Split up the post to make it more manageable.
“Thank you for saving my life that day.”
“Oh..err… don’t mention it..”
“My colleague Chan has been wanting to thank you in person.”
Sulyani entered her phone number into my phone before asking why trouble always seem to follow me around.
“First there was that accident with the truck… then now this incident with the thief…”
“I’m just err.. unlucky I guess.” I smiled awkwardly as I watched Sulyani hit the dial button on my phone, giving her mobile a miss call.
My heart was racing, I’ve never asked someone for a number so abruptly before.
Choo came out with the first aid box but there’s nothing much they could do. The bleeding will stop on it’s own after a while. The thin roll of bandage could not do much and honestly, Sulyani’s underwear, having a wider surface area is more effective.
“It’s ok, it’s ok, I’m fine, the bleeding will stop after a while.” I said with my head tilted upwards.
I stood up and started to make my way to the lift.
“are you sure you’ll be ok?” Sulyani asked. “do you need me to call you an ambulance? “
“yeah, yeap, I’m good. I’m good.” I gave the father and daughter a thumbs up as the lift door closes.
Through the vision panel, I gestured to Sulyani that I’ll call her as the lift car started to descend.
I could hear Sulyani turning to her father asking if he’s ok before the descending lift cut off the conversation.
Getting down to the ground floor, I could see the flashing lights of the emergency vehicles along the main road. Despite the time of the night, a crowd has gathered to watch the firemen extract the body and car from the railings.
I stood on an elevated patch of grass knoll to look at the sight in front of me.
My eyes caught sight of a pair of familiar figures a distance away. Tan and his granddaughter. They carried bags of shopping as they walked slowly back to their place, uninterested in the accident. They walked under the sheltered void deck of a block of flats parallel to the road where the accident occurred, oblivious to their close brush with death that evening.
Tan reached into a shopping bag and I watched him pull out a bag of cookies and tried to open it, he laughed as his granddaughter Brenda made him put it back and tried to offer him something else from her bags instead.
Both of them looked exhausted after a long day of work but you could see they are happy. Happy and contented with each other’s company. How different their lives would be that night if Tan had killed Chua.
I’m not sure why I remained at the scene. I just stayed there for a while looking at the emergency services do their work.
I scanned the people watching the firefighters extract Chua’s body from the wreckage and I saw someone smoking across the road.
He saw me.
He definitely did.
It’s the newspaper seller.
He blew a cloud of smoke into the air before turning and walking away into the crowd with his signature grin on his face.
That same taunting gaze in his eyes.
I was too tired to go after him, partly because I knew there is no need to.
He will come for me.
A blue tent has gone up to cover Spencer’s body and I saw Chua’s friend, Francis crying and grabbing his head by the side of the road while surrounded by police officers.
I walked a couple of streets down to avoid the congestion caused by accident and took a taxi back home.
Heading into the shower, my body trembled under the cold water. I cleaned myself up and drank up the last of the milk from the carton in the fridge.
The bed never felt more welcoming to me and I knocked out immediately when my head touched the pillow.
27th December 2018
First thing I did, I went to the papers. Sipping my coffee, I saw that the headlines have changed. I thought by doing something, I can save everyone but it became clear to me some people cannot be saved.
Chua still died, instead of being stabbed, he died in his friend’s car in the accident.
Spencer, instead of jumping off after a sex for credit scam, he was knocked down by a car while trying to escape.
The headlines on the papers is now about Spencer. People like to read news like this especially if it involves a university student and lingerie.
“Serial lingerie thief killed in road accident.
22 Year old Spencer was killed in a traffic accident. A large haul of women’s lingerie, clothes and footwear has been found in Spencer’s room when authorities went up to his place. His parents are in shock and they could not believe their son is responsible for the series of missing items in the neighbourhood. Police have retrieved a total of 47 bras, 31 underwears, more than a dozen dresses, 3 leggings with 4 pairs of socks from Spencer’s stash in his room. Under his bed, there are close to 20 pairs of heels and footwear of various designs. Spencer was wearing a female panty with sanitary pad when he was killed last night, both of which has been found to belong to a classmate of his. A large collection of upskirt videos including some taken from his school hostel has been found on his phone. Spencer’s laptops and hard drives have been seized for investigations.”
On a smaller column beside the headline, it featured a drunk financial consultant who killed his friend in the same accident. Chua, who is the owner of one of the brothels in Geylang was not wearing his safety belt when the car he was travelling on hit Spencer and lost control.
The car ram into the dividers, killing Chua on the spot.
There is no news on the papers about Alvin and Tan. I think they got away from this. The drawings, the lines and blue tacks I stuck on the papers now don’t make sense anymore since the articles on them have changed. The positions of the columns and pictures too, are now different.
I made myself a coffee and stared at the wall full of newspaper and little post it notes.
Closing my eyes, I lined up the series of events that would have happened if I did nothing.
Spencer will be the 1st to die. If he dies, Sulyani’s father Choo, will be safe because there will not be a lingerie theft for Choo to discover, thereby causing the accident.
Since I choose to save Spencer, I indirectly put Choo at risk. If I had saved Spencer and did nothing for Choo, I would be responsible for Choo’s eventual demise.
The cleaner Tan, he was meant to kill Chua. Report the body and go on to supper with his friends. If he did, he would have in turn, been killed by the BMW driver who is Chua’s friend.
Since I stopped him from killing Chua, I sort of rewrote the path for Tan. No supper, no dead body, no accident at the eatery.
Now this brings me back to what Chua said in the bathroom.
The fortune teller.
Chua was sure that he would die on the 26th. The fortune teller told him so. If that is the case, I wonder if that fortune teller foresaw my appearance that will affect what happens, and even then, knew Chua is not going to live past the 26th with or without me appearing.
Chua and Spencer’s death seemed to be set in stone.
Taken in whole, out of the 4 man, 2 are meant to die. There is nothing I could have done to save all 4. If I don’t chase Spencer, would he have died ? I don’t know.
Thinking along another perspective, perhaps I am meant to chase him, this way, my actions closed the loop on his circle.
And Sulyani being Choo’s daughter. What are the odds of something like this happening ? If I didn’t save Sulyani, would these series of events still happen ?
I gathered up all the papers and notes I made and crumpled them. I am now convinced there is a greater power at work here that I don’t understand. The one man that can answer my questions will be the newspaper seller. The next time I see him, I’m going to stop him from leaving until I have all my questions answered.
I’m beginning to see how this works.
Some things, I can change, somethings I can’t change no matter what I do.
With all the notes and newspaper gathered, I went to a corner of my estate where there are several incense burner set up for the residences. I found a old on that the cleaner use to burn dead leaves and twigs. I threw all the newspaper and notes inside, setting everything on fire.
I stood with my hands in my pocket, looking at the black smoke as it rose up into the midday morning, leaving only when it has all turned to ashes.
Since I’m on leave, I decided to pay my parents a visit and take them out.
Old people all like to go Chinatown for some reason and I brought them there for lunch and a bit of shopping. As I walked along old tea shops and makeshift tables selling everyday Knick knacks, I saw a fortune teller.
Opening some cards and speaking in dialect with a young couple, he started to foretell their future together.
It immediately brought me back to what Chua had said to me in the bathroom. The fortune teller. One that was staying in a mental hospital. A few months ago, I would have brushed this off as the ramblings of a mad man but now, having experienced things I could not explain, I find myself starting to believe in shit like these.
As I thought about Chua, I wondered if he had told his friends the same thing he revealed in the toilet. This leads me to believe that Francis, being the last person to see him alive, might have heard something.
It’s a long shot but it’s worth a try.
I sat down with my parents in a restaurant for dinner and my mother was going on about how her friends’ kids are all married, some of them are parents already.
“When are you going to get a girlfriend ? Or if you don’t want girlfriend, you wany boyfriend, must also tell mummy ok ? We can talk things through one.” She said as I continued googling on my phone. “are you listening to me or not Jerry.”
“Yes. Yes, I will try and find a girlfriend.”
I let her continue talking as I tried to find Francis online. Since he’s a financial planner, his profile must be available somewhere on the company site. After a bit of searching, I found it. Along with his email, there is also a number. I quickly screen shot the image before returning to the conversation with my parents in a half-hearted manner.
“yes, yes, I’m too busy… once I’m less busy, I will try and find someone who wants to have sex with me, clear up my shit and take care of me for the rest of my life.”
“Haiyah!, talk to you my life will get shorter ah.!” My mum lamented as she threw a peanut at me.
My dad, as usual, refuse to take part in a conversation like this and pretended to be engrossed in his phone.
After dinner, I sent my parents back home before trying my luck with Francis’s phone. He did not pick up my call after a few attempts. Maybe he’s trying to lie low after the accident.
I decided to drop him a mail instead. I told Francis i met and spoke with Chua in the toilet that day of the accident. That alone will not guarantee a reply, so I needed to throw in a lie. Not that Francis will be able to verify it anyway.
“Hi Francis, I’m sorry for the accident and your lost. I was in the same restaurant that day in Kovan. I met your friend Chua in the toilet and he sort of saved my life. I was choking and he helped me force the choke out. Anyway, Chua mentioned that I should consider taking up some additional coverage in case something like this happen to me again and he recommended me to go to you. Hope you are feeling better after the accident.
Chua mentioned something about a fortune teller too while giving me your contact. Anyway, if you are free to talk, I would love to connect about my existing policies.”
I hit the send button and I could only hope for the best.
Looking at my phone, I realised I have yet to give Sulyani a call or a message.
Then I was suddenly reminded of her blood stained underwear in my laundry basket. I quickly plugged the basin and poured in a copious amount of detergent. I soaked the panty and started to wash and scrub the blood stain off.
A bit of it did come off but it’s still badly stained.
“crap” I mumbled.
Was hoping to be able to clean it up and return to Sulyani, that way, I can use that as a pretext for a date.
I imagined in the future if someone asked me how I got to my first date with Sulyani in the first place, my reply would be, ‘ I stained her underwear with blood and she gave it to me together with her phone number.’ After which I will rise to a standing ovation with my arms open.
Leaving the underwear to continue soaking, I tried to google for a way to initiate a conversation. The standard pickups lines sounded boring and I don’t want to sound too mechanical.
I typed several versions of my opening line only to delete them away after reading it on my screen.
‘What you doing ? Where you’re at ?’
Sounds like I’m a creep.
‘you got plans this weekend ? want to chill ?’
Sounds too casual and she probably think’s I’m 16 mentally.
‘Have you brought in your laundry already ? don’t hang them outside!’
Sounds exactly like what a potential lingerie thief would say.
Just when I thought I’m all out of ideas, my fingers tapped something into the phone without thinking.
‘I can’t wash away the blood stains on your underwear, if you are free this weekend, I would love to take you lingerie shopping’
I burst out laughing at that message while laughing on my bed. This is funny. My head was filled with that funny image when my phone rang.
“shit shit shit!’
The sudden vibration caused my fingers to slip and my phone crashed onto my face.
I immediately picked up the call.
It was Francis.
“Hi, this is Francis here…” His voice sounded exhausted and lifeless.
“oh hi Francis…ermm. I’m sorry for your loss.”
“thank you…ermm Jerry right ? “
“Yes, that’s me..”
Francis told me that he’s taking a break for a week or two because of the incident. However, he can recommend another colleague to help with my policy.
“oh I see.”
“If it’s ok with you, I will pass along your contact number to him.” Francis said.
“ermm.. ok… sure…hey Francis…just want to check with you.. Chua mentioned something about a fortune teller that day to me…did he…say …?”
“yeah.. he’s drunk.. he kept saying that the fortune teller say he will die that day.” Francis said in jest.” I wonder why he would curse himself like that…he should have known better to believe in shit like this.”
“Well, he was pretty insistent that the prediction will come true when we were in the toilet.” I said.
“I know, he has been going on about it for a while, which is why we promised to eat and drink with him until that day is over..” Francis said.
“what happened after you guys left the restaurant ? “ I asked.
“Chua refused to leave or get in the car.” Francis said.
He wanted to leave only after the stroke of midnight and refused to let anyone of us go back.
The lot of them ended up sitting in the carpark and talking in their vehicle.
“after a while, it’s already coming to midnight and Chua has fallen asleep. Everyone is exhausted. so I decided to just drive off.” Francis admitted. “if I didn’t, maybe he will still be alive..”
Francis started sobbing over the phone and I told him its an accident. Something nobody would have wanted to happen.
“Where is this fortune teller do you know ? “ I asked. “Chua said she is in a mental hospital or something.”
“It’s in a hospice….one that Chua sent his late mother to..”
Chua’s mother suffers from dementia and he puts her there to be taken care of. He used to visit her every week when she was alive and he met the fortune teller there.
“which one ? Can you tell me the address? “
“It’s all old and mental patient there…there’s no such thing as a fortune teller..” Francis said.
“I’m just curious… please…”
Francis gave me the name of a private Hospice in Serangoon.
I thanked Francis for the information, and he told me he will pass my contact along to his colleague.
After I hung up the phone, I went to my laptop and googled the address of the hospital. I’ll need an excuse to go there. I can’t possibly walk into the building demanding to see someone I don’t know.
Just when I was trying to wreck my brains how to gain entry to a hospice, my phone buzzed.
My eyes widened and I cursed out loud in my living room upon seeing what is on my screen.
I sent out that damm message to Sulyani. I didn’t mean to but I must have hit sent or something when the phone fell onto my face and when I was talking to Francis.
“Oh fuck, oh fuck. Oh fuck.” I looked at the chat history with my sent message marked with double blue ticks, telling me that Sulyani has seen that message, not only that, she has replied me as well.
‘Are you kidding?’ came the reply.
I immediately dialled Sulyani’s mobile. It connected and she picked up within three rings.
“I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to send that out, it was an accident.” I blurted
“Then why did you type it on your phone then ? “ Sulyani asked in jest.
“I was thinking of a way to ask you out for coffee…” I admitted bashfully, “ and I just can’t seem to find the right way to ask without sounding creepy.”
“Offering to take a girl lingerie shopping during the 1st date is not creepy at all by the way.” Sulyani laughed.
“I typed so many versions into my phone only to end up deleting them because it didn’t feel right.”
“why don’t you just call me and ask instead? Why rely on messages ? “
I apologised and since we’re on the line, decides to ask her if she is free that weekend since she has already given me the hint.
“I can do Sunday.” She said.
“Sounds good. Sunday it is then. Ermm… coffee ? lunch ?“
“sure… what about the lingerie shopping ? “ Sulyani asked in between laughs. “you sure you’re paying ? “
I laughed sheepishly on the line, unsure of what to say.
“See you Jerry.”
Putting down the phone , I punched my fist into the air a couple of times. That felt good. I’ve never asked a girl out before.
Sunday is the 30th. I marked it down on my calendar.
Now back to the hospice.
How can I gain access inside without resorting to breaking and entering?
I spent some time surfing the site of the hospice and reading up about it. Then I was struck with a brilliant idea.
Picking up my phone, I called my boss, Alvin.
“Yo Jerry, Merry xmas.”
“Merry xmas boss, a bit late though.”
“How are you ? You ok ? “ Alvin asked.
“I’m fine, I’m fine. Boss, remember that time you asked me to take over that volunteer thingy…. For the department…”
“you said your plate was full right? You complained I kept piling stuff on you.”
“well actually having a few days of rest did me some good, I was thinking of bringing the department to a hospice for the volunteering. I have one in mind though…”
Alvin went quiet for a second before asking what am I up to.
“What is it ? this is not like you Jerry.”
“Nothing. I’m just you know… taking it up since I have a bit of free time.”
“You’re the last person I know to volunteer your time Jerry…”
“Hey, I’m not that bad..”
“Are you ok ? are you hiding something from me ? do you need to talk ? are your parents ok ? “
I reassured him that my parents are fine and after a while, I manage to convince Alvin that I want to organise the department volunteer day.
“which one do you have in mind? “
“The hospice at Serangoon.”
“Oh… that one.” Alvin said.
“have you been there before ? “
“Of course. My uncle is there.”
“yeah, my mother’s brother.. he’s warded there for a while now… turned 85 last week. Doesn’t remember any of us though.” Alvin shared. “ Speaking of which, when are you heading down to check out the place ? Have you contacted the hospice yet ? If not, I can help you link up with the operations manager.”
“errr, well, I …”
“You’re still on leave, we can do it after you’re back next year..”
“No no, no. ermm.. actually I am feel kind of bored at home…. I can head down tomorrow…”
“ok. Give me a minute, I have his namecard somewhere. I’ll text you. “
“ok thank you.”
I poured myself a glass of water and went to my balcony. The glass almost slipped from my hand when I looked across the road and saw the newspaper stand set up right along the pavement.
That umbrella, the table, the unmistakable gait of the newspaper seller puffing away on his cigarette.
I immediately rushed out of my house and head across the road.
Standing about 10 metres away, I took a deep breath and forced myself to calm down. Don’t lose my shit and I can ask all the questions I want.
I approached the newspaper stand and the newspaper seller tapped his cigarette and tipped the white ash from his fag into a makeshift ashtray cut out of aluminium cans.
His posture is relaxed and he waited for me to start talking.
“Why ? “
“what why ? “ The newspaper seller asked.
“Why me ? “
He shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“how does this work ? Can you explain it ? Why some things I can change, and some things I can’t? “
“What exactly is it that you changed Jerry ? “ He asked.
“I saved people that should have been dead.”
“Perhaps they were not meant to die so soon in the first place.”
“How would I know the difference ? “
“There is no way to know…. The choice is yours if you want to try” He said.
I hate it when he starts going around in circles again. It’s like he knows I hate it and yet he wants to do it to me to make me lose my cool.
Trying to calm myself down, I reminded myself to clear up as many questions as possible.
“what is the purpose of selling me the newspaper? “ I asked, my eyes drifting to a folded copy on the table.
“You tell me…” The man said with a grin.
“Are you selling the papers to anyone else ? “ I asked.
“No…. at the moment, only you.” came the immediate reply.
“So… there have been others?”
“Yes of course…but no one made it as far as you.”
“Are these a test for me ? “
“You can say that.”
“what are you testing me for?”
“To measure what kind of man you really are Jerry.” He said with that irritating smirk that I cannot stand.
“what do you want with me ? “
The newspaper seller told me all will be revealed in due time.
I told him what Chua said in the toilet. About the fortune teller.
“Who is this fortune teller ? “
“I don’t know. Maybe after you meet her, you can tell me instead.”
“I never said it was a ‘her’ “ I replied and the man chuckled before taking a deeper puff of his cigarette, secretly gleeful that he fell into my trap unknowingly.
He snuffed out his cigarette which has burnt down to it’s end and sat up, resting his hands on the table while clasping them together. He looked at me from head to toe for a while before he started talking.
“The fortune teller is accurate, she sees the end and unlike the newspaper I sell, her version is never wrong once the pieces are in place….”
“so your newspaper… it’s a prediction of sort ? “
“Not exactly..… my headlines merely show what the future may be if no variables or some variables are introduced.…. While the fortune teller sees what the future could be….along with it’s infinite possibilities and variables…along with the details.” He said coldly while knocking another cigarette out of his pack. “ There is a difference.”
I repeated what he said in my head a couple of times to try and understand what he is telling me.
“so you are saying you can tell I want to have chicken rice for lunch tomorrow while the fortune teller knows I want to have roasted chicken drumstick with a side of vegetables and that I will probably drizzle the chilli before the black sauce on the rice before I take the first bite.”
“hmmmm… it’s not that simple, but something like that.” He said while commenting the mention of chicken rice is making him hungry.
“So I guess you guys don’t talk…. Maybe you should link up…give a better version of the future…” I said. “ How do you do the lottery numbers? “
“ahhhh… always the question about the lotteries.” He laughed. “Those are nothing… a mere speck in an ocean of ever changing variables.”
“Do you buy the lottery then ? “
“Do I look like someone who needs money?”
He laughed and lit up the cigarette, taking a deep drag before blowing smoke towards me.
Looking at his clothes and footwear, he looks like the average uncle along the street. Nothing stands out, yet he everything about him feels different. The dark blue shirt with the folded sleeves worn over his white singlet. The black pants with a rusty buckle belt. The old pair of leather shoes that has seen a good deal of years on his feet.
Truth be told, this man can pretty much become invisible because no one pays attention to uncles like him. Especially not when he keeps to himself and stay out of other’s way.
I waved the smoke away from my face and asked how can I meet the fortune teller.
“ The fortune teller is may not see you..… you will need to get pass her sentry to get access to her. “
“what ? guarded ? as in like security guard ? In a hospice..? you kidding ?”
The newspaper seller laughed.
“If it were just security guards, it would have been a lot easier. You don’t get pass the sentry by brute force.” He teased while his fingers drew imaginary circles on the paper in front of him.
“I know where she is, she’s in a hospice at Serangoon.” I said. “ I can find her.”
“ahhhh, you know where she is… but do you know who… she is.. or how to get to her ? “
“do you ? “
“I can sell you the information.” He said.
“How much?” I have 200 thousand sitting in my bank account, I’m sure I can afford to pay a little for information.
Instead of asking for money, he tapped the newspaper in front of him. The one that is folded with it’s headline hidden.
“buy this newspaper, and I will tell you how to get to the fortune teller.” He grinned.
I asked the man if anyone has refused to buy the papers before.
“Yes. Of course.”
“fear…it’s as simple as that… fear.”
“What is there to fear ?”
“Maybe one day, you might turn the page and see something you don’t want to see ? “ He offered. “you never know.”
I sighed and pulled out a $10 bill. I dropped it on the table and his finger broke contact with the copy of papers. I picked it up and tuck it under my arm.
“Alright. Done… How do I get to her ? “
“Ward 32…there’s a private ward within that ward, it’s unmarked, you’ll have to get pass Arturo.” He said.
“what ? Who is Arturo ? how do I get pass him ? “
“A visit to the fortune teller without an invitation….. it’s going to be a challenge to get pass Arturo..”
“How do I get an invite then ? “
“Ok then how do I get pass Arturo without an invitation ? “
“… you’ll figure it out…I hope… I can see you at the door with Arturo, anything beyond that is blocked.”
“You’re speaking in riddles again, can you just go straight to the point? “ I asked, my patience on the verge of running out.
“…. I have nothing more to tell you…..…answer your phone Jerry…” He sucked onto his cigarette and I felt my phone buzzing in my pocket.
The newspaper seller got up and started to pack up his makeshift stand.
Looking at my phone, I realised it was my boss.
“Hello ? “
“Jerry, tomorrow morning, I pick you up… we head down to the Hospice around 10am ? “
The newspaper man started walking away and I retrieved the papers I just bought from under my arms. Opening to the front page, I almost dropped the copy of papers.
I shouted at the man who is about to turn the corner.
“hey wait !”
I found myself frozen to the ground, unable to move as I looked at the headlines. I alternate between looking at the headlines and the man.
Our eyes met and he gave me one last smile.
“Remember Jerry, my papers shows one version of what the future… may be..…..” He said before disappearing into the shadows round the corner.
My heart started racing again as I looked at the headlines.
On the paper is a picture of the newspaper seller. I finally know his name.
His name is Hock Chuan.
It’s 27th today.
He’s going to die on the 30th.
62 year old Hock Chuan was found lying face up behind Kallang estate market on the morning of new years eve. A cleaner discovered the body at 3am in the morning during a heavy downpour. Preliminary investigation revealed that Hock Chuan has been dead for more than 12 hours. There are no identification found on him and the police identified him through his fingerprints in the database. Hock Chuan served 10 years in prison for robbery and assault before his release a few months earlier in January 2018.
Some hawker stall owners recognised Hock Chuan and revealed that he eats at the food centre every morning. Sometimes they would see him take a morning walk around the area. When asked if they knew what he did for a living, no one had any clue.
The authorities have retrieved the CCTV footages around the area and investigations are underway.
Police are trying to get in touch with his next of kin, a daughter by the name of Suwen. If the public has any information they would like to share, please call the hotline 1800-225 xxxx.
Aside from a large picture splashed across the front page of the carpark behind the wet market with the blue police tent on the wet ground, there was barely any information to go with the report.
Accompanying the headlines at the bottom of the page is an advertisement of hair loss treatment. Makes me wonder if I’m meant to feel like I’m about to rip my hair out while reading the headlines.
I went back home and read the newspaper cover to cover.
There is very little information given on Hock Chuan’s death. The rest of the news don’t interest me, I only found one other article puzzling when it spoke of another visually impaired tissue paper seller missing. A total of 3 within 3 months.
Hock Chuan’s death took up the whole headline.
Base on the article, i know the area which he stays, the place he goes for breakfast every morning and his body was discovered on the 31th at 3am. Estimated time of death of 12 hours before meant whoever killed him, did it around 3pm in the afternoon on the 30th.
There’s no way it could have happen at the open air carpark in broad daylight. There’s too many people around.
Someone killed Hock Chuan and dumped him at that spot in the middle of the night.
It’s late but I could not sleep. There’s too many things on my mind.
The fortune teller, Hock Chuan, my date with Sulyani.
I made myself a cup of coffee and printed out a map of the market where Hock Chuan’s body is discovered.
Talk about old airport road food centre with any foodie and you will be bombarded with recommendations about the good hawker fare in that area.
It opened in 1972, that’s a 46 year old food centre. However, the location which Hock Chuan is found, is not at the hawker, but at the less well-known wet market located a couple of minutes away.
Kallang Estate market has played 2nd fiddle to it’s more famous sibling for a long time. I used to go there for breakfast with friends after morning runs when I’m in university, but it’s been a while since I visited.
Orientating myself using google map, I sipped my coffee and looked at the carpark via the satellite view.
The market is framed by 3 roads. Main road being Old airport road, while Jalan Tiga and Jalan Empat goes around the back. Coming from the main road, the only way you enter the carpark of the market is via Jalan Tiga.
From there, you turn left and you will be greeted with a long line of parallel parking lots before another left that takes you into the small open air parking behind the market.
Referencing the crime scene photo on frontpage, I could see where the police blue tent has been set up. Going down to ground level on google earth, I could see Hock Chuan’s body is found on lot 14 of the open air carpark.
Lot 14 is located right beside an access pathway that spans over an open drain. It’s also right beside a row of shophouses.
Swiping my mouse around, I could see that particular lot is surrounded by HDB blocks. And yet Hock Chuan was dumped right there.
I tried to imagine myself as the murderer. How would I do it ?
I mean I can’t possible drag a body across an open field in front of a large estate and expect to get away with it. Most likely it’s done with a car.
A car that comes in in the middle of the night, probably a MPV or SUV with foldable seats. From within the car, I can open the boot and kick the body out. Body rolls down the car, I shut the boot and I drive off.
There is a major issue with this method though, because it would mean the car I’m driving will have to pass through the parking gantry. Those comes with cameras too and the reader will have read my In vehicle unit, thereby putting me at the scene of the crime.
I struck that thought out of my head and started all over again.
Why lot 14, why not 1, why not 20 ? Why 14 ?
Fooling around on google map is not going to cut it for this one. I’ll have to go down to the market and get a feel of the ground.
I wish I can do it the next day but I’m headed to the hospice.
It’ll have to wait another day.
28th December 2018
It may be end of the year and I’m on official leave but I’m still not going to be late when meeting my boss. I’ll hear no end of it. I have to arrive before he does.
Entering the hospice, I waited near the sheltered drop off and a few minutes later, I saw Alvin’s car turning into the compound.
He parked the car and after getting out, reached for his smokes out of habit.
I gestured to the compound and to the no smoking sign before he absentmindedly put the smokes away.
Alvin looked at me left and right before asking me if I’m ok again.
“Jerry… Jerry, I tell you… serious matter.”
“what is it ? “
“I can tell something is bothering you..”
Alvin tapped his chest before putting his arm around my shoulder.
“I have been in the military for a while and I learn how to spot individuals with some deep rooted problems that they cannot share.” He said.
We stopped a distance away from the administration office and Alvin told me vaguely that all problems in life, can be solved.
“I’m really ok.” I replied but Alvin cut me off with a raised palm.
“I understand…. Really, I understand.. it’s ok with me if you don’t want to share… but I just want to say, if you need to talk to someone, I’m here.” Alvin added that he has seen a lot of young men caving in because of stress.
“I don’t want that to happen to you even though I don’t really like you.”
“wow… I cannot tell if that is a compliment or not.”
“anyway, if you need me to take some work off your desk, let me know ok? I care about the mental health of my team.” Alvin said in a reassuring manner. “did I tell you about the time when I was a trainer and a recruit tried to turn his weapon on another trainer during live range ? “
“You think I’m mentally unstable? “
“of course not…..relax…” Alvin tried to calm me down in an exaggerated manner, “but ah….I think anyone who runs off in the middle of a meal to shake down an old man needs a bit of help….”
“it’s not what you think…”
“it’s ok Jerry, it’s ok… calm down… i know you must be feeling awful and embarrassed, that’s why you ran off saying you need to read the newspaper.” Alvin said, so sure of himself that he is right. “you’re just too embarrassed to face me. I understand.”
I gave up trying to reason with Alvin and we entered the administration office to look for a guy call Tom.
He’s in charge of operations and he will help coordinate the team’s volunteer work at the hospice.
“Hey, Tom and Jerry, what a coincidence… haha.” Alvin laughed while Tom and I gave him the ‘meh’ look.
We went to the meeting room, Tom offered us bottled water and we got the boring part of the discussion out of the way. After that, I asked Tom if it’s ok we walked the ground a little, explore a bit.
“Sure. You can take a look at the facilities, anywhere that has no locked doors are accessible.” Tom said.
He gestured to the activity centre and the garden, adding that those places are popular with the old folks.
“Wards along level 4 are out of bounds, Level 1 to 3, you are free to take a look, but I must warn you, the folks at level 3 can get a little too friendly with unfamiliar faces.”
“what about ward 32 ? I think I have an uncle that stays here.” I said. “ Can’t remember the name… Tan something something.”
I made that shit up. Tan, Lim , Lee, Ng, all these are popular surnames in Singapore. You could throw a stone and hit one of them on a train.
“well, you can drop by and look for him, it’s activity time now. Ward 32 houses patients with mild dementia, sometimes they remember everything, the next moment it’s all gone. But they’re still quite ok and independent.” Tom said.
“ok, sounds good.” I said and I thanked Tom for his time.
I will be giving him a list of volunteers and coordinating the time for the team to come down on a weekend morning.
Tom showed us the way out and excused himself because he has other matters to attend to.
The moment he is gone, I told Alvin I will be walking around a bit.
“Boss, you can go off first.. I want to explore the place. “
He didn’t look convince at all.
“Something is up Jerry, I can tell. You’re up to something.”
“i…i… no…really… I just…”
“don’t deny it… nothing escapes the eyes of this old soldier.” Alvin said.
I sighed and admitted that I’m up to something.
There is someone in ward 32 I want to see.
“there ! I knew it, now you are telling the truth.” Alvin said, his excitement going up a notch.
“Is it a lost relative ? is this about money and inheritance ? “ He asked excitedly.
“errr… no… I want to ask some questions ..” Seeing Alvin so excited, I decided to rope him in for help. I mean the fortune teller is guarded, an extra pair of hands will come in handy since I don’t know what I’m up against. “but I need to get pass Arturo.”
“Ar…tu…ro ~~” Alvin said it slowly, emphasising the 3 syllabus word as he gets himself lost in his throughts.
His eyes widened before he said it again.
“Ar…tu …ro…~~ “ This time round, his hands rose and opened outwards like a magician performing a trick.
“You know him ? “ I asked.
“No… but he sounds like an X-men with special power.”
I almost wanted to slap my forehead but Alvin started to formulate his own theory.
“Ok… I think I know what you are after… let me help you..”
“huh ? what am I after ? “
“Base on my years of experience, for someone in your age to be embarrassed to share about something, it’s got to be one of 2 things…especially when you are single.”
“what are they ? “ I asked.
“it’s either about your erection or your family.” Alvin said confidently. “ Since we are here and not in Geylang, I believe this is about your family.”
I could not stop my boss and he seemed to get more excited by the minute as he fed and swallowed his own theory.
“In a hospice, with the old folks, this has to be about your grandparents. “
“Jesus…” I mumbled.
“Your grandfather had an affair… and you are trying to find out …”
I almost vomited the water I was drinking in my mouth.
“you’re kidding right ? I mean… listen to yourself. “
“Unless you can tell me a better reason why you paid $50 for newspaper, run off in the middle of lunch to heckle an old man, I believe this is about family and blood.” Alvin said. “ That old man, is he your grandfather? “
“fuck no!” I said.
“Don’t use vulgarities with me Jerry.” Alvin said as we came up to level 3.
Ward 32 is right in front of us.
We stopped talking and I approached the entrance to the ward.
Ward 31 and 32 shares a common activity area in the middle. The residents are largely mobile and looking in through the door, I could see many of the residents milling about.
Some are chatting, a few watching television, some are on the bed. There’s even one playing games on his mobile phone.
I stepped into the ward and immediately saw the massive frame of a man blocking me.
He’s got to be 2m tall at least with the body of wrestler. His face and chin are peppered with stubbles from an uneven shave. He doesn’t look very old, probably in his late fifties give and take.
His dressing though is a mix and match of his own clothes and the hospice gown.
The man wore the hospice top that looked a bit too tight fitting on his large frame while on his bottom, he wore loose fitting berms that exposed his hairy legs.
The man held a half-eaten 6 piece red bean bun on his right hand while his left hand held a single golf ball.
“Who you ? “ he asked, his voice coarse and low like a giant bellowing at an unwelcomed guest.
“You who ? “ he asked again as I looked at Alvin.
“we’re visitors… here to ermm.. look around.” I said.
“You who ? who you ? “ he asked again, taking a step towards the door and driving us back.
I could see the nursing staff in the ward, she seemed too preoccupied with other residents to see us.
“Hi, ermm, we’re visitors… can you let us in ? “ I asked politely.
“You who ? who you ? “ The man asked again, gesturing at us with his half eaten buns. I could see the red bean filling spilling out, the shop he got the bread from sure is generous with the fillings.
I cleared my throat and spoke slowly, explaining our intention word by word, however, my explanation was met with the same reply.
“you who ? Who you ? “ the man asked, his frown setting deeper into his expression. It’s like he could not understand us.
I tried waving to the staff who was busy in the ward but she could not see me.
“come come come… Jerry, I try, I try.” My boss offered.
Alvin pulled me back and stood in front of the massive giant.
Again, comes the same thing from him.
“You who ? Who you ? “ the giant asked.
“I …..Alvin, He….. Jerry…… who are you ? ” Alvin said, jabbing his thumb backwards to point at me before resting both hands on the side of his hips like a mafia boss trying to negotiate a bargain.
The man finally stopped giving the same reply and answered us.
“I ……am …..Arturo…”
Alvin gasped and turned to me, gesturing with his hands spreading up and outwards, emphasizing the size of the man in front of him as he spoke to me.
“see… see… Ar…Tu…Ro…. X-men !”
I ignored Alvin and told Arturo we are here to visit.
“Can you let us in please? We just want to speak with someone..”
“No… no visit…go away.” He growled.
By then, I caught the attention of the nursing staff who looked exhausted as she tried to wheel a man to the bathroom. She saw Arturo blocking us but chose to look away.
Alvin cut in to try and negotiate our way in.
“Yes, yes visit…. We go in…..Meesee ( nurse ) say we can go in…” He gestured like a army officer trying to explain something to a clueless recruit.
Arturo shook his head and took another step forward to push us towards the exit.
“hello friend… we need to get in, back off !” Alvin said. I could tell he is about to blow his top.
Alvin tried to push his way through but Arturo barely budge.
“Fuck he’s like a fucking wall.” Alvin said.
“boss, boss, ok, ok, let me do it… let me do it…..” I said.
“No!. I know how to handle people like these. I eat salt, more than the rice you eat.” He said, displaying that stubborn streak.
Alvin whipped out his wallet and pulled out a $50 bill.
Arturo’s eyes widened and Alvin smiled.
Pointing to Arturo, Alvin said his name.
“Arturo…..” Then pointing to the dollar bill, “ Yusok Ishak….ahhhhh…..Arturo…..Yusok Ishak……”
Repeating the names again, Alvin handed the money to Arturo.
“Arturo… Yusok Ishak…. Friend..”
There was a moment of hesitation before Arturo took the money.
I could see the triumphant smile on my boss face as he gave me a smirk look. However, when he tried to push his way in, Arturo pushed him out again.
“who you find ? you find who ? “ Arturo asked.
Turning to me, Alvin wanted to know the name of the person my grandfather had an affair with.
Ignoring Alvin, I told Arturo I’m looking for the fortune teller.
“I’m looking for the fortune teller.” I said.
Now it was Alvin’s turn to look surprised.
“huh ? “
I could see the expression on Arturo’s face change. That twitch in his expression. He knew who I was talking about.
“No fortune teller…” he said.
“I know she is here, Chua told me.” I said and I could tell he knew who I was talking about when I mentioned Chua’s name.
Arturo took another step forward, blocking the door entirely, sending us back into the corridor.
Alvin took out his wallet again, pulling out another $50 bill.
“Arturo… more friend ? more friend ?“
Alvin handed the man another bill which he pocketed without giving way to us.
“Hello, money take already, faster move aside ah..” Alvin said.
Arturo turned and looked at his casio watch, the old classic black version with a squarish face. The watch looks tiny on his large hands. Gesturing to his watch, I guess Arturo wanted to tell us not to waste his time but my boss Alvin, he took it as a competition of sort.
Pointing to his silver Seiko, he flashed his watch at Arturo.
Arturo saw that and decides to flex his body size.
Spreading his arms at Alvin, he said his name like a wrestler announcing his entrance into the ring.
“i…. AM……. Arturooooooooooo !”
Not wanting to be outdone, I watched in horror as my boss mirrored his movement before announcing his name as well.
“I …. Am….. Alvin…… Lee…… Meng…. CHyeeeeeeeeeeee….!” My boss said, emphasizing the ‘chye’ with the bottom row of his teeth exposed and his eyes wide open. He looked like he was about to do a Hakka war cry.
“oh come on.” I lamented but the game is on. A game of seeing who’s dick is bigger between 2 men who looked like they should be withdrawing their CPF savings soon.
“You Kimchi…! “ Arturo bellowed…
“You Bim Bim Bapppppppppp!”
“come on Boss stop it, you’re agitating him.” I said but Alvin shrugged me off.
“I’m going to win this ! I’ll fucking win this…” Alvin said with a determined look on his face as he rolled up his sleeve.
“I go MP (member of parliament) complain you! ” Arturo said in an agitated manner like a disgruntled resident.
“I go minister!” Alvin replied almost immediately.
“I go Prime minister !” Arturo raised his voice, there’s no hiding his agitation now.
“I go senior minister!” Alvin shot back, an almost delirious expression visible on his face as I alternated between the 2 fighting seniors.
“I go… minister mentor !” Arturo said, panting and grinning, knowing full well that is the highest ranking minister Singapore ever had.
Not wanting to be outdone, Alvin looked around before looking down into his shirt pocket at his cigarette.
“I go… Minister Menthol light…!” Alvin shot back and I could feel my legs on the verge of buckling as Arturo looked like he was about to lunge at Alvin.
“Enough la ! stop it….” I tried to put myself in the middle of the 2 of them but they both shove me away.
Things are going to get ugly fast if I don’t do anything.
Bringing his golf ball up, Arturo proudly announced the name of one of the most expensive clubs in the country.
Like Chow Yun Fat in Pirates of the Caribbean welcoming his guest to Singapore, Arturo lowered his voice and said it in a mysterious tone while spreading his arms.
“Singapore…. Island …. Country…. Club…” After that, he proudly waved that golf ball in front of Alvin’s face, making absolutely no sense in his line of defence, argument and his line of thought.
I watched my boss roll up his sleeve further beyond his elbows and reached for his wallet.
Pulling out a plastic card, he mimicked the same pose Arturo did.
“ NTUC ….. Fairprice…… warehouse…. Club….” Alvin gasped before waving that membership card in his face.
Arturo looked like he was about to suffer a heart attack. His face wobbled as he shook his head. After that, something seemed different about him. That crazy antics he was displaying earlier is now gone.
What greeted us was a pair of calm eyes and a body relaxed with steady breathing.
Throwing the golf ball down, he looked up at the both of us.
“Are you fucking out of your mind ? Ok.. what the fuck do you guys want ? “
“Fuck I knew it… I knew you were fucking with us.” Alvin said, boasting that his military experience as a trainer could easily differentiate those who were trying to malinger.
“You were fucking with me too!”
“No you were the one fucking with me!” Arturo insisted.
“you started fucking with us first..you dimwit…” Alvin shot back.
“EH, I from Hwa Chong one ok !” Arturo argued.
“Oh fuck off, I’m also from Hwa Chong one…everyone from CEO to mad people, they all come from Hwa Chong, so what!” Alvin gestured angrily while turning to me, asking which JC I came from.
“yeah ! you’re one of the mad one.!” Arturo spat.
“Yeah, so are you!” Alvin retorted.
“Are you listening to yourselves? Stop it…” I lamented “ The only person I knew from Hwa Chong is Annabel Chong.(famous porn actress in the 90s)”
Both of them stopped talking and turned to me, going all quiet for 3 seconds before turning back and resuming their squabbles.
“stop it , stop it please…” I separated the 2 old man who were still gesturing and pointing at each other.
“Please… the fortune teller…” I said to Arturo.
He took a deep breath before turning his attention to me.
“What do you want? “ he asked.
“I want to save a man.” I answered honestly.
“Which man ? “
“A newspaper seller.”
Arturo looked at me and our eyes never broke contact for a good 10 seconds. He knew who I was referring to.
“Alright… you can go, he stays here.” Arturo said, gesturing for Alvin to remain.
I thought my boss would protest being left out, but he seemed please that he won the verbal fight.
Arturo gestured to the packet of Menthol cigarette in my boss’s shirt pocket before putting 2 fingers to his own lips. The message is clear.
Alvin gestured with his head towards the staircase and it’s done. The 2 man, both Hwa Chong Alumni, walked quietly towards the staircase, probably looking for a spot to steal a smoke break in the middle of a hospice.
I stepped into the ward and no one else paid much attention to me.
I don’t know who is the fortune teller. I only know it’s a woman.
As I venture deeper, I could smell incense. It was then I realised that nested within the ward, there is another private room.
I walked over to the doorway and when I looked inside, I saw a woman sitting cross legged in the middle of her bed. In the 4 corners of the room, stood 4 others. They remained motionless as they faced the corners of the room like a child being punished. They just faced the walls.
It was a disturbing and eerie sight and I hesitated to step in.
The woman is young, probably in her late thirties at the very most. She’s pretty but her hair has been shaved. She looked like she is meditating, and I don’t know if I should knock.
Suddenly her eyes opened, and we made eye contact.
“Hi Jerry “ She said.
Of course she knows my name. She knows everything.
Gesturing to a chair in front of her bed, she offered me a seat.
I sat down and kept eyeing the 4 figures facing the wall. Their presence creep me out.
“ You have questions Jerry… lots of questions…” She said.
“Yes I do..”
She took a deep breath and her gaze seemed to penetrate my head.
She kept looking at me like she is curious about something.
I waited for her to speak but she didn’t.
I took that as a sign to start talking but she raised a finger, a signal I took to remain silent.
Goosebumps rose on my body when all at once, the 4 men and women facing the was turned around at the same time. It’s like a coordinated drill but no command was given. All 4 of them filed out of the room and the fortune teller got out of bed.
She poured me a glass of water and I thanked her. She walked back to her bed and sat down. Without saying anything, she took two pieces of paper, wrote something on it and folded it into half. She then put the pieces of paper down on the desk beside her bed before turning her attention to me.
“There is a price to pay for a consultation with the fortune teller.” She said.
“I’m guessing it’s not in monetary terms. “
“No…. the price for everyone is the same.” She said
“what is it ? “
“I tell you… the exact day you will die.” She said with a warm smile. “ That is the price I’m asking for.”
I stared at her without a word as I deliberated with the decision. Knowing exactly when I will die can be a boon or curse. I realised my heart was beating really fast and I could feel I’m afraid.
I’ve seen first-hand what it could do to a man. I’ve seen it happen to Chua. Imagine spending the rest of your life knowing the exact day, but not the exact moment you will go. It will drive you insane. Even if it doesn’t, it might drive you to do things that you don’t want to do. It’s going to kill you mentally.
We live each day not knowing what is going to happen the next, how can we possibly live with the knowledge of the exact day I’m going to depart ?
“ I fail to see exactly how that would benefit you “ I said.
“Do you think I do this for benefits? “ She laughed. “ so Jerry… deal or no deal ? “
“don’t you already know the answer to that ? “ I said and she chuckled even harder.
“well…. It’s complicated.…” She said, uncrossing her legs as she stepped off the bed.
I asked her how does this work?
Why can she tell the future ? What sort of mad science or alien technology is she employing? Perhaps this whole thing is a scam, designed to drive you nuts.
“Is this a cult ? Devil worship ? Alien technology from the future ? “ I asked.
“first thing first…do you accept the deal ? “ she asked.
“If I do, I can ask anything I want ? “
I hesitated for a moment. The phrase curiosity kills the cat suddenly appeared in my head. She did not rush me, she just waited patiently for me to say the answer I suspect she already knew. I’ve come too far along to stop now. I’ve seen the future before, I’ve seen it happen and yet, there is still this nub of discomfort bothering me.
There is still a part in me that refuse to believe something like the future can be cast in stone.
“yes, I accept the deal.” I said. “how is it that you can tell the future? Do you know everything in this world ? ”
“I don’t know everything….i only know the future of people whose fate are intertwined with mine….if you believe in fate that is….. and….everyone can tell the future, it’s just the degree of accuracy and to what extent it differs.” She said and held up a pen.
Holding it horizontally in front of her, she asked me what will happen if she let go of the pen.
“The pen will drop onto the ground.” I answered.
“Has it happened yet ? “
“But you know, if I let go, it will drop.. why ? “
“There, you can tell the future already.”
“it’s not the same.” I argued. “I don’t know if you will drop it in the first place.”
“Exactly, but you know…. If I do drop it… it will fall to the ground at 9.807m/s… as per the gravity on earth…. Yes ? ”
Nodding and shaking her index finger at me at the same time, she went on to give me another example.
“what happens…. When you take a knife and cut yourself? “ she asked. “describe it to me.”
“I bleed, I feel pain…my skin splits apart, blood vessels are ruptured… but why would I cut myself ? “ I asked.
“why would someone drink and drive ? why would someone steal an underwear and sniff it ? why would someone peep at someone in the shower? Why would anyone kill themselves? Why does the chicken cross the road “ She said with a smile.
“So you don’t know everything, is that what you are trying to tell me?”
“Just like you, I know a pen will fall when dropped…..just like I know Chua will die…..and I know Spencer will die….. and even Tan, & Choo, they too will die…”the fortune teller said. “but… i don’t know exactly how they will die…..Anything could have happen in between, that changes how they die….. ”
She dropped the pen without warning and kicked it with her foot, sending it across the ward. The pen fell, chipped off a section of it’s plastic body before rolling to a stop at the bottom of a bed.
“my kick, the chipping of the plastic, the rolling and changing of position, none of these changes the fact that the pen has fallen to the ground…. especially it has been my intention to drop it in the first place.”
I walked over to pick up the pen and handed it to back to the fortune teller.
“do that again.” I said. “drop the pen again.”
She repeated her action but this time, I caught the pen before she dropped it.
“What now? I caught the pen before you dropped it.” I said.
“Good. Good point.” She said with a nod.” Give me the pen.”
I returned the pen to her and she threw it across her shoulder behind her. The pen bounced off a bed and landed on the floor again.
“what is this supposed to mean ? “ I asked.
“You did not change the fact that the pen will be on the ground, you merely delayed it….there’s no way you can stop me from putting the pen on the ground indefinitely.“
“so every life I saved, I merely delayed their death ? “ I asked, absolutely flabbergasted.
“Of course Jerry, all man must die…don’t you know that?” She chuckled.
“you can delay the inevitable, but you cannot stop it.”
“what if I keep holding on to the pen, I refuse to let go, everyone you drop, I will hold it.” I asked.” What happens then ? “
“I just answered this earlier didn’t i? “ She replied calmly. “You delay the inevitable…..life expectancy in Singapore is 83.15 years….when your body stops working, you die…… have you tried using a pen you left on the shelf for a really long time…. ? does it still work ? has the ink dried up yet ? ”
Looking at the fortune teller, I walked behind her and picked up the pen. I put it into my pocket.
“There, I won’t hold it…the pen will not be on the ground and I’m not giving it back.” I challenged
“ahhhhh… good…” She replied. “ you can keep it in your pocket. Go ahead. But for how long ? “
“can you hold that pen, and make sure it never touches the ground, until the day you die ? “ She asked, a smile slowly breaking on her face. “what happens then when you die ? “
“or maybe I’ll repharse the question… how many pens can you hold ? “ She said in the manner of a teacher trying to educate a stubborn student.
I sighed and sat down on the bed opposite hers. Looking at the ground for a few seconds, I made eye contact with her.
“The people I saved so far…. I only bought them more time ? …is that it ? “
“yes…but….for how long ? A day ? a week ? a month? A decade ? Nobody knows.” She replied.
“don’t you know ? “ I asked.
“ahhhh……let’s put it this way….. if you are not here to catch the pen today, I know it will fall immediately to the ground…however… with you here to catch and hold the pen, I don’t know how long you are going to hold on to it.” She said. “ Does that make sense to you ? “
She held up a finger, indicating that she is not done yet.
“I may not know how long you are going to hold on to it, how many pens you can hold in both hands, but eventually we will get to a point when I can see …..this…”
Opening a drawer, she pulled out a cylinder pen holder stuffed full of pens in different colours. The base layers are tightly packed in while more pens are stuffed at the top, those looked like they are going to fall out anytime.
Shaking the container gently, I could see the few pens on top moving out of place slowly.
“The container is full, and a gentle shake is all it takes to make the pens drop. At this point, even you can see which ones are going to drop isn’t it ? “ She asked.
Within a couple of seconds, the 2 pens right at the top separated from the pack and fell to the ground, while another 2 hung precariously, balanced against the body of other pens.
From her pocket, she magically produced another 4 pen of different colours.
Holding it up in front of me, she threw all 4 of them at the same time.
I immediately reacted, catching 2 of the 4 as the sound of pen hitting the ground reached my ears.
“you caught 2 “ She said. “ Gesturing to the green and purple pen I caught, she pointed to the piece of paper she wrote when I first walked in.
The same one that was folded and put on the table.
I opened it and saw the words.
“Green and purple.”
“I know I will drop 4 pens today at this moment, I know you will catch green and purple.” She said. “And unfortunately for red and blue, they are now on the ground.”
“Having said that, I do not know which hand you will use to catch the pen, the manner in which you catch it, how far from the ground you catch it and at what speed”
“But you do know, that on this day, I will be here in this room, at this time, watching you drop these pen”
“that’s good enough.” I said.
“Though I must say, I do not know I will be meeting you until recently…” She continued.
“Why is that ? “
“Just like a game of chess, until moves are made and pieces taken off the board, the possibilities of how the game will turn out is limitless….. the more moves are made, the lesser pieces there are on the board….the clearer you can see what is going to happen….. as the day gets closer to the point when something is about to happen, the more accurate I can be…”
“So Chua and Spencer are down to their last pieces on the chess board ? “ I commented.
“Something like that…”
“How is Spencer connected to you ? “
“He stole from me… many years ago… that was when the connection was made…”
I kept quiet and looked at the pens on the ward floor.
Raising the 2 pens I’m holding, I asked the fortune teller if she knows when those will be dropped again. In essence, I want to know if Tan and Choo will die soon.
“It’s going to be a while before those will be dropped again.” She said and laughed. “ we all have better things to do than to keep dropping pens don’t you know ? Besides, I’m not the one who decides whose pen should be dropping. There are greater powers at work here.”
I just stared at her, trying to digest everything she just told me.
“When you mentioned fate… and having your lives intertwined… what do you mean ? “ I asked.
“When you meet someone, you make a connection. Webs of infinite possibilities are formed instantly like hairline cracks appearing on the surface of a glass. What you do, what you say, how you behave, all these will spark off different actions and reactions.” She explained. “the more connection you make, the more complex or rather, the more interesting the webs of possibilities become. Your actions will also affect the lives of the people you have a connection with.”
You won’t bat an eyelid if you read about an accident halfway across the world on the paper, because you don’t know that person, his or her death, it doesn’t affect you.However if someone close met with an unfortunate accident, say a friend, it affects you, because you know each other.
“So you are saying you can read the cracks on the glass of people who you have a connection with ? “ I asked, trying to simply what is happening.
“Something like that.”
“Is this why you stay here… to stop meeting people…. So your glass won’t shatter ?”
“That’s a good way to put it.” She laughed.
Pointing to her friends who left the room earlier.
“They help me block off unnecessary connections.”
“Oh… I thought they were being punished to face the wall or something. What about that giant out there ? Arturo..he’s crazy isn’t he. ”
“He’s not….when you made your connection with Arturo, he holds you back on purpose. It gives him time to…. How should I put it ? hmmm…. Evaluate you… and the possibilities that comes from that connection…..he gets to the point he see something positive among all the cracks on the glass that he thinks I should take a look….. if not… you will not get pass him..”
“wow… this is one hell of a mindfuck…” I said. “ So you had your look, what do you think ?..why am I here ? “
“Well…. I’m not impressed… but I’m intrigued. “ She replied.
“And, I have no fucking idea what you mean by that.”
Seeing me go quiet, the fortune teller sighed and observed me quietly from head to toe. She started talking after taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly.
“you’re special Jerry.”
“why ? Because I can catch pens? “ I tried not to roll my eyes.
“Why is that so?” I asked, taking a seat on one of the bed. My head still feeling the mindfuck that in a moment, I am going to know exactly when I will die.
“Some people just want to know the lottery, some wants to know if the one they love will love them back, whereas for you…. You go to great length to affect lives of people totally not related to you….. even before the connection is made.”
“I want to save Hock Chuan.” I said, going straight to the point.
“then catch his pen.” She said with a simple wave of her hand.
“I need help… tell me how to save him… then me exactly where I should be, what time, what place, where should I position myself to catch it ? “
Without breaking a beat, she replied me.
“30th December, Block 11a, multi-storey carpark, level 3B. 2.15pm”
Referencing back to the time stated in the article, it sounds about right.
12 hours give and take before Hock Chuan’s body is discovered.
“How is he going to die ? “
“I don’t know.”
“Can I save him ? “
The fortune teller went quiet. She said nothing and just looked at me for a long time.
“If I say no, will it make you give up on saving Hock Chuan ? “
“I will still try. Because if I don’t try, I would have already failed.”
“If I say yes, would it make you put in less effort to save Hock Chuan, especially when you know you can save him even before you did?”
“I don’t know.”
“then what is the point of this question?” she said.
I was left dumbstruck and I didn’t know what else to say. Now I know the exact time, the location where Hock Chuan will be killed. There’s no way I am going to let it happen.
“Anything else? “ The fortune teller asked me.
“Why me ? Why am I the one doing all these? Why is it not someone else ? “
“Hock Chuan believes we can all be saved from what is coming. He has sent many my way…so far, I am still not convinced we stand a chance.”
“This is starting to sound like a cult.” I said, lying down on the bed and looking up at the ceiling. “what is coming ? Winter is coming ? Zombie is coming ? Apocalypse is coming? “
I did not receive a reply and I sat back up to see the fortune teller tapping the 2nd piece of paper she had prepared on the table.
She slid it across that table, gesturing to it with her open palm for me to take it.
“what is that ? “
“The day you die.” She replied so casually as if she was directing someone to the bathroom or something.
I took the piece of paper and she waited for me to open it.
Holding it up in front of me, I asked her what she saw me do with that piece of paper. In her vision of the near future.
“You opened it, tore it up, crushed it, sat back down on the bed and start crying.”
Fuck. Her words immediately affected me and I could feel fear creeping in.
My heart was racing so fast by then I thought I’m about to suffer a heart attack. Mere words alone sending my usual calm self into a frenzy.
Why would I start crying ? Is it because I’m going to die soon ?
What is going to happen to my parents when I die ? Who is going to take care of them ?
What is going to happen to all the projects I am doing halfway ?
I need to clear my internet browser history and reformat my hard disk filled with Japanese adult videos before I die.
I need to give my parents my bank account password. My wake, I want it to be simple, throw my ashes into the sea. Make a list of who comes to my wake and burn the list to me so I can haunt my friends who didn’t turn up just for the kick.
Are my insurance policies up to date ? Is my coverage enough for my parents to live till 85 at least without worrying about going back to work ?
My place, rent it out only to pretty hot babes, there’s a stash of cash in various currencies worth about $4000 under a drawer in my bedside table. I need to tell my parents about it.
A thousand questions filled my head as I looked at the fortune teller in her eyes as she waited patiently to see what I will do.
Everything that has happened to me so far tells me I have to believe her. She knows what is going to happen. She knows.
However, a part of me refused to acknowledge that my life, my fate, is cast in stone. I refused to believe in something like this cannot be changed.
It can be changed if I put my heart to it. I refuse to submit my life to a string of numbers written on a piece of paper.
I closed my eyes and took a moment to calm myself down. I waited for my heart rate to go back to normal. Blocking out all other stray thoughts, I concentrated my mind at that very moment.
The lady did not rush me, I took my time. When I opened my eyes, she was sitting cross-legged on the bed in front of me, her palms resting on her knees.
I shook that piece of paper a couple of times in front of me, my eyes looking at the folded paper before I looked at the fortune teller.
Fighting back a smirk, I closed my eyes, I opened that piece of paper. 2 seconds later, I tore it, then I crushed it. Then I sat back down on the bed and I started to cry.
“arhhhhh… boo hoo hoo… boo hooo hoo…!” I cried twice before standing back up to look at the fortune teller defiantly.
She did not look alarmed; she did not look angry nor surprised. Her expression remained unusually calm as I literally took a piss at her prediction.
“There, your prediction came true.” I said as I held up the crushed ball of paper before throwing it at her.
She smiled and said nothing.
I’ve heard enough and I turned and made my way to the exit.
“Aren’t you afraid I’ll shout out the date ? “ She taunted
Turning to look at her, I replied;
“what made you so sure ? “
“you have already told me and revealed the date when I will die, but I choose not to know it… telling me the date again changes nothing…”
A smile broke on her expression and she nodded slowly.
“This changes everything….”
I gave her a mock 3 finger salute as a farewell and I saw Arturo appear in front of me.
Right as he put his body in between me and the entrance into the private ward, I heard the fortune teller say something which made me stop walking.
“Send my regards to my father.”
Turning around, I came face to face with Arturo’s large frame. He gestured towards the exit with an open palm and I knew my visit is over.
Nothing more needs to be said. The 4 mysterious man and woman who were in the room earlier made their way into the room behind Arturo and resumed their standing position by the corners, facing the walls.
So the fortune teller is Suwen, Hock Chuan’s daughter. There is some serious family issue going on here it seems.
Making my way out to the corridor, I saw Alvin fiddling on his phone.
“Ok boss, sorry, I’m done.”
“sure ? You find out who your grandfather is sleeping with ? A fortune teller ? “ He joked.
“don’t worry Jerry, I won’t probe too deep into your personal stuff, but I want you to let me know if these issues is going to start affecting your work.”
I reassured Alvin I’m ok.
“I take the personal well-being of my staff seriously…. I’m heading back to office, give you a lift?” he offered.
En route back to Botanic garden, Alvin and I talked a little about work. It’s coming to the end of the financial work year and there’s some left over budget allocated to infrastructure works that need to be spent.
Alvin has spoke with a few colleagues about it and he wants to know what are my thoughts and where to spend them on.
I do have a couple of initiatives and proposals I put up for consideration but those are really low on the priority list.
“ You can give them to Tricia, she’s been wanting to work on the toilets for a long time.”
“the toilets are still pretty new.” Alvin said as he filtered onto the right lane without signalling. “ you have a few idea back then right.”
“ideas you shot down because it’s a waste of money.” I added.
“Well we have money to spend now. Do you want it or not ? “ He said, grumbling as a truck cut into his lane without signalling.
“We can do Project greenfield, or the Daisy initiatives.” I suggested.
Alvin nodded with an audible ‘hmmmm’
“Project deepwater too if we really have the budget.”
“Nah, nah, nah, that one cost too much. The lagoon inside the garden is nice as it is, there’s no need to enlarge it further.” Alvin said.
“How about Project Iron Haven?” I suggested. “It’s been sitting there for years.”
“Hmm, ok, i think greenfield, daisy and iron haven sound doable base on the leftover budget. I’ll see what the rest have on hand first. Can you send me the proposals again.” Alvin said.
“Of course.” I replied, reminding him that the budgetary quote in those proposals is a couple of years old and likely outdated. He should only use the figures as a reference.
“I quite like the daisy initiatives though.” He mumbled, dropping me an obvious hint to where his preference lies.
Alvin dropped me off at my place and I immediately got to work after making a fresh cup of coffee.
I’ve established the relationship between the 2 mysterious figures. One publishes papers, the other throws pen. A family with serious daddy issues.
Family drama aside, Hock Chuan will die on the 30th afternoon at the carpark.
30th is also my date with Sulyani.
It’s been fucking years since I get to ask a girl out, and a pretty hot one at that. However, I can’t possibly let Hock Chuan die either.
The best course of action will be to involve Sulyani in my plan. Perhaps plan a date at the spot where Hock Chuan will be killed.
Suwen did not reveal whether I will succeed.
I groaned out loudly in my living room as I thought about asking Sulyani to a multi storey carpark for the 1st date.
29th December 2018
Hock Chuan goes to the market every morning for breakfast. It’s not a big place to look for a man. I arrived at the market at 6am and it’s already bustling with activity.
Hawkers selling raw food and vegetables are busy attending to the early risers. Mostly the seniors with their helpers in tow.
Configured in a ‘n’ shape layout, the hawker centre faces the main road with plenty of seating in the middle. There are a few more seats scattered on the outdoor patio closer to the road with it’s own umbrella shelter. The aluminium cans filled with cigarette butts is a dead giveaway who those seats are reserved for.
I took a seat in the centre of the market facing outwards. It gives me a clear 180 degree view of everyone coming and leaving. I paid particular attention to the drinks stall because coming to the market in the morning, most people will get a drink. Likely a coffee or tea.
I quietly observed the stalls within the market. At 6 plus in the morning, almost every stall has a queue. Early risers waiting to be served their piping hot breakfast. From Kueh stalls to economic bee hoon to wanton noodles and even Roti Prata, the small market has everything you could possibly want for a hearty breakfast.
I did not have to wait long. Hock Chuan shuffled in slowly from my right near a stall selling traditional kuehs. He bought something from the stall before moving a few steps down to the next one. He gestured what he wanted to the stall owner with the same hand holding the kuehs and moments later, a piping hot plate of fried noodles with luncheon meat, fried fish fillet & sunny side up egg appeared on his hand.
He has not seen me yet.
Turning around to look for a seat, Hock Chuan took two steps before he stopped. With the plate of food on his hand, he broke into a smile without looking at me directly. It’s my turn to pop up on him instead of the other way around.
Hock Chuan took a deep breath before turning towards me. Without a word, he made his way towards my table. Setting his food down, he gestures to the nearest drinks stall, asking if I would like another coffee.
“Of course. Black. No sugar.” I said.
“you must be a bitter man…” he teased before going ahead to place the order.
Hock Chuan sat the drinks in front of me before taking his time to lower his body down into the seat.
I did not speak, I wanted to give him the chance to talk first.
He took a mouthful of the fried noodles before chomping down on a bite of the fried fillet. The crunch and the grease on his lips and the manner in which he is eating is making me hungry.
“You found me, which means you met the fortune teller.” He said in between mouthful of food.
“Yes. I found Suwen.” I said, bringing up his daughter’s name on purpose.
Hock Chuan nodded and continued eating, slurping up the noodles as I felt my stomach rumble.
“This stall has the best fried noodles do you know that? “ He said before gesturing to a vegetarian stall and says that one has the best bee hoon.
Turning to point at a drinks stall, he likes the coffee at that stall, and he eats the fishball noodles at least once a week.
“You have a good appetite for someone about to die.” I said.
“so what ? Everyone dies Jerry.”
“don’t worry. I won’t let that happen. I’ll save you.”
Hock Chuan started laughing as he sweeps the noodles into the centre of the plate to make them easier to handle. He broke the yolk of the sunny side up egg and I swallowed a mouthful of saliva as the yolk cascaded down into the tangle of black noodles.
“what if I don’t want to be save?” He asked.
“Nonsense. Then you wouldn’t have sold me the paper.”
“you think I sold you the paper because I want you to save me? “
“why else would you sell me the paper then ? “
“What have you learnt so far from this bizarre adventure of yours Jerry ? “
“I learned that if I try, I stand a chance, if I don’t, then I don’t stand a chance.”
Hock Chuan nodded as he slurped down another mouthful of noodles.
“Did the fortune teller reveal if I could be save?”
Hock Chuan smiled but said nothing.
“I know the exact date, the time and the location when you will die. I’ll be there to stop whoever that is going to kill you. You must have offended many people.”
He agreed, telling me that some of the people he sells the papers to threatened to kill him if he doesn’t keep selling them.
“the lottery page can be really attractive to some individuals.”
“Are you not the least bit worried? “ I asked.
“No. All men die.”
“There is no nobility in a senseless death.” I said.
“Neither is there in a meaningless life.” He replied without missing a beat.
I sighed and looked at the man in front of me enjoying his breakfast. He did not seem at all bothered that he is about to die.
He sold me the paper, he pointed me to the fortune teller which turns out to be his daughter.
I took a sip of the coffee as I watched Hock Chuan polished up the rest of the noodles as I put two and two together in my head.
“You wanted me to meet your daughter.” I said, figuring out what Hock Chuan has up his sleeve.
“You are half right.” He said as he sat his chopsticks down. “I wanted her to meet you.”
“you’re a special man Jerry. Destined for great things.”
I rolled my eyes and gave him the finger.
“Fuck off. So what, I’m Neo in the matrix ? You going to offer me the blue pill and the red pill ? can I dodge bullets ?”
“Nothing so dramatic.” Hock Chuan wiped his mouth with a handkerchief before pulling the coffee nearer to himself.
Hock Chuan took a sip of his coffee, closed his eyes as he enjoyed the feeling of the devil’s brew going down his throat.
“Tell me what happened when you met the fortune teller ? “ He asked.
I told him about the throwing of pens.
“That’s interesting. She has never bothered to do that for anyone before.” Hock Chuan said. “I’m guessing you paid the price ? “
“I did. She revealed when I will die.”
Hock Chuan laughed.
“and ? when are you dying ? ”
“She revealed, but I did not look.”
Shaking his finger at me, he told me I merely delayed the inevitable.
“You will… know the day of your death Jerry. There’s no way around it.”
“I’ll worry about it when that day comes.
Hock Chuan revealed that the fortune teller has never bothered to go into the technical details of how things work. This means I’m the 1st person to ever have that conversation with her.
“what does that mean ? “
He shook his head, unwilling to reveal further other than he made the right choice choosing me.
“What else ? what else did she say ? “
“Send my regards to my father.” I said, telling Hock Chuan the last words she left me with.
The coffee cup froze in mid air and I could feel a change in Hock Chuan’s demeanour. It’s like he wasn’t expecting something like that.
He looked at his coffee and I could see him thinking. Then he slowly broke into a smile before he took another sip. Something changed in that moment. He looked relax, almost happy.
He gave me off the vibe of someone ready to go which worries me further.
“enjoy your date with Sulyani.” Hock Chuan said. “don’t worry about me.”
“No. I’m going to save you.” I said, standing up from the seat. “and no one can stop me.”
Hock Chuan just smiled as I walked away.
With the information I have on hand, there’s no way I will let Hock Chuan die on my watch.
I just stepped into my place when my phone rang. It was Sulyani.
“Hey. Just want to check with you what are we doing this weekend. I mean.. we going anywhere that has dress code or something ? “ She asked.
Looking at the blown up map of the estate where the market is at, I asked Sulyani what is the most interesting date she has ever been on.
“Hmmm… definitely not lingerie shopping. Haha.. well, I would say ermm.. it’s rock climbing… a date brought me to a wall once.” She laughed. “what do you have in mind ? You don’t strike me as the outdoor adventure type.”
“How would you like to save a man from dying ? “ I asked.
“wow… are you volunteering at some shelter or anything? “ she asked.
“not exactly.” I replied as I printed out another image of the carpark where Hock Chuan is killed.
“well, if he is suicidal, it’s best you leave it to the professionals.” Sulyani said.
I almost dropped my phone as I connected what she just said with the blissful expression on Hock Chuan’s face earlier.
No one killed him.
He’s going to take his own life.
“Hello? You there Jerry ? “ Sulyani asked.
“yeah, yeah, I’m here… sorry…” I quickly replied. “ Errmmm.. I think ermmm… maybe something sporty…. Errm… you know….shoes…. ready to run … workout attire should be fine…what do you usually wear when you exercise..? something light ? airy…? ”
“So you’re saying you want to see me in tights, running shoes and sports bra…?” She teased.
“No no no, of course not… I didn’t mean it that way… I just… I just…” I stammered and tried to think of a reason when Sulyani said she was just teasing me.
“I’m just kidding…. I can do 5km in 50 mins if you’re interested to see me sweat…” She teased.
“That’s really fast, I can only manage an hour at that distance…and I’m probably going to pant like a dog after I’m done…” I admitted.
“Looks like it’s going to be a sweaty date with lots of panting I guess.” Sulyani laughed over the phone.
“wow…. i…ermm… I definitely wasn’t expecting that from you…” I said.
“hahha, sorry, it’s just that it’s been a while since someone asked me out.”
“haha, it’s been a while since I asked someone out too.” I admitted. “ ermmm, I see you at say…11am ? at…. Old airport road food centre… vicinity…“
“ Alright…I’ll call when I’m there…hope we can save your friend.” She said, from her tone, I could tell she thinks I’m joking.
“See you Sulyani…”
“My friends call me Sue..” she offered.
“See you soon Sue.” I laughed and so did she as we hung up on each other.
30th December 2018
I’m back at the market again.
If Hock Chuan is going to kill himself, I’m going to fucking knock some sense into him before he does. Hell, maybe I can even knock him out or something, then I get to go pant and sweat with Sulyani in peace.
The seat I took the day earlier is occupied. So I took another table at the corner as I waited for Hock Chuan to appear.
However, when I saw him again, I felt goosebumps appearing all over my body.
It’s just darn weird.
It’s a different day, a different seat but I’m looking at exactly the same thing.
Hock Chuan shuffled in slowly from my right near the stall selling traditional kuehs. He bought something from the stall before moving a few steps down to the next one.
He gestured what he wanted to the stall owner with the same hand holding the kuehs and moments later, a piping hot plate of fried noodles with luncheon meat, fried fish fillet & sunny side up egg appeared on his hand.
It’s like someone hit the rewind button. He was wearing the same top, the same pants. Hock Chuan bought the same food, from the same stores in the same order.
Turning around to look for a seat, Hock Chuan took two steps before he stopped. With the plate of food on his hand, he broke into a smile without looking at me directly. He knew I was there at another seat.
Hock Chuan turned towards me. Without a word, he made his way towards my table. Setting his food down, he gestures to the same drinks stall, asking if I would like another coffee.
I felt like I was sucked into some ground hog day shit and everything is repeating itself.
“ Ba…..Black. No sugar.” I said.
“you must be a bitter man…” he repeated what he said to me the day before going ahead to place the order.
Hock Chuan sat the drinks in front of me before taking his time to lower his body down into the seat. It’s a Deja vu moment.
I did not speak. I just looked at him, my eyes transfixed at what he is doing.
He took a mouthful of the fried noodles before chomping down on a bite of the fried fillet. The crunch, the grease on his lips and the manner in which he is eating, I’ve seen it all before.
I was rendered speechless as I looked at him.
“Do you see how meaningless my life is Jerry ? “ he said without looking at me.
Hock Chuan told me he does the same thing everyday. If I was not there, he will be having breakfast alone, eating the same thing, repeating his day over and over again.
“what kind of fuck up nonsense are you going about ?” I said a little too loudly, drawing the ire of the neighbouring table.
He can make the choice of what he wants to do everyday, there’s no need to come to the same market, eat at the same stall, do the same thing. It doesn’t make sense.
“do something different for fuck sake, go to another place for breakfast, what is stopping you ? “ I said.
“yes, today, I’m going to do something different..” Hock Chuan said with a grin.
“you’re going to kill yourself today….am I right ? “ I asked.
Hock Chuan nodded as he took another mouthful of noodles while looking at me.
“why…. The fuck would you do that… ? “
“some things has to happen, in order to spark of a chain reaction for other things to happen.”
“bullshit… how would your death change anything ? “ I said.
He did not answer me and I changed my direction of questioning.
I want to know why he went to jail.
“you were jailed for robbery and assault right ? “
“who did you rob ? and who did you assault ? “
“I robbed my daughter, and I assaulted my wife, my wife is now lying on a bed and in a coma for the past few years…”
The coffee I was about to bring to my lips halted in mid-air.
“what the fuck is wrong with you…?” I asked in disbelief.
“it’s what I have to do…” he said with a hint of sadness.” She will wake soon.”
“stop giving me that shit.” I set the coffee down and glared at him while Hock chuan continued giving me the nonchalant expression.
“all of these…..this… you.. killing yourself so something else happens….all these can stop… ok ? you have my attention now…just tell me what you want me to do….i’ll do it… it’s simple as that…I’ll do it… don’t fucking die.” I said in a harsh whisper.
Putting down his chopsticks, Hock Chuan referenced a game of chess while explaining his perspective.
If the situation calls for it, you will have to sacrifice your pawns and knights to check the king.
“Beating up your wife into a coma ? Robbing your own daughter ? Does this even make sense to you ? “
Hock Chuan smiled but said nothing, he went ahead to polish up the rest of his noodles before speaking.
“I am but a small pawn in a big game… and my time is up.”
“bullshit….don’t make sense to me…not a single bit.”
“By that logic you are going by, anything and everything you do not comprehend will not make sense to you.” Hock Chuan said and as the words sank into my heart, I went quiet for a moment.
Seeing that he has me where he wanted, he took a sip of his coffee and continued.
“Algebra and trigonometry will not make sense to a kid just learning to count, Engineering formulas will not make sense to the hawker preparing my breakfast….and I can go on..…”
Holding up a palm to stop me from talking, he told me to pay attention to what he is about to say.
“Jerry, you are going to be put in a position where you can save a lot of lives… you cannot save everyone, but I know you are going to try and save as many as you can.” He said. “that’s who you are.”
“Hock chuan… i..” He went on talking, cutting me off.
“Today is the last day you are going to see me alive, nothing you do will change this……”
“woah woah woah…wait..wait wait..relax bro…”
“listen carefully to what I have to say Jerry.” Hock Chuan said. “when the reunion begins….it is a sign that the wheels have started to turn.”
“reunion dinner is not due until fucking Chinese new year dude…what wheels ? apply the brakes on the wheels.” I interrupted but Hock Chuan continued speaking.
“That will mark the start of your next adventure… I know you are someone who will not sit by and watch something happen if you know you can stop it…but my advice to you….. sometimes, choosing not to see what is in front of you is necessary….”
“errrr….can you just use fucking simple English..?”
“the newspaper you have been reading the past few months…there are articles about visually impaired people going missing…”
“oh yeah, what was that about…? “
“you’ll find out soon enough….everything happens for a reason Jerry… the people you saved…the lives you affected…the connections you made so far…it will all come together..”
“something changed when I told you what Suwen said yesterday….” I blurted out abruptly. “ If she did not say that, would it make a difference ? “
“yes it would.” Hock Chuan replied while stirring his coffee.” If she ignored you, if she rejected you, I will say with confidence you can stop my death.”
“I’m going to go where you go, do what you do, you will not take your own life… not on my watch..” I said.
“hahhaha” He laughed heartily as he drank his coffee. “what about your date with Sulyani ?”
“it’s going to be an interesting first date for us…trying to save a life…I’m sure that will leave an impression.”
“I can tell you it’s going to be an interesting first date…. But I’m not so sure about you saving a life.” Hock Chuan taunted.
“we’ll see.” I said.
“we’ll see” Hock Chuan replied without hesitation.
I sat opposite Hock Chuan and he did not seem like he was in a hurry. He took his time drinking his coffee and eating his breakfast, enjoying what I assume will be his last meals.
Not wanting to wait for things to happen, I tried to map out what will possibly happen in the next few hours. I can run pretty fast, there’s no way Hock Chuan can outrun me. I just need to stick close to him.
He can try to lose me in a crowd but there’s nothing stopping me from holding onto him or putting my arm around his shoulder.
Block 11a, multi-storey carpark, level 3B. 2.15pm. That was what Suwen said. I can catch Hock Chuan’s pen if I’m there at that exact moment. I’m not going to lose sight of him but if I do, I just need to make sure I’m at that spot at 2.15pm.
As I was getting lost in my thoughts, a visually impaired man approached our table with packets of napkins.
“Tissue paper ? 3 for $1 “ He said.
Hock Chuan gave him $2 and so did I, we only took 1 packet of napkins from the man.
“thank you, thank you so much.” The man replied.
He looks around my age, his hair is greasy and could probably use a wash. The clothes he was wearing is old and dated but still clean.
Carrying a large bag of napkins and wet tissues on his shoulder, the man moved from table to table, tapping with his stick to feel his way around.
“Eat breakfast already Ah Fu ? “ Hock Chuan said.
“Ehhh.. Hock Chuan…it’s you..”
“come come, sit… I buy you coffee.” Hock Chuan shifted to the side of the table, making space for Ah Fu.
Not wanting Hock Chuan to use the excuse to disappear, I offered to get another round of coffee for everyone.
I kept my eyes on Hock Chuan while ordering. He talked to Ah Fu casually like old friends who see each other everyday at the market.
Bringing the drinks back to the table, I overheard Ah Fu telling Hock Chuan that his mother’s medical bills is coming to 40k.
“how to pay ? I die also no money to pay the hospital.” He lamented. “still got other bills, every time open letter box… every letter asking for money…nowadays, the only people sending letters to you are the ones asking for money.”
Ah Fu’s mother suffered from a slew of ailments from diabetes to high blood pressure. She is wheelchair bound and Ah Fu’s napkin sales really helped with the household expenses. He comes out for a few hours to make some money before rushing back home to take care of his mother. In the evening after she sleeps, he will moonlight as a masseuse around the vicinity.
Ah Fu had an older brother but he passed away in a car accident. The burden of caring for his aged mother then fell onto his shoulder. The conversation between the 2 man then drifted to the usual topics. High cost of living in Singapore, everything is expensive, we are moving too fast, people like them are getting left behind.
“sometimes I think maybe it’s better to die ah… die already no worries…” Ah Fu said.
“don’t say things like that, I’m sure there’s a solution…” I said.
Draining his coffee from the cup, Ah Fu thanked me for supporting his small business and for the coffee.
“I need to go make some more money..” he said
As Ah Fu tapped his way down other tables, it suddenly struck me that this meeting may not be just a simple chanced encounter.
“Don’t tell me he is the next one to disappear..” I said, referring to the people going missing in the previous articles.
Hock Chuan smiled and shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t know Jerry… I really don’t know.”
Hock Chuan got up from the seat and I followed suit.
I asked him which block of flat is he staying at.
“block 12. You want to come up for tea?” Hock Chuan said with a grin.
“sure. Why not?”
Base on what I remembered block 12 is right in front of the carpark which is block 11A.
Taking the path to his place, I was about to ask Hock Chuan about his wife when a car screeched to a stop just when we are about to cross a small road to block 12.
It’s a old Mercedes and I saw the reverse light come on.
The car backed up until the driver’s side is right in front of me. When the window came down, I froze and felt a chill like someone just opened the freezer door in front of me.
Sitting in the car is someone I never thought I would see again.
Sitting on the passenger seat, is the Irish man who is peering out Bobby’s side and squinting his eyes at me.
“OYYY! YOU!” Corner shouted.
I panicked and I reacted instantly.
“fuck !” I cursed and I immediately turned and started running.
I bolted and turned back in time to see Conor and Bobby getting out of the car and staring at me while gesturing wildly. Hock Chuan gave me a eerie grin, adding to the frustration I was feeling.
I don’t know why Bobby and Conor is together but seeing them backing their car towards me, it must not be good news. I checked again and saw that they are not in pursuit, instead, they got back into their car.
Taking a circuitous route, I plot my path back to Hock Chuan’s block. Bobby and Conor are headed into the multi storey carpark. I just need to avoid that place for now.
My phone started ringing and it’s Sulyani.
“Hi Sue,” I picked up the phone while trying to catch my breath.
“You started running without me ? “ she asked.
“No…no… errmm.. where are you… ? “ I said while looking around the estate.
The market is now to my right, to my left is a open field with block 1 at it’s rear. Looking down at my feet, I jumped off the carpark lot 14 I was standing on and back onto the pavement.
“why are you so jumpy?”
Turning again to look at the direction of the market, I saw Sulyani waving at me. My heart skipped a beat when I saw her.
Dressed in a pair of black running tights complete with white sneakers, she walked up to me while hanging up the phone. She’s dressed for a workout alright with her pastel coloured sports bra showing from under her loose t-shirt.
Her hair is tied up in a tight bun and she carried a drawstring bag.
“hi…” I said, barely able to tear my eyes off her body.
“so… where is the guy you want to save ? “ Sulyani asked.
“I..err… lost him…” I said sheepishly “but I know where he’ll be later at 2.15pm.”
She gave me a raised eyebrow before nodding slowly, probably thinking I’m weird.
I don’t have Hock Chuan’s number, I don’t know his address, it doesn’t make sense to go searching for him around that area especially with Bobby and Conor around, so I figure the best thing I can do, is to go for my date.
Sulyani didn’t mind having lunch at the hawker centre. We got a table at the corner and both of us just started digging into our meals when I saw Sulyani’s eyes widened as she looked behind me.
Raising a hand up as if she was waving to someone, I turned and a dreadful feeling starts to fill my tummy.
“yo bro… “ Sulyani said while fist bumping Chan, her colleague I saved together with her that day near Botanic garden.
“what you doing here ? “ Chan asked.” Come all the way here to eat ah ? “
Looking at me, Chan immediately paused and I could see him searching his memory because he recognised me.
“oh… you’re that weird smoking guy working in the park.” He shook his finger at me as I gave him an awkward smile.
“I’m not the smoking one…”
“Oh oh oh… you’re the one that beat up an old man or something is it ? “
Sulyani came to my rescue and changed the topic.
Chan pointed to a noodle stall at the rear, saying that his fiancé is queuing up for it.
“Next time come here jio (ask me along) me ma, I stay so near.” Chan commented before adding that he will stop disturbing us.
He whispered a little loudly to Sulyani for her to tell him all about this date when they are back at work.
“ Still find it hard to believe you would give your number to a weird AF guy you don’t know.” Chan’s whisper is so loud that I’m sure the table beside us can hear him.
“I gave him more than my number Chan… ask him..” Sulyani replied with a cheeky smile and Chan returned to his normal speaking volume while looking at me.
“Well good luck to you bro….Sulyani is weird…I’m serious…… maybe you guys can stay weird together.” Chan said as Sue threatened to splash her cup of sugar cane juice at him.
“don’t mind him…” Sue said with a smile that came with a glare directed at the man behind me.
Bobby, Conor, Sulyani, Chan.
These are people that I have met and saved in that exact order.
I scooped a spoonful of rice into my mouth and looked at my watch.
It’scoming to 12 noon.
2 more hours before it’s going to happen.
After Sulyani and Chan, the people I came into contact with are, Spencer, Tan, Chua and Choo, who is also Sulyani’s dad.
Spencer and Chua are dead. This leaves Tan and Choo.
“Is your dad working today ? “ I asked
“Yeah… he dropped me off before picking up another fare, why do you ask ? “
“Just… just curious…”
Sulyani and I chatted over lunch. I discovered we have quite a few similarities when it comes to coffee and desserts.
The food centre is not too conducive for an extended stay, we ended up at a café a short walk away.
I kept looking at my watch during the date and it did not go unnoticed.
“am I boring you Jerry ? “ Sulyani teased.
“No, no… i… I just really need to be at the carpark before 2.15pm.”
“Wow, you’re really serious about this aren’t you…”
“it’s really hard to explain…”
Sulyani drained her coffee and gestured towards the exit.
“Well, show me then.”
At 1.30pm, we made our way to the carpark at block 11A. Heading up to level 3B, I could see that it’s pretty much empty with exception of a delivery van parked at the end.
Sulyani rest her hands on her hips and looked at me as if asking me what’s next.
“There’s still some time before 2.15pm”
Pointing to the only vehicle on that level, Sulyani asked if I have some surprise waiting for her.
“ Jerry, just to let you know…. Balloons, flowers and picnic basket surprise from the back of a car on the 1st date will feel weird…”
I laughed and told her I prepared nothing of that sort.
“but if that’s what you like, I’m sure I can think of something.”
“Oh please don’t…” She laughed. “ ok whatever, I want the balloons to be in pink.”
Our laughs were cut off by the screech of a vehicle’s wheels from a level up. This was followed by the revving of it’s engine.
Checking my watch, I could see it’s 1.45pm.
30 more minutes to go.
The screeching of the tyres continued and the sound of the car came closer.
Gesturing for Sulyani to step away from the approach of the vehicle, I braced myself for what is about to happen. The car sounded like it’s going too fast in a carpark.
I cursed under my breath the moment I saw the Mercedes come into view. That’s Bobby’s car.
Grabbing Sulyani’s hand I told her to start running down the carpark.
I heard the Mercedes sound it’s horn several times as it sped up in the carpark.
“what’s happening ? what’s happening ? “ Sulyani asked.
“I’ll explain later !”
Conor has wind down the passenger side window and he is shouting at us.
Sulyani and I reached the ground floor in no time since the dog legged ramp do not allow vehicles to take the same stack up and down. Vehicles need to travel to the other end of the carpark to descend or come up.
Still, Bobby drove really fast, his vehicle’s tyres screeching angrily in the carpark.
They’re probably fucking mad at what I did to them. Cutting across the carpark towards the barrier, Sulyani and I came face to face with a taxi turning into the carpark.
The cab slammed it’s brakes and blared it’s horn the same time Bobby’s vehicle screeched to a stop behind us.
Bobby and Conor came out of the old Mercedes but before I could figure out what to do, the cab driver came out of his vehicle and I felt my legs go weak.
Choo is the cab driver.
The passenger side of the cab opened up too and Tan looked at me with a puzzled frown. He recognised me.
“Everything ok ? “ A voice came from our rear.
It was Chan.
He arrived with his fiancé by his side.
“Why are you surrounded Sue ? “ Chan asked defensively while looking at the 2 vehicles and 4 men around his colleague.
“why are you running bro ? “ Conor directed the question at me.
“What are you doing here Sue ? “ Choo asked his daughter.
Sulyani looked at me but the commotion at the carpark interrupted by a loud slam that made everyone turned.
No one said a word as all eyes looked silently at the body that just fell from above.
I was frozen when I stood as I looked at the body with a gut wrenching feeling in my stomach.
“fuck…” Sulyani cursed and as professionals, Chan and her are the first to react.
Chan already has his phone out to call for an ambulance while Sulyani is looking up the carpark to try and see if there’s anyone above. She lowered her body and tried to talk to the man on the floor without touching him.
A crowd is starting to gather as I stared at the body in a trance.
Forcing myself to move, I took a step forward.
The man is lying face down.
Raising my hand to check the time, it’s not 2.15pm yet.
As I got closer, I saw the walking stick. I saw the tissue packets.
That’s not Hock Chuan.
That’s Ah Fu.
There’s still time.
I backed away from the crowd and I could see Conor gesturing to me.
“Hey, hey bro, I need to talk to you… I need to talk to you…! “ He didn’t sound like he was angry or out to get revenge.
I told him to give me a minute as I ran back up to 3B. Then I went up to 4th, to 4B and on to the rest of the carpark to see if I could see Hock Chuan.
He’s not anywhere.
Arriving at 3B, nothing changed. Still empty except that delivery truck parked in the corner. I decided to keep running up. Coming to the top floor, I covered my mouth when I was an old lady in wheelchair parked by the parapet near the spot where Ah Fu jumped.
At her feet are two packets of uneaten lunch.
Her hands are on her lap and her head is down.
Approaching her slowly, I called out.
“Auntie…hello Auntie… ? you ok ? “
She’s not moving.
With a trembling hand, I put my finger close to her nose. She’s no longer breathing.
I looked over the parapet and saw Sulyani looking up. She called me on my mobile and I told her about the lady in the wheelchair. She’s got to be Ah Fu’s mother.
“The ambulance is on their way….what is happening Jerry ?“ She asked.
Right then, the alarm on my watch starts beeping.
Turning around, I braced myself for another surprise but there is none.
Aside from the beeping on my watch, there is nothing else.
“I don’t know Sue… I don’t know… I just saw this man this morning at the market… I … I bought tissues from him and I treated him coffee…”
“Is this the man you are supposed to save ?” She asked.
The beeping on my watch stopped as I saw the digital display changed to 2.16pm
“No… it’s not him.”
Making my way back down the ramp, I paused again at 3B.
My eyes went to the delivery van parked at the corner.
I walked over to the vehicle cautiously.
From the passenger side window, I could see a stack of newspaper on the passenger seat.
I saw a packet of cigarette on the dashboard that is the same brand I know Hock Chuan smokes.
The goods area behind the driver is separated with a wire mesh. I made my way to the driver side and tried to peer into the back of the van.
Then I saw him.
He’s right there all along.
At the back of the vehicle, leaning lifelessly against a stack of newspaper.
Looking at the lifeless body of Hock Chuan, I backed away slowly from the vehicle. My breathing starts to get irregular. The amount of shock I received within the past hour is stretching my ability to cope with news like these to it’s limits.
My legs refused to support my weight and I find myself lowering to the ground as I tried to catch my breath.
Maybe he’s just sleeping, maybe he is taking a break. Maybe he’s just fucking with me to see my reaction.
Holding onto a wall for support, I got back up and tried the door handle.
The door opened, fear striking deeper into my heart when I realized Hock Chuan remained motionless.
Swinging the door opened, I called out to Hock Chuan.
“Oei… Hock Chuan…. Oei… don’t play ah….Hock Chuan…! “
He didn’t move nor acknowledge me. His head is looking downwards like he was taking a nap while slumped against a stack of newspaper. In his right hand is an empty bottle while his left held the keys to the van.
“Oei… Hock Chuan.!” I raised my voice but there is still no reply.
I took a deep breath and reached forward to his face. Placing my fingers under his nose, I realized he is no longer breathing. Touching the side of his neck, I checked for a pulse and there is none.
I backed away and mustered up enough strength to shut the door.
The moment the vehicle door slid shut, I literally sat on the ground, hurting my bum as I groaned loudly in despair.
How the hell did things come to this state ?
First it was Spencer and Chua, 2 men dying on the same day.
Now it’s Hock Chuan, Ah Fu & his mother. A total of three.
How many will the next time bring ?
I forced myself to get up and continued backing away from the truck.
I backed away until I reached the stairs. I have never felt my legs go weak before and having my legs buckled upon taking the 1st step made me glad there are railings for me to hold on to.
Instead of taking the stairs, I pulled myself up and head for the lift that serves the carpark. I need to calm down and think.
When the lift door opened, I saw something familiar on the lift floor. It’s the bag of tissues and napkins that Ah Fu was carrying earlier at the market.
There is a buzzing sound coming from it.
I opened the recyclable bag and I saw a phone with a cracked screen. It’s still working despite the spider web like shatter on the top left.
Someone is calling the phone and it’s a private number.
The lift went down to level one as I picked up and answer the call.
“why you take so long to answer ? “ the voice said. “ you do blind massage one right ? tonight 10.30pm…Lorong 22 Geylang. Gulliemard suites..#04-04.”
“Ah Biao recommend you to me one… you need fast cash right… then come at 10.30pm….very fast job..walk 2 street away only..”
“No I mean…Ah Biao..?”
“You better come ah. 10.30pm….don’t fucking waste my time….” The voice said and hung up.
The lift opened on the ground floor and I looked at the phone in my hand. This is not random. This happened for a reason.
If I am to believe that this is somehow connected with everything and everyone that has died so far, surely this phone call did not happen by chance.
I pocketed the phone and checked the bag for other clues that may have been left for me. Finding none, I left the bag as it is and made my way back to the gathered crowd. I went straight for Conor.
He was smoking beside Bobby and they saw me approached them.
I want to know why they are here.
“OYYY! You… hey…!” Conor called out to me with his cigarette holding hand raised.
“why are you here ? Why are you here today ? “ I asked. “why are you with him ? Aren’t you just collecting money from him ? “
The both of them looked surprised at my sudden outburst.
Conor asked me to calm down and he told me what happened after I left the carpark on that day of the collection.
After the debt was paid, Conor could not help asking why Bobby is laughing so hard when he was so angry and confrontational. Bobby told him what he was saying and cleared up the translation on the spot.
Initially Conor was hopping mad but after thinking about it, he too had a good laugh.
His colleague from the debt collection company arrived after sorting out the accident and he was unhappy that Conor succeeded in the collection without him, cutting his share of the commission out.
An argument ensued and Bobby, offered Conor a job on the spot.
The two of them have been working together ever since and business has never been better.
“What you did was fuck up man.” Bobby said to me.” But as a businessman, I believe in fate…. And Conor…helped turned things round for me.”
Bobby’s business improved after he hired Conor and he is now exporting stuff to Ireland. They’re expanding and doing well enough to start giving back to society.
He credits it to the lucky staff he hired thanks to that evening.
Everything has been smooth sailing for him ever since meeting Conor. Even bad debts that he did not think will ever be repaid were cleared.
“We’re here today to distribute groceries to the needy together with other volunteers.” Conor said. “ Then we saw you…and I don’t know why you started running…. Must be the guilt eh…”
Bobby pulled out a name card and gave it to me.
“This is my card. I’m in logistics and furniture now with Conor…if you ever need to move things about, call me….” Bobby said. “I have a huge warehouse, you need to store your stuff while moving, let me know too.”
I looked at the card Bobby gave me and Conor started cursing at me.
“Hey…by the way…” Conor called out to me.” Diu Lei ah. ( screw you in Cantonese ), that was for fucking with my Hokkien… you CCB ( you cunt ).
I was left speechless as I looked at Conor belt out the curses like he was a native speaker.
“Just kidding bro.” Conor smiled and tapped me on my arm.” You’re a life changer man… if not for you fucking with me, I might still be trying to collect debt and getting pushed over… Li Si Yan Dao ah. ! ( you’re handsome ) haha“
Bobby and Conor extinguished their fag and started to walk back into their car which is now parked by the side of the small road.
Turning around, I saw Sulyani and Chan talking intently before looking my way.
Heading over to Choo and Tan, I saw Choo helping Tan unload some boxes from the boot of his cab to the side of the road.
“Jerry…. Hope my daughter never give you any trouble…” Choo said.
“Ah Choo…. This guy seeing your daughter ? Your daughter got people want ah ? “ Tan the cleaner at Kovan chirped in.
“of course my daughter got people want… what nonsense are you talking about ? chey…“
Looking at the both of them, I asked if they knew each other.
Choo laughed and said they are neighbors.
“We stayed in the same estate in Hougang for decades.” Choo added.
After dropping Sulyani off for her date with me, Choo picked up other passengers which brought him back to Hougang. He was considering stopping for a quick lunch when he bumped into Tan who wants to bring some old appliances to his friend’s place at block 10.
“So I gave him a lift here.” Choo said.
My head feels a little lightheaded. It’s like a dream and everything is so surreal as the picture start to come together.
I walked over to Sulyani and Chan like an adventurer looking for NPC characters to talk to. The more people I talk to, the bigger the picture that is forming in my head.
“ You know Jerry…. I was right when I say trouble seems to follow you around.” Sulyani said.
“I… I don’t know what to say…”
“Well….….shit happens…” Sulyani said while shrugging her shoulder and commenting that the whole situation is just so sad.
The ambulance, the police, the reporters, they all came.
I was praying no one will realise there is a missing phone and my prayers were answered soon after.
All of Ah Fu and his mother’s belongings were intact. The phone in the bag must be a spare phone.
Some neighbours revealed that Ah Fu regularly brings his mother to the roof top of the carpark for some sun and they will have lunch under the sheltered area.
Her passing on must have hit him hard, not forgetting he just lost his brother a short while ago.
After giving my statement about what happened, I was free to go with Sulyani.
I was pretty distracted when Sulyani was talking to me and she could tell.
“You ok ? you seemed pretty shakened…” She said.
“Yeah… first time seeing someone jump…”
I did not tell anyone about Hock Chuan, because I don’t know how to.
There’s no way I can explain it without me looking suspicious. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.
If I tell someone there is a body in a truck on level 3B, they will surely want to know how I came across that information. If I don’t tell anyone, I’m also riddled with the guilt of leaving Hock Chuan alone in that vehicle.
I could come clean with everything from the newspaper to the fortune teller, but by then the authorities will need to decide if I should go to jail or a mental institution.
As I walked with Sulyani to the train station, I was trying to think of a way how to report Hock Chuan’s death.
“come, I’ll recommend a place for dinner…it should take your mind off these unpleasant stuff.” Sulyani said.
We took a train and did a bit of walking before ending up at Arab street. Sulyani brought me to this nice Kebab café. We talked more than we ate. I found out that Sulyani has applied for a transfer from her current position to go into another team.
“I applied together with Chan and he was telling me earlier we both got in.”
“What team is that ? how different is the job scope ? “
“I can’t tell you… it’s secret.” She said with a grin as she dipped her bread into some olive oil. “super exciting stuff.”
“Will I see you on crime watch telling people to be careful of scams and stuff ? “
“hahahaha.” Sulyani chuckled and brushed her hair behind her fringe while straightening her back. “Do I have that crime watch look ? “
“Of course…” I replied and we both laughed as Sulyani did an impression of saying good evening to the audience.
We talked about my work next and I told her my job is boring compared to hers.
“The most dangerous part of my job is probably getting stung by a bee or stepping on an ant’s nest.” I said while sipping my drink. “maybe get chase by the swans occasionally at work.”
“don’t say that, I think it’s interesting. I don’t mind working with plants.. I love gardening… I have a pot of basil along the corridor..”
“A pot of Basil…” I said and gave her a ‘meh’ expression. “Is it still alive ? “
“I hope so, I haven been paying much attention to it for a month now.” Sulyani laughed and I find myself staring at her expression. Her smile is so mesmerizing.
She was the one who brought up the subject of past relationships and I admitted that I don’t have much luck in that department.
“No way !…are you gay Jerry ? “
“Of course not..!”
“Looking the way you do, I’m surprised you are single… you’re not two timing or anything right ? “
“No no no… I’m.. I’m just a boring guy…. And… I don’t know… people get bored around me…”
“I was still afraid you will say people die around you…” Sulyani joked and it took me a couple of seconds before I caught on to the joke.
Sulyani was in two previously relationship before but both didn’t work out.
“why ? “
“Personality difference I guess ? “ She said while scooping a piece of ice into her mouth and started chewing on it.” 1st guy is on drugs… I didn’t know that until I found out by accident….2nd one is just a asshole…”
“so I’m number 3 ? “ I asked with a grin.
“too early to tell Jerry. Hahha.”
We finished our meals and I could see the sky is about to pour soon.
Sulyani’s phone started buzzing and it was Choo. The whole ‘dad want to pick up daughter after her first date with a guy’ scenario starts to play out in front of me.
I could tell Sulyani is embarrassed but she tried to keep her cool when mentioning that her dad is around the corner.
“He’s ermm.. going to pick me up…” Sulyani said while avoiding eye contact. “so you won’t need to send me back..”
“that’s so nice of him..”
Sulyani gave me a raised eyebrow and said I’m the first guy to ever say that. The others usually teased her about being a daddy’s girl.
“Your father is the 1st man to ever love you, the 1st to ever carry and hug you…he’s the only one you can be sure of that will love you till he draws his last breath…there is nothing wrong with being a Daddy’s girl…” I said matter of factly.
Sulyani stared at me with her mouth slightly apart as she took in what I just blurted out.
“wow… did you rehearse that ? “
“No…I just spoke what is on my mind.” I replied.
She took a napkin and used her straw to dip into chilli sauce, using it as a makeshift pen, she wrote a ‘+10’ and flashed it to me.
“That’s bonus points Jerry…haha… you are one step closer to being number 3.. “
We laughed and it wasn’t long before I saw the flash of headlights from a approaching taxi pulling up to us.
I stood up and said hi to Choo who eyed us with a smile.
“do you need a lift Jerry ? “ he asked.
“No its ok… I’m fine…I’ll leave Sue in your hands now…” I said while opening the door for her.
Sue did a little curtsy before stepping into the taxi. Immediately, she hugged Choo and declared her love for him much to his surprise.
Choo gave me a wide eyed bewildered look and I shut the door. As the taillight of the taxi disappeared around the corner, I received a text from Sulyani thanking me for dinner.
‘Really enjoyed the company and exciting first date. Look forward to our 2nd one.!’
‘Me too !’
I replied and got a smiley face emoji in return.
Time check, it’s 9.30pm.
The sky is in an angry shade of red and I could see lightning in the distance.
Pulling out Ah Fu’s phone, there are no missed calls and messages. I looked though the phone’s history. There are nothing in the messages or in the contact list. There are some pictures but they don’t make sense. Mostly are badly taken shots of food and signages.
I walked into a convenience shop around the corner and picked out a pair of sunglasses. I’ll need a guide stick.
My eyes darted to the private hospital further down the road and I quickly made my way to the pharmacy just before it shuts. I picked out a folding cane and paid for it.
I got into a taxi and directed it back to block 11A. The carpark.
From the carpark, it’s a 5 minutes walk to the address.
I could have gone straight to the address in the taxi but I’m afraid it would give away the game that I’m actually not visually impaired.
Opening up google map again, I orientated myself to the development and I could see a large section of it faces the main road that I will have to cross from my side of the street. There’s a high chance that the man who called Ah Fu’s phone will be watching my every move from crossing the street right up to his front door.
Then there is also the issue of my personal belongings. My wallet, money, phone, cash, all these are dead giveaways that I’m not Ah Fu.
It’s too late for me to head back home.
Looking at the carpark, I know there is a place where I can put my things.
Inside Hock Chuan’s vehicle.
It’s got to be the dumbest idea ever, leaving your identifications in a vehicle with a dead body you can’t explain. However, given the time and the situation, that’s my best shot.
It’s unlikely anyone will go around trying each vehicle door to see who forgets to lock their vehicle, and even if they do try, the sight of a dead body is enough to freak any petty thief out.
Making my way up to 3B, I could see the carpark has more vehicles now, most residents around the estate have come home for the day. I opened the sliding door and this time round, Hock Chuan’s body did not disturb me that much.
Looking at his peaceful expression, I found the moment surreal and humbling.
At the end of the day, death comes to all of us. The only difference is when and how.
I bundled up my belongings into a plastic bag I found inside the van, half wondering if Hock Chuan left it there for me. I tucked the bundle into a corner and closed the door.
With only Ah Fu’s phone and $10 in my pocket, I put on the sunglasses and extended the cane I bought. Taking a deep breath, I walked towards the lift.
I don’t know how it’s like to be visually impaired but wearing a pair of shades at night, I might as well be walking with my eyes closed. I could still make out where I’m going, and I just reminded myself to go slower.
I should not be walking that fast.
The development I am supposed to go to soon came into view and I could feel my heart beat faster. Inside my head, the rational side of my is screaming.
‘what the fuck do you think you are doing ? ‘
I’m satisfying my curiosity. That’s what I’m doing.
Things happen for a reason.
As I got closer to the busy junction, I saw the tactile flooring that has been installed on the ground to guide the visually impaired. I felt my way over and a Malay teenager saw me about to head towards the zebra crossing.
Looking too young to have a cigarette in his hand, he picked up his pace and raised his hand at the approaching cars.
“Bro, zebra crossing bro…”
“oh… thank you… thank you…” I said as he took a puff of his cigarette while crossing the narrow turn with me.
At the main traffic light, I could hear the audible beeping of the signal. It’s been there all along and I’ve never understood the importance of it. The lights turned green and the beeping turned into a rapid throb. I started to make my way across the large junction, pretending to feel my way while looking at the dozens of windows and balcony in front of me.
The man that called Ah Fu is probably staring at me from one of those.
The teenager helped me cross one more zebra crossing and I asked him if Gulliemard suites is near me.
“it’s right in front of you… I don’t know where’s the entrance though.”
“Ok. Thank you… thank you…”
He walked away and I saw him wave to his friends down the alleyway.
I paused and thought of what I should do. I can see the fucking entrance to the development but should I walk straight to it as if I knew it’s on my right or should I pretend to head towards the side gate on my left.
Will my acting be too over if I tried to show my helplessness?
In the end, I decided to turn right and go for the main gate. Tapping and feeling my way, I was about to reach the main entrance when I saw a bespectacled man come out. He walked purposefully towards me, I could see him staring at me and I forced myself to continue tapping and swinging the cane.
He might be the guy who contacted Ah Fu.
I must not know he is coming because I can’t see.
He walked right passed me but not before looking at me closely. I continued moving and the man doubled back.
Parking himself a few meters in front of me, I could tell he is determined to make me walk right into him. He wants to make sure I cannot see.
My cane hit his foot and I slowed down but I still came too close. I wanted to apologized but I stopped myself in the nick of time. If I can’t see, I won’t know I hit a person or an obstacle.
Swinging the cane and tapping it about, I tried to feel for a way around when the man suddenly spoke. I recognized the voice right away. It’s the voice on the phone.
“Hey Ah Fu..” He said.
“huh…. You…. Who are you… ? “ I replied.
“I’m Terry…. Ah Biao recommended you…”
“Come, I bring you up…” He said.
Terry led the way and I kept telling myself to slow down. Every ramp, every step, I made sure I tapped and felt it with the cane. Terry never stopped looking at me and he never offered any help.
“you looked… pretty well dressed…” Terry commented.
“This is my best set of clothes…a volunteer gave it to me… I went on a tour with the resident committee earlier…we took a bus to…”
“ok… ok… ok… I’m not interested…shut up..” He said.
I got into the lift and he hit level 4.
Terry waved his hands a couple of times in front of my face. Then I saw him position his body for a swing. I saw it coming a split second before he did it. He’s going to punch me.
If I blocked, I would have given the game away, if I don’t, I’m going to get my face smashed in.
What Hock Chuan said to me that morning suddenly came crashing into my head.
‘Choosing not to see what is in front of me is necessary.’
I gritted my teeth and braced my body for the hit.
Terry’s punch stopped barely an inch from my nose and I was trying hard not to shake. I coughed a couple of times to hide my nervousness and Terry quickly withdrew his fist.
The lift opened and Terry walked out silently.
I remained inside the lift because it did not come with a audio announcement that it’s level 4.
“Come out la, waiting for what ?” Terry snapped.
He asked me how long I have been massaging for people.
I don’t know Ah Fu’s massage skills and resume. Working my way back to his brother’s death a few months ago, I lied that I have a few months of experience.
“I do mainly foot massage… I’m still trying to get good at full body.” I said. “ But I assure you, it will be comfortable for you…”
Terry stopped outside his unit and looked at me from top to toe.
“How did you lose your eyes? “ He asked.
“childhood illness…delayed treatment and everything just went south..i think I lost it before I turned 10.” I lied, amazed at the bullshit I can come up with. “Don’t worry, I don’t need to see to give you a massage.”
Terry unlocked the door to his unit.
“You’re not massaging me today… you’re massaging someone else.”
I entered the really nice done up house complete with burning incense smoke like you just entered a high-end spa.
The door shut behind me and suddenly, I have this dreadful foreboding feeling.
Terry walked to the dining table and removed his phone and wallet. I then watched him pull out a knife from his back.
Ok, fuck this, if he comes at me with that knife, I’m out.
Terry held onto the knife and stared at me without a word while I remained in the living room.
My heart was pounding. My shoes are still on. I’ll have the element of surprise if Terry decides to come at me.
Then he put the knife down and called out.
“The shoe cabinet is on your right, remove your shoes then come into the room.”
Shit, he’s going to kill me in the room, but then he’s not bringing the knife.
My bladder felt as if it was going to burst as I removed my shoes. Tapping with the cane, I followed Terry’s voice towards the room he is waiting in.
The room lights are on and there is a woman lying on the bed in her lingerie.
“You’re going to be massaging my wife Ah Fu..” Terry said “ She has a really stiff back…..don’t you honey … ? ”
Just when I thought this is going to turn out to be some weird cuckold massage fantasy roleplay between husband and wife, I saw something that immediately dismissed that possibility.
“hi…. Hi Madam…” I said as I got closer, forcing myself to spit out the words.
Terry folded his arms and sat down on the dresser table.
“My..my name is Ah Fu…i..”
“Just start with her legs…” Terry snapped. “you can call her Lisa…don’t be shy..”
I folded my cane and set them down on the floor.
The wardrobes and drawers looked like they have been ransacked. The photos on the bedhead and table belongs to that of a beautiful woman.
Someone in her late twenties give and take.
“do you have body oil or lotion?” I asked Terry.
He hesitated before randomly picking one from the dresser table and handing it to me.
I’ve never felt this level of fear and nervousness before.
It’s worse than seeing Ah Fu jump, definitely worse than seeing Ah Fu’s mother slumped over her wheelchair.
It even beats seeing Hock Chuan in his vehicle.
My hand landed on the bed as I reluctantly move towards the 4th dead person I’m seeing that day.
Yes she’s dead.
And I have no fucking idea why Terry wants me to massage her.
Lisa’s eyes are opened and I could not tear my eyes away from the tightly wound scarf around her neck. The colours are gone in her cheeks and she looks pale, not that I should be able to tell.
I’m blind remember ?
She must be dead for a while. It’s unbelievable the kind of shit I am capable of getting myself into.
“Can I have a stool to sit on ? “ I asked Terry and he handed me the small chair in front of the dresser.
I positioned it at the front end of the bed and sat down slowly.
I pretended to feel for Lisa’s feet on the bed before I touched her left foot. It’s cold and stiff. Something that I figure should not go unnoticed especially if I have done proper massage before.
If I don’t voice it out, I might look like an absolutely noob.
“Mdm… your feet is really cold… are you feeling ok ? “ I asked while feigning innocent. “you should really sleep with natural ventilation…air conditioning is not good for you in the long run..”
Squeezing an inch of the lotion on my palm, I rubbed the lotion on my hand before I reached for Lisa’s feet. The skin feels weird and rubbery. There is none of the warmth you feel from touching another living breathing human.
I started praying that her feet will be all that is required for me to massage.
“I forgot to tell you… my wife… ermm…she’s had a bit of an accident… so her legs are a bit stiff…can’t walk properly…” Terry lied.
Applying the lotion over Lisa’s feet, I used my thumb and tried to replicate what I remembered was done for me during my previous foot massage session.
Terry continued staring at me and I tried to strike up a conversation with the dead Lisa.
“You should exercise more Mdm… blood circulation is not ideal… you should move about more often…” I spoke while pretending to be pressing some spots that are connected to nerve endings.
Terry spoke for Lisa again, saying that she’s quite tired after a long day.
“Is it true you can tell a person’s health from her foot ? “ Terry asked.
“For the more experienced therapist, they can… I’m still learning…” I said as I continued rubbing the lifeless body.
This officially tops the list for the sickest thing I’ve ever done. While trying to keep my expression neutral, I was in fact, in the verge of throwing up.
Terry checked his phone and I saw him tying something into it.
Then, he pretended to talk to Lisa.
“What was that honey ? Or… ok… sure…sure… I’ll let him know..” Terry said while eyeing me from the corner of his eye.
“Ah Fu…. Sorry ah…. My wife don’t feel so good… she wants you to stop… but don’t worry…. I’ll still pay you…”
“Oh…I’m sorry Mdm if I didn’t go a good job…I’m still learning…”
“Don’t worry…women all like these…. Change their mind often…” Terry pulled out 4 fifty dollar bills and stuffed them into my hand.
I pretended to feel it for a second before exclaiming that’s too much for a massage.
“yeah…it’s too much for a massage, but not too much for a short trip down the street Ah Fu… “ Terry said. “Ah Biao say you won’t ask questions..”
I scrunched up the notes and nodded.
I don’t know what trip and what street he is talking about, but it seemed like he wants me to go somewhere.
Looking at me for a second, Terry asked if I could remove my sunglasses and my heart rate started racing.
“wh…why ? “ I asked.
“Just curious how your eyes look like…”
I tried to act casual and removed my glasses while focusing on a single spot. I lowered my eyelid partially to make it seem like my eyes are not normal.
“why are you eyelids twitching ? “ He asked.
“they are always twitching… I have a bit of muscle problem around there..” I spat out another round of bullshit. “ this is why I wear glasses, it makes people uncomfortable..”
Terry walked in front of me and stared right into my eyes. My bladder is on the verge of bursting as I forced myself to stare straight. I must not meet his stare.
In fact I was beginning to tear a little as Terry paced about in front of me.
Satisfied with his request, Terry turned away from me and I was about to put my glasses back on when I remembered I should not be able to know when he is done.
I pretended to call out for him.
“Hello..? you there ? “
“yeah.. yeah…you can put your glasses back on..”
Terry opened Lisa’s wardrobe and he seemed to be looking for something. Whatever it is that he needs me to deliver, it must be crucial that I’m blind. He doesn’t want me to see it.
“Can I use your toilet ? “ I asked not just because I needed to pee, it’s because I could feel my dinner on the verge of exploding out of my stomach.
“Sure… it’s the door behind you….” Terry said without looking at me.
Not wanting to give anything away, I stretched out my hands and soon felt the door frame of the door leading to the master bath. I was still thinking how I can mask the sound of me puking when the door swung opened to reveal another surprise.
I almost cursed out loud and I had to mask it with a spade of fake coughing.
The whole bathroom is filled with a strong scent of air freshener and disinfectant.
There is another girl in the bathtub and she is not alone.
Lying face down in the tub, the girl did not seem like she is alive. Another man still covered with blood stains sat on the window sill beside the bathtub with his feet stepping on the body in the tub. In his hand, he held a what appears to be a small saw that is also covered with blood splatters.
It took all I had in me not to scream at the sight as the man stared quietly at me. Shutting the door, I did not lock it in case I need to get out fast. The man eyed me suspiciously as my hands felt for the sink, the toilet roll and the toilet seat.
Suppressing my puke, I reluctantly removed my pants and lowered them. Sitting down on the toilet seat, my pee came out strong and fast without urging. In fact I was on the verge of peeing in my pants.
The urine stream lasted only about 15 seconds but it felt like forever.
I took a deep breath and tried to control my breathing to calm down.
If he wanted me dead, he would have struck immediately. Instead, he is just staring at me quietly without moving. He wants to remain hidden. Through my shades, I looked at the man’s features, his height, what he is wearing, trying to remember as much as I could.
After I’m done peeing, I stood up and pulled my pants back on before feeling for the flush button.
Quickly washing my hands, I felt for the door handle and stepped back into the bedroom.
Terry looked behind me into the bathroom before asking if I’m ok.
“All good Ah Fu ? Stomachache ar ? Nervous ? haha “
“No…no… I’m ok…”
“Your friend Ah Biao so comfortable now… make big money already… relax…work for me…I confirm you will be comfortable…don’t need to rely on handouts.” Terry said as he thrust a waist pouch into my hands.
“relax Ah Fu…. Ah Biao say you all got collect money and move cigarettes before….this is nothing….people like you are invisible…” Terry said as he asked me to follow him out of the room.
The bag felt pretty heavy. 3-4kg by my estimates.
He asked me to wait by the dining table and I saw him walk to the freezer. Taking a package out, he added that to the bag I was to deliver.
“about 3 streets down, Lorong 14…. Walk in… someone will come for you..” Terry said as he helped me put the bag on my body.
I’m royally fucked now. I don’t know what is in that bag but I can probably guess.
High chance it’s drugs.
If I walk out into the street and get caught with this shit, I’m dead.
“Where is Ah Biao ? “ I asked.
“He’s on holiday…make enough money already… of course go on holiday right.. ? “ Terry said while nudging me out of the bedroom.
I told myself to remain calm as Terry led me to his door.
“I won’t follow you now Ah Fu…. Can you make your way there… ? I’ll get my friend to keep a look out for you…”
“yes… yes I can…”
I tapped my way to the lift lobby and felt for the button. Unsure if Terry is still looking at me, I didn’t dare to turn around. When I heard the lift open, I shuffled inside and again, took my time to feel for the ground floor button.
Terry’s main door is closed but there’s no way of knowing if he’s peeping through the view finder.
Holding my breath until the lift door shut, I cursed out loudly the moment it starts to descend.
Opening the fanny pack, I saw 3 bags of white powdery substances in it. There’s also a bag of pills and some round aluminum balls. Right at the bottom, there is also something tightly wrapped with cling wrap but I could not make out what it is. It felt cold to the touch, that must be what Terry just removed from the fridge.
“Fuck… fuck… fuck !” I cursed as the lift came down to level 1.
It’s too late to turn back now.
I zipped up the bag and the moment the lift door opened, I tapped my cane and started to feel my way out of the development. As I exited the gate, I could feel Terry’s eyes on me as I walked.
He’s probably spying on me from above.
Perhaps it’s the guilty conscience, I find myself walking a bit too slowly. A police car slowed down for the turn into a side street and my heart almost stopped beating.
Forcing myself to continue with the delivery, I saw another 2 police officers talking to a table of uncles drinking beer and just chilling out for the evening.
Everywhere I turned and looked, I see cameras, I see people looking at me. Even faded anti-crime posters on the walls of the buildings spooked me.
Dead bodies, drug smuggling, I’m dead. I’m going to die real soon.
This must be why Suwen said she saw me cry after looking at the date on the piece of paper.
Approaching the street where I was to make the delivery, a man came out of the shadows and started coming towards me. He looked around the vicinity before walking up to my side.
“Don’t stop Ah Fu… keep walking…” He said.
Approaching one of the legal whore houses, the man put his arms around my shoulder and led me into the property.
I’ve never been inside one of this place before. I’ve heard stories and read articles describing what is it like inside but have never mustered up enough courage to check one out. If I did, I probably won’t still be a virgin at my age.
Stepping in, I could see the colourful neon lights and the large glass panel with stools behind it. This must be the fish tank everyone talks about.
I was expecting to see girls sitting behind the glass with number tags on them but it’s empty. There isn’t a pimp behind the small reception counter either.
There is a strong smell of incense burning and I could hear some chanting being played from a speaker in a language I don’t understand.
The man nudged me towards the back of the house before taking the waist pouch from me.
“wait here…” He said.
He went on to make a call, presumably to Terry.
The spot I’m standing in is right beside a small kitchen.
There is a small dining table beside me and I noticed 6 container boxes of packed food. Looking around without moving my head too much, It doesn’t look like there is anyone around here aside from the man who led me in.
Not on the ground floor at least. They might be on level 2.
Beside the kitchen counter, there is an old aluminum door. A relic from the past supported only by the hinges on the side. A door like this comes with a sizable gap between the bottom of the door and the ground itself.
What caught my attention was the shadows. There’s light coming from inside that room and the moving shadows tells me there is someone in there.
The man appeared suddenly and asked me to take a seat.
“I need 10 minutes… you sit here first… don’t move around “
He guided me to a chair by the dining table and poured me a glass of water.
“Here, wait for me here. I will be right back in a while.” He said.
The man walked away and I could hear his heavy footsteps going up to level 2. The sound insulation between floors are terrible. I heard the loud creak of a door opening before it slammed shut above.
I held still for a couple of seconds before I cautiously got up. I touched the packed food on the table and realized the takeaway packets are empty except for the last packet. Unless that man could finish 5 packets of food, there must be someone else around here.
Lifting up the bag, I touched the bottom of the full pack and it still feels a little warm.
I saw movements under the aluminum door and quickly returned to my seat. I turned around to face it, eager to see who will emerge.
After a couple of minutes of waiting, no one came out.
However, I could still see the shadows dancing under the door. Whoever is inside is definitely moving.
I bent forward and lowered myself to the ground. Crawling towards the door, I tried to peep at what is behind that door.
My body recoiled in shock and I almost bumped into the dining table when I saw the people inside. They are all tied up on the floor.
The aluminum door is not locked, only a flimsy catch secured it to the wall beside it to keep it closed. I opened it and upon hearing the creak of the hinges, the occupants of the room jumped and started mumbling. Their mouth were gagged up, and it’s obvious they are afraid.
There are 5 men, 1 woman inside that room. The only man that is not tied up is lying face down on the ground with his hands in an awkward angle.
The woman is the only one that is blindfolded while the men are not. The men’s eyes were wandering all over the place and it suddenly struck me why they are not blindfolded.
The woman is probably the youngest of the lot in her mid-twenties. Dressed in a pair of dirty shorts and t-shirt, she looked like she has not showered in a couple of days.
Beneath the messy and oily hair, I could tell she is quite pretty.
With her hands tied up behind her and her ankles bound, she kept struggling to try and shift her body far away from the door where I’m standing.
Something is definitely going on here. These people are being kept against their will in the room. Common sense dictate that I try to do something. I could call the police and say hi to them with a few KG of drugs on me and a shitload of explanation which will see me admitted into the institute of mental health.
Or I can try to do something on my own and be the dumb smartass waist deep in shit that I’ve now become.
Looking in the kitchen, there are knives and scissors hanging freely on the dish rack. I can easily cut them free.
If these are able bodied men who can see, I have no doubts we can overpower the man and break free. However, without the gift of sight, it’s too dangerous for them.
They could walk right into a wall without knowing. Even if I were to free them all at once, how will I get them out to safety ?
Give everyone a string and ask them to hold on to it ?
My head felt like it was going to split apart. I’ll have to figure out a way to save them without exposing myself or having to explain anything to anyone.
I lowered myself to the woman and whispered in her ears.
“I’m not with them, I’m here to save you… I’ll remove the gag but please don’t shout, the man is on level 2.”
The woman nodded her head and I removed her blindfold and gag at the same time.
Iquickly put a finger to my lips.
She took a couple of seconds to register that I’m not her captor and started begging me to save her.
“they got you here to deliver things too ? is it ? are you done ? are you going to leave…? “ The woman fired off her question rapidly, the fear evident in her eyes.
“yes.. yes.. I brought something here…”
“you can see ? you can see ? how ? “ She asked without giving me a chance to answer her. “ they only use the blind..”
“I pretended… it’s a long story..”
“Get us out of here…. We need to go… we need to go now !” she pleaded with tears rolling down the side of her cheeks
“what is going on here?” I asked. “ Are you all drug mules too ? they make you deliver drugs before locking you up ? “
The woman shook her head vigorously.
“No… no… they are not drug dealers…no…no they are not… please…please get me out of here now..!”
“who are they… what are they doing ?”
“They are mad men… they are crazy…. Please… please save us….you need to get us out. … please…they will kill us…”
Before I could carry on my questioning, I heard the loud slam of the door from the level above.
“stay still, I need to go… I’ll come back….i promise”
“No.. no.. no.. no.. please.. please… no…don’t …don’t “ She whined in a pitiful manner and I reassured her I will get them out.
“Look at me… hey… look at me….” I whispered quickly. “ I promise… I will save all of you…”
The woman nodded and looked like she is about to break down mentally when I put back the blindfold and asked her to bite down on the gag for a bit while I figure something out.
I shut the door and quickly returned to my seat at the dining table.
The heavy footsteps came back down to level one and soon, the mysterious man appeared in the kitchen.
“I need you to go back to Terry….he forgot to pass you something..” he said.
The man walked me out of the property and lit up a cigarette.
I tapped my way back to the condominium and this time round, Terry is waiting for me on the ground floor.
“Hey Ah Fu…. Simple job right… sorry ah.. I forgot something else…” Terry said as he put a sling bag around my neck. “after this and it’s done…”
The bag felt twice as heavy this time. Whatever I’m delivering, it’s cold, probably just came from the freezer as well.
I don’t have an opportunity to open it but I could hear the crinkle of heavy plastics from the bag as I moved. The plastic is thick, closer to that of ziplock bags rather than those thin shopping bags from supermarket.
I made my way back to the same street and again, the man approached me.
Soon, I was back in the kitchen and the man helped me remove the bag from my body.
“thank you for your help Ah Fu… that’s all …. Finish your drink before you go..” he said.
The man took the cup of water he poured for me and put it in my hand. Alarm bells were going off in my head. He looked at me, waiting for me to drink.
“I’m not thirsty thank you…” I replied. “ how do I address you by the way…”
I registered the change in his expression and a switch got flicked inside me. My heart beat faster, sending blood and oxygen to my muscles. I could feel a rush inside my brain like I just got the runner’s high from clocking a few good km.
I could see his hand reaching behind his back and I got ready to defend myself if needed.
“I’m Edwin….” He replied and I could see his hand reaching deeper into his pocket.
“Oh Edwin, Thank you for the job ah… next time do contact me if you have more..” I took my cane but before I could start tapping my way towards the exit, I saw the taser he man pulled out from his back pocket.
“sure Ah Fu….no problem.”
He raised it up and I saw him grin as he stretched his hand towards my chest, thinking that I could not see what he is doing.
I grabbed his wrist before he could come close with my right hand. My left hand went for his biceps and using his own elbow swing as a lever, I swung the taser right back at Edwin. Depressing the trigger, A single line of electrical charge danced in between the 2 metal prongs as the rapid clicking from the device filled the kitchen.
A split second before I used his toy against him, I was worried I will get a shock as well but I was thankful I paid attention back in school during science class.
The voltage is grounded and grounded only by the person being electrocutred.
Kicking him in his groin, I jammed the taser in his chest before he could figure out what is going on. The moment it connected with his body, he went stiff and fell like a stiff log onto the floor. The man went into a spasm and his body kept twitching.
I backed away from him and I removed my sunglasses.
The game is up now.
There’s no need to pretend any longer.
The man is still conscious. He is trying to reach for the taser again. I grabbed it away from him and jammed it into his thigh. I heard a couple of loud thud as his head slammed onto the concrete ground. Then he stopped moving.
“fuck..” I cursed and quickly bent down to check him for a pulse.
He’s still breathing but I don’t know how long he will be out.
Not wanting to take my chances, I grabbed a scissors and quickly opened the door where the prisoners are being held.
I cut the girl free first.
“help me with the guy” I said and started to drag Edwin into the room.
The girl took a moment to come to terms with what is happening and asked if he is dead.
“No he’s still alive. We need to tie him up before he wakes….what’s your name ? how did you end up here..? ”
“I’m Daphne….i’m a social worker….ermm…it’s a long story…you ? ”
I turned and looked at her before commenting.
“Looks like you meddled in somethings you shouldn’t have outside your job scope eh…” I grunted as we dragged Edwin.
“Yeah… well…. Sort of…. Would be good if we don’t involve the police in this until I’m out of the picture…”
“I feel the same way…”
Together, we dragged the man into the room and I told the rest of the prisoners I’m getting them out once we are done with Edwin.
“Are there any others here ? “ I asked Daphne.
“There are 2 more… Terry and Larry. They went out in the morning…I don’t know when they will be back….” She said. “ There might be others out there that we don’t know of… they have a few friends around this area…”
So the guy watching me pee is Larry.
Using the zip ties in the room, we secured Edwin and I started cutting the rest of the men loose.
“is Ah Biao here..? “ I asked.
Daphne gestured to the dead blind man lying motionless on the ground.
Just when I thought we can make a break for freedom, Daphne delivered another piece of grave news.
“did you see where are the wheelchairs ? “
“what wheelchairs? “ I asked.
Daphne looked at me before turning back to 2 of the visually impaired men on the ground who have yet to get back on their feet.
My hand went to forehead and I groaned.
“their wheelchairs…. If not, how are we getting them out..?” Daphne said.
I blew out a mouthful of air as I looked around the property.
It’s a short walk to porch from the side. I steeped out to take a look at the wide open porch with a roof overhang cantilever far enough to act as a shelter for vehicles.
I could call a taxi.
Suddenly my shoulder relaxed and I turned towards the direction where carpark block 11A is. Hock Chuan’s van, the keys he’s holding, everything came rushing into my head as the pieces fell into place.
The skies opened up at that moment and started to pour.
“I have a van… but I’ll need some time to get it here…” I told Daphne.
“How long ? “
“give me 15 minutes…I’ll run as fast as I can.” I said and she nodded.
Taking off into the heavy downpour, I crossed the main road easily because traffic is light. Running as fast as my feet could manage, I arrived at Hock Chuan’s van totally drenched.
Opening the door, I took the car keys from his lifeless hand and fired up the engine.
The rain is so heavy that I have the wipers going at it’s full speed. Even there, I could barely keep the water off my windscreen.
Arriving at the property, I backed the vehicle into the porch.
When I got to the kitchen, I was horrified to see Edwin awake and the prisoners were trying to subdue him.
Daphne grabbed an old toaster from the kitchen table and slammed it 3 times on Edwin’s head before he went cold.
“go, go go, we need to go now..” Daphne hurried. “leave Ah Biao…we’ll call the police to come here after we’re out..!”
We loaded into the van and Daphne was asking why is there a dead man in the vehicle.
“It’s a long story… he committed suicide…” I said.
Daphne got into the driver seat and started the engine.
“You can drive ? “ I asked as I lifted the last man into the back.
“Of course I can drive.” She shot back.
Slamming the side door shut, I got into the passenger seat a second before Daphne floored the accelerator into the rain.
My heart is still beating at twice it’s normal rate. I turned and asked if everyone is ok in the back and they are fine.
“I need to get them all to a hospital but I cannot do it with a dead body in the car. I cant’ explain that away.” Daphne said, making turns and swerves in the heavy downpour.
“Then what? What do you want to do ? dump him ? “ I asked
“he’s your friend.?”
“Yeah.. kind of..” I replied.
“I’m sorry man… I can’t explain away a stolen van… but not a body…” Daphne stopped the vehicle suddenly and I could not see where we are.
“help me, we need to leave him.” Daphne opened her door without giving me time to consider.
Stepping out into the rain, I felt as if someone just gave me a slap across my cheek.
We’re right back behind old airport road market.
The rain seemed to be getting heavier by the minute.
“Hurry!” Daphne urged.
Together, we carried Hock Chuan’s body out of the vehicle and placed him down by the side of the vehicle.
I looked at Hock Chuan lying face up in the carpark lot.
It’s like someone has been drawing a circle on a paper all these while and finally the lines have met and the circle is complete.
Looking at my watch, it’s now 31st December 2018.
It’s 1am in the morning.
62 year old Hock Chuan is now lying face up in the carpark lot.
No one murdered him and left him there.
I put him there.
End of season 1