Story by Lee Su Min

I stood outside an old prison in Lourdes, France

Fiction: A Free Criminal

Book A

Chapter 1

I was told that unless you were a criminal you could never be jailed.

         I walked through the narrow gate and found myself right in front of a door. There was no window, so I had no idea who was inside. I had the keys to the thick cast iron door, but I still knocked before I opened, as it was my habit. I knew exactly which key to use. The door had a number: 318. The number on the key I held did not tally with that number. Nonetheless I was told that this was the key.

         I hesitated to slip the key in the large padlock keyhole as I was unsure if it would open the door. In any case, I tried. Surprisingly the catch opened with just one twist, and I was just about to close the padlock when I heard a woman’s voice. “So, you have finally come?” I pushed open the door again but still could see no one inside. The voice was distinct and in this hollow basement, the echo was loud. It could have been my imagination. I did not say a word, as I did not want to reply to an unknown source.

         I shut the door, careful to close the paddock again before I took the key out of the keyhole. No one else was with me at the time so I could not consult with anybody. I knew instinctively that some of my files were stolen and that there was a plot behind this. In the first place, why was I told not to open this door here?

         I was a prisons officer. I kept one hundred and twenty-two files in my cabinet. The file names were numbered, and I filed them in descending order. I placed File 7657008322 on top of 7657008321, and File 76570083201 was right at the bottom. Each file was linked to a criminal, but the names of the criminals were not arranged in alphabetical order. Of course, it was according to the dates on which the crime was committed. However, I was sure that some files were stolen, as some numbers were missing.

Chapter 2

         When I first started on the job, I noted the date on which File 7657008318 was created. It was 31 August 1997. I remembered the date very well, as it was the day on which The Royal Princess Diana Spencer died in a car accident. I could never meet her in person, but I quite liked her dress sense.

         In the early years of her appearance in public, her clothes were girlish and then subsequently jacket-stiff. Her hair-do was also changed in order to allow her tiara to sit on her head more securely. But right now, File 7657008318 had nothing to do with the late Royal Princess Diana.

         So today, after checking on Cell 318, I went back to my office and opened File 765700318 and found that it belonged to inmate Raymond Lai. I became a little confused. Why was there no one inside the cell? And even if it were too dark for me to spot Raymond, surely the voice I heard belonged to a woman. It was high pitch and hysteria.

         This morning I had my coffee as usual. My mug bore a picture of the Merlion.As I was sipping it I thought of adding more milk to the liquid as it seemed a little too bland. Suddenly my office door opened and Superintendent Zhang walked in.

         “Look at what I bought, try wearing these tonight,”

         I took over the paper bag from Zhang. The contents were tightly wrapped with soft tissue paper. 

         “Open it,” Zhang sounded very excited. 

         They were bras and panties, in four different colors. They were pure lace and sheer silk. They were not the ones that I would usually wear. I liked plain ones, and my wardrobe was limited to only the nuke color. What were these for? What was Zhang Tze Chong trying to do? I was quite puzzled and amused at the same time. 

         Immediately I picked up my handbag and started to walk out of the office. If Superintendent Zhang wanted to sleep with me, he should at least be decent enough to buy me dinner beforehand. I never imagined that Zhang would be interested in me since he was a married man with a gold wedding band glaring at me all the time. I was still single even though I was approaching thirty. Zhang was thirty-five.

         “Hey, freeze,” Superintendent Zhang shouted after me.

         “What do you mean by this?” I was getting rather annoyed.

         “I just want you to put yourself in the shoes of a sexy lady,” Zhang elaborated.

         “Why should I?” I was adamant.

         “Try them, you might like them,” he wasn’t deterred.

         I was furious with the proposition. I left the room. Automatically I walked towards the canteen and then directly hit for the Kopi Tiam Café. After my coffee I would go to the cells to check on my inmates.

         Over the years, I had cultivated a certain amount of affinity with the men and women in prison uniform. Prison clothes were a white top without print and an orange pants. Ours is a navy top and navy pants. So we could never be mistaken for an inmate. The uniform was particularly hot as it was made of corduroy. And if I ever wanted to resign from the prison service it would be because of this set of uniform. Frankly speaking, before I was sworn in as an officer of the prisons service, I had no idea about this.

         And then I heard a click sound. I turned around. No one was there. I had been sent to arrest accused persons before, so I was particularly sensitive to this kind of noise. It was different from the shutting of the padlocks outside the cells. In any case I wasn’t at the corridor I was in the canteen now. I continued with my coffee. 

Chapter 3

         I often went shopping. I liked shopping. My favorite shopping mall was The Paragon. There, a shop named Audrey’s Neck attracted me particularly. I went in there at least three times a week. Whenever I was at the shopping mall, I would drop by to see a man called Michael. Michael was middle aged, middle sized, and mild in temperament. He never disagreed with my choice of the stones. 

         You guessed right, I liked colored stones. He told me that diamonds were a girls’ best friend, yet I preferred the colored stones rather than the diamonds. Michael told me that diamonds were not commodities that could be traded on the market. And gold and silver were better bets to secure a girl’s heart.

         I met with Michael again. He was in a bow tie this time. “Good morning, Miss Teo,” Michael greeted me. I disliked being greeted with these two words, as “Good morning” sounded like “Good mourning” if misheard. So I gave him a toothless smile, signaling that I wasn’t pleased with him. But Michael took no notice of it. He stood, waiting for me to say something. I walked from one set of stones to the other, they all looked the same to me. Except for the settings.

         “How about this one?” He followed after me in the shop.

         “No, a little too small,” I said.

         “This one? Princess cut.” Michael tried again. 

         Inside the premises a video camera was filming me. I knew of its existence as every time I walked in, one of his colleagues would use the side door and step into the office located behind the row of shelves with the gem stones.

         After chatting for about ten minutes, I saw nothing that would interest me and I wanted to walk out of the shop, but then I did not know how to disengage Michael. I felt I had to buy something even though I knew that it wasn’t necessary. So I pointed to one item, an aquamarine and I said, 

         “Hey this is nice.” 

         “Indeed it is. This is a cluster,” 

          “Do you like this design?” He asked again.

         “Cluster?!” “Of course not.” I replied immediately.

         I was a prisons officer. Of course I knew what a cluster was.

         A cluster was a row of small units for living in, arranged in a square at the diameter. They were so small in size looking like cells in a prison house on the developers’ blue print. In the prison, we called them clusters. I was looking after Cluster D.  I knew my way around quite a bit as I walked and checked each cell twice a day. A prison was a high security place. 

         I always wondered if the prisoners were real criminals. They looked perfectly normal to me. As far as I was concerned, prisoners were harmless people, they had surrendered their lives and liberty to us officials. I always looked into the file before I went down to the cells to find out what the charges were. They ranged from: murder, robbery, theft, criminal breach of trust, and other less serious miscellaneous crimes. I had never looked after one who had been charged for murder. And I did not refer to these guys as murderer, robber, thief, or cheat, as they seemed to be accused of. To me, all men were presumed innocent unless proven guilty. 

         You were right, Cluster D housed those people who had not yet been sentenced. 

         So therefore, whenever I opened the door and found a guy missing, I assumed that he was brought to the courts for the hearing and would return. They usually did. My prisoners were never lost, although I was never given the schedule as to who was coming in or going out. I was only a gate keeper. But Cell 318 had been empty, for a long time.

         I liked my job, dull as it might be. The hours were fixed. I clocked in at 8:30 a.m., went for my lunch break at 12:30 p.m. returning at 1:30 p.m. Promptly at 6:00 p.m. I logged out of my computer, locked myself out of the office and left directly for the recreation center where I would change out of my officers’ uniform. And then I walked out through the back door of the sports complex so that no one would be able to identify me.

         Yes, my code name was “Aqua 318”. No one knew my pseudoname except Superintendent Zhang. I didn’t think that Director Inspector Sam Lam knew it too. I had never met D.I. Lam and had never requested to see him personally before. 

         The inmates ate instant noodles, and over time, I began to eat like them. This was a self-imposed assimilation. When you lived with inmates you thought like inmates, since you also breathed the same air, and ate the same food produced by their cook. I loved inmates!

Chapter 4

         When I returned to my office the next day, the parcel given to me yesterday by Superintendent Zhang was still on my desk. The tissue wrapper was still there exposing some of the lingerie. That meant that Zhang had not retracted his proposal. I thought by not accepting the parcel I had made my intentions known. What was wrong with him? I had been working here with him for more than a year and he had not made any advances towards me. We co-existed peacefully.

         And as for myself, I had more or less made up my mind on being single when I signed up with the prisons office. No one ruffled me. 

         I tore open the tissue wrapper to expose Zhang. I knew that someone was watching me. The entire premises was installed with closed-circuit television video. And my actions could be misinterpreted. I took out the lingerie one piece at a time, and then I place them against my body, the colours were red, pink, navy and black. A butterfly was attached to the right side of the strap which made it very unique.

         From where did he find them? I didn’t realise that Zhang was such a thoughtful man. Oh my Gosh! I must thank him personally. Immediately I walked out of my room to look for the man. When I arrived at his office, I was shocked to find a note stuck on the door with this message: 

         I will be away from my office from 19 December 2008 to 29 December 2008. During this time, please contact my assistant officer Lynda Teo.

         29 December. That meant that he won’t be back until after Christmas. I had to wait for another two weeks for a response. What should I do now? 

         As I walked back to my room I began to panic. Had Zhang gone back to his own wife? Did he think that I rejected him and left for good? How do I communicate my desire for him now?I had his mobile but I had never rung him on the number before. There was no need to. He was always available in the next office. And every time I thought that I had no work to do, he reappeared. I was not a criminal, but every now and then I got the feeling that Zhang was watching me.

Chapter 5

         Since Zhang went on leave from the next day I had to pick up calls that came in for Zhang. They were frequent and often I had to put the incoming calls on hold. Zhang had forwarded all his calls to me! I couldn’t get angry with him as this was the correct procedure. If he hadn’t done so, it would have been careless of him. His emails were also channelled to my account. I became very busy, as I had to do two persons’ job at the same time. Instead of logging out at 6:00 p.m. I ended up leaving past seven. I was stressed beyond comprehension. Of course there was a reason to it. I was overworked.

         The day I suddenly lost my cool was when Adrian rang. I could see that it was Adrian. All incoming callers were displayed. And after one year, I had memorised Adrian’s landline. 

         “Hello,” I always greeted callers as though I did not know who they were. My voice was loud and clear.

         “Zhang Tze Chong, you are supposed to visit Yen at his cell this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. you are late.” The person on the other line said.

         “Who is this?’ I asked, pretending that I did not know that it was Adrian. But I was sure that Adrian would know that I had Caller ID.

         “Zhang Tze Chong, you are late.” Again Adrian called me Zhang.

         PANG! I slammed the phone down.

         All my appointments were recorded on my calendar. My schedule was always prearranged.

         Besides, I was Lynda. I picked up the call and said “Hello,” twice. Surely Adrian would be able to tell that it was me A.O. Lynda and not Superintendent Zhang. Besides, Zhang was on leave and his absence was public. Why would anyone confuse me with Zhang? Was Adrian trying to do something to me? I didn’t like suggestions, and I didn’t like innuendos. If you were calling me Zhang, and Zhang wasn’t me, then you were trying to suggest that I was sleeping with Zhang. That was a serious accusation. 

         I became incensed. I stood up from my desk, opened my door and walked straight to Adrian’s office. It was located just two doors away on the opposite side of the corridor. I did not bother to knock on the door. Adrian was one rank lower than me, so I need not stand on ceremony. But no one greeted me. Adrian was not at his desk.

         Flabbergasted, I hurried down to Cluster D. Patrolling has become my way of destressing.

         I picked up my file, hurrying down to the cluster. 

Chapter 6

         Today was Christmas Eve. I could leave the office at 1:00 p.m. I refused to take leave on this day. Leave today was not counted as a half-day leave, so that even if I applied for a half-day off, the department would treat it as a full-day leave. 

         At 1:00 p.m. after I logged off, I went down to the first floor canteen. There was no crowd only a few people. I ate my usual char siewrice mixed with roast duck sauce, and I decided to add a cup of coffee from the Kopitiamman. I wanted to stay up later tonight to listen to the Christmas music and watch the festive lights fading away and then brighten up the minute they went off. It made me happy. That meant that I didn’t have to go to the seaside to lie on the sand to gaze at the stars.

         Although I had a calendar on my PC, I kept a calendar at my desk. I changed the date every evening as I was about to leave the office. And then I remembered the lingerie. I got off from my chair, I walked around, and found the bag that Zhang gave me. It was very nice, with a picture of a Christmas tree as a design. I did not feel like Christmas at all as I had completely gone off shopping. 

         Something wasn’t right. I saw that the tissue wrapper had been taken out from the shopping bag. How come the items were unwrapped? And then I proceeded to tear open the tissue paper. There was lingerie inside already. It was my lingerie. They were red, pink, baby blue and purple. Hold it, they were different colours originally. What happened? 

         Someone stole my lingerie! No, she didn’t steal it. She changed them. How could she have done a thing like that? I meant, they were MY lingerie. They began as red, pink, navy and black. And who was the culprit?

         I had no idea. The sensible thing to do now would be to report the loss. I remembered that we had a section for lodging police reports. I logged into the webpage immediately. I found the page at the Police Nationalethe French Police Force www. something. The page opened up, but it was entirely messy. Pictures of men in uniform were scattered everywhere. There was no theme to it. I looked everywhere, I couldn’t find the link. 

         As I was keying in the items, I realised that I could not say that my lingerie were lost. In the first place it was merely a difference in colour. And no one except Superintendent Zhang and I knew which colours they were. Also what could be the complaint? To lodge a complaint, I must specify that the items described as being lost belonged to me. 

         They were not the same sets as the ones when it was presented to me. But I was not the purchaser, it was a gift to me and I could swear that they were different. I wished I had taken a picture of them earlier on. I could confirm that I was not colour blind. I had taken the Highway Code before and they told me that I was normal.       

         In order to prove legal possession, I repacked the lingerie, put them properly in the paper bag, to bring them home. If I could bring the items out of the office back home without being questioned I must be the owner. Frankly speaking, I was not at all turned on by the coloured underwear. I never went without clothes, not even in my own bedroom. Maybe that was why I was still single. NO! Don’t ever imagine that I was a lesbian, there was nothing wrong with me!

         On my way home I heard the siren. I was accustomed to this noise as I was a police officer before I became the prisons officer. It was a promotion. And so I was addicted to this sound. If I didn’t hear it for two weeks I would start to worry that no criminals had been found. And frankly speaking if no crime that meant no work. But of course I didn’t go round telling everyone that I thrived on crimes. We looked forward to a crime free environment.

Chapter 7

         Word has it that I was having an affair with Zhang. That frightened me as if I were having an affair with my superior, I would get the sack immediately. Affairs within the office were strictly prohibited. In order to deny this rumour, I would need to prove discretion. I couldn’t make a public statement to deny the rumour, since nothing happened, it would be odd to go out to deny something that had not happened. Yet. 

         But I had no one to share my predicament with. Zhang had not made an outright proposition, and the fact that he was married made him the guilty party, vis-à-vishis wife. The wrong doing, if any, was only between he and his wife in a civil action. I was clear. 

         I could not even complain to D.I. Sam Lam about this, as he would say that Zhang was paying me a great compliment since I was an old maid. His wife was younger than I. On  the other hand, if I didn’t comply with Zhang’s order to parade in the lingerie, Zhang might turn hostile towards me. In any working environment you need a certain amount of goodwill from your boss. I needed this job! This was my only source of income.

Chapter 8

         I spoke to God.

         On my way home last night, I dropped by the nearest chapel. I asked God to induce Zhang to ditch his wife and then to marry me. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to marry him or just be his mistress. So I was quite vague in my instructions to God. But my desire for Zhang had been aroused, and I couldn’t put him out of my mind. Of course I did tell God that he, Zhang Tze Chong, made the first move and that was a caveat.Superintendent Zhang was married to a lady named Jane. Jane was no plain Jane but I haven’t had a chance to meet her.

         Logic told me that if I couldn’t reject Zhang, then I had better find some accommodation where we could do this sort of thing. Immediately I thought of the Imperial Stay Hotel. It was along the King’s Cross Road, and one bus would take me there. I went to the Agoda.com and booked a room. The website was easy to use and a few clicks got me there. 

         I saw a Deluxe room with a King-size bed. At three hundred and fifty-five dollars it was affordable for my type of salary. I selected it getting quite excited about the entire affair. Then I messaged Zhang. I didn’t want anyone else to know about my invitation to the rendezvous of course. 

         “I have booked the Imperial Stay Hotel for 25 December, so that we can enjoy a quiet Christmas together, instead of locking ourselves up in the office cell,” I wrote. 

Chapter 9

         On 25 December 2008 before 12:00 p.m. I checked into the Imperial Stay Hotel. No one was with me at the time, as no one knew that I had this room, except Zhang of course. I had already messaged him last night. No reply had come from him.

         I got my room key and promptly went up to the room to wait for Zhang to turn up. I was a little unsure if Zhang would show this to anyone of our colleagues. My opportunity cost I calculated would be the job at the prisons office, if I were fired on grounds of misbehaviour, which were valid only if Zhang actually slept with me. Until he turned up at my hotel room front door, my job was still secure. And I was quite pleased with myself, for if Zhang Tze Chong did not show up, I could just relax at the hotel and spend the night watching television enjoying room service.

Chapter 10

         In the hotel room on Christmas Day I waited. One hour and thirty minutes has elapsed and nothing happened. I gave Zhang another thirty minutes. Still no show. I sent another SMS. This time I used the WhatsApp as it allowed me to know if the message had been read. The message was delivered. I got a little more worried. Even if he did not wish to come, he could at least make his intentions known. Maybe I should order room service, and then eat first. I walked about the room and found housekeeping by pressing the key dial number 10. 

         It took forty-five minutes before the food arrived. I was very pleased to be offered an extra pot of tea. The guy said that it was being offered for all guests checking in on Christmas Day. I ate my dinner whilst it was still hot after I had snapped a picture of my food and sent it across to Zhang, together with a message, “Are you coming?”. 

         I fell asleep on the bed and woke up the next morning after 12:00 p.m. When I arrived at the concierge and found two receptionist at the counter, I approached the lady.

         “Is it too late to check out now?” I asked. Her name was Vivien Chow. But that was not relevant now.

         “I am sorry, Ma’am, it has to be before 12:00 p.m. But you booked the room until the 27th,” came the reply.

         “But I have no use for the room now,” I said, “My mission is accomplished.” 

         With the final words I walked out of the hotel, back to King’s Cross Road. My house was right at the end of the road, it was a five storey apartment. I tapped my key card on the lift panel and it opened right into my living room. I turned on the lights and it was only then I realised that I was still in my overnight gown. 

         Once I arrived at home I quickly went to the bathroom to take a hot shower. My bottle of moisturiser and hair spray etc. were still neatly lined up on the vanity top. I noticed that the order in which I usually displayed them had been changed. So someone had come in?

Chapter 11

         “Why are you here?” The first thing that Adrian said to me when I arrived at the office on 27 December 2008, were these words:

         “This is my office, isn’t it?” I retorted, matter of fact, deflated as I was carrying on with a non-existent affair. 

         Now I would have to cover up for being a reject. I sat down in front of my PC, ready for another long day. I was unsure if Zhang would expose me and get me dismissed even if nothing happened between us. He could show the messages from me to D.I. Sam Lam.

         [PrincessDiana1997]

         [Princessdiana1997]

         [princessdiana1997]

         Oops! Did I forget my password?

         I knew that I didn’t write the password in my notebook, as I assumed that my memory would never fail me. How could I forget a password which I use so often? For the last one and a half years, I was using this same combination. Unless I made a mistake on the caps lock. 

         One more try.

         [princessdiana1997]

         No, it was in uppercase. Lowercase didn’t work either. In the end I told myself to forget about it.

         I walked out of the office to see Adrian. He was my assistant. He had to help.

         “Do you remember my password?” I asked.

         “You didn’t give it to me,” Adrian said.

         “Oh dear,” “I can’t go into my computer,” I had to confess.

         Without the password, I couldn’t go into the PC, and I couldn’t do my work.

         Frankly speaking, I couldn’t remember what I had to do after the break. In order not to embarrass myself any further, I decided to lodge a complaint that Zhang had molested me on the night. Otherwise he could frame me. YES! The hotel gave me two key cards. One for him and one for me. 

         To plant incriminating evidence I walked straight to Zhang’s office, went in, found a hidden spot in his room: behind the book shelves. I saw several titles: Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, A Tale of Two Cities, The Diary of Ann Frank. I have not read any of them. I picked up one of the books, and I placed the key card between the pages. I left the room without anyone seeing me.

         Next, it was time to check out. I arrived at the Imperial Stay Hotelafter work. 

Chapter 12

         I finally got the interview with D.I. Sam Lam.

         Come to my office,” the voice on the intercom was low, with a note of urgency.

         I switched off my computer straight away and promptly left my room. I took the lift to the second floor even though using the stairs would be much faster. No one was in the lift with me. The lift opened right into a large office on the second floor. The desks were arranged in an untidy manner without any sequence. I always wondered if it were done deliberately. I approached one of the staff, “Excuse me, do you know where is D.I. Sam Lam’s office?” I asked.

         “I don’t know,” came the reply.

         “Could you tell me if he is on this level?” I refused to give up.

         “Of course he is not on this level,” came the reply.

         It took me three rounds before I arrived outside D.I.’s office. I found the name Director Inspector on one of the doors. It could be Sam Lam.I made a hazardous guess. And then I knocked on the door. I did not wait for a response before I opened the door. The back of a man was facing me. He wore a pink shirt and did not bother to turn around. I said, “hello,” sounding like a timid cat. 

         He took exactly four minutes with me standing there with my note pad in my hand. 

         “Need a pen?” the first things he asked.

         “I can write without using the pen,” I said.

         He grabbed a remote control on his desk, flashed at the LCD screen on the wall, signalling me to view the clip shown. A woman was in the bathroom.

         “This you?” D.I. looked straight at me.

         “No, of course not,” I was just as straight forward.

         He played the video clip again.

         I looked at it, hard. Hey, that’s my lingerie!

         “I think they belong to me,” I got a little excited.

         “You mean the video belongs to you?” D.I. said.

         “NO!” I was vehement. But that I wondered how the subject got my lingerie. Did someone give it to her? 

         D.I. zoomed in on the bra. I could see the little butterfly attached to the front right part of the strap. I was certain that the lingerie were mine. I saw it when Zhang gave it to me.  D.I. continued with the video play and he poured himself a glass of water. Then he poured another glass.

         “Drink this,” he handed it to me.

         I took over the glass, “Who filmed this?” I thought it must have been the work from an unauthorised source. The subject did not seem to know that she was being filmed. 

         “Is she a professional?” I asked.

         “This is what I am asking you?” so this was D.I. Sam Lam’s purpose in getting me here. As I was leaving he threw me a sentence, “Her name was Jane.”  . I left his room without an answer.

Chapter 13

         I remembered my moisturiser and hair spray. They were rearranged. So Jane was inside my own bathroom at my house when I was away at the hotel.

         D.I. showed me the video clip again at his office. This time he asked me to sit down before grabbing his remote control.

         Jane was the same person. She looked very much like me. Only at right angle I could see that her nose was flat a little different from mine. She had makeup on as her face had a 3-D effect. How did she get into my house? Could it be another bathroom?

         But the row of cosmetic products on the basin top confirmed that it was my own bathroom. They were the same ones that I used. How did she find her way in?

         And then I saw her put her clothes on, over her lingerie. It was a white dress with bright red Pokka dots. Very unique.

         “Are these yours?” D.I. Sam Lam asked.

         “No,” I said, denying ownership straight away. 

         “It couldn’t have been me, someone has to film it,” 

         “I live alone and no one comes into my house,” I elaborated, giving some logic to my denial. 

         And then further on I added, “Ok, I was with Zhang Tze Chong,”

         In all earnest, it wasn’t my intention to frame Zhang. But since D.I. mentioned now, and the opportunity having arose, I had to say that I was with him at the material time, which was on the night of 25 December 2008 on Christmas day.

Chapter 14

         “We were at theImperial Stay Hotel,” I supplied the answer without further prompting.

         And then, “Does Superintendent Zhang’s wife know about this?’ was my immediate concern.

         “What do you think, Miss Teo?” D.I. turned the question towards me.

         I could see it coming, D.I. Sam Lam calling me by my civilian title. I was A.S. Teo, Assistant Superintendent of the prisons office. 

         He wanted me to resign.

         “He left before dinner,” I contradicted myself. It was a lie. Both confessions were a lie. I haven’t thought about what the offence was for giving false testimony. In any case, I wasn’t on oath. 

         “Let me interview Zhang when he returns,” D.I. Sam Lam said. 

         “For now, you take your leave of absence until next year,”

         The range was too wide, and “next year” was too indefinite.

         Nevertheless I complied and walked out of D.I. Sam Lam’s office, with nothing more to say. Once I was back at my office, the only thing I needed to do was to log out of my PC, then pack my mug and my calendar to bring home. I had the inkling that I might not return to the room again. And then with my head held high I walked out of Panaby Hill in my prisons uniform. I forgot to change out of my uniform and did not realise that someone was trailing me.

Chapter 15

         As I was passing the gate to go out of the compound, a message came in from Zhang.

         “I am outside,” it read.

         “And I am also inside,” I didn’t know why I replied that way. 

         Now that I had more or less gotten myself out of a job, there wasn’t any more purpose to go back to the hotel. I might not even ever get to see Zhang again since work was our only link. And then I realised that I must return to the Imperial Stay Hotel to drop the key card. 

         Omg! I have left the other one inside Zhang’s room, which meant that I would have to return to the prisons office to retrieve it. I had slipped it amongst his things.

         I was already out of the prisons compound, now along Bethany Road. Immediately I changed the gear to make a three-point turn releasing the brakes when I pressed on the accelerator. The car zoomed right into the street with a sense of urgency. I drove on. I knew that I had to get back to the office before they finally shut the gate. 

         The lights were clear, I could turn into Pollen Road without obstruction. It had started to drizzle and I flipped the switch for my wiper to clean the windscreen. It was an automatic reflex even though it wasn’t necessary. I never liked to use the wiper as it was rather distracting, with it coming on at regular intervals as though it were a metronome on a piano.

         A dark shadow stood at the side, I saw a woman. She looked exactly like the woman I saw in the video, I recognised her clothes. It was a white dress with bright red Pokka dots. Before I could confirm her identity, I felt I bumped into a soft bean bag. A soft object collapsed right in front of me, and I quickly stepped on my brakes.

         It jammed, giving out a loud squeaky sound. I knew I had knocked someone down. I quickly opened my car door and rushed forward.

         The woman on the floor was she. The one in the video clips. It was Jane. I had knocked Jane down. 

         ……….

Chapter 16

         Back at the prisons office.

         In the dark Lynda couldn’t see anything. She remembered what she was wearing before she came in. Her clothes were in the cupboard now. The guard told her to change into this set of clothes. It was loose and bare, with no pockets and no design. It was a white top without sleeves and an orange pants long enough just to cover her knees.

         Lynda waited for somebody to come in to join her. She knew that she could not be left alone like this. Someone was bound to come. It was very scary to be left there within these four blank walls. The walls were so clean you could not see any graffiti on them.

         There was a place she could urinate. It was just behind a partition and there was the drawing of a woman’s profile with her drinking from a cup. She couldn’t understand why they have this drawing, as though to suggest that when you urinated you were drinking from the same cup that you urinated into. 

         Now Lynda knew that the inmates could hear the prison officers walking in and along the corridor. She didn’t know which cell she was in, then she looked at her wrist and saw several digits – 7657008318 - it was the virtual cell! 

         She was chained up. Two pairs of handcuffs which locked her hands and feet earlier were unlocked. Lynda saw that the officers look at her with sympathy. They knew that Lynda was no ordinary criminal. 

         Lynda was upset that this time she was on the other side - the inmates’ side the inside.

         Then she remembered her last message to Zhang - she said that she was inside. She realised that she was fulfilling her own prophesy. 

         Lynda knew that she had to be here a long time. Long enough for her patience to expire. A police officer was supposed to attend to her case. She took the opportunity when one of the guards walked past to ask him when an officer would come and see her. 

         His answer was, “when he is free,” and then he walked away without giving Lynda as much as a pause. 

         With that Lynda was satisfied that there was some interaction and she sank back into the hollow. The ceiling was high and she tried to picture a fan hanging from the top. In this state of mind she really could not put her imagination to work. Her spirits had been stripped bare and she only had very little to do except to sit on the floor and waited. 

         All her personal belongings had been removed, filmed and itemized, and promptly put into a large plastic bag for the locker. The key to the locker had been surrendered to the guard who brought her in. Lynda knew that she was in her own office so that her things were safe here, wherever they were. Lynda told herself they still belonged to her.

         No one talked to Lynda, as no one was around. Lynda began telling herself that this was temporary and that after some time she would have to be let out. They can’t put me in here forever.She put on her most positive outlook for the next twenty-four hours.

         ……….

Chapter 17

         They have to feed me.Lynda told herself. She remembered that the inmates were given food at least twice a day. But she had completely lost track of time. Lynda waited for someone to deliver the packet food. She knew what they were: ikan bills,green leafy vegetables, and rice. She was a time keeper, she always needed to know exactly what time she was in. Perhaps this was God’s way of telling her to relax.

         “Do you accept responsibility?” the officer asked Lynda when he came to pass her the food as he opened the little box window. By now Lynda wasn’t sure if it were lunch or dinner. 

         “Is she still alive?” Lynda asked, that was all that mattered. 

         Lynda told herself that if she ever saw Jane again she would share her bathroom with her, she would let her have her plain nuke lingerie, and also all the other four that Zhang gave her. I would even share all my clothes in the wardrobe with her.I would be her best friend and she mine. 

Chapter 18

         Lynda waited. When is he free? -Who is the officer attending to my case?Who is the officer coming to visit me? Could it be Zhang Tze Chong himself?

         The thought of Zhang coming in himself gave Lynda a sense of relief. If Zhang came in Lynda could confront him direct. She could ask if he planned all this, getting the woman to drop right in front of her. She might not have been injured. In fact, it all looked too coincidental for an accident to happen. The woman just dashed out from nowhere. It was near the traffic lights. Why couldnt she cross at the lights?

Book B

Chapter 19

It was easy to conceal a non-existent affair, much less difficult to end a short-term relationship.

         William waited at the Panaby Road in his car for at least half an hour before he decided to switch off the engine. There was no shelter from the back entrance of the building to his car. But he knew that Lynda won’t be using her umbrella even if it rained.

         At 7:30 p.m. sharp, Lynda walked out of the back entrance. William shone his spotlight on her to indicate that he was already there, but she took no notice of it. He moved his car a little forward and followed her to the end of the road where there was a no entry sign, and then he turned off his engine to wait.

         There was nothing sinister about this. William was not there to attack Lynda. She was his girlfriend and if he wanted any favours he could ask her directly. 

         It was an arrangement between Lynda and himself that he waited for her on Friday at the Panaby Road.Perhaps on Friday she could log off early on time and she could take her mind off work since she need not work on Saturday. William did not understand why Lynda had to conceal their relationship but that since that was her order he complied. 

         His relationship with Lynda bordered between civility and intimacy. William loved her which she did not reciprocate but that did not deter him from dating her almost every week. The only encouragement that William got from Lynda was that she still hasn’t got a boyfriend. 

         William waited for Lynda to climb into the car before he spoke, 

         “So, how’s work today?” 

         “Same,” Lynda did not offer any information.

         “Did Zhang give you a lot of work to do?”

         William tried to engage Lynda, but she was not responsive. But he was not about to give up. 

         “Where did you have lunch today?” that will give an idea as to how busy she was. 

         “I did not eat,” was Lynda’s reply.

         Ok, she was busy. William concluded. And then he restarted his engine. Twenty minutes later, he arrived at her apartment.

         “Vietnamese or seafood?” William tried again, before she decided to call it a day and left.

Chapter 20

         “Work is enjoyable provided what you did have a consequent effect.” Lynda finally opened her mouth. William quickly grabbed this opportunity.

         “What do you mean by consequent effect?

         “I am given documents to sign,” “but that I have no idea if my signature on it meant anything, for one, there was no way in which I could find out if the person named in the document is actually located in our cells?”

         “But why do you need to know?” William’s curiosity was aroused.

         “The names did not mean anything to me, but the charges were grave.”

         “Such as?” William urged Lynda to carry on.

         “Conspiracy to commit murder, abetment to bank robbery etc. etc.”

         “OMG! These were serious charges. And all the time you were giving orders of arrest without knowing who they were? And I bet you had no idea if they had taken place?!”

         “That is correct,” Lynda spoke. I could see a sign of desperation growing on her face. 

         William gave her time to settle her thoughts, and then he got a little closer, he put his arms around her and he tried to make her look at him. William was not really interested in her subjects; it was she he was after. 

         Not surprisingly Lynda fell into his trap and she rested her head on William’s shoulders. He put up his best act ....

Chapter 21

         “And then,” Lynda continued. 

         “And then what?” William, pursued. 

         “Zhang likes to put his nose in every hook,”

         “That’s good, isn’t it?”

         “How could that be?” she retorted with a kind of anger that seemed like she herself was victimised.

         “If he is involved that meant that you are kept out of responsibility,” 

         “I’d rather be in the know,” and then Lynda added, “so that I know what is happening,”

         “Why would you want to know?” “Would it make a difference if you did?” William followed through.

         “If I knew then I could help to decide if a guy is guilty or not guilty,” Lynda’s true colours were showing.

         William knew that that was it. He had managed to open her up. Lynda was beginning to treat him as a confidant. 

         William turned off his car engine and they sat in the dark for a long time. No one came to send them away, and the traffic police seemed to be off duty for the night. William sensed that God was on his side. 

         William knew that if he didn’t act now he would never have another chance to do so. Lynda needed a confidante and he could be the one. He would be the best person.

         “You must be hungry, let’s go and get some food,” William said. 

         “What can I eat?” she asked.

         “There is a place we can go to,” William remembered the Cafe Renaissance at Church Street, just around the corner after we make three turns.

         “You know anybody in the press?” Lynda suddenly asked.

         “Not that I can think of,” he replied.

         And then William asked, “You have something to tell them?”

         “Yes and no,” “I don’t know if it is interesting enough …” she said.

         “I think you have a clause in your contract that you are not supposed to disclose any information you acquire at work to outsiders,” William tried to remind Lynda.

         “I don’t care now, I am planning to leave by the end of this year,” Lynda dropped a bombshell.

         “But today is 3rd December!” William said, “And how much notice must you give?” 

         “I am thinking of forfeiting my one months’ salary,” “I can’t tolerate the situation any longer,” Lynda definitely looked desperate.

         “If you are going to leave, you have to find another job first,” William could only give this piece of advice.

         “I will let you know before I resign,” Lynda reassured William.

Chapter 22

         If you didn’t like the situation you have found yourself in, it’s best you avoided it.

         William wanted to tell Lynda when he would see her tomorrow. As usual he waited at the foot of the hill at the back entrance. The prison building slopes down from the Panaby Hill and you could imagine that those who worked inside had a panoramic city view. 

         On the contrary William worked at the designs office and his cubical was smaller than the size of Lynda’s room. He always wanted to know if there was an opening at her office.

         As he waited for Lynda, William saw a black car coming out from the driveway. He mentioned black because police cars were in red and blue alternating. This black car was not only black it’s entire body was black with the windows tinted in dark colour, so that you could not see who was inside. 

         William used his iPhone to ring Lynda immediately. The call was declined. He rang again, and then he heard two persons talking:

         “So when will you charge Peter Teo?” - a man’s voice. 

         “Am not sure ... depends on the boss.”

         “He has cancer. Did you know that?”

         “Yes, I did, and that has prevented the course of justice.”

         “The course of justice! You are sure that Peter Teo was guilty?!”

         “As guilty as charged. The only thing outstanding was our Lynda’s signature on it.”

         “Why must Lynda sign? Couldn’t you give it to somebody else?

         “Lynda is the daughter of the Minister of the Interior, and so her signature carries weight.”

         “Does Lynda know about this?”

         “Well, she would have to sign anyway,” 

         “But does she know that Raymond Lai was Peter Teo Seng Nam?”

         “I hope not.”

         “Ok.”

         And then the line went dead.

         William paused for a while almost unable to recover from the shock. 

Chapter 23

         It has been a week since William met Lynda at her work place. Christmas came and went, and Lynda did not return William’s call. 

         Every phone has a call log history and even if Lynda did not hear his incoming call she must know how to look at her recent missed calls. 

         However, William was undeterred. He wasn’t going to take this as a rejection. Lynda was one of his captives and he wasn’t about to give up. 

         William waited at the foot of the hill just slightly after the gate at the back entrance from 29 December, through to 1January. After the third day, he received a call from a lady who claimed to be the mother of Lynda. William had no means to ascertain the truth. Nonetheless he decided to turn up for the meeting.

         “I am Lynda’s mother,”

         “I know you are Lynda’s mother.” William said.

         “And how do you do Mrs Teo? further on he added.

         “I am not Mrs Teo,” the lady in front of him pronounced.

         “Then ... who called me?” William was bewildered.

         “No worries, it was me,” the woman admitted.

         “So that in any case you must be Lynda’s mother.” William confirmed her identity.

         She ignored William and ordered the waitress to come. William waited and when she had decided on her food, she gave him her name card: Lai Guat Lian, Advocate & Solicitor.

         William wasn’t deterred. He was here by invitation and it was precisely this woman who invited him. 

         I had done nothing wrong with, to or about to, Lynda - this woman’s daughter. William thought to himself.

         In fact, there was no resemblance between the two of the mother and daughter. If at all it was the mole just above the lips on the left side of the mouth.

         But if this woman weren’t Lynda’s mother she won’t be sitting here right in front of William. She won’t have known his number. 

         So that William took the lead. And he popped the question,

         “Where is Lynda?”

Chapter 24

         “Get into my car and I will tell you,” the woman by the name of Lai said. 

         In the rain the car drove on. William had no idea where he was going. All he could see was the rain water splashing onto the window. He wanted to wind down the window to tell someone he was inside. But the rain would get inside the car and got him wet. In any case the catch was locked. 

         William knew that he had been trapped. 

         Let the gods take control. William told himself. Who were they? Were they the ones who had the last meal with Jesus? Or were they another set of Buddhist gods? It was too late to decide on his religion now.  

         No use lodging your complaint with the wrong person. William told himself, and so he kept quiet.

         The radio was playing, “…. you look perfect tonight….” William knew the song – “Perfect”. He hummed along and was surprised that the song replayed itself again after the last round. He tried to memorise the lyrics but was abruptly cut off by Lynda’s mother. 

         “Want some water?” Lynda’s mother asked, and then quickly followed by “Anything wrong?”

         “Err, no, nothing,” William stammered. 

        Lai parked the car and switched off the engine. William walked out of the car without saying goodbye,and then he let the depression that accompanied the night engulfed him further into darkness. 

Chapter 25

         William woke up very late. He meant very late. It was about 3:00 p.m. when he looked into the clock radio. He wanted to ask the gadget why it didn’t do its work this morning. He remembered that he set the alarm for 9:30. Then when he examined the setting later, he found that he had set it at 9:30 p.m. instead of a.m.

         Having no one to blame for his mistake William quickly decided on what to do for the remaining hours of the day. From three to ten he was only left with seven hours. William needed to find out what had happened to Lynda.

         William picked up his iPhone and used the recent calllog to trace Lynda’s mother. He created a contact for her by typing “Mrs Teo”. That was the way in which he could recall her, never mind if she said she weren’t Mrs Teo.

         Next, he rang Lynda’s number. The call wasn’t answered. It could mean that Lynda did not hear it, or just that she was otherwise occupied. William told himself he must not give up. 

         Then the music sounded. Loud and clear. William knew that it was his cell phone, he had set it to his favourite song. He saw the number and was unhappy that it was neither Lynda nor Mrs Teo. Nevertheless, he picked it up. 

         Hello, William spoke. 

         No one was on the other side.

         William knew that Lynda was in trouble now. He organised his thought process. Swiftly he put on his shirt and he changed into his black trousers. Then he realised that he had forgotten to take a shower, so he undressed myself and started all over again. 

         Time was not on his side. It was past four by the time he got himself dressed and when he tried to look for his car keys he realised that he had left it in the car. Thank God he still remembered where his car was. 

         In France you didn’t get a chance to drive around in somebody else’s car. The police will stop you to check if you were indeed the licence holder. William marvelled at the efficiency of their law enforcement officers and then he said a secret prayer to discharge his anxiety. Finally, he left the house to fetch his car.

         He arrived at the foot of Panaby Hill.      

         Hold it! The lot was empty. No car!!!

Chapter 26

         As he stood facing the large prisons office, Samuel Lam tapped him on the shoulder. No, William didn’t know that it was Sam who tapped him. But when he turned around, he saw the Public Prosecutor. Sam was his ex-colleague in law school who landed himself in one of the hottest jobs in the city after he left the university.

         William knew that he had not committed any crimes. But being greeted by an officer of the Prison’s Office was not a joke. He returned the man with a smile, and preface his acknowledgement with the most innocent statement, 

         “Good to see you, Sam,” William said.

         “Certainly. Looking for something?” the man asked.

         “Err, no, not at the moment,” William quickly denied any irregularity.

         “This is not a place for coffee,” Sam said.

         “Yes, I know, I just happened to be waiting for someone,”

         “Is it Lynda Teo?” Sam dropped the bombshell. 

         How did he know?

         Since the man already knew about Lynda and him, William thought he might as well tell Samuel the truth. There was no glamour in hiding a non-existent love affair. William felt that the more people knew about their relationship the better, for once it is common knowledge then it would be difficult for Lynda to find another beau.

Chapter 27

         William didn’t know what people did when they lost their cars. But he could afford it. The car was purchased for the specific purpose of courting Lynda. He let himself calm down first. Then he spoke. 

         “By the way, Samuel, since you are here .... I would like to report that my car, parked here since 29 December .... has been stolen, err … I assumed that it was stolen. A car did not go missing on its own ….”

         But Samuel was abrupt.

         “Sorry William, this is not within my purview. I am in charge of the prisons - people who have been arrested - call me when you have apprehended the thief.”

         Having washed his dirty linen, William lapsed into the thought of Lynda again. He attempted,

         “Lynda still in the office?”

         “She resigned,” the man said.

         “Oh?” William said.

         “And nobody knew why,” that was all Samuel could offer, and then, “would you like to find out why?” 

         That gave William a ray of hope. 

         “Lodge a police report and tell the guys where and when was the last time you saw your girlfriend,” Samuel ordered.

         “Which is the best police station to make such a report?” William asked innocently.

         By then he could trace a note of irritation on Sam Lam’s face, as though saying, “omg you don’t know?!” but instead he said, I will show you how to write the report.

         And then Samuel Lam turned and walked away.

Chapter 28

         “I have two pressing matters: I lost my car and I lost my girlfriend,” the first things William said to the officer who was sitting right in front of the computer.

         The man in navy pretended not to hear William.

         “Yes, what can I do for you?” the officer inquired. The buttons on his shirts were shinning like crazy, William was sure he polished it every morning before he arrived at work.

         “I said, I lost my car and I lost my girlfriend,” William repeated.

         “First things first. What did you say you lost?” the officer was totally unemotional.

         “I lost my car,” William repeated for the second time.

         “Car number?” the officer passed him a piece of green paper, “fill up this form,” and then he continued, “what was the second thing you said?”

         “Lynda Teo, you know Lynda Teo?” William forgot that Lynda was just a prisons officer, rather than the daughter of the Interior Minister. In any case, people didn’t remember the family of a public figure. 

         “How do you spell Lynda?”

         That’s it! William blew his top. He left the police station without filling up any forms. His car was still at large. But at least he got in touch with Lynda’s boss.

Chapter 29

         A fortune teller once told William that he must be married by the age of thirty, otherwise he would have to wait a cycle of another twelve years. 

         William ponder at the thought and felt it no harm in lodging a police report on the basis that Lynda was his wife and that she had been missing since Christmas Eve. 

         Finally, William decided that he would do so and the only other person who would object would be Mrs Teo and since she approached him on her own accord, she was unlikely to thwart his efforts in trying to locate Lynda. 

         She must be just as worried as I am. William thought to himself. And then he arrived at the same police station again.

         William was surprised that it was the same man who greeted him. And more surprised that the man recognised him.

         “You haven’t completed your form,” the man in navy with the shinning buttons merely said, he had been waiting for William to return.

         William duly complied.

         At the end of the note, he signed himself off as “Mr William Chung,” and “spouse” for the relationship, as Lynda’s family.

         “Once we find Mrs Chung we will contact this number?” the officer asked, “9-1-6-4-2-7-8-5?”

         “Yes,” William said, “please contact me at once,”

         “Of course, we won’t want to keep her here, unless she has committed a crime,” the officer said.

         “No, unlikely,” William felt it obliged to protect Lynda’s innocence.

Chapter 30

         If you thought that in a cell there were unseen beings, you were wrong. Prison cells were so tightly locked and secured that not even a mosquito could enter. 

         Lynda was finally brought out of the cell into the section where there was a table and two chairs. A man sat on one and she was told to sit on the other. They were placed on both sides of the small table. It was an interview. Lynda was very conscious of what she needed to say to the man in front of her. Strangely enough he wasn’t in any kind of uniform.

Chapter 31

         “Do you know why you are here?” the man asked.

         “Obviously,” “I drove carelessly, and I knocked a woman down.” Lynda stated this as a matter of fact.

         “Since you have come all the way here, why not you stay a while longer?” the man asked.

         “What?!” Lynda’s eyes rolled big.

         “You managed to stay in the cell for a total number of twenty hours and fifteen minutes, that was a very good record,” the man said.

         “And throughout that time, I didn’t create any trouble for you, Sir,” Lynda knew she had to call him Sir, as he was in charge of her fate now.

         “You couldn’t have, you were locked up,” the man put her right.

         “I did try to entertain your inmates,” Lynda still couldn’t see herself as a prisoner.

         In the dim light the interviewer’s face was shadowed and Lynda couldn’t read his thoughts as his expression wasn’t transparent. The fact was that Lynda knew that the man had decided what he wanted to do with her before he called her in.

         “Where is superintendent Zhang?” Lynda asked.

         “You want him to come?” man asked.

         “No, of course not, but he is my boss, I am a prisons officer, I am not a criminal, I have no criminal intent,” she protested vehemently.

         “We all know the facts, you got into someone else’s car, took the wheels, and then drove into a woman who was just standing right in front of you,” 

         “I didn’t see her!” Lynda had to protect herself.

         “Of course, you didn’t, that is why we are charging you for dangerous driving,”, 

         “If I may say so, reckless driving,” Lynda tried to be clever.

         “I am not here to argue with you,”

         “I am just telling you that we may have to put you here for a while more, until we are certain of the charge,”

         “Indeed, why is that so?”

         “You are charged for reckless driving. The woman that you have knocked down is in the ICU now, if she died, then it would be Section 66. But if she leaves the ICU, then it would be Section 64 and you could be let off with a maximum fine of $5000 with or without imprisonment for 12 months. For Section 66 you could be imprisoned for as long as 5 years.So just pray hard that we hear good news.” 

         Lynda looked up. The man was staring at her, and she knew instantly that he was her god. At least for the time being. Lynda attempted a smile, showing off her nice teeth. 

         “No worries, you rest at our other house - the annex. There we have better food, and a bathroom so that you can have your shower, I know that you haven’t cleaned up for a long time.”

         Lynda’s heart sank. She knew that the man was dead serious, even if he didn’t look it. Which meant that they would have to wait for the outcome of the hospital report, assuming that the woman got discharged. 

         “ .... the woman, may I know her name?” Lynda asked.

         “It is confidential,” the interviewer said without hesitation. 

         “But if I had knocked someone down, putting her life in danger, and being charged for it, surely I am entitled to know who she is?” Lynda protested.  

         “Afraid not, Ms Teo” the interviewing officer was very firm.

         “If she doesn’t get discharged does it mean that I will never be released?” Lynda gave herself the worst-case scenario.

         “No prison sentence is not indefinite. And even if you had committed murder it is a maximum twenty years.”

         One could only conclude that this was the work of the devil. But how did the devil get into Lynda’s realm? How did the devil know Lynda’s whereabouts? The timing of the accident was superb. We could logically say that the reason being that Lynda had been living withevilpeople for a long time. 

Chapter 32

         There was this thing about the good and the bad, the angels and the devils, but surely, they were within our control. If we did good, we invited the angels, if we did bad, the devils thrived. But Lynda had been a good kind soul. She loved even the inmates. So why was she here? How could any god put her here?

         The tree was beginning to broadcast the fact that winter was coming to an end. The artificial snow on the tips of the branches were beginning to fall off. And if you looked closer you would realise that they were just some bits of cotton wool.

         Lynda let the sound of the Christmas carols fade into her recess memory before she was led away into a police van. Three officers accompanied her which made her felt very uncomfortable. It was as though she had a chance to run away if less manpower were deployed. Lynda packed up her thoughts and submitted to the law enforcement procedure. 

         The truth must be told, Lynda reaffirmed her decision to broadcast the irregularities. But fact was that Lynda couldn’t prove that the whole system was faulty. If anything, it was just that she wasn’t happy with her job, and therefore she complained that she was doing assignments which were beyond the scope of her duty.

         The conclusion was that Lynda’s emotional needs were not well taken care of. So Superintendent Zhang was actually merely trying to entertain Lynda. No wrong could be deduced from Zhang’s behaviour, as Lynda pondered on the course of action she would take if and when her legal counsel was engaged. She let the arguments run through her mind and she finally let her mind shut down whilst she was being led into her new accommodation.

Chapter 33

         Time stood still for Lynda. 

         She wished she had not been so adamant. She wished she had not refused Zhang. She wished she ....

         But it’s too late now, and the only person who could help her was William Chung. Only William knew about the predicament she was facing. Lynda cracked her brains as to how to get in touch with William. He would have picked her up at the foot of Panaby Hill on that day. 

         After Lynda had settled down and decided not to make any complaints, someone came in and told her that she could leave very soon, but that she had to sign an acknowledgement. And whilst at it, the officer read the charge out to Lynda:

         By virtue of Section 64, Chapter 276 of the Road Traffic Act, you, Lynda Teo Lay Hoon of NRIC S6824351C, female, have committed the following: -

         …. so the woman was alive! Praise God! 

         But hey, SLF8375A was William’s car number!

         Lynda’s mind clicked, her thoughts racing ….

 

         …. That meant that when I took William’s car on the fateful day of the accident … and so that was why it was all so convenient, that I could just drive the car out …. the key already in the ignition … and in all probability William had collaborated with Zhang, Sam and everyone else!

         But this seemed too weird. Why would they want to fix me?! - A small fry who lived on the fringe of a prison! 

         Finally, Lynda gave up. All these were too implausible. 

Chapter 34

         William Chung finally got the call that he has been waiting for.

         “May I speak to Mr William Chung?” a man’s voice.

         “Yes?” William saw that it was an Unknown Caller.

         “Your wife is now at the Hospital of St Stevens.”

         “You mean Lynda Chung?” William asked, just to be sure, he asked again,

         “What documents do I need to bring?” in case they wanted to see a marriage certificate.

         “Just bring your national identification card. The hospital is open to the public. Make sure you go during visitors’ hours.”

         “And they are …”  the line went dead. William realised that the call was from the police station, not from any service centre. 

         He quickly got himself a coffee and left for the hospital. William knew where the Hospital of St Stevens was. It was not too far away but he had never been there before.

         And he remembered that he still had one outstanding issue with the police - his car. 

         The hospital was quiet and after the rain you could see patches of water on the ground. Even the plants looked refreshed. You need not walk too far to arrive at the customer service counter. William found out that the hospital used Lynda’s maiden name - Teo, so that saved him the trouble of having to refer to her as Mrs Chung.

         It was only 6:00 p.m., but the nurse in the section told William that Lynda was not seeing any visitors. 

         “How about if I come back later after her dinner, say 7:00 p.m.? I know you close only at 8:00 p.m.”

         “No, this is our policy. Once the patient refused a visitor, we have to follow suit.” Nurse Tan was firm. 

         “You mean you checked with her already?” William was surprised.

         “No, the order was given just this evening,”

         “Huh?” “What time?” “Was it before 5:15 p.m.?” the man earlier on rang at 5:15 p.m.

         “What difference does it make, Sir,” nurse Tan was getting impatient.

         William just wanted to establish if the man who rang him played him out. But he couldn’t solicit any form of cooperation from the nurse. He gave up and walked away, and after he saw a café at the hospital ground, he walked in to get himself to be distracted by some food.

         Someone tapped William on the shoulder. This seemed to be happening a bit too often recently. Nonetheless, William turned around as it was a natural thing to do. 

         “It’s you, Mrs Teo,” he was surprised.

         “So, you have come to see Lynda,”


         “Yes, and I am not allowed entry,” William gave a fake smile, showing none of his teeth.

         “I can see that you are annoyed,” Mrs Teo said.

         “Mothers are allowed,” she added.

         “And so are husbands,” William said.

         “You want your car back?” Mrs Teo said, ignoring his grouses.

         “Where is it?”

         “In the police compound. Lynda has been charged with reckless driving. And the bail amount is one hundred and fifty thousand dollars.” Mrs Teo gave her ultimatum.

         “I don’t have that kind of money at hand, although …, “William didn’t want to cut loose the thread.

         “In that case you won’t see Lynda again. But the police told me that your car is available for collection.”

         William knew that this woman here now has taken over their affairs and that his future with Lynda lay with the ransom. If he retrieved the car and resold it, he might get that sum of money. Immediately he asked Mrs Teo for the name of the officer-in-charge.

         “You could use me, I am a lawyer, remember?” Mrs Teo said.

         “You have it,” “9-1-6-4-2-7-8-5” William gave those digits away one more time.

         “The car will be delivered to a pick-up point of your choice by tomorrow evening, 7:00 p.m.” Mrs Teo said.

         “Thank you,” that’s all William could offer for the moment.

Chapter 35

         When William collected his car from the concierge man who delivered his car at the back entrance down the road at Panaby Hill, he was lucky enough to sell it for exactly one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. 

         He did not hesitate to bank in the cheque into an account called “William Chung and/or nominee”. And then he wrote a cheque out to “Lai Guat Lian” without crossing it. The contact under “Mrs Teo” answered it immediately after just one ring. William handed the cheque over to Mrs Teo duly.

         Subsequently William made several unsuccessful attempts to the Hospital of St Stevensto see Lynda so that he could be sure if Lynda was still there.

         Where was Lynda? 

Book C

Chapter 36

According to the news, the authorities withdrew the charge on Peter Teo Seng Nam. But the inside story was that his wife Lai Guat Lian had bailed him out with one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Some other more reliable sources said that Peter Teo Seng Nam was never charged as no signature could be obtained to authorise the indictment. We all knew by now that the signatory was supposed to be Lynda Teo, and that she was unavailable now.

         Where was Lynda?

         Only William Chung knew.

         Actually, William Chung knew where Lynda Teo was, it was just that he could not gain admission into the hospital ward to meet with Lynda in person. Who was preventing him from visiting Lynda? Was it the Hospital of St Stevens or Lynda Teo herself?

         The answer lay with Lynda and Lynda alone. 

 

Hope you have enjoyed the story you just read. More of my short stories could be found on http://www.leegoldielocks.com as well as http://www.lee-sumin.com. Happy reading!