone who says they are interested in you right….

 

Yiling : true…

 

Jackson : so… my guess is she probably has a lot of suitors… she rejected them all….thereby depriving herself of a healthy sex life….compounding on her loneliness and causing her to be mad at everything…. That’s probably where her violent tendencies come from as well….she keeps a tight leash on Declan, Hong, Kamal, Seven and Aaron….her lieutenants …. Men who execute her order….they’re afraid of her…. And I suspect she likes it that way…… power over men….gets a kick out of it I’m sure….. some women are like this…a little sick in the head…..

 

Yiling : wow… … go on…

 

Jackson : she’s rich…. Surrounded by her circle of personal guards… all female I heard….. I suspect she makes them do more than protecting her….there’s a possibility that she turned lesbian…… and I just found out….. that she trains with Xiaoyu…. Do you know Xiaoyu ??

 

Yiling : Yes I do…. She’s pretty…

 

Jackson  : Well… she’s a he by the way…. Anyway…. I also suspect the queen is using Xiaoyu in more ways beneath the surface… you know what I mean… ?? it’s only natural to make sure of the resources around you…..especially when they are available…..

 

Yiling : You mean Xiaoyu’s dick…. Which still can get hard….wow…. you know what Jackson …. I like how you go out of your way to elucidate the complex problems the queen is facing….. and offer a solution at the same time….

 

Jackson  : nah… I just like to over analyse at times…hahah….

 

Yiling : do you like working here ? ….

 

Jackson : I do…. I do….I love my job….every minute of it…. I just hope the queen likes the garden….

 

Yiling : do you think she likes it ?

 

Jackson  : Declan told me she likes where it’s going…. So I think I’m on the right track…. I mean she would have showed up and start throwing a fit like a spoilt brat is she didn’t right….. you know…. kicking around… uprooting shit, spitting on me maybe…..haha

 

Yiling said nothing and nodded.

 

Yiling : what would you say to her…. When you meet the queen that is…. ?

 

Jackson : hahah… I don’t know…. she royalty you know… haha… I’m just the gardener…. Hahah… probably ask her to chill more….be more peace loving…I don’t know…. get laid perhaps….. sex kind of you know…. chill everything down a bit…. hahah… sighz….or maybe instead of doing it with Xiaoyu…. Find a proper guy she can click with and such….

 

I casually observed Yiling, she did not seem too affected by my bringing up the topic of sex.

That’s professionalism.

 

 

Yiling : Interesting perspectives….. you mean you would really say that to her in her face…. ?

 

I laughed and shook my head. After a couple of seconds and picking up a fallen branch from a tree off the path, I added my honest thoughts.

 

Jackson : … hmmm… actually…. I’m just kidding…. I feel sorry for her actually….

 

Yiling: How so…. ?

 

I stopped walking and looked over at the patio when I first saw the queen.

 

Jackson : It’s got to be so lonely at the top….

 

Turning to Yiling, I added.

 

 

 

Jackson : makes you wonder….. who does she go to when she needed to talk… ? ….. where does she go to cry without anyone seeing her do it…….where does she go to relax and just shut herself out from everything happening around her….. does she have anyone to confide in….? does she have friends… I mean genuine friends….people who don’t care about her money… power…. People who don’t work for her…. I mean real friends…

 

Yiling nodded as we started our way back to the farmhouse.

 

Yiling : Maybe doing what she do….. doesn’t allow her the luxury of having real friends ? ……. sounds like a pretty sad life isn’t it…

 

Jackson  : we’ll never know… hahah…… well…like they say…. It’s a blessing to be ordinary…..

 

Yiling : That… I agree with you wholeheartedly…. Haha…

 

We completed the tour and got back to the farmhouse.

 

Seeing Yiling remove her shoes again brought my attention back to her pair of smooth and tone legs.

 

My dick started getting hard again.

 

It’s coming to 9pm. I doubt Declan and the guys will be coming.

 

I hope Yiling would spend the night at the farmhouse. I would gladly pay to go more than one round with her.

 

She put in more vegetables into the hotpot and asked if I am in a relationship.

 

Jackson : ermm… no… I’m not…

 

Yiling : Why not…. ?

 

Jackson : Not exactly my priorities right not….. I’m just interested in saving up for now…..

 

I don’t know what got over me. I didn’t exactly have a lot to drink but I found myself telling her about my grandfather’s condition. About how stubborn he is, refusing to spend my money on his treatment.

 

I told Yiling about how I would make the drive up all the way to Kedah to visit him and she was on the verge of tears when I told her about my grandfather bringing me up single handed.

 

Jackson : I’ve been talking to a couple of specialists , not cheap…. But they can’t give an exact figure….. not until they gave him a once over…..

 

Yiling : are you paid well here… ?

 

Jackson  : really well….it’s crazy…. 5k a month… for gardening work…..but I’ve been spending quite a bit on food lately for the guys….. they are big eaters…..

 

Yiling : you mean you are paying for all their meals here… ?

 

Jackson  : yeah…. I’m ok don’t worry….i can spare a few hundred here and there…… I’m quite thrifty…. Anyway…. Most of the good stuff you see on this table are brought by Declan and the guys……we’re supposed to have dinner tonight…… guess they are… ermm..busy….

 

Yiling nodded and we continued talking over another couple of beer like old friends even though it was the first time we met.

Before I realised it, it was coming to 10pm.

 

Jackson : ……. Enough about me…. what about you…. ? what’s your story… ?

 

Yiling just smiled and shook her head before adding that she has nothing interesting to share.

 

I felt like stomping myself on my own foot.

 

Why would she share her life with me anyway ? She’s just here to have sex with me, maybe collect her payment from Hong or Paige, I don’t know.

 

Yiling excused herself to the bathroom and I brought the box of tissue over to the bed. I even prep a packet of wet tissues as well.

 

We’re done eating, Yiling is probably washing up her privates before it begins.

 

I paced about the room a little.

 

This is my first time with a commercial sex worker and I’m feeling a little nervous. She’s so pretty, I wonder if I would get to book her again after that night.

 

I wanted to lock the door only to realise there’s no way of locking it. I mean usually Declan and the guys would knock, but there are times Hong and Seven would just walk in.

 

Ok, it’s unlikely they will disturb me if they want me to enjoy myself.

 

I heard the flush of the water closet and I removed my top.

 

I read online that the girl would shower with you before it begins.

 

Maybe give me a blowjob in the shower or something. I don’t remember what the forum said. I must make it a point to reread the threads on sammyboy forum again.

 

When the door opened, Yiling froze for a second as she looked at my half naked body.

 

I froze too as I was too nervous I didn’t know what to say or do.

 

Do I ask her to shower for me ? Or it’s understood that she must do it with me ? Surely taking off my top is an obvious clue that I want to begin soon.

 

Yiling looked at me for a couple of second before asking.

 

Yiling : you…. Errr…..Want to shower ?

I nodded nervously.

 

Jackson : Yes…yes I do…

 

Yiling looked at me in a weird manner and gestured to the bathroom behind her.

 

Yiling : well…. Err….go ahead….

 

She walked by me and grabbed another bottle of beer.

 

Ok, she is not showering with me.

 

It’s ok, she’s the hot favourite, Paige’s top girl. Maybe showering is something the other girls do in order to attract more return customers or something, I remember something about the girlfriend experience.

 

Yiling has no need for the girlfriend experience treatment, men would automatically flock back to her.

 

I went in and gave my body a good scrub, lathering myself well with the fragrant soap. I washed my cock properly too and used the mouthwash twice.

 

When I emerged, I wore only the towel around my waist.

My heart was slamming against my ribcage as I looked at Yiling dipping small pieces of beef into the dipping sauce and looking at me in a weird manner.

 

I’m beginning to feel like a dumb fucker.

 

People obviously are not done with their meal and all I could think of is sex.

 

Even sex workers deserve to have a proper meal first.

 

I took a bottle of beer as well and sat down on the chair wrapped with my towel.

 

Yiling’s eyes widened as she looked at me.

 

Yiling : do you…. Have the habit of…. Showering….half way through your meal… ?

 

Jackson : huh …. No… i…ermm….. I just want to make sure I’m…. clean and…. I smell good….

 

Yiling nodded slowly as I watch her sucked on the end of the chopstick while looking at me with her head slightly pulled back.

 

Jackson : go ahead… help yourself to the food….

 

Yiling brought small mouthful of food to her lips while keeping her eyes on me.

 

Jackson : I’m…. I’m sorry…. If I appear too eager…. It’s just…. I’ve never really done this before….

 

Yiling chewed slowly on a piece of mushroom and asked;

 

Yiling : what are you eager for ?

 

I smiled shyly and looked away, too embarrassed to say what is on my mind.

 

Jackson : Nothing… nothing…. Take your time… I’ll wait….

 

Yiling : errr…. Are you rushing for me to finish ??

 

I shook my head and wave my hand to indicate no.

 

Jackson : No… no… no…. of course not…. I never rush for my partners to finish….but neither do I drag on unnecessarily…. I’m not a virgin by the way… don’t worry….

 

Yiling looked away, pretending she didn’t hear what I just said. She must be thinking I am such an inconsiderate asshole.

 

I could feel my erection pushing against the towel as I watch Yiling bit down on a cheese sausage. I almost groan when I saw the squirt of white melted cheese spray itself to the side of her cheeks. Not wanting to let the cheese squirt out further, she sucked on the sausage, hollowing out the cheese core before letting out a satisfied groan.

 

Yiling : oooohh… that’s is so good….. oops…. Sorry….napkin please….

 

I think I started leaking precum as Yiling put her palm under her chin as the white cheese threatened to drip down. She gestured for me to get her a tissue.

 

Jackson : Oh my god…. I can’t take this any longer….

 

I handed Yiling a tissue and she wiped her mouth clean while looking at me as if I’m mad.

 

Yiling : excuse me ?? ….

 

It’s only right to ask what are her dos and don’ts, basic manners of a gentlemen.

 

Jackson : do you… usually swallow ….??

 

I was breathing with my mouth by then as Yiling gestured to the tissue she just wiped her mouth with looking at me as if I said something weird.

 

Yiling : without chewing ???? Swallow ? … this… ? you mean the remnants of the cheese??  Or the sausage…. ?

 

My erection was pushing and parting my towel by then.

 

Jackson : ok… ok… I’ll be honest…. Yiling….

 

Yiling : errrr… yes ??

 

I used the back of my index finger and lightly grazed the side of her face and she backed away from me instinctively.

 

Yiling : what are you doing ??

 

Jackson : I don’t usually do this……. But…..You are my type….

 

Yiling : What !! ?

 

Jackson : i…. I don’t have any protection… I hope you are ok….. don’t worry… I’m clean…

 

Yiling : what ?!!  ….

 

Unable to take the tease anymore, I stood up and admit defeat.

 

Jackson : ok… ok… I can’t take this anymore…. Let’s do it… let’s just do it… you’re too good a actor….

 

Yiling : do what !! ???

 

I removed my towel, letting it drop to the floor, exposing my cock to Yiling.

 

Her eyes widened in horror as she looked at me in disbelief.

 

Yiling : are you fucking out of your mind??? !! Jackson !!!

 

Jackson : ok… enough with the acting..…. You’re really beautiful…. You are really my type………I’ll do it…. Hong wins ok… he wins….

 

Yiling : you’re mad !!

 

Yiling stood up and I held onto her forearm.

 

Jackson : Yiling… don’t go…. Wait…… I’m sorry….. I’ve never had sex with a commercial sex worker before…. I’m sorry… I don’t know the proper procedure…. I’m sorry….i’m sorry…

 

Yiling backed 2 steps away and pointed a finger at me in a warning manner.

 

Even the way she looks when she’s angry is turning me on. Hong must have forgotten to pay her, I mean there’s no guarantee that I would fuck her initially, so it makes sense Hong won’t pay her until it’s done.

 

I’m not sure if it works like this but I figured I needed to give Yiling a bit of reassurance that she is not doing this for free.

 

I ran naked to my wallet and pulled out the 200 bucks I have in loose change and pulled it out.

 

Jackson : I’m sorry…. I don’t know what is the price…. How much did Hong and the guys agree with you…. ??

 

Yiling : Jackson ….! I am warning you…. !!

 

Jackson : If it’s not enough, I can do a bank transfer…. Or… or… take the cans of abalone….. those are 150 a pop….

 

Yiling looked pissed as hell as she looked at the money in my hand. She must have felt insulted by the amount but how was I to know. I was not ready for this. She must be in the high 4 figure range, some super model category or something.

 

She stormed towards me, furious as hell only to trip on the chair she was sitting on earlier. Yiling tripped and threw herself at my naked body. I couldn’t catch her in time, I only managed to soften the impact of her falling on her knees by grabbing her arms near her elbows.

 

By then , Yiling was kneeling , I was holding her hands and my throbbing cock thrust in front of her face almost touching her mouth.

 

Both of us froze when I heard the electronic lock beep and the door burst open.

 

It was Hong and Seven. They were laughing up until the moment the door opened.

 

I heard a painful groan leave Hong’s mouth as he dropped the bag of alcohol he was holding as he covered his mouth in horror staring at me naked in front of Yiling with my cock out and her on her knees.

 

Seven, the man with the strongest pair of legs I’ve even seen buckled onto the floor, kneeling down as if he had just seen the emperor and lost the strength to even balance himself.

 

His crooked head almost straightened itself as he looked at me in disbelief while clinging onto the door frame.

 

Declan stepped in, saw the scene and immediately had to be supported by Hong as he fell backwards.

 

Yiling shoved my arms away and got up on her feet and screamed.

 

Yiling : arGHHHHHH!!!!

 

I looked at the men who are obscenely late for dinner before looking at Yiling glaring at all of them with her fist clenched on her hips. She was breathing so hard that her chest rose and fall with each breath.

 

My brain mentally calculated the possibility of what are the chances all 3 of them being so hungry that they are too weak to walk through the door properly and came to the conclusion it’s almost zero percent.

 

The deafening silence that descended the farmhouse was broken by Yiling closing the distance between us and slapping me across the cheek.

 

‘SMACK’

 

That was the first time in my life I saw stars when I blinked.

 

As Yiling slipped on her shoes, all 3 men by the door did not dare to look at her in her eye.

 

Their heads were down and they automatically back away from the door to make space for Yiling to walk out. It’s as if they wished they were invisible right then from what I could see.

 

I could hear myself screaming inside my head as it slowly dawned on me what I just did.

 

I felt like crying.

 

Yiling stormed out of the farmhouse and even then, no one moved. The only sound was the bubbling of the hot pot broth that was starting to dry up.

 

My lips went dry, my cock went limp and shrank into a wrinkled mess of skin.

 

Hong was the only one that spoke. He was breathing heavily, deep breaths, I could tell he was trying to remain calm.

 

Hong : Jackson…. Look at me…

 

I nodded and looked at Hong.

 

Hong : Please tell me this is an accident… you showered…. Came out and your towel fell…. It was an accident…. Please….

 

I shook my head slowly.

 

Jackson : I…. I thought she was the girl you all arranged for me….

 

Seven looked at me blankly and knocked his head against the wall several times, gesturing wildly towards Declan and Hong.

 

Declan : ok… ok…. Calm down… everyone… calm the fuck down…..Jackson …. Tell me….. what happened….we can fix this…. We can fix this…. Ok ??  everyone…. We can fix this !!

 

I swallowed a gulp of saliva as i tried to calm myself down.

 

Declan : Jackson …. Be clear… be concise… tell me what happened…. We have to salvage this before she blows her top….

 

I nodded and gave Declan a quick summary.

 

Jackson : I called her a whore….asked if she swallows, and I tried to pay her to have sex with me…….

 

The awkward silence in the farmhouse remain unbroken for almost 10 seconds.

 

Seven was the first to react among the 3.

 

He laughed.

 

One time, 1 miserable chuckle before he pulled himself off the ground only for his legs to give way again, sinking back down on the floor

 

Hong was just mouthing the words ‘what a fucking idiot’ over and over again without actually saying it.

 

Declan closed his eyes and exhaled.

 

I swallowed a gulp of saliva and I managed to mumble what I wanted to say.

 

I had sort of an inkling by then the amount of trouble I was in but I have to confirm it.

 

I have to know.

 

Jackson : For the love of god…….. Please….. please……. Someone…….tell me Yiling is not who I think she is….

 

No one replied me.

 

No one.

 

I had to rephrase the question.

 

Jackson : ok… ok…. Someone tell me…. how much trouble am I in right now…. ?

 

Declan exhaled and reached for the bottle of Whisky Hong just brought in and started to open it.

 

Declan : I don’t know…… no one ever called the Queen a whore,…………..wave his cock in her face ……………….and offered to pay her for sex before…..

 

 

………………………………………

 

Hong leaned against the wall and shook his head slowly.

 

Hong : wow….. wow…..

 

He started clapping slowly with his hands raised at me.

 

Hong : Jackson…… you champion you know…. hahaha… you champion… hahah… I take back my words… haah…. You are not a pussy…. You have more balls than all of us added together…. Hahahahahah…

 

The shock slowly wore off and the joke started to sink into everyone’s head.

 

Seven started chuckling and doing the index finger wriggling action to indicate that I’m a dead man.

 

Declan massaged his forehead as he poured himself a large glass of the whisky he just opened.

 

Kamal arrived with another bottle of whisky in hand to see me naked in the middle of the room, too dazed to do anything.

 

Kamal : woah woah woah…. What the fuck man Jackson…. Birthday suit party si bo ?? hahahah ….. don’t spoil my appetite !!… haha…

 

Declan turned to look at Kamal before doing a double take.

 

Whatever he saw, it was enough to make the colour drain from his face.

 

He grabbed Kamal by his shirt, yanking it down as if he was looking for something.

I saw it too, something is missing.

 

The gold chain that is always around his neck. The chain i saw him trying to hide from me on my first day.

 

Kamal : what.. what what ??

 

Hong realised the gold chain is missing as well and he grabbed Kamal immediately.

 

Hong : where is it… where’s the key ??

 

Kamal looked at his colleagues as if they had all gone mad out of the blue and replied in a nonchalant manner.

 

Kamal : I bumped into Boss along the way here…. She took it…. Says she needed to grab something…..

 

Declan : …. … fuck …..!….. Seven !!… Hong…!!!

 

Even before Declan finished calling their names, Seven bolted out the door like streak of lightning dashing towards the castle. Hong was running towards the castle as well but towards another entrance.

 

Kamal : what… what is happening… !! ??  why did Boss take the armoury key… ?

 

My shrunken cock literally turned into a mummified prune. What armoury ? A fucking intranet for this organisation is not enough, you have your own armoury ? You got to be shitting me.

 

Jackson : what armoury…. What are you talking about… ? you mean Yiling has a gun ?? ….

 

Our country has one of the strictest gun laws in the world. Buying of guns can only be done through police licensed arms trader, not to mention the multitude of tests, interviews and background checks. You would also need approval from council members of the association or something.

 

Jackson : talk to me…. why does Yiling have guns in her house ??!! are they licensed ? ….

 

All 3 of Declan’s phone started ringing at the same time, so did Kamal’s phone.

 

They looked at each other before answering the phone. From what I could make out of their conversation, opening the armoury triggered an estate wide alert. I heard Declan ask the medical team to be on standby.

 

I can almost picture the engine of the ambulance starting, and the crew of paramedics suited up and sitting in there waiting to be activated.

 

I quickly put on my clothes.

 

Kamal ended the call first and he waited for Declan to finish all 3 of his.

 

Declan spoke into his last phone curtly and ended the call.

 

Declan : I understand……. No one enters or leave the estate….

 

Kamal looked at me with his bloodshot eyes.

 

Kamal : what the fuck did you do ??

 

Declan answered for me, saving me the embarrassment of having to say it again.

 

Declan : He thought boss was a whore, flashed his cock at her, tried to pay her for sex after…..

 

Kamal : ahhh… I see….

 

Kamal nodded a couple of times with his mouth apart before walking towards my toolbox.

 

Without a word, the pulled out the measuring tape and measured the widest part of my body before checking the length.

 

Jackson : don’t do that… you’re scaring me… I don’t want to die… I’m sorry… I’ll apologise …. What should I do ???  it’s a misunderstanding….

 

Kamal chuckled and added if I had chosen a plot for myself in the garden.

 

Kamal : You’re going to be fucking fertiliser Jackson….hahahah… I have to see how wide the hole I need to dig…. Hahaha…

 

Jackson : What should I do ??

 

Kamal : there is nothing you can do…. Hahahah… You’re already a dead man…. You just don’t know it yet…. Hahhaa….

 

Declan : just calm down…. let Seven and Hong sort it out first…

 

I cursed silently at myself for being such an ass. This is what happens when you think with your dick.

 

I should have seen the signs but I can’t because she is so beautiful.

 

Declan’s phone rang again, he commented it was Hong before he picked it up.

 

Declan : Hong…. Yes….what….ok….ok… fuck….

 

I looked at Declan and waited for him to hang up the call.

 

He got up immediately and gestured for Kamal and I to follow him.

 

We left the farmhouse and stared walking briskly towards the castle.

 

I’ve never been inside the castle before. I never expected my first time to be under such circumstances.

 

Jackson : where are we going .. ?

 

Declan : to apologise …. Don’t worry…. You’ll be fine I think…

 

Kamal : well…. Hahaha… it’s not that bad…. if she picks the gun she is licensed to own……… and not the others… hahah

 

Kamal gave Declan a jab in his arm and shared a knowing smile which only made my heartbeat faster.

Declan shot Kamal a look and the ‘oops’ sign Kamal did was not helpful at all.

 

As we approached the perimeter guards, I could see them busy on their radios. There’s a lot of chatter over the air. The estate is sealed.

The guard closest to us gestured to Declan, pointing at me several times, it’s as if he wanted to remind Declan and I was not allowed beyond the perimeter.

 

Declan gave him a wave and said it was an emergency.

 

It was no leisure stroll; it was a brisk purposeful walk towards the castle ground and I could feel the anxiety in the air.

 

As I got closer to the new extended wing, I saw a helper open the door for Declan without questioning his right to be there.

 

I barely had time to admire the beautiful interior of the castle when a loud and strange cracking sound echoed in the building. All of us froze for a couple of seconds before moving again.

 

Declan paused and turned to look at Kamal, both of them shared a look before shoving me deeper into the castle.

 

It sounded like someone discharged a weapon.

 

From a brisk walk, it became a run. I didn’t even have chance to see where we were going, I just remember being shoved towards a staircase leading down to the basement.

 

Declan : ok, just be sincere…… look guilty and don’t try to say anything smart later…

 

Jackson : wow…. How big is this place… ?

 

I never knew there was a basement underneath.

 

The marble tiled staircase gave way to raw concrete steps as the 3 of us stared at the start of a long corridor.

The walls were unfinished, and everything was in raw concrete.

 

Feels as if I just stepped into an industrial building.

 

Kamal was standing in front and he held up a hand for us to wait. He was trying to listen if anyone is approaching. Satisfied that the coast is clear, he pushed me along and the 3 of us ran down the corridor, passing unlabelled doors that hid mysteries of their own.

 

I could see the end of the corridor about 30m away opening up on both sides.

 

Jackson  : left or right…. ??? left or right ?!!

 

Kamal suddenly dragged me to a stop as we heard footsteps running towards us from the front.

 

Declan : wait … wait…. Wait….

 

Seven appeared out of the blue, sliding into view and gesturing wildly for us to go in the reverse direction. He looked flustered.

 

Kamal : run… run,,,, run !!! run !!

 

I sprint back the way I came. This better not be some sick joke they are playing on me.

 

Looking at Seven with his forehead streaked with perspiration, it’s unlikely this is a prank.

 

Yiling : arghhhhh!!  Jackson !!!

 

I turned to see Yiling raising a weapon at me as she continued walked forward.

 

Jackson  : what the ….

 

I felt a pair of hand shove me to the floor barely seconds before seeing the wall in front of me get peppered with shells.

 

Bits of concrete wall chipped off the wall and my eardrums were stabbed by the loud report of gunfire.

 

I looked back in disbelief to see Yiling walking calmly towards the lot of us on the ground.

 

She was holding onto a long twin barrel shotgun, the kind you use for shooting clay pigeons.

 

Jackson : what the fuck !!!… what the fuck !!!….

 

I jabbed a finger at Yiling as she continued advancing towards us.

 

Jackson  : ARE YOU FUCKING OUT OF YOUR MIND !!! you crazy bitch !!

 

Hands grabbed my shirt and dragged me off the floor as I looked at Yiling opened up the weapon and discarding the 2 spent shell on the floor.

 

She reached into a small pouch she wore around her body and pulled out 2 more shells as she continued walking towards us.

 

I was about to curse at her when the rest of the guys shoved me towards a room near the bottom of the stairs.

She’s fucking crazy. I mean I get it she is unhappy that I mistook her for a whore but people could die from this.

 

The more I thought about it, the angrier I got.

 

She’s out of her mind.

 

I heard the click of the weapon and Yiling was already raising the shotgun towards the lot of us.

 

Kamal : Into the room NOW!!

 

I heard Hong shouting and running down the stairs.

 

The gun went off one more time and instinctively all of us squatted down. Kamal cursed and pushed me into the room where I fell flat.

 

Turning around, I saw the shot bit off a chunk of the door frame near the top.

 

Hong was shouting for Yiling to calm down as he struggled with her while holding the weapon and keeping it pointed at the ceiling.

 

The room we entered was empty but a few steps in front of us was another door with a keypad.

 

Declan went to the keypad and started to unlock the room door while Kamal went out with Seven to help Hong disarm Yiling.

 

Declan : hold her back !!!… I need time to unlock this !!!….arghhhh …. I can’t remember the password…..

 

I could hear Declan cursing as he checked one of his 3 phone for the password to unlock that particular door.

 

I stood up and I was fuming mad by then.

 

Declan fiddled with the door while I got back up.

 

Fuck this. I can fucking quit my job.

 

It’s not worth risking my life for this.

 

If I do quit, I am going to fucking give her a piece of my mind first. Yes, I will apologise for mistaking her as a whore but she needs to get her head straight.

 

I did a quick peep out the corridor and saw the 4 of them tangled together.

 

Yiling : don’t touch me !!! I’ll kill you if you touch me !!!! aRGHHH!!!

 

Hong was holding onto the barrel of the shotgun, keeping it pointed at the Ceiling.

 

Seven tried to go after the bag of shells Yiling was carrying only to get kicked repeatly.

 

Kamal looked terrified as he tried to reach for the armoury key attached to the gold chain he was wearing moments ago while avoiding Yiling’s rabid kicks. I could see it sticking out of the same bag that held the shells.

Yiling managed to kicked Kamal on his balls and I saw him go down on his knees.

 

Kamal : oohhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!…

 

Yiling was screaming and holding onto the shotgun while attempting to bite Hong.

 

I have no doubts any of the 3 could have effectively disarm and relief Yiling of the weapon but to do it without hurting her is another matter altogether. None of them want to risk incurring her wrath.

 

It’s like trying to stop a spoilt brat that is of royal blood.

 

Hong was getting kicked in his shin over and over again, and his face was scrunched up as he tried to ignore the pain while keeping both hands on the barrel.

 

Yiling : HONG let go !!! Hong !!! I order you to let go !!!!!

 

The weapon went off again, dismembering the light tube and it’s housing above the groups head. The section of the corridor became a shade lighter that the rest the moment the light is gone.

 

That’s the 2nd round, she’s empty.

 

Hong’s hands let go of the barrel, cursing as he shook both of them in the air for a quick relief from the heat generated by the shot.

 

Seven had a knife out from his pocket and in a swift motion, sliced the sling of the bag Yiling was carrying. Yiling was distracted for a second and Hong quickly grabbed the gun and ran.

 

Yiling : HONG !!!! ARGHHHH!!!

 

Turning her attention to the bag that Seven was holding, she made a grab but only managed to squeeze out another spare shell before dropping it to the floor. Seven picked it up and was about to scoot off but was stopped by Yiling.

 

Yiling : arhghhh !! SEVEN !!! give it back !!

 

I could not believe what Yiling did, she literally jumped onto Seven’s back and started hammering him on his head. It’s utter chaos.

 

I would have thought something like this will only happen in some day care where the kids are fighting over toys.

 

Seven threw the bag to Kamal who grabbed it but dropped the armoury key on the floor. Kamal started running off down the corridor with the bag. Nothing could describe Yiling’s frustration as she tried to pick up the key only to have Seven kick it away several metres before doing a forward roll, pick it up and disappeared after Kamal.

 

Everything happened so fast.

 

I reckon it was over in 8 seconds max from the time the trigger was pulled.

 

Yiling : ARGHHHH!!!

 

She screamed in frustration before realising I was standing right in front of her.

 

Yiling glared at me and started coming for me.

 

Jackson : HEY !! I …. Hey… hey !!…hey hey….

 

Before I could say anything, I felt Declan grab me from behind and with a few nudge and push, shove me into the room he just unlocked while trying to hold Yiling back.

 

It’s a brightly lit room with a lot of stuff around.

 

I had no time to think as I could hear Yiling shouting at Declan barely a few steps behind me. Declan was trying to hold Yiling off by appealing to calm down.

 

I grabbed the closest thing I could reach as a weapon to defend myself. It’s small but I could probably throw it or something.

 

Yiling broke free from Declan but upon seeing what I have on my hand she froze.

 

Declan froze too and he immediately asked me to stop moving.

 

Declan : Jackson !!! stop… stop….

 

Yiling glared at me and I could see her interest in the weapon I was holding.

 

I don’t even know what I was holding.

 

I looked at what I was holding and it was an egg.

 

I don’t mean the kind you eat for breakfast with kaya toast.

 

It’s not a real egg.

 

It’s colour is hard to describe, it’s mostly white with very light green tinge to it.

 

The egg sat on an intricate gold stand.

 

I took a closer look and realised that the egg is adorned with diamonds and rubies it felt cold as ice to the touch. The weight is solid and dense, the workmanship is immaculate.

 

Yiling : put that down…. now…

 

Declan : Jackson…. Put that down….

 

I looked around the room that I just stepped into.

 

I was standing in a room full of antiques and paintings.

From sculptures to jewelleries, I could see a whole wall of filled to the brim with display stands each with individual lights. There is even a full set of medieval armour with chain mail and a sword.

 

It’s like a miniature museum.

 

I must be inside a room that housed Yiling’s collection of antiques and stuff.

 

Yiling pointed to the egg I was holding and demanded I put it down.

 

I smiled and I now know the tables have turned.

 

Jackson : You must really like this egg….

 

Yiling : You put that down right now…. Or I will bury you in your garden….

 

Jackson : ooohhhh….. no…..

 

Yiling took a step forward and I extended my hand, threatening to drop the egg, she immediately paused.

 

Declan had a look of horror on his face and I could see him shaking his head at me.

 

Declan : Jackson , don’t…… don’t do it…. Don’t go down this road….you will regret it….

 

I exhaled and relaxed a notch as I shook the egg in my hand only to see Yiling’s eyes widened in shock.

 

Jackson : look Yiling…. I’m sorry… ok ? …. It was a misunderstanding….

 

She did not seem interested in my apology. She just wanted me to put down the egg.

 

Yiling : put that down first…

 

Jackson : oh no… no… no… no….

 

This is leverage. If I don’t use it, I deserved to get shot.

 

I apologised again to Yiling for the misunderstanding, I wanted to hear her say she accept my apology

 

Jackson : I’m sorry… ok ? no need to throw a fit… I’m sorry….

 

She nodded without saying anything and just pointed to the damm egg again.

 

Jackson : do you accept my apology….. ??

 

Yiling : yes.. yes… whatever… put that down now !

 

Jackson  : … No.. you don’t sound sincere…. I’m serious….

 

Yiling turned and I could feel her death stare at Declan.

 

Yiling : why the fuck did you open this room !!!

 

Declan : because… because I thought this is the last room you would pull the trigger of that gun in….

 

Yiling exhaled with her fist clenched. Well, she’s pissed but I don’t care.

 

I have the upper hand now.

 

Jackson : look… I’ll put it down…. ok…. As long as you forgive me…. ok ?? I’m sorry… serious…

 

Yiling closed her eyes and took a deep breath. As she slowly exhaled, she smiled and nodded her head at me.

 

Jackson : ok… so we’re cool eh…. ? you accept my apology…. ??

 

Yiling maintained her smile and nodded her head.

 

Jackson :I want to hear you say it… Declan… Declan… you be the witness….!!

 

Declan was massaging his head by then and he kept shaking his head at me, asking me not to go down that path again.

 

I have to.

 

She left me no choice.

 

I looked at Yiling and gestured for her to go on.

 

She looked like she wanted to strangle me right there and then but forced a reply nevertheless.

 

Yiling : ok… I forgive you…. Put it down….

 

Jackson  :ok… ok.. Declan.. you heard that right…. Did you….

 

Yiling gave Declan a sideway glance and he nodded.

 

Yiling : happy now…

 

Jackson : yes… yes….all cool eh…. No hard feelings…

 

I set the egg down back on the stand I took it from and took a closer look at the label. Even the metal plate that held the description of the egg was made of gold with the text in silver.

A chill ran through my spine when my brain wrapped around the text I just read about that stupid egg.

I cursed several times in my head and I carefully adjusted the egg to make sure it’s positioned properly. I could see my fingerprints all over it now.

 

It’s a Faberge egg.

 

These shit go for tens of millions at auction. Most of these are in private collection or in museums. How the hell did she get her hands on one ?

 

Yiling’s smiled disappeared from her face as she gestured for me to step out of the room with her finger curled towards her in a menacing manner and the other on her waist.

 

Hong and the guys were back and they kept their distance trying to figure out the situation.

 

Yiling did not speak again until we were all in the corridor.

 

She pointed a finger at me and the words that came out of her mouth sounded like something a evil witch would say in some medieval drama.

 

Yiling : throw him in the fucking dungeon…… and bring him to me tomorrow morning….

 

She stormed off up the stairs after that.

 

The guys looked at me, absolutely speechless.

 

Jackson  : she’s kidding about the dungeon right… I mean…. Dungeon … ?

 

Declan : does she look like she’s kidding… ?

 

Jackson : but she said she forgives me for the misunderstanding…..

 

Declan : and you believe her ??

 

Jackson  :what…. ? you mean I shouldn’t… ?

 

Seven chuckled and gestured something which I interpret as him telling Hong and Kamal I’m dumb.

 

I never expected to be thrown into a dungeon but I was.

 

Orders are orders.

 

I was led down the corridor and another door opened up to reveal another flight of stairs leading down to another basement.

 

It’s just an empty space the size of the farmhouse but there are cameras in the room.

 

Hong pointed to a box at the side to say there are water in there if I need them.

 

Jackson  : what if I need to pee…. ?

 

Hong : dude…. After you’re done with the water…. Use the bottle….

 

The door shut and I could hear the click of the lock.

 

This is fucking bullshit.

 

I looked at the 2 cameras in the room and I pointed my middle finger at them.

 

Not only did I point my finger at the camera, I did a upward fucking motion at them, several times.

 

This is bullshit.

 

Fucking criminals.

 

I checked my phone and there are no signal at all.

 

I sat on the floor and the more I think about it, the more frustrated I got.

I got up and started jabbing my middle finger at the camera over and over in the same manner how streetfighter characters do an uppercut.

 

I did a upper middle finger at the camera. First with my right hand, then with my left, then both hands together.

 

I’m so fucking pissed that I removed my pants and flashed my cock at the camera again.

 

I was grabbing my cock with my left hand and doing that upward sweep of a fuck you motion at the camera. It might sound childish but I was just trying to vent my frustration.

 

Jackson : aRGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Fuck !!! ARGHHHH!!!  Fuck… fuck… fuck you !! fuck you….!!!!

 

I even mooned the camera with my ass.

 

After a while I gave up and just made myself comfortable on the floor.

 

Fuck this.

 

I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.

 

 

When the door opened the next morning, I saw Declan enter with a helper. She was carrying a tray of food.

 

I could smell the coffee.

 

I was surprised to see a full continental breakfast complete with fruits laid out for me.

There’s even 2 types of bread roll for me to choose from.

 

Jackson : woah…. What is this ….my last meal before she shoots me….

 

Declan : I have no control over where she wants to throw or bury you…. But I can make sure you get a nice meal first….

 

Jackson : that doesn’t sound good….

 

Declan laughed.

 

He asked me to finish my breakfast and go back to the farmhouse for a shower.

 

Declan : Boss wants to see you…

 

Jackson : I want to tell you something Declan….

 

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about it during the night. I think this is not for me.

 

I love the gardening, the guys are great, but Yiling is crazy. I might just die if I were to accidentally piss her off. If anything happens to me, who’s going to take care of my grandfather ?

 

Jackson  : I …. Want to tender my resignation….

 

Declan nodded and said he understand why I would want to do that but if I want to leave my job, perhaps it would be best to tell that to Yiling personally.

 

I finished up my breakfast and went back to the farmhouse for a hot shower.

 

I was quite upset to be honest.

 

It’s really a nice and cozy place to work in.

 

I changed and walked back to the castle.

 

 

The perimeter guards did not stop me as I took the same path towards the new wing of the castle.

 

Kamal was waiting for me.

 

Kamal : Declan say you are quitting….

 

Jackson : yeah… your boss is crazy….. I don’t know how you all put up with this…. This is employee abuse….

 

Kamal : We try very hard not to make her angry…. And not flash our cocks around her…. Hahaha  ….what the fuck were you thinking…. Haha.. she can be nice….. when you get to know her….

 

Jackson : argghhh… fuck this…. She’s mad…

 

Kamal : relax…. She may have a bad temper but she is a good boss…. Just apologise nicely…. And all is forgiven…. Hahah

 

I seriously doubt it though.

I entered the new wing of the castle once again and this time round, I have time to slowly take in the details and layout of this weird place.

 

The new extension at the back host a large hall on the ground floor.

 

A hall with rectangle tables made out of white marble. It’s arranged in a row like church pew. The tables are empty and there are no seats.

 

It’s just tables.

 

The hall has a double volume ceiling and it’s brightly lit.

 

If the curtains are open, it would make a nice Instagram shot. Sunlight filtering through the tinted glass before hitting the weird tables in the middle of the room.

 

There are a total of 6 tables, each 2m long.

 

Looking up, I could see the terrace of the 2nd floor overlooking the ground floor.

 

Through the glass railings, I could see a similar table on level 2 as well.

 

There is nothing on the tables and I don’t see any power plug or anything. It doesn’t look like it served any purpose.

 

It’s like walking into an apple shop with all the neat rectangles with absolutely nothing on it.

 

Kamal and I walked past the extension wing, and towards the main house.

Kamal opened a door and I was immediately hit by the strong scent of new footwear. That pungent leathery scent, or the new car smell.

 

I stepped into a room about the size of a carpark lot for handicap drivers and saw the entire wall filled with shoes. Upon closer inspection, I realised they are all women’s shoes.

 

I saw a familiar pair on the bottom shelf. The one with purple laces. That was the pair Yiling was wearing the night before.

This is her shoe cabinet.

 

Jackson : woah….

 

Opposite that full wall is a smaller one where Kamal and I left our footwear.

 

Kamal : These… are her casual shoes…. She has a separate room for heels…. Indoor heels… and outdoor heels….

 

Jackson : what the hell…..

 

Kamal : come…. Follow me….

 

 

I felt as if I stepped into the grand lobby of a hotel. Everything is so polished and shiny. A large chandelier formed the centre piece in the large living hall and the furniture looked like they are from another era. It’s not old, nor can I describe them as dated.

 

The telephone on the stand is old, perhaps as old as I am. It works with a rotating dial. There is a vintage looking cabinet filled with whisky. Mostly Japanese.

 

The bottom tier is made up of 17 year Nikka Taketsuru, one level up, 25 years and another level, 35.

Right at the top of the cabinet sat a lone bottle of 30 year old Hibiki.

 

A bottle of half finished Louis XIII sat beside another 2 unopened bottles in another cabinet filled with a variety of other alcohol.

I walked past a fridge as tall as me filled with bottles of Dom Perignon.

 

The lamps and lights don’t look like anything you can just buy off a retail shop. Everything seemed to come from a museum.

The bench on one side of the dining table is made up of the old timber seats from the former Kallang stadium. It came with it’s own metal label in gold. How the hell did she get something like this?

 

Dining table itself is reconstructed from the timber rail of the old railway that used to cut through the heart of Singapore.

 

From refurbished furniture to carefully curated pieces that are worth a fortune, Yiling must have spent a lot of time and effort for her castle. One would ask how did she afford all of these stuff.

 

The furnishings may be different but they all came together. In a eccentric way, the entire living area looked really cool.

 

If I have to choose a word for the opulence of the furnishing in the house, it would be class.

 

It’s classy. Real classy.

 

I wished I have more time to linger around and enjoy the living hall but I was ushered towards a study on the ground floor.

 

Kamal knocked and opened the door.

 

The moment I laid my eyes on Yiling, I could feel my breath being taken away again.

 

I don’t believe my eyes.

 

She’s all dressed up. On a fucking Sunday no less.

 

Yiling was standing up and reading something on a file.

 

Hong, Declan, Seven and even Aaron are in the study, each of them taking a spot which I assumed is their regular position. Hong sat on a plush armchair with his legs dangling over the armrest while his back rest on the other.

 

Seven sat on a desk, his legs swinging casually.

 

Kamal spun himself on an old stool near the door that would look perfect in a old hairdresser shop if it’s metal stand is not in gold. Declan remained standing, looking every bit like the dignified butler that takes care of the estate for Yiling.

 

Aaron is the only one in a suit. He too remained standing and all business like.

 

Yiling wore an apricot coloured full body dress. The top looked like a regular blouse with short sleeves that are a little puffy. The translucent material of the top part revealed a hint of the 2nd layer she wore underneath.

 

I could feel myself getting an erection again looking at her and I felt like such a pig.

 

The sheer see-through material ended at her slim waist before giving way to a long bias cut dress that ended at her ankles. She was wearing heels, a mule heel in white and I could see that all her toenails are painted.

 

Yiling looked like she had visited a salon before coming to the study. Her hair is nicely tied up and styled. She wore a pair of oversized gold rim glass with the chain of the glass dangling down the side of her face.

 

She looked amazingly hot.

 

I snapped out of my stupor when I head the door shut behind me.

 

Yiling : let’s begin….

 

She spoke without even looking at me.

 

Declan : Boss…. Ermmmm…

 

Aaron : Boss… there’s an outsider here…. Should we….

 

Yiling : I said let’s begin….

 

She took a seat in her chair and orientated her chair away to the side while waiting for her men to start talking.

 

Hong looked unsure.

 

He alternated looks between Declan, Yiling and me.

 

It’s obvious what these people are about discuss is not meant for my ears.

 

Declan : Boss…. How about we let Jackson apologise properly…. So he can…

 

Yiling slammed her folder on the table and I jumped.

 

She definitely has anger management issues, perhaps much worse than Seven.

 

Yiling : Hong….. how much did you collect this week… ?

 

Hong looked at Declan again and Declan shrugged his shoulders.

 

Hong sighed and replied.

 

Hong : 2.7 million….. we are short about half a million because a courier got caught…..

 

My eyes widened as I realised what was happening.

 

This is not good. If I knew what was happening in the group, there’s no way she will let me go that easily.

 

I tried to go for the door only to see Kamal shake his head at me.

 

Kamal : don’t piss her off… stay…

 

I turned back to hear Hong started explaining that they have another shortfall of 1 million because their friends across the causeway are unable to make the trip that week due to tightened security.

 

My mind was racing and I could see Yiling turning his attention to Aaron. It was his turn.

 

Aaron pulled out a black bag the size of a hashbrown and handed it to Yiiling.

 

Aaron : The lab result came back…. These are not as pure as the previous batch…….

 

Yiling : I will call the general about this personally… leave it to me…

 

That’s it.

I’m a dead man.

I’m fucked.

 

I knew it. They are fucking smugglers. Criminals.

 

Declan started talking about the payment due.

 

Declan : Hong has it packed for delivery already…… 100kg separated into 20kg packs…. They are requesting an increase of 10% for next month…..

 

Oh god I’m really fucked this time round.

 

100kg. Hong mentioned something about measuring money by weight.

 

A million in 100 dollar bills is about 10kg. That meant they are about to pay someone 10 million. And they are doing this every month.

 

Jackson : errrr…. Maybe I should excuse myself…. ??the topic of discussion don’t seem to be centred around gardening. ..

 

I interrupted the meeting only to see Yiling throw me a death glare before pointing the gold-plated letter opener she was toying with at me.

 

Yiling : I’ll deal with you later…..

 

Fuck

 

The meeting went on for another 30 minutes and I followed the discussion from hearing about who has a broken limb following a turf war to Yiling’s staff stealing from her. I know which vessel is carrying stuff meant for North Korea and which vessel is going to take those stuff from that vessel in international waters.

 

From names of Cambodian generals making their way down and transiting to another country to corrupt Chinese officials wanting to launder their money, I heard them all.

 

I realised I could no longer sustain an erection even when I looked at how beautiful Yiling is when I heard Kamal chip in that they intercepted a shipment of rifles coming in through their north western channel.

 

Kamal : It’s all in the warehouse now…

 

By the time the meeting concluded, I was perspiring in the temperature controlled study.

 

At a comfortable 23 degree, I could feel sweat rolling down the insides of my shirt.

 

I have to be smart about this. Apologise sincerely, act dumb, tender my resignation and fuck off.

 

Yiling : Anything else… ??

 

Yiling made eye contact with each of her lieutenants before turning to me. She exhaled slowly prolonging the agonising stare she gave.

 

Yiling : you…..

 

Yiling got up and walked slowly towards me with her hands behind her back.

 

Jackson : I’m sorry…. I’m really sorry….. it was a misunderstanding….. ermm… bad judgement on my part….. please forgive me….

 

Yiling looked at me without saying anything.

 

I looked at Declan and the guys, hoping they would come to my rescue but they all looked away.

 

No one fucks with the boss.

 

Yiling : ok…. I forgive you…

 

My eyes lit up immediately.

 

Jackson : really ??!!  great….

 

A smile broke on my face and I decided to follow up with my resignation.

 

Jackson  :and erm…. I’m too ashamed to continue working here…. After my terrible mistake…. i…. I would like to tender my resignation…..

 

I held my breath, half expecting Yiling to reject me.

 

She nodded.

 

Yiling : Ok…. Fair enough….

 

Immediately, I felt as if a heavy weight has been lifted off my chest.

 

Jackson : ermm….wow… that’s great.. thank you… thank you so much…. For the opportunity…. Ermm… I hope you love the garden….. hahaha…

 

Yiling smiled and replied.

 

Yiling : I do like it…. It’s nice…

 

Seeing that the atmosphere has relaxed a notch, I could not help smiling.

 

Jackson : thank you…. Ermm.. you… you look amazing by the way…. Love the dress…..

 

I pointed to her, gesturing from top to toe trying not to appear awkward.

 

Jackson : nice… very nice… this look really… suits you… very classy…

 

Yiling turned and slowly walked away before turning to say that usually when she’s dressed up, no one will mistake her line of work.

 

Yiling : I would think I look more like a working professional…. Instead of a prostitute….

 

The smiled immediately disappeared from my face.

 

I’m threading on thin ice now.

 

It’s best to shut up.

 

Yiling : Well… you want to leave… I won’t stop you…. But you have to pay for the damages to the place…. The walls…. The chipped ceiling and doors…

 

Jackson  :what !!! I didn’t cause those damages…

 

Yiling looked at me with a sly smile and I know there is no use arguing.

 

Jackson  :ok… fine… how much….

 

Yiling looked up at the ceiling and she bloody plucked figures out of thin air.

 

Yiling : The wall…. The door…. Ceiling… lights…my bag…. I’ll settle for 300 thousand….

 

Jackson : what !!! are you fucking insane… ?

 

Yiling : did you just curse me…. ?  on second thought…. 400 thousand…

 

Jackson  : are you high ??  I can patch up those walls and ceiling with shit from a DIY shop…!!…

 

Yiling : 500…

 

I took a step forward and Aaron immediately came in between Yiling and me.

 

Hong held onto my arm and Seven looked like he was about to restrain me. The guys motioned for me to sit down on the couch.

 

Yiling was smiling, she’s obviously enjoying this.

 

Ok, calm down Jackson.

 

I need to calm the fuck down. She’s fucking with me.

 

Jackson : ok… be reasonable….i mean…. come on….

 

Yiling : I am being reasonable….

 

Jackson : I can’t possibly….

 

Yiling : do you want me to go up to 600 ? haha…

 

I’m really fucked now.

 

Declan : Boss…. Maybe…

 

It only took a sideway glare from Yiling and Declan immediately kept his mouth shut, putting up his hands and backing away.

 

My mind was racing to find a way out of this.

 

Even with a 5k pay as a gardener, it’s going to take me half a lifetime to pay it off.

 

I could not believe my ears as Yiling used the back of her index finger and graze the side of my cheek the same way I did hers the night before.

 

Yiling : I don’t usually do this Jackson…… but you are my type…

 

My jaws dropped and I looked at her in disbelief.

 

She wanted me to work for her and pay off the fucking debt she pluck from the air.

Nothing could describe the look of delight on her face. It’s obvious she was enjoying herself tremendously.

I could see her fighting back a satisfactory smile now that she had me.

 

Yiling : you are no longer our gardener….

 

She pushed the pointed tip of the letter opener at my chest. Yiling leaned forward in a passive aggressive manner bringing her face right beside mine.

 

She is so close I could smell her.

A mixture of sweetness, from the fragrance she used to the shampoo she washed her hair with.

 

Yiling paused for a second, as if she wanted to emphasise how fucked I am before speaking slowly and softly in my face.

 

Yiling : You…… work for me now……

 

I blinked several times, unable to process what is happening.

 

As if things could not get worse, Declan tried to lighten up the atmosphere with a broad smile as he pulled out a card from his pocket.

 

Declan : well…. Jackson … hahah…..just as well….. here’s the employee login ID you asked for….

 

 

…………………………………………………………

 

I held onto the card Declan gave me and I totally zoned out after.

 

It was a total zone out. I was just staring at the card with my own personal email address.

La Bella Vita is embossed in black on the white card and Declan had scribbled my login details in ink on the plain card.

La Bella Vita, the good life. This must be the name of Yiling’s company.

 

I remember people talking around me for a bit before Yiling left the study. The rest of the guys followed her and I was left alone to let the news sink in.

 

I can’t do this.

 

I can’t risk going to jail. I cannot break the law. I need to take care of my grandfather.

 

I have to find a way to get out of this place.

 

I don’t even remember how I ended up back at the farmhouse. I probably sleep walked back the way I came or something.

 

The next thing I remembered was Declan snapping his fingers in my face as I sat on the grass patch with a bag of fertilisers in hand.

 

Declan : Jackson …. Yo…. Ooei…. You ok… ?

 

Jackson : huh…. Yeah… yeah I think so….

 

Declan asked me to go home and have a good rest.

 

Declan : relax…. Boss is just kidding….

 

Jackson  :You mean about me working for her…. ?

 

Declan : errr…. No… not that….

 

Declan went on to explain that whatever they said about money, drugs and smuggling and shit, it’s all fake. Just a rehearsed script to scare me.

 

Declan : it’s not real…. Ok…

 

I looked at Declan who kept a straight face. I don’t know if I could believe him.

 

Is he being serious right now, or is he trying to contain the damage they have done to my head.

 

Jackson  :so…. It’s not real… ?

 

Declan : of course it’s not real…. You think making movie ah…. Bullshit one la…. it’s just boss messing with you….

 

Hong arrived alone and I could hear him asking me to fire up the hotpot. He’s hungry.

 

Declan : Hong…. Tell Jackson….. tell him it was a joke… that what we said earlier was not real…..

 

I have no doubt Hong is a man of many talents but lying obviously is not one of them but I have to give him credit for trying.

 

Hong gave Declan a raised eyebrow, took 2 seconds too long to react before breaking into a reassuring smile.

 

Hong : OF COURSE FAKE ONE LA !!!.. ah… errr… we… we just talk cock only…we have weekly … bonding…err… talk cock session……. !!! hHAHAHA… it’s fake…

 

His raised voice, lousy acting and awkward eye movements is too obvious a tell.

 

Hong : I TELL YOU !!!

 

He shot a quick sideway glance at Declan, I reckon he must be thinking how much bullshit he wants to spew at me.

 

Hong : JOKE LA… IT’S a JOKE !!!!…we…. we do this to newcomers… HAHAHHAHA…. Last time…. last time we do to Kamal also…..hahahha

 

Declan : yes Jackson … it’s just a welcome joke…. Please don’t take it to heart….

 

I sighed and nodded.

 

Jackson  : Is the debt I owe Yiling a joke as well…. ?

 

Declan : I think it would be good if you call her boss…. Like the rest of us do….

 

Jackson : whatever…. Queen, Boss….i don’t care….

 

Hong : relax la bro…. this is a good place to work….. just don’t go around flashing your cock to people la… hahahaha

 

Jackson : great advice…. I wouldn’t have done it if you didn’t send Xiaoyu over …..

 

Hong : eh hello…. Like that say….. not fair to me ok…..if you flash your cock to Xiaoyu…. I confirm you happy man….hahahaha….. who ask you to flash your cock to boss… hahaah…

 

Declan stopped the banter and repeated his request for me to head home for a good rest.

 

Hong : please set up the Hotpot before you go…… kamsahamida….. ( thank you ) I love you deep deep….

 

I got the food out, and set up he hotpot for Declan and Hong. They asked me to join them and I told them I have no appetite.

 

Hong : You very funny leh Jackson….. you just got a promotion…. A new job…. Boss never bury you in the garden…. And you machiam like bad mood like that…. Hahaha… you very funny….

 

I never replied him and told them where the rest of the stuff are before I left.

 

I saw Kamal and Seven arriving at the farmhouse before I left.

 

Seven was obviously tickled by my actions in the dungeon the night before.

 

He did the same middle finger jabbing motion while laughing at me before gesturing to his privates and pointing back at the castle.

 

Great.

 

Kamal : oh…. Boss was just reviewing the footage of you middle fingering the cameras and flashing your cock again last night…… ahhaha….she wants to see you tomorrow morning at 10am…. Hahah…. Enjoy your weekend Jackson…..

 

The 2 of them walked eagerly towards the farmhouse and disappeared inside.

 

It was then the weight of how dumb I was finally started to sink in. Flashing and waving my cock on tape. Wow. I didn’t think I was capable of something like that. Now all she needed to do is to upload it onto the net and I will be famous.

 

It doesn’t feel like a Sunday to me, besides, there’s not much of the weekend left.

As I walked towards the exit of the estate and towards my car, I saw a figure staring at me from the corner of my eye a distance away.

 

A quick glance and I could see it was Aaron.

 

He had his hands in his pocket and he just looked at me without a word.

Out of courtesy, I gave him a wave to indicate I was leaving.

 

Aaron looked around trying to act casual but he’s checking to see If there are anyone in the vicinity.

 

He started to walk towards a direct intercept path base on where I was headed.

 

I slowed down as Aaron approached.

 

Jackson  : hey…. What’s up….

 

Aaron : heading home… ?

 

Jackson  : Yeah…. I spent the night in a dungeon….. I prefer a soft bed…

 

Aaron did not seem amused. I started to walk again and he fell in step beside me.

 

Aaron : what are you doing here Jackson ?

 

Jackson  : Huh…. What do you mean… ?

 

Aaron : you know what I mean…

 

I gave him a raised eyebrow and took a moment to consider my answer.

 

He’s fucking talking in riddles.

 

Jackson  : I’m the gardener….at least I was…. Then I fucked up…. Is that what you want to hear .. ?

 

Aaron kicked a branch off the path and said something I never expected.

 

Aaron : Boss likes you Jackson …. For some reason or another…

 

I snorted and laughed.

 

Jackson : You got to be shitting me… hahaha….

 

Aaron : I don’t mean that kind of like….. I meant she likes you as a employee….i can tell…. You’re someone she would like to have working for her….

 

Jackson  :…oh please…. She probably wants to shoot me….. maybe bury me in the garden…

 

Aaron  : I have worked with Boss for a while…. I know her…. I can read her like a book….. she has an eye for people….

 

Jackson : good for you…. Can i…. ask where is this conversation headed… ?

 

Aaron looked at me with an expression I cannot decipher.

 

I mean it’s obvious by now I’m not interested in carrying on this conversation about Yiling and what she thinks of me. If there is something Aaron wants to say, he might just as well just spit it out.

 

Aaron : I’ll be upfront Jackson…

 

Jackson : yes… please….

 

Aaron : you’re a smart guy….. you probably know the things we do… are… a little different…. From conventional companies you’ve worked for…. So I suggest you think carefully…..if you want to continue staying here……

 

I waited for Aaron to go on as he looked around again.

 

Aaron : Maybe you are curious… maybe you are in it for the money…. The power…maybe you are just interested in boss…. I don’t know… all I can say is a lot of people…. Are interested in her…..and just by hanging around… doesn’t mean….

 

Jackson : ok … ok…. Bro… wait… wait…wait a minute…. I just want to set the record straight….. I want to leave… I want to go….ok… there is nothing I want more than to leave this place….especially after hearing what you all talked about this morning…..

 

I pointed to Aaron’s hands bringing his attention back to the brick of stuff he was talking to Yiling about.

 

Jackson : The purity… of whatever is in that package….what is it… ? corn starch ah ? ….. tapioca flour… ? Honey… or bird nest… ?

 

Aaron did not answer me. He just shrugged his shoulders.

 

Jackson : I’m not a smart guy….. but I’m not stupid either…..Well… like you said…. You guys are up to no good…. And I’ve made my intent clear, I want to leave…. Yiling is forcing me to stay…. So…..

 

I told Aaron that if he can convince Yiling to let me go, I would thank him from the bottom of my heart.

 

Jackson : gum bo ? ( acceptable ? )

 

I started walking and I never expected Aaron to keep up with me.

 

Aaron : I’m not done… you don’t belong with Hong and guys…. They’re uneducated…. Uncivilised…. They’re practically hooligans….

 

Jackson : Kamal is a doctor…

 

Aaron : Was….. was a doctor…

 

Jackson : what’s your point… ?

 

Aaron looked around again, as he could not be more obvious that he don’t want anyone to see us talking.

 

Aaron : I’m very very close to boss Jackson……I know what she’s like…..We’re the same Jackson …. If you are going to stay here and work with Yiling…. It would be good if you have a friend ….. smart people like us belong together….

 

Jackson : I’m not smart… I’m probably the laziest….

 

I stopped before I finished and looked at Aaron , finally figuring out what he wants.

 

He just wants to make sure he gets his hand on me first now that Yiling has taken a fancy to me, according to him that is. At the same time, he is laying his claim of sort on the queen.

 

Jackson : Look Aaron…. There is a reason why…. I became a gardener….

 

Aaron : do share…

 

I did a drawing of a circle on the ground in between us.

 

Jackson : this…. This…… I hate this… I don’t like dealing with things like this…. I friend you…. You don’t friend me… he don’t friend who…. I don’t do this….. your clique…. My clique… their clique… this… this whole mess is why so many workplace are toxic environment….

 

I sighed and massaged my head with both my palms.

 

Jackson : Aaron… I consider you my colleague…. Hong, Seven, Kamal, Declan…. All of them are my colleagues…. There’s no clique….. lunch kahkis, or whatever…. I also don’t know why they like to come to the farmhouse for dinner and all but if you want to drop by, I will welcome you all the same….

 

3 other guards walked towards us and we waited for them to pass before going on.

 

Jackson : Yiling is beautiful… she is hot… and I know she is out of my league….for some reason like you said earlier…. She wants me to work for her…. I don’t know why…. I admit… I’m curious… there is a lot of mystery surrounding this place and the things you guys do….

 

Aaron : You have barely scratched the surface of what we actually do here Jackson….. if you are really curious…. I can show….

 

Jackson : yo… yo… bro…. brother…..I don’t care…. My curiosity alone is not a reason compelling enough for me to want to hang around here longer than necessary…. I have other priorities in life….

 

I told Aaron I’m really tired and exhausted. If there is nothing else to discuss, I would be on my way.

 

Jackson : chill man… dude…. I’m just the gardener…. The queen won’t be interested in me…. you got better chance…. Especially you are the only one in a suit….

 

Aaron nodded and put his hands back into his pocket as I walked towards my car.

 

This guy is crazy.

 

He’s sizing me up.

 

It’s almost as if he was afraid I would become Yiling’s favourite pet or something.

Come to think of it, it’s probably true. Hong, Seven and Kamal are running around all the time and I get the feeling they can’t wait to get away from Yiling but Aaron only seem too pleased to be around her.

 

He’s definitely interested in her. I don’t blame him, Yiling is hot.

 

I’m interested too, only if she wasn’t that mentally unsound.

 

On my drive home, I started to think about what I said to Yiling before knowing who she is.

Sexual parts aside, I thought about the questions I asked her.

 

Is she lonely at the top ?

 

Who does she confide in ?

 

Who does she talk to ?

 

Does she even have friends ?

 

She’s so opinionated about right and wrong, that there exists a grey area where you cannot simply judge just by looking at things on the surface without seeing the whole picture.

 

What has she gone through in life that shapes her perspectives in that manner ?

 

I shook my head and filtered into a merging lane on the road.

Whatever it is, she’s messed up.

 

I got home and went to the Singapore pools betting outlet to check out the winning prize for the lottery on Monday.

 

This is desperation talking.

 

Great, it’s a bit over 700k.

 

If I win, I can pay Yiling and get the fuck out.

 

I don’t remember the last time I bought a ticket but that day, I spent $70 on 10 sets of lottery numbers.

 

I looked up into the sky and did a quick mental calculation.

 

6 numbers out 49. Fuck, that’s like 1 in 13.9 million chance for each combination. Well, I got 10 tickets. 10 in 13.9 Million seems better than 0 in 13.9 Million if I don’t try.

 

Desperation drives people to do stupid things it seems.

 

 

13th April 2015

Monday.

8.30am

 

I arrived at the farmhouse early well prepared to clean up the mess the guys left after their meal. I was surprised to see everything all done, the pots and cutleries are washed and aside from some stray bits of vegetables on the floor, the table is clean.

 

I checked the fridge and saw that it’s almost empty before making a list of stuff to get during my shopping trip.

 

Heading to the garden, I did a bit of work before making my way over to the castle.

 

The perimeter guards saw me approach and they no longer stopped me.

 

It seemed as if word has spread that the gardener has just been promoted or something. Or maybe video of my cock waving is being shared on their chat groups.

 

I took the same route in through the extension wing and headed to the same walk in shoe wardrobe.

 

A helper was there wiping and dusting off Yiling’s shoes and she smiled at me.

 

Jackson  : Hi… morning….  Is Yiling in…. ?

 

She seemed surprise that I called her boss by her name.

 

Helen : Morning Jackson …. I’m Helen… boss is in the study….

 

Jackson : oh…. Eerrr… how do you know my name ??

 

Helen laughed as she put back a pair of stylish sandals before pulling out a pair of running shoes.

 

Helen : Everybody knows you now Jackson…. Hahaha…. After what you did….

 

Oh god.

 

I could feel my face flush red, it’s so fucking embarrassing.

 

I sighed and thanked Helen for pointing the way.

 

Helen : Keep your pants on Jackson …. Boss’s guards are there today….hahah

 

I waved without turning back as I approached the study.

 

I knocked twice and the door opened for me.

 

I was left staring at the chest of a large woman. I had to look up to see her face. She’s got to be close to 2m tall. She’s a fucking giant.

 

Dressed in a black polo shirt and track pants, she looked like she was just about to hit the gym. My eyes went to her biceps and I could not help looking at my own. Fuck, her arms are like the size of my thighs.

 

I swallowed a gulp of saliva as I look at her chest, or breast, I can’t tell, it’s been merge into one I think. Her jaws are squarish and she has a scar running down the side of her right cheek from the spot close to her ear horizontally to her nose.

 

Cindy : what do you want… ?

 

She’s fucking terrifying to look at and her voice would have been perfect as a voice actor for the giants in Jack and the beanstalk.

 

Yiling : Let him in Cindy….

 

Cindy is a nice name, a great name, but definitely not for someone looking like her.

 

She stepped aside and the next girl I saw is the total opposite of Cindy.

 

The petite girl is about 1.6m in height, wearing only a sports bra and a pair of leggings, she has her hair tied up in a short pony tail. She looked at me in a much more friendly way than Cindy did.

 

She’s hot too.

 

The pair of leggings she was wearing is white in colour. White.

 

Plastered tightly against her legs and shapely bums, it wreak havoc on my groin. She knew I was checking her out and she looked away in a seductive manner. I watch her reach over to take 2 files from Yiling who was partially hidden by the open door of a cupboard.

 

When she turned, her firm ass did a jiggle that made me want to smack it. I could tell she is fit, maybe more so than me.

 

Yiling : Send those by Courier today…. It has to reach by 2pm Candy…. Thanks…

 

Ahh, Candy.

 

I wonder if she is as sweet as her name.

 

Candy smiled shyly at me as she walked past me while hugging the files close to her chest.

 

Candy works out, her muscles are defined and something tells me behind that lean physique lies a naughty minx that would titillate your senses if you press the right button.

 

Candy tiptoed a little as she walks by me a little too close for someone who has never been introduced and I could hear her whispered a playful ‘hi’ before disappearing out the door.

 

Candy : Hi Jackson…

 

The sweet voice of Candy was still tickling my eardrums when I heard another familiar voice in the room.

 

Xiaoyu : Morning Jackson ….

 

I gasped and turn only to realise Xiaoyu was there as well. She was just resting quietly at the corner of the room.

She was lying on the couch with a white singlet on and I could see the contrast in colours of the black bra she was wearing underneath.

 

Her slim long legs are drawn up as she fiddled with her phone, Xiaoyu was wearing a pair of short running shorts that is threatening to expose her sensitive bits if she made any adjustments.

 

We made eye contact and she gave me a wink before returning to her phone.

 

I heard the open cupboard door closed and my jaws literally dropped when I saw Yiling in front of me.

 

I could not believe my eyes.

 

She wore a simple black sleeveless dress that revealed a good amount of her arms and neckline. The dress, not exactly tight, contoured and fit her body shape perfectly.

 

2 lines of pearls hung around her neck and her hair is tied up into a neat high bun set with a sparkling tiara. Yiling was busy flipping through some documents and my attention was drawn to that deep and sensual shade of red her lips are in.

 

My erection is starting to build as I look at her slender fingers close the files before picking up the pair of long black gloves that Audrey Hepburn wore for breakfast at Tiffany’s .

 

Oh fuck, that is it.

 

She’s going for that Audrey Hepburn look and she nailed it perfectly.

Jackson : wow….

 

Yiling looked at me as she slid on her long gloves.

 

Yiling : excuse me… ?

 

I snapped out of my stupor and shook my head.

 

Jackson : Nothing… nothing….

 

Xiaoyu : He’s drooling at you boss…. Hahaha

 

I turned and shot Xiaoyu an irritated look only to see her lift up her legs and cross them. I quickly look away in case I see something that will affect my chance of winning the lottery.

 

Turning back to Yiling, I could see her staring at me as she adjusted her gloves.

 

She put on both gloves before asking the room to be cleared.

 

Yiling : Leave us please… I want to speak with Jackson alone….

 

Cindy and Xiaoyu left the room shortly after and Yiling waited for the door to shut behind me before taking a seat behind the desk.

I waited for her to speak but Yiling was just looking at me while rotating herself from left to right in her chair. After what seemed like a full minute of staring at each other I finally broke the silence.

 

Jackson : what…. ?

 

Yiling : You don’t seem very happy to be here….

 

Jackson : maybe because I’m here against my will ?

 

Yiling : oh…. I was under the impression you are here because you need to repay your debt ….

 

Jackson : oh please…. It doesn’t cost that much to fix up those stuff…. I can do it with a couple of hundred bucks….

 

Yiling smiled as she rested her chin on her gloved hands.

 

Yiling : Well… the price is fixed… you can always leave…. If you finish paying….

 

Jackson : Well, just you wait….. If I win the lottery tonight… I’m out of here…

 

Yiling’s eyebrow went up together in an amusing manner as she gave me a sideway glance.

 

Yiling : I understand from the guys you seemed very resistant to the idea of working for me…… reluctant….might be a better word…

 

Jackson : I don’t do illegal stuff….

 

Yiling : have I asked any of you… ?

 

I was about to offer a retort when I realised she is right. She didn’t, at least not yet.

 

Yiling : You rejected my olive branch to you…. Even before knowing what I wanted you to help me with…..

 

She deliberately waited a while longer to see if I could rebut her, satisfied that the cat has gotten my tongue, she went on.

 

Yiling : let’s recap what happened shall we  ….. you exposed yourself to me…. and if help did not arrive in time…. god knows what you would have done to me !!!

 

I could not believe she actually said that while doing a oopsie pose with her right gloves fingers partially covering her lips with an exaggerated expression of her eyes wide opened.

 

Jackson : WHAT !!… eh hellow…. I would never have forced myself on you if you are not willing… !!

 

Yiling : You tried to pay me…. not just with money… but… with a can …. Of…abalone…. ?

 

She folded her arms and shook her head, clicking her tongue.

 

Yiling : tsk… tsk… tsk…. You’re a pig….a cheap pig…

 

Jackson : i….i …

 

She’s right but it was a fucking misunderstanding.

 

Jackson : but….you have no right trying to shoot me… !!

 

I offered up the only thing my mind could think of and just spat it out.

 

Yiling : You mean it’s wrong… for a helpless woman to defend her honour…..after being flashed and treated like a whore… ??… so tell me now…. Are you right to assume I’m a prostitute or am I wrong to be angry…. ?

 

I knew this is an argument I would not win.

No point prolonging the pain so I gritted my teeth and suck it up.

 

Jackson : I’m sorry… ok ? …. I already apologised… and I’m doing it again now… I’m sorry….

 

Yiling : Accepted… ! …. Now you just have to repay your debt….. and we’re good…..

 

Jackson  : I’ll work out an instalment plan….or if I strike the lottery tonight…. I’ll pay you back in full….

 

Yiling played with her gloves, amused at my optimism.

 

Yiling : You believe in gambling…. ? the lottery… ?

 

Jackson : I’m desperate…. I have no choice….

 

Yiling : are you that determined to get away from me… ? hahah … what are you afraid of ??

 

Jackson : I don’t know…. my instincts tell me…. tell me….

 

Yiling : Tell you what.. ?

 

I hesitate for a moment, wanting to choose the right words.

 

Yiling: that I’m evil ? ….

 

Jackson  : what…  ? no….

 

Yiling : Then ? …. I’m a bad person….i’m a witch…. ?

 

I just stared at Yiling without saying anything.

 

Yiling : and so… without knowing who I am…what I do… and why I do it… you condemned me ….. is that so… ?

 

Jackson : that’s too strong a word…

 

Yiling gestured with her index finger, asking if I have the lottery tickets with me.

Jackson  : yeah… I do…

 

Yiling : Show me…

 

I pulled the stack of tickets out from my wallet. All 7 of them and handed them over to Yiling.

 

Jackson  : Why don’t you take one…. If you win…. Consider my debt paid…. You can keep the change…

 

Yiling flipped through the tickets and shook her head as if she was appraising some school work done by a kid.

 

Yiling : I don’t understand why…. people bother…

 

Jackson  : Hope…… it’s hope….. someone will win… it might as well be me…

 

She laid all 7 tickets out on the table and asked me to pick one.

 

Jackson : What… you’re a magician now… ? you going to make me a winner…?  Is that it ? ….

 

Yiling said nothing and gestured to the tickets with her chin.

 

Fuck, she looks so good doing that with her arms folded.

 

It’s frustrating to look at her sometimes. That amount of overflowing confidence in her is astounding.

 

I randomly picked one and Yiling collected the remainder and tore them up.

 

Jackson : What the hell !!!… what if I win !!!… those cost me $7 dollars each !!!

 

Yiling said nothing and took the only ticket on the table, looking at the set of numbers printed on the ticket.

 

Pulling out her drawer, she selected a phone and made a call while keeping her eyes on me.

 

Yiling : It’s me…. I need to make a payment…. 2, 16, 22, 23, 36, 39, 41…

 

She hung up after that and said it’s done.

 

I laughed and rolled my eyes and her childish antics.

 

Yiling threw the ticket back on the table before standing up.

 

Jackson : hahhaa…. I don’t believe this…… you are… ermm… hahah

 

Yiling : full of shit… ? haha

 

Jackson : exactly….hahaha

 

Yiling : We’ll see…. What happens….. if you win… ?

 

I chuckled at her confidence and shook my head at her.

 

Jackson  : If I win…. I’ll pay you…. And …. I’ll work for you… for the rest of my life… hahahah…

 

Yiling : deal !….

 

Jackson : What if I don’t ??

 

Yiling : Guess we’ll know tonight….

 

I laughed and walked out of the study.

 

Bullshit.

 

Bullshit with a capital B.

 

Something like this would not even make it into the plot line of a C-grade porn script.

 

Since nothing was asked of me, I went back to my garden and did what I usually do.

 

I marked out a new plot for some plants removed weeds and took measurements for a new smoking area in one of the houses leading to the castle.

 

As the hour drew closer to 7pm, the time of the draw, I could not help but think of how confident Yiling looked when she did what she did.

 

She’s hot, confident and my heart seemed to be beating at twice the rate it usually does. I don’t know what she has that effect on me. How can someone be so beautiful that just by looking at her makes me feel I became dumb.

 

Predicting the lottery ?

 

It’s bullshit. It’s 100% bullshit. No way she can do something like that.

 

It’s just her messing with my brain.

 

I went back to the farmhouse, took a shower and when I emerged, it was 7.30pm

 

I was about to head to the cookhouse for my dinner when I could not resist checking the results of the lottery draw that evening.

 

I went to the official webpage and I dropped my phone on the table barely a few seconds later.

 

My heart was slamming so hard against my ribcage. I pinched myself to make sure I was not dreaming. I slapped myself twice.

 

With trembling hands, I picked up my phone again as I looked at the numbers being displayed on the webpage.

 

I checked the address where the winning ticket was sold, it was the same place where I bought mine.

 

Jackson  : oh fuck….

 

I opened my laptop and checked the result again on a few other mirror sites.

The results are the same.

 

It took me 30 minutes to calm down before I made my way back to the castle.

 

This is a trick. A fucking trick.

 

She must have hacked my phone, my laptop, causing them all to display a phoney website or some shit. Hackers, expert hackers.

 

There must be a way to do it.

 

I walked right up to one of the perimeter guard and ask if I could borrow his phone to check the lottery result.

 

He showed me the same set of numbers I saw on my phone.

 

Jackson : ok…. Thank you…..

 

I stopped at the entrance of the castle and called a friend of mine.

 

Jackson : Eh bro…. how are you….

 

I had a short chat with the old colleague and asked if he happens to have the lottery result. I know he’s a fervent supporter of the tote board, from lottery to F1 races, if it’s gambling, he will have tried it before.

 

When he read out the winning numbers to me, I felt as if my legs were about to give way. I thanked him and promise to catch up with him soon.

 

I called my grandpa after that for a chat and I too, asked him for the winning numbers. He took a while, talking to people around him before he managed to find a fellow resident with access to the internet.

 

Grandpa : Singapore lottery ??  not Malaysia lottery?? I have been buying Malaysia one lately….

 

Jackson : No… no.. Singapore one….

 

When the winning numbers were read out to me, I could feel blood being drained from my face.

 

I entered the house and felt like Alice heading into wonderland.

 

How far down does this rabbit hole go ?

 

Helen was carrying a tray of tea and making her way towards the study when I walked into the living hall of the castle.

 

Helen : hi Jackson ….

 

Jackson : Is she in there…. ?

 

Helen smiled and nodded her head.

 

I followed Helen into the study and Yiling was right there, punching numbers onto a calculator before writing something down on a notepad before repeating her actions.

 

She raised her head slightly to look at me before thanking Helen for the tea.

 

When the door shut behind me for the 2nd time that day, I realised I was totally defeated. How did she do that ?

 

It’s magic isn’t it ? Black magic ?

 

Yiling was no longer in her Audrey Hepburn outfit, she has changed out into into a pastel pink night gown with intricate lace trimmings. Her hair was tied up casually into a messy bun.

 

She wrote with a gold pen capped with a furry pink ball of fur.

 

Yiling : yes… ? Jackson …

 

I had a lot I wanted to say. A lot I wanted to ask.

 

Nothing made sense. This is ridiculous.

 

However, as I stood in front of Yiling, I realised I was at a loss for words. What can I say man ?

 

With a trembling hand, I brought out the ticket and put it on her table.

 

That piece of paper, is now worth more than 700 thousand dollars.

 

Yiling continued punching numbers into the calculator and taking down more notes with her scribbles.

 

When Yiling spoke again, there was none of that condescending tone in her voice. There was none of that mischievous tone she had when she was toying with me.

She spoke in that same casual, yet matured manner, much like when I met her for the first time in the farmhouse.

 

Yiling : keep it….. it’s for your grandfather’s medical fees…. Bring him to a specialist….

 

I could not even bring myself to muster up a reply.

 

I just stood there, unsure of what to do or say.

 

Yiling shifted some paper aside, checked something she wrote against a list before going on.

 

Yiling : I won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do Jackson…… not my style….. you can go back to your work at the garden tomorrow…..

 

Jackson : this….. i….. I can’t….

 

Yiling : it’s ok…. Don’t need to pay me back…

 

Yiling said it all without even looking at me.

 

She did not look at me not because she is upset or anything, she isn’t. I just know she isn’t.

 

She’s just busy and drowning in whatever she needed to do.

 

Within the span of a couple of days, she has thrown me totally off balance, everything that has happened to me so far sounded like something out of a movie script, and now she is offering to pay for my grandfather’s treatment.

 

What the fuck is happening here ?

 

I haven always known the importance of money, even more so after what happened to my grandfather but I’m not greedy. I’m not someone you can throw money at me and expect me to bend over.

 

Then again, She is not expecting me to bend over. I thought she would expect me to bend to her will, that was what she wanted isn’t it ? Why is she not using this to force me to work for her ? She totally had me.

 

Yiling continued working without stopping. She didn’t seem to mind I was there either.

 

She looked exhausted, a little worn out but she kept going.

 

She just kept going as if she didn’t have a choice to stop and rest.

 

I went over to the tray of tea Helen brought in earlier and poured Yiling a glass of tea. The aroma of the fruity tea leaves filled the room as I set the teapot down.

 

Yiling did not look like she had the time or was in the mood to talk, I did not want to disturb her work as well, so I just said my piece.

 

Jackson : I won’t accept something I didn’t earn….….but I appreciate the kind gesture…..

 

Yiling stopped what she was doing and put down her pen.

 

She looked at me for a couple of seconds, drummed her fingers on her desk a few times before looking at the ticket on the table. Yiling took the ticket and put it in her drawer.

 

She picked up her pen and went back to her work before adding ;

 

Yiling : …. It’s late… go back and rest…….

 

I backed away from the desk and after a few seconds of deliberation, I guess I really do want to know how deep down this rabbit hole goes. I have to.

 

i said the only thing I thought was appropriate at that time. It’s not much, but it’s enough to make Yiling, however exhausted she is, stop writing for a moment as she broke into a smile without looking up.

 

Jackson : See you tomorrow Boss…

 

 

………………………………………………………….

 

Just as I was about to leave, Yiling stopped writing for a moment and she looked up at me for a couple of seconds before she went back to her work. The momentarily smile she flashed was gone from her face, replaced by her tired ice queen expression.

 

Yiling : This stays between us Jackson …….the last thing I need is Hong or Kamal bothering me about this….

 

I backed away from the door and I could no longer hold back my curiosity and I turned back, walking right up to her desk.

 

Yiling looked up and we made eye contact as I nodded.

 

Jackson : ok…. I won’t tell them…. But…. But…. how did you do that… ?

 

Yiling : you want to learn ?

 

Jackson : Predicting Toto lottery results…. ?? who wouldn’t ?

 

Yiling took a sip of the tea I poured for her before replying.

 

Yiling : ….I’m not telling………. see you tomorrow….

 

Jackson : ok….

 

Yiling : and don’t call me boss…..

 

I turned and looked at her, puzzled by what she meant.

 

Jackson : what ? ….

 

Yiling : Call me Yiling….

 

Jackson : why…. ? the rest calls you boss….

 

Yiling : something which I asked them to stop for the longest time…… It makes me sound old…. Like a fifty year old virgin… with problems finding someone to have sex with….

 

I laughed.

 

Jackson : I’m sorry… I wouldn’t have said any of that….

 

Yiling : If you knew who I was ? …..

 

I shrugged and said nothing and Yiling went on.

 

Yiling : At least you were being honest…. Tell the rest to stop calling me Boss if you can….

 

She went back to her work and I could tell the conversation is over.

 

Yiling got up and I watch her pull out another thick stack of folders from a shelf.

 

I went back to the farmhouse and I spent the night tossing and turning in bed. I thought of calling my grandfather to share with him the ridiculous evening I just had.

 

Would he even believe me ?

 

How is this possible ? A phone call and the numbers I bought came out as the jackpot prize.

 

The numbers are rolled in front of a live audience. The numbered balls are measured and weighed, there’s a dozen staff around, another dozen staring at the cameras.

How powerful and connected she must be to be able to pull something off like this ?

 

It’s not impossible but it’s quite unthinkable. You just need to make sure the weight of the balls are fudged. The winning numbers a lot lighter than the others. Maybe magnets, RFID chips, I don’t know what technology has to offer these days.

 

I gave up trying to figure that shit out and fell asleep when it was close to 3am.

 

I woke up and went to the cookhouse for my breakfast at 7am.

 

 

19th May 2015

Tuesday

 

7am

I saw alone as usual but I could not help but noticed almost everyone looked at me when they walk into the cookhouse.

 

It’s like news was being spread.

 

There is a new dumbass in town. Someone who thinks with his cock instead of his brain.

 

Seven appeared looking as if he just woke up, he saw me and gave me a wave.

He grabbed his food and drink before joining me at the table.

 

He gestured towards the castle before giving me the ‘ok’ sign.

 

Jackson  : yeah… I’m… I’m ok….

 

Seven went on to gesture a hammering sign as if trying to ask am I working for Yiling now.

 

Jackson : yeah… I guess so…. I mean…. I’ll try…… as long as its nothing illegal …

 

Seven chuckled and slapped me on my back.

 

I finished my food and told Seven I’ll head back first. He gave me the thumbs up sign before going over to another table of men. I could see them eagerly peppering him with questions, it’s like they all want to know more about the cunt that tried to fuck the queen.

 

How do you even do the sign for a dumbass by the way ? Maybe he just points.

 

I went back to the garden, did some work and I just waited for my phone to ring. I don’t know what to expect.

 

What will Yiling make me do ?

 

Will I be able to say no when the time comes ?

 

I was excited, a little light headed in fact as I come to terms with what I had just signed up for. It’s like the feeling you get for the first day of work in a new environment.

 

I did my gardening work as usual until it was almost lunch time.

 

Kamal appeared by the farmhouse and handed me a key to a truck.

 

My heartrate immediately spiked when I heard him tell me the car plate number of the truck.

 

Kamal : go to Pasir panjang …. the fruits and vegetables distribution centre….

 

I was given a number and directions as to where to park.

 

There will be a lot reserved for me specially.

 

Kamal : The staff will guide you in when they see you….

 

Jackson : ok…. ermmmm

 

Kamal : what… ?

 

Jackson : what am I …. Delivering…

 

Kamal : dude… it’s a fruit and vegetable warehouse….

 

He shook his head and walk away as if I asked a stupid question.

 

Well it’s not a stupid question.

 

Would you not be worried ? Driving a truck and being given instructions like this. I’m going to collect stuff from people I don’t know, to deliver to another location I’ve never been. If this isn’t dodgy, I don’t know what is.

 

I realised 30 seconds later that is exactly what postmen have been doing for a few hundred years.

 

I found the truck beside the house where the ambulance was and set off towards Pasir Panjang.

 

Throughout the drive, I kept looking in the rear mirror.

I kept having the illusion that someone is following me. I would signal left, then give up at the last minute to go straight.

 

I made a couple of dummy turns and even went into a housing estate for a bit to see if I spotted any cars that were with me for too long. I have a good memory, I memorised the car plates of vehicles that followed me for more than 2 junctions.

 

Paranoia is setting in just as I arrived at the distribution centre.

 

I found the supplier’s stall and true enough, when the staff saw the truck, they gestured me over to a lot that was blocked by empty crates and boxes. I was pretty nervous when I backed into the lot.

 

Getting out of the truck, I was about to call the number given to me to reach a man called Ah Orh, Blackie, when the men that guided my truck in started loading it with stuff.

 

I quickly went over to see what they are putting into the back of the truck.

 

A variety of fruits and vegetables ranging from spinach to watermelons are being stacked into my vehicle. I looked around and the sight that greeted me is one that is far from comfort.

 

A half naked man with a large pot belly smoked while resting his leg on a box of chestnuts. A heavily tattooed old man was fanning himself with a cardboard while a younger man handed him a cigarette. Another old lady with age etched into the wrinkles on her face scooped porridge into her mouth before chewing into a chicken feet and spitting the bones onto the floor.

Perspiration dripped down the arms and backs of the men loading the vegetables into the truck. Most of them are topless and able to balance a half smoked cigarette precariously at the edge of their lips.

 

As the loaded up the truck quickly, I thought to myself, no way. No way it’s that straightforward.

 

This cannot be that simple. There must be something hidden within the boxes.

I started thinking about jail and my grandfather and I was beginning to regret my decision.

 

When the truck is almost full, I went over to one of the guys and asked who is Ah Orh ;

 

 

Jackson : Where is Ah Orh by the way… ?

 

Guy : He go toilet….we will settle for you… don’t worry….

 

Jackson : Ok… I see…. Thanks…

 

I tried to look at each and every box they are loading only to end up in their way, inviting a series of irritated looks. When I could not hold back myself any longer, I went to the same guy I spoke to earlier.

 

Jackson : so….. where is it ?

 

Guy : huh ? … where is what… ?

 

I gestured to the crates and boxes of vegetables they just loaded.

 

Jackson : Where’s the important stuff…. So I can…. Err… be more careful….

 

He looked at me as if I said something ridiculous.

 

Guy  : what talking you ??? Siao ah… ( crazy )

 

Several other workers stared at me and I acted casual before walking to the side and wait for them to finish loading.

 

They secured the stuff and told me it’s done.

 

I went over to the guy again.

 

Jackson : bro…. is ok… just let me know to be more careful with which boxes will do….

 

I gestured towards the truck while pointing with my head while keeping my hands in my pocket.

 

The guy lit up a cigarette and walked me over to the truck.

 

Guy : These…. These… and these…. Tomatoes….. brinjal….. cabbage….below got papaya…. Watermelon….. pineapple……carrot… raddish…. Spinach…..sweet potato….. Long beans and broccoli over there….

 

He gestured to everything before asking me not to drive like a cunt.

 

Guy : Don’t drive like a cunt…. These food are for eating….. understand bo ???

 

He doesn’t get what I’m trying to say or he’s deliberately putting on an act.

 

Fuck this. I thanked him and got into the driver seat. I’m sure he’s been briefed to be discreet. Maybe even he don’t know what the stuff is hidden.

 

I called Kamal and told him the truck is loaded.

 

Kamal : Ok… go this this address….

 

He gave me an address before asking me to drive carefully.

 

I googled the address and it’s a old folks home near Tanah Merah.

 

With the air con at full blast, I was still perspiring as I made my way to the east side of the island.

 

I kept looking out for tails or for police vehicles in the vicinity. Every red light caused my bladder to contract a little, squeezing my pee to the verge of me wetting myself.

 

It took me almost 40 minutes before I turned into the compound of the old folks home. The home sat on a narrow strip of land.

 

An old man was waiting for me and beside him, stood someone familiar.

 

It’s Candy.

 

My eyes lit up immediately seeing Candy talking to the old man.

 

Candy was dressed up that day, in a pant suit complete with a black blazer. She looked good with her hair tied up in a bun. She was wearing a pair of grey kitten heels and she would easily pass off as the hot secretary of a businessman, but I know she’s part of Yiling’s inner circle. Definitely not someone to be trifled with.

Still, I would work with Candy anytime compared to Cindy the Giant and Xiaoyu.

 

Jackson  :Hi….err… Candy right…

 

Candy : Yeah…. Hi Jackson….

 

I smiled sheepishly as Candy introduced Mr Ho me.

 

Jackson : hi Mr Ho….

 

Candy : Mr Ho is the director of this nursing home…. We supply them weekly with fruits and vegetables…. As part of our corporate social responsibility program….

 

I looked at Candy in disbelief as she told Mr Ho I am a new staff that works directly with Yiling.

 

Corporate social responsibility?

 

This is getting absurd.

 

Mr Ho : Thank you so much Jackson…. Really appreciate your help….

 

Jackson  : Not at all … not at all….

 

After some small chat, Candy said she needed to go and I watch her hop onto her bike. A cute vespa that is red in colour.

 

She gave me a playful wink as she put on her helmet and I smiled excitedly at her. Ok, no queen for me, but there’s no rules about her personal guards.

 

Candy : see you Jackson …..

 

Jackson : see you…. Candy…

 

She scooted off and I helped Mr Ho unload the delivery together with another staff. He gave me a smile before working quickly to unload the boxes onto a trolley. I felt a bit embarrassed that the nursing staff is helping to unload the fruits and stuff but he’s bigger and stronger than I am.

 

Now the truck took 4 men, almost 20 minutes to load. It’s taking twice as long for me and the staff to remove them and set them all onto the loading floor.

 

Mr Ho wanted to help but I told him don’t need, I can manage. We worked quietly and I was surprised when I saw the staff carry an entire basket of watermelon effortlessly onto the trolley.

 

As I worked, Mr Ho made small talks with me. Time passes when you get a good conversation going.

 

Mr Ho is turning 65, but he’s still going strong. There’s a vigour in him that reminds me of my grandfather. He walked with a slight limp on his left leg, reminders of a motorbike accident in his younger days.

 

He’s cheerful and very chatty. Just like the friendly retiree you share a table with at the coffee shop.

I took an instant liking to Mr Ho.

 

Mr Ho : so you work with Yiling…. For how long ??

 

Jackson : Oh… err… just started not too long ago actually….

 

Mr Ho : nice… nice… she is a good person…. Very kind….

 

I came to understand that Yiling’s monthly donation accounts for almost half of the centre’s operating expenses, this excludes the fruits and vegetables being delivered every week.

 

Mr Ho was full of praises for her and it got to a point I felt ashamed for doubting Yiling’s intention for getting me to send stuff here.

 

Mr Ho : wow… today’s donation is a lot…… !! seems to be almost twice as much…. Good.. good… please help me thank her….

 

Jackson : no problem at all…..

 

As I sipped on a bottle of drink Mr Ho offered, he gave me a tour of the centre which has a capacity for 60.

 

Mr Ho : We’re full… filled to the brim……this centre has 12 full time staff plus another 3 part time…..even so, we still need volunteers to come in on weekends….

 

Jackson : I see…. Do….errmm.. do the residents get visitors.. ?

 

Walking through the courtyard, I could see some seniors watching TV, a few were pruning the fruit and vegetable garden, there’s a couple of them just staring into black space. A male staff looked our way before going back to his chore of painting a wall after waving at Mr Ho.

 

Mr Ho : ground floor is the courtyard…. Half of it it taken up by the carpark and loading bay…..just a narrow strip of corridor with some administration rooms…. There’s a small garden over there…..

 

Mr Ho explained that caring for the old is very taxing mentally.

 

Mr Ho : Some leave their parents here… and just disappear…

 

Jackson : what … ? that’s horrible…

 

He nodded and pointed to a old lady knitting on the chair.

 

Mr Ho : Mrs Sun…. her son drove her here last year… did all the admission documents…. Paid for 3 months and he never came back…. We tried contacting him…. But he’s gone missing…. The address… contact number… everything…. Leads to a dead end….

 

I stopped walking and looked at Mr Ho.

 

Jackson : Are you serious… ? !! this cannot be happening… not in Singapore… we’re a fucking first world country….

 

Mr Ho : hahah… this happens everywhere… even in Singapore…

 

He tapped me on my shoulder as I looked at him in disbelief.

 

Jackson : Then what is going to happen to Mrs Sun…. ? Who pays for her stay here…. ? she doesn’t get any visitors…. ??

 

Mr Ho : she doesn’t…. we survive on funding and donations… .. she keeps to herself most of the time….

 

Mr Ho walked me along the yard and pointed to another old man trimming the hedge.

 

Mr Ho : Mr Leng…. 85 years old… his kids visit him once a year….

 

Jackson  :What…..why… ?

 

Mr Ho : busy… working…. Trying to make a living… at least he gets to see them once a year…..

 

I exhaled and at that moment, could not decide what is worse. Being abandoned by your kids, or knowing they are around and visit you only once a year.

 

Jackson : oh god… this is depressing…

 

Mr Ho : hahha…. Not many people have the stomach and heart for doing what we do…. But we manage….. with support from generous people like your boss that is….

 

Jackson : How… how long has Yiling been err… donating…. ?

 

Mr Ho : Since 2013… a couple of years now…. Would you like to see the top floor ?…

 

Jackson : what’s on top…. ?

 

Mr Ho  : It’s the Kitchen…dining and activity area….

 

Jackson : Sure…

 

I stepped into the old hydraulic elevator that doubles up as the service lift. The industrial size lift takes really long to close, rumbling as it’s aging door pressed itself together.

 

Mr Ho : Sorry ah…. Old lift… this building is almost 20 years old…. I think young man like you… take staircase also faster hahah

 

Jackson : It’s ok… it’s ok… I’m not in a hurry….

 

The ascent to the 5th floor took almost a full minute, the lift itself is big. The size of your handicap parking lot give and take. It would comfortable fit 2 beds with space to spare for helpers.

 

Mr Ho : Level 2 ,3 ,4 are the wards and rooms…. Those area are more gloomy than the ground floor…. A lot of residents are confined to the bed…. Some are a bit temperamental….

 

Mr Ho shared with me during the long lift ride that on certain sections, they have metal grills and locks to separate male and female residents.

 

Jackson : Why…. ?

 

Mr Ho : Well… some…. Ermm.. .. there have been past cases of sexual assault…. By residents….in other homes…

 

Jackson  :what the fuck….

 

Mr Ho : Sometimes they don’t even know what they are doing…. It’s complicated….

 

When the lift arrived on the 5th floor, the overall mood changed.

 

The elderly on the 5th floor are much more active. I could hear some laughter and the sound of mah-jong tiles being shuffled reached my ears. I could see a lot more friendly smiles and a old lady walked over and asked me who am i.

 

Jackson : Oh hello…

 

Mr Ho : He’s just a visitor Nancy…..

 

Nancy : you want to play chess ? I can play chess…

 

Jackson : Err… I’m not very good at Chess… hahah….

 

Nancy : Then you want to dance ? …..

 

She did a jingle with her nimble body before doing a body wave that would elicit cheers in the club as she struck a playful pose.

 

Jackson : wow… hahaha

 

Mr Ho : Ok Nancy…. Hahah…. Please…..

 

She gave a haughty  frown at Mr Ho before giving me a wink, an obvious flirting gesture.

 

Mr Ho : She likes young men… hahah… we don’t get many around here as you can see… hahah…

 

Speaking of young men, I saw the same male staff I saw earlier on the 5th floor as well. I did not look at him directly but through the reflection of a TV that is switched off, I could see him looking at me. This time round, he wasn’t painting, he was sweeping the floor.

 

I brushed it off as it being a coincidence, they are short handed and the staff are probably running all over the place doing all manners of stuff.

 

Mr Ho brought me to the kitchen where food is prepared and cooked by a combination of in house staff and volunteers.

 

Mr Ho : It’s empty now…. Lunch time over…. But we have Milo and crackers over there for everyone if they feel like having some…. We have Chinese tea too but no coffee…..

Without realising, I spent almost an hour talking to Mr Ho. I left the home utterly impressed with what Yiling has been doing all this time.

 

I bade farewell to Mr Ho and left at about 4pm.

 

Mr Ho : see you next week…

 

Jackson : see you Mr Ho.

 

Looks like this is going to be a regular thing for me.

 

I started the engine of the truck and when I checked the rear mirror, I noticed something.

 

The same male staff coming to talk to Mr Ho.

 

They were looking at my direction together before Mr Ho ushered the staff out of sight.

 

I drove off and made my way towards Bukit Timah.

 

When I filtered into the expressway, I kept thinking about the male staff.

He was wearing scrubs like all a healthcare worker but the stuff he was doing seem unrelated to caregiving.

 

Why is he so interested in me ?

Maybe because I’m a new face.

 

I parked the truck and went back to my farmhouse. I dropped Kamal a text to let him know it’s done and he just replied me ‘ok’

 

Seeing the old folks earlier made me think of my grandfather. I decided to give him a call and I spent 30 minutes talking to him before he made me hang up.

 

Grandpa : expensive to call la…. end of the month you come up then we talk….

 

Jackson : I miss you grandpa….

 

Grandpa : siao ah…. Today never take medicine is it….

 

I laughed and hung up.

 

Heading over to the cookhouse for my dinner, I began to run through the only event that happened that day. I don’t think it’s by chance that I was made to send fruits and vegetables to a old folks home.

 

It’s Yiling’s way of letting me know there are other stuff I can help her with, but why me ?

 

Anyone can do the delivery, why must it be me ?

 

I thought about the old people staying there, I thought about Mr Ho. He’s charming, has the look that makes him likable. He has more streaks of white than black on his head but he has hair, quite a bit of it.

 

I don’t see any other vehicles in the compound when I get there. It was just Candy’s Vespa and my truck. Nothing wrong with it either, Mr Ho probably don’t drive.

 

Dinner that day was prawn noodles. I could smell it from the entrance.

 

Just as I was about to join the line of eager diners, I saw Candy gesturing to me from the other end of the cookhouse.

 

I went over with a smile, eager to get to know Candy better as a colleague.

 

Jackson : Hey Candy….i…don’t think I have your number yet…

 

Candy : you can ask me for it…. Haha….

 

I passed my phone over to her with a smile.

 

Her smile is as sweet as her name as she took my phone.

 

Ok, she’s not as hot as Yiling, but she’s still nice.

If Yiling is a 10, Candy is a easy 8

 

Jackson : so…. Ermm  you’re here to have dinner ???

 

Candy shook her head and past the phone back to me.

 

She had entered her number and she was dialling it.

 

I waited to hear her phone ring but she just said bye and walk off.

 

Looking at my phone, I realised it was connected.

 

Jackson : Hello ? …

 

Yiling : It’s me…

 

I looked at the phone again just to be sure before seeing Candy laughing and walking off.

 

She just called Yiling with my phone.

 

Jackson  : hi… sorry… I thought this was Candy’s number….

 

Yiling : I asked her to look for you duh…..

 

Jackson  : oh… ok…. Yeah… what do you need…. ?

 

Yiling : today…. The delivery to the old folks home….

 

Jackson : yeah… what about it….

 

Yiling : did you unload everything on your own… ?

 

Jackson : no… someone helped me.

 

Yiling : How many… ?

 

Jackson  :err… just one…

 

Yiling : Just one…

 

Jackson : he’s strong… why ?

 

Yiling went on to ask me what I thought about the place.

 

Jackson : It’s sad…. Some of the old folks ere abandoned…. Did you know that??

 

Yiling : yes… how many staff did you see in all when you are there….

 

Jackson : Mr Ho gave me a tour…. We went up to the 5th floor…. Skipped the rest…. Errr… I saw….

 

I felt my heart skip a beat as I answered Yiling’s question.

 

Jackson : 2…

 

Yiling : male… or female…

 

Jackson : both male….

 

Yiling : anything particular about the residents you saw ?? …. Did you talk to any… ?

 

Jackson  : Just one…. She asked me to dance….

 

Yiling was quiet for a moment before thanking me for my help and hung up.

 

I looked at my phone and saved her mobile number. This must be one of her many phones, I wondered which is the one she used to dictate the winning numbers for the lottery.

 

As I sipped the soup for my dinner, I don’t know what to think.

 

Something feels off. The questions Yiling asked is unsettling on many fronts.

 

After dinner, as I bit down into a slice of watermelon, I remembered something that Mr Ho said earlier.

 

Yiling sent twice the amount of fruits and vegetables today.

It took me about 40 minutes to unload them all with the help of the guy who didn’t seem local. I brought them out, he loaded them into a trolley and push them round the corner, I don’t know where.

 

The food preparation area is on level 5, I assume the fridge and food storage is up there as well. The guy came back pretty quick after each trolley load, no way he took that slow lift up to the 5th floor with each load.

 

I remembered walking with Mr Ho into the courtyard where I saw the big lift at the end of the corridor. It was not being used either.

I finished my dinner and went back to the garden, shaking my head at the conspiracy theory that is brewing in my brain.

 

Too much TV and Hollywood movies already.

 

 

 

20th May 2015

Wednesday

 

9.30am

 

Candy came to the farmhouse and gave me 3 addresses. 3 address of 3 other old folks home.

 

I looked at the address before looking back at Candy.

 

Jackson : same thing… ?

 

Candy nodded.

 

Candy : same thing…. Deliver the goods…. If they offer to show you around, go ahead…. If not…. don’t bother…

 

Jackson : ok….

 

When I got to Pasir Panjang market, I started to pay more attention to the men loading the supplies. 4 men, 20 minutes give and take.

 

After they are done, instead of driving straight to the old folks home, I dropped by the pharmacy and got some bandages.

 

I bandaged my left hand up to make it appear as if I hurt myself before continuing my journey. This time round to a home located in Serangoon.

 

Candy is not there this time round and I had to wait for a couple of minutes before the gate was opened for me. A staff motioned for me to back the truck towards the loading bay.

 

I shut off the engine and came out of the truck.

 

I looked at the guy who came out to receive me. He’s well built, and he speaks with a foreign accent. No surprise there, a lot of our healthcare staff are foreigners.

 

Jackson : eh brother…..sorry…. hand pain…. I can’t help much….

 

He looked at the bandaged wrist and hand and said it’s ok.

 

This 2nd house that I’m is about the same size as the first but it has only 2 floors spread on a bigger plot of land. I used my leg to open the tailboard of the truck and waited for the guy to come back.

 

He came back with another staff wearing a white coat.

 

Steven : Hi there… I’m Steven…

 

Jackson : Hello hello….i’m Jackson…. Ya.. your stuff is here…. Sorry ah… I hurt myself yesterday…..

 

Steven : You’re new… what happened to the previous driver ?? …

 

Jackson : yah I am….I’m not sure…. Today my 2nd day….. Ehh…. Sorry I can’t help much but if you have a trolley, I can help push….

 

Steven immediately gestured that they are fine.

 

Steven : my staff will unload the truck…. Do you mind heading out for a coffee across the road… ? come back in 5, 10 minutes maybe….

 

I looked at the 2 of them and it was obvious they wanted me gone.

 

Jackson  : haha.. I won’t say no to coffee breaks eh… hahaha…. Alright… do you all want any… ? I’ll bring back for you….

 

Steven : it’s ok… we’re fine…

 

I nodded and I noticed neither of them moved. They are just waiting for me to go. I started to make my way out of the compound towards the coffee shop across the road.

 

Turning back, I realised there is no way I would be able to see what is happening inside the home.

 

I quickly placed my order for a coffee. The pot was empty and I had to wait for a fresh brew.

 

The time taken for me to leave the loading bay, cross the 2 lane road over to the coffee shop could not have taken more than 2 minutes, I got my coffee in about 3 minutes tops because the owner had to make a fresh pot.

 

A continuous stream of cars slowed my crossing by a few seconds, but I was over to the entrance of the old folks home in 5 minutes give and take.

 

I was surprised to see Steven at the entrance when I walked in.

 

Steven : hey…. Bro…

 

Jackson  : hey… what you doing here….

 

Steven : Do you mind…. Grabbing another for me…

 

He handed me a $5 dollar bill and alarm bells started ringing in my head.

 

Jackson : sure.. take mine first la….

 

I offered my coffee black to him and Steven accepted it without even asking me what is it.

 

I smiled and turned back towards the coffee shop.

 

When I went back the 2nd time, Steven was all smiles as he told me it’s done.

 

I looked at the empty truck and gave them a thumbs up.

 

Jackson : alright…!… early day for me…. cheers bro…

 

The other guy I saw earlier waved and smiled at me as I pulled out into the main road.

 

He hardly broke a sweat and they emptied the truck in less than 10 minutes.

Math.

It all comes down to Math. More people, shorter unloading time.

 

As I pulled into the expressway, I could feel goosebumps on my arms when I realised Yiling is not trying to show off the company’s corporate social responsibility program.

Something is going on at the old folk homes & centres, and I’m not there to deliver supplies & donations or to tour the facility.

 

I’m there to find out how many men are in there.

 

…………………………………………………………….

 

When I got back to the estate, I realised I don’t have Candy’s phone number so I dialled the number which connects me to Yiling. She did not answer my call.

 

I thought about bothering Hong and the rest but I reckon they are probably busy with their own stuff. I should be able to work independently on this. No reason for Yiling to just send me on a delivery run if I can’t value add.

 

I tried Yiling a couple more times that evening but still no word or a return call from her so I stopped trying. No point telling her one home at a time. Might as well just get it over and done with and give her the full report.

 

The 3rd home on Thursday turned out to be empty.

 

It doesn’t make sense.

 

I drove all the way to Hougang only to see an abandoned building. The 4 storey high structure has been cleared of all residents. The security guard stopped me at the gate and told me to turn back.

 

Jackson  : Bro… I got delivery…

 

Guard : wrong address… wrong address…. Here… no more residents….

 

I turned the truck away and tried to think of what to do with all the food I was carrying. I can’t possibly bring it back to the distributors. I’ll just bring it back to the cookhouse and hand it over to whoever is on duty that day.

 

I’m not satisfied with just leaving after being turned away.

 

If this is the 1st home, I might have write it off as a wrong address and start calling for help but this being the 3rd home and having seen the weird shit going on in the others, my curiosity got the better of me.

 

I exited the cluster of nursing homes and parked the truck at a nearby housing estate.

 

I walked over to Hougang green mall across the road and bought a new set of clothes and a cap. After I changed in the toilet, I got some fruits from the supermarket and took a slow stroll back up the road towards the cluster of nursing home.

 

I stayed on the opposite side of the road and tried to blend in with the line of people walking towards the mental health hospital. I looked just like any other visitors heading in.

When I found a good vantage view diagonally across from the home I was supposed to deliver to, I stopped and pretended to talk on my phone for a while asking for directions to wherever I wanted to go from a imaginary friend.

 

Looking across towards the building, I could clearly see activity inside. Most of the lights were off but those at the top floor remained on.

 

I could see the fans turning as well. The windows are opened, the top floor is clearly not air conditioned. I could catch glimpses of movements and shadows from where I stood.

 

Every couple of minute, I could see the figure of a man walking briskly by the opened windows.

 

There’s a hive of activity up that.

 

I saw a figure appear at the roof top and I quickly turned away and continued walking. Pretending I needed to cross the road, I turned and looked up without tilting my head too much.

 

The guy is smoking on the roof. Another 2 just joined him.

 

I finished crossing the road, and started to make my way back down towards where I parked my truck, this time round walking directly by the gate of the supposedly empty home.

 

The guard is watching a foreign language film on his phone, I could hear him blasting the speakers. The gate itself needs a new coat of paint, the hinges are rusty but the chain around it and the padlock is brand new.

 

Beyond the gate, I could see several wheelchairs and trolley beds neatly arranged by the side of the loading and unloading bay. The bin centre right beside the guard house is full of junk as well.

 

Styrofoam pads and boxes of new laptops filled the trash bins. Lying along side the cardboard boxes of expensive laptops are a stack of about 8 pizza boxes. At least a carton of empty cola bottles laid strewn all over the bin as well.

 

I saw the security guard standing up and I quickly continued walking down the path.

 

The moment I got back to the mall, I went to grab another top and a straw hat. The kind that farmer wears. I grabbed some dirt from the turfing and rubbed some of it on the white print top I just bought.

 

I changed in the truck and I transferred some fruits and vegetables into the same box and retrieved a few cardboard boxes. I quickly flattened them and tucked them under my armpit.

 

I made my way up the path again, slowing down the moment I reach the bin centre.

 

The guard is still in his chair enjoying his film. Ignoring the stares of the people across the road, I started to dig through the trash bin to see if I could find anything interesting.

 

Someone just disposed off the packaging of a shitload of expensive gadgets. At least 8 laptops, routers and modems, backup hardisks, 3 large 23 inch monitors packaging laid at the bottom of the bin.

 

I could see the packaging for extension & network cables, even a projector.

I happily dug through the junk and collected the cardboard when the guard shouted at me from his stand.

 

Security : HOEI!!! HELLO!!! CANNOT TAKE !!! CANNOT TAKE!!!

 

I could see him getting ready to come after me so I quickly gave a apologetic sign before scurrying off with my own cardboards.

 

I did not look back and I quickly got back to the truck and changed out.

 

Looking at myself in the rear mirror, I chuckled and laughed.

 

I don’t fucking believe what I just did.

 

I drove the truck all the way back to the cookhouse.

 

Deuce was the one on duty that day.

 

I told him I have a truck full of food that needs to be unloaded and if he can help settle it.

 

He gave me a thumbs up before gesturing for me to back it up and he will handle the rest.

 

40 minutes later, it’s done.

 

I checked my phone, there are no messages or missed calls.

 

I decided to finish the last delivery before giving Yiling a detailed summary of what I observed. I can’t believe I was actually enjoying this. I feel like I’m Tom cruise doing some mission impossible shit.

 

Hong came by that night and asked if I could host dinner the next day.

 

Hong : Oei…. Jackson …. Tomorrow Friday…. Steamboat party ai mai…. Hahah

 

Jackson : ok sure…

 

Hong : ok swee ! I tell the rest…

 

Out of 4 homes I as tasked to check out, 3 are fishy. If the 4th one turns out to be this suspicious, I wonder what Yiling will do.

 

 

22th May 2015

Friday

 

11am

 

I made my way to the warehouse again and this time round, I did my shopping right there and then. I have a box which I asked the guys loading where can I get some vegetables for my own use. The man in charge of loading, Ah Cai, pointed me to their retail stall.

 

Ah Cai : that one… that one….

 

Jackson : Thanks…

 

I filled the box with a variety of vegetables and mushrooms. I wonder if Yiling would be interested to join us and if I should ask her out of courtesy. Better not, maybe I can ask Candy, but what if Candy decides to bring Cindy and Xiaoyu.

 

Fuck. I’ll just keep to the usual group.

 

When I asked how much it cost, the worker just waved me away and directed me to Ah Cai.

 

Jackson : Ah Cai… how much do I owe you…. ?

 

He looked at the box of stuff I took before saying it’s ok.

 

Ah Cai : on the house…. Take… take … take… Ah Orh won’t take your money…

 

Jackson : Wow… ok… thank you….

 

After the truck is loaded, I drove to Tampines where the other home is located.

 

I could tell instantly that this last one is normal.

 

Normal in the sense there are so much more activities going on.

 

2 Volunteers are trying to hang a banner up, a security guard asked me to sign in as a visitor.

 

An operations executive by the name of Loon attended to my delivery. The elderly are a lot more mobile in this home. Windows are all open and the place is airy.

 

It has a relaxed and casual vibe to it. A couple of social workers with lanyards around their necks came to talk to Loon as I waited for the unloading to finish. I helped out a little because I felt bad the men doing the unloading looks like they should probably be residents instead of staff.

 

A small bus turned into the compound and I smiled when I see a group of school kids taking turns to alight.

 

Loon : they’re here to perform a skit for the residents….

 

Jackson : really ? so cute….

 

Loon asked me to thank Yiling on his behalf for her continued support all these while.

 

Loon : we really appreciate what Yiling has done for us….. it’s been so long since she last drop by….. please help us thank her….

 

Jackson : No problem at all….

 

Loon even handed me a bag of handmade cookies by the residents to be given to Yiling.

 

At least the last one’s good.

 

I returned to Bukit Timah around 5pm in the evening and began setting up the steamboat.

Fridge is stocked, plenty of vegetables including those I harvested from the plot I grew.

 

No calls from Candy and Yiling, I wonder if I should get in touch with them or wait.

 

I decided to drop Yiling a text.

 

“ Hey Yiling… it’s me, Jackson ….. done with the deliveries…. Need to talk when you are free… “

 

I worked in the garden for a couple of hours until about 7.30pm before Hong arrived with a carton of beer. Kamal and Seven came together before Declan arrived.

 

We started the steamboat at 8pm and everyone ate as if we had starved for the whole day.

 

No one talked about work. I realised I didn’t know what they were up to the whole week. Kamal probably knew a little since he was the one who sent me off on the first day but the rest are probably in the dark.

 

I scooped myself a bowl of soup and listened to Hong bitch about Yiling scolding him about him mimicking her. Now he gets jibed by Yiling whenever he say something.

 

Hong : KNN ( curse ) Jackson…. I got wacked by her you know…. because of you….

 

Jackson : hahah… sorry sorry… I didn’t know who she was…. If I knew…. I would have kept my mouth shut….

 

Everyone laughed as we put more food into the boiling broth. Declan asked how was my first week and I told him so far so good.

He did not press me further on what I did. It seems as if everyone has their work cut out for them, or there is some sort of compartmentalisation in place.

 

No one seemed curious about what I did that past week too.

After we are done with dinner, the guys started to talk excitedly about the coming ghost month in August.

 

The lunar 7th month, is a month where supposedly the gates of hell open. Sprits are allowed to wander the earth for a month. It’s also known as the hungry ghost festival. The Taoist celebrates it with much fanfare.

You could see offerings being made, people burning incense and all. There are many dos and don’ts to observe as well.

 

Now Hong is excited because this year, it is Yiling’s turn to host the annual dinner.

 

Jackson : host for who ?? …

 

Hong gave me a sly smile before looking to the rest of the guys. It’s as if he was seeking their permission to let me in on it.

 

Declan : You tell him now… he also won’t understand….

 

Jackson : It’s ok… just tell me… I’ll try….to put a picture together.

 

Hong gestured for more beer and grabbed a handful of peanuts before throwing them onto the table like a fortune teller about to divine the future.

 

Arranging 6 cans of beer around the nuts, Hong started to explain the background of the dinner.

 

 

Hong : It’s like those typical 7th month dinner…. Banquet… lots of people…. Member of parliament of the district will come… shake hand…. Smile… then of course… there is the bidding of auspicious items…

 

Now the special part about this dinner though, is that it will be done before the lunar 7th month. A whole month before in fact.

 

Jackson  : Why ? …. What is the significance of holding a 7th month dinner if it’s not held during the lunar 7th month ??

 

Hong : I never said it was specifically a 7th month dinner…. I said it’s similar to the 7th month dinner….hahha

 

Jackson  : What the hell…. Ok ok… go on…. I have attended some 7th month dinner before many years ago….the community centre always got tickets to attend at cheap rate…. Like 15 bucks for a bucket of groceries and a 8 course dinner….

 

Hong looked at me with that judgmental look with no smile before commenting ;

 

Hong : there… there… the auntie in you just came out again…

 

Jackson : hello… I don’t live in a castle…. I live in a 3 room flat with my grandfather and money has always been tight…. Good deals like this…. I need it….

 

Hong : ok… ok…. Whatever…

 

Hong explained that the dinner would usually be hosted in a hotel ballroom as compared to the ones done outdoors at markets and temples. Not all guest are Taoists, not all of them celebrates the hungry ghost festival so the annual dinner slowly gets shifted out from the lunar 7th month.

 

Aside from the date, hardly anything has changed over the years for this once a year gala event. To make things even more interesting, every year, a politician would be invited. A member of parliament.

 

Jackson  : Why ?

 

Hong : There will be a charity bidding session…. Of which the amount raised will be donated to a charity…. Politicians dig things like these… so they usually turn up….

 

Before I could ask another question, Hong directed everyone’s attention to the beer on the table.

Running his finger around the external circumference formed by the booze. I could see droplets of condensation rolling down onto the table as he told me the dinner itself, is not special.

 

Hong : It’s the people attending the dinner….

 

Jackson  : Who are they…. ?

 

Singapore is no stranger to the underworld. Triads still exists but very low profile. Gone are the days of open street fights and trashing of competitors’ businesses.

 

Now, it’s all about money and profit.

 

However, there is a reason why some gangs manage to stay together compare to the others.

 

It’s not money, it’s not loyalty and the oaths, it’s for a very practical reason.

 

Skillsets.

 

Skills.

 

Unique skill sets and experience handed down over the years by pioneers of the secret societies, many of which today operate openly as clans and associations.

 

Anyone can pick a fight, shout some gang cheer, extort money or start a illegal gambling den. There is literally no barrier for competition to enter, needless to say, these usually don’t last as authorities would clamp down on them pretty quick.

 

Skills however, is impossible to acquire overnight.

 

These are hone over years and decades of practise.

 

Passed down from father to son.

 

 

Hong pushed the 1st can out.

 

Hong : Boss and her company…. La Bella Vita…. we are the host this year….

 

Pushing another can up immediately, Hong added;

 

Hong : The Malu Malu…..

 

Jackson  : the what ??

 

Hong : The Malu Malu…. They are located along Jalan Malu Malu… in Sembawang….

 

I burst out laughing uncontrollably.

 

Jackson : hahhaa… what the hell….. hahahhaa….this is a joke right….??

 

My laughter slowly died of when I realised no one else is laughing along.

 

Jackson  : ok… sorry…. I’m sorry…. Please go on….

 

Hong : Malu Malu is helmed by 3 brothers…. They are cleaners for hire ….

 

Jackson : cleaners ??

 

Hong : They clean shit up….if you know what I mean….

 

I gave a raised eyebrow and waited for Hong to go on.

 

Hong : crime scene, blood, shit….. you name it….they operate a legitimate cleaning company, a pest company…. And a renovation company….

 

Jackson : No shit…

 

Hong : you want to rid a place of evidence….. you call them….

 

Jackson : you are joking right… ?

 

Hong : do you see me laughing ?

 

He’s right, the mood around the table is pretty solemn and intense.

 

Hong : The Malu Malu are not only good at cleaning up physical sites… they clean offices and accounts too…. If you catch the drift…. They have lawyers, accountants, even pathologist and retired crime scene technicians under their payroll…..

 

Kamal interrupted at that moment and added.

 

Kamal : don’t need to go into so much details…. Too much to digest… but know that they don’t go out and accept anyone who sends in their resume….most if not all of their men are gang members to start out with….

 

Jackson  : That is so fucking cool…. Go on go on….

 

Another can of beer joined the 2 in the centre.

 

Hong : Then there are the thieves….

 

Jackson : what are they called ?

 

Hong : no special names… just the thieves…..

 

According to Hong, they are the best there is in the trade.

At the right price, they can steal anything.

 

Jackson  : are you serious ??

 

Hong : everyone can steal…. The hard part is not getting caught…. And these guys…. Have a unbroken streak….

 

These people pulled off some of the biggest heist in the country, many of which goes unreported. From antiques to jewelleries, as long as the price is right, it can be done.

 

Hong : It’s a family business in a way….. all members are cousins, siblings, or extended family…. Very close knit…. They are all under a investment holding company now…. Doing everything from central kitchen for catering to operating franchises of coffee chains…. They’re everywhere…

 

Jackson  : I see…. Go on… go on…

 

This is interesting. I never knew something like this exists in Singapore.

 

The 4th can joined the group and Hong paused, taking a sip of his opened beer before going on.

 

Hong : The monks….

 

Jackson : hahaha… what ??!! Monks…

 

Hong handed the explanation over to Declan with an extended palm.

 

Declan : The monks… they are a small group…. Not real monks of course….it’s just the way they call themselves.

 

Jackson : what do they do… ?

 

Declan :  they are cheats… swindlers….

 

Jackson  : oh you mean… magic rock… cheat those aunties and stuff….

 

Declan : No no…. those are petty crimes… you can’t make money off them….

 

The monks go for high stakes scams, targeting businessmen or investors. They don’t strike all the time but when they do hit, they hit hard.

 

Declan: their most recent hit, a director of a company that sells scam investments….. some Ponzi pyramid scheme…. They wiped 150 million off the company and that’s when everything started collapsing…. Things start to unravel….

 

Jackson : oh…. So they are they good guys….

 

Declan : how so ?

 

Jackson : they swindler the scammer’s money…. That’s a good thing no ??

 

Declan : errrr…. Never mind…. The Monks are vegetarians…. The own a chain of vegetarian eateries and are in the midst of opening the 1st vegetarian hotel in Singapore….

 

Jackson  :Wow…. Ok….

 

Sensing a slowdown in the sharing of information, I took a 5th can of beer and put it into the circle.

 

Jackson : who else… ?

 

Kamal decided to chip in this round.

 

Kamal : The white snakes….

 

Jackson  :Woah… that sounds damm badass man….

 

Kamal : Nah… they are a bunch of loose sand right now…. A lot of internal fighting…..they can’t get along with each other…. they too own a variety of businesses from rice distribution to property investment…..they seldom show up for the dinner, and even if they did, it would be one of the older guys with a few men just for show….. they are not interested in the power play going on in the country….

 

Jackson  :I see…. What a pity…. White snakes is a kickass name…. best I’ve heard so far.

 

Seven helped to push the last can in and I sat up eagerly, looking around the table to see who would be the one that is going to explain the last group.

 

La Bella Vita

Malu Malu

The thieves

The monks

White snakes.

 

I could sense the apprehension around the table.

 

After a while, Hong decided to take up the challenge.

 

Hong : Rajahs , or also known as kings.

 

Jackson  : woah…. Sounds damm princely and elitist man… hahha…

 

Hong : The Rajahs….. they are a big organisation…. Very violent…..and I’m not talking about kids fighting in the void deck or doing one on one in lifts mind you…. These people…. If they are out to hurt you…. You can be assured that you will feel pain….

 

The Rajahs are not thugs for hire but they are like thugs in business. Disputes if any are usually resolved by violence. They have been known to torch competitors offices and warehouses.

Not only are they violent, they are not afraid of the law or going to jail because they get paid to do so.

 

You need to take one for the team ? Sure. Full pay including CPF and AWS included. Your family gets taken care off.

 

Hong : Rumour is that as long as you are part of Rajah for more than 10 years…. Accommodation, car, your kids’s education….. they take care of it… rumour that is….

 

Kamal : Rumours only la… you live a life like theirs, how many can make it to 10 years… hahaha

 

Everyone laughed and Hong continued.

 

The Rajahs own a shipping and logistics company. They handle all manners of stuff as long as the price is right. From drugs to contraband items, even banned foodstuff like  ‘Balut’ , a developing duck embryo, they can get it in for you.

 

The Rajahs are also involved in money lending, both legal and illegal, vehicle leasing, mostly industrial vehicles and construction cranes. They also own a couple of hotels located in the red light districts.

 

Kamal gestured to Seven as he shook his leg and brought a beer to his lips.

 

Kamal : Seven used to be from the Rajahs….

 

All eyes turned to Seven and he nodded.

 

Jackson : they… they poured acid… down your throat… ?

 

Seven gestured something which I don’t really understand and Declan added;

 

Declan : He followed the wrong leader…….got played out……when the Rajahs clean house…. They really meant it…. Thankfully Boss got to Seven in time….

 

Jackson : I see…. I see…

 

Hong : Rajahs…. They are the 2nd largest criminal organisation in the country.

 

I nodded as I sipped my drink, trying to digest the wealth of information I just heard from the group.

 

This is amazing. It’s like if you peel away the top layer of the bustling metropolis the country is, you discover there is a lot more going on underneath it all.

 

I looked up suddenly at Hong when I was reminded of something he said.

 

Jackson  :wait… wait…. You said the Rajahs…. Are what… ?  the 2nd largest criminal organisation….??

 

I looked at the guys around the table before it suddenly dawned on me who I was really working for.

 

Jackson  : so …. the …. Biggest…. …. ?

 

Declan : oh…. Do you even need to ask ? hahhaha….

 

The guys laughed and Hong drained the can of beer he was holding onto before asking.

 

Hong : which reminds me…. Jackson…. You were pretty resistant to working for Boss initially….. what made you change your mind… ?

 

I was immediately on alert in case I say something I shouldn’t be saying. I can’t possibly lie outright either so I decided to give a calibrated answer instead.

 

Jackson : well…. I ermm…Yiling…. She…let’s just say I’ve seen her done something pretty amazing…. With a phone call… and… I’ve decided to jump in and see how far the rabbit hole goes…. For the record…. She didn’t force me one bit….

 

Kamal nodded with a chuckle.

 

Kamal : hahah… Boss…. Has never forced us to do anything we are not willing to….

 

Hong : agreed…. Hahaha…

 

It was at this time Declan took out a cigar holder from his pocket. He popped one out and proceeded to cut of the ends of it with a smile.

 

Declan : well…. Boss has many phones…. I’ve seen some pretty amazing stuff too…. Hahah…. But trust me…. you have seen nothing…..

 

Jackson : what do you mean… ?

 

Declan chuckled and stood up, indicating to the guys it’s time to head out for a smoke.

 

Declan : you ain’t see nothing…. Until you see Boss take out her old Nokia phone…..

 

Jackson : what does that do… ? break a brick haha ?? is it one of those indestructible phones ??

 

Declan : Nope…. A Nokia 8855 model…. She has 3 of them….i’ve seen only 1 being used before…..

 

I followed the group outside and Declan fired up the wind proof lighter to light up his cigar.

 

Declan shook his lit cigar at me and a sweet yet unfamiliar aroma filled my nose.

 

Declan : That phone call… put 23 Rajahs on the ground….amazing no one died or seriously injured…..

 

Jackson : what the fuck….!….

 

Declan : How else do you think we got Seven out ? hahah….

As the area outside the farmhouse filled with tobacco smoke, I asked.

 

Jackson : The Rajahs must be fucking pissed at Yiling isn’t it…. ??

 

Hong : oh…. You bet they are… hahah… .. but that’s what make the annual dinner all the more interesting isn’t it… hahahah…

 

Jackson : Who is leading the Rajahs…. ?

 

Hong gave me a sly smile.

 

Hong : A hot 25 year old slut with a come fuck me look and a penchant for wearing come-fuck-me boots with skirts so short, it’s impossible to miss a flash of her panty…..

 

Jackson  : You’re shitting me…. so young…. ?  she’s younger than Yiling…… makes you wonder right…. Why are organisations like these being led by girls

 

Kamal : That is a really sexist comment coming from you Jackson …. Gentle reminder…. The one giving you your pay cheque at the end of the month is a girl as well…

 

 

Jackson : well… it’s different in a way…..at least Yiling has decent dress sense…. She has that elegance of a matured woman….confidence…. and style…. The swag… she oozes charm….. sha has class….. and… and…

 

I barely finished my statement when I saw someone approaching us from a distance away. It’s Yiling and she’s not alone. Cindy towered behind her and Aaron was walking towards us from another direction.

 

I could not believe what I was seeing.

Yiling looked like she just came from a fancy dress party.

She was wearing a ridiculous pink top that barely concealed the neon yellow bra she was wearing underneath. On her head is a over the top straw hat as if she is going to the beach and she wore a skirt so short that every step she took, she risked flashing her panty to all of us.

 

She stumbled forward a little but Cindy managed to stop her from falling, Yiling laughed, obviously high from the drinks before trying to adjust her short skirt lower to cover her modesty. Her usually impeccable hair is a little frizzled and messed up.

 

Concentrating a little too hard on the ground in front of herself, Yiling was determined to make her way towards us unassisted.

 

The pair of black boots she wore reached up to her kneecaps and she was swinging a Hermes clutch bag wildly in her left hand while holding onto a bottle of wine in her right.

 

She sneezed and I saw her wipe her nose with the back of her hand before wiping it on the side of her short skirt. Noticing a leaf on the side of her neon coloured bra, Yiling picked it off and adjusted her boobs as if she was wearing a bra not suited for her breast size.

 

Yiling : yozz…!!! Boys !!!

 

Yiling called out from about 15 metres away and it was a jaw drop moment for everyone when she stumbled again, this time round falling flat onto the grass.

 

Yiling : fuck !… fuck !! arghh…

 

The fall flipped up her short skirt and her butt cheek with bits of her pink thong was immediately exposed to the entire world for a second before Cindy quickly bent down and covered it up.

 

Yiling rolled onto her back and Cindy had to cover Yiling’s modesty with her massive body as the lot of us turned and look the other way.

 

Yiling : why is everyone upside down ?? !!

 

No one answered her since she is obviously not her usual self.

 

Yiling : I’m ok…..relax… I’m ok….

 

As Cindy helped Yiling brush off the grass and dirt from her stained top, Hong had to rub it in.

 

Hong : you were saying…. ? hahaha….

 

Jackson : She’s good man….. she’s good….

 

Hong : hahah.. how so….

 

Jackson  : She managed to convince me I’m working for a fucking cool kick ass boss with a single phone call….. and now… she destroyed my entire image of her in 5 seconds….

 

Declan laughed and chirped in

 

Declan : It’s a stressful job……There is still a lot more you don’t know about her  Jackson … hahaha…

 

 

………………………………………………………………..

 

Declan : Anyway…… she’s drunk… time to go…

 

Jackson  : What… why ??

 

I turned to see the guys casually trying to make their respective way away from the approaching queen.

 

Yiling could hardly walk straight and Cindy had to hold onto her a couple of times before getting shoved away.

 

Yiling : I’m ok Cindy…. I’m ok….. don’t worry…. Burzpppp….

 

As Yiling got closer, I realised the group of smoking men behind me have already started making their way out in a radial pattern.

 

Yiling : Where is everyone going !!! ?? hey !! Hong !!!

 

Hong pretended he didn’t hear her and quickened his pace towards the castle.

 

Yiling : Declan … Declan !!! hey… over here….

 

Declan went from a fast walk to a slow jog while Seven went into an all out sprint.

 

Yiling : what is wrong with you all !!! arghhh !!!

 

Yiling turned her attention to me as I watched her finished the quarter bottle of wine she has left before dropping the bottle on the floor for Cindy to pick up.

 

Aaron by then had caught up with us, it was then I realised he had another bottle of whisky in his hands.

 

Yiling : Aaron…. Aaron !!!! where is it… !! why so long !!!

 

Aaron quickly handed the bottle to Yiling before mouthing; ‘good luck’ to me. He too scurried away. For someone that always wanted to be near Yiling, him running away spoke volumes.

It became apparent enough that no one wanted to be near Yiling when she is drunk.

 

Yiling handed the bottle to Cindy who removed the seal and pulled out the cock with hardly any effort before handing it over to Yiling who stopped in front of me as she stabbed the soft grass with the heel of her boots.

 

Jackson  : ermmm… yes ??

 

Yiling took a deep breath, had a swig of the bottle before adding.

 

Yiling : yeah… we need to talk…. Here I am….

 

I looked at Cindy and asked;

 

Jackson  : What the hell is wrong with her…. ??

 

Cindy : There is nothing wrong with her….too much to drink…. But she’s ok…

 

Jackson  :She’s not ok…

 

Yiling : I am fucking ok !!… come….don’t waste time…. here.. have some….

 

She thrust the bottle into my hands and before I could grab it properly, she took it back for another swig, leaving a sliver of her drool and marks from her lipstick on the neck of the bottle.

 

Yiling : Try it… try it…. It’s nice…. Taiwanese Whisky….

 

I held the bottle and looked at the state of the opening and declined.

 

Jackson : It’s ok… you go ahead…

 

Yiling : drink it !!!! it’s nice !!! Cindy !!! make him drink it !!!

 

I looked at Cindy who maintained her usual blank expression on her face without saying a word. Cindy’s biceps looked like they grew bigger or perhaps it was the tight fitting top she was wearing.

It suddenly dawned on me that Cindy would fit right in with one of those huge bounders at a club. The kind that can throw you out the door with one hand as if he was flicking dirt off his coat.

 

Cindy : drink it…

 

Jackson : ok… ok… fine…

 

Yiling laughed as she tapped me on my shoulder while I took a swig from the bottle.

 

Yiling : come… let’s talk….inside… burpzz….blergh…

 

Yiling did not remove her boots and walked right in. I could hear another loud burp and what sounded like her holding back her puke.

 

Jackson  : Are you ok ??

 

Yiling : yeah…. I am…. I am…. Just a bit disorientated…. But I’m sober….

 

I remained standing and waited, unsure of what to do. My eyes went to the dirt and grass that she just brought in with her boots. Fine, it’s her property, I’m just a worker, I can always clean it up later.

 

Yiling : go on… go on…. Yeah… I’m listening…. Shoot…

 

I looked at Cindy who was standing 2 steps behind Yiling like a block of wood for clues whether I should give Yiling the report when she is in that state but her expression remained blank.

 

Fuck this. I’ll just tell her what I saw.

 

Jackson  : ok… I visited the other 3 homes after the 1st one……

 

Yiling kept nodding and taking small swigs of alcohol from the bottle.

 

I was seriously in doubt she’s taking anything in at all but she reassured me that she is every now and then with a ‘ good….good observation ‘ , or a ‘ that’s very creative of you ‘.

 

I spent 15 minutes giving Yiling the low down on the things I’ve seen the past week.

 

Jackson  : That’s about it…. So… what do you want to do about it….

 

By then the bottle of Whisky is already 1/3 gone and Yiling leaning heavily on her left hand while looking at me with that dazed look on her face.

 

Yiling took a deep breath and tried to stand up only to stagger and fall backwards, thankfully Cindy was there to catch her, making sure she sits back onto the chair.

 

Yiling : I’m ok… I’m ok …. Ok… where were we Jackson …

 

Jackson : I’m done…. I’m asking you what you want to do about it ?

 

Yiling : Oh… you’re done… ok good…. Thank you…burpzzz….oh god….ermmm thank you…

 

Jackson  : You’re welcome… so what do you want me to do…. ?

 

Yiling gestured me closer with 2 fingers.

 

Yiling : drink with me…

 

Jackson : err… no I’ll pass….

 

Yiling’s lips covered the opening of the whisky and took a large gulp before realising it was too much. Her eyes narrowed and she frown before I saw her spit some back into the bottle.

 

As if that was not bad enough, her lips actually left the rim of the bottle as she spit more of the whisky back into the bottle, drenching the outsides at the same time.

 

Yiling : hssssssss…. Ahhhhhhhhhhh….. why… you…..scare of saliva ?? is it ?? you don’t share drinks with your buddies back in the army…. You…. You call yourself a man ah…. Don’t dare to share drinks…

 

I looked at Cindy, hoping she would say something but she did not. Again, I was met with that blank expression.

 

Jackson : I’m quite full…

 

Yiling : Full….. has nothing to do with drinking…

 

Jackson : maybe it’s more to do with personal hygiene…

 

She orientated her body to face me and with her legs apart, my eyes widened as I saw Yiling flash her pink thong that she was wearing at me. She literally spread her legs wide as she adopted at ‘ I’m the boss ‘ look while holding to the bottle and resting the other hand on her lap.

 

My jaws dropped as she maintained that position until Cindy walked in front of her and warned me to stop looking.

 

Cindy : Stop looking at her underwear….

 

Jackson : She flashed it at me… !

 

Cindy : You can choose not to see….

 

Yiling shove Cindy aside and crossed her legs before pushing the bottle over to me.

 

Yiling : Tell me Jackson …. What do you think we should do… ??

 

Jackson  : Something is obviously going on… I think …

 

Yiling stopped me mid sentence, waving her finger in front of my face.

 

Yiling : ar… ar….ar….ar…….drink….. then you talk….

 

I exhaled and took another swig from the bottle but I did not drink any.

 

Jackson  : you should report this to the police or something…. I’m thinking illegal employment of foreign workers…that’s why… they don’t want visitors… or when anyone visits…. They want them gone…. Most of them will be hiding I guess…

 

Yiling just kept nodding without a word, she rubbed her left eye and her fake eye lashes came out. She took it and pasted it on my table, giving it a few jab as if she was killing an insect.

 

Yiling : the….the one…. That’s closed….shifted….

 

Jackson : ahh.. yes…. I think that’s a headquarter for some worker smuggling ring…. It’s just my theory of course…. They bring them in, and house them somewhere…. And slowly deploy these illegal workers to construction sites….. dorms… or wherever… maybe even for crimes and stuff….

 

Yiling nodded and drank more from the bottle.

 

Seeing her breath deeply and trying to control her burping, I could see she was on the verge of puking.

 

Jackson  : you know what… you looked tired… why not we continue this discussion tomorrow…

 

Yiling : No… no… I’m ok…I just need a moment….burppzzz….

 

I immediately offered the bathroom if she needed to go but Yiling declined.

 

Instead, she staggered over to my bed before collapsing face down with her legs still dangling over the side of the bed.

 

Cindy immediately went over to adjust Yiling’s posture properly but what happened next was like a good hearted cleaner not knowing when they switch on the fountain for the merlion.

The moment Cindy turned Yiling to face her, she erupted.

Yiling retched twice and managed to hold it in her mouth.

 

Jackson : toilet… toilet… !!!

 

Cindy managed to help Yiling up only to have Yiling puke all over her body.

 

Yiling : blerggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!

 

Jackson  : oh fuck….

 

The puke streaked down Cindy’s top and pants and yet she remained 100% professional as she dragged Yiling towards the bathroom. Not only that, Cindy managed to hold back Yiling’s hair to make sure that while leaving a trail of puke on the floor, she did not dirty herself.

 

I could not bear to look and I turned away to grab something to wipe the floor.

About a minute and plenty of puke later, I heard Cindy call out to me.

 

Cindy : Jackson …. Come here…

 

Jackson  : what….

 

Cindy : I can’t carry Boss without dirtying her clothes… you do it…

 

Jackson  :Carry her where…

 

Cindy : put her on your bed first….

 

I went over to Yiling who was partially slumped over by the wall and lifted her up under her arms. Dragging her like a corpse over to the bed, I carried her up boots and all before putting her down gently on my bed.

 

She’s a mess.

 

I took a wet tissue and wiped her mouth, before brushing the hair away from her face.

 

Cindy : what are you doing …

 

Jackson  : what? … nothing… I’m wiping her…

 

Despite cleaning away the solid bits of the puke from her top, Cindy’s top and bottom were badly stained.

 

Jackson  :why don’t you go back and change or something… leave her here with me…

 

Cindy : No…. I know the kind of person you are Jackson …. It’s not safe leaving her here with you…

 

Jackson  : what the fuck…. what kind of person am i… ?

 

Cindy : They kind I don’t trust to leave Boss with….

 

I don’t want to argue over something like this and I said fine. I will go back home.

 

Cindy : No you can’t…. Boss isn’t done talking… the issue about the homes is urgent…..

 

Jackson  : then she shouldn’t have gotten drunk …

 

Cindy : No you cannot leave… you have to be here when she wakes up…

 

I don’t fucking believe this.

 

Jackson : ok fine… whatever…

 

I walked to my wardrobe and took a spare towel and some of my spare clothes before throwing them over to Cindy.

 

Jackson  : wash up… take a shower while we wait….

 

Cindy took a couple of seconds to consider my offer before accepting it but with conditions of her own.

 

Cindy : thank you… but I cannot close the door and let Boss out of my sight…

 

Jackson  : what !!!

 

Cindy : I will shower with the door open….

 

Jackson : Jesus… please… no ….

 

It was not a request. It was a statement.

 

I looked on in horror as Cindy removed her tight fitting top like a body builder removing his after a gym workout.

 

I immediately turned away but it was too late. I saw her body. I saw Cindy’s body and I think I won’t be able to have an erection for the next 2 weeks.

 

Her chiselled torso and her well defined muscles on her hands etched itself into my head.

 

Jackson  :what are you doing !! close the door for fuck sake….

 

Cindy : If I close the door, I won’t know what you would do to Boss…. She’s vulnerable now….

 

Jackson : I’m the one that is fucking vulnerable now….

 

In her same monotonous tone, Cindy asked.

 

Cindy : You mean you have never seen a naked woman’s body before… ?

 

I covered my ears and started walking towards the door. I’m getting out of there. I never expected Cindy to run out shove me aside and shut the door again.

 

Jackson  : wah chee bye ! ( curse ) fuck….

 

It’s been a while since I cursed in dialect but it just came out.

 

Cindy was totally naked and her thighs looked like they could crush my skull and I saw her vagina. It was fucking right in front of me.

It’s just normal reflexes, trying to look away from her privates down south, I looked up north only to see her topless.

 

My god, Cindy’s well built chest literally made her breast disappear. I don’t even know what to call that organ anymore.

 

The shock factor is too much for me to handle.

 

It was enough to make me stagger backwards before falling to the floor.

 

Jackson  : arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!… my eyes…. !!! my eyes…..!!

 

With Cindy towering over me, I pushed myself backwards on the ground before quickly turning away.

 

Cindy : I said…. Stay here…. Until boss wakes up…. It should be soon…. Don’t make me grab you…

 

Jackson : please don’t grab me….don’t touch me…..i’ll do anything….

 

I kept my eyes closed until I heard the shower come on. Cindy really meant it when she said she’s going to shower with the door open.

 

Moments later, I could smell the same fragrance from the soap I used.

 

There was a thud and I realised Yiling had one foot off the bed. The boots she was wearing is pretty heavy.

 

I went over to Yiling, well aware that Cindy is soaping herself and watching me from the corner of my eye.

 

I don’t know what I was thinking, instead of lifting her leg back up, I knelt down and I went for the zip on the side of her boot.

 

I pulled the zip down, loosening the velvet like material and revealing a glimpse of Yiling’s beautiful legs.

 

Cindy was looking at me intently but I was not doing anything wrong. Not that I intent to do any.

 

How the fuck do you sleep with these on anyway, besides, she’s sleeping on my bedsheets and covers.

 

I gently shook the boot and removed Yiling’s foot from it before putting it on the bed.

 

Setting the boot down, I went over to the other and removed it for her as well.

 

Her toes are manicured, and I could see the marks made on her calves by the tightness of the boots she was wearing the whole night.

 

Her skirt rode so high up, all I needed to do was to change my position a little and I could see her privates.

 

I couldn’t cover her with my blanket because she was lying on them.

 

Instead, I went to my wardrobe and took out another piece of spare towel. Giving it a couple of folds, I laid them over the bottom of her body.

 

I continued cleaning up the mess on the floor and put the trash by the door. By then Cindy is done with her shower, the shadow of her towelling dry is cast against the floor of the farmhouse.

 

The light of the bathroom and Cindy’s large movements projected a shadow dance that seemed to drag on forever. I was left drumming my fingers on the table while staring at the exit.

 

I was contemplating whether I should make a run for it. Cindy will not leave Yiling unattended, but then again, I hate to think of the consequences if she ever gets her hands on me.

 

Cindy : your shirt is too tight for me…

 

I turned and looked at a sight right out of a horror movie.

 

The largest top I had is badly stretched and it looked like it’s cutting off oxygen for Cindy when she wore it but thankfully it covered her body.

 

I could even see her nipples through my top and I massaged my head a couple of times. Why must things like this happen to me.

 

Why isn’t it Candy who is here with Yiling ?

 

I wouldn’t have mind one bit if it was Candy showering with the door open.

 

Cindy : Your pants are too small for me…. no way I can fit in them…

 

I looked down and exhaled when I realised Cindy had my towel wrapped around her waist like a sarong.

 

She threw my pants back at me as she went over and stand beside Yiling.

 

I sat on a chair while Cindy remained standing beside Yiling.

 

Where the hell did Yiling find someone like her ? Why can’t she find girls of Candy’s calibre.

 

Sweet, smiling, a little shy, instead of a robot like Cindy.

 

I kept avoiding her looks but she just stared at me as if I’m a persistent threat to her boss.

 

Jackson : can you…. Don’t ….. stare at me….. it’s making me uncomfortable…

 

Cindy : why ?? why are you uncomfortable…??

 

Jackson : never mind..

 

Cindy : are you uncomfortable because I’m here and you cannot peep at boss’s upskirt….? Or are you uncomfortable because I am not wearing any pants…. ?

 

Jackson : are you even listening to the words coming out of your mouth…. ?

 

Cindy : Is it because I’m not pretty and sexy as boss…. That’s why you are uncomfortable …. ?

 

Jackson  : No…!! please stop… let’s not talk to each other anymore…

 

Cindy : why….? why are you refusing to talk to me… ?

 

Yiling suddenly retched again, she vomited but only a little. I quickly took a small towel and wet it. Cindy’s hand was stretched and waiting for me and I handed it to her.

 

I watched Cindy wiped Yiling down starting from her mouth, then to her neck. Then her chest. Then I saw her hand disappear underneath her top and she was wiping her breast area where the puke had leaked to.

 

It was a truly sick and erotic sight that I guess no one will believe even if I told them.

 

A half naked girl with a towel around her waist wiping another drunk girl on my bed.

 

After Cindy’s down with the first round, she handed the towel to me and I rinsed it before giving it back to her.

 

Cindy : it’s on her back…help me turn her…

 

Jackson  : just let her sleep it off come on…. Don’t need to be so…

 

Even before I could finish, I was given one of her usual cold stare.

 

Cindy turned Yiling to face me as she started wiping down her back. Barely 5 seconds later, what I dreaded most happened.

 

Yiling vomited onto me. It’s not a lot, but enough to stain my top and my hands.

 

Jackson : ewwww….

 

Cindy : It’s just puke… it won’t kill you….

 

Jackson : thank you for the information….

 

Cindy’s phone rang and she answered it with a cold hello.

 

She made eye contact with me and I knew it must be something urgent.

She needed to leave.

 

The look on her face says it all.

 

She needed to go somewhere and she don’t trust me alone with Yiling.

 

Cindy hung up the call and started texting. She’s probably asking someone else to come over and look after Yiling while she’s gone.

 

Jackson : you know what…why don’t I leave …. Yiling can stay here alone… and you go do your own stuff…

 

Cindy : it’s ok…. Don’t need….

 

Jackson : This is a waste of time… there’s no way of telling how long she will be out…

 

Cindy : She’s going to wake up soon….

 

Jackson  : I doubt it…

 

Cindy : Boss has never taken more than 2 hours to recharge before…. She should be waking up anytime soon…

 

Cindy’s phone started ringing.

 

Mine started ringing too, it was Kamal.

 

Jackson  : hello…

 

Before I could say anything, the door to the farmhouse burst open.

 

There are 2 men at the door and they are armed with a dagger each. They were wearing masks, and even the exposed bits of their faces were smudge black with camouflage cream.

 

There is zero talk, no threats, nothing.

 

They knew what they came here to do.

 

Without a word, they came right at us.

 

Cindy was immediately up charging towards the entrance and she effortlessly disarmed and threw one of the men against the wall so hard that I could feel the structure of the farmhouse vibrate.

 

Cindy : arGHHHHHHHH!!!

 

I kicked 2 chairs in front of the other guy that came at me in an attempt to go past me and towards Yiling. He avoided both of them and I lunged at him, barely avoiding his dagger before grabbing onto his armed hand with both of mine.

 

With 2 well placed kicks, he knocked the air out of me and send me crashing face first towards the table.

 

Cindy leapt over me and somehow sent him towards my box of gardening tools at the corner of the room.

I could feel my nose bleeding and I quickly crawl over to Yiling, putting myself in between her and the rest of the room.

 

Cindy is now tangled with the man crawling up from the mess of toppled gardening tools, grunting and landing blows on each other like a MMA match with no rules.

The 1st man recovered from the initial blow and tried to come at Yiling again

 

I threw a clumsy punch which he blocked effortlessly before kicking me so hard on the ribs with his knees that I could feel all the air inside my lungs being sucked out.

 

Enraged by the pain, I took 2 more blows from him before I landed one on his cheek, he blocked my subsequently punches and eventually grabbed my wrist but I did a kamikaze headbutt against his nose.

 

Inside the movies it was always the harder forehead hitting the bad guy’s nose, but in real life with no experience in shit like this, I nose fucked myself against his nose, sending obscene amount of pain into my own face.

 

Both of us grunted in pain.

 

I tried to trip him but the man threw me against the floor instead.

 

Jackson : fuck !…

 

I landed hand but I immediately bounced up, grabbed onto his waist and shouted like an enraged beast as I lifted him off the ground, and swung him against the open bathroom.

 

We crashed into the narrow space and his head hit the water closet with a loud thud.

 

I could taste blood inside my mouth my then as I got up and kicked that fucker in the face before groaning in pain as I clutched my toes.

 

Jackson  : ahhh fuck !!…

I never knew kicking someone with my toes hurt that much.

 

Turning towards the door I saw Cindy up on her feet, bleeding on her head before she smashed the man she was tussling with against the wall several times.

 

Her massive hands grabbed onto his hair and started testing the structural integrity of the farmhouse with his skull.

 

I was about to try and wake Yiling up when I saw another masked men appear at the door. He was about to stab Cindy but I grabbed a fallen chair and charged straight at him, driving him man, chair and all out the farmhouse.

 

Out in the open I saw another masked man running towards us as I fell.

 

I was about to head back into the farmhouse when I saw Seven sprinting towards me.

 

The guy I just shove out was already on his knees and he contemplated coming for me but he saw Seven already reaching striking range.

 

He tried to swing a kick at Seven but was dodged effortlessly.

 

The 2nd masked men came straight at me and I retreated back into the farmhouse, leaving Seven to deal with the other guy.

 

Cindy’s towel had fallen off her by then and she was standing beside Yiling in a half crouch wrestling stance, the blood on her face, her messed up hair and her pumped up muscles is a scary sight to behold.

 

The 1st 2 men in the farmhouse are no longer moving.

 

The newly arrived masked men entered the room but he barely got in 2 steps when I saw Xiaoyu literally flew in, latched onto him by the waist with her legs as she jumped off the floor, using a combination of the swing of her body and counterweight, pulled him down to the ground.

 

Another masked man appeared out of nowhere, kicking Xiaoyu off his friend before she could do any damage.

 

I ran over instinctively, stomping the man on the ground with as much weight as I could muster before charging shoulder first into the man that kicked XIaoyu.

 

I felt a blow to the side of my face and my entire body just went limp for a second before I was kicked so hard I flew a metre or so as I landed on the grass turfing.

 

I felt as if my body was on fire and my muscles are all tensed up. I tried to force myself to get up but everything just went dark for a while.

 

I snapped out of my blackout heaving and gasping for air like I just woke from a nightmare.

 

Pushing myself off the ground, I panted for air as I took in the sight in front of me.

 

I don’t know how much I missed but it couldn’t have been a lot. I must be out for less than a minute.

 

I saw Seven jumped and delivered a kick with such velocity that his kick put a man already on his knees crumbling face first into the dirt that the impact made a small dent on the soft ground.

 

A sickening crunch reached my ears before the screams of pain as I watched Xiaoyu bent a man’s hand in an angle humanly impossible using her hands and knees before shutting his screams up with a 12-6 elbow blow on his head as she leapt up to deliver that blow.

 

Hong’s shouts of hokkien vulgarities reached my ears as he delivered a series of explosive packed punches directly into the man’s gut before shoulder ramming him into the floor.

 

I pulled myself back up on my feet and I saw Cindy charging out of the farmhouse with her hands around the neck of a struggling masked man.

 

The man head butted Cindy before kicking himself free from her grasp momentarily. Cindy took 2 more blows to her chest from the man’s punches before she managed to grabbed him by his shirt. With her fist clenched and her muscles pumped up, her swinging hand might as well be a club wielded by an angry orc.

 

The flesh numbing punch to the side of the man’s face must have hurt a lot more than it sounded because he literally blessed Cindy’s face and top with a mix of saliva and blood as he fell.

 

The manner in which he collapses gave a hint to how hard that fall was, as he fell to his right, both his arms went limp and swung like a pendulum to his left as he fell right into the embrace of earth’s gravity.

 

Half limping for reasons I cannot explain, I went back in and Yiling was still out cold.

 

I could see the man I put in the bathroom stirring and slowly getting up on his feet.

 

Running and jumping over the bed and Yiling like an athletic clearing a hurdle, I crashed into the masked men who had just picked up his dagger. I felt a sharp pain in my forearm as we got tangled together and realised I had been slashed.

It’s nothing major but it’s bleeding.

 

I punched as hard as I could, as many times as I could but my blows were being blocked. We were raining blows at each other and he had his legs wrapped around my back.

 

I heard Declan asking me to duck left and I did, seconds before my well used hotpot crashed spectacularly into the masked man’s face. Determined to follow through with the blow, I picked up the base of the hot pot and dismantled it into 3 sections with the man’s skull.

 

Panting and gasping for air, I took the hand Declan offered and pulled myself off the floor.

 

Declan : Get him out of there….

 

Declan and I pulled the unconscious assailant out from the bathroom and out into the open.

 

I shut the door behind me and took in the sight in front of me.

 

It’s over.

 

No less than 2 dozen of Yiling’s men were now on the open field spread in a radial pattern with Seven, Xiaoyu, Cindy and Hong forming a smaller semi circle in front of the farmhouse.

 

No one moved.

 

The entire estate is eerily quiet. Only the groans of pain of the men we put on the floor were audible.

 

Declan’s phone vibrated and he answered it. It was Kamal.

 

Declan  : are you guys ok ?? …

 

A few moments later, I could see Declan relax visibly before hanging up.

 

Kamal, Aaron and Candy were holding off at the castle and thankfully they are ok too. There’s only 2 of them in the castle.

 

Wiping the blood off my face with the back of my right hand, I asked.

 

Jackson  : is….. is this is a typical day…..? for you guys…..

 

I spit a mouthful of spit with blood in them onto the ground and waited for Declan to answer me.

 

Declan : Unfortunately no………. no one fucks with us like this….. not like this….

 

 

 

………………………………………………….

 

The quiet night was punctuated by only the sound of vibrating phones and curt replies.

 

Everyone is trying to figure out what is going on.

 

Hong ran over to us and I could see he was missing a shoe.

 

Hong : The Rajahs were hit too… they think it was us….

 

Declan : It’s not us….

 

Hong : They know… because the monks called and accused the Rajahs of hitting them shortly after they called us….

 

Jackson  : what ??

 

Hong looked at Declan and added.

 

Hong : Malu Malu and the white snakes are ok…

 

Jackson : is it them then ? the Malu Malu and the white snakes or whatever….

 

Declan : it cannot be…. Malu Malu and the white snakes don’t have enough men for something like this….it is not their style… they are businessmen first… if it isn’t making them money… chances are they will not be involved…

 

Hong : whoever these people are…. They hit the 3 groups that has the most men…

 

Jackson : why ??

 

Declan : we’ll have to figure it out…

 

Jackson : Well… if this is the first…. I’m pretty sure it’s not the last….

 

Declan : why do you say that… ?

 

I pointed to the group of attackers that had been rounded and dumped in the centre of the open field in front of the farmhouse.

 

There’s 7 of them on the ground, plus the 2 in the castle, a total of 9.

 

Jackson : This place is filled with people at all times…..there’s so much going on…..How many men do we have on active duty at any one time… ?

 

Declan : 60 on weekdays… 45 on weekends….but at any point in time, we have at least 120 men on the estate…

 

Jackson : who in their right mind would send 9 men against so many… ?

 

Hong : bloody hell…. Fucking cunts….

 

Jackson : what are we going to do with them… ?

 

Hong : I’ll fucking kill them…

 

Declan : No wait… let boss make the decision….

 

Hong : Those that are conscious are not talking…. They communicated with each other in a language I don’t understand….

 

Declan : tend to the wounded for now…. Kamal is sorting things out at the guard house….. Our aerial drones are not up at night…. but our cameras are fine….we will find out how they sneak in…

 

The door to the farmhouse opened and Yiling stumbled out barefoot and still holding onto the bottle.

 

She looked around her and exclaimed in surprise at the amount of people present.

 

Yiling : I hope I didn’t make that mess in the farmhouse…??

 

 

…………………………………………………………

 

 

 

I didn’t sleep that night.

 

I paid a visit to the house with the ambulance and it was abuzz with activity.

 

Kamal was right there and together with another doctor, they attended to anyone that needed help.

 

I had several cuts and bruises but thankfully I don’t need stiches. My wounds were cleaned and Kamal told me to go home and rest.

 

Kamal : go home… we’ll call you….

 

He immediately went on to attend to another guy who has 3 fingers bent out of shape. A guy with a tattooed back had his Thai inscription tattoo rearranged by several cuts and slices across his back.

 

Another had a broken nose and a bruised eye so bad he could open it.

 

I drove home to Ang Mo Kio and by the time I laid down on my bed, it was coming to 5.30am.

 

I could not close my eyes. My heart was still thumping so fast I might as well be on a threadmill.

 

What the fuck just happened ?

 

There I was talking to Cindy when people just rushed in.

 

When I was working in the landscape shop, the worst that could happen was a customer returning with a pot of plant and demanding a refund. Not 2 man rushing in with daggers and trying to kill me.

 

I’m afraid of course but I have never felt more alive.

 

The thrill is similar to the moment right before the plunge of the roller coaster.

 

This is definitely not your typical 9 to 5 desk job.

 

Unable to sleep, I went out for coffee and breakfast.

 

I attracted several stares with the bruises on me and even the coffee shop uncle where I was a regular asked if I was ok.

 

Jackson  : I’m ok… got robbed… but I’m fine….

 

I drank a few cups of coffee and ate a bowl of noodles.

 

I kept staring at my phone, willing it to ring.

 

It finally rang at 11am and I was asked to head back to the castle for a meeting at 12pm. It was Declan.

 

Jackson : Ok… I’ll be there before that…

 

 

23rd May 2015

Saturday

 

11.40am

 

The estate feels different when I arrived.

 

I parked my car at the usual spot and I could see 2 large SUV blocking the entrance up

Binjai hill.

 

Every single house is manned and at least 4 men are out and about at the entrance of each house.

 

Groups of 2 patrolled the perimeter of the estate. I hitched a ride on a buggy heading up to the castle and thanked the guys who drove me there.

 

Upon stepping in, I realised how serious they are taking this unprovoked intrusion when I saw Cindy in the living area with a pistol strapped around her waist.

 

She saw me looking at the gun and I quickly looked away.

 

Cindy : Thank you for helping yesterday Jackson ….

 

Jackson : You are welcome….

 

Cindy : your top is stretched and torn….there is also blood on it….. I will buy a new top for you….

 

Jackson : It’s ok… it’s really ok…. Don’t need… it’s a old top….

 

Cindy : No…. I insist ….. I forget to look at the size before I threw it away….. what is your size…. ??

 

Her expressionless face, the cold voice and the manner in which she asked it is just creepy.

 

Candy appeared and her smile and voice is like the icing on a cake that you just want to dip your finger into before putting it into your mouth.

 

Candy :  are you asking Jackson’s size ? … hur hur hur….

 

Candy was wearing a white singlet that barely covered her cage sports bra underneath. If this were any other day, I would be happy to ogle at the tight strap of the rifle that is resting tightly down the centre of her chest. The strap sliced diagonally down her petite body like that of a school girl carrying a sling bag only in her case, it was a rifle.

 

A fucking rifle with a modified barrel.

 

The sleeveless top revealed bruises on multiple spots on her arms and shoulders as well.

 

Cindy : Yes…. He seemed reluctant to tell me his size….

 

Jackson : Just get whatever size you are wearing minus 2… should be around there…. Are you ok Candy … ?

 

Candy adjusted the heavy rifle and I could not help but notice how the strap is rubbing against her full breast. I wonder if she really know how to use that thing she’s carrying.

 

Candy : yeah… I am… just some bruises….

 

Cindy : why didn’t you ask if I’m ok … ??

 

Jackson : you looked ok compared to Candy….

 

Cindy : That’s because you have not seen the bruises on my body….

 

Cindy made the action of trying to removing her top and I quickly stopped her.

 

Looking sincerely into her eyes, I added.

 

Jackson : Cindy….. please… I mean well….. I hope you are ok…. And please stop removing your clothes around me….

 

Candy laughed and said she’s heading up to the attic while Candy just remained standing in the middle of the living area like she was trying to blend in with the furniture.

 

I quickly made my way into the study where the rest of the guys are already present.

 

Yiling is no longer her drunk self and she’s as sober as she can be, not to mention she looked fucking pissed as well.

 

With her hair down and still a little damp from what I presume to be from a recent shower, she was wearing a long sleeve work top in a dark shade of red. A waist pleat skirt in beige ended just above her knees, a modest length compared to the one she was wearing the night before.

 

A pair of T-strap peep toe platform heel in a shimmery shade of silver really brought out the sexiness of her feet and toes.

 

The door to the study shut and it was straight to business.

 

Kamal brought everyone up to speed about what happened the night before and how the intruders got in.

 

Kamal : They came in from the back…. Near the cookhouse….the cameras there caught them cutting through a side fence. … we believe they have moved into a neighbouring property and have been observing us for a while…..

 

Once they made their way past the cookhouse, their ultimate target was to get to the castle and to Yiling.

 

The alarm was first raised by the perimeter guards of the castle. There was no attempt for the intruders to make contact with Yiling’s men initially. They just ran.

Kamal and Declan tried to warn everyone and get the estate on alert but as if a switched had been flipped, the intruders started attacking.

 

I could fill in the rest of what happened in the farmhouse after Kamal’s phone call since I was there.

 

Kamal : 26 of our guys needed medical attention….. 1 seriously injured and currently warded…. We’ve established that the men are all foreigners…. They all speak a form of dialect that is commonly used in the south of Thailand, near the border with Malaysia….

 

Kamal paused and see if anyone had any question before going on.

 

Kamal : We’ve beefed up security at the estate and at all our outpost island wide…. Our logistics hub and warehouses are ok….but whoever hit us… knows how we work and operate…..

 

Yiling was playing with her gold plated letter opener again as she drew imaginary circles on the table with it.

 

After a short pause Yiling asked about the others that were hit.

 

Yiling : Rajahs and the Monks…. Are they ok… ?

 

Hong : The monks have a restaurant that has been burnt down…… news reported a gas leak…… and they have 3 guys warded in the hospital but generally in ok condition….. they manage to get one of the guys but he is not talking either….. The Rajahs…..sigh….ermmmm

 

Hong scratched his head a little, probably thinking of the right words to use.

 

Hong : The Rajahs have 8 injured… 2 warded in serious conditions….and they claimed all 6 intruders got away…..

 

Yiling : do you believe them… ?

 

Hong : my source told me they ermm….. they are probably somewhere at the bottom of a fish farm by now…..

 

Yiling : and you would think they have half a brain to find out more from them…. The amount of information you can get from these people….

 

Hong : I believe they tried… but as you know… the Rajahs…. Patience is not one of their virtue…..

 

Yiling : Your source…. What else did he say….

 

Hong : err.. they rounded the men up… spent 10 minutes to see if they are willing to talk and apparently all kept mum…. … 10 minutes is pretty long…. For them….

 

Yiling : arghhhhh!!!  Stupid Rajahs….. !! what about the one guy the Monks caught…….

 

Hong : Yes…I have spoken with them, they are willing to release him to us…. Seven and I will go pick him up….

 

Jackson :  where are the men now… ? I mean the intruders….

 

Yiling turned to me and said it’s none of my concern and that they are no longer on estate ground.

 

The tone she adopted didn’t feel like this was up for negotiation, so I kept quiet.

 

What surprised me though was that she remembered everything I said to her during her drunken state the night before. The report about the homes, what I saw and what I did.

 

Yiling : Jackson …. For the 3 homes that are still operational…. Keep to the routine…leave the one that has shifted out….. keep doing it for another month…

 

Yiling has been supporting those homes for a while now with not only food deliveries, but financially as well. She got wind that something weird is happening but has no way of verifying. Some of the original home directors were gone and the new ones that took over are not very cooperative.

 

Mr Ho is the only one she has dealt with but even he seemed to have withdrawn himself significantly.

Cutting the homes off will make a big impact of the resident’s lives and it’s not a decision Yiling is willing to make lightly.

 

Jackson : Ok…

 

Turning to Aaron, Yiling wanted him to check on the warehouses, especially those located at the east to make sure none of the goods are missing.

 

Yiling : Those on transit by General Min Kaw…..and General Ngyuen ….

 

Aaron  : they are fine…. Loaded this morning and reaching international waters anytime soon…

 

After Yiling has done allocating the work she wants done by each of us, she asked Hong to contact the other families.

 

Yiling : No point gathering everyone just to meet and talk about this…. I suggest bringing forward the annual dinner…. We can trash it all out on that night after doing what needs to be done….

 

Hong : ok… I’ll get back on the dates….

 

Yiling : And Jackson ….

 

Jackson : yes ?

 

Yiling : Time to pay Xiaoyu a visit…..

 

Jackson : I think so too….

 

After the meeting is dismissed, I went back to the farmhouse to start clearing up the mess. It took me 2 hours to wipe the place down and make a list of things that needed to be replaced.

 

Looks like we won’t be having steamboat for a while.

 

I tried the number Kamal gave me earlier for the fruits distributor, Ah Orh.

 

He answered and I told him I wanted to make some changes to the collection days, I won’t be picking up on Thursday since the 3rd home I delivered to is empty. So I will see him as usual on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

 

With Monday and Thursday free, I blocked booked Xiaoyu’s lesson for the next 3 months.

 

If shit like this is going to happen again, I should pick up some skills to at least defend myself.

 

 

26th May 2015

Tuesday.

 

2pm

 

It’s the 2nd week that I’m delivering stuff. I waited for about 3 minutes at the loading and unloading bay before I saw Mr Ho coming out to attend to me.

 

Mr Ho : Hi Jackson …. Not as much things today ….

 

Jackson : is it ? hahhaa.. still looks like a full truck ahhaa.. going to take a while to unload….

 

Mr Ho : I’ll get you a trolley… I’m sorry…. Everyone is busy , I don’t have anyone to help you today for the unloading….

 

Jackson : No problem… I can handle it on my own…

 

Mr Ho : What happened to your face anyway….

 

Jackson : Nah… I fell … and got some cuts here and there….

 

Mr Ho : I see…. I see….

 

I opened the tailboard and looked around the home. I noticed new cablings on the ceiling. The new white electrical casings are a stark contrast against the well weathered ceiling.

Pretending to wipe my sweat, my eyes followed the direction where the ducts are running and I saw 4 cameras I never noticed before. As if to reinforce my new observation, I saw a older camera with it’s outer casing that has already turned yellow that only points at the main gate being reinforced with another by it’s side.

 

With the new cameras, the coverage area has increased. Not only that, a wall that the property shared with the temple on the side has been knocked down and fenced up with those flimsy orange nettings.

 

From the home, you can now walk directly across into the temple ground without exiting the gate.

 

Mr Ho pushed the large trolley over to me and I asked him where should I put the deliveries.

 

Jackson  : you want me to bring it up to the kitchen for you ??

 

Mr Ho : oh no no no… no need… just leave it over there in that room…. I’ll have my guys bring it up in a while…. No worries…

 

Jackson : Ok sure…

 

I took my time to unload the truck and 30 minutes later when I loaded up the last box of cabbage onto the trolley, Mr Ho appeared around the corner like magic.

 

Mr Ho : Oh you’re done already…. Thank you so much…

 

Jackson : no problem….eh Mr Ho, Don’t mind, can I use the washroom… ?

 

Mr Ho hesitated for a second before he quickly recovered.

 

Mr Ho : of course… come come…. The washroom on the ground floor is spoilt sorry…. We’re still trying to get it fixed….

 

Jackson : is ok… I just need to pee… still can hold it in… hahah

 

We entered the creaky old lift and Mr Ho brought me all the way up to the top floor.

 

Mr Ho : just over there…

 

Jackson : Thank you.. thank you….

 

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary as I walked past the elderly going about their daily activities.

 

I saw Nancy doing her twirl with a Chinese fan and she danced her way over to me, asking me the same question she did the first time we met.

 

Nancy : hello….. Jackson right….

 

Jackson : Yes…. Hello…

 

Nancy : do you want to dance today… ?

 

Jackson : Hahaha… no thank you… I’ll pass….

 

She took my rejection in stride and twirled in the other direction back to her spot while humming the melody of a old classic song.

 

I used the bathroom and left after saying goodbye to Mr Ho.

 

 

Arriving at the 2nd home, I was met with the same hostilities.

 

Jackson : Yo Steven….. ho seh bo… ?? ( how are you ) need my help to unload ???

 

Steven : hi… no my staff can manage.

 

He took a look at the truck and I gestured across to the coffee shop and asked if he needed a drink.

 

Steven : I’m fine…. Take your time…

 

Jackson  : ok…I’m going to have my lunch…

 

Steven : sure….

 

I went back 20 minutes later and the truck is emptied and spotless.

 

Steven stood near the tailgate as if drawing an imaginary line across the ground that I should not cross and waited for me to leave.

 

Jackson  : Ok… see you next week…

 

He relaxed visibly as I got into the truck and started the engine.

 

After I got back to the estate, I reached behind the backseat and removed a old phone I stuck on Velcro tapes with it’s camera running that I pointed at the rear view mirror.

 

Hitting playback, I smiled when I say at least 5 different man in medical scrubs unloading the truck.

 

 

 

28th May 2015

Thursday

 

9am

 

It was my first lesson with Xiaoyu.

 

I was nervous of course after seeing what she can do.

 

When I got there, I was surprised to see Candy there as well.

 

Both Candy and Xiaoyu were there stretching.

 

Candy must really like white, or she likes teasing the eyes of men.

 

Her white sleeveless yoga top is loose fitting and it kept sliding off her shoulder, revealing the white Nike sports bra she was wearing underneath.

 

A pair of white leggings with pink trimmings running down the sides of her legs covered her bottom so tightly that just the sight alone is enough to make any straight male hallucinate about seeing something extra.

 

Xiaoyu : good morning Jackson…..

 

Jackson  : good morning….

 

Xiaoyu on the other hand was wearing a full workout suit. Her black tights plastered itself tightly against her body as well and I have a hard time trying to make out if she is indeed post op or pre op.

It looked like there is a bulge from certain angles and I was afraid to be caught staring.

Removing the jacket she was wearing, I could see the well defined muscles on her arms and shoulder.

 

The girls wasted no time on formalities. I did my own stretching and was immediately taught the basics and principles of what Xiaoyu will be teaching me.

 

It’s not a play lesson.

 

It’s not an introduction class for company team bonding.

 

The girls made it clear right from the go that if there is one thing I’m going to pick up from them, it’s violence.

 

Pure, unadulterated violence.

 

Regardless of how I’m approached or attacked, I was to turn the situation around. I must be able to defend myself and strike at the same time. That is the principle I must remember.

 

Xiaoyu : are you following so far ??

 

Jackson  : yes yes… I am… I’m a fast learner….and I have a good memory….

 

Xiaoyu : I’ll be the judge of that….. if there is one thing I hate, it’s people wasting my time …. So make sure you pay attention.

 

 

Jackson : I will… I will…. let’s start….

 

Xiaoyu went to a shelf and pulled out a rubber knife.

 

She threw it over to me and I grabbed it.

 

Xiaoyu : there are parts of the human body…. That cannot be strengthened….. no matter what you do….. it doesn’t matter how well built your opponent is…. These spots will always be vulnerable….

 

Jackson  : ok …

 

Xiaoyu : your eyes… ears … nose…. Your jaw…. Your throat…. Your groin… your knees….and… Achilles tenon … when you hit… these are the spots you go for….

 

Jackson  : ermm.. ok… I’ll try….

 

Xiaoyu : don’t try….remember it…. It will save your life….

 

Jackson  : ok ok… chill man… it’s my first lesson….

 

As if determined to get me in the right frame of mine to start training, Xiaoyu added.

 

Xiaoyu : For every lesson…. If you accomplished…. What we set out to do…. I’ll give you a blow job….

 

Jackson : What !!… hell no…

 

Xiaoyu : If not…. you’ll give me a blowjob…

 

Jackson : I fail to see how this benefits me…

 

Turning and pointing to Candy who is on the ground stretching her legs with her feet apart and laughing, I asked.

 

Jackson : how about Candy… ?  how does she fit in all these…

 

There was a 3 second pause in all activity in the gym before Xiaoyu nodded her head in enlightenment.

 

Xiaoyu : Oh…. Oh….. oh .. I see… you want Candy…. To be giving you a blowjob… is that it…

 

Jackson : No!! I don’t mean that….

 

Candy : hahah…. Hmmmm…..

 

Xiaoyu : tsk… tsk… tsk…

 

 

No point explaining myself further, I exhaled and decided to see if Xiaoyu is really as good as she say she is.

 

Striking without warning, I tried to stab Xiaoyu with the rubber knife and all she did was a basic technique, deflecting my stab and striking me under my chin at the same time.

 

Jackson : arnghhhhh!!!! Fuck !!

 

I felt as if a dentist had just played colouring on my jaw with his tools as I knelt down on the ground while holding onto my jaw.

 

Xiaoyu : again….

 

By then end of a 3 hours lesson, I was totally drenched, my arms and limbs were on the verge of breaking and I was literally hammered, thrown around and utterly humiliated by Candy and Xiaoyu.

 

The only part I sort of enjoyed though was when Candy’s legs were over my body and I could smell how sweet her calves were while she pulled my arm to the brink of dislocating my shoulder as I tapped repeatly on the floor.

 

The part I did not enjoy most was when I was locked into submission by Xiaoyu with her straddling me. I shit you not, if she decides to rape me right there and then, I would be just like the JAV porn actress who is crying while spitting ‘yamete’ on the ground in some rape scenario.

 

Heading back to the farmhouse for a shower before lunch, I realised I could hardly lift my arms to shampoo my own hair and muscles I did not know I have were aching.

 

I did a quick survey of the garden and noticed several spots that needed some work but I was aching too badly to do it.

 

 

29th May 2015

Friday.

 

6pm

 

I wrapped up the delivery to the last home of the week and I called Declan to check if there is anything else for me.

 

It’s the end of the month and I want to head up north to visit my grandpa.

 

Declan : go ahead…. When will you be back… ?

 

Jackson : Sunday evening….

 

Declan : enjoy yourself… drive safe…

 

 

I went to the bathroom, checked that my passport is in my travel bag and filled a bottle of water for the long drive up.

 

I started my car engine and I barely turned out of Binjai hill when the engine sputtered to a stop.

 

Jackson : ahhh.. fuck fuck fuck !!! no…. NO!!!! …

 

It’s a old car that’s turning 15 years, it occasionally acts up a bit but it has never died outright before.

 

I pulled the handbrakes and go down to take a look.

 

Tyres are ok, I opened the bonnet and pretended as if I knew what the fuck I was doing when I don’t. No smoke, no fire.

 

Jackson  : crap… I don’t even know where to start….

 

 

As if things could not get worst, the SUVs blocking the road started reversing to open up the driveway and I heard the roar of a super car engine coming out of the castle ground.

 

Jackson : oh please…. Not now….

 

A red Lamborghini Aventador followed by a BMW Z4 and another black volvo SUV convoy rolled down the road before stopping behind my dead ride.

 

I looked at the car plate of the Lamborghini YL 1 Q  and there’s no prize for guessing who’s behind that wheel.

 

I gestured to say my car is dead and she honked at me 3 times as if I’m a inconsiderate motorist blocking her way on purpose before I saw the door of the car she is driving open up.

 

I saw a glimpse of her flawless long legs as Yiling stepped out in her Louboutin heels. She was wearing a chic wrap dress in black. Her hair is tied up and styled in a tight bun and if her make up gives a hint of her mood, she looks fucking pissed and angry even before getting blocked by my car.

 

Wherever she is going that evening, it’s not for leisure.

 

Yiling : aRGHHHH!!!! MOVE YOUR CAR !!! I’m late !!!

 

Jackson  : I can’t… it just died….. you don’t happen to have a tow truck do you… ?

 

Walking briskly over to my car with the open bonet, Yiling stopped at the driver seat before shouting at me again.

 

Yiling : How long have you been driving on fumes !!!! aRGHHH!!!

 

I looked at the fuel gauge and realised I’m empty. Shit.

 

It’s been a while since I last topped up the car. I’ve been staying over at the farmhouse so often that it totally slipped my mind.

 

Jackson :  shit.

 

Yiling clenched her fist slightly below her chest level as she shouted again, unable to control that temper of hers.

 

Yiling : ARHGHHHH!!! JACKSON!!!!!…

 

Jackson : hey.. hey… hey… relax…….. in mankind’s history…..shouting has never solved any problems before…..

 

Yiling stomped the ground angrily before turning her attention to the closest house.

 

One of the men had just showered and was hanging his laundry on the porch dressed only in shorts and singlet.

 

Yiling : GO PUSH THAT CAR OUT OF MY WAY…..NOW !!!!!!

 

The man dropped the pants he just washed and shouted into the house in dialect.

 

Man doing laundry : oei… oei.. oei… zho gang liao…. Lai eh !! ( come come come… time to work ! )

 

8 men in various state of undressed and lounge wear dashed out of the house and without a word ran over to my car.

 

Even without asking me, a half naked man with tattoo of a leaping koi on his back got in, released the handbrakes while a man with several scars on his abs and thighs shut the bonnet.

 

The rest of the man, one with a toothbrush in his mouth, started pushing and in less than a minute, they got my car out from the middle with enough space for Yiling’s convoy to pass through.

 

 

I stared wide eye and I have to admit. I’m impressed.

 

Yiling, standing with her arms folded decided to ridicule the statement I just made earlier.

 

Yiling : It’s never about the shouting Jackson …. It’s about who…. Is doing the shouting….

 

With that, she turned and walked with a swag fit for a young queen and got into her car.

 

The engine roared as it went passed me and I saw Aaron roll down the window of the BMW as he slowed down.

 

Aaron : here’s a tip…… don’t talk to her when she’s driving the red car…

 

Jackson : why… ?

 

Aaron : it’s her angry car….. hahaha…

 

He drove away and I was left standing by the road. I could hear the roar of the supercar engine even though Yiling is quite far away by now.

 

Noise pollution man. Noise pollution.

 

What is with these people and cars. Noisy cars.

 

Man doing laundry : Oei brother…  your car leave there ah…. !!

 

Jackson  : Ok ok… thank you … thank you….

 

 

I scratched my head and was about to think of an alternative, maybe call a tow truck or something when my phone rang.

 

It was Declan.

 

Declan : Hi Jackson ….. Boss just called me…. I understand you have a car problem…

 

Jackson : Yes…. It’s out of petrol…. i don’t suppose you have your own pterol pump inside the estate do you…. Hahahah…

 

Declan : We do have a small stockpile of POL but it’s for emergencies only….

 

Jakcson : What is POL ?

 

Declan : Petrol, oil, lubricant….

 

Jackson  : you’re joking right….

 

Declan : haha… I’m not…… but Boss is aware you are heading up to visit your grandfather…. So she offered you her spare cars in the garage…. Anything except the Pagani Zonda….

 

Jackson : What is a Pagani Zonda…..?? I know Bagette…..Croissant …. And Ciabatta….

 

Declan : Never mind…

 

Jackson : Well, just lend me anything that runs…. Honda… Toyota…Kia… Mazda anything….

 

Declan : ah…. Sure… we have the last one… come up to the castle…

 

I took a buggy up to the castle and the gates were opened. I followed the road up and turned to the garage that is slightly below ground level. One of the garage door opened up and my jaws dropped when I saw the black colour car staring at me.

 

Declan walked out from behind and handed me the keys.

 

Jackson : What is that… ?

 

Declan : Maserati…Gran turismo…. It’s quite new…. Boss only drove it shopping once……. So don’t scratch it… she might really kill you….

 

Jackson  : wait.. wait.. don’t you have anything else… you know…like normal cars… more low profile….

 

Declan stared at me for 2 seconds before adding.

 

Declan : It’s black….

 

Jackson : I don’t mean that….

 

Declan : you said Mazda… anything….…..Maserati…. sounds close enough…..

 

 

Declan tapped my arm and started walking away.

 

 

Declan : Besides…. A car is just point A to point B…. who cares about the brand and names eh…. ? hahaha

 

I looked at the key in my hand and the sweet looking ride in front of me and all I could think of was the long wide and open highway I would be taking in Malaysia as a smile slowly broke on my face.

 

Jackson : Hell yeah….

 

I opened the door and my initial euphoria immediately took a plunge. It’s like I’m on top of Everest and I suddenly started falling do deep so fast that I’m almost at the bottom of the Mariana trench.

 

Aside from the driver seat, the whole car is filled with shopping bags of different lingerie brands.

 

From Agent provocateur, La perla bordello, to fleur of England to Victoria secrets and La senza.

 

Jackson : Jesus.

 

I opened the bags and it’s filled with a variety of lingerie with their tags still intact.

 

Jackson : Oh god… no… no…. no….

 

I opened the boot and it’s also filled with heels, lingerie and several dresses.

There’s even sanitary pads and tampons in there.

 

I immediately called Declan and ask if I could unload those stuff in the garage.

 

Declan : Oh… no no… don’t touch boss’s stuff….she has a peculiar way of organising her purchases… so… don’t touch anything…. Just drive the car…. Point A to point B…. remember… ?  have fun….

 

Ok fine.

 

Jackson  : fuck…

 

Point A to point B. I need not be bothered about the rest.

 

I was so affected by the lingerie that I did not notice the ridiculous cover she put on the steering wheel. It’s pink with black lace, like a fucking g-string for a steering wheel.

 

Jackson : jesus….

 

I adjusted the mirrors and seat before pulling it out of the castle ground.

 

Keeping well within the speed limit, I got to the immigration and got stuck in the weekend jam for about 45 minutes.

 

Rolling up to the immigration counter, I rolled down the window and handed over my passport.

 

Officer : roll down all your windows please sir….

 

I did just that and he gave me a cursory look before looking at me again.

 

That’s it.

 

I’m dead.

 

A fucking pervert driving a car full of female lingerie.

 

Jackson : I know how this must look like from your perspective but I have a perfectly good explanation for them…

 

He scanned my passport, tapped on his keyboard before turning back to me and pointing to the cashcard machine, indicating that I should pay for the toll.

 

Officer : It’s ok…… I don’t judge…….enjoy your trip….

 

As the gantry opened for me to pass, I saw 4 officers slowly converging at the checkpoint up ahead on my lane.

 

I put the car into drive and thought to myself.

 

Between explaining who I work for and her peculiar habits, it would be easier to just admit I’m a crossdresser.

 

 

 

 

………………………………………………….

I slowly cruised over to the checkpoint and was waved to stop my car and pop the trunk.

 

I pulled over and got out

 

Here we go.

 

The 3 male officer looked at the contents of the car and said nothing and the female officer was the one who did the talking.

 

Female officer : hi Sir….. just a routine inspection…..

 

Jackson : go ahead….

 

I know its just a nicer and more professional way of saying ‘ you look like a fucking pervert with too much female clothes in your possession, so we have to take a look ‘

 

Female officer : that’s a lot of shopping bags….buying gifts for your wife ?

 

Jackson : I’m still single ….they belong to my boss….this car belongs to my boss as well…

 

Female officer : I see… does your boss know you took his or her car ?

 

Jackson : Yes she knows…. She lent it to me over the weekend…

 

Female officer : I see….

 

I saw one of the male officer whisper something to another and both of them were trying to hold back their chuckle.

 

They probably said something in the likes of ‘ crossdresser ‘ or something.

 

They were about to commence a more detailed search of the vehicle when a senior officer came walking towards us.

 

He’s old, mid fifties, and I could see everyone tensed up a little. Definitely someone in charge.

 

Walking right up to me, he looked at the car registration number YL 71 U.

 

He gave a nod to his staff and they backed off immediately and dispersed.

 

His name tag says his name is Tang.

 

Tang : This is Yiling’s car….

 

Jackson : yes it is……. I work for her…

 

He nodded a couple of times with a smile before looking at the insides.

 

Tang checked his phone and looked at the latest message he received before adding ;

 

Tang :  alright……. You may go…

 

I looked at him with an eyebrow raised before getting into the car

 

Jackson  : woah…..

 

There was no small chat or any unnecessary talk.

 

That was it.

 

I cleared the Malaysia immigration without much issue and when I hit the expressway, I relaxed a little and stepped on the gas to see what that car can do.

 

I felt the acceleration push me back into the car seat and I laughed out loud in the vehicle and shouted in glee.

 

Jackson : hhahhahahahahahha…… woooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!

 

Yiling’s playlist of old school Jazz kept me company on the long drive up north and I must have asked myself the same question a dozen times.

 

How does she do it ?

 

How ?

 

I dropped my grandfather a text around 5am and told him I’m reaching soon.

 

He’s already up and about by then.

He called me and say he will meet me at the coffee shop he frequents.

 

I dimmed the headlights of the car when I turned into the parking lot in front of the coffee shop, sliding diagonally into the space. I could see my grandpa waiting for me with a smile on his face.

 

I ran forward for a hug and he laughed.

 

Grandpa : hahha… come… they are making the 1st brew of the coffee….

 

Jackson : did you lose weight ?

 

Grandpa : a little….but I’m fine…

 

I chatted and caught up with my grandfather for almost 3 hours at the coffee shop over breakfast of eggs, toasted bread, coffee and fried noodles.

 

He wanted me to grab some sleep at the motel I always go to first but I insist on taking him to the supermarket.

 

Grocery shopping is something I enjoyed doing with my grandfather from a young age.

 

I remembered visiting supermarkets and looking at the variety of things on the shelves. I like to read the labels and look at the pictures on cereal boxes. We didn’t use a trolley, it was always a basket, because we could not afford that much stuff to fit in a trolly.

 

Rice is cheaper in larger packaging but we always went for the 1kg or 2kg pack. Water it down over a pot and we would enjoy a meal of porridge with canned beans and pickled vegetables.

 

Even when I got older, supermarket trips remained a sacred and special bonding time between my grandfather and me. When we travelled, we would make it a point to visit the supermarkets and look at the different things being sold overseas.

We could spend hours in the supermarket, marvelling at how different the products are in different parts of the world.

Every now and then when my grandpa sees something interesting, he would ask me over and point at it with the same knowing smile. Interesting as in something he knew I would like. Old school biscuits with peanut butter fillings, plain butter crackers. The long rectangle chocolate wafer that you can buy in loose quantity from provision shops, and basically anything with foreign looking words on it but with a picture of chocolate fudge in between 2 slices of crackers.

 

 

My grandfather on the other hand, likes cuttlefish and chewy sotong. Toasted, grilled, or even coated with sugar, he likes them all. He just loves the chewy texture.

 

I remembered sharing a large squid with him cook right by the sea in Korea. Both of us were shivering from the cold sea breeze while trying to juggle 2 cups of coffee and the piping hot squid that we kept laughing.

 

In the end, he dipped one long slice of squid into his coffee and chewed on it while holding only onto the coffee cup.

 

There is nothing I would not give to go back to that carefree period of travelling with my grandfather.

 

The basket I was holding only held 2 packets of crackers after 30 minutes and I looked at my grandfather peering a little too closely at the labels of a pack of chips.

 

He’s well past 65 and approaching the 70’s. He gets breathless after walking for too long and everything he does, it’s at half the speed I remember.

 

Looking at my grandfather shuffle slowly along the aisle of the supermarket, I was hit with a sudden fear of not being by his side when he leaves. Should anything happen to him, I’m a 800km drive away.

 

He picked something out and waved it at me. Since he did not look at the label at all, it tells me he has already seen this in previous visits and he was just waiting for me to be here to share with me.

 

Grandpa : eh Jackson….. this chocolate wafer….. looks nice… got try before ??

 

I did but I said no, because I knew if I said yes, he would not buy it.

 

Jackson : It looks good…. From Germany one…. Let’s try…

 

He immediately went to look at the price to see if it’s on promotion but I took it from him and put it into my basket.

 

Grandpa : I check expiry date first…

 

Jackson : No… you are checking the price….

 

He stated to nag about the need to save money and I told him I’m doing ok.

 

I’ve been saving a lot and I broached the subject of him coming back to get a more detailed look at his condition.

 

Grandpa : Aiyah…. No need…. You see… I here…. Fresh air….good food…. I ok…I’m ok… no stress….. got computer… I learn how to read news on internet….

 

Jackson  : I don’t care… I insist… you have to come back….

 

Grandpa  : don’t need… don’t need…. Don’t waste money…

 

Jackson : my new job comes with very comprehensive insurance for staff and family members…. It’s covered… everything…

 

Grandpa : really ? so good…

 

Jackson : yeah.. look at the car my boss lent me….

 

Grandpa : your boss make you do her shopping ?? you not shy ?? buy woman’s clothes….

 

Jackson  : I didn’t buy them….let’s not talk about that….. I want you to come back…. You’ve been away a few months….. I hardly even go back home…. There’s nothing for me to go back to….

 

I could see him thinking about it and I quickly added that with accommodation provided, I mostly stayed over at work.

 

Jackson  : not to forget food is provided as well….

 

Grandpa : let me think about it…

 

After combing through the whole supermarket, we barely filled the basket I was carrying. He kept saying he didn’t need a lot of stuff and if he did, he can always walk to the provision shop around the corner.

 

Grandpa : ok you whole night driving, better go sleep…. We have dinner later….

 

Jackson : ok…

 

After I dropped my grandfather off, I started to rearrange the boot space and stuff more of Yiling’s stuff into it. The bags are all taking up too much space, and I could not resist doing something about it.

I removed the lingerie form the bag and with a suitcase from the supermarket, threw her purchases into it.

 

I flattened the bags and boxes neatly and set them aside. With the reclaimed space in the car, I went back to the supermarket and loaded it up to the brim with groceries and daily essentials.

 

I can do what Yiling did but on a smaller scale.

 

My grandpa was taking a nap when I got back but the staff were kind enough to help me unload the groceries into the nursing home.

 

After a 6 hour nap, I went back to pick up my grandfather for dinner.

 

Over a meal of simple Tze Char dishes of hotplate beancurd, stir fried vegetables and steamed fish, I begun to share more about my work and what I did recently, I left out the fighting part for obvious reason, and of course, the lottery ticket.

 

Grandpa : I don’t know man… your boss…. She seemed temperamental….

 

Jackson  : hahaha… nah…. I think she’s just stressed out…. I try not to think about it… and just do my work….

 

Grandpa : Are you enjoying yourself… ?

 

Jackson : not too bad so far…

 

I showed my grandfather pictures of the garden I did and I told him when he’s back, I will bring him over so he can see it for himself.

 

After the dishes were cleared, I ordered 2 bottles of beer to chill with my grandpa by the coffee shop.

 

Grandpa : do you drink a lot on your own… ? don’t drink so much… it’s bad for you…

 

Jackson : Nah…. Not really… no one to drink with me when you are not around…

 

Grandpa : you are not young anymore Jackson …. It’s time you get a girlfriend….

 

Jackson : please la… worry about yourself…. If I want to get ah…. From here line up all the way to customs hahah

 

Grandpa : si Ginna !!…. I talk serious with you…

 

Jackson : I’ll get a girlfriend…. After you are well….

 

Before he could retort, I quickly added.

 

Jackson  : If you are not well to see my girlfriend…. To see me get married… to see me become a father…. I do for fuck… hahah

 

He kicked me on my plastic chair and I laughed while trying to balance the beer in hand.

 

After we’re done with the first bottle, my grandpa finally agreed to go back to Singapore for a couple of weeks.

 

Jackson : Really !!! you serious….?  Don’t you dare lie to me

 

Grandpa : yah la… yah la… but only for a couple of weeks….i’ve grown to like this place….

 

Jackson : alright…. Swee… haha… leave everything to me…. I will make the appointments…. And I will drive you back…. Or you want to leave right now ??!!

 

Grandpa : No no… not now…. I very busy one ok…. I got plans with my friends here…… I also learning how to do powerpoint…. You know what is powerpoint or not…. ?? I can put our holiday pictures, then it will flip flip flip…. Si bei swee one…

 

I laughed and topped up my grandfather’s beer.

 

Jackson  : Then you do and show me la… haha

 

Grandpa : you wait and see… her her her…. you confirm impress ah…

 

My phone vibrated and shook the entire wooden table.

 

I looked at the caller ID and I knew immediately it’s work related.

 

It’s Declan.

 

Jackson : Hi Declan…. Everything ok ??

 

Declan : Hi Jackson ….. convenient to talk ??

 

Jackson  :Yeah sure…

 

Declan : I just want to tell you that the annual dinner….has been brought forward…. And it’s going to happen tomorrow evening….

 

Jackson  : Tomorrow…. Sunday ?? Do you need me to be back… ?

 

Declan : It’s ok…. Don’t need…. But it’s an annual affair…. It will be good if you can see and get to know who’s who in the game….. it’s going to be a particularly interesting dinner too given what’s happened….

 

Jackson  : I see….

 

I looked at my grandfather who could tell it’s work and he gestured for me to go ahead.

 

Jackson : Ok… I will be back at the estate by noon tomorrow…

 

Declan : ok… I will let Boss know…. do you have a suit…  ?

 

Jackson  : What…?  Do I need one ?

 

Declan : yes… Boss is particular about dressing on one day of the year…. And it’s this dinner…

 

Jackson : Yes I do… but it’s back at home…. No problem… I’ll grab it before I head down….

 

Declan : See you tomorrow….

 

I hung up and my grandfather immediately asked me to stop drinking.

 

Jackson : it’s ok…. I’ll grab some rest before I leave…. Probably early in the morning….

 

Looking at his old watch, my grandpa added.

 

Grandpa : It’s coming to 8pm…. Better stop drinking already….go back and sleep….  Come pick me up to go back next month….

 

I could see the stubbornness in him starting to show and I nodded.

 

After sending my grandpa back to the home at 9pm, I got back to the motel.

 

I got up at 2 am, took a shower before making my way back home to Singapore.

 

It was coming to 10 am by the time I got back home in Ang Mo Kio.

 

My butt is aching from the long drive.

 

I grabbed my suit, shoes and tie before driving straight down to Bukit TImah.

 

For the first time, I did not have to park my car and change into a buggy. The SUVs blocking the road parted for me and before I got to the gate of the estate, it was already swinging open.

 

Arriving at the garage, one of the perimeter guards opened the garage door for me to park Yiling’s car.

 

I called Declan and asked what should I do now that I’m back at the estate.

 

Declan : ok….go grab your lunch…. And it’s unlikely we would get to eat anything until everything is over…. Kamal, Seven and Hong they are all at the cook house….

 

Jackson : Ok sure… what about the car keys…

 

Declan : Hold on to it for now…. Pass me later…

 

 

I put the clothes and shoes in the farmhouse and joined the rest of the guys at the cookhouse.

 

Hong waved for me to join them at their table after I grabbed a serving of chicken rice and old cucumber soup. I’m starving.

 

Hong : come come come… eat… eat more….

 

Kamal : I thought you won’t be back in time….

 

Jackson  : I didn’t want to miss the dinner…. Have to see what is it about…

 

Seven gestured to me and he looked like he was asking if my grandfather is ok.

 

Jackson : He ok thank you…. Finally managed to convince him to come back for a checkup …. Most probably next month or something….

 

Kamal : good la….good…

 

I scooped a spoonful of rice into my mouth when I caught Kamal knocking onto Hong’s knees with his and they exchanged looks.

 

Hong : I know… I know… wait la… let him eat first…

 

Jackson  : yes… ? what is it ??

 

Kamal : Hong ask something to ask you… hahaha

 

Hong : Cheebye la… ( curse ) I can ask on my own…

 

Kamal : He shy…

 

Jackson : Huh ??  what is it ??

 

Hong cleared his throat and I could tell this is a prepared speech, sort of anyway.

 

Hong : Jackson … you know…. dinner….

 

Jackson  :Yah ??

 

Hong : Like those 7th month dinner….. got those auction right…. Bid for things one…

 

Jackson  : yeah… what about it…

 

Hong : ok… the dinner tonight… there is also an auction….

 

Jackson : Ok…

 

Hong : we don’t have that many items… but each family….is supposed to present their own item…. And conduct their own auction for it….

 

Jackson : Oh…..

 

Hong went on to explain that the money raised, will be for charity.

It’s usually a pretty casual and sometimes rowdy event. If you have attended one before, you would know.

 

Plenty of , Huat ah, Huat ah, towkay ah…. Huat ah and stuff like that. The auction will be conducted in a smattering of different languages injected into Hokkien.

 

Hong : My Hokkien no A1 also got A2 la… you know me ah…. But this year… a bit different…

 

Jackson : how so… ?

 

It appears that the usual politician that attends the dinner as a guest of honor is busy. It’s such a last minute event it’s a miracle they managed to scrape it together.

 

Given how hard it is to get everyone to agree on a common date to meet, we jumped at the first date that all family rep is available.

 

Hong : the usual MP….is not available…. He’s a very nice and friendly guy….i can piak Hokkien with him… very relax and chill kind of guy you know….

 

Jackson : ok … so…. There is a problem with the new VIP that is attending….

 

Hong : Not exactly a problem… just that… he’s more serious…. You know… more… intense….

 

Kamal : He’s Welly Chin…I’m sure you’ve heard of him…

 

Jackson : Oh… the guy tipped to become the next prime minister anytime now….

 

Kamal : yeap….

 

Jackson  : wow… how the hell did you all manage to invite him… ?

 

Hong : Actually we didn’t….. Our usual member of parliament Mr Teng is unable to make it…. But he says his colleague Welly is available and interested to meet everyone….

 

I scooped another mouthful of rice into my mouth and added in between chews.

 

Jackson : Smart… he’s a smart guy….

 

Hong : How so ??

 

Jackson : If he’s going to be leading the country soon… he needs to know who he’s dealing with on all levels…. This is a good time for him to meet and cop a feel….

 

Hong : Why would he be interested in us anyway…. We do small business one…. River water don’t touch well water… you know the saying….

 

Jackson  : Not true…. A good leader must know the cards he holds…. You never know when you might need to play them….

 

Kamal : hahaha… why would he even want to be associated with us….. ??

 

Seven did a twirl of his fingers on the side of his temple and chuckled as if I’m crazy.

 

Jackson : It’s not about association, see this from another perspective….. you never know if one day he needs our help….

 

Hong : Eh brother… I think you never sleep enough…. Hahaha… drive too long…. Smell too much of boss Lingerie in the car si bo…. !! hahahah

 

Everyone laughed and so did i.

 

Jackson : You won’t believe the kind of looks the customs officers gave me man..

 

Hong : Please la… that is nothing…. Seven had to go buy sanitary Pad for Boss once when we were out…. Hahaha…Kamal had to go get nipple tapes….and me… I got to go buy tampons for her when we were travelling once….. and I don’t even speak Japanese ….hahah

 

Kamal : yah… ahhaa.. and he did the finger, poke inside backside motion in the convenient stall …..hahah

 

Jackson : that’s disgusting… hahaha….

 

Hong : aiyah… they get the message la… anyway… back to the issue on hand…. With this Welly Chin….

 

Jackson : yeah…. Yeah… I was saying….

 

Hong : Yah I know… you say he wants to come for the dinner on purpose….

 

Jackson : exactly… to meet all of us…. And most important of all…. To let us meet him….

 

Hong : Why…. ?

 

Jackson  : to let us know he’s the one in charge…. For one….

 

Kamal : what else… ? ahaha.. ask for our votes in the next election ah ? hahahah…

 

Jackson : maybe… you never know…

 

Hong : well…. No matter how I see it…. There’s no way a future prime minister would want to meet people like us…

 

Jackson : let’s put it this way….

 

I drizzled some chilli, black sauce and ginger over my chicken rice and gave it a good mix before adding.

 

Jackson : When shit hits the fan….there might be some things you need to do and you don’t want to get your hands dirty….. hahah

 

Kamal : You watch too much movies la Jackson …. Hahah

 

Jackson : hahaha… I think so too….

 

Hong : So ok…. The thing is I’m usually the one doing the auction…because I’m thick skin and all but this time round… with such a serious politician attending…. I’m not so sure I can….

 

Kamal : He nervous as fuck la… hahaha….

 

Hong : So I was hoping you can do it instead…. Proper English…and shit… you know…. what you educated people usually say instead of me…. KNN here… CB there ( curses & vulgarities ) …

 

Jackson  : ok… I don’t mind… what do I need to sell….

 

Hong : 3 statue…. Fu, Lu, Shou , … the 3 stars statue….

 

Jackson : ohh… ok… Prosperity, status, and Longevity …. Can … can…. No problem…

 

Kamal : You sure ah Jackson … you fuck this up… ahhaha Boss might really shoot you…hahah

 

Jackson  : okok…wait… how much should I get for the statues ?

 

Hong : It’s not about the dollar value…. As long as you can sell it….

 

Jackson  : can sell one la… I can sell anything….

 

Kamal : just remember… you are selling to other families…not to us…. And Boss cannot put in her own bid….

 

Jackson  : Oh….  I was about to ask you guys to chip in and support …

 

Hong : I wish I could… anyway, there’s a common understanding among everyone that this is about ‘face’ , so we would always bid for something from the other families but this time round, given the tense situation and everyone seemed to be out for blood…..

 

Kamal  : We don’t even know what the others are selling…. It’s going to be a shit show if someone brings the same thing as us….

 

Jackson  : sounds fun hahahah…  do I get a cut after selling….

 

Hong : it’s for charity you fuck…. the VIP will choose which charity it goes to… Welly Chin’s choice..….

 

I finished up my rice and started on my soup.

 

Jackson : Ok… ok… I’ll do it…..

 

Hong : Simple ….. ok… everyone likes 1688, 1388, you know…. as long as have a lot of 8 , people will bid for it….just keep saying a lot of good stuff…. Use the word ‘ Huat ‘ ( prosper ) a couple of times…. And you should be fine….

 

Jackson : Orh…

 

Kamal slapped Hong on his arm a couple of times.

 

Kamal : Relax…. Relax… breathe…. You don’t need to do it…. Haha…

 

Hong’s phone rang and he announced to the table that it’s Yiling.

 

Hong : Hello….yes….harrr….arr…. err….wait wait… Boss…. Jackson  is doing the auction… ok… ok…. Great… thank you….

 

Jackson  : what did she say….

 

Hong : Nah… nothing…. Don’t worry……. It’s just that you will be sitting at the main table with Boss instead of me…

 

Jackson : oh….who else will be at the table… ?

 

Kamal : The heads & Representatives of the other families….

 

Hong : Don’t worry… just chill… enjoy your food…. And when it’s time for the auction… go up and sell the statue…

 

Jackson  : ok…

 

Hong : It’s a serious thing ok…. This whole dinner and auction…. Please don’t fuck it up…

 

Jackson  : introducing the triads….. and conducting an auction for the future Prime Minister….. what can possibly go wrong…. ?

…………………………

 

After lunch, I went back to the farmhouse intending for a short nap, however, passing by the smoking area, I almost fainted to see the state it was in. The cigarette butts are everywhere and overflowing from the bins.

 

In the end I spent an hour tidying up the smoking area and the garden.

 

Some asshole has been stepping off the path as well, mowing down an entire row of plants. It appears as if taking another 5 steps to the smoking point is too much to ask for.

 

I received a call from Declan at 4pm.

 

Declan : Get ready Jackson …. We’re moving out at 5pm…. It’s at the Ritz… You will take Kamal’s car… We will all set off from the garage by the castle….

 

Jackson : Ok…

 

 

31st May 2015

Sunday

4.45pm

 

 

I slipped on my shoes and made my way towards the castle with my coat in hand. It’s been a while since I last wore my suit.

 

When I got to the castle , I was blown away by how good Hong, Seven and Kamal looked all dressed up. Gathered in the living area, Yiling’s lieutenants looked remarkably different from usual.

 

Jackson : woah…. Clothes maketh the man …. Hahah

 

Aaron came around the corner in a Tux reminding me of a typical villain in a James bond movie. Ok, to be fair, everyone looks like a villain that day.

 

Declan is looking like the godfather of crime with his charcoal decked double breasted suit while holding onto a walking stick with the silver jaguar handle.

 

Kamal finally shaved himself clean instead of leaving visible stubbles around his chin and above his lip. With his hair neatly gel and slicked back, he’s beginning to look like a proper doctor.

 

I could see how comfortable he was in that Tux, clothes he probably wore quite frequently in a different life.

 

Hong and Seven on the other hand, are already wiping perspirations off their brows despite being in the air conditioned living area.

 

Jackson : wah Declan… very gangster leh… hahaha…

 

Declan : swee bo ?? hahaha

 

Hong checked his watch only to get teased by Kamal not to show off his Rolex.

 

Kamal : Very uncle ok your Rolex…. Don’t need to show off… haha…

 

Hong : fuck off la… haha

 

Helping myself to a glass of water prepared by the dining table, I adjusted my pants a little. I don’t remembered it to be so tight. Must be the good food I have been having these few months.

 

Aaron came over to me, gave me a head to toe look as if he was judging me for my choice of clothes before adding.

 

Aaron : I heard you are doing the auction…. You sure you are up to it… ?

 

Jackson  : You’re welcome to do it if you like…

 

Aaron : haha… shit jobs like this….. Boss don’t bother me with them… haha… you know the term SaiKang ( jobs that no one want to do ) .. ? hahah

 

Jackson : well…. If I keep doing all the jobs no one wants to do… one day… I will be the only one who knows how to do them…

 

Aaron : it’s harder than it sound…. So get so cocky …

 

Jackson  : I’m never cocky….

 

Aaron : I heard Boss lent you her car….

 

Jackson : Yes she did….

 

Aaron : any idea why she did that ??

 

Jackson : what do you want Aaron ??

 

Aaron : Nothing… you get to sit with Boss at the table….

 

Jackson  : your point is… ?

 

Aaron : are you happy ??

 

Jackson : Please don’t take this the wrong way… but I think I have problem communicating with you….

 

Aaron : Perhaps that’s because you spend too much time with others who are not on the same wavelength ….

 

I watch Aaron’s eyes drift to Hong who was doing the god of gambler walk with his coat behind him while Kamal hummed the tune as Seven clapped.

Jackson : Nothing wrong with having a bit of fun…

 

I was about to walk away when Aaron blocked my path with his body.

 

Aaron : Look Jackson ….if I were you… I would push the ball back to Hong’s court…. Let him do his job…. Just think…. Use your common sense…

 

He wanted me to think why would Hong push this over to me. There is potential for this task to go awfully wrong especially with such a hot politician coming.

 

Aaron  : He’s just looking to save his own ass I tell you…. Anything goes wrong… it’s you…. Not him…. I’m surprised you don’t see it…

 

Jackson  : Hong don’t strike me like that kind of people…

 

Aaron : If people are that easy to read… there would be no back stabbing in this world isn’t it… ? hahha

 

Aaron went on to say that if I do this, it goes well, Hong would get the credit, if not, I would get the blame. I fuck it up, all the family would know me, I would be on their radar.

 

Aaron  : say something wrong during the auction…. Offend someone … I don’t know… the Rajahs… the thieves….. who knows what they would do to you…

 

Jackson  : hmmmm…. Ok …

 

Aaron : let’s not forget if you make boss look bad…. She would surely hate you….

 

Jackson : hmmmmm….. makes sense….

 

Aaron : so …. What do you think…. You still want to do it… ? if you are too embarrassed to tell Hong you want to chicken out… I can tell him for you… hahah…

 

Jackson : hmmmm…….but I already told Hong I would do it…

 

Aaron : You can always change your mind….

 

Jackson : Not my style…. But thanks for the advice anyway…

 

I tapped Aaron’s shoulder and gently pushed him aside before heading over to join the others.

 

I could hear an audible smirk from behind me and I resisted the urge to shake my head. What a character he is.

 

It’s obvious Aaron wanted the seat beside Yiling at the table yet he is unwilling to take on a task that allows him to do that. What is it with these people ?

 

Before I got to the guys who were clowning around, I saw the body language of all of them change and the smiles and silly laugh disappeared without warning.

 

All eyes looked behind me at the same direction and I could feel my own heart skip a beat as I slowly turned around.

 

Candy stepped out of a room beside the study looking absolutely ravishing in a long sleeve vintage looking black lace dress that covered most of her body, that is if you could call sheer see through lace a cover.

 

I swallowed a gulp of saliva as she took out a pair of earrings from her clutch purse before putting them on. With exception of her bust area which is covered by what appears to be a black tube that is part of the dress itself.

 

Her flat tummy and slim waist curves in a seductive manner before the opaque material of the inner lining gave way to a pair of thighs that would make boys with leg fetish get on their knees.

 

A pair of peep toe platform heel gave Candy the additional height boost that if we were to kiss, she won’t need to tip toe.

 

Candy smiled bashfully at the attention she is receiving but she knows she is not the star of the show. Looking towards the back and holding her bag in front of her, she waited for our boss to make her entrance.

 

Jackson : woah…

 

I exclaimed under my breath when I saw YIling stepped out in a shade of red that screams power and confidence.

 

The sleeveless red dress comes with a cape of sort that when Yiling is not walking, falls perfectly around her arms and shoulders like a cardigan. The elegant and slim cut dress flows down her body before ending just below her ankles.

 

If she remained still, all I could see would be the sexy cleavage of her toes with it’s nail painted red. Her red peep toe platform is as high if not higher than that of Candy.

 

Everyone was just staring at YIling as Declan walked over to her side and offered her his hand.

 

This would have been a sweet party night out if not for the fact that I saw Xiaoyu and Cindy join us.

 

I’m sure they would have looked amazing in dresses all dolled up and all but they were not.

 

They were dressed in black pants and long sleeve top, the large shoulder slung bags they were carrying cannot be possbily holding shoes or makeup.

 

They are dressed for work. Exactly what kind, I don’t know.

 

Yiling : all ready ??

 

We nodded as Yiling made eye contact with each of us.

 

The convoy that left the estate is quite a sight to behold.

 

No, we did not take any super cars.

 

Hong and Seven lead the convoy with a black Volvo SUV. Kamal and I will be in the second one, a similar car. Yiling, Candy and Declan took the black Prosche Cayenne while Cindy and Xiaoyu brought up the rear in a white BMW X6.

 

I thought that was it but no.

 

When we reached the bottom of Binjai Hill, 3 other sedan cars lead the way before I saw another similar black Porche Cayenne join us from one of the houses outside the estate.

 

Jackson : my god… how many of us are going….

 

Kamal : we already have 30 men at Ritz…. A total of 80 will be there including us…

 

Jackson : are we expecting something to happen… ?

 

Kamal : I hope not…. don’t worry… we’re safe… the minister and his guards will be there….. they have swept the place twice already….

 

Jackson  : I assume Xiaoyu and Cindy will not be joining us in the hotel eh…

 

Kamal : No.. they will be near… in case we need their help….

 

Jackson : I seriously doubt it…

 

The Ritz is no stranger to high profile security events. Upon reaching the hotel, I could see traffic being diverted into 2 lanes. Regular guest still go about their usual stuff while the lot of us head directly to the basement after passing through the 1st checkpoint.

 

The cisco guards on the outside are kept to a minimum and one would have assumed they were just doing regular traffic management duties for a business conference.

 

We were directed to the 2nd basement and the sheer scale and security of the dinner slowly began to sink in.

 

Jackson : holy shit….

 

The carparks on the left have been completely blocked off.

Security personnel here in the basement are armed with automatic weapons and everyone is required to step though a security scanner before entering the ballroom.

 

All vehicles, even though having been checked once at the carpark entrance, needs to be driven and parked offsite by valets.

 

Us being the organisers, we are the first to arrive.

 

The eyes of the men charged with guarding Welly Chin are all dark and cold. Their stares looked blank and no one is facing a random direction even though they are standing at staggered positions.

 

Each of them has their eyes on a specific quadrant and their fingers are resting near to the trigger of their weapons.

 

Welly Chin is not our prime minister yet but from the looks of things, it seems the die has already been cast by the powers to be.

 

Clearing the checkpoints itself proved to be a hassle already. Some of the men were unhappy at having to empty their pockets. Some were deliberately rude at the guards trying to stir up some shit.

 

There was a small commotion upfront with a few guys until Hong walked over and they quiet down.

 

Hong : if you don’t want to be here… you can jolly well fuck off…!!

 

His loud voice echoed in the basement carpark and if this was a public space, curious bystanders would gather at the outburst. Heads will turn to see what is happening but not here.

 

Not in this basement.

 

Welly’s personal guards remained fixed and focused. I emptied my pockets and cleared the checks with no issue and Kamal waited impatiently for the guards to return his armoury key.

 

I have only been inside the grand ballroom of the Ritz once for a wedding.

 

2 large tables took up the prime spot in the ballroom facing the stage.

Each table fits 12. 1 for us, 1 for the VIP

 

An imaginary circumference of about 3m formed a semi circle walkway around the main tables while smaller tables meant for grunts like us filled up the rest of the ballroom.

 

Buffet spreads are arranged along the perimeter of the ballroom for the men of each family while those at the 2 VIP tables will have their meals served.

 

Jackson : who pays for all of these…?

 

Kamal : Boss of course….

 

Jackson : This must cost a bomb….

 

Hong asked me to help him move the statues onto the stage from the storeroom. It had already been delivered the night before.

 

Hong : careful … careful…. Don’t break it…

 

Jackson : It’s quite heavy…. Where did you get this… ?

 

Hong : secret…hahha…. Good stuff ok…. Look at the colour and level of details….got money also cannot buy one ok… hahah..

 

After Hong and I were done arranging the 3 star statues on stage, we saw another 2 guys presumably from a rival family carry something up as well.

 

It’s a longevity peach about the size of a basketball but plated in gold. Their eyes didn’t look friendly at all as they looked at our statues.

 

After they were gone, Hong told me he recognised them as men from the Malu Malu.

 

Hong handed me a cloth and told me to help him wipe the statues down a little because they are a bit dusty.

 

I carefully dusted the figurines and I saw a tall and grave looking man come on stage before setting down a gold plated dragon.

 

Hong : hi King…. How’s things…

 

King : good… good…

 

He didn’t look like he was interested in a prolonged conversation.

 

Hong : that’s King,

 

Jackson : King ? of which gang ??

 

Hong : No… no.. he’s not the leader… just one of the elder within the white snakes…. He’s also one of the biggest distributor of paper products in the country…

 

Jackson : paper products…. Like toilet paper and kitchen towels… ?

 

Hong : no la… those joss paper and incenses….

 

Jackson  : Oh… oh… I see….

 

The thieves arrived with a statue and Hong gripped my hand nervously, praying they are not auctioning the same thing as us.

 

Thankfully it’s a statue of Guan yu.

 

The monks came up with a sleeping buddha about a metre long with it’s head in solid gold.

 

After I was done polishing the 3 star statue, I heard Hong cursed silently below his breath.

 

Hong : fuck…. fuck… fuck… ji bai hong gan liao…. ( we’re fucked this time )

 

The Rajahs.

 

3 men with tattoos on the left of their face that starts slightly below their ear and down to their necks came onto stage. Each of them carried one of the trio of the 3 star statue.

 

A staring incident immediately occurred between us and them. I am not a staring expert and half a second in, I knew I’m losing. The menacing look smells like trouble already.

 

Hong didn’t know what to do too.

 

Yiling : Jackson ….

 

Yiling called out from the bottom of the stage with her arms folded and diffused the situation.

 

Jackson  : yes… ?

 

Yiling : If you are done… join me at the table… we will be starting soon….

 

Jackson : ok…

 

Hong asked them Rajahs to put their item down and clear the stage.

 

The ballroom had started to fill up

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at the grand ballroom in front of me, I could see the men working for the different families scattered around their tables. We are the only ones in suits, the rest of Yiling’s men are at least in shirt and pants. Most of the other families came in jeans and polo tops. Some even in berms and sandals.

 

A few did not even bother to cover up their tattoos.

 

The language that filled the air is coarse and crude. Curses were traded between gang members and a couple of times, a fight almost broke out as voices were raised.

 

Yiling’ men were quick to intervene, putting themselves in between the warring parties and separating them apart. They too were not spared the mocking and taunts by the rowdy crowd but they knew it was YIling’s show that night. They have a job to do and they better do it properly.

 

The hotel staff all looked wary and a little scared.

 

I could see a waitress on the verge of tears as a table of heavily tattooed men in sleeveless tops shouted at her to top up their beer.

 

Taking the seat beside Yiling, I could see her sending a few text messages out before folding her arms impatiently.

 

Jackson : you ok ???

 

Yiling : yes…

 

She replied without looking at me before deciding to ask me about my grandfather.

 

Jackson : He’s ok… he finally agreed to come back for a checkup…

 

Yiling : good.. good…

 

She took a sip of her champagne before asking if I know what to do later.

 

Jackson  : just sell the statues…

 

Yiling : ok….

 

Gesturing towards the stage with her chin while keeping her arms folded, Yiling reminded me that the Rajahs have the same item.

 

Jackson  : that sucks…. Who is going first… ?

 

Yiling : everyone draw lots… but for us as organisers…. We go last….

 

Jackson : oh….ermmm… I mean as long as I  sell it it’s fine right…

 

Yiling shot me a menacing look with the corner of her eyes before turning to look at me.

 

Yiling : Are you out of your mind…. No way are you getting a lower price than the Rajahs…

 

Jackson : I was hoping you won’t say that…

 

 

6.45pm

 

Most of the men have already settled down and Yiling was well into her 3rd glass of champagne.

 

I could see 2 men walking towards us.

 

Yiling spoke softly while keeping her arms folded.

 

YIling : The white snakes…. Ben and King…. They rotate their leadership regularly through an internal election….very low profile in recent years…. Only the older generation bothers to keep in touch with events like this… the younger chaps… they don’t really bother….

 

I know King, the same guy that came up the stage with their item.

 

Ben walked with a typical gangster swagger and he looked really familiar. His flowery top has 2 buttons undone and he took the seat beside me. Ben angled his body to face me before lowering his dated shades with his middle finger.

 

Ben : Xiao Peng you !!…… ( my young friend ) ….

 

Jackson : Hi… my name is Jackson ….

 

Ben : I not talking to you…. I talking to her… hahahha …. Xiao Mei mei ( little girl ) …. Hahaha… don’t like that leh…. So dao ( proud ) …. Hahahahah…..

 

Yiling ignored Ben’s tease and sipped her drink before folding her arms and changing the way she cross her legs.

 

He laughed as he made himself comfortable sitting too low in the chair while asking for a glass of beer. Turning towards Yiling , Ben tried to talk to her again in a teasing manner.

 

Ben : Mei nu !! …. ( pretty girl ) … hahah your boss very shy….

 

Ok. Weird characters are to be expected. Yiling looked at Ben from the corner of her eyes and ignored him in the same manner any girl would from the advances of a sleazy old man in the street.

 

Ben was not at all offended and in fact he found it funny and kept laughing.

 

There’s something about Ben I could not put my finger to. His overall look, his feel, the vibe he is giving off.

 

I did a double take again at Ben and it finally strike me why he looked so familiar.

 

He looked like a Hong Kong actor. Anthony Wong.

 

Ben : Kuar SIMI !! ( what are you staring at ?? )

 

Jackson  : You look like an actor….

 

Ben : I’m more handsome than him ok !! hahaha….

 

Jackson :  yes.. yes… I think so too….

Ben took a sip of his beer and looked at Yiling again who was obviously not interested in talking to him. I don’t blame Yiling, the way Ben is behaving is like a dirty old man leering at her body. Turning his attention back to me, he added.

 

Ben : You new one ah… never see you last year….

 

Jackson  : yes…. Just joined… this is my first dinner….

 

 

Ben : first dinner ?? hahaha  good  good…

 

Tapping himself on his chest, Ben shoved a fistful of peanuts into his mouth and added.

 

Ben : hahahha… chomp.. chomp…hmmm….  haha… I introduce you to everyone ok… don’t worry…. I like to take care of Xiao peng you… hahahahah ….. look look look….. over there…

 

I could see 3 peculiar looking men walking over to us.

 

Ben : From Malu Malu… haha… you see the first one…

 

The man in the front of the column has a head of red hair with the part near the root in black. It’s obvious he has dyed it a while back.

 

In the typical uncle chilling at coffee shop after work fashion, Ben shook his leg violently while his fingers kept feeding peanuts into his mouth.

 

Ben : KNN… ( curse.. ) this kind of red hair…. Red hair…. Ang kong kong ( shade of red ) …bloody hell…. This era still got people choose this colour…. his name….. his name is Elmo…

 

I burst out laughing and turned to Yiling who shot me a dirty look as if I shouldn’t have laughed but she herself fought to control a chuckle.

 

Jackson : sorry… sorry…

 

Keeping his serious face, Ben went on as if he was David Attenborough narrating for a documentary program.

 

Ben : The one behind him…. You see… KNN… the eyebrow almost touching in the middle one…. Head long long… sharp sharp…look like fucking alien… that one…… that one is Ernie…

 

I laughed again, unsure if Ben was fucking with me.

 

Yiling coughed and I could see she was trying hard not to laugh as she sniffed and dabbed her nose with the back of her index finger.

 

The last guy looked normal. No red hair, no unibrow, however he walked with his legs apart, swaggering like a typical gangster in the nineties. Ben’s disdain for him is obvious from the way he spoke.

 

Ben : This one… this one…. KNN…. CB ( curse ) … walk like that…you guess….what’s his name… ?? Kar kui kui ( walking with legs apart ) ….fucker….

 

Jackson : I don’t know… haha..

 

Ben : You don’t know ???  KNN ( curse.. ) walk like his balls damm big like that… of course is call big bird la…. KNN…. Jalan Malu…. Might as well stay sesame street… tio bo ?? ( correct or not ? ) …

 

That was my limit and I burst out laughing and so did YIling.

 

Yiling had a short burst of chuckle but she immediately cleared her throat and moisten her lips with her champagne while trying to regain any semblance of dignity.

 

Ben : ahhh… you see… Uncle very direct one… I don’t mince my words one…. Bloody hell all these fuckers…..

 

The manner in which he speaks reminded me of some punk Regimental Sergeant major talking shit with you back in the army.

 

The Malu Malu walked past the table to talk to their men in the seats behind and Ben immediately directed my attention to the newcomers.

 

Ben : ah… ahh… lai liao lai liao ( coming coming ) …. You see… another bunch of fuckers…. Hahah..

 

Looking over to the newcomers, I waited in anticipation of what Ben would say.

 

 

Ben : These one… the monks ah… Jiak Jeh one ( Vegetarians ) …..Bacon…. ah Bacon… you know or not… ?? Bacon…

 

Yiling could not resist correctly Ben and she interrupted him .

 

YIling : It’s Vegan… not Bacon….

 

Ben popped 2 more peanuts into his mouth and chuckled.

 

Ben : I no go school one Mei nu ( pretty girl ) ….hahah…. you give me tuition want or not… hahahah…

 

Yiling : Tsk !… stop it….idoit….

 

Ben laughed and went on.

 

Ben : You see the first guy…wah lan eh…. Every year get fatter and fatter…. Where got people Bacon… no vegan eat until so fat…. This kind of fat is not normal fat… this is the laughing buddha fat…… correct or not ?? haha

 

I looked at the guy Ben was describing and the image of a laughing buddha burnt itself into my mind and I could not stop giggling. To be honest, the guy Ben was describing looked really like the laughing buddha with his big earlobes and wide smile.

 

Yiling pressed her eyes shut too as she rest her right arm on her folded left while trying to stifle another outburst with her fingers.

 

Ben : the one behind… the one behind…. Jia lat… poor thing… This one is Ji gong… you know Ji gong… ?? every year get more and more skinny….damm poor thing…. Must be his friend in front eat all his food….

 

Jackson : hahaha… ok .. ok… stop…

 

Ben : look… look !!.. what the fuck man…. Come Ritz even uncle me also wear a proper shirt la… his t-shirt… look… KNN… worse than the rag I use to clean my lorry….

 

Yiling burst out laughing while trying to keep the champagne she was holding from spilling.

 

The last one of the monks is of normal build and I was on the verge of clutching onto the sides of my stomach by then.

 

Ben : Ahh… this one.. this one…. He just come out from squatting in prison one… you see… his hair…. Oh ni Ku one… ( bald ) …. Perfect for the monk look…. OEI !!!! BOTAK !!!!

 

Ben stood up without warning and shouted a greeting over to the last of the monk he just teased.

 

The guy waved back at him, obviously well acquainted with the humorous Uncle Ben.

 

The monks too went over to the table where their men were sitting first and Ben sat back down, chuckling and asking for a refill of his beer.

 

Ben : Bacon ….ah… Bacon my lan par ( Vegan my ass ) …. Last night Botak and me we just went KTV and finished a Tua pao .. ( alcohol )… hiak… hiak.. hiak…

 

Jackson : haha.. but… but… Monks can drink ??

 

Ben : They are not real monks la dey…. Even if they are…. You ever heard of the saying…. 酒肉穿肠过,佛祖心中留… ( what you eat passes through your stomach… the Buddha’s teachings remains in your heart ) … haha…. Bacon my backside ah…. Hahah

 

Yiling : ahaha.. stop it…

 

Ben had no intention of slowing down and I could see a tall lanky looking guy walk in alone.

 

Ben : arh… ah… this one…. KNN… another fucker I tell you… haha….The thieves…. Know or not… he’s the chief…. His name… Art Lee….

 

Jackson  : Art Lee ?

 

Ben : yes…his name is Art…. Arty farty the Art….. stealing is an Art… know or not….

 

Jackson : haha.. ok….

 

Ben : Everything also steal one…. Never get caught before one… except once when he is younger…. Ahh… KNN fucker… got money don’t want to steal… go NUS hostel steal school mate’s lingerie….haha

 

Jackson  : are you serious ?? hahah…

 

Ben : Yah…. Not many people know…he got caught by his father last time…. I good friend with his father…. Bloody fucker….steal Lingerie can eat ah… haha…

 

Lowering his voice as if he was sharing a dark secret, Ben spoke closer to me and Yiling. Yiling was trying to remain uninterested but I could see her curiosity was piqued by the eloquent Ben.

 

Ben : his secret nick name….i call him….. Art Lee Bra Bra…

 

I burst out laughing so hard that tears filled my eyes while Yiling spit out the Champange she had already drunk onto the bowl in front of her before laughing with her eyes closed while clutching the sides of her tummy.

 

 

Ben : ah… ahhh… you laugh… you laugh…. Bloody hell…. One day steal your teh kor ( underwear ) …. See what happens….. ahh.. you laugh…

 

YIling : hahah.. Ben !!! stop it !!! haha

 

Ben : ok la.. ok la…. Mei nu ( pretty girl ) ask me to stop…

 

Yiling : You’re very irritating you know… !!

 

 

Spreading his arms and gesturing to his chest like a player who just scored a goal, Ben remarked with a smirk look on his face.

 

Ben : haha.. yah… but girls all like irritating men like me ok !!  hahah…

 

Yiling rolled her eyes and shook her head but there’s no hiding that she was amused by Ben.

I was still enjoying the rest of my laughs when I saw Ben’s body language change.

 

His eyes darted to the last group and he adjusted his sitting posture.

 

Ben sniffed and rubbed his nose a couple of time before taking a sip of his beer.

 

No he has nothing to say for the last group.

No name calling, no taunts, no greetings.

 

Nothing to tease about for the last group to enter the ballroom. Folding his arms and going back to his violent leg shaking, Ben just looked at the approaching guest.

 

A young and really pretty looking girl stepped into the ballroom. Her youthful features and powerful bearing felt as if an invisible aura had just cast a spell into the ballroom itself.

 

She’s dressed simply in a black lace dress that revealed just enough of her shoulders such that the bust line puts a focus on her full breast.

 

The dress hugged tightly onto her body, accentuating all the curves at the fight place. Her legs are as long and flawless as Yiling’s if not better, youth is a strong currency after all.

 

Instead of heels, the girl had on a pair of sneakers as if the rebellious streak inside her shunt the call for women to be in heels.

 

Stepping in with her hands behind her back like a general inspecting his troops, the girl’s eyes scanned the ballroom. It did not take long for her to lock eyes with the woman sitting beside me.

 

Time might as well have stood still as the 2 women faced off across a distance of less than 20 metres.

 

The men tasked with keeping the head of the Rajahs safe joined their boss in the ball room, their eyes void of emotions and their weathered face pretty much says they have seen it all.

I muttered under my breath to Ben as he swirled the contents of his glass, or rather what’s left of his beer.

 

Jackson : they look angry…

 

Ben : The Rajahs….? ….

 

Ben smirked and finished his beer with a shot gulp.

 

Ben : They’re always angry….

 


 

 

Ben muttered softly under his breath.

 

Ben : Watch out for Rachel …… she an absolute….

 

Before Ben could finish, Rachel was already at the edge of the round table.

 

So her name is Rachel. The head of the Rajahs.

 

She does have that vixen look. Rachel is like that hot babe you see at the club you want to bring home for a nice of fun but she’s out of bounds because of the number of men around her.

Her slender arms are toned and fair, she works out definitely.

Her posture, the way she walks, the look in her eyes, gives off the vibe that this is not someone you want to trifle with.

 

Sure, you can fuck her, she might fuck you too, the question is whether can you keep your cock after the deed.

 

Rachel : What are you whispering about Ben… ? do share …

 

Despite a couple of decades younger than Ben, the manner which she speaks is as if she considered him to be her junior or in the best case, similar, in terms of mileage in organisations like this.

 

Ben : I sharing with my new friend here !!!…. where to get the best…. Chicken…… …. wing…. Right or not… ?? Jackson … !!

 

Jackson : Yes .. yes…. Chicken wings….

 

An older man I estimate to be in his early fifties stood out prominently for the Rajahs. He’s really tanned but I could tell he is of Chinese Descent. His hands are heavily scarred, his face looks scary enough on it’s own and he didn’t need the tattoo running down the side of his neck at all.

 

I could see a similarity in features especially the nose between him and Rachel.

 

Another younger chap is definitely a body builder. He’s ripped and he has several piercings on his lip and eyebrow. His fingers looked a little deformed, I don’t know, something seemed wrong with them. They kept opening and clenching like a claw as if he’s suffering from some illness.

 

Turning her attention away from Ben, Rachel gave me a half second glance, obviously I’m not worth more of her time.

She turned instead to Yiling.

 

Rachel : Hi Yiling….

 

Yiling : Hi Rachel ….

 

Rachel picked her seat, choosing one that puts her directly opposite YIling.

 

Maybe she intents to eye fuck Yiling for the rest of the dinner because that’s the vibe that she gives. Yiling’s expression is one of ‘ I’m not interested to entertain a little girl like you ‘ written all over.

 

Turning to Yiling, I decided to spend the available time before the arrival of the VIP to brush up a bit on the setting of the dinner.

 

Jackson : What happens now ??

 

Yiling unfolded her arms and angled her body towards me.

 

There are 12 seats at the table.  2 seats for every family. Either the head or representative, together with the one that will be conducting the auction.

 

The head need not necessary be sitting at this main table but most of them usually do.

I noticed that Rachel took the seat on her own and I was surprised that the 2 men that were following her walked away. Ok, they don’t looked like the type who are good at selling anyway. Killing maybe, not selling.

 

Rachel asked for a glass of red wine and she was talking to Elmo who just came to the table.

 

Yiling mumbled to me as a reminder, not to call any of the others by the stupid nicknames Ben gave them.

 

Yiling : he’s just joking in case you thought it was real….

 

Jackson : ok… I know… don’t worry… but Art Lee…. ?

 

Yiling : Alright… that one is his real name but cut out any other shit that Ben added….

 

Jackson : ok got it…

 

Yiling told me that the head of the Malu Malu is a man call Russell.

 

Yiling : He’s very low profile and prefers to remain behind the scene… the puppet master pulling the strings…… Everything is done by his 3 adopted son. The one with the red hair, Edwin…the one that Ben calls Ernie is called Eng….. and the one that walks with a wide swagger….. is Brad…

 

Jackson : ok… ok… Russell…… Edwin… Eng and Brad…

 

I casually glanced at the spot where Edwin was sitting, and beside him Brad sat down and started a staring contest with Ben.

 

Ben : Kuar wah yandao si bo…. ( look at me because I’m good looking ? )

 

Brad : bluregghhh… bluawrare….wareee….

 

Brad did a really disgusting vomiting and retching sound before spitting on the floor of the ballroom while eyeballing Ben. The atmosphere is exactly like that in a coffeeshop where drunk uncles stare at each other in a manner meant to start a fight.

 

I quickly looked away. There goes my appetite.

 

The seats around the table started to fill and a guy I reckon to be about the same age as me came and took the seat beside Rachel. He must the he one doing the auction for the Rajahs. Rachel turned and said something to him and he nodded a few times.

 

Neither Rachel nor Yiling have said anything about bringing the same item for the auction so far.

That’s going to be a potential flash point for all.

 

Yiling : The other table is reserved for the VIP and all his grassroots volunteer who helped to organise this entire dinner….

 

Jackson : ok…

 

2 of the monks came over and Yiling stood up to greet the laughing buddha. The only member of the other organisations that she seemed to take a liking to.

 

Yiling : Uncle Fong….

 

Yiling gave Fong a hug with a wide smile.

 

Fong : heyyy… Yiling… hahahha… hahahhaha…Guai guai…(  good good… )

 

The more I look at Fong and his smiling face with the adorable double chin, the more the image of laughing buddha etched itself into my head.

He looks really approachable and funny.

 

I mean come on, laughing buddha.

 

Even his double chin looked good when he chuckles.

 

Fong : ahhh.. hahahha.. hahahha… eh BEN !!!.. Ho seh bo ?? !! ( how are you )

 

Ben : good… good….. you KNN… switch to brown rice ah… healthier …so fat… you car can fit you or not….

 

Fong : aahhhhh… hahahaha…. Hahahaha…. Cannot fit….i drive lorry la…. hahaha….

 

Fong was not offended at all by Ben’s jibe and instead, he tapped his tummy a couple of times before replying.

 

Fong : I eat the amount I eat….every month …. Feed your whole company ahhh.. !!! ahahha…

 

Ben laughed and grabbed his beer before standing up and propose a toast to Fong.

 

Ben : yes la… yes la… boss…. Please keep your orders coming …

 

Fong : hahahah.. hahaha…

 

Turning to me, Fong asked Yiling a loaded question.

 

Fong : wah…. Yandao ah… your boyfriend ah YIling… ?? hahaha

 

Yiling smiled and looked at me, a que for me to step up and answer the question on my own.

 

Jackson : Hi Uncle Fong… my name is Jackson…. I work for Yiling….

 

Fong : wahahah… hahaha… ok… ok…

 

Art Lee took the seat beside Yiling and I could not help but notice him checking out her body as she took a seat.

 

His eyes are big, like that of a praying mantis. He sipped his tea, alternating between the only 2 pair of tits on the table. Rachel and Yiling.

 

Probably devising a way to steal their bra. I looked away and tried to hold back a chuckle when I heard an announcement being made.

 

Emcee : Dear guest…. Please be seated…. The dinner will commence shortly…

 

Yiling : The emcee, who himself is a grassroot member will be bringing the VIP over to our table… to introduce us to the politician….

 

At that point, only the 6 heads or reps will remain behind while the lot of us conducting the auction will head straight to the stage to get ready. No need for grunts like us to shake the future prime minister’s hand.

 

Yiling : Dinner will commence once the VIP takes his seat and so will the auction….There are no time limit for the 6 items, the challenge is to get a figure you feel is high enough, and not make a fool of yourself by repeat appeals to the floor to increase the bid.

 

Jackson : Ok… sweet… I’m clear….

 

Yiling : I can’t bid for our own items… so don’t count on me helping you….

 

Yiling told me from past auction, some don’t really bother with jacking up the price out of pride. The hassle is too much for some, so a simple understanding from a common friend is all it takes.

 

You bring your item out, your friend calls out a decent bid for charity. You accept. Everyone is happy, you get to go off stage and enjoy your food.

 

I looked at Uncle Ben whispering to King and wondered if he would be kind enough to place a bid if I’m not getting any. Fuck it, I’ll just play by ear and see how things go.

 

I heard several taps on the microphone echo across the hall and a gentlemen in black coat asked for everyone to take a seat.

 

Emcee : good evening every…. My name is Tong…. And I am your emcee for the evening….. we are very honoured to be able to have Minister Welly Chin join us tonight at this event…. Please…. Put your hands together and give him a warm welcome….

 

Even before Tong is done with his announcement, thunderous claps filled the ballroom, wild whistles and cheers rang out with a few men shouting Welly’s name.

 

Jackson : I didn’t know he’s so well liked….

 

Yiling : he’s a straight talker and not afraid to get his hands dirty….former military man…..good ties with the unions…. And he maintained a 80% majority in his electoral ward for his 1st 3 election, and other parties stopped challenging him thereafter….

 

Jackson : sounds formidable….

 

Yiling : somewhat of a gangster himself if you ask me….

 

Welly stepped out into the ballroom and he waved to the welcoming crowd.

 

Ben clapped and remarked loud enough for the table to hear.

 

Ben : future Singapore 揸fit 人 ( the one in charge )…. Hahaha …. Eh… come go leh…. Ehhh… all the cocksuckers around the table… go and suck cock leh…. Want to get rich and prosper…. Don’t need to spit one…. Go suck cock la…

 

Ben looked at Brad, an obvious hint that the jibe is directed at him.

 

Brad : You want to suck is it…. Suck my one la !!! CCB…

 

Brad did a show of trying to remove his pants to show his cock at Ben while Ben opened his mouth and stick out his tongue daring him to whip his cock out while the minister is around.

 

Ben : airrr… airrrrr….. lai… lai… ( come…come… ) hahahaha..

 

Rachel : can you guys fucking grow up … Brad…. Don’t make a fool of yourself…

 

I was surprised when I saw Brad stab his middle finger through the air at Ben before settling down. He was all too ready to start something then.

 

Yiling was watching intently at the exchange, taking everything in.

She couldn’t have missed that.

 

One word from Rachel, someone much more junior than Brad and that was all it took to shut him up.

 

Ben saw that as well and a knowing smirk appeared on his face right about the time Rachel directed her gaze at him, by then Ben had settled back into his seat with 2 palms up at Rachel, a sign that there was no need for Rachel to say anything to him.

 

I looked away towards the approaching VIP.

 

Welly is surrounded by a wall of men who has perfected the art of giving him space to interact while keeping him safe.

 

The Emcee directed him over to Yiling first, the organiser of this year’s dinner.

 

That was the que for me to go and I followed King, a veteran of the yearly affair as he headed to the stage

 

Turning to see what is happening, I could see Welly shaking Yiling’s hand warmly while they exchanged a few words.

 

Behind the stage, i saw a table with some bottle water and chairs around it. Hong was there too. He gestured at me urgently.

 

I went over to him and he dragged me to the side.

 

Jackson : what… what ??

 

Hong : ok…a friend of mine in the Monks…. He told me someone leaked that we will be bringing the 3 stars statue to all the families….

 

Jackson : what ??

 

Hong : so in a way…. They all know what we the organisers will be bringing…

 

Jackson : Then the Rajahs… ??

 

Hong : They did it on purpose….

 

Jackson : why am I not surprise….

 

Hong : here’s the thing…. The Rajahs have spread the word…. No one is to bid for our item…. And in return…. The Rajahs will bid for all of theirs….our statues will not sell…

 

Jackson : what ??

 

Hong : Anyone buys the statues…. It’s as good as going against the Rajahs….

 

Jackson : can they do things like this… ??? it’s not fair…

 

Hong : Rajahs never play fair….don’t worry…. I’m going to go talk to some of my friends in the other families… I’ll try to convince some of them to help…. Don’t worry ok…. Don’t worry….

As Hong got off the stage, the emcee checked his prompt cards before inviting King to start off the auction.

 

Emcee : As per tradition…. The companies have donated some items….. for bidding….. all proceeds will go to a charity of the Minister’s choice…. So everyone……please enjoy your dinner and get your chequebook ready….hahah…. we shall commence with the 1st item….

 

Peering out from behind the stage, I could see Welly in the prime seat with a clear view of the stage.

 

King took the microphone and introduce the gold plated dragon as if he was delivering a monologue.

 

King : This is a gold plated dragon…. Sitting on a…. wooden stand ….it is…. Heavy….

 

Sporadic laughter came from the ballroom and King started the auction at 1800.

 

King :  1800 starting price… anyone….?

 

Someone shouted $2388 and King pointed at him while keeping his face expressionless.

 

It’s someone from the Rajahs.

 

King : $2388…. Anyone higher… ?

 

King did not look interested in this at all, he looked at his feet for a couple of seconds like a student who did something wrong and was asked to be on stage.

 

The emcee helped to prompt him along.

 

Emcee : alright…. $2388 going once… ???

 

King snapped out of his daze and continued from there.

 

King : $2388 twice…. Ok…. No more…. Sold to…. Sold to….

 

He can’t even remember who he sold it to.

 

Emcee : over there… that gentlemen in blue top… please make your way over here.. thank you… hahaha… good start good start…. Next up… the 2nd item…. A longevity peach…. Wow…. Nice….hahah

 

 

Edwin waved to the crowd and a small section of it cheered as they ate.

 

Edwin : I have the biggest longevity peach….ever made…. In this country… hahahah….. I wish…. Err…. I wish… errr…..hahah… I wish Singapore….wan sui wan sui wan wan sui ( long live Singapore ) …. Haha

 

It was so cringe worthy that I could not bear to watch.

 

Someone shouted from the audience.

 

“ Wah…. Si bei sar kar ( what a bootlicker ) “

 

Edwin ignored the jibe and carried on.

 

Edwin : I wish err… err… whoever wins this… err…. Long life ahh… good fortune ahhh… err… and everything smooth smooth….hahah… like baby backside smooth ah…. Good or not ?? hhaha… good or not ???

 

No one seemed to be paying him any attention and I could see Welly trying to stifle a smile by turning away.

 

Edwin : I start ah…. I start ah….err…. $2388…hahaha… so big… look… so big the peach…. Come come… support … support a bit….

 

Someone shouted $3388 and Edwin was quick to catch it.

 

Edwin : good !! good !!! $3388 ahh…. Such a good number…. Huat ah !!! going once…. Twice ??? ….. last call … last call….. ok !!! swee !! $3388 to Ah Liu over there… ahahha….

 

I looked at the section and true enough, it was one of the Rajahs’ men.

 

Looking around the table at the back stage, I saw a man that was talking to Art Lee earlier step up.

 

Taking their item out, he started the auction at $2188 and concluded it at $3388. A similar figure to that of the Malu Malu.

 

My heart started to beat a little faster as the men around the table gets lesser.

 

Turning to the guy talking to Rachel earlier, I saw that he was staring at me.

 

Jackson : Hi… I’m Jackson ….

 

Nate : I’m Nate….

 

The representation of the Monks did not even bother to speak with us and he just up and went on the stage to start on his item.

 

Nate : first time…. ?

 

Jackson : yeah….. plenty of first for me this year….

 

Nate : nervous…. ?

 

Jackson : a little… how about you ?? …

 

Nate : I’m fine….

 

 

Extending his hand, Nate shook mine in a professional manner before introducing himself properly.

 

Nate : I’m head of corporate communications and Chief information officer in Rajah holdings….

 

Jackson : Wow…

 

Nate : Nothing much…. Just handling the usual corporate stuff….. I believe good communication and transparency is critical for every organisation….. and you ??

 

Jackson : I’m the chief botany officer and head of natural environment for La Bella vista….

 

Nate looked at me and I could see him trying to process what I just said. If I could see imaginary question marks, there must be a dozen over his head by then.

 

Nate : wow… so… what do you do… ?

 

Jackson  : Nothing much…. My boss believes a holistic balance between the built and natural environment is something that many organisations aspire for but could never achieve…. So it’s my job to mould the environment in a way….

 

Nate : eerrr….. ok…….

 

The monks concluded their auction at $3688 and I stole a glimpse at the winner.

 

Another Rajah.

 

Well, they can be many things, but you can’t say they are not generous to charity.

 

Nate : alright then….errmmm… good luck…..

 

Jackson : Thank you….

 

As Nate left the table, I replayed the auction I saw earlier and found a glaring similarity. Something I could exploit.

 

Nate was by far the most eloquent speaker.

 

With a clear introduction of the Rajah Holdings, he captured the attention of Minister Welly. Diving into some of the usual corporate social responsibility programs they did together with adopted charities, his intro drew nods of approvals from the table of VIPs.

 

Maybe that is something I should touch on also.

 

I only know about the old folks home. Whipping out my phone, I dialled YIling’s number.

 

Yiling : what ?

 

Jackson : do I need to touch on the company’s good deeds and all in the intro… ? I mean you know… corporate social responsibility… the old folks home and all….what else ??

 

Yiling : we adopted 2 Orang Utans from the Singapore zoo…

 

There was a 2 second pause on my end and I decided to forget about the introduction.

 

Jackson : err… ok… never mind….

 

Yiling : just sell it and make sure it’s not lower than the Rajahs…

 

Yiling hung up and I checked on how Nate is doing.

 

He’s smooth, talks well like a corporate presenter and with the Rajahs pulling the strings behind the scene, a bidding war ensured between the thieves and the monks.

 

Nate started the bid at $2888

 

“ $3388”

 

“ $4388”

 

“$4688”

 

The price kept climbing until it hit $10888

 

Nate : alright… the 1st 5 figure bid of the evening… thank you so much for your generosity….

 

I looked over and it was someone from the Malu Malu. The smile on Rachel’s face is so wide and one would have to be blind not see the challenge she mounted on Yiling by the look on her face alone.

 

If Yiling was irritated, she did not let it show.

 

Nate left the stage and the emcee made the announcement for me to step in.

 

Emcee : and for the last auction of the evening….by the La Bella Vita….

 

I thanked the emcee and took over the microphone that Nate just handed back. It’s still warm to the touch.

 

I was about to speak when Brad shouted from the bottom of the stage.

 

Brad : ONE……………DOLL ………….. LER…………. Hahahahahah….

 

Laughs broke out among the ballroom and the snigger on Rachel’s face is too obvious to ignore.

 

I was about to speak again when Brad shouted again.

 

Brad : OKOK…. TWO…… DOLL ….. LER……. HAhahahaha….

 

Ben rolled his eyes while shaking his leg and jabbing another middle finger in the air towards Brad as if he’s a retard.

 

With so many pairs of eyes on me, it’s natural to feel nervous but that’s not all I was feeling.

 

The pressure, the stress, and the arousal.

 

I was getting excited and I could feel a hard on building in my pants. The rapidly deteriorating situation is turning me on. It’s as if something inside me is craving for this urge, or rather desire.

 

The desire to see something burn.

 

Pointing to Brad, I said something that made the ballroom went silent.

 

Jackson : Sold !…… $2….. to that gentlemen over there….

 

Walking back to the 3 stars statue, I picked up the piece of cloth I had used earlier to dust the statue and offered it to Brad with a outstretched hand while keeping a smile on my face.

 

The 2 second pause was ruptured by Ben’s hoots and laughs before Hong led the rest of YIling’s men into a thunderous applause while teasing Brad on his purchase.

 

Jackson : Very generous of that gentlemen over there….$2 for a rag….thank you very much…..

 

Brad looked like he was prepared to stab me but the laugher and jeers from the others on the ground was enough to sit him back down.

 

Pointing to the 3 star statue we brought along, I told the audience right away.

 

Jackson : I’m not auctioning the statues….. instead…. I want to offer everyone…. A chance to own a piece of history….

 

Raising my left hand, I gestured to the ballroom like a conman trying to sell a get rich quick course.

 

Jackson : Fu Lu Shou building…. At Rochor…. Anyone has never been there before ??? No… ?

 

The ballroom grew quiet as I paced the stage before going on.

 

Jackson : on the façade… of the Fu Lu Shou building… you will see a artwork… of the 3 stars…. Now…. Can someone tell me what is wrong with them… ?

 

I waited for a few seconds but no one said a thing.

 

Jackson : Look at it…. Google it if you wish….. look at the expressions… the features… the details….something is wrong somewhere…. Everyone I have shared this with…. Agrees… something is off…. But no one can say why….

 

I paused again and I could see quite a few people googling for the image on their phone. One of Minister Welly’s aide just handed him a phone which I presume is an image of what I’m describing,

 

Not wanting to bait the audience any longer, I went on and revealed that the sculpture is not done by Chinese.

 

Jackson : The artwork… is commissioned and done by foreigners…. People who are not familiar with the culture, the stories and the history behind the 3 stars…… I’ll give you another example….Macau…. have you been to Macau ??

 

I directed everyone’s attention to the gambling heaven in the east.

 

Jackson : The giant Mazu statue…..facing the sea….again… what is wrong with it…. ?

 

More people scrambled for their phones now and are actively googling the relevant images. Even Rachel with a sulking face was looking at a phone Nate is showing her.

 

Jackson : That statue… the expressions…. The details of the face…. I kid you not… it’s looks closer to Virgin Mary than Mazu.. the goddess of the sea…..

 

Laughter broke out on the ballroom and I’m quick to silence it.

 

Jackson : Now…. This is not about religion or beliefs…. What I want you to focus on right now is the artist……. And his work….. There is nothing wrong with engaging anyone you like, to produce any sculptures or figurines of deities and gods you want…. Nothing wrong…. But getting someone not incalculated with the culture since young to do an artwork for that particular culture…….??? That is just wrong…. Not illegal……just wrong…

 

Having brought everyone far enough, I immediately directed all their attention back to the 3 stars statue Hong procured.

 

Jackson : These 3 statues…. They’re not made…. They are sculptured….

 

I deliberately paused in between my explanation to allow the audience to digest each sentence I said.

 

Jackson : The colours are not painted…. They are fired in the Kiln. …. A 350 year old dragon Kiln located in YiXin, China….

 

Jackson : The features and expressions of the 3 stars behind me are not produced from moulds, they are unique…every line a piece of the artist’s memory…

 

I walked closer to the 3 stars statue Hong got and just from a quick visual look, I could tell the ones the Rajahs brought is of a better quality. Ours had some imperfections that are easily spotted.

 

Jackson : That is not to say…. The statues are perfect…. They are not…. there are imperfections…. and….

 

Lowering my voice a notch, I delivered my next statement slowly to make sure it sinks in.

 

Jackson : and within these imperfections…. embeds the seed for the next piece…. The slight flaws and imperfection are valuable, objective and non-judgemental guide….to do better….. and this artist…. Has been planting the same seed for 43 years….. He is 82 this year….

 

I could see Hong and Seven staring at me with their jaws apart while holding onto their drink suspended in mid air.

 

Jackson : these 3 sculptures just arrived 2 nights ago via plane…..

 

Looking over at Minister Welly and his table of aides and volunteers, I lightened up the intense mood a little.

 

Jackson : Minister Welly Sir… I assure you….. all paper work are in order…… GST paid too…

 

Sporadic laughter reached the stage and Welly smiled while sipping his wine.

 

Jackson : The value and history before a piece like this….. could be worth….$2 to some….

 

I looked at Brad and everyone laughed, even Rachel.

 

Jackson : Or it can be priceless to others…. So…. I’m going to auction… the history of the statues…..and not the statues themselves…. And you….. my honoured guest….. will have to decide how much this piece of history and art is worth….

 

I waited for the laughter to die down and I was ready to exploit the flaw of the auction base on what I observed.

 

You see, there are no price guides.

 

The auctioneer, which in this case is me, sets the price.

 

Jackson : I shall open the bidding at ten thousand….. eight hundred….. and eighty….. seven….

 

Following a 2 seconds silence , the ballroom erupted in cheers and applause and I could see Rachel smiling at me while Brad got up and left the table.

 

Yiling was smiling too as she gave me a squinty eye look.

 

Ben was ecstatic and he exclaimed loudly.

 

Ben : I support you la Jackson . … hahaha….. hahahah

 

I could hear him remarked loudly to King by his side.

 

Ben : I buy and bid history ok…. I never bid for statue ok ?? different ok ?? hahahahah… hahaha… understand bo ?? hahahaha

 

Ben shot up his hand and made the offer of $10887 while laughing and raising his glass at me.

 

I have a good view of the ballroom and everyone except the Rajahs were excited to see how this is going to turn out.

 

Jackson : $10887…. By Uncle Ben over there….. and…..and…. where is that $2 gentlemen…. ??

 

The laughs grew louder and I saw Yiling gave me a amused frown before shaking her head, telling me it’s enough.

 

Well, that’s a return to Brad for trying to humiliate me at the beginning. Now we’re even.

 

Jackson : any more bids…. ?

 

Suddenly I saw movements from the VIP table right in front of me.

 

Welly was looking right at me.

 

Our eyes locked and I could see him mouth clearly his bid while displaying a 2 and a zero sign. He kept his gesture close to his chest and he did it quick, with most of the eyes around the table on me, I was pretty sure I’m the only one that saw it.

 

My heart started beating faster and Welly gave me a nod after, indicating he is serious about his bid.

 

I looked at Yiling with her arms folded waiting for this to end.

 

I glanced at Rachel who was whispering something to Nate while giving me a look that I can only classify as a vixen eyeing her next prey.

 

I looked at the Rajahs who looked like they are out for blood. Several of the Malu Malu have left their table.

 

And I looked at Hong and the rest of Yiling’s men, half of them already on their feet.

 

 

Pointing to Welly, I announced.

 

 

Jackson : We have a new bid….$10888……….by Minister Chin….

 

Our eyes locked and as applause and cheers filled the ballroom, I could see a smile slowly breaking on the Minister’s face as he nodded at me.

 

Heaving a secret sigh of relief, I addressed the whole ballroom.

 

 

Jackson : Unless…….. someone out here… wants to outbid Singapore’s future 揸fit 人 ( the one in charge )….. ??…. no ??

 

Hong : WHHHHoooooooooooooooooo!!!!! JACKSON !!! ahhahahaha…

 

The laughter grew louder and several of the grassroot volunteers were already congratulating the Minister on his win.

 

Jackson : Sold !   ….. to Minister Welly Chin….

 

 

I shut the microphone off and exhaled before giving a bow and quickly going to the backstage. Curtains were drawn on the stage and I could see Hong panting and laughing as he came in through the back as I sipped my water.

 

Hong : hahahaha.. Jackson … hahahaha… what the fuck man… ahahha.. ahhaha…. Steady la….hahahahah

 

I was starving and I wanted to go down to eat but he nudged me over to the 3 star statue I just sold to Welly.

 

Jackson : What are you doing… ?

 

Hong : hahaha.. haha… help me lift it….hahaha… hahah

 

I lifted the 1st statue and Hong promptly removed a sticker in white with the prominent black text ‘ Made in China ‘

 

Hong : whahahaha… hahahahah… hahaha…… bloody hell… ahahahha… hahahah…

 

Jackson : well… guess….I’m not wrong….…… hahahah…

 

 

Not wrong at all.

 

 

 

……………………………………….

 

Stepping off the stage with Hong who could not stop laughing, we parted ways at my table

 

Yiling had a really wide smile on her face as I took my seat.

 

She did a gleeful clap with the bottom of her palms still connected while her fingers tapped each other rapidly.

 

Yiling : wow….. hahah… that was awesome …. haha

 

Jackson : Thank you….

 

Yiling : good job… !

 

Yiling tipped the flute of Champagne at me and I met her glass with my beer.

 

Ben : Jackson ….. your bullshit…. Very the smelly leh… I can smell from here…. Ahahhaha…

 

Jackson : It’s real…

 

Ben : hahahha…. If you say so….

 

Ben insisted I downed a full glass of beer with him or he’s going to take it that I’m not giving him ‘face’.

 

I could see Rachel looking at me but she didn’t say anything, just an uncomfortable stare. I avoided her looks and stared to focus on the food in the different dishes in front of me.

 

It’s a weird feeling. You know the feeling you get when someone is looking at you as if you did something wrong, that was the vibe I was getting. Rachel is definitely eye balling me.

 

When I finally met her looks, she smiled warmly and tipped the ends on her wine glass towards me and I returned her toast across the table.

 

As if giving Yiling a warning that she has her eyes on me, Rachel directed her eyes towards her after leaving mine.

 

Brad is nowhere to be seen, and as the euphoria of my triumph slowly wears off, I’m beginning to wonder if I had gone too far.

 

I decided to turn my attention back to the food. It’s paid for after all.

 

During my time on stage, I had missed out on the Scallop, the Foie gras, baked fish, and a chilled dish I don’t even know what it is.

What would have been a nicely plated Foie gras instead is instead triple stacked.

 

Yiling : I don’t like Foie gras….. I put it on your plate by the way…. But I ate the sauce and the accompanying sides….

 

Jackson : what…. Why ?? … it’s so nice…

 

Yiling : It’s fattening….

 

Ben : I also don’t like Foie gras…… I also put on your plate…. I prefer Chicken gizzards…. Hahaha…

 

That explains the mess but it’s delicious.

 

As dinner continued to be served, it was not hard to observe that the conversation around the table has been split into 3.

 

The Rajahs had the attention of the malu malu, the thieves and the monks. Rachel was telling everyone about her recent trip to south America

 

Ben and King started talking among themselves and Yiling asked me how did I come up with such rubbish. I told her I read about it in a story on an online forum.

 

Yiling : really ? …. What kind of forums have stories like this ??? ….

 

I replied in between bites of a stalk of asparagus .

 

Jackson : The kind girls don’t go to…

 

Yiling : oh…

 

Nothing of note happened for the rest of the dinner until dessert was about to be served and I made my way to the washroom.

 

After relieving myself, I gave my face a couple of splash of water at the sink before wiping it dry.

 

Going through the 2nd piece of napkin, I saw a man enter the bathroom.

 

Our eyes met through the reflection of the mirror. I recognised him. He’s one of the man that has never left Minister Chin’s side the entire evening.

 

He entered the bathroom and before the auto closer could swing to a close I could see his colleague stopping anyone else form entering the washroom from the outside.

 

Without a word, he walked and checked each cubicle in the washroom to make sure it was empty.

 

He’s here for me.

 

Jackson : yes… ?

 

He eyeballed me for a few seconds. His build, his height and his bearing. Definitely a military man.

 

James : my name is James…. Minister Chin would like to have a word with you…

 

Jackson : In the toilet ??

 

Another man entered the toilet. He has a security ward on him.

 

As James washed his hands, his colleagued waned me down. It beeped at my phone and my wallet, both of which I removed and put them on the countertop.

 

I turned to look at James who when bent over slightly at the basin, revealed that he was carrying 2 pistols with spare clips on a shoulder harness.

 

Jackson : We are in one of the safest country in the world…. Is there a need to carry those around….

 

James adjusted his hair without looking at me as he replied.

 

James : We are in one of the safest country in the world….. because …… I carry these around….

 

The door to the bathroom opened and the guy with the wand left while Welly walked in with a smile. He must have heard the exchange between James and i.

 

Willy : The world is a dangerous place ……. If you’ve seen and experienced what James did… you’ll want to have those around you too….

 

His hand was about to reach out and I quickly extended mine to meet his. They’re right about Welly Chin.

 

He has balls.

 

He’s willing to shake a man’s hand in the toilet without even thinking twice.

 

Welly : Young man….hahaha….very interesting auction..…. Hahah

 

Jackson : very nice to meet you Sir…

 

Welly : Jackson …. Am I right…

 

I nodded with a courteous smile.

 

James : So…. He’s the guy that made you spend $10888….

 

Welly laughed.

 

Turning to look at James, I added.

 

Jackson : I’m the guy that saved him $9112 ….

 

Welly nodded and explained on my behalf.

 

Welly : I made a bid of 20, he could have gone for the win against the Rajahs…. I was curious to see what he would do….there’s a lot to consider within that short period of time…..hahaha… good to see that you are quick on your feet….I see you have met James…

 

Jackson : yes…I have…Not everyday I meet a guy with guns in the toilet….

 

Welly : hahaha…

 

Extending an open arm towards James, Welly added that James has been serving the current Prime Minister for almost 5 years. With the impending change in leadership, he has now been assigned over to Welly.

 

Jackson : And now he’s with you….

 

Welly : he’s a very intense and serious man…. But I trust him with my life….James… do you mind giving us some privacy… ?

 

With a curt nod, James left the room.

 

Welly : It’s not everyday you find a man who can tell a good story….ever considered a career in politics…. ? hahaha…

 

Jackson : I’m afraid no…. not my cup of tea….

 

Welly : but you haven tried… who would you know it’s not for you…

 

I took a moment to choose my words carefully, I’m talking to the future Prime Minister afterall.

 

Jackson : I’m sure you can tell…. Most of what I said earlier are lies…. They are meant to entertain more than anything else…. At the end of the day…. Nobody gets hurt…. Egos get bruised… but that’s about it… in your line of work…. Everything you say… everything you do…. It affects the lives of many people…

 

Welly smiled and said he knew where I’m coming from.

 

Welly : Politics is not about making people happy Jackson …

 

Jackson : no it’s not…but in today’s day and age, I would say making voters happy is important….

 

Welly :  ahhahaha… I agree…. I agree…..

 

Welly chuckled before adding.

 

Welly : Yeah that’s true….. that’s true…. So….. what do you think…. ?  .. should I be a leader that listens …..?  or one that leads…. ?

 

I hesitated for a moment before replying.

 

Jackson  : how can you lead…. If you don’t know what your people want…. ?

 

Raising both his arms to his side, Welly did the action of a scale.

 

Welly : wants and needs are 2 different thing Jackson ….

 

Jackson : it’s a balancing act you have to juggle…. While walking on a tightrope….

 

Welly : so…. I’m essentially a clown…. Working in a circus… hahah

 

Jackson : hahah… I don’t mean that….i don’t envy your job at all…. Not one bit….

 

Welly turned to face the mirror, looking at his own reflection.

 

Streaks of white are beginning to show on his head of black hair. Giving his hands a rinse, he continued ;

 

Welly : It’s not an easy job…. Not many people appreciates you…. You get cursed online…..

 

Jackson : then why do you do it… ?

 

Welly : I didn’t apply for it Jackson …. Hahah….. it landed on my lap…

 

Jackson : can’t you say no… ?

 

Welly : and give up a chance… to make everything I think is wrong right… ? no way….

 

The bathroom door opened and it was James checking in on us.

 

James : Sir…. Your next appointment starts in 30…

 

Welly : Thank you James…

 

Turning back to me, Welly asked me again to consider suggestion.

 

Welly : I like a man who can tell a story…. Not easy to engage an audience…. Much less the one in the ballroom…. Ahhaha…

 

Jackson  : what about the audience in the ballroom… ?

 

Welly : I may be a politician that smiles a lot…. But I’m not stupid….. chances are many of those men may end up living off taxpayers money in a government funded facility…..everyone is just one wrong move away….

 

Jackson  : why do you even bother to come for this ?

 

Welly turned and started walking towards the exit before he turned and replied me with a smile.

 

Welly : I’m in the business of making friends…. I came to make friends… ahhahah…

 

I walked out of the bathroom after Welly and as Welly walked down the corridor surrounded by his entourage, I was left facing the 2 Rajahs that were behind Rachel when she arrived.

 

They are difficult to read, they didn’t say anything either.

 

Jackson : The bathroom is available now if you need to use it…

 

Brad appeared around the corner with 3 other Malu guys.

 

Bard : Siao eh…. Si bei guai lan hor ( Dude…. You trying to be funny ? )

 

I backed up 1 step against the door of the bathroom.

 

A couple more Rajahs arrived and I could smell the trouble in the cold air of the hotel.

 

Right about then, Hong’s voice rang out.

 

Hong : No wonder so smelly ahhh…. So many people holding their pee near the toilet ah !!!

 

I turned to see Hong and Seven arrive together with another 5 of our own guys.

 

Ok. If this shit breaks out at the Ritz, we will be on the news for sure.

 

Brad : Your breath smelly as ever Hong….

 

Hong : oh ??  haven you been smelling my breath ??

 

That was enough to set Brad off and he pushed forward and shoved Hong who in return shoved him back against his men. The scene immediately descended into Chaos with men shouting and trading curses.

 

Barely 30 seconds in, the confrontation was broken up by this large man who was part of Welly’s contingent.

 

He’s big, tall and well built, like a fucking mountain. As if his bulging muscles were not scary enough, he was also armed with automatic weapons.

 

He hardly needed to do anything, his presence alone is terrifying.

 

Pushing his way through into the middle alone was enough to get everyone separated into their respective corners and I quickly took the opportunity and position myself somewhere nearer to Hong and Seven.

 

“ The minister don’t want any trouble tonight. “

 

That was all he said.

 

“ Please return to your seats.”

 

Brad cursed and pointed a middle finger at me before leaving with his men and the rest followed suit. All except the 2 scary looking Rajahs who remained where they were, and they kept staring at me.

 

Heading back to the ballroom, I was surprised to see everyone loitering around the reception area.

 

Jackson : What is happening… ?

 

Hong : The heads are talking in private…. Probably about the attack…. No one is allowed inside….

 

Jackson : Ok….

 

Everyone was kept outside the reception area for almost an hour. Refreshments and titbits kept flowing and everyone kept to their own sections with plenty of across the hall eye fucking.

 

Welly may be gone but he kept several of his men around, probably expecting shit to go wrong the moment he is gone.

 

The giant man was standing near me and he noticed that I was looking at him.

 

Jackson : You know… I have… err … this colleague…female colleague…. Err…do you have a sister or….

 

“ No “

 

Jackson : Ok, sorry… I just find…. A lot of similarity between you and her….. I can hook you up if you are interested…..

 

He looked away and ignored my comment.

 

The door to the ballroom opened and Yiling was the first to walk out. The decibel in the hall dropped a notch as the rest of the heads and reps walked out.

 

Yiling : ok…  we can go…

 

That was it.

The closed door meeting is over.

Yiling did not seem to want to share what was discussed and the next thing I knew was a rapid dispersal of crowd from the Ritz. Everyone went their own way.

 

 

Once we were back at the estate, all of us gathered in Yiling’s study.

 

She looked a little stressed and unhappy, over what exactly, nobody knows.

 

All of us spent a couple of minutes watching her pace up and down near her desk before she asked everyone of us to go out and she wants to speak with each of us individually.

 

Kamal was the first to go in.

 

While waiting outside, Aaron strolled over.

 

Aaron : Someone made a lot of enemies today..

 

Jackson : the way I see it… it’s probably only Brad….

 

Aaron : you’ve just became a huge target board….

 

The door opened and it was Aaron’s turn to go in.

 

Hong asked Kamal what happened and he just shook his head, an indication that whatever was said, is for his ears only.

 

Hong nodded his acknowledgement.

 

Aaron came out and it was Declan, followed by Hong, Seven and I’m the last.

 

Shutting the door behind me, I looked at Yiling who was sitting down on her table with her face buried in her hands.

 

Jackson : you ok… ?

 

Yiling : mmmmhhh…

 

Jackson : what is it… ?

 

Yiling : what I’m about to say…. Is for your ears only….

 

Jackson : ok….

 

Yiling : The Rajahs are holding onto another 2 of the men that attacked them that day…

 

Jackson : Oh… did they manage to get anything out of them….

 

Yiling nodded.

 

Yiling : they did….

 

Jackson  : Who are they…

 

Yiling avoided that question.

 

Yiling : They are willing to give them to us….

 

Jackson  : that’s nice…. I mean you have those that attacked us and the 1 from the monks right….surely you can figure things out or report them to the authorities…

 

Yiling massaged the sides of her head for a while before asking me something out of the blue.

 

Yiling : Jackson …. You know the homes you deliver things to… the 1st one….

 

Jackson  : Yeah… what about it….

 

Yiling : did they make any structural changes…to the building…. New gate…. Crash barrier or anything….

 

Jackson  : hmmmm…. they installed more cameras…. And they knocked down a shared wall between them and the temple next door….

 

Yiling : Besides that…. Anything else…

 

Jackson : Not that I noticed…. Why…

 

Yiling looked at me for a brief moment before looking away.

 

There is something bothering her. It’s written all over her face. I’m not sure how the old folks home is related to the men that attacked us.

 

Yiling : nevermind….ok…here’s the thing….The Rajahs will release the 2 men over to us…. But you need to be the one picking them up…

 

Jackson  : What… why ?

 

Yiling : Rachel insisted….

 

Looking at me in the eye, Yiling stressed that we needed that 2 men.

 

Jackson : ok…. When… ?

 

Yiling : They’ll let us know…you just need to get ready….

 

Jackson  : ok fine…

 

Yiling : There’s another thing…. Someone is feeding the Rajahs information….

 

Jackson  : yeah… Hong told me about the 3 stars statue… the Rajahs deliberately brought the same as us….

 

Yiling : no…. That’s not the case…. The Rajahs were told that we will be bringing a phoenix, which is why they brought the 3 star….

 

Jackson : what… ?? but Hong told me …

 

Yiling : Hong is not wrong…. Someone is out sowing discord between the families…. The Rajahs were told we changed our auction item at the last minute to be the same as theirs too….. someone is definitely fucking with the families… from the inside…

 

Jackson : bloody hell…. It’s good that you guys get to talk and trash it out then….

 

Yiling : It came out by accident…. Rachel was bitching about it… The Rajahs have always brought something associated with the phoenix every year, it’s part of their company logo…. Someone is stirring shit….

 

Jackson  : is it us ??

 

Yiling : I don’t know…. I don’t think so…. Or rather I hope not…

 

Jackson  : Ok… then what do we do now… ?

 

Yiling stood up and looked at the door, well aware that everyone is gathered outside.

 

Yiling : You are the only one who is not aware of what we will be bringing for the auction. The rest of us are in a common chat group…

 

Jackson  : I see…. Eh wait…. Why am I not in that chat group…. ?

 

Yiling avoided my question again and asked to be left alone, i left the study with more questions than ever.

 

When I went outside, Candy, Xiaoyu, and Cindy were there too.

 

All of Yiling’s lieutenant are there.

 

Hong gave me a twitching eyebrow look as if trying to ask what Yiling told me and I shrugged my shoulders.

 

I mean aside from the fact that the Rajahs are willing to give us their prisoner and I was to collect them, other than that, I don’t know what is going on either.

 

Yiling definitely looked concerned about something but she is not sharing.

 

Yiling popped open the study door and the girls went through the same thing as us. Yiling spoke with each of them individually. Cindy was the last one.

 

No one said a word as we gathered in the living area and as time passed, I could feel this tension in the air I could not explain. It’s as if everyone know something is wrong, something is going on or rather, something is about to happen.

 

The relaxed atmosphere is gone the moment we left the hotel.

 

It’s not a good feeling if you get what I’m saying.

 

Everyone’s being suspected of doing something right now, it’s a sucky feeling.

 

It’s late, coming to 12 am.

When the door opened about 30 minutes later, Yiling stepped out and all eyes turned to look at her.

 

You could tell from her expression that whatever decision she needed to make, she has made it inside her study.

 

As if the intense atmosphere is not enough to send chills down my spine, Yiling said something that sounded right out of a movie.

 

Yiling : I want…. everyone’s phone…. In this bag…. Now…

 

She handed a large brown leather bag to Declan and I could see everyone knew the drill.

 

No one questioned her like a teenager having her mobile device taken away.

 

No one questioned the need for us to remain here so late at night .

 

No on even batted an eyelid as everyone removed their phones from their pocket. Some put in 1 phone, some put in 2. Declan had 3.

 

The silence of the living room was broken only by the clatter of our phones knocking into each other in that leather bag. The leather bag went in an anti clockwise direction before coming to me.

 

Kamal : Jackson too boss ?

 

Yiling : yes…

 

I was the last to drop my phone in and I handed the bag over to Yiling.

 

Jackson  : what now… ?

 

Kamal smiled and chuckled and so did Xiaoyu. It was then I realised everyone’s eyes were on me.

 

This seemed to be some indication of sort that I was about to be let into something deeper and darker.

 

Yiling : everyone to the pantry….

 

Hong laughed and I felt his large hand slap on my back as he gave me a snigger.

 

Hong : Pantry Jackson …. Pantry…. Hahahahahah….we’re going to the pantry….pantry pantry ~~~

 

The manner in which Hong said it is a little unsettling.

 

The door to the pantry is unlocked by Yiling’s fingerprint.

 

The pantry turns out to be a large wing of the house that is connected to the garage. It’s a comfortable size, about 2000 sqft, or 2 four room flats combined.

It’s an open space with 5 couches, 3 massage chairs and 2 hammocks strung across the columns. There’s also a bean bag area with projector and several game consoles.

Candy seemed pretty comfortable in the pantry, a sign that she has been here often enough. She hurried over to the beanbags and got a cozy spot and Xiaoyu joined her.

 

There’s even 2 bunk beds tucked in a corner of the room. I could see 3 bathrooms with attached toilets as well.

 

Since it’s called a pantry, there’s a well stocked cabinet. Coffee machines, hotwater, cup noodles and snacks. There’s even a vending machine that dispenses soft drinks free of charge.

A bookshelf is filled to the brim with magazines, comics and old newspaper.

Another shelf on the side is filled with boardgames, cards and even a mah-jong set, and beside that is a series of wardrobes and drawers.

I feel it’s more like a lounge or sort.

 

I saw Cindy pull out a set of dumb bells from under the bunkbeds.

 

I can see this is a place everyone frequents.

 

Given the situation, I don’t think we’re here for a gathering or a team bonding session.

 

I whispered to Hong to ask him what this is about.

 

Hong : ok… whenever a big deal… or transaction is coming up… or something…ermm.. important…. Sensitive… everyone comes here…

 

Jackson  : ok …

 

Hong : we don’t know who is involved…. Who will be handling the work… until Boss assigns it…

 

Jackson : ok…

 

Hong : the rest… will remain in the pantry…. Until whatever needs to be done… is over….. there’s everything we can possibly need here… toilets are over there…. Food… drinks…. Couches can be converted to sofa beds…. Think of it as a….. vacation…. No nothing… brain switch off vacation… hahhaha…

 

Jackson : No phones…

 

Hong : No… no communication with the outside…. Watch TV la… we have premium subscription…. Every channel have….

 

Jackson  : what if Yiling or whoever is out there needs our help….

 

Hong pointed to a old school phone that would be a familiar sight in the early nineties. The bulky metal phone that takes ten cent coins is mounted on the wall beside the vending machine.

 

I thought that was a decoration.

 

Hong : you call that phone….

 

Jackson  : I see…

 

Hong : but relax… it has never rang before….

 

Jackson :  are we going to be lock inside here…. ?

 

Hong : No… but you better have a good reason to open that door because if you do… you’re out….

 

Jackson : out ? ….as in out of the company…

 

Hong nodded at the cameras.

 

There are cameras on the walls in plain sight. I guess doing the shady things they do, it’s normal to be paranoid even with your own people. No harm playing it safe.

 

Everyone is each other’s chaperone, no one leaves, period.

 

At least not until what needs to be done is over. It’s a rule that has never been broken so far.

 

Yiling left us alone and given how late it is, most of us just want to rest.

 

The bathroom is like that of a spa, well stocked with towels and bathrobes.

 

We took turns to wash up and by the time I was done at 1am, I was beat.

 

It turns out that everyone has spare clothes that they kept inside the pantry for situations like this. Kamal offered me a pair of jeans and a collared t-shirt. I took it, it’s much comfortable to be in those than a suit.

 

I fell asleep on the couch within minutes.

 

When I felt a tap on me, I jumped and held onto Seven’s forearm.

 

Seven gestured to me that it’s time to go.

 

I got up and looked around the pantry. The lights were dimmed to a comfortable level like that of a spa. Its dark enough to rest but I could still see where everyone is.

 

Yiling was dressed in jeans and a t-shirt with her hair tied up in a pony tail.

 

Hong and Seven were up, so was i.

 

It seems that we are the only ones involved in this.

 

Declan was up making coffee with his hair in a mess while Cindy was grunting while doing pushups.

 

The rest were all sleeping.

 

The clock on the pantry reads 6.10am.

 

The 4 of us went straight to the garage and I took the wheel of a nondescript Toyota Vios.

 

Yiling : turn up the small road over to the cook house…

 

Jackson : ok….

 

I pulled up at the cookhouse and all 4 of us stepped out for a breakfast of fried beehoon and coffee.

 

Ok, we’re having breakfast. I’m sure whatever we are going to do can’t be that bad if we’re having breakfast first.

 

I could not resist asking Yiling as I sip my coffee.

 

Jackson : are… are we going to be breaking the law… ??

 

Yiling chewed on her breakfast and said no.

 

Yiling : No…… unless you want to…

 

Jackson : errr…. I’m a law-abiding citizen….

 

Hong : hahah…. You’re saying you never fudge a parking coupon, made a illegal u-turn…. or park on a double yellow line before….

 

Jackson  : come on… those are different….

 

Yiling : finish up and let’s go…. I’ll see you all at the car….

 

We got back into the car at 6.45am and the sun is already up.

 

Jackson  : what are those for… ?

 

Yiling was carrying onto 2 plastic bags of fruits she grabbed from the cookhouse fridge together with a box of peaches.

 

Yiling : gifts….

 

I didn’t know where we are headed but I kept driving until we are about to hit the main road.

 

Jackson : am I suppose to ask where we are going…. ?

 

Yiling : go onto PIE…. Towards airport…

 

Jackson : ok….

 

I kept in the middle lane and I stole a few glances at Yiling who was seated beside me.

 

She’s looking out of the car, lost in thought.

 

Hong’s mouth was slightly apart and I thought I heard him snore as he slept in the backseat.

 

Seven was enjoying the music from the radio, nodding his head to the rhythm.

 

As we got closer to the exit towards Bedok, Yiling told me to go to the old folks home I delivered the fruits and vegetables to.

 

Jackson : ok…

 

I arrived at the home and the gate was padlocked.

 

Jackson : It’s too early… I don’t think Mr Ho is here yet…

 

Yiling : How is he… ?

 

Jackson : hmmm ok I guess… when was the last time you met him….

 

Yiling : a very long time ago….

 

We got out of the car and I hit the intercom a couple of times but no one answered.

 

Looking at the home itself, I could see the lights are all off on level 2 and 3.

 

There are signs of activity on level 4 and 5. I could see the ceiling fans turning.

 

Yiling : climb over the gates…

 

Without a word, Hong and Seven started to scale the gate into the old folks home.

 

Jackson : hey hey… hey…. Wait.. wait.. this is not nice… this is trespassing…

 

Yiling : I hold the title deed to this plot of land… I own this place….

 

Yiling removed the bags of fruits from the car and handed it over to Hong through the gate.

 

After passing the box of peaches, Yiling started to climb the gate as well.

 

Jackson : shit… arghhh…

 

The simple grille gate is not high, at 1.8m, it’s a easy climb especially with so many horizontal bars scattered along it’s length. The top of the gate is flat as well.

 

I joined my colleagues within the compound of the old folks home and asked what is this about.

 

Jackson : what are we doing ??

 

Hong and Seven each held a bag of fruits while I held the peaches.

 

Yiling started walking towards the administration offices on the ground floor by the courtyard.

 

When we got there, I was surprised to see it deserted. There’s no one around.

 

Yiling : there should be a security guard on duty….

 

Walking towards a particular room, Yiling opened the door to an empty room.

 

She looked at me as if I have the answers and I told her I’ve never been inside any of these rooms before.

 

Jackson  : They should all be upstairs…. On level 5….

 

Yiling looked towards the other end of the home towards the boundary wall that it shared with the temple.

 

Yiling : I’ll go check out the temple….

 

Hong : Seven … you go with boss….

 

Yiling : No need… it’s broad daylight….go up… check every floor and see what’s going on…

 

Yiling walked on ahead, trudging in her black boots that looked so sexually appealing with the ends of her blue jeans tucked in.

 

I went to the old and creaky loading and unloading lift and was hit with a strong smell of disinfectant.

 

Jackson : ewww…

 

It’s a pungent smell as if someone just flooded the whole lift with Dettol or something.

 

Hong : that fucking stinks….

 

Jackson : so how…. We take 1 floor each….?

 

Hong : yeah… faster that way….

 

Seven gestured to the top floor before doing a walking motion on his palm with 2 fingers.

 

Jackson  : you mean start at the top and we work out way down ??  good idea….

 

I hit level 5 and stepped back to the centre of the lift.

 

The old metal door vibrated angrily as it struggled to close presubly after years of neglect. It’s like someone forgot to oil it’s moving parts.

 

Even after the door shut, it took a few seconds for the hydraulics to start hissing and bringing us up.

 

I looked at the indicator light on the lift panel switch from level 1 to level 2.

 

The humming of the lift got louder and I could hear metal parts knocking onto each other as the light struggled to get to level 3.

 

When it got to level 3, I could feel the humming drone down a notch as the lift jerked a little before it stopped.

 

It stopped at level 3.

 

Someone must have called for it.

 

When the lift door vibrated and slid to its side like the parting of a stage curtain, I was hit with a smell that I would never forget, not even on my death bed. It’s was a stench so strong that it made me sick.

 

Before I could deal with the stench, I felt the hair on the back of my neck and the rest of my body stood on it’s end as I was confronted with the sight of what laid on level 3.

 

My fingers started to tremble and I gripped the box of peaches so tight that the box started to crumble.

 

I could not believe what my eyes are seeing.

 

Lying on the floor barely 5 metres away are 3 bodies. Corpses of the old folks that used to live here. They are obviously dead and I could see a few flies buzzing around their heads.

 

A makeshift corridor of sort has been created on level 3 out of plastic sheets.

 

Set back about 3 metres from the window, a continuous stretch of plastic sheets has been erected from the floor to the ceiling.

 

I could not tear my eyes away from the bodies.

 

It’s the first time I saw a dead body.

They are still dressed in their nursing home clothes. I could see the bottom is soiled with excrement. A puddle of unknown liquid has pooled under their bodies.

 

My eyes slowly lifted from the corpses and onto the men standing up on level 3.

 

They have masks on to filter out the smell.

 

They are dressed in nursing scrubs and I recognised one of them as the staff that was eyeing me suspiciously during my first time here.

 

There’s 8 of them.

 

And at that moment, all 8 of them were staring at us from about 30m away.

 

2 of them were trying to carry the body of another old lady onto a plastic sheet.

 

No one said a word.

 

They never expected us to see them, and we, never expected to see this.

 

I could feel a spark inside my belly slowly ignite. My breathing got faster.

 

I tried to take a step forward but I was held back by Hong.

 

Hong : Jackson….. no…

 

The 2 men carrying the body dropped her corpse like it was nothing more than a sack of potatoes. Like they were not carrying a human.

 

Something was exchanged among the fake nursing home staff, one of them called out.

 

“ Yakob !… Sven ! … Yusuf !! “

 

I thought there were only 8 of them but I was wrong.

 

There were more.

 

3 more appeared out of nowhere and 2 of them was dragging along a barely breathing resident.

 

My heartrate spike and as my fingers closed around the box of peaches so hard that the box disintegrated, and everything just fell into the lift floor.

 

I know that resident.

 

The old lady Nancy. The one that always asked me to dance.

 

Her face was bloodied, and she was missing several teeth. She’s crying and sobbing. Her clothes were badly ripped and she might as well have been naked. Bruises were visible all over her arms and face.

 

Nancy : sobzzz… sobzz…. Ahhhh… Jackson ….sobzz….ahhhh…. Jackson ….

 

The 3 men were called out because they were nearer to the lift whose door is starting to close having been stationary for a while.

 

The door rumbled and slid along narrow grooves choked with dirt and grime.

 

I could hear my own heart racing in my head as I tried to process what I just saw.

 

I have a lump in my throat and it was getting hard to even swallow my own saliva.

 

 

The door of the old lift managed to shut to it’s ¾ mark before I saw a hand slice in and forcibly stop it from closing.

 

Instinctively, I took a couple of steps back.

 

I was standing in the middle with Seven on my left and Hong on my right.

 

As the lift door opened fully, the 3 men dressed in medical scrubs peppered with blood stains greeted us with surgical masks on their faces.

 

Again, no one said anything.

 

The 3 men stepped into the loading and unloading lift with their back to the door and a staring match ensued.

 

My hands were by my side and I could feel Hong’s hand reaching for mine the same time Seven did the same.

 

You see, the thing with goods lift, it’s all stainless steel on all sides. They are as good as mirrors.

 

I could see the reflection of everything around from the corner of my eyes.

 

Hong’s left hand was carrying the bag of fruits and he slowly handed it over to me the same time I saw his right disappear into his pants pocket.

 

Seven’s right hand pushed the bag he was holding to my left hand and through the partial reflection in the lift, I saw him stretched his legs, neck and shoulders.

 

The old alarm of the loading and unloading lift started to buzz angrily as the door vibrated in protest as it rumbled to close.

 

I exhaled slowly and relaxed my fingers as the two sides of the lift door strained to meet each other.

 

Hong was the first to break the silence.

 

Hong : Jackson ….

 

Jackson : hmmmm….

 

Hong : First chance you get…. You go to Boss….

 

Jackson : ok…

 

My body felt hot like it was on fire.

 

All hell will break lose the moment the lift door close and I reckon it’s going to be 3 seconds away at the very most.

 

I was counting it down in my head.

 

3 seconds before the door closed, I saw Hong’s right hand emerge from his pocket with a knuckle duster around his fingers.

 

2 seconds before the metal door met in the middle I stopped breathing the same time I saw Seven shifted his right leg behind him.

 

I felt the rumble and vibration of the lift as it’s door shut like the jaws of a metal beast the same time my fingers relax, dropping the bags of fruits onto the lift floor.

 

And if Nancy were well enough to ask me the same question she always did, I know what my reply would be that day.

 

Today. We dance.

 

 

 


 

 

End of Book 1.

 

To get a copy of book one for offline reading in PDF format. Click link below for free PDF.

The house in Bukit Timah Book 1

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Before the fruits hit the floor the man in front of me charged at me with his fist raised and I instinctively blocked it with my raised left arm while driving my palm towards his face.

 

He managed to turn his face to the side and I struck the bottom of his jaw while he rammed at me with his entire body sending me crashing against the back of the lift.

 

Hong and Seven went for the offensive given their aggressive nature, while I went on the defence.

 

Viewed on a top down perspective, it would have looked like a block of Tetris realigning itself. Both Seven and Hong rained blows and kicks on their respective targets, sending them against the door and lift control panel while mine kept me pinned against the back of the lift.

 

Hammering twice at his arm which was holding me at length with my elbow, I closed the distance between us and struck him several times on his face, ripping his surgical mask cleanly off.

 

He looked surprised, clearly he wasn’t expecting this level of resistance.

 

His knee connected with the side of my ribcage the same time Seven struck my attacker on the side of his knees, causing him to buckle momentarily. The split second Seven used to help me enable the guy he kicked down to get up and he was on him immediately.

 

I drove my body forward with the intention of striking the man in front of me but he avoided my hit and shoved me into Seven with the side of his body.

 

I felt Seven press down on my shoulder as he leapt up while using the side of the lift as leverage. Without considering that his kick would hit Hong, Seven dived for the man that was struggling with Hong while bleeding profusely from the side of his head, probably from a good hit by the knuckle duster.

 

I batter-rammed my body against the 2 guys in front of me, sending their bodies against the creaking metal panels. Hardly any damaged caused but enough to get them back on their end of the loading lift.

 

Everything happened so fast and there was no time to pause.

 

The old metal panels of the lift were pockmarked with dents and scratches within seconds from the fight in the lift.

 

The man I was initially fighting against did a rugby tackle with his shoulder just as Seven landed another knee into the face of the man Hong was hitting , it sent me crashing into the back of the lift again hard enough for me to feel and hear the metal panel buckle with a metallic groan.

 

I grabbed a fistful of his hair with my left hand, tightened my fingers into a fist and slammed it back home against his left ear several times until he let go of me. As he sank lower, I stomped on the back of his head, sending his face to the floor of the loading lift.

Before I could catch my breath, the man Seven was fighting on his first strike came at me.

 

Stepping on the man whose eardrums I just burst, I blocked the new charge but failed to land a hit on him.

 

Hong shoved me aside and I fell, landing and splitting a peach I dropped earlier as he slammed his arm against the assailant. While trying to get up from the floor, I was shoved aside violently as I crushed a pear into mush, I’m not sure who shoved me but I looked up to see the bleeding face of a fake nurse trying to stem the bleeding from his nose.

It was utter chaos.

 

There were more pushing and mindless punching than anything else as a shouting match ensured.

 

I scrambled to get back up on my feet to see Seven fronting the fight like a mad man.

 

Seven’s rapid kicks and punches are hard and effective, his target could only block and cower behind his raised arms as he tried to protect his head.

 

A punch came from nowhere and it grazed the side of my forehead hard enough for my head to turn, snapping back, I saw Hong smash the knuckle duster into the puncher’s face with a sickening crunch.

 

That was it, that guy is a goner as he collapsed onto his friend who was still trying to block Seven’s punches.

 

Hong jumped on the man who was trying to block his fists but it was not effective at all. Hong grunted and shout as he rained blows aimed at the guy’s head.

 

With both Hong and Seven working on the same guy, I knew it’s over.

 

I was about to help Seven when I saw him rear back with a short sprint before snapping forward like a tightly wound spring releasing it’s energy with his knee going straight into the man who still could not tell the fight is over.

 

The man’s head slammed against the control panel, cracking the old plastic buttons before drooping forward like a marionette doll that had it’s string cut.

 

I was panting heavily but then and so were my friends.

 

The lift door rumbled angrily to open at level 5.

 

When it did, I could see another 2 more of those men in medical scrubs in front of the activity area.

 

The home residents were all groaning and crying while crammed into the kitchen. There’s only a handful of them left, they looked confused and helpless. They were being herded like cattle into a confined space.

 

Seven walked out and loosened his muscles a little more, finally having the space to stretch his legs properly. Hong cursed and rotated his arms a couple of times, bitching about having pulled a muscle early in the morning.

 

There was no time to think, I dashed out and turned to my right.

 

Yiling is alone downstairs.

 

I shove the door to the staircase so hard that the old closer gave way, allowing the back of the door handle to slam against the wall, chipping off a chunk of paint.

 

Taking 3 steps at a time, I jumped and landed on the landing leading down to the ground floor.

 

My sweaty palms found no friction as I tried to grab onto the railings of the staircase before making another jump of 5 steps.

 

I lost my balance, my knees buckled and I tumbled onto the wall of the landing but I quickly pulled myself up and continued flying down the staircase as fast as my legs could carry.

 

Hearing some commotion below, I looked down the centre of the railings and I could see another man ahead of me.

 

Each breath of air I take felt like someone was searing my lungs with a blowtorch.

 

I finally landed on the ground floor and I kicked the door open in front of me.

 

My eyes immediately caught sight of the guy heading towards the direction of the adjacent temple.

 

I ran after him and almost immediately I saw Yiling standing by the wall which was removed, allowing direct access to the temple from the old folks home.

 

Her phone was out, she was holding it horizontally as if she was just done taking pictures.

 

I literally tore up the ground as I sprinted and caught up with the man in scrubs who had just brandished a knife from under his top.

 

Jackson : Yiling  !!!.. run !!

 

Yiling’s eyes widened in surprised as I closed the gap, dove low and grabbed the man around the waist with my arms. Using the momentum of my movements, I tried to lift him up and away from Yiling but I failed.

 

His fist connected with the side of my cheeks and I backed off instinctively while trying to see where his knife was.

I broke away barely in time to hear the whoosh of the knife slicing a little too close diagonally up in front of me.

He’s smaller and lighter than me but the has a weapon.

 

 

Grabbing a trash bin within reach, I barely lifted it off the ground before the sound of metal hitting metal rang out as the cutting side of the knife sliced and left it’s mark on the trash bin.

 

Trying to remember what Xiaoyu had taught me, I took a couple of steps back while trying to time the man’s next move. I know and remembered a lot from from my lesson but it’s all theory.

 

It’s nothing without practice. I just never expected practise to be delivered in such a situation.

 

Yiling ran through the temple via the entrance in the boundary wall and when the guy turned to check on her, it was a mistake I used to my advantage.

 

I feigned a hit and his hands raised up to block me but I ran right passed him and towards the boundary wall. The makeshift construction area has something I need.

 

A fucking metal spade.

 

I pulled it out of the small pile of sand and I saw the guy running towards the me, he was about to use his puny knife on me when he saw I had something bigger.

He backed off as I swung the spade at him, casting grains of sand into the air as I did so.

 

His stagger backwards as he tried to regain his balance was all I needed to close the distance.

 

Jackson : arghhh !! fuck you !!

 

I swung the spade low, slicing into his left knee from the side, knocking his small frame onto the ground as he cried out in pain.

 

His knife wielding knife was swinging wildly and I connected it with the ends of my spade as well, knocking his weapon into a nearby gutter.

My instinct told me to wack him on his head, but I’m held back by fear.

 

The weight of the spade, the density of the metal end. If I swing it at him with everything I have, I might kill him.

 

Instead I swung it at his flailing arms several times as he pleaded with me to stop in a smattering of English, Malay and Thai. Finally rolling onto his stomach and cowering into a ball, I gave his bleeding body another hit before running in the direction of the temple.

He groaned and cursed as he bled while trashing about like a drunk.

 

I leapt through the wall opening and stepped into the temple ground.

 

My eyes immediately scanned the area and I saw Yiling being pinned down by a Chinese man.

 

He’s fat, at least 120kg by my estimate. With that weight resting on a 1.6m frame, I wonder how his knees take the pressure. He’s severely overweight and I could hardly see his neck. His head had fused with his shoulders.

 

His heavy breathing came out like snorts and the top he was wearing that bore the temple’s name looked like it was meant for someone 2 sizes smaller.

 

I could see Yiling hitting him but his layers of fats and blubber is cushioning the hits. Her legs wrapped around the man’s fat arms but Yiling failed to hold onto his greasy wrist.

 

Yiling : aerghhhhh !!!!

 

This time round, I did not hesitate but the humane side of me still shouted as I raised the spade at his face. It’s as if a small part of me still do not wish to kill a man with a direct strike on the head.

 

The man raised his hands barely seconds before my strike knocked him off Yiling. There was no blood from the first hit but it was enough to bruise his hands and face, turning it an angry shade of red.

 

I was expecting that to put him down but I was wrong. He’s tougher than he looks.

 

Rolling onto the side and getting up with enough dexterity that would have made Sammo Hung nod his head in acknowledgement, the fat man came at me.

 

Jackson : oh fuck…

 

I swung the spade and he took the hit willingly in order to grab it. He’s strong too, yanking the spade out of my hand hard enough for me to feel the abrasion of the wooden handle.

 

He wielded the spade above his head while trying to get me with his legs.

 

I avoided kicks from his stubby legs and a clumsy swing of the spade.

 

Fatman : aRGHHH!!!

 

The fatman swung the spade again which I ducked easily before throwing it at me in frustration.

It went over a stack of boxes before lodging itself between a small heap of half burnt candles.

 

He’s fast too, defying the laws of physics, he closed the distance between us as he grabbed me by my shirt, lift me off the floor as if my weight is insignificant.

 

Jackson : arg HH!!!!!

 

Fatman : ARNGHHH!!!!

 

He was literally running with me but it felt more like he was losing balance as he ran forward.

 

I felt myself cruising through the air for a second before he smashed me onto a table meant for offerings to deities, sending fruits, meat and even longevity buns onto the floor. The slam knocked the air out of me, and I saw stars for a brief moment.

 

Before I could recover, my ankle was yanked and I fell from the table onto the floor, my flailing hands while struggling for balance yanked an embroidered table cloth off another altar on the 2nd tier, sending piles of ashes and incenses all over the floor.

 

Yiling came to save the day with a bunch of lit incense in her hand.

 

Fatman : aRGHHHH!!!!! arGHH!H!!!!

 

She jabbed the burning ends into the side of the fatman’s face several times like a stun baton, sending him staggering and waving his flabby arms around as his flesh dealt with the pain.

 

Unfortunately for Yiling, one of his flailing arms found Yiling’s top. He pulled her and threw Yiling against the offering table I just fell out from, ripping enough fabric off to expose half her shoulder.

 

I barely got up on my feet when I saw him about to do a body crush on Yiling, I ran and shoved Yiling to the ground and immediately felt the crushing weight of his body compact mine against the solid wood of the table.

 

Jackson : fuck !!.a.r ghhhhhhhh!!!

 

Movie scenes of actors smashing tables into pieces flashed into my head and I was cursing at the fucking table that I just fucked with my ribcage.

 

Solid hardwood timber don’t disintegrate just because you knock into it.

 

Fatman : arghhhhh.. arhghhhh!!! Haiiirrrrrr…!!

 

The fat fuck was trying to strangle me with his stubby fingers but I gripped hold of them. He kept pushing me against the table and I lost balance, falling back first on the low table. His beer belly missionary fucked my balls as we jostled for control.

 

Yiling grabbed whatever she could find off the ground, it happened to be a pineapple and I saw her smash it, leaves and all onto the fatman’s face.

 

Fatman : aRGHHH !!!!

 

She kicked him on the side of his thigh and would have gone for his kidney as well if the man had not grabbed onto her leg.

 

Yiling : arghhhh fuck !

 

Fatman : BITCHH!!!!! aRHGHH !!!

 

Holding onto Yiling’s right ankle under his armpit but squatting down a little, he grabbed Yiling’s waistband and spun her against a carved pillar.

 

Yiling : arnghhhh !!! arh..

 

Still holding onto Yiling, he yanked her off balance, toppling her onto the cold concrete floor and I could hear a loud thud as her head landed.

 

The pain in my ribs was unbearable and I don’t know if I had broken anything as I struggled to right myself up.

 

Using the table as support, I yanked myself up on my feet to see the fatman straddling Yiling.

 

ZIAPPPPP!!!

 

There was a ripping sound and Yiling’s top might as well have been made of paper. I could see Yiling’s bra as she exercised her core muscles and lifted her legs out and clamped it around the man’s neck but the weight difference was too much for her to handle.

 

If only he was half the weight, Yiling would not have trouble putting him into submission but you can hardly see his neck. Yiling’s legs might as well have clamped onto his cheeks.

 

With her legs up, Yiling’s exposed on many fronts.

 

The man grabbed Yiling on her privates and she screamed in pain, the leg hold giving way immediately.

 

Sucking in a deep breath, I mentally blocked out the pain and jumped onto the fatman’s back. My arms immediately slithered in for a chokehold and I got a lock, yanking backwards, I pulled him up and away from Yiling.

 

Jackson  : arNGHH !!!  Yiling…. Go !!!

 

Standing up and flailing his arms in an attempt to dislodge me, I was surprised at how he could still stand with me on him. I’m a lot taller but he was demonstrating strength beyond comprehension.

 

Fatman : fuck you !!! arGHHH!!!

 

I jumped and wrapped my legs around his body, clinging on hard. I just needed enough time for Yiling to get out of the area. Every second I buy is valuable.

 

With me on him, fatman spun around like a top that had gone out of control and I held on despite him reversing me against a 2m high dragon incense. The intricate details smashed onto the floor just and immediately I felt the sting of candle wax on my arms as the fatman swung me against an altar with several large red candles.

 

I tightened my grip and held on.

 

He reversed me against a timber decorative panel, desecrating the delicate carvings but I still held on. It hurt, but not as bad.

 

We went sideways against another candle stand and red hot wax splattered onto the both of us.

 

Fatman : arghhh !!

 

Jackson  : arhgfhhh !!!

 

Flailing wildly, he stepped into the main hall of the temple where I could see a red chair used by the temple medium for rites. A red menacing chair with blades arranged horizontally in threes for the seats and nails for the back rest. Even the armrest were made of blades.

 

The fatman lost his balance and fell backwards, cushioning his fall against the donation box with my body. The impact knocked the large wooden box off it’s stand, toppling it over with a few coins jingling and rolling out of the slot on top.

 

The donation bell rang in the temple as if a devotee just made an offering and topped up the incense oil when in actual fact it was just me who yanked the whole setup off the ceiling onto the ground.

 

The copper bell spun dramatically, and the deep echo reverberated within the large temple hall.

 

I was fucking pissed by then, reaching a point where I’m sure I have never been before. Everyone has lost their temper before, but I’m at the brink of losing my mind as well.

 

The fatman grunted like a pig struggling for air as he got on his feet.

 

Yiling : argnhhh !! arghhh!!!

 

Yiling flew in and kicked the man hard enough that he started to stagger backwards.

I grabbed the scary looking chair and shove it into position, hitting fatman’s thighs from behind.

Fatman : agghhhhh !!

 

I thought he would fall onto it but he didn’t.

 

He managed to stop and regained his balance right at the edge of the seat but Yiling followed up with another kick hard enough that it caused her to lose her balance herself and she toppled onto the floor.

 

Fatman : ahhhhhhhh!!!! Arghhhhhhh…a rhghhhh!!!

 

120kg of body mass smashed into the chair and I could see his facial expression change almost immediately. He was convulsing and wheezing as he tried to get back up.

 

I ran over and held onto the fatman’s head from behind, pulling his body against the chair. I relaxed my legs, using my entire bodyweight to hold him against the chair as Yiling delivered another knee to his chest, driving the layers of protective fats against the bed of nails.

 

Fatman : crrrrrrrooocccccccszzzz !!

 

Collapsing onto my knees, I panted for air as I struggled to get up and over to Yiling.

 

The fatman’s face grunted and his fingers convulsed as if he was having a spasm before Yiling backed off 2 steps, sprung back forward and spun around before kicking him hard enough that I saw his entire body relax for a brief moment before he stopped moving.

 

I could smell a mixture of pee and the pungent smell of blood as bodily fluids from that man started dripping onto the hall of the temple. I almost gagged from the telling smell of excrements that is starting to stain it’s way out of the fatman’s pants.

 

Yiling and I were panting for air as we looked at the man on the chair before looking at each other. Her top has been ripped to shreds and she had removed it to stem a cut on her right forearm.

 

She sank down to the floor and I could see her entire body peppered with perspiration as if she just ran a marathon.

 

Jackson  : we need to go…. Now….

 

Yiling : let’s go…

 

She walked on ahead as I removed my top, I stopped her and put it over her head. She did not reject my top that by then was already soaked with perspiration and stains of blood, not to mention a large patch of dried candle wax.

 

Her hands just searched for the openings of the arm holes and put on my top without a word.

 

Jackson : go …. !  get to the car….

 

Heading to a side gate, Yiling slammed his fist against the release button, disengaging the latch of the gate. I could see a camera pointing at the gate and I jumped and grabbed it, yanking it off forcibly.

 

As I dismantled the device into bits of wires and chips, Yiling shouted at me to hurry up.

 

Yiling : JACKSON!!! HURRY !!!… argnhhh !!!

 

Yiling was kicked in the back and she fell onto me back into the compound of the temple.

 

Jackson : argnhhh !!!

 

Another fake temple attendant has arrived. I shove Yiling away in time as he cursed in a language I don’t understand while throwing the untied bags of coffee at me.

 

The hot liquid seared my topless body and I shouted in pain as I pushed myself backwards on the floor.

 

Another kick and I fell backwards before I could stand up properly.

 

Yiling struck him twice in his side and this time round, with a lower difference in weight and size, the hit was hard enough to back him off from me.

 

Yiling landed another punch on the guy that is a complete opposite of the fat man. He’s skinny and his skin looked like he has some eczema condition. They are red and peeling at several spots.

 

He grabbed Yiling on her neck and he squeezed her breast in an attempt to force her off him as I dove forward for a well-placed strike on his kidney.

 

Skinny : arghhhhh!!! Fuck !!!

 

His body arched awkwardly to the side like the paper clip in old versions of Microsoft word trying to give you a tutorial in a weird contorted way. I punched him on the jaw, shove him back, punch him again, before kicking him away from Yiling and me.

 

I was pretty sure those hurt but he seemed unaffected.

 

He grabbed an incense urn and flung it through the air. I barely hugged onto Yiling when I felt it crash onto my left shoulder blade before splattering ashes all over. My shoulder absorbed most of the impact but it hit Yiling on the back of her head as well.

 

She groaned as she fell onto the floor.

 

Skinny started throwing everything he could get his hands on from the floor as I pushed Yiling aside as I started walking towards Skinny to direct the objects away from Yiling.

 

The flying objects stopped and Skinny started climbing the table where the offerings once sat. The same one I fucked my ribs on earlier.

 

My eyes immediately saw what he was going for.

 

The table had 3 tiers and the one at the top held a sabre.

 

I ran forward and I managed to grab his ankle.

 

Jackson : aRGHHH!!!

 

I pulled with both hands, knocking him off balance as he slammed both arms onto the 2nd tier table which has been stripped of the embroidered table cloth earlier.

 

I climbed onto the table as well to go for the ceremonial sabre.

 

Skinny : arGHHH !!!

 

Skinny held onto my pants and pulled me back. My hands reached for anything within grasp, it happened to be coils of cone shaped incense hanging above our heads.

 

Jackson : arghhhh !!!

 

I yanked and smashed those into Skinny. It hardly did anything other that enrage him further.

 

Skinny grabbed a burning end and stabbed it against my thigh, barely centimetres away from my testicles.

 

Jackson : arghhh !!!

 

I grabbed his hair and sent his head to the side of the 2nd tier table. He bounced back up with a thud and I could tell Skinny is disorientated by the blow.

 

Grabbing his shirt, I lifted him up and shove him backwards before kicking him so hard that I fell off my end of the table. Skinny soared backwards, swimming through the air like a kite without a string.  His arms caught onto a row of intricate robes made of paper meant for deities, ripping an entire wardrobe of offereings cleanly off 2 pillars as he fell to the floor.

 

Skinny : arghhhhhhhhhhh… ernghhhhhhhhhhh!!

 

I groaned and gasped for air as Yiling came over to me. It was over in less than a minute but it felt like the longest minute ever.

 

Yiling was holding onto the back of her head, she looks disoriented but she’t not bleeding.

 

Skinny’s eyes were barely opened and I just jabbed towards the exit with my finger, too exhausted to speak.

 

I half crawled and scrambled after Yiling.

 

Walking out topless and covered with spots of blood, I attracted a few stares from 2 aunties across the street. I ignored them and escorted Yiling to the car while checking my surroundings for any other surprises.

 

Yiling ran to the car and after making sure she is safely inside, I told her I’m going back for Hong and Seven.

 

 

Jackson : Drive…. I’ll see you back at the estate….

 

Yiling : no Jackson !!! wait…

 

Jackson : Hong and Seven are still in there….

 

Yiling : Jackson  !!!

 

Yiling was already dialling on her phone as I started to climb the gate a 2nd time.

 

I ran towards the staircase I came out off earlier and checked it cautiously.

 

The enclosed stairwell of the old building amplified all the noise and sound. I could hear the fight several floors up. Hong’s grunts and curses in Hokkien impossible to miss.

 

Taking 2 steps at a time, I flew up the steps until I saw the number 3 appear by the side of the wall. Level 3, it’s where we saw the most men earlier.

 

I barely had time to flatten my body against the side of the wall when I saw Hong threw a man down a whole flight of stairs while cursing loudly.

 

Hong : NAH BEH CHEE BYE !!! ( motherfucker )  aRGHHH!!!

 

I was about to continue my journey up when Hong got another scrawny looking man by the jaw and sent him down to meet his friend. The unfortunate man face palmed onto the rusty metal railing before falling backwards.

 

Hong was bleeding on his head and he suddenly fell forward; he would have collapsed face down a flight of stairs if I was not there to hold him. His weight and impact were hard enough to drive me backwards and my right foot slipped 2 steps splitting my legs apart as if I was trying to do a gymnastic stunt across 4 risers.

 

Without waiting for Hong to right his balance properly, I removed myself from the support and I saw it was Seven who was shoved against Hong. Seven jumped as if his body was weightless, his madmen like kicks and shoves keeping the men at bay.

 

Seven : argHHH!! Arghhh!!!… arghhh!!!

 

Seven’s violent kicks kept the men at bay and they kept trying to break through.

 

One of the men broke through and grabbed Seven by his waist, but before any real damage could be done, I sent a hardened fist into the side of his temple.

Seven broke free and flew forward, kicking another man in his gut.

 

Hong was back up and his knuckle duster found it’s target, the poor guy painted the wall with a spray of red like an artist creating art with thick viscous paint.

 

That was a hard hit and the guy collapsed and stopped moving with his face dragging down the wall as he landed. The trail of blood and mucus doesn’t look like it will be easy to clean off.

 

Hong’s stretched hand and knuckles put an invisible line in between us and our pursuers. I don’t know how many they were dealing with on their way down but 3 of them remained.

 

They looked wary and with several visible bruises on their faces, you could tell they are not as aggressive as their friends. Especially not when most of them were already groaning on the floor.

 

With Hong covering our retreat, we backed down the stairwell and eventually got to the ground floor.

 

The smaller man I put down earlier before heading to the temple was sitting up on the floor looking dazed and disorientated. Looking out towards the gate, I could see Yiling gesturing to us.

 

Hong : Where is boss ???

 

Jackson : in the car… there… …

 

Yiling : HEY!!!

 

Yiling was on the phone and she was gesturing towards the direction of the temple. 3 of us trying to climb the gate would be a disaster if the pursuers came for us.

 

Jackson : let’s go !…. we can go out from there….

 

The lot of us ran towards the temple through the boundary wall.

 

Turning around, I could see the men in scrubs gathering by the staircase but they were not in pursuit. We stopped running to catch our breath.

 

Hong grunted and pointed a middle finger at them before taunting them further.

 

Hong : LAI !!!! CCB…. ( Come at me… fuckers ) LAI AH!!! ( Come on ! )

 

They stopped and I know why.

 

Their attires are stained in blood and they are dressed as if they are dealing with a biohazard outbreak.  Leaving the safety of the staircase stack would mean being exposed to anyone who happens to be walking by or driving by.

 

Or maybe they realised there’s nothing more they could do, not with the number of men left.

Or perhaps they are going back up for more help, perhaps to get weapons, either way, we’re not going to be waiting around to find out.

 

They retreated into the staircase and I could feel Seven pulling me by my arm to start moving.

 

Hong : FUCK!!…

 

We turned to see what Hong was cursing about and the sight of it made me sick in the stomach.

 

We were right by a 2-storey high burner shaped like a pagoda. It was meant for devotees to burn their offerings and incense paper, but instead, I saw a half burnt torso of a human being inside.

 

I didn’t notice it earlier when I ran in.

 

The pagoda has been refitted with a large extractor fan to filter the smoke and draw more oxygen in.

 

Hong : what the fuck….

 

Jackson : what the fuck is going on here…. ? ….

 

Hong : They’re fucking burning the bodies….

 

Looking inside the opening, I could see the half-burnt carcass of what I assumed were the former residents of the home.

 

Hong : Let’s get the fuck out of here…

 

We stepped over the mess of altars, candles and incenses Yiling and I toppled over earlier towards the side gate.

 

Turning my head into the hall to check on the fatman, I could see he had gotten himself off the chair but is now lying face down in a pool of his piss and blood. He was convulsing a little as spit and mucus bubbled by the side of his face.

 

Skinny is nowhere to be found.

 

A couple of cars slowed down in the small road as the 3 of us ran along the small road and towards the car Yiling was in.

 

Yiling shifted away from the driver seat when she saw us arriving.

 

Jackson  : you need to call the police…. They are fucking murdering people inside there !!

 

Yiling : we need to go… we cannot be here…. I’ll handle it…

 

Jackson : call the police… !!

 

Turning to Yiling, I saw that she was holding one of her nokia phone.

 

Her fabled nokia 8855.

 

She was talking into it.

 

I’m not sure to who but whoever it is, they are going to be handling this mess.

 

Yiling : i can’t…. your guys have to do it…. Now… !!

 

That’s was all we heard as she slid the old phone cover close by hitting it against the arm rest.

 

Stepping onto the accelerator, we were lucky to hit 3 junctions where the lights were all in our favour before finally stopping on the 4th.

 

Yiling turned to the back and asked if Seven and Hong are ok.

 

Hong : we’re ok….

 

Seven grunted in agreement.

 

Yiling : Jackson ….. you ok ??

 

Jackson  : yeah… yeah I think so…. Have you called the police….??? Those people must be fucking terrorist or something….

 

Yiling : don’t worry… it’s being handled… just get us back to the estate…

 

When I got back to Bukit Timah, I was directed to the 1st house where the private ambulance was parked.

 

We got out and I could see everyone was there waiting for us.

 

Kamal, Aaron, Declan, the girls, everyone was there.

 

Declan saw the state we were in and he was at a lost for words.

 

Aaron : what the fuck did you all do…. ?

 

Everyone went their separate ways and I was led to level 2 of the makeshift medical facility.

 

Looking at my bruised ribs, the guy attending to me insisted I take an xray to make sure nothing is broken.

 

Jackson : xray ?? you have an xray machine in here???

 

I entered a room and there it was. A fucking xray machine.

 

I took the dose of radiation and was attended to by another lady who cleaned my wounds with a permanent frown on her face. I’m ok I think, plenty of bruises, some abrasions and cuts, but other than that, I’m still walking.

 

 

I was gulping down a bottle of water when the man told me my xray came out ok.

Nothing fractured, nothing broken. Just plenty of bruising.

 

The exact words he used;  ‘ looks bad… but won’t die ‘

 

I needed a change of clothes and I hitched a ride on one of the buggy back to my farmhouse.

 

After a shower and a fresh change of clothes, I collapsed onto my bed, groaning in pain with every move or change in position.

 

I stared at the ceiling of the farmhouse, wondering what the fuck is going on.

 

This is not me.

 

I don’t go around beating people up and kicking them against a chair of nails.

 

I don’t go around smashing people’s head in with a spade.

 

Every time something like this happens, I felt as if a part of me is being slowly eaten away.

 

The door to the farmhouse opened and it was Aaron.

 

He better not be here to shit talk me, I’m not in the mood.

 

Aaron : Jesus…. What the hell….. what happened ? …. Did you all go fuck with the Rajahs ?? ….

 

He asked as he handed my phone back to me. I don’t know if that was a question or it came out as a statement.

 

I was too exhausted to answer him.

 

Aaron : go home Jackson….. Boss ordered everyone to leave…. Go back… grab some rest….. cool the fuck off……. she will be in touch if she needs you…. We’re all leaving the estate…..Declan will be staying…

 

Jackson : ok.. thanks… How’s Hong and Seven…. ?

 

Aaron : Seven dislocated 2 toes… but he’s ok…Hong is fine too… just need a few stiches….

 

Jackson : what about Yiling ??

 

Aaron : she’s ok…. Fucking pissed…messed up both her mani and pedicure… . But ok…light bruising…pulled some muscles…

 

I nodded as I shut my eyes. The adrenaline is gone and I’m left feeling this emotional and mental low I can’t describe.

 

Aaron : take care dude… …

 

Aaron left the farmhouse and I realised for the first time, that was the most normal conversation I’ve had with him after all this while.

 

I must have fell asleep after a while and when I woke up, it’s already dinner time and my stomach is rumbling.

 

Jackson : argnhhhhh!!! Fuck…. Ahhhhh… fuck….

 

Every spot in my body hurts and the bruises are starting to show along the length of my arms. My ribs are a grotesque mix of purple and dark red as I checked myself out in the mirror.

 

I was limping too, not because my leg was hurt but somehow, I figured out a way to walk with a limp that would cause minimum pain. Trudging towards the cookhouse, I could smell the fragrance of curry that evening.

 

Deuce was on duty that day and he gestured to me, asking if I crashed my car or something.

 

Jackson : long story…. What’s for dinner …. ?

 

Deuce helped me bring a serving of basmati rice, butter chicken and curry fishhead and vegetables over to my table. I munched on some naan, dipping and eating with one hand as I zoned out.

 

One of the cooks turned up the volume of the news of the TV playing in the dining area and I dropped the naan in my hand.

 

A fire has broken out at the home we were at earlier that day.

 

Footage of fire fighters and fire engines on the scene were being played. Media crowded the scene and from the reports, it appears as if a fire has broken out due to faulty kitchen equipment.

 

Jackson : what the hell….

 

According to the report, they managed to rescue almost a dozen elderly folks who are all ok but badly shaken. There are conflicting reports of casualties, the reporter said that there are accounts of rescuer seeing charred bodies on site but the people in charge says those accounts have not been verified.

A spokesperson shared that they are still investigating and will update the public later when more details emerged.

 

The camera panned to the side of home which showed that the temple too has been engulfed by the fire.

 

Deuce shook his head at the news and went back to his work.

 

That’s not what happened.

 

They’re covering it all up.

 

I don’t understand why.

 

I didn’t have much appetite but I ate anyway.

 

I grabbed some fruits from the fridge and started to hobble my way back to the farmhouse.

 

When I got there, I was surprised to see Yiling at the garden. She was facing the bamboo garden with her back towards me.

 

 

There isn’t a breeze, it’s a typical humid evening in the country.

 

The skies are a crimson shade of red and there are flashes of lighting in the horizon. It looked like it’s going to rain anytime now.

 

I kept quiet and just looked at her.

 

She didn’t move, she just stared at the landscaping in the garden.

 

I took the opportunity to admire the curves of Yiling’s body. She was wearing a pair of ¾ lounge pants. It’s loose and comfortable fitting around the calves but her bottom is firm and tight.

 

She’s definitely not wearing undies.

 

I shook my head and looked away, unable to believe what my head was thinking after what happened that day.

 

Not wanting to disturb her thoughts , I was about to hobble away back to the cookhouse when it started to rain.

The splatter of rain drops on the garden pathway snapped Yiling out of her daze and she turned to see me with a bunch of fruits in my arms.

 

The rain got bigger and i half hobbled and ran towards the farmhouse, so did Yiling.

 

Yiling : what are you doing here… ? I asked everyone to go home…

 

Jackson : what about you…..? why didn’t you go home….

 

Yiling : This….. is my home….

 

The rain got heavier and the accompanying wind send sprays of moisture onto our bodies as we retreated a step back under the eaves of the overhanging roof.

 

Jackson : This is where you work…. It’s not your home…

 

Yiling folded her arms and gave me a sideway glare as if I said something that irritated her.

 

Yiling : tsk …!

 

Jackson : come in… you’re going to get wet ….

 

Yiling : I’m not going in there….

 

Jackson : relax… I won’t ask you for sex….

 

The smack came and my knees buckled, and I knelt onto the floor while holding onto the handle of the door.

 

Jackson : argHHHHHHHH!!!..

 

On normal days, it would be nothing more than a playful smack, but not that day.

 

Yiling : oh my god…. I’m sorry…. I’m so sorry….

 

Yiling angled her head sideways and looked at me before carefully lifting the side of my top to reveal the bruising.

 

Yiling : oh…. Ermm…ok…. Jackson … I just want to say… we have very comprehensive medical and insurance coverage……so ermm…don’t worry…

 

Jackson : arnghhh …!!… just get in….

 

Yiling got in and I shut the door, groaning like a old man with aching bones he can’t fix.

 

Yiling hesitated for a couple of seconds before removing her sneakers.

 

Jackson  : drink ?

 

Yiling : I don’t suppose….. you have steamboat ingredients…. ?

 

Jackson : what….

 

Yiling : I haven ate anything the whole day….

 

Jackson : Sit…. I’ll whip up whatever I could find… I have some instant noodles….

 

Yiling : ok… I want a soup base noodle…. Some vegetables…. Seasoning just put half…. Preferably something spicy….. and put in some of those pacific clams over on the shelves over there…..

 

I exhaled and looked at Yiling who had crossed her legs, rest her cheek on her palm while waiting for me to prepare her food.

 

Yiling : what… ? I pay your salary….

 

I started to cook the noodle in the new hotpot which I just removed from the packaging. While doing so I had to endure Yiling’s nagging and comments about the farmhouse.

 

What should be improved.

 

What additional stuff I needed.

 

She asked why there isn’t a wine cabinet.

 

She commented that the place is too small.

 

That I should probably open another window out back, maybe consider doing an extension. The new table comfortably fits 6 now but Yiling doesn’t like it round.

 

Yiling : rectangle would be better…. So I can sit at the head of the table…. Sort of the middle…. You know what I’m saying ??

 

I carefully brought the bubbling pot of noodles complete with vegetables, fishballs, sausages and pacific clams over to the table.

 

Jackson : wherever you decide to sit…. That will be the middle…. Happy ?

 

Yiling smiled and nodded in an appreciative manner as if acknowledging my bootlicking skill.

 

Yiling : you are a good talker Jackson…. That’s a special skill ….you deserve a raise….hahah….

 

Jackson : thank you….

 

Yiling : do you believe I also have a special skill…. ?

 

Jackson : what is it…

 

Yiling : It’s a skill…. That I spent many years of my life…. honing and perfecting….

 

I raised an eyebrow and waited for her to go on.

 

Yiling : I can dip my fingers into this boiling pot of noodles without flinching…. Do you believe me ??

 

I laughed.

 

Jackson : hahahah… I don’t believe you…. No way…

 

Yiling did not smile, instead she snapped at me.

 

Yiling : then get me the fucking utensils…..!!! how do you expect me to eat !!

 

Jackson  : oh….

 

I handed Yiling the utensils as she rolled her eyes at me before laughing, so did i.

 

I took out 2 cans of beer from the fridge and opened one for her.

 

The unsettling feeling in me grew the longer I sat opposite Yiling.

 

She’s beautiful, attractive, confident and she oozes sexual appeal no matter how I look at her.

 

She ate quietly, chewed her noodles slowly as I looked at her without a word.

 

This is not normal.

 

You don’t go through what you did in the morning and sit down calmly in the evening for noodles like nothing happened.

 

I have questions, Yiling knew I have questions.

 

I sipped my beer quietly and I just watched Yiling eat.

 

She picked up a clam and popped it into her mouth before looking up at me.

 

Yiling : you doing anything tomorrow Jackson … ?

 

Jackson : no…

 

Yiling : can you drive….  ?

 

I nodded.

 

Jackson : I can…. Where are we going… ?

 

Yiling : little india….

 

I watched Yiling pull up another stalk of vegetable before turning her head sideways to eat it so she doesn’t stain her cheeks before asking.

 

Jackson  : What’s in little india… ?

 

Yiling : Hopefully…….some.. answers…

 

 

…………………………

 

Jackson : The answers you seek….will you be sharing them with us… ?

 

Yiling chose not to answer my question and instead asked me where do I do the dishes usually. I pointed it to the basin in the bathroom.

 

I remained at my seat as Yiling did the dishes with the same soap that Seven liked to use for his shower.

She don’t strike me as someone who would do the dishes but her manicure’s messed up anyway, so why not.

Yiling burped loudly and asked for tissues after she’s done.

 

Yiling : burppzzz…. Excuse me….  Burppzzzz… ahhh… that’s quite nice.. thank you…

 

The rain got heavier and there’s no sign of it abating.

 

Yiling : do you have umbrellas here ?

 

Jackson : No…

 

Yiling : why not ??

 

Jackson : errr… never had a need for them so far…. I’ll buy some the first chance I get….

 

Yiling : yes please…

 

With no end of the rain in sight, I brought out another 2 cans of beer and some of the nuts the guys usually like to munch on.

 

Yiling sat back down and tore up the packaging of the nuts in a way that made it hard for it to be resealed.

 

Yiling : How’s your grandfather….

 

Jackson : He’s ok…thank you…. How about you…. Any family… ?

 

Yiling : why do you want to know… ?

 

Jackson  : do you find it hard to trust people….

 

She avoided my question again and chose to drink her beer.

 

We chatted a little, most of the time we were just munching on the nuts and snacks while waiting for the rain to stop.

 

Yiling : slurpzz… zhooottzzzz….

 

Yiling has this habit of sucking the seasonings off her fingers after eating a few chips, then she will reach back into the packet again.

 

Churning it around a bit as if searching for that perfect piece before grabbing a few and stuffing it into her mouth.

 

Yiling : What !! ?

 

Jackson : I find your…. Eating habits… fascinating….

 

Yiling : you …. Zhoottzzz… must have some OCD ( obsessive compulsive disorder ) ….. zhootttzzz… you have issue sharing food with other….

 

Jackson  : no I don’t….

 

Yiling : So you are ok with having steamboat with the guys where everyone is stirring their chopsticks inside the same broth and you have issues with me picking chips off the same back with these… !!??

 

Yiling wriggle her wet fingers at me and I shove them away from my face.

 

Jackson : ewww…. ! stop it….

 

Yiling : hahahah….

 

Yiling narrowed her eyes, stuck out her tongue from the side of her lips and she looked into the bag of chips, her expression is obvious that she is up to no good.

 

 

Yiling : hmmmmmmm…. Let me see…. Hiak.. hiak….

 

She pulled out one small piece and waved it in a mischievous manner in front of my face.

 

Jackson  : hahaha… what is wrong with you … !

 

I pushed her hand away but she shove her fingers at me.

 

Yiling  : Proof it !! proof it you don’t have OCD !!!! whahahahha !!!

 

Jackson  : arnghghgh !!!

 

Yiling stuffed her chip pinching finger into my mouth, smashing it into bits as she laughed heartily.

 

I wiped my mouth and I thought I felt a tooth that was a little loose.

 

Yiling chomped down on more chips as she commented I’m the kind of people that would surely whine about people double dipping into my sauces.

 

Jackson : I’m not a fan of double dipping….

 

Yiling rolled her eyes at me and made a show of throwing a piece of chip at me before laughing.

 

 

By the end of the 3rd beer, Yiling started asking for the bottle of whisky on the shelf. She’s wiped out all the snacks on the table and she looked like she was tipsy.

 

Jackson : That one belongs to Declan….

 

Yiling : Everything on this estate…. Belongs to me…..

 

She waved at the bottle with her eyes half closed as if it will magically float over.

 

I brought 2 glass and poured us each a serving.

 

Yiling gulped down the drink before hissing and flashing her pearly whites.

 

Yiling : hssssssssss…..ahhhhhhhh……… hit me again…

 

Jackson : please don’t get drunk here…

 

Yiling : I don’t remember the last time I got drunk…

 

Jackson : that was just…

 

Yiling : ehh… eh… eh.. eh.. ehhhhhhhh…..

 

Yiling looked at me with her glass half raised with a look that made me feel like I’m a nagging grandmother.

 

Yiling : just pour me the drink Jackson …

 

Yiling finished it again, hissing like a snake with her expression scrunched up before slamming the glass down on the table like a actress in a Korean drama drinking soju by the roadside while bitching about the male lead.

 

Yiling : do you have a dream Jackson …. ?

 

Jackson : Huh ?? .. yeah…. To be a gardener…. Own my own landscape company…. Bring my grandfather travelling….

 

Yiling laughed.

 

Yiling : be serious Jackson …

 

Jackson : I am serious….

 

Yiling gestured for another serving on her glass with her fingers and I could see her swaying a little but she’s still sober.

 

Yiling : Someone….. once told me…..burpzz… if your dreams doesn’t scare you….. … it’s not big enough…..

 

Jackson : ok… I think you’ve drank enough….

 

I tried to take the glass away from Yiling but she smacked my hand away.

 

Yiling : yah… ya… ya !!… don’t touch my glass !!

 

She quickly downed the drink and tried to grab the bottle but I held it away from her.

 

Yiling gestured to her glass again, her movements visibly slower.

 

Yiling : last one….. I promise… last one….

 

I relented and when I was trying to gauge a finger worth, Yiling grabbed the bottle and tipped it over.

 

Yiling : hahahah..

 

Jackson : tsk… haiyah !!!! you very irritating you know…

 

Yiling : you very naggy you know…. !

 

I pulled it away and capped it as she gleefully protected her ¾ glass of drink.

 

Now it’s my turn to ask her the question she asked me.

 

Jackson : so… what is your dream… ?

 

Yiling : hahha.. my dream….?…. nah…. Don’t have the luxury to have one….

 

Jackson  : why not….

 

Yiling took a deep breathe and gestured unsteadily with her glass.

 

Yiling : with great power…. Comes great responsibilities….

 

Jackson : Jesus….. you’re drunk….

 

She finished half of what is in her glass and rest her tired head on her palm as she looked at me.

 

Yiling : Jackson….

 

Jackson : what… ?

 

 

She gestured absentmindedly in the air.

 

Yiling : Anyone….. special…..in your life… ? girlfriend…. ?

 

Jackson : No….

 

Yiling : Why not ? ….

 

Jackson  : No particular reason….. haven met the right one….

 

Yiling : sheeehzz…. Too choosy…. Men are too choosy these days …

 

Jackson : What about you…. ? anyone special ??

 

Yiling chuckled as if I said something funny.

 

Yiling : I can’t….

 

Jackson  : Why not…. ?

 

Yiling smiled and I could feel a hint of bitterness from it and she just repeated what she said earlier.

 

Yiling : I can’t….. I can’t afford to….

 

Jackson : Money don’t seem to be a problem….

 

Yiling : I can’t afford to….

 

She began mumbling to herself as she ran her finger around the rim of the whisky glass.

 

Yiling : Jackson …..Jack….. son……Jackson….Jack… Jack…. Son… Son….

 

Jackson  : what is wrong with you…. ?

 

I replaced the bottle on the shelf and I checked on the rain. It’s still going on, looks like it’s going to be a long one.

 

I cleaned the table of the peanut shells and snacks and Yiling slowly rest her head on her arm like a student stealing a snooze in class.

 

I took the seat opposite her and just looked at her.

 

Who exactly is she ?

 

I still don’t know.

 

Is she a bad person ?

 

I can’t answer that as well.

 

Who was she talking to over the phone in the car ?

The phone call on the Nokia.

 

The phone call that can take care of everything. All the mess.

 

Yiling jerked herself awake and she toppled the rest of her drink. She straightened herself and tried to stand up.

 

Yiling : I’m ok…. I’m ok….

 

She staggered forward and supported her stumble with both hands. I grunted and got up, biting my teeth to hold back the pain my body is experiencing, I held onto Yiling and she fell into my arms.

 

Jackson : arnghhhh !!!… fuck….ooohhhhffff…

 

Yiling : I’m hooookayyy……. I’m hoookay….

 

I dragged her over to my bed and I put her down as gently as I could.

 

Yiling : rrrrrrooo… rrrourrrr…mmmmhhh..

 

Yiling mumbled and turned to her side. I grabbed the blanket and put it over her.

 

I went to my gardening supplies shelf and pulled out a green canvas. I folded it to make an improvised pillow and I put it on the floor beside the bed. People take on a job for a better life, somehow I feel my quality of living is on the decline.

 

I looked at Yiling slumped onto my bed like a log. She’s sleeping with her mouth slightly open and I’m sure she is going to drool onto my pillow.

 

Yiling : errrrrrrr…..arrhhhh….

 

She turned, kicked my blanket halfway off the bed with her legs and spread arms wide before mumbling something I can’t make out. I could already see a wet patch at the part where she was laying face down earlier.

 

How can a women behave at such extreme end of the spectrum ?

 

If she’s not the classy confident women I am working for, she is this.

 

This abomination of weird creature habits, this junk food chugging, beer drinking, finger licking and sometimes just plain funny girl.

 

A girl that I confess that I would love to date despite all her flaws.

 

She can be a bitch at times and I’m sure the rest of the guys would agree with me on this, but somehow, she just draws all of us close to her.

She’s all powerful, yet vulnerable.

 

She’s confident, yet she has her own insecurities.

 

She’s gorgeous when she’s all dolled up, and even without makeup, she’s pretty and cute.

 

She’s the kind of girl men would want to protect.

 

She burped and turned away, mumbling again in her sleep.

 

Shaking my head, I started to lower myself onto the ground.

 

Jackson : arhhhh… ahhhh… arghhhhh …

 

Groaning and moaning every step of the way, I laid down and I fell asleep.

 

 

………………………………………………

 

 

2nd June 2015

Tuesday

 

8am

 

When I opened my eyes, I saw that the bed beside me is empty. The blanket I had offered to Yiling is now covering me.

 

The bruises hurt more than ever and I could hardly scrub myself when I shower.

 

I got dressed and went to the cookhouse to grab a bite.

 

 

9.30am

 

My phone rang and I knew exactly who it is.

 

Jackson  : yes…

 

Yiling : you ready to go…. ?

 

Jackson : yeap… where do I meet you… ?

 

Yiling : I’ll meet you at your car…. I got someone to fill up the tank a little, enough for us to make it to the petrol kiosk…

 

Jackson : what… how ? … you don’t have the keys….

 

Yiling : opening car door & fuel tank without keys is a skillset that is not hard to find among the people working for me…. I’ll see you there….

 

I got to my car and Yiling was dressed like a cool cowgirl that morning.

 

White blouse with sleeves folded up to her elbows. The 1st 2 buttons are undone, revealing her plain white tube underneath. Navy blue hip hugging jeans and fashionably high heels in brown suede.

 

Her sling bag is in a similar shade of brown and it was sitting on the roof of my car.

 

She was playing with her aviator shades and when she saw me approaching, she put it on and waited for me to unlock the car.

 

We got in and the first thing she commented was when am I going to change a new one.

 

Yiling : This is old…. Old…. Time for a new one…

 

Jackson : When you give me a raise…. I’ll get one…I realised I was still getting the same pay with the added responsibilities….

 

Yiling snorted as she asked me to start driving.

 

 

I topped up the tank and made our way to little india.

 

 

11am

 

I followed Yiling’s direction, cutting through small streets and alleyways.

 

It’s been a while since I came to little india. It has never been a nice place to drive in. People jaywalk across the street throughout the day, tradesmen line the small roads with their wares ranging from onions to brinjals.

 

Groups of visitors just hanging around blocking roads and walkways going about their own business.

Deliveries are carted across streets to restaurant and busloads of tourist kept arriving to check out the quaint district.

 

Jackson : where do I go from here…. ?

 

Yiling pointed to a commercial building and I paused at the junction where 5 different roads converged. Making sure the street is clear, I turned into the basement carpark.

 

Everything looks new and the carpark has a fresh coat of paint.

 

The barrier arm came up promptly and I found a spot right by the entrance to the office lobby.

 

Yiling : wait for me at the lobby…. I’ll handle this alone….

 

Jackson : you sure ? …. Will you be ok… ?

 

Yiling : don’t worry…. It’s safe here….

 

Jackson : I need to relook at the word safe after I start working for you…..i mean…. Old folks home…. Temple… ? I would think those places are generally safe….

 

Yiling : I’ll be fine….

 

Jackson : I’ll accompany you and wait outside the room or office or whatever…at least stay in my sight…. I’m going to be left worrying and wondering what is happening … and…

 

Yiling stopped walking and turned to look at me while removing her shades.

 

She gave me a sly smile before jabbing me with the end of her shades.

 

Yiling : you know…… I realised…. You can be quite sweet sometimes…Jackson…. Hahah ….

 

Jackson  : What… ? I’m just concerned….

 

Yiling : hahah… well… I think it’s really sweet of you to be worrying about your boss like that…. But what can I say….

 

Yiling spread her hands and gestured around her like a model presenting her wares.

 

Yiling : This is one of the safest building in the country….

 

I rolled my eyes as she laughed and started to turn away from me.

 

 

Yiling : If there’s a zombie apocalypse…. This would be where I would run to….remember that… it would save your life….

 

Jackson : Yiling…. Wait…

 

Yiling went towards the lift lobby and bypassed the people using the automated gantry with their staff pass. Instead, she went to the guard who buzzed her in without a word.

 

She must be a regular here.

 

Yiling : I’ll call you….

 

She gave me a wink before stepping into the lift.

 

I walked deeper into the lobby and checked out the surrounding. It’s bright and new, probably went through a makeover within the last year or so. I never realised this building was here before.

 

There’s a small water feature in the centre of the lobby. It looked like some abstract artwork made of different pieces of bent metal. The 4m high water feature artwork has a controlled valve at the top.

 

You know those fountain that can time each drop of water to form shapes, pictures, and even images ? You usually see it at shopping malls and tourist attractions.

 

This particular feature is doing just that but instead of displaying the usual greeting, time or building name, it was just displaying random letters and numbers. Maybe a system error.

 

They should at least display the time.

 

The falling water is quite mesmerising to watch though.

 

I could smell the fragrance of freshly ground coffee beans and I turned towards the small canteen tucked by the corner of the building.

 

Perfect.

 

It’s a peculiar looking café, interesting concept.

 

The expensive expresso machine looked out of place under the signboard that says Chicken rice. It appears as if the new owners had kept the old signboards of the previous operators.

 

Old coffee making pots and stockings hung on the wall behind the barista.

 

I ordered a piccolo Latte and found a seat to people watch.

 

From hot office ladies to your usual corporate looking executives, the building is bustling with activity.

 

My drink didn’t last long and since I did not know how long my wait is going to be, I ordered another latte with a croissant.

 

It must be quite a popular place to grab a drink and the queue kept coming.

 

The seats were taken up fast too and I was trying to avoid eye contact with those that think I’m seat hogging.

 

“ can I…. share your table ? “

 

The man spoke with an accent and I gestured for him to go ahead.

 

Now at least I don’t feel so bad hogging a table for 4.

 

He placed a copy of newspaper on the table and I could see it’s in Korean.

 

After he came back with his drink I adjusted my stuff to give him more space and slowly ate my croissant while he read his papers. Rodong Sinmun. The name of the paper.

 

I could not help googling for it and my eyes widened immediately.

 

Bloody hell, that’s a North Korean newspaper. He reached into his pocket and brought out a pen to write something down on his palm after reading the paper and I could clearly see the pen came with a pin of the supreme leader.

 

What are the odds ?

 

Having coffee beside a North Korean in Little india.

 

I was thinking of dropping Yiling a message when the Korean I was sharing the table with exclaimed and got up to shake the hand of another man who just arrived.

 

“ Billy……how’s things on your end… thank you for the hampers… “

 

I casually looked up and saw a young looking fellow shake the hand of the Korean before speaking softly by his ear. The young chap has a youthful looking face but I could see white hair has started to show, it’s as if work has forced him to grow up faster than he wanted.

 

Well, corporate life isn’t for everyone. Working in an office can wear out anyone.

Billy whispered something to the Korean and he nodded before he whispered something in return.

 

Both of them laughed softly and the Korean man said something along the line of ;

 

‘ Tell him his friends in the north….. wishes him well… ‘

 

Billy : hahah… of course…. Come…. We need to talk….

 

They went towards the direction of the lift and disappeared into one of it.

 

I finished up the last of my croissant and drained my cold coffee.

 

With a constant stream of people coming in, I was too embarrassed to hog the seat further and I decided to explore a little.

 

Little India has changed a lot ever since the riot in 2013.

 

I could see cameras at every turn. Cameras bundled up like a bunch of grapes hung at varying heights at strategic junction. It’s impossible to do anything without being monitored in this district.

 

A couple of police officers cycled by and a tour guide explained to a small group of tourists the different walking trails they can explore to soak up the atmosphere.

 

Alcohol consumption in public areas have been banned in little India as a result of the riot. You can only sell alcohol from 6am to 8pm and even then, you can only consume the alcohol in licensed establishments.

 

It sounds absurd, something only a country that bans chewing gum will think off but still, they managed to pull it off.

 

I’m not sure how long Yiling will take and I don’t want to wander far.

 

I passed by shops selling herbs and spices, mobile phones, even minimarts.

 

An old man was peeling onions in front of his shop. A minivan load of tourist disembarked in front of a store selling jewlleries.

 

I turned at the junction, intending to make a loop back to the office building.

 

The smell of the food is really tempting but I don’t want to risk ordering only to have Yiling bark at me over the phone to get back there so I continued walking.

 

Just when I was about to make the last right turn back to the office building, I froze.

 

I froze because I saw someone I recognised.

 

The man with the funny fingers standing behind Rachel at the dinner.

 

One of the Rajahs.

 

He was standing at the end of the five foot way. He knew I saw him and he walked casually away.

 

What the fuck ? Why is he here ?

 

I quickened my pace to the end of the street to see if he’s still there but he’s gone.

 

This is creepy, he’s following me.

 

Making my way back to the office tower, I went to the café again, choosing a window seat this time round that gave me a good view of the exterior.

 

I don’t see him anywhere.

 

Yiling : Jackson …

 

I turned to see Yiling walking towards me.

 

Jackson : hey… I need to tell you something….. one of the Rajahs…. I think he’s following us….

 

Yiling : where… ?

 

Jackson : over there on that street … he’s one of the guy standing behind Rachel…. The one with the creepy fingers….

 

Yiling checked out the surrounding and added.

 

Yiling : well… I don’t see him…. Relax man… you’re too jumpy…we’re safe

 

Jackson : after the things that happened…. You can’t blame me for being jumpy…

 

Yiling : let’s go….

 

As we walked to the car, I asked Yiling about her meeting.

 

Jackson : you’re done…. So what’s the situation ?? what is happening ? …. Did you get the answers you are looking for… ?

 

Yiling : sort of…

 

We got into the car and I started the engine.

 

Jackson : so … what is going on…. ? can you tell ?

 

Yiling : …. you won’t understand….

 

Jackson : what nonsense is this…. How would you know I won’t understand if you don’t share… ?

 

Yiling : just drive….

 

I asked her where are we going and she told me to head to old Chua Chu Kang road.

 

Jackson :  where exactly ?

 

Yiling : the gun club…

 

Jackson : what… why ???

 

Yiling : you have a lot of questions you know Jackson ….

 

Jackson : of course I have questions….if I don’t ask…. Who will tell me the answer…. ?

 

Yiling : I’ll tell you when we get there….

 

Buildings and industrial factories slowly gave way to a sea of green as I drove to that remote part of the island.

Pulling up at the gate of the gun club, I could see a large notice telling everyone that the club is closed.

 

Jackson : it’s closed…. I saw on the news…. It got flooded recently or something right…. Lawsuits flying around….

 

The security guard came out of the booth and he was about to wave us to look at the sign when he saw Yiling.

 

He immediately unlocked the gate and we waited for the mechanical barrier to roll open. He removed the sign as well, giving Yiling a friendly nod, gesturing for us to head inside.

 

Jackson : woah….

 

There are only 3 passenger cars in the parking lot but there are 4 covered trucks. On the exterior it’s the advertisement of a moving company. It don’t look like the gun club is moving though.

 

We got out and the place is empty. Yiling knew exactly where she is going and I followed closely behind.

 

Jackson : so……

 

Yiling : so what… ?

 

She commented without looking behind.

 

Jackson : There isn’t a flooding is there…. ?

 

We got to the range and I could see a man who had the bearing of a regimental sergeant major waiting for us.

 

Yiling : no…. there was no flooding…

 

Jackson : that means…..

 

I quickened my step and walked beside Yiling, wondering how the hell can she walk at the speed she does with those heels.

 

Jackson : that means you…. You closed the gun range on purpose….

 

Yiling : ….yes I did….

 

Jackson : why… ?

 

 

Yiling stretched out her hand and the waiting man shook it warmly.

 

Yiling : Hi Calvin….been a while…

 

Calvin : Hi Yiling….. been a while indeed…..

 

Yiling : what I’ve asked for….. everything ok… ?

 

Calvin nodded.

 

Calvin : the club will be closed for a few months at least…..lawsuits will keep the media and members occupied…. Contractors that are supposed to fix the flooding and armoury are all my guys…. We’re good….

 

Yiling : thank you so much for the help…. Are they here already… ?

 

Calvin : we owe you Yiling… it’s the least we can do…. Come… follow me…. She’s in the waiting room….

 

I whispered to Yiling, asking if we’re going to shoot at the range.

 

Jackson : I don’t mind having some fun… hahaha…. Been a while since I last tried this

 

Yiling : we’re not here to have fun….

 

 

I arrived at the waiting room and i froze at the door. There is a lady who is of similar size as Cindy but she looked older. Probably late thirties. She’s ribbed and if she goes head to head with Cindy, I’m not sure who will emerge the winner.

 

I barely had time to digest how the big girl look when someone else caught my attention.

 

Someone that Yiling is walking towards with her arms spread apart.

 

I blinked several times.

 

My eyes alternated between Yiling and another lady she is walking towards.

 

Jackson  : what the fuck…..

 

They look, they look the same.

 

Almost like a carbon copy.

 

Yiling hugged the girl for a few seconds before asking her how is she.

 

They exchanged a few words before turning to me.

 

 

Yiling : This is my sister…. Yvonne…. Sis… this is Jackson ….

 

 

Jackson  : You…. You…..

 

Yvonne : hi Jackson ….

 

Jackson  : You…. You’re twins….

 

Yiling : yes…

 

Jackson  : do… do the rest of the guys know…. ?

 

Yiling : Declan is aware….the rest… I don’t think so….

 

Jackson : this….

 

Yiling : …. Jackson,…. listen carefully to what I’m about to say…..

 

I was at a loss for words.

 

They really look quite identical.

 

Slight difference, Yvonne has fuller breasts.

 

If you were to see from a distance, or take a passing glance, or from the back they’re really quite identical. I mean I can tell Yiling and Yvonne apart but their resemblance is really quite amazing.

 

 

Yiling :  There is something……we need to do…..

 

I looked at the sisters as my mind tried to wrap around what she is saying.

 

The 2 of them looked at me as if they expect me to figure out what they are up to.

 

Jackson : You’re going…………..you’re going …..  to get your sister to pretend to be you ………

 

I said it even without realising.

 

It just came out.

 

Yiling : Actually…. You’re half right…..

 

Jackson : what ? ….

 

Yiling : I am going to pretend to be my sister…..

 

 

……………………………………….

 

It took a while for that to sink in and I asked her why.

 

Jackson : why…. ? is this related to everything that is happening… ? why do you need to pretend to be your sister…  ?

 

Yiling : no it’s not…. This is personal…. And we need your help…

 

Jackson : will I be breaking the law… ?

 

Yiling : that’s…. open to interpretation…..

 

Jackson : not again….? You’re kidding ….

 

Yiling : I’m not….

 

Yiling gave me a straight face and waited for my reply.

 

I would tell whatever this is, she wants me to help. I looked at the 2 girls in the room and they were both looking at me. It’s a strange feeling to have 2 identical looking individuals staring at me.

 

Jackson  : ok…. Ok….…. is this why you are always away with Aaron on Fridays … ?

 

Yiling : Aaron doesn’t know…. I am at the warehouse with Aaron on Fridays…..wait wait wait…. why do you know about my Fridays… ? why do you care about Aaron… ?

 

Jackson : I don’t care about Aaron ….…. I just know Friday is the time i usually have the weekly steamboat with the guys…. When you guys are not around…… doing whatever it is you do…

 

Yiling : What !…. why do you care what I do on my Fridays… ?

 

Jackson : I already said I don’t…. I’m just saying…

 

Yiling : I’m your boss !… I do what I want on my Fridays !

 

Jackson : Yes… yes…. I know that…why are you getting so worked up ?

 

Yvonne laughed and folded her arms.

 

Yvonne : ok…. Please…. Stop it… hahah….

 

Yiling : It’s not funny…. At least my Fridays are better spent at work than you….. gorging yourself on processed food in a pot….

 

Jackson : Oh… you mean the same processed food you made me cook for you last night…. Before drooling all over my pillow ….. I should have taken a photo of the drool stain….

 

Yiling : I will buy you a truck load of pillows….. you know what… I’ll buy the fucking pillow factory…….. and fill up your…..

 

Yvonne stepped in between the 2 of us and started waving her hand.

 

Yvonne : ok… wait… wait….wait…. let me get this straight…..

 

It’s weird seeing a duplicate of Yiling with her arms folded as she eyed me suspiciously.

 

Yvonne : Jackson….

 

Jackson  : Yeah ?

 

Yvonne : She…. Drooled on your pillow last night….

 

Jackson : yes….

 

Yvonne : So she slept in your bed…. ?

 

Yvonne turned to her sister, making an accusation with her eyes wide open and her arms folded all without saying a single word.

 

Yiling : It’s not what you think !!!! SIS !!

 

Yvonne : ahh… ahhh.. ahhh…. Ahhhhh…. Eehhhhh…. I see….

 

My god, even the way they talk is similar.

 

Yiling : It’s not !! I had too much to drink….

 

Yvonne : Oh… so….you had too much to drink… and you…. End up on his bed…. I see….

 

Jackson : It’s a single bed …. Not that it matters…..Yvonne… I was on the floor…….. the whole night…. !! it was raining cats and dogs……!

 

Yvonne : guys…. We’re all adults…. It’s ok….

 

Yiling : Sis !!… I am his boss !!!

 

Jackson : this is a misunderstanding…..i don’t know how did we even come to have this conversation but….

 

Yvonne : shhhhhhhhh!!!! SHHH!!! Shushhhh!!

 

Yvonne waved her hands in an animated manner like a teacher desperate to shut her class up.

 

Yvonne : Come on….. I’m not a prude…. Rainy day……..  drinks and drool…. What the fuck guys…. Come on….hahaha… what are you… ? 16 ? chill man…. I’m ok with this….

 

Yiling : Oh my god… I can’t believe you are actually saying that…. !

 

Yvonne : I will ask one question…. And I will rest my case… very simple question…. We are all adults….

 

Yiling : Sis… there is nothing between us !!!! HE WORKS FOR ME !!!

 

 

Jackson : Yvonne… come on…. She speaks the truth… there is…

 

Yvonne put her finger to her lips and gesture for us to shut up so she could speak.

 

Yvonne : As the elder sister…. I need to know this…. I’m going to ask you Jackson…..just one question…. And…. Please be honest…..

 

Jackson : shoot… I won’t lie about things like this… go ahead….

 

Yvonne : it’s a bit crude to ask if you guys fucked already….. yeah….. you know……you’ll probably say no…. so…. I’ll rephrase it……

 

Jackson : We didn’t !!

 

Yvonne : shhhhh… sh…….shhhhhhhhh…… wait for my question……ok…

 

Yvonne looked at her younger sister who looked like she was ready to strangle her.

 

Yvonne : Is she……..…. Satisfied…. With the size…. ??

 

The question came out and the room immediately went quiet.

 

Now, this question would have been simple to deny by anyone.

 

Especially if you have not shown the girl your cock and wave it in front of her face but in our situation, it’s different.

 

Yiling has seen my dick, up close no less. This is a fact.

 

What happened next is a natural reaction, nothing more.

 

Yvonne asked me, if Yiling was satisfied with my dick size, well, I don’t know do I ? So naturally I looked at Yiling who would be in a better position to answer that question.

 

I looked at her because she is the only one who can answer it. It just happened naturally.

 

However, that looked we exchanged, within that split second, It’s evident to everyone in the room.

 

Yvonne knew the one undeniable fact, Yiling has seen my dick.

 

Period.

 

Yiling and I shared a look for that brief second before both of us started talking at the same time, trying to get our point across to Yvonne who just laughed and kept pointing a finger at her sister.

 

Yvonne : oh ….. you fucking slut ……hahahaha… you… haha… that look on your face…… hahah !!! so…? Are you satisfied with the size.. ?? hahahah

 

Yiling : It’s not what you think !!!! I FUCKING TRIED TO KILL HIM FOR FLASHING ME…!!

 

Yvonne : oh… oh… ? you’re telling me…. hahaha… he flashed you his cock…..but he’s still alive…right…..

 

Yiling just screamed at her sister while Yvonne made a silly face in the same manner when siblings squabble.

 

I was left speechless as I watch Yiling try to grab and kick her sister. Both of them ended up laughing and trying to tickle each other while trading insults and curses.

 

Yiling : Camilia !!!… grab my sister…. !!

 

The large looking lady just smiled but did nothing, choosing to enjoy the squabble.

 

Yiling looked relaxed, almost carefree.

 

She kept trying to cover her sister’s mouth while Yvonne tried to tell me about how she made a guy younger than her show her his dick when she was in  junior college.

 

Yiling : shut the fuck up you bitch !!! arghhhh!!

 

Yvonne : hahahh!!!!

 

Yiling : aRGHHH!!!! Go to hell…!! I’m not doing this with you..!!!… !

 

Yiling shot me an irritated look before storming out of the room. This is embarrassing, not just for her, but for me as well.

 

Yvonne laughed and apologised on her sister’s behalf.

 

Yvonne : I’m sorry….. hahaha… she has quite a bit of a temper….

 

Jackson : tell me about it… but Yvonne… I’m serious… nothing happened….

 

Yvonne : Ok… yeah…. On a stormy night…. After some drinks… you flashed her your cock… and nothing happened… noted…

 

Jackson  : It’s different nights… !! the cock flash and the drinks are different nights…

 

Yvonne : ah.. eghh.. eghhh..e gh….ehhh….. so you spent different nights together… hahaha….. no wonder she chose you for this…. Hahah…

 

Jackson : arghhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!  Forget it….

 

Yvonne kept on chuckling as she gestured for me to follow her with her hands stuck in her denim pocket.

 

Yvonne : hahah… come Jackson… let’s talk…

 

We left the room and entered a small cafeteria.

 

There is no one inside and Yiling grabbed a few cans of drinks from the fridge before coming over to the table.

 

Yvonne : sit please….

 

Jackson : What is going on here…. ?

 

Yvonne sat in front of me and her sister took the seat on her left.

 

Camilia checked the doors and the surrounding before parking herself a short distance away.

 

Yvonne gave me a brief background of her life post separation from her husband.

 

Yvonne : quick summary….my husband is gone…. Someone else likes me…. I used to like him and we dated for a while too but that was in the past….. I want to move on….he doesn’t…….but I can’t shake him away….

 

Jackson : ok…. Very short albeit complicated summary….

 

Yvonne : it’s complicated…. And we’ve been playing the waiting game…. Bidding for time….

 

I turned to Yiling and asked her to just say the word. I’m sure Hong or Seven could take care of it.

 

Jackson : I’m sure you can solve this with a snap of your fingers… ask Hong and Seven or Kamal to have a chat with the guy… if you know what I mean… hahah

 

Yiling : He’s a politician….

 

Jackson  : Oh…ok… no special talk then…

 

Yvonne : my sister has helped me so much over the years…. But there are limits to what she can do…some things you can’t solve by brawn alone….

 

I came to understand that through a combination of clever deceit and deception, the girls have managed to send their parents and most recently, Yvonne’s son overseas, all without anyone knowing until it’s too late.

 

Yvonne : my son was successfully sent last month to join my parents…. They’re safe…. Properly set up in another country… ….

 

Yiling cut in to fill in the next bit.

 

Going overseas is not hard. To do so without being detected, followed and marked is another thing altogether. Especially with a zealous ex-lover stalking you.

 

Jackson : Ok….and…

 

Yiling : Now….this is where the complication comes in…

 

Yvonne cannot just buy a ticket, hop onto a plane, you know, maybe transit a few times, get lost in some alleyways in another country before joining the rest of the family.

 

Yiling : My sister…. Used to be a pageant winner….

 

I snapped my fingers and jabbed into the air.

 

James : OHHHHH!!! No wonder…. Haiyah…. No wonder I kept thinking there was something about Yiling I could not place when I first saw her…..Twin of a Pageant winner !!!

 

Yiling : Tsk …! Don’t interrupt me….

 

Jackson : sorry….

 

The issue here is the heavyweight politician that is still in love with Yvonne. Madly in love in fact, despite the fact that he is now married.

 

Yiling : He’s infatuated with my sister for the longest time….. even before she was married…… and upon knowing that my brother in law is no longer around…….he made his move….. all was well initially…. But his colours started to show….. he’s violent…and….very bad tempered…

 

I turned to Yvonne and asked;

 

Jackson : Can’t you just break up and…. Ask him to fuck off or something….surely this would affect his career if you blow it wide open…

 

Yvonne : It’s complicated…. I tried many times before… but he’s persistent…. And…and… he won’t take no for an answer… besides…

 

Jackson  : besides what… ?

 

Yvonne : I was involved in a way….. with my husband’s drug business some years ago….and he’s the one keeping me out of jail…. So….he makes it seem as if I owe him….he wants me to remain as his mistress…. A fuck toy he can use…

 

Yiling exhaled and continued for her sister.

 

Yiling : If Yvonne refused, that fucker will hand over the evidence that Yvonne was involved in the business few years ago….. and he would make sure she won’t see her son for a long time….

 

Jackson : what an asshole…

 

Yvonne : He has been using this to blackmail me for sex since we broke up….and with him married now…. all the more things has to be hush hush….and he wants me to remain as his cum dump…

 

Jackson : jesus…..but Yiling… with your contacts and all…. Is it possible to….

 

Yiling cut in right about then, saying that there’s going to a change in administration soon.

 

Yiling : There’s no way of knowing how effective her contacts are anymore…. Besides…. We steer clear of politics and politicians….i cannot take the chance that my sister will end up in jail…..

 

Yvonne had sent her son away on the pretext that she found a better school that is less stressful for him overseas.

 

There is only so much she can do to stall for time.

 

Yvonne : He’s a busy man for obvious reasons…. Probably on track to become a full minister in a few years….. but despite his busy schedule… he would make time to have dinner with me every Friday…. And for weekends…. As long as he is available… he would want to meet me… even if I don’t meet him, he has people following me, reporting my every move….

 

Jackson : What’s his name.. ?

 

Yvonne : Teng…

 

Jackson : can’t you resist his advances…. I don’t know….I see…. Has he….. ermmm…you know…. tried to forcibly…

 

Out of pure necessity, Yvonne used to gave in to his sexual demands previously but she knew it’s a matter of time before she needed to stop this. With her parents and son out of the way, she got a little bolder in resisting his advances.

 

Yvonne : initially I gave in to his blackmail….and I slept with him…. But…I started to make a stand when I manage to get my son out of the country…and…. And….

 

Jackson : and …. ?

 

Yvonne : The last rejection turned bit nasty and he had his men hold me down….

 

Jackson  : what the fuck…

 

Yvonne : yes…. He…. He raped me…. took me against my will ……. I made the mistake of allowing him into my place…..

 

I stood up and hit the table with my palm, startling the 2 girls.

 

Jackson : what a fucker !!! you should have just reported him !!!! end his political career !!!! go to the media … make a video…. Send it all over the internet….… !!!!

 

Yvonne : I wish I could…

 

Yvonne looked at her sister for a few seconds before admitting that Teng, kept video of their sexual trysts.

 

Yvonne : He takes….. videos…. Of me….and……yes… including the time when he raped me…. while his men held me down….

 

She paused and took a deep breath, commenting that there is something about her that seem to attract all the assholes.

 

Yvonne : Maybe it’s the way I look…. Sighzzz…

 

Yiling : I look the same as you….you bitch…

 

Yvonne gave a bitter smile.

 

Yvonne : then you jolly well help me get those videos you twat…. ! you don’t want a video of someone getting raped online that happens to look like you do you.. !!

 

Yiling : You’re an asshole you know that….

 

Yvonne : sometimes I think we both are…. Hahah

 

Yiling sighed and turned to me.

 

Yiling : I pulled Camilia from another place to get my sister out today … only for a few hours…. She needs to head back soon…. If not, once Teng’s men realise she is gone, they will go into panic mode….

 

Jackson : my god… this Teng is quite a stalker….

 

Yvonne : he is a stalker….. this is where I need your help…. He has men on me 24/7….. I need to head back soon…. Right now I’m supposedly in the middle of a luxurious 4 hour spa session….

 

Yvonne checked her watch before returning to the conversation.

 

Turning to Yiling, I could see she was ready to tell me her plan.

 

During the sexual assault on Yvonne recently, some furniture were damaged, including a row of carpentry works for the kitchen.

 

Jackson  : He must be one damm horny fucker this Teng….

 

Yiling : we’re going to put on a show…. Together… a simple one…

 

Jackson : as in…. with me… ?

 

Yiling wanted me to be the interior designer that Yvonne engaged to fix up the house. The contractors that will be working on this will be Calvin’s men.

 

Jackson : Ok…. Sounds simple… what next… ?

 

Given Yvonne’s looks, it’s natural for any man to want to hit on her and I am going to be that man. I have to bear in mind one thing.

Teng has men in the unit opposite Yvonne’s place.

 

He is an insecure asshole, there will be times when he would go as far as to ask him men to take photos of what Yvonne is doing and send it to his phone.

 

Yvonne : If I remain out of sight for more than an hour, my phone will ring…. If I don’t answer my phone… they will come and knock on my door…. All these done under the pretext of keeping me safe….. but I’m sure you can tell… this is creepy as fuck…..

 

Everything Yvonne does is being meticulously tracked, recorded and reported to Teng.

 

If she was washing more clothes than usual, it’s an anomaly. Every piece of clothing that is hung out needs to be accounted for.

 

In between every laundry cycle, if the clothing articles don’t match, Teng will get suspicious.

 

Why do you need 2 sets of pyjamas ?

 

Why 2 panty ?

 

Why 2 bra ?

 

Why the clothes being washed, is different from the set of clothes you wore to work ?

 

It is that extreme.

 

If the laundry, lingerie included, is not hung up in a designated spot in the spare bedroom in full view of Teng’s men, they will knock on her door and ask to enter.

 

Yvonne : It’s driving me nuts….

 

Jackson : That’s disgusting…..he’s obviously sick…. Ok so… I pretend to fix up your place… and be interested in you…. Then what….

 

Yiling : we’re going to establish a new routine….for Teng’s men to catch on…. And we will work around it…..

 

Jackson  : does Teng know you are twins… ?

 

Yvonne : He does…. But he is under the impression that we are not on talking terms…. Something about me being shortlisted for the pageant and not Yiling…. Anyway…. He wanted to meet Yiling for the longest time… and I told him she is overseas….

 

I chuckled and looked at Yiling who gave me a death stare.

 

Jackson : ok….ok… sorry… please go on…

 

Now, Yiling and Yvonne may be twins, but we would be stupid to assume you can pass yourself off as your sister in front of someone like Teng. Up close and personal, the moment you open your mouth, the game is over.

They may look identical, but they are essentially 2 separate individuals.

So the plan is not to pull the switch in front of Teng, but rather, do it in the house where his men is watching from a distance away. Across the block, looking through cameras and binoculars while Yiling goes about doing what her sister does, that would be easy to pull off.

 

The end game, would be for Yiling to replace her sister long enough in front of the men watching for Yvonne to leave the country. How long exactly ? At least 12 hours base on what Yiling estimated.

 

That would give Yvonne enough time to leave the house, get to the airport, board a flight, make the transit in between and lose any possible tails to start her new life.

 

This is the perfect time to do this because after the recent assault on Yvonne, Teng is apologetic and he wants to make amends.

 

Yvonne bought more time by saying she needed time to cool down and Teng needs to give her some space.

 

Teng is willing to give her some space as long as she considers forgiving him.

 

Jackson : Teng is not going to take to me well as a new competitor….

Yiling : No he’s not… but we know he won’t risk doing anything drastic… he’s got an image to maintain, besides…. He’s desperate for Yvonne to forgive him…. And the key for this is for you and me to stay within sight of Teng’s men….in short, as long as they can see us,…. We will be fine…..

 

As for the contractors that I will be bringing in as my capacity as the interior designer, they are not just going to be fixing up the damaged furnishings.

They’re going to be doing something else.

 

Yiling : now the contractors, will not only be fixing the carpentry….they are going to be coring a hole through the slab to the unit below…. And hacking an opening wide enough to the adjacent unit.

 

Jackson : what… !…

 

Yiling : Calvin is a very experienced engineer…..don’t worry….

 

Bringing out a brochure of the condominium Yvonne is staying in, Yiling added that the unit below Yvonne belongs to Teng and the one adjacent belongs to her.

 

The hole that we will be coring through will allow us access into Teng’s unit.

 

Yvonne : I have been inside before and I know where he hides all the videos he took of me…. I need to get them….

 

Jackson : are they in a safe or something ??

 

Yvonne : No… just inside a wooden cabinet with a simple lock….it’s his secret apartment…..

 

It’s the place where he would usually have sex with Yvonne after he got married. That way, he is sure it is free from cameras.

 

Yvonne : There is no security system…. He doesn’t trust any of those…. All windows are padlocked from the inside and he don’t want anything digital or electronic inside there….. he’s paranoid about spy cameras….

 

Jackson : I see….

 

Yvonne : I’ll clean out his cabinet…I’m not letting him have those…. And those videos…. Are my best chance of getting away….especially the one of him raping me…

 

I nodded and I could not help getting an erection.

 

A fucking video of Teng forcing himself on someone that looked exactly like Yiling ? I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to see it.

 

Yiling : we would be hacking a connection into my own unit next door…. When Teng’s men realised what we have done…. We don’t want to remain in the unit….

 

Jackson : How do we make sure Teng won’t discover the hole in his ceiling ? … I mean… surely he would come over as and when he likes… ?

 

Yvonne replied that she would find out about his schedule. Everything has got to come together perfectly. The hole will be the done at the last bit of course.

 

Yiling : life goes on as normal for Yvonne on weekdays…. She still runs her flower boutique….  Good thing here about the situation is that as a politician, you don’t just happily pop into a flower boutique everyday… his men though… will report to him what happens throughout the day….

 

The contractors will start with the connection into Yiling’s place and I was to expect that I would be under constant surveillance when I start work at Yvonne’s place. My every move will be scrutinised.

 

Yvonne : once that connection to Yiling’s place is ready, I need time to move my things out…….I’m going to clear the house… ship everything out…. And leave nothing behind …. So while I pack and start shipping stuff away…my sis and you got to hold the fort for Teng’s men….

 

Jackson : My god… this sounds like some mission impossible shit…

 

Yvonne : It’s not…. I just need you and my sis to spend time together….for a few weekends…… While I pack…..and wait for the right opportunity…. Surely it’s not a lot to ask for…. Seeing how well you two get along… ?  haha

 

Yiling : Sis !… stop it…!!

 

Yvonne : so… Jackson …. Will you help us …  ? I’ll be honest… there’s a chance Teng’s men might come for you….. especially when you leave my place but Yiling says you are good with words and can handle yourself pretty well…… besides…  I don’t think they will harm you….

 

Yiling : don’t worry… he will do it…. It’s an order from his Boss… Sis…

 

Yvonne turned to her sister as if she wanted to reprimand her for being rude.

 

Yvonne : ask nicely sis…. Come on… Jackson seemed like a nice guy…it’s been a while since you brought someone to meet me… the last guy you introduced to me was many years ago…… and you said his dick was too small…..hahah…

 

Yiling : arnghhhh!!!… I don’t want to talk to you anymore…. Bitch…

 

Yiling got up and excused herself to the bathroom.

 

Yvonne : I’m sorry about that Jackson …. She can be a bit… you know.. haha…

 

Jackson : It’s ok….

 

Yvonne : she likes you….i can tell….call it a sister’s hunch… hahaha…if not… she won’t be asking you to do this….

 

I smiled and replied that I will do whatever it takes, to make sure she get to leave Teng safely.

 

Yvonne : thank you Jackson …. Yiling is lucky to have you as her staff….

 

Jackson : you’re welcome….. I find myself doing a lot more things outside my usual scope of work after knowing Yiling….

 

Yvonne : really… ??  what were you originally hired for…. ?

 

Jackson  : ermm… landscaping works….

 

Yvonne : errr… hahha.. that is peculiar…..hahah

 

My phone rang and I answered it.

 

I don’t recognise the number but I recognised the voice.

 

 

That slutty and almost teasing voice at the banquet.

 

It’s Rachel.

 

She did not say hi.

 

She did not wait for me to say hi.

 

Rachel : Hey Rachel here….. you want the 2 men….. come to Rajah holdings next week….

 

Jackson : ok sure…. When ? let me know the day and time ..

 

Rachel  : My men will let you know…. there’s another thing…. Rajah Holdings will be having their family day event in October…. You’re invited….

 

Jackson : oh…. Err… really ? that’s nice of you…… thank you…

 

Rachel : so… you coming ?? It’s a huge party….

 

Jackson :  err… yeah… of course… why not….

 

Rachel :  Cool !… I’ll see you then….

 

I kept the phone in my pocket as Yvonne asked me if everything is ok.

 

Yvonne : Who is that… all ok ??

 

Jackson  : yes.. yes…. Work…..i thought she was someone nasty… but she sounded pretty cool over the phone….

 

Yvonne : oh… alright… I need to go too…. I won’t hold you guys up too long…. I’ll see you this Friday….. Yiling will fill you in on the rest….

 

Jackson : ok…. Take care Yvonne….

 

Yiling came out of the bathroom, had a word with Camelia before hugging her sister.

 

Camelia and Yvonne left first and Yiling told me to follow her.

 

Jackson : where are we going….

 

We arrived at the range and I saw Calvin behind a table with several revolvers and pistols ready for selection. Target boards were already set up 25 metres away together.

 

Yes I knew it.

 

We’re going to have some fun shooting shit up.

 

I rubbed my hands gleefully and asked Yiling if we are going to do some shooting at the boards.

 

Yiling : what’s so nice about shooting a target that doesn’t move…. ? … we’re going to be doing something different…. Competitive sporting pistol ….

 

Jackson  : Oh.. oh… oh… I know…. I’ve watched it on TV before….

 

Competitive sporting pistol event is an action shooting sport that challenges the athlete’s shooting accuracy while under stress. You move, you run, you duck, you shoot, do a combat reload and you shoot again.

 

Jackson : are you… good at this… ? I’m sure you’ve had lots of practise….

 

Yiling : I don’t think I’m good…. Passable at best….

 

Jackson : this is so damm cool….can I try too… ??

 

Yiling : yeah sure….

 

Yiling told me that usually she would book the club for a week every year for the company’s gathering.

 

However, some new members to the club were being difficult and it was obvious they were out to make things difficult for her.

 

Jackson : So you engineered the flooding…. ?

 

Yiling : It’s call being creative…. So now no one gets to use it…. Except me….

 

YIling nodded at Calvin who was ready to take us through the toys on display.

Calvin gave us a quick introduction of what he has prepared for Yiling base on her instructions.

 

Calvin : Yiling… this…. And this….. customised and calibrated according to your specifications…. Changed to a stiffer recoil spring for shooting high power load….

 

Yiling took the pistol and she looked at ease playing with it.

 

Jackson : I have no idea what Calvin just said…. but Yiling… you look damm cool doing whatever it is you are doing…. Haha

 

She shot me a sideway glance before narrowing her eyebrow as if I said something weird.

 

I was feeling pretty excited and eager to try my hands out at the shooting too when I thought it would be good to let Yiling know about the Rajah’s invite.

 

Jackson  : oh… by the way….. Rachel called me…

 

Yiling looked up from her pistol at me and so did Calvin.

 

Jackson  : she asked me to head down for the 2 men you wanted from her……her guys will be in touch for to let us know the date and time…..

 

 

Yiling : Ok….what did she want for the 2 men….. ? With Rajahs…. There is always a price….

 

Jackson  : Nothing…. Just asks me to head down and pick them up next week….

 

Yiling : Nothing ??

 

Jackson  : yeah… oh…. She invited me to their family day…… it’s in October…. 4 months from now… a big party or something…

 

I said it as casually as I could but the expression on Yiling and Calvin’s face is anything but casual.

 

Yiling : what… ?

 

Jackson : family day…. A party… probably need to spend some money buying coupons for food and drinks stalls I think….hahha…

 

Yiling was looking at me and I could tell she was at a lost for words and she’s not laughing at my joke.

 

It’s as if I said something to upset her. Her expression changed.

 

She’s upset. You can just tell.

 

Yiling slid the magazine into her pistol, chambered a round and pointed it downrange with one hand initially before griping and steadying her aim with the other.

 

She assumed the firing position and I could see Calvin scrambling to put on the ear protection on the table when the first shot rang out.

 

I jumped.

 

It’s been so long since I fired a weapon that I forgot how loud it was.

 

Yiling squeezed off one shot, before squeezing off another 3 in a row. She repeated her shots, one, then 3, emptying her clip in less than 30 seconds as she screamed and cursed at the Rajahs.

 

Yiling : aRGHHHH!!!! Fucking bitch !!!! fucking Rajahs !!!!!arGHHH!!! BITCH!!!

 

My ears were ringing by then even though i covered them with my hands.

 

What the fuck is her problem ?

 

Yiling removed the magazine and I looked at the target board. If that was a real person, he would have died several times over. She’s good.

She put the weapon down , rest her hands on her waist and took a deep breath before exhaling slowly.

 

Jackson : are you ok ??? what’s wrong ? …

 

Calvin removed his shooting earmuff and I looked at him to shed some light on why is Yiling throwing a fit.

 

Calvin : Rajahs invite outsiders to their family day for only one reason….

 

Jackson  : and what is that ?

 

Calvin : they want you as part of their family…..

 

I chuckled and laughed at that notion.

 

Jackson  : hahahah……. I’m not joining them….. no way…

 

I turned to Yiling and reassured her I am not considering a change in work employment.

 

Jackson : oh…. Chill man…  I’m not going to work for the Rajahs…. No way…

 

Calvin : you don’t get it do you…. They are not offering you a job….

 

Jackson  : huh ??

 

Calvin : with Rachel calling you personally for the invite.…. educated guess….. I think Rachel is interested in you….. and …. If history could offer a lesson on the Rajah’s style….. they always…. Get what they want…. one way or the other…..

 

Jackson : oh….

Calvin asked Yiling to stop shooting first as he go grab more protective gear for us while she loaded fresh rounds into the magazine.

If Yiling heard Calvin, it was obvious she was ignoring him. She loaded the final rounds into the clip before sliding it back into the pistol.

 

There it is. That fucking pissed look. The look on her face when she knows others are fucking with her and she needs to go out of her way to fix it on top of the list of stuff she is taking care off.

 

Jackson : hey… Yiling….. relax…. I work for La Bella Vita……. I work for you….

 

Yiling : Well …. Rachel is…. quite pretty…. And Rajah Holdings is a big company…. You’re set for life….if things work out…. Between you and her….she’s young too…. Men like sweet young things no… ?

 

Jackson : well I don’t…

 

She ignored me and shove me aside as she raised her weapon down range again.

 

I was facing her and she was looking right pass me.

 

I don’t know what came into me.

 

I just did what I did without thinking.

 

As she looked down the gun sight, I walked behind her and I stretched out my hands, reaching for her ears a-la Korean drama style but it was not in slow motion.

 

There was no romantic music playing in the background.

 

There were no snowflakes dropping down the skies.

 

I clamped my palms down on her ears and she squeezed off a round. I pressed down harder with my palms, determined to protect her eardrums.

 

There was a 3 second pause before Yiling slowly lowered her weapon.

 

Her left hand reached for mine and pulled it down from her ear.

 

Yiling : It’s the same… working for the Rajahs and for me….they probably pay better….

 

She raised up her weapon up and my hands moved in a corresponding manner towards her ears.

 

Jackson : Maybe…. But….

 

I pressed down hard on her ears as she squeezed off another 2 rounds, sending hot lead into the head of the paper target.

 

Yiling : but what… ?

 

Jackson  : I’m only risking my life for you….

 

I could see the obvious smile on Yiling’s face as she looked down the sight of the weapon.

 

It would have been perfect, if she had not turn towards me, speaking in her typical queen like manner.

 

Yiling : touch me like this again….. I will shoot you……

 

I backed away with my palms raised as Yiling rolled her eyes at me and gave me a silly smile before turning to face the front again.

 

Calvin arrived with the protective gears and I took one of the ear muffs from him.

 

As I put the earmuffs on, I thought to myself;

 

Be it the Rajahs, Teng, or whatever the hell is those fuckers up to at the old folks home, one thing I know for sure.

 

Things are only going to get more interesting.

 

 

……………………………………………


Yiling and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the range well into the night.

We must have gone through a few hundred rounds of ammunition between the 2 of us. It’s fun, I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself that much.

 

While I could hit something standing still, I missed everything while I was moving. It’s harder than it looks to shoot, reload and continue shooting at the same time, especially when my body was still aching.

 

Calvin was patient in his instructing, he taught me how to use the different pistols. Although there was no need for me to go through any technical handling test, Calvin’s only rule for me was to clean the weapon after I was done with it.

 

It’s the fastest and easiest way to understand the weapon and how it works.

 

Calvin : You respect…. And take care of the weapon… when the time comes… it will take care of you…. I’m sure your trainers taught you that in the army….

 

I laughed as I polished up the chamber of the colt I was just done shooting with.

 

Jackson : From the bottom of my heart….. I pray the day will never come…. That I would need to remember what was taught in the army…….

 

Calvin : as do we all….. as do we all….

 

Yiling : The world has gone to shit long time ago…. It’s a miracle we’re still living in a bubble….

 

I turned to look at Yiling assembling her pistol with as much proficiency and poise as if she was painting her nails.

 

Jackson : that is just dark….

 

It was coming to 9.30pm and we were about done helping Calvin clean up the place and keep all the toys we were playing with.

 

Jackson : what are we going to do about the Rajahs…. ?

 

Yiling : we’ll worry about it when the time comes…. One step at a time….

 

Calvin went on to say something that bothered me a lot.

 

Calvin : let’s put it this way… A strategic union between the Rajahs and La Bella Vita….. we would own the island…..

 

Yiling shot Calvin her pissed off slanted eye look and he took over the cases of pistols we were holding, quickly adding that he will lock up on his own.

 

Calvin : see you next week…cheerio….

 

 

When I got to the carpark, I was surprised to see Camilia waiting there for Yiling.

 

Yiling : go back home Jackson …. A lot has happened this week…. We all need some time to cool off…. Camilia will be with me until the team comes back….

 

Jackson : I’m fine I think… I can go back to the castle with you…

 

Yiling : It’ an order… go back…. Take some time off… chill out…. I’ll be in touch….

 

I nodded as I watch Yiling got into the car Camilia came in.

 

The car pulled out of the carpark shortly after.

 

I went back home and since I could not sleep, I started cleaning up the house.

By the time I got into bed, it was 4am.

 

I did nothing for the rest of the week.

 

I dropped by the landscape place in Kovan to look for Keng.

He’s doing ok without me and has been getting by with some part time help.

 

Keng : I miss the times when you are around Jackson … ahha… how is life at the new place…. ??

 

Jackson : it’s…. ermmm…. Unbelievable…hahah ….

 

Keng : Just be careful….

 

Jackson  : I will…. I will…

 

I called my grandfather and pressured him on a date. He needs to let me know when will he be coming back for his checkup.

 

He told me he’ll let me know in a couple of days. I highly doubt it but I made a mental note to pressure him every now and then.

 

I was so free that I drove all the way back to Bukit Timah.

 

The road up Binjai hill has been blocked off by the SUVs.

 

The men hanging around the vehicles said Boss’s orders. We were not allowed in that week.

 

I turned the car around and took the other road to the cookhouse. Deuce was on duty and he waved me off. Yiling meant it when she wanted all of us to head back to cool off.

 

I wandered around a little aimlessly in Ang Mo Kio like an unemployed man.

No one sent me any text and I don’t know if I should get in touch with anyone.

 

It feels weird to be paid for doing nothing.

 

In the end I went for massages and walks in the park. Time to let my body heal.

 

The first few days off work I must have been distracted, too much stuff going on in my head for me to noticed I was being followed.

 

I saw them in the park when I made an about turn.

 

2 guys, they made eye contact with before looking away.

 

I saw the tattoo near their necks and their faces were somewhat familiar.

 

Damm it, the Rajahs again. They were definitely at the auction that night. They seemed harmless from what I can tell. I don’t know how long they have been on my tail.

 

Now that I noticed them following me around, my sense of awareness heightened. Then I started seeing them everywhere.

 

Even the fucking coffee shop right by my place. I walked by and I could see a table of them having their meals.

 

I begin to wonder if Rachel have difficulty finding things for them to do and decides to send them after me instead. Surely they have a day job.

 

 

5th June 2015

Friday

 

6.30am

 

I was stretching myself for an early walk when I saw Nate and another 2 Rajahs at the coffee shop I always have my breakfast. They are dressed in workout gear, as if they knew I would head to the park.

I can’t believe even Nate is here.

 

I decided enough is enough. I ordered my coffee, bought my bread and walked over to their table.

 

Jackson : Morning….. what do you want… ?

 

Nate looked up at me in surprise.

 

Nate : what ? … We’re having breakfast….

 

Jackson : stop following me around… this is fucking creepy….you all are behaving like stalkers….  You all shouldn’t be here…

 

Nate : dude….we’re just having breakfast…. I could say you are the one following us around… we’re here first…. Maybe you shouldn’t be here… this is our space… and you are encroaching by sitting at our table….

 

Jackson : bullshit….. this is public property…

 

Nate put down his chopsticks and leaned back on his chair before speaking slowly at me as if I’m overreacting.

 

Nate : Jackson ….. No… this is not public property….. it’s a public space

 

Jackson : whatever….. it would be nice if you stop following me around…I mean… Rachel has my number…. She can just call… or text…. Or video call…. It’s the 21st century….!

 

 

 

Nate : I’m sorry you think we are following you…… all I can say is we Rajahs….ermmm…..  Are very hospitable people….. and we like to make sure our guest….. is…. Ermmm… well taken care off…. Right from the point the invite is given…… to when you arrive at our party…

 

I looked at Nate as I continue munching on my breakfast.

 

Head of corporate communications indeed. He can even make stalking sounds so good.

As if reading my mind, Nate added ;

 

Nate : I mean it…… we are just……making sure…. You are… ermmm.. what’s that word….. safe… yes… safe….

 

Jackson : ok… whatever… if you say so…. Just…..please go somewhere else……..and don’t hang around my neighbourhood…….i grew up here…..

 

Gesturing to the surrounding I reinforced the fact that I grew up in that area and they are basically encroaching in my turf so to speak.

 

Jackson : this… this… err.. what’s that word… turf… yes.. turf….!!… my childhood…here… this area…. This… this…. This coffeeshop….. everyone knows me…. I know every stall owner so well I practically own this place…..

 

Nate looked at me and so did the other 2 heavily tattooed Rajahs.

 

All 3 of them directed their gaze away from me and towards the signage of the coffee shop that is yellow with age without a word.

 

 

I followed their gaze and looked at the sign. I almost cursed out loud under my breath. Having grown up here all these while, I never noticed the name of the coffee shop.

 

RH coffee shop. Rajah Holdings. Bloody hell.

 

Who the hell takes note of the name of the coffee shop anyway. People just remember the block number where it is located.

 

Like Blk 85 in Bedok.

Blk 644 in Hougang.

Blk 401 opposite Punggol park.

 

Jackson : oh….

 

Nate gave me his unbearable smirk while the other 2 Rajahs chuckled at my sheer stupidity.

 

Nate : We’re just having breaking Jackson…. Just having breakfast….

 

Well, I have nothing left to say.

I finished my bread, drank my coffee before ordering another one from the uncle.

 

Jackson  : 1 more to go….. Kopi O…

 

I gestured to Nate and say he will be paying.

 

He did not object and I left it as it is.

 

There, I just got the Rajahs to pay for a 80 cents cup of coffee. Feels darn good I must add.

 

I got a message from my work group chat.

 

Yiling wanted us to be back at work on the 15th  of June. This meant I would have another week of doing nothing.

I cringed at the thought of another week of mindless wandering and stalking by the Rajahs.

 

 

3.30pm

 

My phone rang and it was an unfamiliar number. I answered it and it was Yvonne.

 

Yvonne : Hey Jackson…. Are you free to drop by my place and take a look later at 5pm ?

 

Jackson  : sure… of course…. Text me the address…

 

Yvonne : ok… see you later…. Teng’s men will be on you the moment you arrive at the carpark…. They should be near my mini… either opposite or beside….

 

Jackson : ok…. I’ll see you later….

 

I rubbed my hands gleefully and I quickly took a shower. Finally something for me to do before I die of boredom.

 

 

5pm

 

I arrived at Yvonne’s place and it was a small gated compound located on the north of the island. I looked at my rear mirror and saw the grey sedan that has been following me since Ang Mo Kio made a U-turn before parking across the street.

Bloody stalkers.

 

Yvonne’s place consists of 8 blocks of private housing, each 4 storey high surround a small pool with a single storey clubhouse overlooking the BBQ pit.

Yvonne stays in block 1, on the highest floor.

 

Upon arriving at the basement carpark, I made a loop, taking in the different lobbies for the respective blocks.

Yvonne’s unit is served by 2 lifts, one from a private lobby, one that is shared among the 4 units on each floor via the common lobby.

 

I made 2 turns around the carpark and I noticed a car with a bored looking guy playing game inside. It’s window is wound down, there’s a couple of bottle of water on the dashboard. There are more lots than cars in the carpark near lobby 1, however, he is parked beside a mini cooper with a direct view of the private lobby.

 

That must be Yvonne’s car.

 

I made a show of looking around for the address I was visiting before parking a few lots away.

I even brought along my laptop, a sketchbook and a paint catalogue from 1996 I found at home. My grandpa had used it to level up an uneven cabinet.

From the corner of my eye, I could see the man sitting up and talking into his walkie talkie the moment I approached the lobby.

 

I’m sure they know all the people that stays in that block and I am not one of them.

 

I dialled for Yvonne’s unit and waited for her to buzz me in.

 

Jackson : Hey Yvonne… I’m here….

 

Yvonne : ok… i’ll send the lift down….

 

The private lift took me right up to Yvonne’s unit and she greeted me in a pair of tight shorts and white singlet.

I had to keep my game face on while trying not to look at how good her figure is. Maybe just a tad better than Yiling.

 

Yvonne : can I get you a drink…. ?

 

Jackson : water would be nice….

 

Yvonne opened the fridge and brought a bottle of water out before we settled down at the island kitchen.

 

I looked around and I could see the extent of the damage for the kitchen cabinets.

It’s bad. The cooking stove has been smashed and several doors of the cabinet were kicked in or yanked out. It’s as if someone had been venting their anger on it.

 

One of the light tubes that was under the top hung cabinet is hanging loose, holding on for its dear live by the 2 thin wire that connects it.

 

Jackson  : oh my god…. This is bad… what happened here man…

 

Yvonne : …. Teng practically trashed the kitchen, kicking and throwing shit around…. anger management issue

 

Jackson : well…. At least he took it out on the furnishings…. Not you…

 

Yvonne laughed and I casually looked out the window. I could see men on chairs looking directly at us.

 

Yvonne : don’t look at them for too long…. You’re here as my interior designer….

 

Jackson : ok…. How do you want to start… ?

 

I opened my laptop and opened a folder with some pictures I downloaded off the net. Yvonne pretended to be interested and she scrolled through the pictures while I casually looked around the place.

 

It’s predominantly white with some light wood accent. Simple and clean if not for the amount of kids toys and stuff scattered all over.

I would not say it’s messy but it would have looked better less all the toys and crayons.

 

Yvonne : Let’s start by…. Talking about you and my sister….

 

Jackson : Huh ?? what… ? there is nothing going on between Yiling and me….

 

Yvonne : ahhh… but you like her…. I can tell….

 

Yvonne gave me a playful smile and I was trying hard not to drool as she leaned on the island kitchen while balancing on 2 legs of her stool like a student eager to see what the teacher is doing in class.

 

Her boobs are so full and firm, probably effects of childbirth and they are literally spilling out of her singlet and the tight white bra.

 

Jackson : i… ermmm… Yiling is really pretty…. I’m sure all guys would like her…

 

Yvonne : so you do like her…. !! hahaha… good.. good… I think she… sort of likes you too…

 

Jackson : Nonsense… she doesn’t…

 

Yvonne : trust me…. I’m the sister…. I know what she likes and don’t likes…

 

Yvonne gestured to me while trying to think of the right words to use.

 

Yvonne : I know my sister…. Ermmm… dig your…type… errr…. You know… a bit… stupid… stupid type….

 

Jackson : What… ? I’m not stupid….

 

Yvonne : No I don’t mean that… hahaha… you know… sort of…. Don’t know what is going on most of the time kind of feel….

 

Jackson  : but … i….

 

I stopped myself as Yvonne played with her hair while checking out the ends for split bits. It’s true.

 

Working for Yiling, half the time I don’t know what the fuck is going on.

 

I tried to change the topic and I ask when will Yiling be coming.

 

Yvonne : oh… you can’t wait to see her is it… ahahha

 

Jackson : please don’t do that…. Especially if she is around… you’ll make her feel uncomfortable….i’m a guy… I’m more thick skin… but…. From her perspective… it’s going to be embarrassing man….

 

Yvonne folded her arms and sat back nodding her head at me.

 

Yvonne : plus 1 point !!

 

Jackson : What !??

 

Yvonne : knowing how to think from my sister’s perspective… hahaha… I like that…

 

Jackson : Oh my god….

 

I massaged my head as Yvonne laughed.

 

Yvonne : chill man… Teng’s men is going to think I’m being a difficult client… hahaha….

 

Yvonne got off the chair and offered to show me around.

 

Yvonne : follow me…. you know… I can help you …..i’m serious….

 

I pretended not to hear what Yvonne said.

 

Yvonne : I could you know…. perhaps dress like a skanky slut… and my sister would have to wear the same thing I wear and all….

 

Jackson : please don’t….

 

Yvonne laughed as she opened up the curtains in the master bedroom.

 

The short tour allowed me to form a better picture of the place in my head.

 

Block 2, the one where Teng’s men will be at, has a direct line of sight into 3 rooms. When all the blinds and curtains are up, they can see all of Yvonne’s movement in the kitchen, the living area and the master bedroom.

 

The only room that they could not see her in would be the guest bedroom.

That’s her son’s room.

 

Yvonne took her time showing me around before we got to the wall that is connected to Yiling’s unit.

 

Yvonne : here…. Behind this cabinet…. We will open up the connection into Yiling unit….

 

Jackson : ok…. Looks good… they can’t see you here….

 

Yvonne : they can’t but if I remain out of sight for too long, they will call…. And even then, they might come up and knock…..

 

Jackson : don’t worry…. Once Yiling comes over…. We will make sure you have the time to pack and when all is ready… you will be able to leave…

 

Yvonne : Thank you Jackson …. I really appreciate this….

 

I asked Yvonne how she plan to core a hole down to the unit below.

 

Yvonne : You’ll have to ask Calvin about it…. It’s going to be noisy…a lot of hacking work but they are confident they can do it within a day or so… we just need to make sure it’s the right day…… I will know Teng’s travelling schedule…. It will have to be when he is overseas…..

 

Jackson : ok….ok….

 

Yvonne : come… come…. I make you a coffee… I want to talk to you about my sister….

 

Jackson : Not again….

 

Over coffee and random flipping of the old magazines and scrolling though mindless pictures on my laptop, Yvonne wanted to know how I feel about Yiling.

She wanted to know everything from the time I started working for her.

 

She laughed so loud when I told her the situation about the cock flash and how I mistook Yiling as a sex worker.

I don’t want to reveal sensitive stuff so I shared with Yvonne moments which I thought was kind of sweet. Like when Yiling lent me her car to go to Malaysia, I also told her about the auction.

 

Yvonne : oh… my god…. Hahaha… you drove the car filled with lingerie….across the customs….?  Hahahaha…..

 

Jackson : I’m pretty sure they thought I’m a crossdresser….

 

Yvonne : go on… go on….

 

Jackson : that’s pretty much it actually…. I’ve only been working for her for a while…. So…

 

Yvonne’s phone started ringing and I could see the change in her body language right away.

 

It must be Teng’s men.

 

Probably wondering who am I and why I’m there for so long.

 

Yvonne answered the call and told the men I was the interior designer that she will be engaging to fix the house.

 

Yvonne : He’s my interior designer for god sake….. All the damaged stuff… how you expect me to live here !!… there are broken bits all over….  Stop disturbing me arghhh!!

 

She hung up and I asked if she is ok.

 

Yvonne : I’m fine… just want to show them I’m pissed…. And that I’m comfortable with you around… hahaha…..

 

Jackson : What if Teng decides to rush down ?

 

Yvonne : If he had that much time on his hands, he won’t need to hire these clowns…. He won’t …. But I can be sure he is aware that you are around…. Hahah

 

I spent slightly less than 2 hours at Yvonne’s place. She’s sweet, nice to talk to and very funny. She even joked if I would be ok with having a sister in law like her.

 

I gave her a sheepish smile, unsure of what she meant as I adjusted the erection in my pants. I mean come on, which guy doesn’t have a twin fantasy ?

 

Yvonne asked me to drop her off at the nearby mall so she could grab some shopping and dinner and I obliged.

 

We got to the carpark and I could see the guy starting his engine the moment we got into my car.

 

Jackson : so they just follow you….?

 

Yvonne : yeah…. Don’t worry… once I’m off your car, they will leave you alone….

 

I dropped Yvonne off 5 minutes later and true enough, the car stopped following me.

 

Teng has a serious case of insecurity.

 

 

9th June 2015

Tuesday

 

10.30am

 

I was just walking back after my jog when I received a call from Yvonne.

 

She has the dates worked out and is ready to carry out the rest of the plan.

 

Yvonne : I know Teng’s travel plans for July and August….. we will discuss this Friday…. My sister will be coming as well disguised as one of Calvin’s staff….

 

Jackson : Ok… I’ll see you this Friday….

 

I went to the coffee shop and saw a different group of Rajahs having their breakfast.

 

They didn’t follow me on my run but I was pretty sure I saw a couple of suspicious looking guy hanging around the park on their bicycles.

 

Nate wasn’t there and I started to get use to seeing them around.

 

I thought about asking them when can Yiling have the 2 men Rachel promised but thought the better of it.

 

If they are ready to hand them over, they will.

 

 

12th June 2015

Friday

 

12pm

 

I arrived at Yvonne’s place and Calvin is already there with 4 workers. One of which looked really out of place. I could tell that was Yiling from the get-go.

Despite being smaller in size, she has a top wrapped around her face and hair while carrying a pail of painting tools.

 

She was helping move things into the guest room while trying to keep a low profile.

 

There’s a flurry of activity going on and Calvin’s men are laying protective cardboard and plastic sheets inside Yvonne’s place.

 

I walked around and I could see Teng’s men observing us keenly from the next block. They’re aware that there will be some renovation works going on.

 

Calvin is already busy directing his workers what to do. The entire kitchen cabinet will go.

The flooring will be replaced for the rooms as well, lending legitimacy to the hacking works that will be happening.

 

Yvonne made tea and sat down with Calvin and me in the dining area. Yiling joined the discussion with a mobile phone while she remained in the room. The other 3 workers were sent down to the truck to bring up more tools.

 

Yvonne : ok…. Just so everyone is on the same page…. These are the dates we need to be aware of…Teng will be travelling from 31st July to 6th August. He has to be back for national day. These would be the period where the escape can take place.

 

Yvonne : I would have wanted the connection to be done as soon as possible so I can start moving my things out but there’s a problem…..

 

Yvonne told us that Teng offer to help supervise the renovation. He wanted to put a guy here to make sure everything is ok, Yvonne refused of course but She can’t exactly drop everything at the florist to be at home as well.

 

If any work is to be done, Yvonne needs to be around.

 

Yvonne : so it’s been decided that I will not work on Monday and Tuesday….so the works will have to be done on only these 2 days a week…. ? can it be done… ?

 

Calvin : ok…. Should not be a problem…

 

Jackson : can you start hacking from Yiling’s unit instead… ? save a bit of time…

 

Calvin : Better not…. it might be suspicious having 2 units undergoing renovation at the same time…. anyway, the hacking doesn’t take very long…. We can get it done in a day….

 

Yvonne : Teng is asking about the ID company and contractor, on the surface, he says he wants to be sure I’m working with a reputable company but it’s obvious he’s just going to dig everything up about everyone here….

 

Jackson  : What should we do ?

 

Calvin : relax… Yiling has it all under control…..

 

Calvin owns a proper construction company and I’m a freelance designer that is working with him. The shell company that Declan has set up to pay my wages is registered as graphic design firm but who cares.

We’re all properly registered and we’re not blacklisted by the authorities, its not as if Teng could dig anything up.

 

Yvonne : Teng would surely want to drop by whenever he can…so we need to be mindful of what is being done at what stage as well….. I’ve declined to meet him again this week and I’ll do my best to make sure he doesn’t come in but there is no guarantee….. so if Teng does drop by…. Jackson …. I hope you can handle him….

 

I nodded and reassured Yvonne everything will be just fine.

 

Yvonne turned to Calvin and waited for him to speak now that she’s done.

 

Calvin : ok…..Teng will only be overseas in end July…. We can start work next Monday….  We will finish the connection into Yiling’s place by Tuesday…. There after…. Every 1st 2 days of the week…. We will come over and do our work…..does that work for you Yiling ?

 

There was a short lag before I heard Yiling’s voice.

 

Yiling : works for me…. Jackson and I will be there…. Sis… you start packing the essentials….. anything that you can buy abroad… you leave it… anything on display that Teng’s men can see… you leave it…. Calvin…. What about the cover for the connection…. And the hole down to Teng’s place….

 

Calvin : The moment the connection to your place is done, we will be installing a new cabinet in front of it…. It’s already pre fabricated in the factory…. You won’t be able to tell once it’s up……

 

As for the hole in the ground, Calvin has gotten the structural dwgs from his contacts.

Calvin : The slab is 200mm thick…. We need to cut through some reinforcement bars….. but we will not be making a big hole…. Just wie enough for Yvonne to get in and out….

 

Calvin will start on the hole and go about halfway deep, the other half will be done when Teng is overseas.

 

Yiling : ok… sounds good.

 

Yvonne leaned closer to the phone to speak with her sister.

 

Yvonne :… Teng’s men cannot see the boxes and suitcases I’m moving…. I need to move them out periodically after I’m done…. what do you think ?

 

Yiling : No issue…I will have someone move them down to the carpark using the private lift that serves my stack… I’ll send them overseas in batches…

 

Yvonne : ok… that settles it…

 

Yiling asked her sister how long she will need to pack.

 

Yvonne : not long….. just give me 1 good Monday and Tuesday…. I can grab everything I need ….

 

Calvin : sounds good….we need to firm up the date when Yvonne will be leaving….. that will be the day we finish up the opening into Teng’s unit…. She will grab her stuff and leave…..

 

Yiling : cool….. does anyone have any questions… ?

 

Jackson  : me…

 

All eyes turned to me as I speak with exception of Yiling of course.

 

Jackson : So…. Assuming it all goes to plan….. we open up the connection…. Yvonne packs…. Send it off…. We open up the hole into Teng’s place…. Gets what she is after….. comes back up…..and she leaves….

 

I paused to take a deep breath before going on.

 

Jackson : Yiling and I will be here buying time for Yvonne to leave the country and disappear…. Then what happens next…. What about the aftermath… ? the hole in Teng’s ceiling… his men realising Yvonne is gone… she made off with his personal porn collection…… and we are just the stand in… then what…. What happens next… ?

 

Calvin did not speak while Yvonne avoided my eyes.

 

Yiling replied.

 

Yiling : Given the infinite possibilities of how this chain of event will happen, there is no way anyone can predict how the aftermath would be like….

 

Jackson : in simple English please….

 

Yiling never hesitated at all in her reply.

 

 

Yiling : Then the fun begins… hahaha.

 


 

15th June 2015

Monday

8.30am

 

It was my first day of so call official work after almost 2 weeks of doing nothing.

I went back to the castle and realised the garden is in need of a trim. There’s no time to meddle with the plants. I need to get ready to head over to Yvonne’s place.

 

I saw Hong smoking with a cup of coffee in hand near the first aid house when I left and we exchanged a wave.

 

It’s also the first day of Yvonne’s renovation.

 

There’s no need for Yiling to be present on the 1st 2 days.

We will need her only after the connection into her apartment has been completed.

 

 

9.45am

 

I met up with Calvin and his men at a private housing estate 2 junctions away from Yvonne’s place. That will be our meeting point before we head over. Yiling owns an apartment there as well and the basement carpark provided the privacy we need as a staging area of sort.

 

It will also be the place she gets into her disguise when she starts tagging along as Calvin’s men.

10.30am

 

The lot of us arrived at Yvonne’s place ready to carry out our grand plan.

 

Teng must have increased the number of people stalking Yvonne. I could see them loitering around the basement as Calvin’s men started unloading their stuff and equipment.

 

I could see a pallet of cement and plaster neatly wrapped up with Yvonne’s unit number written on the plastic wraps. The supplier had deposited it by the lift lobby earlier.

 

Guo :  Hi… you must be the designer…

 

I turned and came face to face with one of Teng’s men. He must be the one in charge. At 1.8m tall and looking a little too buff for his tight t-shirt, he strikes me as someone who spends only time on his upper body in the gym.

 

Jackson : Hi… you are… ?

 

Guo : I’m Guo….  I’m assigned to take care of Yvonne…. Just concerned about Yvonne’s safety….

 

I looked at him with a raised eyebrow before telling him that Yvonne is not the one doing the renovation.

 

Jackson : She’s the one paying the bill… not the one doing the heavy lifting….no reason why she would be in any danger…

 

Guo : hahha…. I see….

 

Guo wanted to know how long will I be there that morning.

 

Jackson : It’s the first day of work…. I don’t know…. could be an hour… could be 5…. Why ?

 

Guo : hmmm… my employer…. He’s not comfortable with Yvonne being left alone with so many men….

 

Jackson : what are you getting at ? we’re re-doing her place ….from damages I understand was caused by your employer….

 

There was a brief pause before Guo smiled;

 

Guo : Nothing…… we will pop by every now and then….just so you know….

 

Guo gave me a smirk that made me feel like slapping him before strolling away back to his car with a swagger.

 

Yvonne’s mini is now wedged in between the 2 large SUV Teng’s men are driving. Guo went back to one of the car and his colleague handed him a coffee. He settled into his seat while nursing the coffee in his hand as if he was some hot shot detective shadowing a perp.

 

Calvin and his men took the service lift with their equipment while I went up the private one.

 

Yvonne was already up and waiting for us.

 

Yvonne : hey… morning….

 

She looked nervous but I could see she was excited to begin.

 

Yvonne has her hair tied up and I could still see the moisture on her freshly washed face. The fringes of her hair were still damp. When she spoke, I could smell the fresh scent of the mouth wash.

 

Seeing her in a pair of grey cotton shorts so tight and short, I would stake my annual salary that she is not wearing any underwear. How is her figure so good after giving birth ?

 

Yvonne was wearing a white singlet but, on the outside,, she wore a pastel blue windbreaker with a hoodie. That’s a nice touch, the hoodie would provide Yiling more cover if when she does the switch.

 

The sisters must have talked about this.

 

Yvonne : all ok ? Teng increased the number of men…. He’s crazy…. We had a shouting match over the phone last night…. he wanted to have his men supervise very part of the renovation….

 

Calvin came in and I gestured for him to join us.

 

Jackson  : Guo approached me…. says he’s going to pop by every now and then…. To make sure Yvonne is ok…

 

Calvin : That’s going to be a problem…. We don’t want him here when we are hacking the connection…..

 

Jackson : How long do you need to break through…. ?

 

Calvin : Not long….a few hours…. But it’s the covering and cleaning up that takes time….

 

Yvonne : what should we do ?

 

After a bit of discussion, we decided to go ahead and start work on the other areas just to see the frequency of Guo’s visit.

 

Yvonne made me a coffee and we barely sat down at the dining area when our eardrums were treated to a medley of hacking and drilling.

 

15 minutes in and we decided that this is not going to work.

 

It’s too noisy and we were literally shouting at each other just to talk.

 

30 mins into the drilling and hacking, Guo just entered the house through the back door because it was left unlocked for the workers to go in and out.

 

Yvonne : what are you doing in my house… ! get out !!!

 

Guo : I am here to ensure your safety Ms Yvonne….

 

Yvonne : get the fuck out of my house now… !

 

Guo smiled, looked around before leaving.

 

I could see Calvin thinking how to fix this situation and I offered a solution.

 

Jackson : We need to go out Yvonne….

 

Yvonne : go where… ?

 

Jackson  : the men will follow you if we go out…. Leaving Calvin to do his work….

 

Calvin : it’s worth a shot…

 

Jackson  : grab your stuff and let’s find out….

 

Yvonne nodded and she stuffed her phone into a small sling bag before joining me in the private lift. Looking at how tight the sling is slicing diagonally across her body, accentuating how full her breasts are, I noticed that Yvonne was not wearing a bra.

 

I swallowed a gulp of saliva as a sick thought just entered my head.

 

If Yiling is going to switch with her sister, does that mean she has to wear what her sister wear ?

 

The moment the lift opened; I could see Guo waiting for us. The men on the opposite block must have told him we are leaving.

 

Guo : where are you going ?

 

Yvonne : None of your business… get out of my way…

 

Guo : feel free to take our car….

 

Yvonne : It’s ok…. I prefer Jackson’s ….come… let’s go….

 

The men got into their car immediately and started their engine.

 

Yvonne buckled up and I told her it seemed that they are determined not to let her out of their sight.

 

Yvonne : let’s take them on a wild goose chase…. Hahaha

 

Jackson : We could try to lose them… haha…

 

Calvin called and he told me all of Teng’s men on the opposite building is gone. Right about then, I saw 2 men walking briefly to their car from another lobby.

 

Jackson : 3 cars…. Not going to be easy to lose all…

 

Yvonne : fuck them… let’s go for breakfast … as long as they get out of here….

 

Jackson  : ok …

 

It was literally a convoy. I pulled out and the 3 vehicles just followed us to the point of tailgating.

 

Yvonne : Let’s go town for breakfast…. Somewhere far away….buys Calvin a bit more time….

 

Jackson : where ?

 

Yvonne : anywhere…. I want to talk to you about my sister…. Hahah

 

Jackson  : not again…

 

I drove to Orchard road and as we entered the CBD, a naughty thought came to mind.

 

Jackson : do you get car sick easily ?

 

Yvonne : No… why….

 

Jackson : let’s fuck with them… hahaha…

 

I looked at the rear mirror and I could see the 3 cars following us closely. I ran an amber light earlier and all 3 followed suit, desperate to make sure they are close.

 

I turned into Orchard central and floored the accelerator up the ramp. Orchard Central has consistently ranked as one of the worst carpark every designed. The person who did it is probably high and the people who approved it probably don’t drive.

Yvonne gasped before laughing and turning around to check out our tail.

 

My car is small, old and battered in a way and I don’t mind driving a little faster in one of the worse carpark in town. A little bump and scratch won’t hurt.

 

The large SUVs however is going to be a bitch to control. Depending on how fast they are willing to go, there’s a high chance they are going to get a new paintwork on their bumper.

 

I went up a few floors and immediately made a turn to start my way down, passing by mezzanine floors of almost empty parking lots.

 

Yvonne laughed and commented that they are not behind us.

 

Jackson  : Well…. We could lose at least 1 car I think…. They would have to figure out whether we went up or down… hahaha…

 

I jerk the steering wheel a little when I almost ventured too close to the wall, I could feel my head spinning a little when I exited the carpark and joined the main road.

 

Yvonne was chuckling and looking behind as we drove further down the road.

 

Yvonne : sharks… hahaha… they’re still behind and they look pissed… ahhaha…. …and you’re right !!.. hahaha… only 2 cars left….

 

Jackson  : They must have sent one up all the way to make sure we did not park there… hahaha…

 

Yvonne tapped my arm excitedly, asking me to do it again.

 

Jackson : Won’t be easy this time….. they know what we are up to…

 

Yvonne : Fuck them… just do it.. hahaha…

 

Jackson  : Let’s go to Ngee ann City….. their carpark is special….

 

Yvonne : really ?? how ?

 

I explained to Yvonne that Ngee Ann City has a helix ramp. 2 spirals running one on top of the other, one going up and one coming down. It can be hard to visualise and explain but I told her since it’s the day time, chances are we can pull a stunt without inconveniencing anyone.

 

Yvonne : I have no idea what you just said but fuck yeah… do it… hahaha…

 

I checked the rear mirror and the heavy traffic maintained the distance between Guo and us. They can see us turning into Ngee Ann city for sure and I know I can lose another car easily.

 

They would have to make the choice of heading into the basement or up the ramp. No way they can do this without splitting up.

 

I went up the ramp to the top and got ready to head back down, but not before waiting a while so one of the tails could see us. With no cars behind me, I stopped at the entrance of the down ramp and waited.

The car coming up would see us directly opposite him just before we go down given how the ramp is designed.

Guo in the lead SUV saw us and I could see him honk and flash his headlights as he came out of the Up ramp.

 

Yvonne gave Guo the finger, laughing as she did as I started to descend.

 

As I go down, I slowed to check the exits for other floors where vehicles would join up into the same exit ramp.

 

I stopped at the 4th floor and made sure the coast is clear before making an awkward turn and mounted a small safety kerb before going against the driving direction into the carpark.

 

Yvonne : hahaha…. Oh my god Jackson ….

 

Jackson : Don’t try this alone….

 

I found a corner, reversed in and cut the engine.

 

Jackson : Ok… let’s go for breakfast…. Let them go around in circles hahaha….

 

They’re probably going to head back down and try to figure out where did we go. There’s a chance they might search every floor of the carpark for us but we would be somewhere in the mall enjoying our breakfast.

 

We settled down in a café and Yvonne attracted quite a few looks from the men. She’s a pageant winner after all. We ordered coffee and breads while Yvonne started grilling me about how I felt towards Yiling.

 

There was really nothing much for me to say except we enjoy a very professional relationship. Employer and employee that is.

 

We spent close to an hour talking, it’s more like an interview. A job interview.

Yvonne is a smooth talker and somehow she can coax nuggets of information out from me even when I did not feel like sharing them. Once she feels she is ready to go for the kill, she did.

 

Yvonne : don’t give me this employer employee shit Jackson …. It’s a simple question… you like my sister…? Or you don’t like my sister…. ?

 

Jackson : errrmmm… well I like her sometimes…..when she’s not… throwing a fit and all….

 

Yvonne : it’s an act I tell you…. It’s an act…. Girls are all like this…. They want attention…. You eh hiao bo ( dialect for do you comprehend ? )

 

Jackson : it’s… well… complicated…. I work for her and… and…

 

Yvonne : don’t be a wuss Jackson …. You like her… do something about it….

 

In between munches of her breakfast, Yvonne seemed pretty determined to hook me up with Yiling, I’m not sure why.

 

Yvonne : you know what Jackson ….. leave it to me…

 

She patted her chest as she took a sip of her coffee. My eyes inevitably got drawn to her nips that were showing through her top. I quickly looked away and made eye contact with another guy with his girlfriend who was looking in my direction as well.

 

He looked away awkwardly, embarrassed he was caught staring at Yvonne.

 

Yvonne : I will make sure I become your sister in law…. !!!!

 

Yvonne said that really loud that even the barista stopped making her latte.

My eyes widened and I looked around the café, feeling utterly embarrassed.

 

What the fuck man. The men in the café must think I’m a fucking loser.

People get friendzone.

 

Here I am with a hot babe, good figure, and I get sister in law-ed .

 

It’s worse than being friendzoned and rejected. I mean I’m interested in Yvonne physically for obvious reason but to have her make that statement that loudly, well, it hurts my ego.

 

Yvonne : eat… eat… eat… leave it to me… hahahah….

 

I decided that was no point arguing with her in case she blurt something else embarrassing out again.

 

Breakfast, shopping, followed by a foot massage, a late lunch and we did all this with Yvonne’s phone ringing off the hook.

 

Jackson : You going to just ignore them ?

 

Yvonne : fuck them la…

 

Calvin called around 4pm as we finished up the rest of the post lunch dessert.

Teng’s men just got back at the house while he is finished with the connection into Yiling’s place. Calvin put one of his worker in the carpark and he reported that only one car went back.

 

Jackson  : the connection can be used already… ? is it covered up.. ?

 

Calvin : It’s covered up by the old cabinet….. we will replace it with the one we did tomorrow….

 

Jackson  : Ok… we will be back soon… within the hour….

 

We approached the mall carpark cautiously and I had a feeling Guo will be there waiting for us. His car has been doubled parked in front of ours.

 

Guo marched aggressively towards me the moment he saw me.

 

He shoved me and I fell back on the bonnet of my car.

 

Guo : Who the fuck do you think you are… ?

 

Yvonne : HEY !!! get your hands off him !!!

 

I straightened myself and Guo put his face so close to mind that I would have thought he wanted to kiss me.

 

Guo : I’m warning you… I’m watching you…. Fucker….

 

Yvonne shove Guo away, giving him the finger and asking him to fuck off.

Guo shouted to one of his guys behind him.

 

Guo : Leon !….  you stay on him …. Bloody fucker… trying to be funny…. Fucking piece of shit… you follow him everywhere he goes…..i will find out where you stay…. I will fucking play you until you regret you ever met me…..

 

I reared my head back and wiped what I assumed was his saliva from my face.

 

I kept my cool and gave him the I don’t give a fuck expression.

 

Jackson : What are you so upset… ? I don’t understand.

 

Guo had already walked away but he turned and walked towards me in a threatening manner again. Yvonne put her body in between the 2 of us.

 

Yvonne : enough !… back off Guo… !

 

Guo : pussy… you need a girl to help you ?? is that it…. You need her to protect you from me you fucking pussy….. come AH!!… COME!!!.. fucking ball less fuck….

 

Yvonne dragged me by my arm and I gave Guo a smile, infuriating him further as we got into my car.

 

Yvonne : they are all jerks… don’t mind them…

 

Yvonne shouted at the men for them to shift their car and I realised they clipped the side of their SUV pretty good on the right. The headlights were cracked and there was a ugly dent with white stains of paint.

 

Jackson  : Ouch… that’s got to hurt… hahaha

 

Yvonne : Let’s go… haha…

 

When we reached Yvonne’s place, Calvin and his men were packing up. I realised he has another 3 men with him.

 

Calvin : I borrowed some workers from a friend of mine…. Don’t worry… they’re good…. we can get things done faster…

 

With the groups of 6 workers clearing debris and blocking up the door at the back, Calvin quickly showed us the connection.

 

Nothing fancy, it’s literally a hole in the wall about the size of your 40 inch TV just that it’s vertical. That’s big enough for Yvonne to enter and move any stuff she needed to.

 

We covered the hole with the carcass of the cabinet that Calvin had removed.

 

Calvin : Tomorrow…. All out packing…

 

Yvonne : Ok…

 

I left Yvonne’s place 30 minutes later and I realised Leon was following me but thankfully he sucks as a driver. I lost him along the expressway when I made a sudden exit.

 

I may have lost Leon, but when I pulled into the carpark at my place, I saw a Rajah dismount his Ducati, lit a cigarette and slowly walked towards the direction of the coffee shop.

 

Plus one for Rajah’s riding skill.

 

 

16th June 2015

Tuesday

9.30am

 

Yvonne had started packing some stuff in the night with no lights on. There were 3 suitcases on the floor by her bed.

 

I could see Teng’s men eyeing me intently from across the block and I don’t want to risk stirring up a hornet’s nest unnecessarily. We’re not going to pull anymore stunt that morning.

 

Calvin and his men are busy installing the parts of the new cabinet. With a modified back, you can slide it open like a door to reveal the connection.

 

Jackson : let’s put some of the kitchen stuff away…. Wrap them up properly…

 

Yvonne : We can’t… Teng’s men will see us…

 

Jackson : we can…. You need to clear out your cutlery and utensils anyway … if not how to change the whole cabinet….

 

Yvonne thought about it and she agreed.

 

1.30pm

 

The false cabinet went up without much issue and all of us breathed a little easier after that.

 

Calvin’s men will start working on the hole in the floor.

 

There was no need for me to be there any longer and I went back to Bukit Timah.

 

Guo was eyeballing me at the carpark and seeing that Yvonne was not with me that day, he did not get anyone to follow me although he deliberately drove and block my way until I started honking at him to move.

 

Guo took his time to slowly cruise his vehicle right up to the exit, determined to waste my time. I pity him. He must be so bored that these are the only things he can do to entertain himself.

 

It felt good to be back at the farmhouse again. I spent the day cleaning up the place before working up a sweat at the garden.

 

Everyone is busy with their respective duties and I was glad to be able to find some normalcy in my old routine.

 

I ate at the cookhouse. I worked in the garden and I met up with Candy and Xiaoyu for lots of body contact. Yes, we were rubbing our sweat all over each other’s bodies grunting and panting while moans and groans filled the entire gym.

I get to pin Candy down, straddle her while I fantasise about ripping off her sports bra while she moaned and groaned for me to stop.

 

Unfortunately though, what filled the gym most of the time was my groans of pain, and the moans of pleasure followed right after either Candy or Xiaoyu let go of their crazy holds on my joints and limbs.

 

 

19 June 2015

Friday

6.30pm

 

Steamboat at the farmhouse and this time round, we have additional guest.

Xiaoyu and Candy joined the usual group of us around the crowded table.

 

Cindy, Aaron and Yiling is out somewhere. It’s Friday. She does whatever she needs to do on Fridays.

It feels different having the girls with us for dinner. More attention were given to them and everyone was piling them with food. Declan had brought along a bottle of 12 year old Yoichi from Nikka brewery and it was half gone even before the dinner is halfway through.

 

Xiaoyu is so feminine that at times I forgot that she was once a male.

The way she hold the chopsticks, the way her delicate fingers peeled prawns for the guys, there was no awkwardness at all as the lot of us squeezed around the table.

 

Even the playful slap she gave when the guys teased her about her sexuality felt so natural.

 

Xiaoyu scooped some noodles and threw in a peeled prawn for Hong as a way of thanking him for topping up her glass with ice.

 

Hong : sooooo nice… Xiaoyu… sooooo nice…. Slurpzzz… hmmmm… your 下面 ( prawn noodle 虾面in chinese sounds like ‘down there’ 下面 ) is so nice you know….. hmmmmm….

 

I would have thought Xiaoyu would be offended but it’s obvious she got used to remarks like this and brushed it off as nothing more than a joke.

 

Xiaoyu : really ?? … you want my 下面… dry…. Or soupy… ?

 

Everyone ewwww and Xiaoyu smacked Hong playfully on his head with her prawn juice stained fingers.

 

Hong made a sick expression of showing the white of his eyes as he started slurping the air around his mouth.

 

Kamal : Your expression…. Very sick eh… stop it… haha

 

Hong : You jealous is it…. She offer me…. not you….

 

Kamal : fuck off la…. want to eat prawn … peel on your own….

 

The bickering and laughter around the table has this homely and family feel to it. Everyone is just so comfortable with each other we had no qualms cracking self depreciating jokes or making fun of each other.

 

Hong : come la… I peel for you…. Prawn….. prawn… for Dr Kamal… call me…… Xiao Hong…

 

Hong squeezed his manboobs and tried to push a piece of prawn at Kamal only to have him smack his hands away.

 

Kamal : You don’t Chee bye ( curse ) can or not…

 

Candy offered me one out of a sudden and I accepted it as low growls of mumbles started to sound out around the table.

 

Hong : ohhhh… ohhh… ohh… lai liao… lai liao…. Candy peel prawn for Jackson too eh… hahah

 

Candy rolled her eyes and gave Hong her middle finger while Hong quickly asked Xiaoyu to peel one for me.

 

He has his shit stirring game face on and Xiaoyu caught right on to it.

 

Hong cleared his throat and tapped his bowl with his chopstick.

 

Hong : Jackson…. Between…. Xiaoyu and Candy…..

 

I knew he was trying to stir something up and I didn’t want to give him the chance to. I popped both into my mouth at the same time much to his disappointment, but Hong still want to squeeze a reply out from me.

 

Hong : which one taste better… ? hahahah….

 

Jackson : Candy taste sweeter….

 

There was half a second of pause before everyone understood the reply and started clapping and cheering.

 

Declan : hahahha.. well played….. well played….

 

Everyone cheered and gave me the dirty look as Candy looked shyly away while trying to hit Seven on his head for teasing her.

 

Xiaoyu : what about me… !

 

Jackson : I ate yours too…together… at the same time…

 

Hong : wah.., wah… wah…. Jackson …. Very the fucker you know….

 

He nudged Xiaoyu with his elbow while raising his eyebrow at the same time.

 

Hong : He wants ….. together… you know… together one… ahhahaha….

 

Xiaoyu : can be arranged….… haha.. ….

 

Xiaoyu played with her hair as she gave me a wink.

 

Jackson : No thank you….

 

 

Xiaoyu : Candy ?… hahah

 

I caught the playful wink Candy gave Xiaoyu but after much consideration to my future bowel movements, I still gave the same reply.

 

Jackson : No thank you…. Hahah

 

………………………………………

 

 

 

22 June 2015

Monday

 

9.30am

 

I was at the staging area with Yiling at 9.30 and Calvin arrived shortly after.

 

By 10.30 am, the switch between the sisters has been done. Yvonne is busy packing and transferring her stuff into Yiling’s apartment. Yiling settled down by the couch with the windbreaker her sis was wearing earlier.

 

To avoid unnecessary harassment by Guo and his men, I volunteered to run errands and leave the house. True enough, with me gone and Yiling in sight all the time, Teng’s men hardly bothered her.

 

Teng’s men went up once to poke around and Yiling just excused herself to the bathroom since ample warning was given by Calvin’s man stationed by the truck in the carpark.

 

By the end of that day, the hole in the ground leading to Teng’s apartment is halfway done.

The hole, about the size of medium pizza box is covered up with wooden planks. Calvin says he just need another 2 hours max to get through totally.

 

 

 

23 June 2015

Tuesday

 

Yvonne estimated that she’s about 50% packed. Yiling’s place has almost 10 boxes filled with her stuff ready for shipment.

 

Yvonne : I’m going to be done by this week…. With the lights off, I can continue packing and shifting my stuff…… they are none the wiser….

 

From the way the 2 sisters are whispering to each other, it appears as if they are keen to bring up the schedule but is held back by the videos that Teng is still holding on to.

 

I’m not sure if it was just me but I noticed while I no longer notice the Rajahs following me, but the number of them hanging around the coffee shop actually increased.

 

They paid no attention to me and I ignored them when I buy my dinner. It’s their coffee shop afterall.

 

 

29th June 2015

Monday

12pm

 

Yvonne’s place has been completely stripped of the kitchen cabinets.

With almost 30 boxes of stuff that needs to be shipped out in Yiling’s place ready to go, we decided that it’s time to call in the movers that week to start shifting things out.

 

Everything is going according to plan so far. All that is left is the videos.

 

It would have been a typical day for me if not for one of the workers coming up to inform Calvin that someone important is coming. The worker was talking to the security guard of the condominium as he put up cones to block off newly vacated lots right beside the private lobby.

It only happens when the VIP is coming.

 

The fact that Teng is coming got everyone into a frenzy. If he pays an unannounced visit, only Yvonne would be able to hold him off at the door.

 

Yiling walked casually into the guest bedroom. Moments later I can hear her shouting for Yvonne to come back over.

 

Calvin sent 2 of his men to the service lift to fill it up with stuff they are bringing down to buy some time. There’s no telling when Teng will arrive.

 

Calvin was still barking orders to his men when I heard the metallic sliding sound of the private lift opening.

 

I quickly walked over to Calvin and pulled him to the yard, gesturing that someone has arrived. Calvin gestured towards the guest bedroom door that was still left ajar.

 

I literally held my breath when I turned and looked at Guo standing beside the older man who I assume is Teng. He’s looks familiar, I must have seen him somewhere on TV before.

 

He must be almost 50 years old and I can’t believe he is lusting over Yvonne. His eyes are small and with a receding hairline and a forced crooked smile, he looks every bit the villain no matter how you look at him.

 

Makes me wonder if the ruling party is that desperate for people that they have to find someone that looks like a crook to be a Politician.

 

Jackson : Who are you….? Why are you here ?? !!

 

Guo : you don’t know who is he… ?  are you living inside a hole.. ?

 

Jackson : You are trespassing on private property….

 

Guo : and what are you going to do… ??

 

I raised my voice slightly, intending to sound the alarm to the girls in the room.

 

Jackson : Get the fuck out !!! you are trespassing on my site….!

 

From the corner of my eye I could see the door to the guest room slowly close. I hope the girls could switch back in time.

 

Teng : relax… I’m a friend of Yvonne…. You must be the designer…

 

He did not offer me his hand, Teng spoke with his hands behind his back as if there is no point for him to shake my hand with no cameras around and no media to add political points to his career.

 

Jackson : Yes I am…. And you are trespassing….

 

Teng laughed and walked around slowly as if he was invited to tour the site.

 

Jackson : Yvonne !!!… do you know this guy …!!

 

I shouted my warning towards the guest room, praying Yiling is long done and the opening into her place has been closed off.

 

Teng looked at the empty kitchen before nodding and I could see him walking towards the guest room.

 

The door opened and I could see Yvonne on the phone.

 

Yvonne : yes.. yes… I need more roses for next week… there’s a big order for a wedding… yes… thank you….

 

She hung up her phone and I could see Teng smiling at her.

 

Yvonne : we agreed you cannot be here…. You can’t just fucking walk into my place !!!…

 

Teng: you are not alone…. There are so many people around…what’s the difference with a couple more….

 

Before Yvonne could speak, Teng reassured her that he is here to make sure everything is ok.

 

Teng : I just want to make sure everything is ok….

 

Yvonne : yes… everything is fine… please just leave…

 

Teng : How long are you going to stay angry with me… ?

 

Yvonne : I’m not having this discussion with you….

 

Teng looked around, well aware that everyone is within earshot.

 

Then he said something that I made my heart skip a beat. I’m sure not only my heart skipped a beat. Calvin, Yvonne and perhaps even Yiling would see their heart rate go up a notch.

 

Teng : It’s so dusty… and you don’t have a kitchen… how about you come and stay in my unit… it’s right below….

 

Teng paused for his offer to sink in and he spoke at the right moment as if he could read Yvonne’s thoughts.

 

Teng : Don’t worry…. You will stay there alone… at least until the renovation is over….

 

I could see it in Yvonne’s face.

 

She is going to take the risk and go for the videos the moment she gets a chance to.

 

Yvonne : well… Since you offered…. Sure…

 

Teng smiled and I could see the glimmer in his eyes.

 

Teng : I could make dinner tonight….and we…

 

Yvonne : I thought you said i will be staying alone… ?

 

Teng : at least have dinner with me…. ? surely it’s not a lot to ask for…. I will leave you alone….. after dinner….

 

A dinner.

 

You would have to be dumb to believe it was just dinner. I could see it in that horny fucker’s eyes.

 

Yvonne took a deep breath and agreed.

 

Yvonne : Just dinner…

 

Teng : hahah… good… just dinner….

 

Teng gestured to Guo and the 2 of them left via the private lift.

 

As soon as the door closed, I turned to Yvonne;

 

Jackson : Are you serious… ? surely you know he wants more than dinner…

 

Yvonne : It’s a risk I have to take…. We might have to move things up a little….

 

Gathering again at the dusty dining table, I dialled Yiling’s phone and put her on speaker. Yvonne brought her sister up to speed about the latest development.

 

Yvonne : do you think we can make it… ?

 

Yiling : hold on… I’m on my laptop… let’s see if I can get a ticket for the flight….

 

A couple of tense minutes later, Yiling finally spoke.

 

Yiling : There’s a ticket… it’s for a 8am flight…tomorrow…

 

Yvonne : I can make the 8am flight… the moment I get the tapes I will go… my stuff….

 

Yiling : I will send them… just pack a change of clothes and go…. No check in luggage….

 

Jackson  : where will you be flying to…. ?

 

Yvonne was about to answer when she replied that it’s better no one knows.

 

Yiling : She will be transiting at another airport 2-3 hours away. … the moment Teng’s men realise she is gone… they will start looking for her…. with his connection…. Teng can stop Yvonne at the airport…. Even on the flight, he can turn her around….

 

Jackson : what the fuck…

 

Yiling : All he needs is some excuse that there is a dangerous criminal on board … the airline will have to turn the flight around….

 

Yvonne : I will be safe as long as I land and exit immigration…. A car will take me to a smaller airport when I will fly my connection via a private plane…. You just need to buy me the time….

 

We spent another 30 minutes going through what needs to be done before we dispersed.

 

Just before I left Yvonne’s place, I overheard her telling Yiling that if she needed to, she will just have to sleep with Teng for one last time.

I watch the 2 sisters shared what might be their last hug for a long time in the guest room.

 

Yiling : be careful….

 

Yvonne : you too…. Teng will come after you with everything he has once I’m gone…. He won’t take this lying down….

 

Yiling : I’ll worry about that when it happens….

 

Yvonne pulled me aside and she spoke with me in a serious manner. There was no smile and none of her cheeky joking self.

 

Yvonne : Jackson ….

 

Jackson : I know… don’t worry…. I’ll make sure she’s ok…. Whatever it takes…

 

Yvonne : thank you…

 

She gave me a hug before tapping me on my cheek a couple of times.

 

Yvonne : I mean it…. I want to be your sister in law…. Don’t fuck it up….

 

 

…………………………………………….

 

 

6pm

 

Yvonne has gained access to Teng’s apartment but she is not left alone.

Guo and another guy is with her while Teng goes shopping for cooking ingredients.

From the way Yiling is texting, I could tell she is worried about her sister and not being able to do anything is damm frustrating for her.

 

I tried to lighten up the atmosphere and crack a few jokes.

 

Jackson : makes you wish you can send your men inside there and take care of it once and for all eh… haha… I could already picture Hong inside there wrecking things up…

 

Yiling : Not with Teng…. He’s well connected…. I can’t risk La Bella Vita and the people working for me….having a new administration breathing down our neck while trying to score political points is the last thing I need for my business.

 

She said it all without looking up from her phone.

 

I went to Yiling’s apartment where we used the carpark as the staging area.

I was expecting it to be empty but it was not. It’s fully furnished and stocked with food and wine.

 

Jackson : wow… you actually do live here…

 

Yiling : sometimes…. When I want to get away from it all… I will come here and stay…. Very rarely….

 

Yiling ordered pizza in but neither of us had any appetite. Yiling opened a bottle of wine.

 

Yiling : You want some… ?

 

Jackson : No… I’m going to be driving later…

 

Yiling filled her glass and finished it all in one gulp.

 

She refilled the glass and I stopped her from drinking it too fast.

 

Jackson : calm down… it’ll be ok… she’ll make it….

 

Yiling exhaled and she sighed.

 

Yiling : She has to…

 

Walking to the balcony of her apartment, Yiling opened the sliding door. I could feel the humidity of the evening air hit me in my face.

 

Stepping out to a view of housing estates, Yiling rest her arms on the railing.

 

There was a gentle breeze and the setting sun cast a radiant glow of orange on Yiling’s face.

 

Yiling : thank you for doing this Jackson …

 

Jackson : what’s wrong with you… ? no need to thank me…

 

I rest my arm on the railing as well, looking at the setting sun beside Yiling.

 

We didn’t speak for a while and Yiling was the first to break the silence.

 

Yiling : I’m sorry… if my sister says something stupid to you….

 

Jackson : Like what…

 

Yiling looked at me before turning away.

 

Yiling : Like saying she wants to be your sister in law and shit like that….

 

I laughed.

 

Yiling brushed back her hair and gave me a doleful look while resting her cheek on her palm.

 

Yiling : Don’t fall for me Jackson ….

 

Jackson : hahahah… I like your sense of humour….. you then don’t fall for me…

 

Yiling looked away and mumbled under her breath.

 

Yiling : People like me….. we don’t have the luxury of falling in love….

 

Jackson : what do you mean.. ?

 

Yiling shook her head and I could see the bitter smile on her face.

 

Yiling : Nothing… nobody will ever love someone like me….

 

Jackson : that’s not true…

 

Yiling : what is love then Jackson … ? holding hands ? …. Kissing… sex ? … marriage… ? then what… kids… ?

 

Jackson : Everybody loves you Yiling… they just don’t know how to say it…. Asians are not good at expressing themselves….

 

She laughed and straightened her hand on the railing, standing in the same manner when I first saw her at the castle.

 

Yiling : I’ve never been loved…. Always feared I guess…

 

Jackson : that’s nonsense…

 

Yiling turned and looked at me with her arms folded.

 

Jackson : Aaron loves you enough to be jealous that you hired me….

 

Yiling : What.. ?

 

Jackson : Hong… Seven…. They love you enough to risk their life for you….

 

Yiling looked like she was about to speak but I went on.

 

Jackson : Kamal…. Declan… everything they’ve done for you…. You think it’s for the pay… ?  The girls… Cindy….. Candy… even Xiaoyu….the things they are willing to do…. The laws these people are prepared to break….. you think they do it for the monthly pay… ?

 

Yiling : i…

 

Jackson : I’ve seen the way everyone look at you Yiling….. maybe you don’t see it…. All of us are here…. With you…. Because we each love you…. In our own way….

 

Yiling exhaled and looked at me.

 

Yiling : what about you… ?

 

I smiled and gave her my honest reply.

 

Jackson : I’m attracted to you Yiling…. i’m curious about you……..i want to know more about you….. I want to protect you……. i… errr

 

I paused, trying to think of the right words.

 

Jackson : I….I find myself… willing to do things…..i’ve never even think I would…. Just for you…… I’m sure you can tell…. Like the rest…. It’s not because of the salary you are giving me every month…and yes…. i….i love you too…

 

We were both quiet for a while, yes that moment was there but only for an instance. It disappeared as soon as it appeared.

 

Yiling’s phone was ringing in the dining area.

It’s Yvonne.

 

Yiling : ok….. ok sure…. We’ll be waiting….

Teng just started cooking dinner for Yvonne, fingers crossed, it will be over and done by 10pm.

 

The wait for the next couple of hours is excruciating. No matter what position we settle in, it’s not comfortable.

 

10.30pm

 

The call Yiling has been waiting for finally arrived. She put Yvonne on speaker and both of us leaned forward and waited for Yvonne to speak.

 

Yiling : Sis … are you ok … ? what’s the situation… ?

 

Yvonne : Teng just left……I’m fine, I really need to go soon…. He’s not taking no for an answer when he gets here tomorrow…..

 

Yiling : You’ll be long gone by then…

 

Yvonne : There’s a problem, I can’t get the cabinet open…. I thought the lock can be easily pried open but I can’t…. we can smash it but it would make a lot of noise…. And it’s late…. Teng’s men are in the carpark and across the block…

 

Yiling looked at me, hoping to see if I have any ideas.

 

I closed my eyes and tried to quickly work out the time.

 

8 am flight

She will board at 7.30am

She needs to get to the airport say around 6.45am ish at the latest for a bit of buffer.

 

From woodlands to the airport, it would be good if she leaves home at 6am.

 

There’s no way Yvonne can leave easily with Teng’s men keeping an eye on her.

 

Jackson : we’ll smash and grab…

 

Yvonne : what??

 

Jackson : Calvin has left tools in the house, we’ll smash and grab the videos…

 

Yiling : then what…. ?

 

 

I told Yiling to disguise herself and enter the property on foot. Everyone is focused on the lobby leading up to Yvonne and Teng’s place. Teng’s men are in the basement and across the next block.

 

It should be safe if Yiling enters on foot and gets to the private lift lobby via the 1st floor instead of the basement.

 

Jackson : She will go to her unit and wait there….

 

I told the girls I will head back to Yvonne’s place on the pretext that I forgot something.

 

Jackson : That would draw the men’s attention and it’s the best time for Yiling to head up to her own place….

 

I will then grab the necessary tools and go straight to Teng’s place to get the videos out.

 

Yvonne : How are we going to escape…. ?? !!!

 

Yiling will pull the switch with Yvonne then and come with me down to the carpark with a suitcase in hand.

 

That will set alarms off and everyone will spring into action.

 

Jackson : Yvonne… stay hidden in Yiling’s place for a while…. When the men are chasing us… get on a cab and head to the airport….

 

Yvonne : ok…. Ok….. but you…

 

Jackson : Don’t worry about us… we’ll be fine….

 

I looked at the clock and it’s coming to 11pm.

 

Jackson : get ready, I will be there at 5am…. If we are lucky….Teng’s men might even be asleep in the car….

 

Yvonne : ok… please be careful…

 

Yiling : stay safe Sis…. It’s almost over….

 

…………………………………………………………

 

3.30am

 

I slept on the couch for a bit and Yiling woke me up.

 

She just had a shower and her hair is still wet

She offered me a towel and I washed up too.

 

No fancy heels or dresses. Yiling was wearing a pair of running tights with grey sports bra. A loose fitting singlet followed and she tied her hair up into a tight bun.

 

I sipped the coffee she made for me as she put on her socks and running shoes.

 

We won’t know what to expect but I can be sure we will be running for a bit to buy Yvonne enough time.

 

 

4.45am

 

I dropped Yiling off about 300m away from the estate before driving down to the carpark.

 

Teng’s men are still there and I could see one of them sleeping but the other, I recognised as Leon is awake and playing games on his phone.

 

He jumped up when he saw me in the carpark.

 

Leon : what are you doing here…. What do you want… !!!

 

Jackson : dude….. I left my files up there… I need them for another project….

 

Leon : at this time ??!!! who are you kidding !! ?

 

I sighed and told Leon that I’m going to go to Malaysia for a meeting.

 

Jackson : brother….. !! ….. I need to grab the files…. Then go back to my office at Tanjong Pagar….. grab some sample boards…..and print the dwgs… by the time I done and drive up to the causeway…. What time already…. I need to clear immigration and get to Pekan Nanas…..!

 

Leon looked unconvinced and I just kept walking towards the lift.

 

Leon : wait… wait…. I need to call in…

 

Jackson : do whatever you want bro… I just need to grab the files I left in the site and leave……you think my work as easy as yours ?? sit here and got money take ah…. ? siao … !

 

I literally shove my way pass Leon I entered the private lift and scanned the access card Yvonne gave me on the first day.

 

I did not waste time, I went straight to the tool box and grabbed a hammer and a crowbar.

Yiling text me that she has made her way up to her unit and I called Yvonne to open up the back door to let me in.

 

I took the stairs down and Yvonne was already there waiting for me.

 

Jackson : where is the cabinet ??

 

Yvonne : here…. Follow me….

 

I entered Teng’s study and Yvonne pointed to the locked cabinet. I jammed the crowbar into the side where the hinges are located and hammered it to lodge it in.

 

Jackson : stand back…..

 

I grabbed onto the makeshift lever and pulled back several times as if I’m trying to row a dragon boat standing up.

 

After 5 of 6 strong strokes, I split the cabinet door apart.

 

I stood back and I could see Yvonne frantically shining the light of her mobile phone in the cabinet. She started grabbing hardisk and CD roms, throwing it all into the bag she was carrying.

 

I looked around Teng’s study, nothing extraordinary. Books, files, a old desktop with all it’s plug disconnected. Doesn’t look like it has a network adaptor either.

 

Some awards and photos with fellow politicians.

 

As I scanned the photos of Teng, I saw something. It flicked a switch in my mind.

 

Yvonne : I’m done.. I’m done….

 

Jackson : ok…ok…

 

Yvonne wasted no time and she was already heading towards the backdoor.

 

I picked up the photo and after a slight hesitation, pulled it out and kept it in my pocket.

 

We ran up the stairs to Yvonne’s place and I was perspiring badly by then.

 

Yiling was squatting by the connection to the guestroom.

 

The sisters hugged the moment they say each other.

 

Yiling : You ok … you got it… ??!!

 

Yvonne nodded.

 

Yvonne : yes… yes… I got it…. It’s all here…. I cleared out the cupboard….

 

 

 

 

5.30am

 

Jackson : time to say your goodbye….

 

I could see Yiling on the verge of tears as the sisters reminded each other to be careful.

 

 

5.45am

 

Yiling slid the connecting door behind the cabinet shut. Yvonne will be calling a cab and Yiling and I will provide the necessary distraction.

 

Yiling : ok… there’s no turning back now…

 

She pulled her sister’s windbreaker on before switching on the lights to the house.

 

I looked across the block and I could see Teng’s men on their feet looking at us. Leon must have told them I’m coming up. They would be surprised to see Yvonne and me in the same apartment when she should be in their boss’s place.

 

Jackson : is the cab here… ?

 

Yiling kept looking at her phone.

 

Yiling : yes… it’s arriving…. Turning into the carpark….

 

Jackson : ok…. They’re looking at us…

 

Yiling looked up and told me we need to act as if we are planning and plotting something.

 

Yiling : something to get their attention on us…. Enough to make them come up and….

 

I reached for Yiling’s hand, pulled her close and before she could react, I kissed her on her lips

 

She did not expect me to do that and I did it with my eyes opened. Yiling’s eyes were opened too, no doubt in shock as to what I have done.

 

I could see Teng’s men scrambling to get out of the house from across the block and still I kept my lips on Yiling’s

 

I slowly pulled away after about 20 seconds later and Yiling looked away, so did i.

 

Jackson : I…. I’m sorry…. I’m… pretty sure that got their attention….

 

There was a pounding on the back door and I could hear Leon shouting for us to open up.

 

Leon : OPEN UP!!! JACKSON !!! you’re dead!!! You hear me.. you’re dead !!!!

 

I went to the back door and I could see Leon and another man hammering on the door through the peep hole.

 

Jackson : wait… wait a bit.. wait for the other 2 guys to get here….

 

I ignored the hammering and kept looking through the hole.

 

The moment the other guys from across the block arrived I asked Yiling to tell her sister to go.

 

Jackson : Ok….go now… into the cab !!! ….

 

Yiling : sis… now… go… go…. !

 

Yiling ran to the window and waited while the pounding on the door got more intensified.

 

Yiling : ok… ok …. Sis is gone… the cab left….

 

Jackson : ok… now we just need to buy her time….

 

Yiling called the security to tell them she is being harassed. That should buy us a few minutes.

 

I’m sure Teng and Guo would have been notified by now. Maybe they are on their way over.

 

 

6.45am

 

Yiling : Yvonne has arrived at the airport and just checked in.

 

Jackson : ok … good…

 

Yiling kept looking at her phone and said Teng kept calling her sister.

 

Jackson : Too late to do anything now….

 

The commotion outside the door did not subside at all and now the security guards are also asking us to open up to clear up the situation.

 

Yiling : what now ?

 

Jackson : we can’t stay holed up here forever… time to go…. Take them on a wild goose chase for as long as we can…..

 

Yiling nodded and put on the hoodie. She added a surgical mask as well and put it on her face like a Korean star avoiding the press.

 

Yiling : how should we go ??

 

I stretched my body and loosened my muscles and gestured to the lift.

 

Jackson : like a boss…..

 

Yiling laughed and she clenched and unclenched her fist a couple of times.

 

We stepped into the lift and I knew Teng’s men would be at the carpark waiting for us.

 

Jackson : don’t speak…. Just go straight to the car….

 

Yiling : ok… ok….

 

 

I could see Yiling’s reflection beside me from the polished lift.

Maybe it’s the coffee, or it’s the lack of sleep or the excitement coursing through my veins. Fuck it might even be the kiss I forced on her.

 

I reached for Yiling’s hand and I felt as if a spark of electricity ran through my veins when I touched hers.

 

Our fingers interlocked as the lift door opened.

 

The moment I stepped out, I saw Leon on the phone and his eyes widened in shock when he saw me holding what he thought was Yvonne’s hand with a suitcase in tow.

 

He literally shouted into the phone.

 

Leon : fuck… fuck !!! they’re making a run for it…. Jackson is taking Yvonne !!!

 

Yiling and I ran to my car and I started driving the moment my engine roared to life.

 

The wheels of my car screeched against the floor of the carpark as I made a dash for the exit.

 

Leon’s car went against traffic and he knocked a fire extinguisher off a wall as he crashed into it slightly while blocking off my route.

 

I mounted the dividing kerb and I could see the security guard running over in shock as I drove against the arrows towards the boundary of the estate right into the angry honk of another resident’s car.

I switched lane quickly and the barrier arm barely had time to lift up for me as I made a sharp turn onto the main road. Looking into the rear mirror, I could see Leon’s car in pursuit before another joined him.

 

7.15am

 

The roads are starting to get crowded and I kept to the speed limit.

 

This also pretty much meant I can’t shake my tail.

 

Leon and the other car are following closely and I could see them talking on their phone.

 

Jackson : call your sis….. see if she’s ok….

 

 

 

7.30am

 

Yiling : She’s boarding the flight now….we’re almost there…. they’re going to send more people after us…..

 

Jackson : we’ll keep driving… tank is full…. This is Singapore… they can’t just run us off the road….

 

I took the expressway towards CTE.

 

Central expressway during a weekday peak. Perfect for wasting time.

 

8am

 

Yvonne should be airborne anytime by then and we’re stuck in the middle of peak hour traffic on the expressway.

 

Leon’s car is right behind us while the 2nd car is 2 cars up front.

 

8.45am

 

The traffic did not ease up until we got to Jurong. I switched to another expressway PIE and both cars are following us closely.

 

I was tempted to head back to Bukit Timah, drive into the castle and leave them hanging outside the main road but Yiling is against the idea.

 

 

9.30am

 

I turned out into Enuos industrial area, making turns and just wasting time.

 

9.45am

 

Yiling : there’s another car…

She’s right and I could see Guo behind the wheel.

 

I entered the expressway again to head towards Tuas on the PIE.

 

By then the patience of Guo and his men have started to run out.

 

They were driving aggressively, trying to box us in. I was forced off the PIE and I exited at Toa Payoh.

 

Cutting through the estate to Bishan, I kept making turns, trying to lose the tail.

 

Finally coming back to Ang Mo Kio, I made use of my knowledge of the neighbourhood, turning into carparks that had more than one entrance and exit.

 

Even so, I only manage to lose 1 out of 3 cars and for a short period of time.

It’s getting frustrating.

 

10.30am

 

Yiling’s phone rang. Yvonne has landed and is in the midst of clearing immigration.

 

Yiling : ok… ok… take care sis… we’re ok…. See you soon….

 

Yiling hung up and said her sis will be out of immigration in less than 10 minutes.

 

Yiling : ok… ok…. She’s ok….there’s no way they can get her now…..

 

Jackson : that’s good to know….

 

Yiling : you can stop the car now… there’s nothing they can do once they realise I’m not Yvonne….

 

Jackson : I’m not too sure about that….we just made a lot of people very angry this whole morning…..

 

Yiling : fuck them….drive to the nearest police post…. Nothing they can do….

 

I made a turn and smiled.

 

Jackson : I have a better idea….

 

I made my way back home and parked head in into the nearest lot I could see.

 

Yiling and I got out and we started running.

 

Leon’s car screeched to a stop and he jumped right out sprinting towards us as if a medal was at stake.

 

I turned in time and pushed Yiling away as he kicked me on my side, causing me to tumble and roll on the turfing.

 

I got back up just in time to block his knee with my right forearm before tackling him down on the grass.

 

Leon : aRGHHH fuck you !!!

 

Before I could do any real damage, another guy came at me. He tried to grab my neck but I got loose and struck him on his nose with the bottom of my right palm. Guo kicked me away but my ears were already rewarded with the satisfying crack of nose cartilage snapping from my hit.

 

Guo punched hard and it hurt to even block his blows but the lessons I took were not for nothing. I bidded my time, went low, grabbed his legs and yank him off balance.

 

Yiling was struggling with another chap and I ran over to get her free.

 

Grabbing Yiling’s hand, I dragged her towards the coffee shop where I always had my breakfast.

 

Turning around, there were no less than 9 men in pursuit. The commotion got the attention of the sleepy neighbour, several retirees who were playing chess earlier were staring and pointing at us.

 

Guo charged at us just as I was reaching the coffee shop. He was trying to grab Yiling and I shove her aside again to take the hit.

 

The momentum of his charge plus his bulk gave him the leverage to literally lift me off the ground. There is a ground level difference between the turfing we were on and the floor which the coffee shop is at.

 

Not much, about a metre.

 

The impact sent me flying first onto the red canvas sunshade that extended outwards from the coffee shop. My fall collapsed the structure, tore the canvas at the seams and I landed onto a table at the coffee shop.

 

My body toppled food, and coffee from the table before I fell onto the tiled floor. I could see my hand covered in fishball noodles as I got back up on my feet.

 

Yiling : are you ok ??!!

 

Jackson : I’m fine….

 

Guo : you have no idea who you are fucking with do you !!!!! HAR !!!! you’re FuCK I’m telling you… !!!!!

 

Guo grabbed a plastic chair and swung it a couple of times to build up the momentum before slicing it through the air towards me, sending patrons screaming and running away from the coffee shop.

 

Guo : WHO…. THE FUCK…. DO YOU THINK… YOU ARE !!! Arghhhh!!

 

I pulled Yiling behind me with the intention of blocking the chair but the chair stopped in midair.

It stopped so abruptly that the ends of the plastic chair shook and vibrate angrily on it’s free end.

 

I would have thought it was Harry Potter himself who cast a spell to stop the chair from hitting me but I was wrong.

 

It was not Harry Potter.

Neither was it a wizard wielding a wand he bought from Diagon Alley.

 

The chair was stopped midair by a hand.

 

A tattooed hand featuring a phoenix in all its glory with it’s wings spread.

 

The chair fell to the ground as I pulled Yiling close behind my back and a smile slowly broke on my face.

 

I backed away slowly as the men whose breakfast I just disturbed slowly got on their feet.

 

3 at the table devoid of food

 

2 snubbed out their cigarettes at a nearby bin.

 

1 came out from the bathroom, his hands still damp.

 

And all, with the same phoenix tattoo on hand.

Looking at a infuriated Guo whose numbers just ballooned to more than a dozen bolstered by new arrivals, I answered his question.

 

Jackson : me……?………………………… I’m ………… a nobody……

 

Spreading my hands wide apart like a host introducing his guest, I added while looking at the men beside me.

 

Jackson : They………………… are the Rajahs……

 

 


 

Guo : I don’t give a fuck who they are !!!

 

Backing up immediately, I prayed that the Rajahs would do something.

 

They did say they take care of their guest right ? I just need them to buy me enough time to slip away.

I have no interest in getting drag into a prolonged conflict.

 

I would have expected the Rajahs to take Guo’s men down fast and without mercy but that was not the case.

 

An invisible boundary sliced across the coffee shop with the Rajahs being the wall separating Yiling and I from Guo and his men.

Guo led the charge, grabbing a chair and trying to go for one of the Rajahs while the rest of his men spread out, encircling half the coffee shop as the rest of the patrons flee the impending chaos.

 

Everything was happening at the same time as the Rajahs engaged Guo and his men but not head on. I could see all of them were avoiding throwing the first punch or strike.

 

Like the retracting spoke of a closing umbrella, the Rajahs closed ranks, trying to fend off the attack from Guo’s men.

A couple of them were even taking a beating from Guo’s men, trying to cower and protect themselves from the barrage of kicks and punches.

 

Guo missed 2 Rajahs in a row as they sidestepped his strikes, opening up a direct route towards Yiling and me.

 

Guo : get them !!! get them all !!!!

 

Outnumbered and out flanked, the Rajahs were surrounded in no time and it was clear they were playing defence for now.

 

The Rajahs kept most of Guo’s men at bay while Guo continued charging towards me.

 

Guo flipped a makeshift table filled with pre packed bags of chilli sauce from the nearby chicken rice stall at me as the stall owner screamed at him for wasting a few hours work. Yiling and I stepped back and I kicked a few plastic chairs towards Guo as he threw a tray of utensils at us.

 

I pushed and threw whatever I could get my hands on. From pails filled with used dishes to trays with half eaten food left by the fleeing patrons.

 

Guo blocked and threw whatever he could back at me.

 

There was a loud thud and without warning, the coffee shop went dead. The lights, the fans, everything that depending on electricity had it’s lifeline cut off.

 

It’s like someone flicking a switch, activating something that should have been left dormant. It’s bright day light, they are not cutting off the electricity for no reason.

 

It was then I noticed all the cameras up on the pillars and ceiling.

 

The Rajahs may be violent men but they are not stupid.

 

All they needed was a few seconds of footage to prove that they were the ones being attacked.

 

Guo slipped and fell on a dish of half eaten noodles, cursing and slamming his body onto a stool on the way down.

 

As Guo fell, I turned and saw the encircled Rajahs rose up as one, fighting their way out of the circle of fist.

A Rajah punched his way up, striking the chin of a unsuspecting attacker and blood immediately started flowing as he staggered backwards and collapsed onto his bottom while clutching his jaw.

 

Another Rajah jumped out from behind the drinks stall, throwing a carton a green tea at Leon who narrowly escaped by shoving his friend in front of him.

 

James : It’s our chance to run… go.. go… go….

 

Guo got up and I narrowly missed a wild grab by him as Yiling yanked me backwards.

 

Guo’s attempt to come for me was stopped by another Rajah who dove towards him, sending him towards the glass display of a Indian rojak stall.

Metal tongs and gravy bowls scattered to the ground as Yiling and I continued backing away.

 

I barely pushed Yiling away when Leon bulldozed me against a small popiah stall. Grabbing his hair I slammed his head against the glass before trying to dunk him in the boiling pot of turnips.

 

He resisted only to shove his right hand into the piping hot stove, screaming as his left hand pulverised the stack of cold popiah skin.

 

I pushed him back and saw my chance to escape.

 

Taking one last look at the coffee shop before I ducked out the back door, I realised this was not even a fight. It was a massacre.

 

The almost kiddish manner in which Guo’s men are hitting and fighting were no match for the Rajah’s violence.

A hard headbutt left both a Rajah and his target bleeding, while Guo’s men whimpered in pain and backed off, the Rajah, bleeding on his forehead and nose continue hammering his target.

 

The others too ignored the punches and kicks raining on them by the superior numbers and all 6 picked one target each and focused on him.

 

It was a horrible sight as Guo’s men went from trying to hit the Rajahs hammering their friends to trying to get their friends away from the Rajahs.

The Rajahs may be injured and bruised, almost all are bleeding but they are focused.

 

Focused on the one poor sod that they got their hands on.

One thing is for sure, the others can run, but the 6 that got pinned and marked by the Rajahs, the only way they are getting away from the coffee shop is on an ambulance.

 

I could hear sirens in the background and I quickly pulled Yiling and ran.

 

Jackson : run… run…run……. we can’t stay here….

 

Holding onto Yiling’s hand, I ran towards my place while leaving the Rajahs behind to clear up the mess.

 

I’m probably going to have a lot of explaining to do and I’ll worry about it when it happens.

 

Yiling and I slowed to a walk as we turned toward my place and walked towards the lift lobby.

 

I asked her to remove her mask and windbreaker. Yiling pulled them off and disposed them into a bin.

 

Several police cars raced along the road towards the coffee shop and I could see 2 ambulance following closely behind. This is bad.

 

Just as I was about to head into the lift, I saw Guo again. Pushing Yiling in, I shouted for her to go hide.

 

Jackson  : I’ll contact you…. Go !…

 

Guo’s bleeding profusely on his head and face and he was charging towards us.

 

Without hesitating, I ran at him head on. Our bodies collided, bruising muscles and flesh as we rained blows on each other.

 

I never expected Yiling to come back out.

 

She ran behind Guo and attempted to put him in a lock but Guo managed to break free, flailing his huge arms around wildly. I tackled him back onto the ground when Yiling shouted;

 

Yiling : enough !!!

 

Guo shove me away as he staggered to get off the floor.

 

He looked at Yiling with his eyes wide apart, unable to believe what his eyes are telling him.

 

Yiling : My sister is gone…. Teng will never find her….

 

Guo : you….. you……!! What the fuck….!!! you….

 

Yiling : Tell Teng my sister has all the videos he kept in his place…… his entire fucking porn collection……. All the girls he fucked…… we’ll see who has more to lose…. if those get out….let’s not forget he tried to rape my sister !

 

Guo breathed heavily as he glared at the both of us.

 

Guo : Teng will not let this go……he will not…

 

Jackson : do we look like we care….

 

Guo smirked and chuckled, as if he knew something we didn’t.

 

 

Guo : My employer is a vengeful man…..he won’t take this lying down…..

 

Yiling : Your employer is a sick man…..

 

Guo : unfortunately for you all…… you have no idea how sick he is…. And how sick he is going to become….

 

Jackson  : fuck off…..

 

Guo levelled his eyes at Yiling and me while keeping a smug look on his bloodied face, slowly backing away while still keeping the threatening expression.

 

Guo : Teng will destroy you …. he will destroy you….. he will destroy the fucking Rajahs……. You have no idea what is coming…. all of you… hahaha…. You have no fucking idea….

 

I wiped blood off the side of my lips from a cut I suffered inside my mouth as I showed Guo the middle finger.

 

Guo : ignorant fools……we’ll see who has the last laugh at the end of the day…. you will never be safe…. You will never have a good night sleep…. You will spend the rest of your life fearing for the day we come for you….

 

Jackson : then let’s not wait… come for me… now…. I’m right here…

 

Guo laughed and spat a mouthful of blood stained saliva on the floor before turning and running away in the opposite direction of the coffee shop. It’s clear he just abandoned his men.

 

Turning to Yiling, I asked if she was hurt and she told me she’s fine.

 

Jackson : what now…? He just threatened us….. and the Rajahs…. Haha … is he for real ?

 

Yiling : let’s wait a bit for things to calm down before we go back to the castle….

 

Jackson  : My place is upstairs…. Let’s go up and wait a bit….

 

Taking the lift up, I was surprised Yiling knew which unit I was staying in.

 

Jackson : How did you know which unit I’m staying at… ??

 

Yiling : you think I would hire you without first making sure I know everything about you ??

 

I unlocked the door and Yiling asked me about the Rajahs.

 

Yiling : How did you know they would help us… ?

 

Jackson : I didn’t know for sure… it was a gamble….

 

Yiling : how so ?

 

I explained that they have been following me on and off ever since the auction, and since they invited me to their family day, I was deemed as a guest of theirs. I explained to Yiling that Nate told me Rajahs always takes care of their guests.

 

Jackson : I don’t know what they are up to but they didn’t really bothered me until I saw them at the coffee shop…

 

Yiling : Oh ??

 

Jackson  : That’s my neighbourhood coffeeshop….they were literally camping there…. So I confronted them…. Only to realise….

 

I opened the door for Yiling to step in while I looked up and down the corridor to make sure the coast is clear.

 

Jackson : to realise that the Rajahs owned the whole coffee shop….

 

Yiling : Rajah holdings owns a vast business empire….

 

Jackson : Not as big as La Bella Vita….

 

Yiling smiled before commenting that the Rajahs have their hands in more legitimate business than the shady ones.

 

Yiling : whereas for us… it’s the other way around….

 

I shut the door behind us and engaged the bolt.

 

The cool interior of the house felt familiar and comfortable. The smell, the sight, everything reminded me of my childhood and my growing up years.

It’s been a while since I last brought a girl up to my place.

 

The last time I did it was back when I was in school and my grandpa was out working.

A tingling sense of excitement is coursing through my veins.

 

Yiling was looking at me and I was staring at her. There’s a lot of things going through my head and the one at the top of the list was that we just survived a harrowing experience.

 

You can even say it’s a life and death situation.

 

I could feel an erection building as I looked at Yiling’s slender body. The clothes she was wearing is almost like a 2nd skin.

 

I felt the moment is right and if I don’t take my chance, I might not get another again.

 

I pulled Yiling over to me.

 

Yiling : Jackson no… !…

 

She spun and I cornered her against the door. My body pressed against hers and our face was almost touching.

 

I could feel her heavy breath on my face and my hands went for her waist.

 

Our eyes met again and there was that slight hesitation, that moment of sweetness with both parties unsure if we want to go down this road.

 

Suddenly I saw the change in Yiling’s eyes.

 

Her eyes tracked to her right and widened immediately before she pushed me back.

 

Yiling : Jackson !! no..!

 

I staggered backwards and I could see Yiling checking and adjusting her clothes and her hair before giving an awkward smile at me.

 

Or rather, behind me.

 

I turned around to see my grandfather clad in shorts and singlet, an old straw fan in one hand and a half eaten bun in another.

 

Jackson : Jesus….

 

Grandpa : No…..not Jesus……  it’s your grandfather…

 

 

…………………………………………………………

 

10 minutes and after some bickering in the room with my grandpa why didn’t he tell me he’s coming back and why are the lights off when he is in, the 3 of us settled down on the old dining table as a awkward silence descended on everyone.

 

My grandfather had hitch a ride back from one of the nursing home staff who was coming into Singapore for a holiday.

He wanted to surprise me.

 

My grandpa kept smiling at Yiling while Yiling nudged me with her knees under the table while giving me the look as If telling me to clear the air up.

 

Jackson  : Ah gong…. This… this is Yiling… she is my boss….

 

Grandpa : hello… hello…. Nice to meet you…. Hahah… please take care of my grandson…

 

Yiling : definitely… definitely…. I will don’t worry….

 

My grandpa started asking about Yiling’s age, and whether she is seeing anyone.

 

Jackson : Ah gong… stop it… you’re making people uncomfortable…. She is my boss… !

 

I stood up and announced that we’re going but my grandfather asked us to stay as long as we like.

 

Grandpa : no… no… no… it’s ok… you all stay… I’ll go… you all young people need to alone time…. I understand…

 

Jackson : oh my god….  Ah gong… stop it….

 

Grandpa : I’ll go down to the coffee shop and have a drink…

 

Jackson  : No… no.. the coffee shop is closed…. There was an accident…

 

Grandpa : Oh… it was fine earlier this morning when I bought breakfast……

 

Jackson  : the accident just happened… you probably should not go there…..

 

Trying to get away from my grandfather and his nonstop questions felt harder than getting away from Guo and his men.

 

Grandpa : Jackson …. No need to come back so early tonight ok…. I can settle my own dinner…. Go ahead and do your work or…. Or whatever it is…

 

Jackson : don’t be an ass ah gong….

 

Grandpa : Si Ginna !!.. you see la… you see la….  raise him so big…. Talk like that to me….

 

I could see my grandfather directing that statement at Yiling and she gave me the dirty look.

 

Yiling : Tsk ! Jackson … don’t be rude…

 

Jackson : He’s being irritating…

 

Grandpa : I mean it… no need to worry about me…. tonight I go find friends…. The house is empty….

 

Jackson : Ok that’s it… we’re leaving…

 

 

Yiling and I did not speak until we got into a cab back towards Bukit Timah.

 

Jackson : I’m… I’m sorry…… err…. If my grandpa made you feel uncomfortable….

 

Yiling smiled awkwardly before turning away to face the front.

 

Yiling : it’s ok…. No problem… just a misunderstanding….

 

I cursed under my breath, who knows what could have happened if my grandpa came back a day later.

 

Yiling called her sister but she didn’t answer and I could see her staring at the phone every 5 minutes.

 

I could see her visibly relieved when a message came through.

 

Yiling : My sis just updated me on her whereabouts….. she’s ok…. Going to board the private jet now….

 

My phone rang just as we alighted at the foot of Binjai Hill road.

 

It was Rachel.

 

Rachel : What the fuck Jackson ….? What the fuck did you get my men into… ?

 

Jackson : Hi …hi Rachel…. i… errmmm… I owe you an explanation…. It’s a little complicated….

 

Rachel started cursing and screaming at me over the phone and I gave her a short explanation without revealing too many details.

 

Jackson  : sorry… I was in a bit of a bind and I was desperate….. I’m sorry I got your men into trouble….

 

Her rants went on for a couple of minutes and I could tell from her tone that she’s upset that she has to clean up this mess. There was none of the neutral niceties she displayed when she invited me to her family day.

 

Jackson : I’m really sorry…. I’ll apologise in person…. When we meet…

 

Rachel : you’re going to owe me big time for this Jackson….

 

Jackson : Again.. I’m sorry…. I’ll….. I’ll make it up to you… I promise…. I’ll do your garden landscape if you like….

 

Rachel : A debt to the Rajahs Jackson ….. is not easily repaid…. I hope you remember that….

I swore I heard what amount to as a smirk just before she hung up. It’s as if she was secretly delighted that I’m going to owe her for the favour her men did for me.

The line disconnected and I stared at the phone for a couple of seconds, trying to cop a feel of the situation I got myself into.

I’m not a superstitious person but when I’m on the receiving end of warnings, it gets my hair standing.

 

Not a feeling that I like.

 

First Guo warned me of what seemed to be an impending apocalypse, one that I’m inclined to believe it’s bullshit but a warning nevertheless.

Then Rachel warned me about a debt to the Rajahs which she sounded like she’s glad to see me in.

 

They say bad things come in threes.

 

As we approached the castle gate, I could see Kamal waiting for Yiling at the main door.

 

Yiling : What did Rachel want… ?

 

Jackson  : Nothing… she scolded me…. for obvious reason…

 

Yiling : What else…. ? tell her we’ll bear the cost for the inconvenience…. I’m sure she will be glad to send us the invoice….

 

Jackson : are you serious…?

 

Yiling : We got those men hurt…. It’s only right we pay for their medical claims…. Yes… tell her…

 

Jackson : Oh… ok…

 

Kamal : Boss…. Need to talk to you in the study… Jackson ….! What happened to you…. Kena beaten up ah !.. ahhaha

 

Jackson : I fell…

 

Kamal : Yah right….need to go sick bay or not ???

 

Jackson : I’m fine…

 

Just before Yiling left with Kamal, she walked over and whispered for me not to say a word to anyone about what happened.

 

Yiling : I will get Calvin to clean up the site…

 

Jackson : Ok… sure…

 

I went back to the farmhouse and took a walk around the garden to see what needs to be done.

 

It doesn’t look like Yiling has anything more for me and I have no intention of staying over now that my grandpa is back.

 

I’m going to bring him out for dinner before talking to him about going to the doctor. I’m sure he misses the regular food haunts we used to go to when he was still in Singapore.

 

I did some work at the farmhouse before taking a shower.

 

Before I kept the dirty clothes I changed out of in the bag, I pulled out the photo of Teng I stole from the study.

 

I looked at the photo again to be sure I was not mistaken.

 

Before my mind could drift further as I stare at the photo, there came the sound of light rapid knocking on the door. I quickly stuffed the photo into my pants pocket before opening the door.

 

It was Seven with his towel in hand. He gestured and told me he’s going to take a shower and I asked him to go ahead.

 

Jackson : I’m not staying over tonight….Grandpa’s back from Malaysia… remember to switch off the lights…

 

Seven rubbed his bald head and gave me the thumbs up sign with a grin.

 

As he walked away towards the bathroom, I turned and looked at his hand.

 

There was no tattoo on his arm nor his legs. I don’t remember seeing him topless before, I can’t be sure if there is a tattoo on his body.

 

 

6.30pm

 

 

I took a slow walk out instead of calling for a taxi to come in before I wanted some alone time to think.

As much as I hate to admit it, Guo’s threat is bothering me.

 

It’s not so much of the threat itself, it’s the way he says it.

 

It didn’t sound like an empty threat. The manner in which he described his employer too, it sounded creepy.

 

I looked up and down the empty road before pulling out my phone.

 

I decided to give Rachel a call and see if she answers.

 

Jackson : Hey….

 

Rachel : What do you want… ?

 

Jackson : I…I just want to apologise properly…. For the trouble I caused…. I mean it…

 

Rachel remained quiet on the line, it’s like she knew I was not done with my apology.

 

Jackson : It must not be a easy mess to clean up…. But I hope… I hope your men are ok…

 

Rachel : family Jackson …. All Rajahs….. are family….

 

Jackson : I’m sorry… I hope they are ok…. And ermm… Yiling has agreed to cover the cost of your…. Family’s treatment….

 

Rachel : do I look like I can’t afford to pay for their medical needs ? !! you dick…

 

Jackson : No of course not… errrr….. i… ermm…

 

I paused, unsure what is the proper thing to say. I mean, how the fuck do you apologise to the head of what is supposedly a triad about getting her men in trouble ? They don’t teach this in school for sure.

 

Jackson : I’m sincerely sorry…. I was desperate…. And… I rolled the dice with your men at the coffee shop…. I would like to apologise to them in person if you are ok….

 

Rachel : They are all in the police station…. My lawyers are still working to get them out…

 

Jackson : Oh shit… that just made me feel worse…

 

Rachel : Jackson …. You have to understand….half the men in Rajah holdings …. Have a history….a past that this society cannot accept…. And when caught in a situation like what happened this morning…..

 

Jackson : I’m sorry….shit… i… I didn’t think…

 

Rachel : I know you have a clean sheet…. But the next time you want to do things like this… please consider that men with a checkered past don’t get let off with a warning or a slap on their hand…. Not even if they are trying to protect themselves….

 

I nodded as I stepped off the pavement to avoid a helper walking 2 dogs before realising Rachel could not see my nod.

 

Jackson : Ok… .. i…ermm… I just want to say what happened…. Weighs heavily on me… and….. maybe if given the chance… I promise…. I will make it up to you…. In whatever way I can….

 

Rachel’s tone seemed to have soften a notch after my call and I never expected her to ask me out for a drink.

 

Rachel : come have a drink with me then…. I’m sure it’s not too much to ask for considering what we’ve done for you this morning…

 

I stopped walking and hesitated.

 

I was looking forward to bring my grandfather out.

 

Rachel : Why… ? am I asking for too much… ?

 

Jackson : No… no… not at all… err… so where do you want to drink.. ?

 

Rachel : come over to my office…. We have a fully stocked bar over here…

 

Jackson : where is your office ?

Rachel says she will text me the details and hung up. 30 seconds later, I received the address of Rachel’s office. It’s a industrial building in Tai seng.

I hailed a cab and soon arrived at the industrial area. It’s a 6 storey building with the word RH in silver prominently displayed at the top.

 

From the outside, it looked like any other industrial building in the area but upon closer inspection, you could tell something is different about this one.

 

The security guard booth is comfortable large, fully air conditioned and it sits 3 men. Instead of your usual security guard uniform, the men wore a black t-shirt with the logo of Rajah holdings on it.

 

I took a peek at their hands out of curiosity.

 

Only 1 of them have the phoenix tattoo on hand.

 

While other industrial building have the usual carpark barriers, the Rajah’s building has proper crash barriers installed on the ground.

I’m talking military grade shit. Bollards that can pop out and rip your car into shreds. The fence around the compound looks plain and it blends in easily into the surrounding. Unless you look carefully, not many will notice the number of cameras mounted on the columns of the building itself.

 

I reckon it covers all blind spot, providing the person behind the screen a unobstructed view of the surroundings.

 

The ground floor of Rajah Holdings holds a rough and unfinished model of a Phoenix. It’s made using scraps, different metal parts of vehicles and bits of wood. It looked like the artist abandoned the work halfway but you could just tell it’s a phoenix.

Taking the lift up to the top floor, I tried to prepare myself mentally for the evening.

 

I didn’t tell anyone I’m here and if they decided to do something crazy to me, I’m on my own.

 

The moment the door opened, I could feel myself regretting the decision to come here. I should probably have told Yiling or at least Declan about this.

Come to think about it, I doubt any Rajah would just waltz into the estate unless he’s high.

 

A small glass lobby separated me from the rest of the open rooftop.

The outdoor roof immediately reminded me of a prison yard you see in movies. There are almost a dozen of Rajahs working out on the benches and machines.

 

There’s half a basketball court and a few others are shooting hoops.

 

As I stepped out of the glass lobby, several loud clanks of weights dropping heavier than it was intended to rang out. Men stopped working out and they were all staring at me.

 

I should have thought this through more. I just caused their friends to end up in the police station that morning, a couple of months back, I practically trashed them at their annual auction.

 

Towards the end of the rooftop, I could see a outdoor bar with it’s own shelter.

 

Sitting on the stool with her legs crossed was Rachel.

She’s dressed in a power work suit with tapered fitting pants and I could see her blazer resting on the bar top. Her white blouse brought out the youthful curves of her body and she sipped what I think is a margarita while looking over at me.

 

It’s about 30m or so from the lobby where I was to the bar at the other end of the roof top.

 

Already I could see a few Rajahs walking slowly towards me.

 

I’m scared, piss scared in fact. I could feel the hostility in the air. I bit down on my teeth and I soldiered on.

 

With each step, I brushed past sweaty testosterone oozing men working out after the end of a day.

With each step, I gently nudged and pushed my way forward.

No one gave way willingly.

 

I had to look them in the eye and nudge pass the bodies as I move along.

It’s a delicate balance.

Too soft a nudge, I would be stuck in place, and that’s the last thing I want.

 

Too hard a nudge deemed aggressive, I might probably end up at the bottom of the building.

 

The more I move forward towards a smiling Rachel swirling her drink, the more bodies came forward to block me.

 

It’s like moving through a crowded dance floor with no music and no girls.

 

It would appear as if I had balls of steel but it was the complete opposite in fact. My balls probably had shrunk so small it disappeared.

 

Eventually I got to the point where I could not longer move forward.

 

Barely 3 metres away from Rachel, a mass of bodies blocked me from moving.

 

Jackson : Is this the way you treat your guest… ?

 

I directed that at Rachel and her men parted ways a little to give her a direct line of sight at me.

 

Rachel : We seldom have guest Jackson ….. so you would have to pardon their manners….

 

A look at her men was all Rachel need for them to move aside.

 

It’s unbelievable the kind of power she wielded at such a young age.

 

Gesturing to the bar with her manicured fingers, she gave me a smile as if asking me to take my pick.

 

Jackson : Just a ice cold beer please….

 

The bartender served me the beer and excused himself from the bar. Rachel turned her body seductively to face me, her crossed leg with her pointed heel dangled barely centimetres away from my knee.

 

Rachel : Does your boss you’re here… ?

 

Jackson : No… no one does…

 

Rachel chuckled.

 

Rachel : so no one will know… if you don’t go back ?

 

Jackson : I hope that doesn’t happen.

 

Rachel : Hope is a dangerous thing…

 

I raised my glass at Rachel and she flirted with her eyes for a couple of seconds before angling her head slightly and touching her glass against mine.

 

Jackson : Sorry…. For the inconvenience I’ve caused……

 

I asked Rachel why did she invite me to her company’s family day.

 

Jackson : why… why me…

 

Rachel : you are talented…. Funny…. And a little dumb….

 

Jackson : really… everyone says that…

 

Rachel laughed.

 

Rachel : the talented part… ?

 

Jackson : No.. the dumb part…

 

She chuckled louder. Young girls are more easily amused.

 

She composed herself and changed her choice of vocabulary.

 

Rachel : ok…. On a serious note….. You strike me…. as… sincere….. and trustworthy….

 

Jackson : Really ? thank you…

 

Rachel : you’re welcome…. What is your first impression of me… ?

 

Right about then I could see 2 familiar faces arriving. They took a seat at a table a few feet away.

 

Rachel’s personal guards.

 

Rachel saw that my attention was distracted and she gestured over to them.

 

Rachel : My brothers…. Henry… and Hal ….. big age gap….but they take care of me….

 

Jackson : I’ve met them at the dinner…..

 

Looking at Rachel’s heavily tattooed brother, I could not resist asking her about it.

 

Jackson : how….. does the tattoo work… ? what does it mean….? Why some of them have it on their hand…. Some on their necks….

 

Rachel raised an eyebrow as if I asked something funny.

 

Jackson : do all Rajahs need to get tattoos… ?

 

Rachel : hahhaa… no…

 

Rachel put her glass down and looked up into the evening sky for a moment before telling me what I wanted to know.

 

Rajah Holdings is a vast business empire with it’s fingers dipping into many different industries. Not all employees are Rajahs and you don’t need to be a Rajah in order to work for them.

 

Rachel : but we take care of our own…. A lot more…. in ways you cannot possibly imagine….

 

Jackson : I see….

 

The tattoos are a generation marker. A rank or sort.

Those with them near the head, they are 2nd gen Rajahs, those with the most experience and clocked the most mileage.

 

Rachel : There are not many 2nd gen Rajahs left…. A lot are dead or in jail…

 

3rd generation Rajahs are a little more discreet as visible tattoos are frowned upon, but that did not stop many of them from getting inked.

 

Rachel : 3rd gen tattoo are smaller, and easily concealed. Usually on the body, the top of their feet…. Or on the shoulders…..

 

Jackson : what about those on the hands…. ?

 

Rachel : those are mostly millennials……new age Rajahs….. not afraid to show and flaunt their affiliation…. But just so you know…. I don’t accept every Tom, Dick and Harry into the family…. You got to proof your worth….. in fact….there are strict rules…

 

Jackson : I see….

 

Rachel : there are some Rajahs without tattoos but the values in which they live by….. are the same….

 

Jackson : and what are those…. ?

 

Rachel : well…. One of them is….You cannot force us to do things we don’t want to……Rajahs don’t bend…

 

Jackson : ok…. You mean to say you guys are stubborn….

 

Rachel : hahahah…. Well… in way.. yes…. Very…..very stubborn…. Hahha….anyway…..

 

Rachel finished her drink before wiping her lips with a napkin, leaving a seductive stain of her lipstick on it.

 

Rachel turned her head and pulled back her hair, bringing her head really close to me. I could see her brothers eyeing my every move.

 

Rachel was so close, that I could smell the shampoo from her lovely locks.

 

She showed me a intricately tattooed ‘R’ at the back of her ear. It’s like an artwork, written by some calligraphy master.

 

Rachel : This is the mark…. Of those who have contributed and work with the 1st gen Rajahs…….very very rare…. Even rarer for us to show it… hahah…

 

Jackson : That is…. Really nice….

 

The 1st gen Rajahs are mostly retired or dead. Those that are alive no longer touch the company matters.

 

Rachel, together with her brothers and a team of consultants who are all descendent of the 1st generation of company founders, manage the organisation.

 

Rachel laughed in a teasing manner before asking is she is making me uncomfortable.

 

Rachel : are you…. Uncomfortable with close body contact… ? hahah… would you like a tattoo ? …. We own 2 parlours in town…. I can get you one for free….

 

Jackson : err no thank you….

 

I asked Rachel how does one enter the organisation.

 

Rachel : send in your resume… hahah

 

Jackson : come on… be serious… hahaha

 

Rachel : like I said… anyone can work for us…. To be part of the family…. It’s a different matter…

 

She dragged her index finger along the back of my palm and I quickly retracted my hand.

 

By the end of our 2nd drink, Rachel was getting a little more touchy and I did everything I could to try and keep a respectful distance.

 

Eventually she wanted a change of location to have dinner, but first she needed to grab her purse in her office.

We took the lift down one level into a corporate looking environment. Nothing out of the blue.

 

It’s pretty much a normal office and I could see some employees working late at their terminals.

 

Rachel offered me a seat in the office but left the door open.

 

Jackson : so I reckon…. You can’t quit the organisation…. Once you joined ??

 

Rachel : Don’t be so draconian… you want to leave… there’s nothing I can do to stop you….but if you do shit in our name or tarnish the organisation…. Well…. I don’t know what happens… my brothers usually takes care of things like that….

 

Jackson : I see…

 

Rachel : Many have left over the years…. People move on…. Some went overseas….. some migrated for a greener pasture…. And……….. some….. join a rival gang……

 

Rachel paused for that to sink in as she looked at me, no doubt sore about the fact that Seven is now working with Yiling.

 

Rachel : they may no longer have anything to do with the organisation but many remain a true Rajah at heart….till the end….

 

Jackson : That’s…. really nice….

 

Rachel : Yiling is lucky to have an employee like you…. I’m just going to grab my bag and phone and we can go….can’t seem to find my wallet….

 

Jackson : It’s ok… I’ll buy you dinner…

 

Rachel looked up from her drawer and gave me a seductive smile.

 

Rachel : really ? …. You’re buying me dinner… ? hahaha… don’t regret…

 

Jackson : why not….? what do you want to eat… ?

 

I left the office with Rachel and we took the lift down to the carpark.

Her brothers are already there waiting for her by their cars.

 

Rachel : ok… I know besides coming to apologise… there is something else you want…. the men that attacked us…

 

Jackson : yes… that is something that i…

 

Rachel : ok…. You can have them…. I’ll send them over to the estate tomorrow…. We’re done with them….

 

My eyes and ears lit up when Rachel said it so casually.

 

Jackson : Really ? … just like that… ?

 

Rachel : yeah….

 

Jackson : cool…. Thank you…. Errr… so…. Did they say why they attacked you… and us…it’s so out of the blue…..

 

Rachel avoided the question in the same manner Yiling does whenever I asked her about it.

 

Rachel : it’s….. none of your concern….plenty of crazy people around these days…. Anyway…. The Rajahs’ family day will be held on St John’s island…. Going to be a hell of a party….

 

Jackson : cool…. I’ll be there…

 

Rachel : Are you seeing anyone Jackson …. ?

 

I wasn’t expecting a question like that from Rachel and it caught me by surprise.

 

Jackson  : err… why do you ask… ?

 

Rachel : because I’m going to marry you…

 

I looked at her in disbelief.

 

Jackson : Are you out of your mind…. ? You don’t even know me…. !

 

Rachel  : I know you more than you know yourself Jackson …haha…

 

She proceeded to link arms with me in a joking manner and I tried to pull myself away from her.

 

Jackson : please don’t joke Rachel… your brothers are staring at me…

 

Rachel : They can’t wait for me to be married….hahah…. that way they can wash their hands off me… hahah…

 

I was struggling with a delirious and laughing Rachel when my phone rang.

 

I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone and the photo I stole from Teng’s place dropped out of my pocket.

 

It was my grandfather.

 

I answered it but before I could hear him say anything, the line went dead.

 

It’s like he hung up the moment I answered it.

 

I tried to dial his number as Rachel bent down to pick up the photo.

 

My grandpa’s phone rang a few times but he rejected my call.

 

When I tried again, his phone was off.

 

I tried several times as I looked at Rachel who was holding onto the photo and staring at it.

 

I stopped trying after a minute and asked Rachel what’s wrong.

 

 

Jackson : Are you ok… ? what’s wrong…

 

When Rachel looked up at me, her flirtatious behaviour is gone.

She’s not longer smiling, and you could tell the playing mood is gone.

 

The atmosphere in the carpark has changed.

 

Her brothers, sensing a change in mood walked over and took the photo from Rachel.

 

Upon seeing the photo, I could see the anger and fire in their eyes.

 

The one with the funny fingers spoke first.

 

Henry : where did you get this !!! where ! ?

 

Jackson : I stole it off the study of…. Of a man.….when I was…. When I was doing something….. work related……. Why… ?

 

Hal turned the photo to check the date it was taken and he showed it to Rachel.

 

Something don’t feel right to me.

 

Jackson : You….. you know Teng….. ?

 

And the replies I got sent cold chills of shiver deep into my spine, compounding with the weird phone call I just received from my grandfather, I was doing all I can to stop my body from shaking.

 

Rachel : No……I don’t know Teng……. .but i know Owen….

 

The mere recollection of that name sent images flooding into my head, cycling back years into the past and to the time when that man first appeared in front of me.

I don’t know why but my throat felt dry when Rachel uttered that name. It’s as if the name itself is capable of bring along some natural calamity, but this was a man from the past.

A distant past. I’ve never seen him again since that time when I was in the army. I took the photo because I remembered his face.

 

Jackson : h….. ho…..how…. ?

 

Rachel : because he’s the one behind the attacks….

 

My phone started ringing again. It’s my grandpa but when I answered the call, I was greeted by a different voice.

 

Guo : Hi Jackson…

 

Upon hearing Guo’s voice, something in my head snapped. I erupted and I lost my cool when I realised what is happening.

 

Jackson : What the… fuck !!!…DON’T YOU FUCKING TOUCH MY GRANDFATHER !!!! I’ll fuck you up …. Don’t you fucking dare.. !!!

 

I screamed into the phone so abruptly that Henry and Hal pulled Rachel behind them and I could see a few other Rajahs running into the carpark.

 

Jackson : GUO !!! GUO!! FUCK YOU… WHERE IS MY GRANDFATHER…. ?

 

Guo : you took someone very dear to my boss…. It’s only fair he does the same to you…..

 

Jackson  : I’ll fucking kill you I swear to god I will kill you  you piece of shit.,.. !!!

 

Guo sniggered over the phone, taking his time to answer me, displaying his superiority amidst the situation. He knew he had me.

 

Rachel pushed past her brothers and gestured to my phone and I knew she wanted me to put it on speaker.

 

Guo : you know… the past few weeks…. Has been particularly difficult for my employer…..

 

Jackson : I’m not fucking interested in your life story…. WHERE THE FUCK IS MY GRANDFATHER…!

 

Guo ignored me and continued talking.

 

Guo : My boss has been deliberating over a proposal so absurd and unthinkable….and he struggled….. to make up his mind…. But thanks to you Jackson…. Thanks to you and your friends…. And the stunts you pulled….he finally made up his mind….

 

Jackson : I don’t give a fuck what your boss thinks… or what you think…. WHERE THE FUCK IS MY GRANDFATHER…. PUT HIM ON THE LINE NOW !!!!

 

Guo chuckled and laughed on the other end of the line.

 

Guo : You must think you are safe right now…….deep inside the Rajah building…. but you can’t be more wrong. ….haha

 

I immediately swung around and so did the rest of the Rajahs in the carpark. Henry was trying to pull Rachel away and leave.

 

Guo : I just have a message from my boss for you and the Rajahs……………

 

There was a loud crash and the sound of metal smashing against metal boomed and echoed throughout the carpark.

 

Rachel and her brothers started running towards the entrance and I followed closely behind them.

 

I could hear screams from bystanders across the street as I took in the sight of the cement truck that had lodged itself into the security guard booth with half of it’s axel mangled by the crash barrier.

 

Guo : Teng……………. sends his regards….

 

Rachel looked on in horror as blood seeped out from the security guard booth I just walked by a couple of hours ago.

 

Henry : get back into the building….. Hal !!… get Rachel back to the office… !!

 

There was another roar of a heavy engine as a refuse truck mounted the kerb and sliced through the soft turfing of the area in front of the building.

 

Jackson : stay back !!! stay back !!!

 

I shouted to 2 Rajahs who were trying to put out a small fire by the cement truck with fire extinguishers.

 

They barely dove out of the way when the refuse truck mounted a tiled signage, sailed through the air for a second or so before ripping a large hole in the perimeter fence of the building.

 

The cabin where the driver was in smashed onto the ground and the windscreen shattered.

I could see the driver bleeding and smiling as if he was high on drugs. He was trying to climb out of the truck but before he could do so, a 3rd vehicle took the same path through the grass, rammed head on into the back of the refuse truck, sending metal scrapping along the ground with sparks flying a metre high and mowing the bleeding driver into pulp.

 

The deafening crash of metal against concrete almost ruptured my eardrums as I gripped onto the phone and I ran back down the basement carpark.

 

This is madness.

 

The 3rd vehicle is a bus and I could see men alighting from it.

 

They were laughing and egging each other on as they jumped out of the bus, many of them still laughing despite suffering injuries from the crash.

 

I shouted into the phone for Guo but it was already dead.

 

Another bus arrived and this one did not crash into anything. There was no need to. I saw a familiar face, Leon. Not only that, I saw faces from the dinner a couple of months ago.

 

Men from the Malu Malu

 

Elmo with his head of red hair was shouting for men to disembark from the bus.

 

I retreated into the carpark with the rest of the Rajahs and by then more of them had gathered in the basement.

 

As the intruders flooded into the basement, I estimated there must be at least 80 of them.  Almost all of them were armed. I could hear several of the men speaking in some weird native language similar to the men I’ve heard at the nursing home.

 

Rachel : How dare they !!! HOW DARE THEY DO THIS !!!!

 

Henry : leave by the side entrance….. GO !! HAL …take her !

 

Rachel : NO!!! I will not….!!! fucking bastards !!!

 

Henry : leave now !!!

 

An older man appeared from behind the approaching men and Rachel shouted at him.

 

Rachel : RUSSELL YOU PIECE OF SHIT !!! FINALLY CRAWLING OUR OF YOUR HOLE you FUCK !!!

 

Russell, I remember the name. He’s supposedly the godfather of the Malu Malu base on what Yiling told me.

 

Russell : you know your biggest mistake Rachel ? …… not knowing what’s good for you……You should have taken the offer Rachel….

 

Rachel : Fuck you !!

 

Russell : You’re not leaving this compound tonight Rachel…….  Before I kill you…. I’m going to rip your clothes off piece by piece…..And when I’m done fucking every tight hole of yours….…. I’m going to throw you to my men…. Hahahah….

 

Russell rallied his men and shouted ;

 

Russell : Tonight… ….. The Rajah’s reign will end….