The Gold Chain
With the Green Jade Monkey Pendant
Hugh M. Lewis
The original work The Gold Chain was written in 1995
in Penang, Malaysia.
Copyright © Hugh M. Lewis, 2000
All rights reserved
This edition is 7th edition of the Lewis Micro-Publishing
New Millennium 2000 Series
Published, printed & bound
For further inquiries regarding this book or other
Poor Hugh's e-Press
For Kindred Spirits
The chain was long and heavy to hold in the hand. Its links were thick,
fashioned with a curious double twist of both sides so that one could not
easily see where or how the loops were joined. The jade monkey pendant was set
in the same gold, and the chain link itself was fastened to the pendant so
that its hook was part of a link of the chain. In the entire world there must
have been only one like it. The anonymous craftsman who had fashioned it must
have been a very clever fellow with fine hands. The pendant was also unique in
appearance--mockingly handsome, almost human, with a curious smirk of the
face, and the jade was of a superlative grade. The chain and pendant was
beautiful to look upon and everyone who saw it found themselves admiring it
and even secretly coveting it. No one could say how old it was, and though
many necks it hung from became wrinkled and stiff, its gold never rusted or
tarnished and its jade pendant never lost its mysterious luminescence.
She did not know how old she was.
Her mother had never told her birthday and she never knew to ask. There were
no birth certificates, and she was illiterate, so it would have been no use to
her anyway. Now she only knew how old and tired she felt, and how she didn't
want to think about the past. It is not good to think too much about such
She came from China as a young woman. There were several young ladies all
from the same province in Kwantung. They did not know anything about the world
beyond their small villages, and were frightened to death during the journey.
When they arrived at their destination they had made a pact among themselves
never to get married or start a family, so that they might look after one
another until the end. They were sworn to each other as Swan Sisters, and were
never to cut their hair unless they got married.
Now there was only Lau Mak ("old mother")--bent over and withered
and shrunken to half her adult size. She was nearly blind with cataracts
covering over both eyes, and several times lately she had fallen into the
gutters as she was going out to beg at the temple.
Two had returned to live in China in their natal villages, the rest had
passed away. She couldn't remember how long ago. There were only three other
old women left, but all of them had long since cut their hair and had grown
children and grandchildren. She had only two goddaughters who never brought
her anything good to eat except the youngest one. Her only concern now was
that she would get the proper burial when the time came, that she would not be
cast anonymously into a pauper's grave without the proper rituals having been
She was always a stickler for the proper rites. Many people used to come
and ask her to pray for them, as she knew the proper
way to do these things and she never asked for a lot of money. But
she still remembered the proper way of praying and she prayed everyday.
The black smoke of the charcoal curled up as she fanned the flames to the
ceiling beams that were tar black from the many years of cooking. The walls
were all darkened too, and a diffuse sunlight put everything in the kitchen in
a world of shadow. She had lived in this old house all her life, since she was
a young girl. Her goddaughter had wanted to put her in a home but she wouldn't
know what to do there or how to cook for herself.
This house was the center of her life and her world. For more than twenty
years she had slept with the others in the front hall on tables made of wooden
planks set upon old saw horses. She kept her possessions stacked on the table
against the wall, or hung in plastic bags from nails driven into the concrete
wall. Tins and food were stacked on the planks beneath her bed, and she used
clothes in a plastic bag for a pillow. Her valuables--her gold and jade
jewelry--she had hidden in a plastic tin in the very corner of a pile of odds
and ends. But her gold chain with the jade monkey pendant she always wore, and
when she ever took it off she had a secret hiding place in the wood beneath
the planks of the table which nobody knew about.
She had bought a lot of gold over the years. She only bought the purest,
24-carat gold. The tin box was now too heavy for her to lift. But of all her
valuables, her gold chain was the most precious to her.
Many people knew about her tin full of gold, but nobody even knew about the
necklace, as it was long and always lay hidden beneath her blouse.
She had found it many years ago at the home she had worked
at just after the War. She had kept it close by her side all those years
and hadn't told a single person. It was a newly constructed terrace house and
directly behind it in the compound was a small heap of rubbish.
The master of the house was a Chinese businessman who had wanted one sunny
day to plant a garden on the spot. He figured he could get rid of the rubbish
heap and transform the spot into a nice garden patch. He bought a spade and
had his Amah dig up the ground to plant seeds.
She remembered how angry she was at how she had to get her hands so dirty.
But planting the garden gave a great sense of satisfaction. It was after she
had spade up some earth that she noticed something in the dirt. It was half
buried in the fresh mud and rubble that had been turned over with a spade. At
first she thought it was a worm but it didn't move, so she crouched down and
pulled it up anyway. It was heavy as it hung from her hand. She brushed off
some of the dirt and saw it glint golden in the sun. She didn't think what to
do then but she quickly put it into the inner pocket of her blouse.
She dared not think about it until she went back home that night and locked
herself in the shower and took off her clothes and washed it off. From that
day forward it rarely left her body.
Not long afterward, just as the seedlings were beginning to sprout up
through the dirt, the mistress of the house had become angry with her. She did
not know why she had gotten so angry. But she was sent off without her final
She never saw the family again, and remembered hearing that the businessman
suddenly died of a heart attack one day, leaving his wife and children with
many unsettled debts.
But that was many years ago and now she could only smile as she pressed the
necklace to her chest through her blouse. The water
in the rice pot was beginning to boil and she just barely managed to slip a
small tin pot of a piece of potato and a chicken neck to steam in the large
cooking pot of rice.
Her goddaughter came to visit her just as she had finished her bowl of rice
with the potato and chicken-neck. Her goddaughter had brought her two steamed
dumplings. She told her goddaughter that she had just eaten and was not
hungry. She called her goddaughter affectionately "si lok" (dead
prostitute) and asked why she came. She took the broom and began to sweep the
kitchen floor, pretending not to notice the goddaughter's little girl child.
The goddaughter went back to the front room and sat down and began fanning
herself as she talked with the other old ladies.
She remembered the first family she worked for before the War. It was a big
family. The Towkay was a middle-aged businessman who was always out. She liked
the children, all young girls, but not the mother who was strict and mean.
One day the father was home early when the mother had taken the children
out for the afternoon. He was drinking a bottle of stout and smoking a
cigarette. He started getting fresh with her, touching her on the legs and
behind when she was standing nearby. She was frightened but didn't know what
to do. She acted like she didn't notice anything as he asked her to go
upstairs with him. She told him she left something boiling in the kitchen and
fled out the back door, never returning.
The next family was the best. It was a large four-story home. The floors
were of marble tile that she loved to keep clean because of the way they
shinned and looked so beautiful that she was afraid to walk on them. They had
three children. The youngest was a little girl.
She worked for this family many years and the girl became
quite attached to her because her own mother paid her little attention and
her brothers always scolded her. Lau Mak grew to favor the little girl as if
she was her own daughter, and the father one day made Lau Mak the girl's
One morning the sirens sounded. There were rumors that the Japanese were
coming. They all ran outside and could see the planes like little birds in the
distance. They got closer and people were running all about in the streets.
There was a pop, pop, pop of guns firing and then a loud explosion. So loud
and deafening it was that she had never heard such a terrifying thing before.
They all ran back inside and grabbed the children and hid in the back of the
house. Several more explosions, one sounding very close by, and then it grew
They were all too frightened to know what to do. They slowly opened the
front door and there was smoke from a fire that filled the street. People were
running all about and shouting. Bodies lay in the street. People shouted to
them to run to the hills. Not knowing what else to do they quickly grabbed the
children and ran out into the street toward the hills. They did not think to
take food or clothes with them, and left the house door open. Lau Mak carried
the little girl piggy back, and the mother had her two sons by the wrist as
they hurried along the main road with all the other people. They saw people
bleeding and lying dead in the gutter along the way. Buildings were on fire
and black smoke filled the air.
Lau Mak didn't know what to do after that. People were saying that the
Japanese were coming and they would rape all the young women. She and the
others grew frightened and they went off into the jungle to hide. They stayed
there several months, too afraid to return. They found other people there.
Mostly there were young women like her self.
At first they had no food, and after a few days they began to
get quite hungry. Someone had shown them how to dig roots to boil and to
pick some leaves with which to make a bitter tasting tea. People began
catching little lizards to boil also, and someone else had brought a small bag
of sugar that everyone mixed with their tea.
Then a man came who told them about a place where there was food over the
hill on the other side of the Island, and he would show them the way. They
gathered themselves and walked through the jungle until they came to a small
trail. They followed this trail as it wound back and forth over the crest of
the mountain ridge, and down again.
She remembered being tired, and hungry and hot. She remembered being
thirsty but there being no water to drink. She recalled stopping shortly on
top of the hill to see the beautiful blue ocean and white clouds, and the
southern half of the island and the fishing boats and the water glinting in
the sun. She had never seen anything more beautiful or peaceful before or
since. But she hurried on to catch up with the others.
It was a small clearing by a large stream. She remembered staying on there
for several months and eating only tapioca and bananas and coconuts. Once in a
while someone would bring a few small fish, but it was never enough. They grew
quite skinny and many people began to fall sick with fever and the runs.
They heard rumors as new people came and told them that the Japanese had
come and taken control and everything was settled down. Finally one day
another man came and told them to come back down to the town because
everything was peaceful and they would be safe because the Japanese would not
So they all took the trail again and she couldn't wait to get to the top to
see the ocean again. They rested on the top of the hill for almost an hour,
and then came down the other side.
She heard her goddaughter's voice talking to her from the
front hall. She finished sweeping the kitchen floor and put the broom away.
She came back into the front room and pulled a small basket down from the
wall. In it she kept some apples and oranges someone had given to her. She
gave the little girl an apple and an orange and a couple of pieces of hard
candy she found at the bottom of the bag. She smiled at the little girl and
called to it. "Come, come" but the little girl was too afraid of her
and hid behind her mother.
She was afraid of the Japanese and avoided them as much as possible. She
went to work washing clothes for the Japanese officers. She worked everyday
from early in the morning until late at night. She ironed and starched the
uniforms with heavy brass iron heated with charcoal. She was unscrupulously
clean and the Japanese soon came to prefer her to wash their clothes, and they
even came to show her respect and bow their heads to her. While she worked for
the Japanese she had rice and fish to eat, while most people had only tapioca.
But she remembered working hard everyday until her hands were raw and red and
her samfoo was drenched with sweat.
After the Japanese left she went to work for her second goddaughter's
family. They had only one girl child and the mother was too lazy to cook or
clean. The father was a young lawyer and they lived in a large two-story home.
She only worked a few years for this family, until one day the mother began
scolding her and accusing her of stealing her things.
Her first and second goddaughters never came to see her anymore. Several
years ago the first goddaughter started to come to see her every week,
bringing her food to eat. Then she came every day for about a week, until one
day she asked her if she could borrow some money from her godmother. She knew
her godmother had saved all her money and had kept more than 20 thousand
dollars in an account.
Lau Mak had saved every penny she earned and never bought anything for
herself, not even food. She had never earned very much but managed to save
enough to buy a grave plot and to give herself the proper funeral when she
died. Now her first-god daughter was asking for half of her life-savings so
that they could start a hawking business. She gave her the money and the
Goddaughter thanked her and made promises to her that she would see to her
burial when shed died. She returned a couple of more days and then never
The same thing happened with the second goddaughter. She came and told her
that no one would arrange her funeral after she died, so that she should put
her account in both their names so that the second god-daughter could be able
to take the money out when the time came. After that she did not see her
second god-daughter for several weeks, until one day she found out that her
second god-daughter had taken most of the other half of her savings out in
order to put a down on a new flat for her family. She did not see her second
goddaughter for over a year. Then one day she came with food and acted very
proud, and told her she would pay the money back into the account. She left
and came to bring her food only a few times afterward.
But her youngest goddaughter came to see her almost every week, and always
brought something good for her to eat. Now she had her own daughter and Lau
Mak got out her tin of gold and opened it and took out a little red purse.
Inside there was a gold pendant and chain she had bought for her third
goddaughter's girl child. She gave the little girl the purse and the mother
made the girl fold her arms and thank her Lau Mak for it.
She worked for her third goddaughter's family the longest. Those were the
happiest days of her life and she remembered when
the mother brought her goddaughter home in a Langchan from the hospital.
She raised the goddaughter everyday like she was her own, though she was now
too old to think of having her own children anymore. The father was an
accountant and was quite successful. The mother was Nonya-lang and always had
people visiting her house, staying with them and eating meals with them. The
family made Lau Mak feel as if she belonged as a member, and she was never
scolded or reprimanded or ordered about like in the other houses where she had
They were good to her and she worked many years for this family and watched
her goddaughter grow up. He was made her godmother at her first year birthday.
The occasion was the proudest day of her life.
The goddaughter used to make her Lau Mak carry her piggy-back whenever they
would go to the market. Lau Mak didn't mind at all. Lau Mak watched her
go-daughter grow up into a young woman in that Kampong house.
Things changed after the father suddenly died of a heart attack. The
goddaughter was then in secondary school and there was little Lau Mak had to
do any more. A few years later the mother died of cancer, and the house was
sold off to developers who built a large office complex on the spot.
After that Lau Mak worked occasionally for a few homes, but never for very
long. She was getting old and mostly remained close to her own home. People
would come to her and pay her a little bit so that she would show them how to
pray to exorcise evil spirits and cure sickness.
Now she would spend her days begging at the temple close by. Since she had
no more savings left, she begged for money to buy her food with. Twice a month
she and her friend would go
down to get the rice and canned food distributed to older people. They
would have to wait in line in the hot sun several hours, and would walk all
She loved to see her third goddaughter and her girl child when she came to
visit. It made her happy so she beamed from ear to ear. But she acted as if
she didn't care, and would go about her business cleaning the house and
hanging her clothes outside to dry in the sun.
Soon the goddaughter left, and Lau Mak felt alone once again.
A young Indian street-boy had found her body slumped over the gutter by the
temple early in the morning. The day before she had taken off her gold
necklace with the jade-monkey pendant and had hidden it away in her secret
place under the table. She didn't know why she did it, but only that she felt
too tired to wear it anymore. The boy didn't think to check her for her
belongings, as he was too frightened by the sight of her death. A crowd had
soon gathered around and someone eventually called a policeman, or else a
policeman had just happened by. He cleared the crowd back from the body and
called into the station. Detectives arrived and some of the people who
recognized her long gray hair and black silk pants and blue blouse, identified
By the time the third goddaughter had heard the news and went to take care
of her god-mum's valuables, the second goddaughter was already there and the
tin of gold was already missing. The second goddaughter had her husband and
her son with her. They would not look at her in the face but only said that
they did not want any of the godmother's old belongings and that they did not
have enough money to cover the cost of the funeral arrangements. They gave her
fifty dollars and left without saying
The third goddaughter rummaged through Lau Mak's old things. She couldn't
find her tin of gold, and discovered that someone had already taken it. The
other old women said that the second goddaughter had put it in her purse. One
was asleep, turned toward the wall, the other one sat upon her table looking
sad. The third, youngest woman busied herself in the kitchen and would not
come out to talk.
She did not know what to do with all these old things. She gave the clothes
and tins and plastic things to the other women of the house. They said nothing
but thanked her for them. She found Lau Mak's old wooden-tooth comb in another
small tin, along with a few odds and ends--buttons, a key, a pair of scissors.
This tin she put into her purse. She threw away the old bags and straw basket
that always held the fruit.
Once she had cleared off the tabletop, she began to take boards off the
sawhorses and stack them against the wall. It was then that she discovered in
a hole in the edge of a plank the secret hiding place and the gold chain
wrapped in a silk handkerchief. She unwrapped the silk and saw the beautiful
necklace. She had never seen anything like it before and never knew that her
Lau Mak kept it on her body most of her life. She started to cry. She put it
in her purse as well, and finished clearing off the tabletop.
The next day, as her body lay in state and a few old people came to sit and
talk, when no one was watching the third god-daughter slipped the handkerchief
with her gold chain beneath her Lau Mak's pillow as she lay stiffly in the
The goddaughter could not afford much of a funeral. It was all she could do
to take a couple of day's sick leave from her factory job and to take money
out of her own savings to cover the balance
of the cost of the casket and the funeral, but the third goddaughter didn't
mind as she loved her Lau Mak as if she were her own mother. Lau Mak had
already bought a grave plot for herself. She bought a simple casket and hired
a small band and troupe of young men to help carry the casket.
The young men shouldered the heavy pole holding her small coffin as they
walked up the hill road leading to the cemetery. The musicians in front played
their drums and horn and cymbals and a boy cast hell money out to the wind.
The going was not so rough as the coffin was small, like a child's, and not
heavy. Only one goddaughter walked behind, with her daughter and her husband.
She didn't know why she was crying, only that's what she felt like doing. Dark
clouds had rolled up from behind the hills and it had begun to rain lightly by
the time they had reached the open grave. Old people say that when it rains
the ghosts are crying. The casket was lifted into the grave and it was covered
The goddaughter would return every year during Chang Bang to clear off her
Lau Mak's grave. It was a small modest plot set up high upon a hill in the
middle of the cemetery. She would bring food, a few red turtles and some tea
and some paper articles to burn and send to heaven so that Lau Mak would have
things and be happy there. She would sit with her daughter and tell her
stories about her own childhood and her Lau Mak, and they would sing songs and
laugh and joke together.
It was dark and quiet. He worked fast with his spade, careful not to make
too much noise. It struck the top of the casket and he worked quickly to
remove all of the soil off of it. He used the spade head to pry the top off
the casket. First looking around to make sure no one could see, he struck his
lighter to see what was inside. He found a small skeleton with long gray hair
and a blue blouse and black silk pants.
He had never done anything like this before and was a little nervous. He
didn't know why he had chosen this particular grave of all the graves he could
have done, except that it was particularly well hidden from view, especially
from the main road at the bottom of the hill. In the dark it looked like an
old grave and he knew that old people used to bury things with the casket in
A dog was barking somewhere in the distance. He heard a bat fly by overhead
and then the strange cry of an animal he had never heard before. It was almost
like a child crying, or a cat. It made him feel funny inside and he almost
began to vomit. He recovered his nerves and quickly checked all inside the
casket for anything. He was becoming quite angry at finding nothing when his
hand swept beneath the pillow and touched the silk handkerchief.
He brought it out and held it up and struck his lighter again. He found the
gold chain with the jade monkey inside and he quickly put it into his pants
pocket along with his lighter, and then he walked quickly down the hill to
where he had stashed his motorcycle behind some bushes.
There were no cars on the road that early in the morning and as he made a
few turns and got further from the cemetery he began
to relax a little and feel the cool wind against his face and body. He
never wore a jacket when he rode his bike, and he always wore only a thin
white cotton t-shirt and black shorts with slippers.
He did not know exactly where he was going, or what to do with what he had
found. He was beginning to feel pretty happy, though, and just kept driving
here and there around the island until the sun began to break over the
He finally pulled in at his favorite coffee shop that opened at six every
morning. The shopkeeper brought him some hot coffee with cream without
speaking. The people there all knew him, as he had grown up on that corner.
But no one dared talk to him or cross him as they were all now very afraid of
He was a big and rough and crude man. He liked to drink warm stout in the
afternoon and curse and laugh and make front of people. The shopkeepers were
too afraid not to serve him or to tell him to leave. He was fond of
frightening little children away and sometimes liked to catch a cat prowling
around the place for food, and to tie its paws up and watch it struggle to
He had never married and his father died when he was young. His mother had
been a vegetable seller at the morning market, and all his relatives worked at
the same market selling vegetables and fresh fruit and cassette tapes. He
would help out sometimes when he was young, otherwise his mother would beat
him with a cane. But he didn't mind the pain too much and would run off to
play and gamble with his friends the first chance he got. He was always big
for his age and would lord it over boys several years older. They would throw
coins or gamble in the back lanes, steal fruit, sneak into the movie theaters
by the side door and walk the whole day to go swimming up in the hills.
He had seven brothers and four sisters anyway, and so no one
ever missed him much. He went to school for just a few months but found
that the teachers were too strict and didn't like him. So he stopped and
helped his uncles with their vegetable stalls.
He remembered the Japanese as a young boy. He would make extra money from
them by running errands for them. He didn't mind them much and they seemed to
like children, although they would thump him hard on the head if he ever made
them angry or fail to bow to them.
After the Japanese left he fell in with an older group of boys who would
make money by selling and buying contraband from the foreign ships that would
dock in the strait.
He remembered the night they stole their own sampan from a pier by the
docks. They had found an old, half-empty can of red paint. They rowed it all
night around to the other side of the island, beached it, scraped off its
numbers, made a few changes in boards inside, and painted the whole boat
bright Chinese red. They waited there until night again, and, feeling pretty
hungry, rowed back again to a special hiding place in the docks.
They bought and sold cigarettes, fruit, lighters, pens, beer, sodas,
clothes, anything, to the sailors and merchantmen of the ship for about a
year, and made quite a bit of money, which they always managed to gamble away.
One night a marine police boat came upon them and gave them chase. They
narrowly escaped the searchlights of the craft and just floated quietly in the
water. The water was pretty rough and it didn't take them long to drift away
and into the shore.
The next day they scrapped the paint off the boat again and then rowed it
down to the Jetty and sold it for fifty dollars.
After that, his band of young men broke up and went their separate ways. He
began meeting people who introduced him to other people and he was then told
by a couple of men to join the
He was nervous at the initiation ceremony. They took him blindfolded to
place in the middle of the night. He walked through a warehouse door and a
line of bare-breasted men held broad swords above his head. He was told the
rules of the society. He killed a goat with a sword and drank its blood from
an urn, and he made his blood oath on pain of death always to do the bidding
of the society and to never reveal its secrets of initiation to anyone or
become a rat to the police.
Sometimes someone would come and he would have a job to do. They would have
fights with other gangs or help a member out of trouble. He got the scar
across his right cheek in one of these fights. But they always won the fights,
because he was always bigger and stronger and quicker than the others, and he
would fight fiercely--chopping off people's fingers and even a hand, and
breaking open skulls. He knew of at least one man he had killed that way,
according to reports he had read to him from the newspaper the following day.
He was still a young man barely in his thirties and he was already a legend
in his part of town. People knew of him and feared him. Everyone was always
respectful towards him, and everyone steered a wide berth around him and
avoided talking to him when they could.
He never married. He had plenty of women. Whenever he had a lot of extra
cash he liked to go up to Thailand. The girls there were much nicer, younger
and prettier than the bar-girls in town. The Thai girls knew how to take care
of a man. But he never had a steady partner. Once there was a woman he had
taken a liking to, but one day he scolded her and slapped her for spending
money he had given her on clothes and she left him.
Now he was too old to care. He enjoyed his freedom too much
and liked coming and going when it suited him. He finished his second cup
of coffee and decided to get back on his bike and ride for a little while
longer. He was feeling hot and thought the breeze from the ride would cool him
down again. He was not sure what he wanted to do with the necklace yet. He
could think best while he was riding his bike.
He headed for the back roads leading up to the hills. It was his favorite
place when he wanted to be by himself awhile. He knew the island like the back
of his hand--all the places to duck away at, all the routes to escape police,
shortcuts to get somewhere in a hurry. Now he was climbing up the small
winding hill. Soon it became too steep for cars and his bike went slowly. It
was a fast and powerful bike. He had won one in a lucky bet and sold it and
bought himself a brand new one with some protection money he had earned. He
crested a small hill and turned into a small trail along the side of the road.
The trail lead up a small ravine and came out on top of a small hillock. Huge
Durian trees cover the spot from above and hardly anyone ever came by there.
It was his own secret place and from there he could survey the town, his town,
Sitting astride his bike, he decided that he would sell the chain for a
good price to a broker he had dealt with before. He wanted to keep the chain
for himself but knew he needed the extra cash at the moment to pay off some
money he owed for gambling. He knew that there might be trouble if he didn't
soon come up with the money, and it worried him a little.
He only began robbing people after he began having debts from gambling. He
didn't like to do it. He only did it if he felt really worried about his
debts. He would take a lot of time figuring out how to go about it and in
choosing a victim. At first he used a knife that he tucked in his pants. He
would come up to someone on his bike at night in a lonely spot, at a bus stop
or by an alleyway and
stick the knife in their ribs and take everything they had. He was so big
and frightening that they never fought him or yelled out or try to escape. It
never took long. He was fast and he always planned his escape route so that he
would be well away from the scene in no time.
Most of the time he only scored small--A few twenties or a few small pieces
of jewelry. But once in a while he struck it big.
One night the young man he tried to rob pulled a knife out of his pocket
and lashed him across his wrist, almost dropping his own knife. He punched the
man with his other hand, and fled away. He bled a lot and had a hard time
stopping the bleeding.
After that he bought himself a little gun and four rounds of ammunition
with money he had won at the races. He liked to go the races on weekends and
watch the horses run. It was an old police revolver that had been stolen. He
hid it in a box he kept hidden beneath the floorboards of his small room he
rented from above an old shop house, and only took it out when he intended to
He already used one of the rounds when he shot a man he was trying to rob.
He wasn't intending to do it--the old gun just went off accidentally in his
hand and the bullet grazed the old man's temple, bringing him down. The report
of the gunshot stirred the sleeping neighborhood so he sped off before anyone
came to investigate.
He had only three bullets remaining when the police came to raid his little
apartment. They called out and bashed down the door, but someone had tipped
him off before hand and he escaped out the window and across the red-tiled
roofs without firing a single shot. He took his revolver with him.
The sun was now already overhead and he turned his bike around and rode
back down the hill. It was growing hot upon his back and shoulders and the
traffic in the streets was already heavy.
He got stuck behind a big blue bus that was belching out black
choking smoke. He grew impatient and swung around the bus upon its left as
it was pulling up to a stop, almost hitting a woman coming off the bus. He
accelerated and wove in and out of the cars, dodging out of the way of the
He turned a corner and pulled up to a small shop house where the pawnshop
was. The small man inside had no shirt on and was behind a wire mesh. He
showed the man the necklace and asked the man to weigh it for him. The broker
weighed it and set a price at $1,200 dollars. The robber figured he could get
at least $2000 for it and became really angry. They began bargaining and his
voice grew louder and louder until he began shouting at the little broker. But
the broker held firm at $1,500 and finally the robber gave in. At least it
would be enough to cover the debt, he thought as he pocketed the money.
He rode back to his coffee shop again at the corner. By now it was close to
2:00 o'clock in the afternoon and he was getting thirsty. He ordered a beer
from the timid shopkeeper.
He knew that gambling was his undoing. All the money that had passed
through his hands during his lifetime would have made him a rich man if he
hadn't gambled it all away. At times he would get really disgusted at himself
and then would stop gambling for a few weeks, but always he came back. Most of
the time he lost, and he frequently had sizeable debts to pay off. The people
who dealt with him were more unscrupulous than he was, and they knew where to
find him, so the one thing he never did was welsh out of his debt.
But he had made a big Towkay mad one time. This Towkay then sent eight men
after him to punish him for failing to pay back his debt. They caught him
outside of the coffee shop one evening and pulled him into an alley. They
tried to hold him down and poke his left eye out with a metal rod, but he
managed to free himself and
beat off his attackers. They fled at his rage after he managed to catch the
hand of the man holding the poker and thrust it back into his cheek.
Because he was angry at what had happened, he decided not to pay this
Towkay back what he had owed him. It was after that he decided to buy the
revolver with the money instead. He knew that one day this Towkay would try to
get his revenge, but he didn't know how or when it would come about. And as he
didn't like waiting for things, he decided to quit worrying about it and
forget about it for the time being.
He had already scoffed three beers and was beginning to feel really
relaxed. The only time he felt good any more was after he had a couple of
beers. He ordered another stout and the reluctant shopkeeper brought him
another and removed all the bottles from his table. It was approaching evening
when he decided to go down to his favorite bar and hang out for a while. There
they at least talked to him and gave him news of what's been going on around
He rode down the road to the bar and parked his bike by the door in the
alley in back of the bar. He went in and everyone knew him. He sat down at the
bar and the bartender served him a bottle of stout. The bartender told him
that someone he hadn't recognized was asking about for him. It was a short,
well-dressed young man. It made him start wondering who it could be. He
thought of all the people he knew who fit the description but came up empty.
He drank another beer and was beginning to feel the affects of all the
alcohol on an empty stomach. He was also beginning to get angry again and
scolded a girl sitting next to him. He got up and left when he realized
everyone was staring at him through the darkness.
Outside, the breeze blew. He met a couple of people he knew
coming into the bar. They had been in a few scrapes together and were the
only people in whose company he felt comfortable any more.
They decided to ride out on their bikes together to the nightclub along the
north coast. The long ride would feel good and they liked the action, the
music, the lights and the well-dressed women at the club. He didn't go down
very often because it was a $10 door fee and beer was $30 for a pitcher. But
that night he had extra money and so he didn't much care, forgetting about his
debts, his past and his enemies all at the same time.
Together they had about three pitchers of beer and were getting very
boisterous when a man at the table next to them with a young lady told them to
quiet down. This led to the exchange of a few nasty words and finally a fight
broke out. They beat the poor man up and left him lying unconscious on the
floor and the girl crying. They figured they'd better leave and went their
separate ways again.
When he got back to his room he remembered he had left his gun outside on
the bike. As he opened the door he found three men inside. They said that they
were detectives and that he was under arrest. Two more men came up from behind
him and stuck the barrel of guns into his kidneys. They led him outside and
into a dark sedan car that was waiting outside with its motor running and
The brief article in the news the next morning read that police reported
that a notorious and wanted criminal had been arrested had been killed when he
fell off a bridge three-storys high.
Some rumors at the corner coffee shop surrounding his death held that the
police had beaten him to death and then tossed his body over, breaking his
lower right leg completely in half. Other
rumors held that he had been picked by a gang who pretended they were the
police and then killed him. No one seemed to know the whole truth, and no one
felt very bad about what had happened.
The short, round pawnbroker knew he had made a steal when he gave the man
$1500 for the gold chain with the jade elephant. In all his life he had never
seen anything like it before, and could see at a glance that it could be a
priceless treasure. The man had been to sell him things before and he knew
that he was a dangerous, no good person and he had him because the necklace
was probably stolen. He was an honest businessman but he knew better than to
ask too many questions. It was strictly business, one that he had been doing
for over thirty years, and that he had learned from his father who ran the
shop before him.
Instead of laying the gold chain out for display, he put it into a small
safe he kept hidden behind the wall connecting the front hall to the back of
the house. It would be safe there the rest of the day until after he closed
the shop when he could study it better.
It had been a slow day, with only a couple of usual customers, and he had
even managed to fall asleep for about twenty minutes while sitting upon his
stool behind the side counter. He awoke abruptly when his daughter called down
to him from upstairs to come and eat some rice she had made them.
He loved his daughter more than anything else in the world, especially
after his wife had died of cancer a couple of years back. His daughter was the
best student in the entire school, always did what she was told, and studied
hard every day. He wanted her to go on to the University, though he knew she
would find it difficult to get in because she was Chinese. He wanted to give
her all the incentive he could to work hard at her studies and to pass the
examinations at the close of the year.
She called down to him again, and then came down with a bowl of rice and
chicken curry she had cooked up. She set it on the counter in front of her
father and told him "Eat it all or else you will fall sick." He
could only smile at his daughter as she went quietly back upstairs to get
ready for school.
He didn't care that she was a girl--he only wanted her to have a better
life than he had known as a prisoner behind the bars of the pawnshop. He ate
his rice slowly as he thought about how he missed his wife's hot curry. His
daughter was a good student, but she was not yet a very good cook. Soon his
daughter came back down again dressed in her blue and white school uniform,
carrying her large bag full of her textbooks, and she was out the door to wait
out upon the street for the school bus with the other girls her age from the
He didn't let his daughter mix with these other girls very much, as he knew
they were not very serious in their studies and would lead her astray. He
wouldn't let her watch any television either except on weekends after she had
finished her homework. But she never once complained and was always of a
That evening, he was alone in the shop, and he decided to close the shop
early. He locked the front grill and pulled down the metal awning protecting
the front windows, and he retired to the backroom to reopen the safe and take
a better look at the necklace.
He admired it for its beauty and looked at the jade through a magnifying
glass. He held it up to the light and could see how clear and translucent the
monkey appeared, when he noticed the sparkle of tiny little diamonds set in
the jade in the eyes of the monkey. He wondered at its craftsmanship and how
old it could be. He had never seen anything like it before and so knew nothing
He looked at it a long time until he decided he would like to give it to
his daughter as a gift. He had never given her very much and she never asked
for much and never complained. He felt bad that she could not wear the nice
new school clothes that the other girls always wore to school.
When she got home from school that night he presented it to her in a small
red ang pao envelope. He had burnished it up a little and laid it in a small
plastic box with a sheet of cotton batting beneath it.
She smiled and asked "What's this? What's the matter?" He said
nothing and she opened it. She did not know quite what to say except that she
hugged her father and kissed him on his bald head. Tears came into both their
eyes as they thought about her mother at the same moment. Then she ran
upstairs with the necklace and the box and her book bag slung over her
shoulder. He sat down again in silence as he thought back to her childhood. He
remembered her as a small baby that would lay upon the pillow asleep.
She had actually been their third child. The first one was a boy who had
died soon after childbirth. The doctor told them it had a weak heart and would
have not lived very long anyway. The second child was another boy who fell off
a stool when he was five years old, trying to reach something hanging on the
wall. He hit his head and was knocked out for a while, but soon came to and
aside from a little bump, appeared to be O.K. A couple of days later, while
walking to school, the boy appeared to be staggering and walking funny, and he
had died by that afternoon.
Now his wonderful, beautiful daughter was all he had left and he wanted her
to have the best life she could. He got up and took out six joss sticks from a
small bundle in the corner and lit them over the candle burning at the small
red altar. He made a prayer for
his wife's comfort and his daughter's fortune and his son's happiness and
he stuck three smoking sticks in each of the two earns, pointing straight up
The girl took to wearing her gold chain under her white blouse every day to
school. She had been making good grades and felt that somehow the chain and
monkey pendant was bringing her good luck. She was fond of her chain and every
night admired herself in the mirror with it around her neck.
She was short and a little on the heavy side, though she had a very fair
complexion. She wished she could be a little taller that more boys on the bus
might take notice of her instead of the other girls they were always teasing.
But the teachers all seemed to like her and they all gave her encouragement to
do extra activities after school.
She missed her mother a lot and began to cry whenever anything happened
that reminded her of her mum. Every night she prayed for her mother's
happiness in heaven.
Several months passed hence, and the old man, feeling tired all the time
and not too well, decided to go to get a check up with the medical doctor. He
had been to a Chinese Sinseh but the tea he had been given didn't seem to help
He was happy and proud because his daughter had passed all her exams with
high marks and was told that she would be admitted to the National University
the following year.
Now he was sitting in the little hall of the clinic, waiting for his name
to be called. It was crowded that day. A baby was balling and the mother
looked desperate with it in her arms. A young woman and a young man sat
quietly, almost embarrassed, in one
corner and an older woman who looked quite pale and feverish sat
on the other side. No one spoke or even smiled. The receptionist took the
couple's identity cards and found their file. Then he heard his name called
and he went inside the little doctor's office.
By the time he emerged five minutes later, his whole demeanor had changed.
He looked deeply worried and said nothing as he paid the bill. He was being
referred to the general hospital for treatment for cancer. The doctor said he
thought that his chances of survival and complete remission were good if they
could go in soon and get it all out.
He did not worry for himself so much as he worried for his daughter. He did
not know what to tell her, or how, or even if he should tell her. Then he
began worrying about the cost of the treatment and how he would arrange his
finances. He had saved money to send his daughter to the University, but now
it looked as if all his plans and dreams would be dashed.
He returned to his little shop and took the medicine the doctor had given
him. He was to report early the next morning for admission to the hospital to
undergo an operation. He hated the thought of having to leave his daughter
alone by herself. He sat up downstairs until very late, thinking and worrying
and planning what to do.
His daughter had stopped studying upstairs and called down to him to ask
him when he was coming to bed. He told her in a little while and to go to bed
because they had to get up early the next morning. She turned off her light
and soon all was quiet upstairs.
There was only the sound of the motorcycles and cars from the front
He decided to tell her the next morning and thought how he would explain it
to her to make her understand. In the morning he would call his brother to
have him and his sons come over and take over the shop for him in his absence.
He and his brother didn't get
along very well but he felt like his brother owed him that much.
He thought back to the times he would take his family out on weekends
across to the mainland and they would go on a picnic together. He thought
about the Sundays when they would go down in the afternoon to have a good
dinner at their favorite restaurant downtown. He always ordered the same
thing. It now seemed so long ago and now everything had changed. Soon he was
When he awoke the little lamp was still on and everything was quiet. There
were no more traffic noises outside, and the only sound came from the clock
that was ticking above the door. In an hour he would have to go and wake his
daughter up to break her the news and get ready to go to the hospital.
He went to the back and took a shower. The water was cold and refreshing,
helping him to wake up again. He heard a baby crying through the walls and
knew the infant next door wanted to be fed. Then he took some small pieces of
charcoal out of kerosene in which they were soaking and made a small pile in
the stove. He lit the charcoal and began rapidly fanning the flames. Then he
drew water from the faucet into a large black water kettle. He was going to
heat some water for tea and for his daughter to bathe with when she awoke.
He went up stairs in the morning twilight and pushed the door of his
daughter's room ajar. She was asleep on her bed without a cover on and the
dirty old bolster between her legs. He remembered her as she slept there as a
small baby--her whole body fitting upon the pillow. She had grown so fast. He
didn't know where all the years had went.
He called softly her. She slowly awoke. She was drowsy and tired and needed
a few more hours of sleep. Then he walked in and sat on the end of her bed. He
told her that they had to go to the
hospital, and that he had cancer and had to have an operation today.
Her eyes opened more widely as she gave him a serious, questioning look,
but she said nothing. He told her that he would be fine and that he would
return in a couple of days. Now she had to get up quickly and go take a hot
bath and get dressed so that they could be at the hospital within the hour.
She obeyed without saying anything, too stunned to know what to say, feeling
only afraid for her father and herself. Before she dressed she remembered for
good luck to put on her necklace which she had slung over the post on the end
of her bed, and when she did so she made a secret prayer that her father would
get well again.
The operation went smoothly and the doctor was pleased by the prognosis. He
thought that his chances for full recovery were very good. He would be
returning home tomorrow. The girl sat downstairs in the front hall with her
uncle. It was quiet and hot as usual, and the only noise was the little fan as
it turned on its axis. She sat thinking about the last couple of days and how
worried she had been during the operation. But now her father was smiling and
she thanked heaven for his good health.
She figured out that the operation had been fairly expensive because she
studied his account books and his savings book and then she called the
hospital herself to inquire about the payments. It was then that she decided
to sell off her gold chain and pendant so that he would have enough money to
pay for the medical bills. She wanted to do it before her father returned,
without his knowing about it.
At first, she didn't quite know how to go about selling it or how much to
ask for it, so she asked her uncle. She showed it to him and told him how much
her father had paid for it. Her uncle held it in his hand, amazed by its
weight and craftsmanship, and then weighed it. He took out is little
calculator and told her that she
could easily sell it for $3000 dollars if she just put it on display in the
window, but that if she took it to the gold shops she wouldn't get her money's
worth from it.
So taking a chance she placed it in the box her father had given it to her
in and put the open box in the glass case in the window. She thought that if
she couldn't sell it that day for cash, then she would take it down to the
gold shops tomorrow to see what she could get for it.
She sat waiting for people to notice it. Quite a few people who walked by
did notice it. The first person to come in was a fairly tall young man. He had
seen it through the window and had stopped short to stare at it awhile. He
asked the girl what it cost and she told him $3500.
It was expensive but he was not thinking too much about the cost. The
beauty of the necklace and the thoughts of the person he wanted to buy it for
distracted him from haggling too much over the price. He now had a lot of
money in his savings and it was important to him because he had someone
special he wanted to give it to.
He stood there for a few minutes indecisively, but the more he looked at
the necklace with its jade monkey pendant, the more he wanted it. Finally he
asked the girl if she would keep it safe for him if he gave to her a $100
dollar deposit while he went to withdraw the balance from his bank account.
She quickly agreed to the sale and wrote out a receipt for the deposit.
She was surprised that she was able to sell it so quickly and that she had
gotten her full asking price out of it. Sometimes she would tend the shop for
her father and would deal with customers, but never had she done so well as
But she hesitated to put the necklace back in its box and to put the box
into the safe. She lingered with it in her hands as she held it
there. It was almost warm to hold, and she wanted so much to put it back
around her neck once again. It was so close to her that she felt almost as if
it were a part of herself. For some strange reason when she held it like that
she would always remember her mother. She would think back on all those good
times when she and her mother would joke with each other and go shopping
She gave a sudden start when a little boy opened the door and peered in and
then went out again. The bell on the door tinkled and she quickly put the
necklace back upon the cotton, closed the lid of the box and set it inside of
the wall safe.
An hour or so later the young man returned. He seemed much happier than the
first time she had seen him. He thought to renegotiate the final price but
after he looked at the necklace he was again spellbound and forgot all about
haggling. He paid the girl the balance and slipped the necklace, box and all,
into a bag he was carrying. The girl told him to be careful with it and he
agreed and thanked her and quickly left the store. The girl never saw the
necklace again, though she often thought about it with great fondness.
The young man stepped out into the busy street. He felt the box with the
gold chain and monkey pendant to be quite heavy. He could not wait to get back
to his room to get a better look at it. He waited impatiently at the bus stop
by the side of the road that was just in front of the pawnshop where he had
While he waited he couldn't but help thinking how happy she would be when
he gave it to her, and how she would certainly then be persuaded about his
affections. He was now in his late thirties and had never dated or been with a
woman before. He was very shy but hid his shyness by being very serious and
polite to people.
He thought back on the first time they had met each other. Actually, they
had known of each other before for a long time, but never had the occasion to
talk together. They had been working together in the same factory for almost
seven months. She had been a new line-worker who had been assigned to his
section but who was trained by another Malay woman from his section. He would
observe her work while on the floor, but had never talked with her before. She
was a good worker and had done well in her first probation period.
It was on the bus they both took home in the evenings that they first began
to notice one another. Both of them rode the same public bus home instead of
the factory bus. She would don her baju kerbaya and her veil, which she always
wore on the line, before she left the factory. The first time it happened the
bus was getting crowded and there were only a few seats along the middle-isle
left open. He had found a seat by the window and she was one of the last to
come up on the bus. She did not look at him and he did not even notice her
until she sat down next to him. They road together for a few minutes and as the bus would swing around the sharp corners she
would lean against his side and thigh. At first he didn't pay attention, but
each time she was closer to him, until their whole sides were in continuous
contact. She did not look at him and he felt to embarrassed to look at her.
Because the bus was crowded and many people were standing in the aisle no one
noticed how close together they were. He thought that maybe she was being
squeezed from the other side by people standing in the aisle.
After a few minutes he couldn't but help thinking about her, about what she
looked like beneath her veil and dress, what her figure was like, the
complexion of her skin, the length and cut of her hair. He would glance
sidewise at her face. She had an attractive profile and a very smooth but dark
complexion. She was on the short and small side, and she almost reminded him
of a young school girl.
He knew that a man should not be caught touching a Muslim woman and so felt
quite helpless and unnerved by the whole situation. He just sat squeezed
against the window of the bus, frozen stiff and ashamed of himself for his
After a little while, the bus began to become empty of people again as it
was reaching the end of its route, and now she did not squeeze him as she had
been doing, but her thigh and leg and side still were in contact with his own
side. Then the bus pulled up to another stop and she got up and came down off
That night he couldn't help but thinking about her and fantasizing of a
relationship with her. He didn't even know her name or anything else about
her, except that she was a good steady worker.
The bus he had been waiting for in front of the pawnshop almost drove past
him because he hadn't been paying attention lost in thought. But at the last
moment he stuck his arm out and it
stopped short a little ways past him. He ran to get on it and as he stepped
up and grabbed the metal handle it began to move off again.
The bus was not too crowded and he found a seat near the back of the bus.
He did not have very far to go before he would come down.
He looked out the window and saw the shop houses, the people in the
streets, the hawkers and the motorcycles. He had seen the same scenery
countless times before, but there was always something about it that he found
The first time it happened on the bus left him feeling awkward and funny,
but he dismissed it and after a couple of days did not think about it anymore.
A couple of times she had come up on the bus before him and there was no seat
available next to her. But even if there had been he would have been too
embarrassed to sit next to her. When he would come up then he would look
quickly at her and their eyes would meet. She would have a curious,
questioning sort of expression in her eyes and a slight smile upon her lips.
It was the next time when she came up on the bus after him as the first
time, and there was a seat available next to him and other seats still open on
the bus, that she quickly sat next to him anyway, and when she sat down she
sat close to his side so that the thigh of her leg rested against his thigh
and the edge of her leg rested against the edge of his. Then his mind began
racing and he felt even more embarrassed, as there were no crowds in the aisle
to push them close together, but there she was, right next to him again.
Even more than before he tried to imagine what she looked like beneath her
veil and her dress. He glanced down without turning his head and tried to see
how round her legs were through the contour of her skirt. He looked at her
hands and saw that there were no rings on her fingers. Her fingers were long
and delicate and
smooth and soft.
He looked out of the window and saw the people and the lights in the
street. It was beginning to rain and the rain drops splashed against the
window, and he could make out the reflection of the window's surface and see
her veil and the outline of her face next to his. He was too embarrassed to
turn and look the other direction.
No one else seemed to be paying any attention to them, as everyone seemed
lost in their own world of thought. Beside the rain and the shifting gears of
the bus and the sound of the bell and the honking outside, the bus was
absolutely quiet and still inside.
He knew where she always came down now, but when they came up to the stop
she didn't get up from her seat and the bus slowly pulled away with her still
sitting next to him. She sat next to him that way until he came down a few bus
stops later, and as he got up to get off the bus she glanced and him and
gave a knowing smile.
When he came down off the bus in the rain he stood and looked at the window
where he had been sitting. She had moved over to the window and was looking
out at him and she smiled again as the bus pulled away.
He did not know what to do or to think. He did not go directly home, but
stopped by the hawker stalls along the way and drank a cup of hot black
coffee. The rain was falling steadily now as he was sitting beneath the large
umbrella at a little round metal coffee table. No one else was there and the
rain gave him an excuse for stopping and thinking about what had just
Did she really like him or was she just teasing him? What should he do? How
can a Chinese man have a relationship with a Malay woman? He knew his mother
wouldn't like it at all and that his brothers and sisters would all mock him
for it. It seemed so
impossible that he couldn't believe it and yet just the same something was
happening, something wonderful, strange and unimaginable at the same time. How
could he even be seen with her that some Malay men or authority would discover
them and cause trouble. The entire thing seemed doomed for trouble.
He had never even spoken to a Malay woman before, except those ladies who
are always behind the counters when you mail a letter or pay a bill or very
briefly in the factory. He would sometimes wonder what they looked like
beneath all those clothes and veils, and how hot they must feel, but he never
paid serious attention to them. So many young Chinese women and girls dressed
so freely and seductively that he never thought of Malay women in the same
The rain was coming down harder and he ordered some kueh and another cup of
coffee. He was reluctant to hurry home now, not because he was afraid of
getting wet, but because he was embarrassed and afraid that someone might
figure it out by the way he was acting or the look on his face. He watched a
Malay couple sitting at the table next to his. They had two children and he
was handsome and she was attractive, but all of them looked like they didn't
have much money. He tried to picture himself sitting there. He tried to
imagine himself converting to Islam and praying at a mosque. He wondered what
it would be like and how hard it would be and whether the other Malay men
would accept him or not.
Then he thought about the girl again, about how she felt next to him and
her neat smile that seemed to melt every pretence away. He fantasized about
what her legs looked like and wondered how long her hair was. He sat there for
almost an hour like that until he grew tired and finally made his way home in
The bus jerked roughly to a stop and he looked out the window and realized
he had missed his stop by one and then he got
up hurriedly and got down off the bus and started to walk back the other
way to make his way back home. He thought again of the golden chain he had
bought as a gift for her and wondered whether she would like it. He knew she
would, but he wasn't quite sure of it. It was a lot of money to pay but it was
the best way he could show to her the seriousness of his intentions. He
stepped down to cross a road and a car honked at him from behind and startled
him. He stopped short and the car sped around the corner.
He wondered what she would say and do when he gave it to her. It was late
afternoon and he decided not to go straight home again. He wanted to think
about things a little more and decided to get himself some rice at the stall
close by. He crossed the road again and sat at the same table he had sat at
that night in the rain. No one else was eating but he didn't mind because he
wanted to be alone with his thoughts for a while.
He ordered some nasi lemak and a fried fish and an egg and some vegetables.
He was quite hungry. He ordered a cup of black coffee. The fish was stiff on
the outside but the flesh was delicate.
After that incident during the rainy night things began to move more
rapidly. Now almost every time they got on the bus together she would wait
next to him and get up behind him and then sit down next to him if she could,
or directly in front or behind him in the same row. But she still didn't look
at him or speak to him. When she would sit behind him he felt as if she were
staring at him from behind, and when she would sit in front of him he knew
that she knew that he was thinking about her. And when she managed to be next
to him she always allowed her leg to rest next to his and her shoulder to lean
against his arm. One time they were both left standing next to each other in
the aisle and she leaned against him with her hip against his thigh. And
another time he had gained the aisle seat first and she was left standing next
to him and he offered
his seat to her with saying anything and she accepted it and smiled and
when she sat in it she touched his hand as he held the handle of the seat in
front and let is hold the bar next to his hand. By then they were looking at
each other more and always smiling to one another. She was always cleanly
dressed in pretty flower patterned kerbayas. There was a faint hint of
perfume, almost like jasmine, when he was next to her.
It had gone on that way for several months. Whenever she was next to him
she would miss her usual stop and ride on next to him until he came down. It
got so that one day she pushed upon on the bus before him and he came up on
the bus after her. Though there were a lot of seats available, he was left
with a decision to sit next to her for the ride or to sit somewhere else. She
gave him that questioning glance but she was not smiling at him. He felt
awkward and didn't know what to do. But he had no time to think because people
where pushing from behind and so he did what he really wanted most to do and
sat down next to her. He felt as if everyone on the bus had just taken notice
of what he did and were staring at him. But when he looked around he saw that
everyone was looking out the window or straight to the front of the bus.
He did not sit with his leg touching hers, and he felt quite uncomfortable
where to put his hand. It was then that she shifted a little towards him so
that their legs were touching once again and she let her hand rest so that it
was touching his leg and his hand. He road the whole way back like that,
afraid to move, afraid to look around, and afraid to look at her or say
anything to her. She did not make a move when they came to her stop, and he
let the bus go one stop further before he himself came down again.
From that day on there was no question that they would wait for one another
to go up and sit together on the bus on their way homes, although they still
did not talk to one another. The next
time after that the girl slipped a note in his hand while they were sitting
together. He slipped it into his pocket and hurried home to read what it said.
It was written in Malay and read:
I miss you every day and I dream about you every night. I see you at work
and think how handsome you are. I am desperate to talk with you so that we may
get to know each other better. Tomorrow I want you to remain on the bus until
it comes to the end of its journey. There we will both come down together.
Walk far behind me and I will lead you to a secret place where we can sit
together. We can then catch the same bus an hour later and return back to our
The next evening on the bus she did not sit with him but stood in the aisle
in front of him. He noticed that she did not come down at her home and when
the bus came to his usual stop she gave a knowing glance at him. He did not
move, but sat frozen in his seat. He was petrified and excited at the same
time. When the bus reached the end of its line, she was waiting by the front
door of the bus. He moved toward the rear door. They were the only two left on
the bus, beside the driver and the conductress, and he felt ashamed of himself
When the bus moved off they were both left standing there. He was not
familiar with this part of the island and wasn't sure what to do next. She
looked at him and then turned and began walking up the road. He waited a
moment and then began walking the same way. She was walking pretty fast for
her size. She turned up a small dirt lane that lead away from the houses and
went toward the hills in back. She walked up over a little ridge and down the
other side and he lost sight of her, so he hurried along even faster. When he
came down on the other side he was startled to see her standing by a trail by
the edge of the wood. Lights from some kind of homes were
up the road, but this trail lead into some forest. She then turned and
walked up the trail and he, hesitating at first, decided he better not again
lose track of her. It was not long before they came to a small open area where
a few half-buried boulders stuck up from the ground. He found her sitting on
one of these. She had removed her veil and let her hair fall freely about her
shoulders. There was only the light of the full moon that was reflected in a
small stream of water that ran beneath the boulders, and so he could not make
out very well what she looked like without her veil on.
He did not know quite what to do next. He sat quietly down upon a boulder
next to her and looked at her silhouette against the moonlight. There was an
awkward moment of stillness when neither one spoke or even moved, until at
last she asked him what his name was. He told her his name and then asked for
her name. Then he asked her "How do you know about this place" and
she then told him that she used to play here as a child and that her father's
relatives lived just up the road. She told him that she would return and tell
her parents that she had worked overtime and so missed the bus to return. He
asked her how old she was. "Thirty-seven years-old." My parents are
getting worried for me, she said, because I've rejected any proposal or match
they've tried to make for me for other boys. But I just don't want it to be
like that" she said. Then there was another awkward silence as he was
trying to figure out what to say next.
The night was cool as there was a wind up. He was afraid it might rain upon
them. Then he began to hear the chirping of crickets and the croaking of a
frog. Something moved in the trees overhead. She continued, "I've watched
you at the factory and asked the girls about you and I know you are a good and
dependable person. I do not know about what your parent's or mine would think
or say, I only know that I like you and always think about you.
He too knew that it was wrong, that it would never work, that it would be
impossible to get his or her parents together or to go along with it. And yet
he was immensely satisfied that someone would take a personal interest in him
and like him, and he was intrigued by this mysterious woman whom he hardly
knew at all.
They talked that night together for a half-hour. They found out about each
other's feelings, tastes, interests. They were so caught up that they had lost
track of the time and almost missed the last bus going back to town. They had
to cut short their conversation after he glanced at his watch and realized
what time it was. They both hurried together back to the main road and waited
at a distance apart for the bus.
They walked together until they reached the main road. They made
arrangements when and how to meet each other again at the same place the
When they got back on the bus it was the same driver and conductress as
before. The conductress looked at them and smiled, and when she took the
ticket from the man she kidded him in Chinese about getting married. He felt
quite embarrassed and could only manage a polite smile.
They did this for several days in a row, their families thinking that they
were doing a lot of extra overtime. They did it every day until a motorcycle
drove by while they were walking down the side road together and stopped after
it passed them and the driver looked at them both for a while, and then drove
on. After that they became frightened and decided to leave off meeting
together for a week. From then on they meet like that at least once or twice a
week, after finding another way of getting to the same spot without taking the
They found that they both liked each other even more and
wanted to spend more time together. From then on that sat together on the
bus without much restraint or embarrassment, even if some older people would
occasionally cast a sidewise glance at them if they began talking to each
They had found it difficult to arrange a rendezvous together that would
preserve the secrecy of their relationship and yet at the same time allow them
as much time together as possible. They began going to different movies
together on their days off, where they would sit inside the theater next to
one another, and if no one was nearby, they would sometimes hold each other's
hand during the movie.
They had carried on that way for several months and now he wanted the whole
thing to get more serious. That was why he had bought her this necklace. He
had been saving most of the pay that was leftover after his makan and the
money he gave to his mom to help support the family, and so he didn't mind
buying her such a nice gift. He liked her very much, he thought, even loved
her, and the necklace would be his way of showing her how much he felt for
He had never even kissed her and the most they did while they were together
was to hold each other's hands. Both were too shy or embarrassed to do more
He walked home feeling how heavy the box with the gold chain inside was.
When he got home his mother was in the back cooking. His younger brothers and
sisters were all sitting in the front hall watching a movie on the television.
His older brother was out working. His father had died a few years back of a
tragic accident. He was walking down the steps of an office building and he
slipped off one of the steps and tumbled down to the bottom, breaking his
neck. His portrait painted from a photograph from his
younger days hung above the hallway entrance, next to photographs of his
paternal grandfather and grandmother who were also now deceased.
Since his father's death his mother came to depend upon him and his older
brother a great deal. They both held steady jobs and between them they were
able to meet the monthly payments and give their mother extra money for food.
The mother was now getting older, but she still went out hawking everyday, and
woke up early each morning to prepare the food to start selling. His mom had
tried to arrange matches for him, sometimes dragging him to her friends' homes
to introduce him to an unmarried daughter. But it never worked for him. There
never seemed to be the same chemistry or mystery as he felt for the Malay
But he wondered now whether his mom had figured out that he had a
girlfriend on the side. She would sometimes tease him about staying out too
late or always getting all dressed up just to go out on his days off. But he
hesitated bringing the whole subject up and avoided conversation whenever it
seemed to be drifting in that direction.
He knew that if his relationship were to continue, he would have to break
the news to his family some time or another. He was not sure of when that time
would be or how to do it, but he was sure they would not like it at first.
He went straight into his room without saying anything to anybody and
latched the door behind him. Then he pulled the box out of his bag and opened
it up. The gold chain sat coiled up on the soft white cotton pad. It was
glistening in the yellow light of his lamp and he picked it up in his finger
and let the pendant dangle in the air. It was so wonderful that she could not
help but love it, he
thought to himself.
The next day he went to work. He had hung the chain around his neck and
tucked it beneath his shirt so that no one could see it. He would take it off
and give to her when he met her that night.
He didn't see her at work, and was anxious and disappointed. When he waited
at the bus stop she wasn't there. It wasn't like her to be absent from work.
The next day was the same thing. It was only on the third day that he saw
her again at her usual place on the floor. He waited impatiently at the bus
stop for her. She came up to him and smiled. They got on the bus together and
then he asked her where she had been. She told him that something had happened
in the family and she had to take sick leave for a couple of days. She did not
say much else and they waited quietly. He was afraid to ask her if she wanted
to rendezvous with him that night, but when she came to her usual stop she got
up, smiled to him, and went down from the bus.
He was not able to give her the necklace and his heart fell a little. He
didn't know what to think. The next day was the same. While on the bus they
exchanged a few words and she managed to put her hand in his without anyone on
the bus noticing, which reassured him a little. On the third day she did not
come down off the bus and so he stayed on past his stop too. They both came
down at the end of the line again and made their way quietly to their secret
She started to speak but he cut her short and told her he had something to
show her. He unbuttoned his collar and took the chain off from around his
neck. Even though it was dark out, the moonlight caught the gold of the chain
and the girl could make out that it was a very beautiful and very valuable
piece of jewelry. She didn't know what to say as tears came into her eyes and
she began crying, holding the necklace to her chest.
He felt confused by her sudden outburst and didn't know what
to think of it. Finally he put his arm around her as she sobbed and asked
her softly what the matter was. It was then that she told him that her family
had somehow found out about them being together and they had punished her and
told her she couldn't see him anymore. She was desperate not knowing what to
do because she loved him more than any thing and did not want to end it with
him in this way. She didn't know how to make her family understand that he was
a nice man and would make a good husband.
He sat on the rock stunned, not knowing what to say or think. He listened
to the insects and the water trickling. He heard a motorcycle on the main road
below. He looked up at the moon and saw that clouds were beginning to form and
cover it. He felt very tired by everything and wondered why these things had
to be so difficult, so impossible. He became angry as he looked at her bent
over in his arm still silently crying.
Her family did not know that she worked in the same factory as he did and
came home together on the same bus. She had lied to them about who he was and
how they met and they made her promise them that she would not see him
It meant that they would not be able to see each other on weekends anymore,
at least until they resolved this problem with their families. She said that
they still hadn't figured out about the overtime and their rendezvous, so that
she could still meet with him here once or twice a week.
She loved the necklace and wanted to wear it. But she would not take it for
fear that her family would find it with her and then really punish her for it.
So she asked him to wear it for her until things got better between them, so
that he might always think of her when he wore it. They sat like that for
about a half an hour, and then returned home early that night.
He wasn't sure quite what to expect when he told his mother the next night
that he was in love with a Malay woman. At first she said nothing and there
was not expression on her face at all. She just looked at him in a funny sort
of way. After a long silence she asked her son who she was and how he had met
her and if her parents knew about it. At first he thought she was
understanding and might even accept the arrangement. She only told him that he
didn't know how hard it would be, but she said nothing else to him and let the
whole matter drop without saying anything more that day.
From that moment on his brothers and sisters began treating him strangely.
They stopped talking to him and acted like he didn't exist.
A couple of days later he rendezvoused with his girlfriend again and she
again had tears in her eyes. She told him that while at work a Chinese woman
had come up to her and warned her away from him. She said that some ladies
were waiting outside the factory and she went with this woman and there was an
old Chinese lady outside who told her to stay away from him, that his mother
did not want the arrangement because his son worshipped his ancestors and
would not convert to Islam. Then this lady warned her not to have anything
more to do with him or else there would be trouble.
She said she was frightened now and felt very sad in her heart. She did not
know what to do any more because her own family began to be mean to her and
treat her like she didn't belong to them anymore. People in her Kampong began
to talk behind her back and tease her when she walked by. She began to cry
again as he held her in his arms and they just sat there like two lost
children, she sobbing and he with tears in his eyes, feeling very sad and
Neither of them wanted to leave each others arms that night or separate
from each other ever again. They didn't know what to do or where to go for
help. His mind raced without stopping. Perhaps they would run away. He could
take his money out of his account and they could go and get married and he
could find another job somewhere where their families wouldn't bother them and
then they could forget about their troubles and live together in the open.
He wondered if she could forsake her religion and her family as well. He
knew that even if he converted to Islam his own family would cut him off and
her family would not take them in anyway.
There was no moon that night and it was very dark and quiet. He took off
the gold chain he had been wearing for her and put it around her neck and made
her promise never to take it off again. She promised him and tucked the
necklace under her veil.
It was late when he looked at his watch. The last bus would be coming soon
and they would have to go back without any answers, not knowing what tomorrow
might bring. They didn't want to separate or to go back at all as they hung on
to each other.
They walked arm and arm to the bus stop and waited there in silence. They
had no plan or purpose anymore. Both of them just felt sad and happy to be in
each other's arms. They got on the bus with saying anything and sat in the
back together holding hands as the bus rode empty back to town. Neither of
them knew where they were going. They did not want to separate and did not
come down by their homes. They road the bus all the way down to the central
bus station. The shops at the mall were just beginning to close and a lot of
people were still milling about inside. No one seemed to notice them as
crossed the main road against the traffic walked together up the steps
They walked all the way to the top of the fifth floor and sat on the edge
of the fountain looking at the lights of the city below. The
traffic was as heavy as always in the road, with honking horns and
motorcycles weaving in and out. They looked up to heaven and could see a few
faint stars twinkling above.
They must soon separate forever and yet they loved one another more than
anything else in life. They hadn't even kissed each other and yet they felt
ashamed of their feelings and intimacy.
Suddenly they felt totally alone together in the world--a feeling neither
of them had ever had before. They were the last people on earth and the city
below them was crowded and empty. No cars moved on the streets below. No
lights flashed. Neither of them spoke together, neither of them said a thing
to one another. They were afraid to look in each other's eyes for what they
might see in them.
They were standing close to the edge. A strong wind had suddenly come up.
In each other's arms they lost sense of where they were or what they were
doing there. Suddenly he felt very angry and frustrated. He began to hate his
family and himself. He began to hate his life and the city that sprawled below
No one saw them falling or hit the pavement. It was only the double thud
that made a couple of people look around and notice that something very
strange had happened. There on the ground were two bodies with arms
interlocked fallen. One was that of a young Chinese man who bled from the
mouth and nose, and the other was that of a young Malay girl whose veil had
come off during the fall. The veil had been caught by the wind and was carried
off down into the street where the cars and buses ran over it.
The first policeman on the scene was a detective who had happened to be in
the area and heard some cries and people calling for an ambulance. When he got
there he moved people back and could see that both the victims were clearly
dead. They made an
odd looking couple. He bent over the girl to see if she was breathing when
he noticed the gold chain she was wearing. Bending over so no one could see,
he managed to quickly slip the chain off her neck without anyone noticing and
bunch it in his hand and put it into his pocket.
No one knew what happened. Some people thought the boy was trying to rape
the girl and they both fell off the top floor by accident. Others conjectured
that maybe the boy was trying to push the girl off when he was pulled over
also. The next day the newspaper had a small column at the bottom of page 24
that read only "Local couple fallen to their death at...."
The police detective who had slipped the chain from off the dead girl's
head and into his pocket took it out again as he sat alone in his car. He held
it up in the palm of his hand and figured he had made quite a bit of money
that night. It was his way of making ends meet between paychecks, and anyway,
he figured they owed him for passing him over successively for promotion. Plus
he had extra expenses of his own that he needed to take care of.
He went back to the station and the girl was waiting quietly for him
sitting at his desk. He said nothing to her. The pictures of his wife and
children were there on his desk, and it bothered him to have to see them while
the girl was present. He had this young Indonesian woman wrapped around the
end of his fingers.
He used her sexually when he wanted her, and kept her from talking with
anyone, frightening her by threatening to turn her into the authorities and
have her and the rest of her family deported back to Indonesia. He didn't
allow her to talk to anyone and she only went to her job and came straight
back to wait for him at his office. Anyway, he gave her a little spending
money when he scored a little extra in order to help keep her quiet. The other
policemen looked knowingly at her, but they all looked the other way. As long
as there were no repercussions everyone acted as if nothing was going on.
Of course his wife knew about the situation and was angry with him, but she
was a good wife who could say or do nothing about it. He came to visit his
family on his day off and sometimes stopped in to see them between times while
on his job.
He was also irritated because he hadn't figured out what to do with the
necklace as yet. He didn't want anyone around the station
to see it in case it was reported missing. He wasn't sure whether to sell
it for cash or to give it to the girl as a gift. He liked the girl a little
bit and felt sorry for her, but the necklace would bring a lot of cash in and
he could do a lot more with the cash. That's why when he saw the girl sitting
there dumbly he became angry at her and purposefully ignored her. He didn't
want to bring the necklace out in front of her and he wanted to see it better
in the light to figure out how much he might get for it.
He sent the girl out to buy some makan for them and so that he could get a
better look at the necklace. When the girl left he pulled it from his pocket
and inspected it in the light. He was amazed at the intricacy and delicacy of
its design. He knew right away that it would be too much to give to the girl
and that he would get a pretty good price tomorrow from someone he knew on the
streets. So he put it into a small pouch that he hung under his shirt and
quickly buttoned his shirt back up.
When the girl came back with the rice they ate on the table. He asked her
if she had spoken to anyone that day. She was terrified of him and told him
that she only spoke with the people she usual talked to. When he wasn't too
busy he would follow her down to her work and then pick her up when she was
He liked the girl because she was like a helpless child to him. She was
much younger and thinner than his wife and more attractive. He made her go to
the department store and buy the sexy lingerie that he made her wear every
night. He kept her in a small flat that he rented from a connection. No
questions were asked, no papers signed--as long as the rent and bills were
paid every month.
The money that she earned from her own job during the day he let her do
with as she pleased. She used it to support her family who had come illegally
to work, and to send back to her own country. He bought her food and clothes
to make her look good,
and he paid for the small flat where they stayed nights. He made her clean
the flat, and when he was out and she was there, he would lock her in so that
she couldn't leave without his knowing it.
They finished eating and threw the wax paper into the trash can and washed
their hands at the sink outside. Then he called his wife and asked after his
kids and told her that he wouldn't be coming home that night because he had to
work late. The wife said nothing and he hung up. Then he and the girl walked
out to his car and they drove to their flat together.
The first time he saw her was when he went to arrest the family after being
tipped off by someone who called him on the phone. Instead of having them
arrested he figured he could swing a deal with them. When he saw the young
girl he decided that he liked her. After talking with her a little he knew he
had them in the palm of his hand. He brought the girl with him down to the
station while he let the others off the hook.
Their flat was on the eleventh floor of a low-cost housing scheme. He hated
it. At first they checked in to some nice hotels who gave him a special
discount because they knew him. But it was too expensive and risky to spend
every night in a hotel, even if he liked the accommodations better. He parked
the car beneath the building and they took the elevator up from the ground
floor. The flat was dirty and crowded. Things were always falling from above
and the air smelled of Durian. Kids were still playing up and down the
corridors as he unlocked the grill and opened the door of the flat.
He opened the glass door that gave access to the small balcony. The wind
was still blowing and it cooled the place off very well. She turned the light
on to the kitchen. He always had her go out and buy beer in the mornings so
that he could drink one when he came back at night. It helped him to relax and
he liked the taste
of beer, even if he went to the Mosque every Friday. He told her to get him
a beer and he took off his clothes and went to take a hot shower.
He laughed to himself when he thought how his wife still had to use cold
water to wash herself with. He thought how odd the dead couple were that night
lying limp and lifeless arm in arm. He did not understand their motives. It
all seemed so strange and unbelievable. He hadn't seen anything like it before
in his 17 years as a detective. And the girl was strange and pretty, even in
The girl went to clean up and he sat down on his couch to watch a video. He
had gotten a deal on the tape player. Sometimes he liked to watch foreign
movies when he had the extra time to go and rent them and sometimes he liked
to watch his special collection of blue movies he had gotten when they had
made a raid on and confiscated a bunch of blue movies downtown. He had put all
the tapes they had raided into several plastic bags and put the bags into the
boot of his car. When he took them back to the station he left one bag in the
boot of his car while he took the rest in to be used as evidence. He figured
there was more than enough to make a case.
Tonight he put on one of his special tapes. It was a Japanese tape. He
liked to see the naked women making love to each other. The girl came out
dressed in a light nightgown with skimpy lingerie underneath. She looked
embarrassed as she sat down on the couch next to him to watch the start of the
tape. She was dark but tall and attractive. She had a nice figure and was on
the slim side. She had let down her black wavy hair and it covered her
shoulders. Her breasts were large and her black hard nipples pointed through
the thin material of the nightgown. He could smell the perfume he had bought
for her to wear, and she had rubbed lotion over her body.
They sat there watching the movie for about a half-hour. He had put his arm
around the girl and drew her close to him. He figured these movies were
educational for her as it would teach her things to do in bed. At first she
was very timid and would just lie there stiffly and moan a little. Only lately
she was beginning to get used to it and break out of her shell a little more.
She was beginning to get into it more and even seemed to be enjoying and
wanting to do it more. He wanted her to do things like in the movies but was
too embarrassed to ask her openly. She always turned the light off before she
got into bed, but he wanted to leave the light on so that he could see her in
the mirror he had hung on the wall while they made love together.
They sat on the couch like that together and finally they were kissing and
he slipped his hand beneath her nightgown and could feel her soft smooth skin.
They made it on the couch for a while, until the tape ended. Then they got up.
He rewound the tape and then they went into the bedroom. Tonight he insisted
that they leave the light on and she acquiesced. He had forgotten all about
the golden chain with the monkey pendant.
The next afternoon he went to see someone downtown he knew who dealt in
stolen merchandise and contraband, so that he could swing a deal with the
necklace. He didn't really know its net value and asked for at least a
thousand dollars for it. He had already made plans for how to spend the extra
money. The man he was dealing with didn't make much of an argument and gave
him his full asking price. No questions were asked and he did not think twice
about having done it.
On the way back to the station that afternoon he thought about his wife. He
sometimes missed her and his children, and thought
that he would go and stay with them this evening after he took the girl
back to the flat. When he went like that he never said anything to the girl.
He never told her where he was going or what he was doing. He just locked her
inside and told her to not answer the door if anyone came to call.
When he was back at the station the head of the department called him into
his office. The department chief told him that there had been some
complications. The girl that worked for him had fallen ill at her work and had
been rushed to the hospital. There they had to do an emergency blood test on
her because she had an acute appendix rupture and the hospital wanted to
perform an emergency appendectomy.
The problem was that the results of the girl's blood test had indicated she
was HIV positive. The head of the department asked the detective if he knew
what this all meant. He asked him if he had any sexual relations with the girl
and who the girl's family were, because they had to be told of the situation.
The detective was dumbfounded and just sat on edge of the chair without
moving. He was staring through a window into the work area outside and the
chief's words were droning in an incoherent fashion. All the implications of
what the chief was saying didn't really sink in. Just a mild infection like
the flu or something.
He did not really know much about AID's except that there was no cure yet.
He didn't really know whether he could have picked it up from her or not, or
whether he could have given it to anybody else.
His mind flashed to the dark girl in her silk lingerie. He thought about
his wife and his children. He counted the months back to how long he had known
the girl and then he thought how
many times he had had intercourse with is own wife since then. He thought
that she was a young virgin because the first time they had intercourse there
Then he heard the chief's words again when he told him that he was himself
to go down to the hospital to get a blood test done and a shadow began to rise
slowly over his heart to engulf it in darkness.
The couple had brought out the
hotel's wooden folding lounge chairs to sit under the Casuarina pines in the
white sand. White billowy clouds filled the sky and it was a warm day with a
nice wind that took the edge off the heat. They were a young and fashionably
dressed couple. The man had spied them from the edge of the beach and watched
them put the suntan oil on each other and lay down on the chairs. After a
couple of minutes he made his move. He was not a big man and he had recently
become very thin.
Wearing his slippers and his tourist t-shirt, he carried his little old
leather briefcase over by the couple and stood there for a moment looking out
at the waves. They were a little uncomfortable at first, afraid to look at him
until he spoke to them.
"It is a beautiful day today. One can see all kinds of animals in the
clouds. Not too hot with the wind blowing so early."
"Yes, it is wonderful today" the young woman said.
The man said nothing nor did he look at the man with the suitcase.
"Ah, you speak English, where are you from" he asked them.
The women told them "We're American. We've come from the U.S. on
"What part of the U.S. are you from" he then asked them.
"New York" she said.
Then he asked them if they would like to see his nice souvenirs and
jewelry. He told them he had very special things that couldn't be found in any
stores. He opened up his briefcase and the girl looked surprised by all the
fancy things inside.
At first she was suspicious, disbelieving that they were
authentic. But as she studied them and held them, she began to recognize
the qualities of real gems and gold and silver. It was an odd assortment, and
they were held in place with raffia ties on a purple and pink velvet backing
that was already worn and soiled and torn from years of use.
They had come for a holiday for a couple of weeks and were at the end of
their stay. Beside the hotel that was part of their initial budget, they
hadn't spent anything much at all, and she wanted to take some souvenirs and
gifts back to the states.
At first the man didn't appear very interested, but when he saw his mate
become so excited over the contents of the briefcase he decided it might be
worthwhile to look it over more seriously. The girl was holding the golden
necklace with the turtle pendant. Of all the jewelry in the case, it was by
far the most beautiful and eye-catching. She had never seen anything like it
before and she knew that it must have been a very valuable piece of jewelry.
She showed it to the young man and asked him if he liked it. He became more
enthusiastic when he thought she really liked it. He was wanting to get her
something to make amends to her, to make it up to her, but he had so far seen
nothing adequate to the task. Everything else had seemed so cheap or
overpriced or commonplace.
The confidence trickster knew he could get more for it on the market, but
he also feared it might be stolen. He already carried it for a week and wanted
to recoup the thousand he had paid for it. He told the girl when she asked him
how much he wanted for it that normally it was priced at $2000 dollars, but
for her he would ask only $1,500 dollars. He liked to deal with the Europeans
and knew not to ask too much from them. He hated to deal with Chinese or other
locals, or with people from the Middle East who counted and quibbled over
every penny. But the best customers were the
Japanese, who paid in cash almost any price he asked of them.
The girl didn't say anything but looked at the man for a moment. The man
had about $6000 U.S. leftover from the original $7,500 he had saved for
expenses for the trip. He was keen to bring some of it back with them, but at
the same time he wanted to get something while they were there, especially
something that might make both of them more happy together. They were leaving
on the plane the next morning and he was growing desperate to try to patch
things back up with his wife.
They hadn't any children yet, though they had both been trying for several
years. There marriage seemed to be falling apart, especially when she had
found out that he was taking a woman he worked with at his office out to lunch
almost everyday. He told her that the other woman was just a good friend whom
he liked to talk to about things, but this didn't matter much to his wife. His
wife hadn't spoken to him for a week after that and was threatening to leave
him and move back in with her sister.
They had arranged the vacation as a way of giving their marriage a second
chance. It was supposed to be like a second Honeymoon, although it hadn't yet
quite worked out that way.
He had changed two thousand five hundred dollars in traveler's checks the
day before and had the cash in his wallet. They were planning to go downtown
to buy some gold in the gold shops that afternoon, and to buy back some batik
cloth and some other souvenirs.
The young man asked his wife if she liked the necklace. He could easily see
that it was a very valuable piece of jewelry and that the $1500 dollars was
not too much to pay for it. Plus he didn't like spending too much time
shopping around with his wife and it would save them a couple of errands that
last day. They talked for a couple of minutes like that between themselves,
forgetting the man
standing quietly and politely waiting in the sand. They knew that there
would be no receipt and no possibility of returning the item if they found it
defective or fake.
Finally they agreed and he took out is fat wallet and paid the man the full
amount in fifty-dollar bills. The man was beside himself that he made a sale,
but hid his feelings well.
The American woman put the necklace into her purse and it was not very long
before they decided to go back to their room to get ready to go shopping
The hotel room was dark and quiet. They clicked on the overhead fan and she
pulled the curtains back to the window. It was the second floor and it had a
small balcony that overlooked the beach front with the Casuarina trees. It was
an older hotel and the furniture was old and wobbly, but the room was spacious
and the wind blew into the room and made it cool enough that they didn't
require the air-conditioner.
They got a couple of cold beers out of the small refrigerator and sat in
the chairs on the back balcony. She bought the necklace out of their purse and
they both admired what they had bought. It was a silly, impulsive thing to do,
but it was their last day and they felt like being a bit silly about things.
The entire time they had watched their money and now they were leaving and
they still had most of the money they had worked so hard to save just for the
Neither of them had ever traveled abroad before. It was their first time to
the orient, and they found it strange and in many ways disappointing to their
expectations. Everything was dirtier and less friendly than they realized. The
local people would courteous, but reserved and even unfriendly. For almost the
entire two weeks the only other people they were able to really talk with were
German couple that had met the third day but who soon left.
The two weeks together seemed to have had a warming effect on their
marriage. They were at least talking with one another more without arguing,
although a couple of times they went for a whole day without speaking to one
another. They talked of small and trivial things. They talked about the
experiences they had, and things they remembered about their life back in the
U.S. Both had their own careers that took them away from one another quite
often, all it seemed they ever did anymore was just work and pay bills in a
non stop daily round. They were usually too tired by the end of the day to do
much with each other when they were both home.
They were talking with each other again, about little things, and they
didn't once bring up or discuss the woman or their marriage or the virtues of
having children. Last night they even had a great time in bed together, and it
was the closest thing to being like their honeymoon that they had yet
experienced on their vacation. It seemed like the wounds were slowly healing
over, but they were leaving tomorrow and all this peace would soon come to an
end and in a couple of days they would be back in their routines in their
lives in the States.
Both of them felt like it was over too quickly. They hadn't enough time to
work everything out yet. And even now there was no more time to worry about it
or to just sit and relax, as they needed to catch the early afternoon taxi
service from the Hotel to downtown so that they could take care of all their
last minute shopping.
He went to take a shower and get dressed and she sat on the balcony looking
at the gold chain. The monkey was sitting in a curious position, cross-legged
like a human, and it had a funny expression on its face--not quite a smile
upon its lips and human
Perhaps there was hope for their marriage after all. He had been really
good to her the entire vacation, and she thought that maybe he could actually
be trusted and he was telling the truth about the other woman after all. She
thought that maybe they should go to a counselor or something like that when
they got back, or to a doctor to see if there might be a problem why they were
not able to conceive a child. She was already in her mid-thirties and she was
becoming a little worried about it. She always wanted just a couple of kids--a
boy and a girl would be best. It would be good for him too, making him think
less about himself and becoming more responsible for their relationship. Not
that he was never responsible, but he just liked to enjoy himself sometimes
and have fun with his friends and the people at his work, none of whom she
knew very well.
She admired the chain and the intricacy of its design. She held the chain
in her hands and thought that it was very heavy. She wandered how pure it was.
The pendant was unusually large too. She didn't really know that much about
jade or gold or such things, but she had priced the jade and gold at the shops
downtown a couple of times and realized how expensive even a small piece could
Yes, there might be a chance to patch things up and get started on a new
footing in the relationship. She cherished the last few days together and was
quite sad that now it was coming to a close so quickly. She didn't want to go
back so soon to her old routine. She had grown tired of the drudgery and the
same old faces. She didn't really care for the people whom she worked with and
secretly envied her husband who seemed to make friends so easily with all his
coworkers. He was basically a nice person. She had never known him to ever be
mean to her or to deliberately hurt her in any
Perhaps she was being unfair to him in making more out of the incident than
was actually there. She had felt confused and didn't know who or what to
believe anymore. She often felt like she was being pulled in a hundred
different directions and didn't have enough of her self left over.
He came out of the shower dripping wet with a towel around his waist. He
finished off his now warm beer and tossed the can into the waste-basket by the
small television set. He got his clothes and began to put them on.
She still loved him but only felt angry at him because he didn't seem to be
paying any attention to her anymore. Either he was too busy with is job or he
was talking and having a good time with his friends. Somehow things hadn't
seemed to be going in the way that she used to think they should be. She
wanted a family sitting around the dinner table in a comfortable house, like
she remembered when she grew up. All it seemed to be anymore was one
unexpected problem or headache or phone call or dinner date after another.
The hotel van drove them down to the shopping complex in the center of the
town. He had worn the gold chain around his neck and tucked it under his
shirt, because they thought that would be the safest place for it, short of
putting it in the hotel safe. But they were hesitant to do this because they
thought it may have been stolen or that people might start asking questions
about where they had gotten such an expensive piece of jewelry. The van was
air-conditioned and was comfortable to ride in. There was only an older
Japanese couple riding with them.
They went down a few streets and bought some beautiful batik cloth and she
bought herself a pretty dress. They picked up a few things for gifts and
stopped at a nice Indian restaurant to have an
early dinner. They liked the Indian food the best, and found the Chinese
food strange. They didn't try much of the Chinese food, because they didn't
know what it was or how to order it.
They decided to go back to the Hotel early and spend the evening on the
beach. They thought they might try walking down to one of the bigger hotels
and having a drink there. They waited for the bus at the bus depot by the
shopping complex, and got on a crowded bus.
The sun was beginning to set by the time they got back to their room. They
hurriedly packed the things they had bought into their suitcases along with
the clothes they had neatly folded there, and they changed into their swim
suits and put T-shirts on. They didn't know what to do with the necklace but
she put it into her purse to carry by her side while they walked.
The usual feelings and distance had given way that evening. They were close
together once again. They didn't know how long it would last, but at the
moment they didn't really care. They walked up the beach for about half a
mile, the surf and coarse white sand feeling cool beneath their bare feet. The
sun was just going down against the distant horizon of the Indian ocean and
the high clouds blazed red and orange. It had rained for almost the entire
first week they were there, and the heavy surf had cut heavily into the sand
of the beach. A few fishing boats were making their way back in the distance,
otherwise the sea was quite calm and serene and the beach wide and flat at low
tide. A horse with a young white girl on top trotted past them, kicking up
sand in its tracks.
Darkness fell quickly. They turned and made their way back down the beach.
They came to the fancy hotel that had a small garden with tables by the beach.
They stopped there and ordered some drinks. The girl slung her purse over the
back of her chair.
She got up to go to the restroom, forgetting her purse behind
her chair. While she was gone her husband, also forgetting the purse,
walked up to the bartender to pay the bill. When he returned to the table to
wait for her, he noticed that the purse was missing. It was too dark to see
beyond the lights of the circumference of the garden.
When she got back and discovered what had happened she began to cry. They
reported the theft to the bartender who called the hotel management and
security. Luckily for her all she had of any value in the bag was the gold
chain. She kept her spending cash in a little change purse she wore around her
neck and he kept their documents and airline tickets in his wallet. There was
little else they could do except to go back. They had to get up early the next
morning to catch their plane flight out and they decided not to make a big
fuss over it.
They walked back to their hotel room, somewhat frightened by the dark
shadows of the night. He was feeling angry at himself for being so stupid.
They got back to there room and locked the door. The maid had been in and
cleaned the place for them. They put in an early wake up call and ordered for
a taxi to pick them up the next morning and take them to the airport.
They packed their things without saying too much to each other. They turned
on the TV but there was not much on, so they both sat out on the balcony in
the dark and drank a beer while they listened to the crash and thunder of the
waves as they pounded the beach beneath the Casuarina trees. She told him to
forget about the necklace. What was more important was that they were both
talking to each other again and nothing else mattered at the moment.
Other than the loss of the necklace, the rest of their return journey went
without a hitch.
He had walked through the back of the hotel earlier in the afternoon. He
acted as if he were crippled and had leaned on a stick he had fashioned out of
a branch of wood outside the hotel. As soon as the hotel staff saw him they
ran him off the premises and he went back around to the side of the hotel
along the drainage channel where none of the guests would notice.
But he had hung around the back along the side behind some bushes and
watched as guests would come and go near the bar area by the beach. After
darkness had fallen he saw the young white couple walk up from the beach and
order some drinks from the bar and sit at the table near the corner of the
area. He watched them as the young woman had slung her bag across the back of
the chair. He could see them clearly in the lights, with all the bugs flying
around, but he knew they could not see him in the shadows of the bushes beyond
the reach of the lights.
When he saw the young women get up and leave after a while with her purse
still hanging on the back of the chair, he edged a little closer to the grass
edge that was closest to the table. When he saw the young man get up and walk
toward the bar with the bag still hanging there, he made his move. Without
looking around he marched quickly under the lights straight to the table, he
unslung the bag from the table and marched right past into the darkness on the
other side. Once in the safety of the night he made haste to empty the
contents of the bag into his own bag he carried slung with a string over his
Inside the purse he found a comb, a bottle of suntan lotion, some old bus
stubs, some hair clips and the gold chain with monkey
pendant wrapped in a small handkerchief. He through the bag into the
drainage stream that flowed by in the bushes, and he stalked away along the
side of the hotel to the front where he walked down the road to the third
bus-stop down and waited for the bus to carry him back down town.
There were only a handful of people getting on the bus and he hung back in
the shadows beyond the edge of light of the bus stop. As the rear bus doors
opened to let down a couple of passengers he quickly and quietly slipped up
the steps first in front of the passengers and then sat down in the far
backseat corner of the bus without the bus conductress, who was busy attending
the people coming up, noticing. He pulled an old bus stub from the back of the
seat in front of him where someone had stuck it.
When the conductress walked to the back of the bus she eyed him
suspiciously and then asked him if he had yet paid his fair. He showed her the
folded up stubs he had picked up that was stuck in the back of the seat and
confidently looked her in the eye and told her yes, and she returned to the
front of the bus where she sat down.
As the bus lumbered shakily down the road, he quietly eyed the passengers
around him. He saw an old Chinese man with a cane and a young Indian mother
with her small boy sitting next to her directly in front of him. Two young
Malay men were sitting beside him and a couple of young Chinese girls were
sitting in the seat just in front of the back door. He shifted away from the
window toward the center of the seat where he could look up the aisle.
Two young white tourists were sitting near the front, and a couple of
Indian women with their flower patterned Saris were sitting in the middle. One
of these women had her billfold in her right hand sitting on the seat beside
her next to the aisle. She was busy talking with the woman just in front of
her and was not paying
attention to what was going on around her on the bus. When the bus would
jerk forward or brake or turn, she would let go of her billfold on the seat
and hold onto the handle with her free hand.
As they got closer to town, a few more people had come up and the bus was
beginning to fill. At one stop while a lot of people were coming down and
others were coming up, he quickly shifted seats to the empty seat directly
behind her that was just vacated by an old Muslim couple. He softly slapped
the seat near the window and plopped down. The Indian woman in front of him
was too busy to talking to even notice he was there.
At the next bus stop the bus jerked to a sudden stop next to a group of
noisy school girls coming home late from school. Everyone had their eyes on
the girls when the young man quickly and quietly slipped the Indian woman's
billfold off her seat and into his open bag. Then he quietly got up and exited
the back of the bus the way he came. He was the last person down and the bus
lumbered off blowing off black smoke as he stepped on the pavement.
He quickly crossed the busy street in the middle of the traffic, having to
wait in the middle of the lane for an opening before he could get completely
across, and then he began walking quickly along the side of the road toward
town. The bus was just four stops away from the main depot area at the
shopping center, so he was fortunate that he didn't have very far to walk.
Along the way he ducked into a dark corner behind a building where there
were only a couple of stray cats pawing in the trash. There he pulled out the
billfold he found and opened it and took out the money and coins and then he
threw the rest of the billfold into the trash pile and he walked back out to
the main street. As he reached the second corner he noticed that just up the
side road was the Pasar Malam. He turned up the road and walked into the
of the market area.
Because it was still fairly early the market was pretty crowded. The
hawkers were doing a brisk business. The noise of the music from the cassette
seller was fairly loud. He noticed that a hawker selling shirts and underwear
was busy with three Chinese women and had his back turned away from the other
side of his table where some T-shirts were sitting folded neatly in rows. The
Indian boy quickly opened his bag and grabbed two T-shirts from the edge of
the table and slipped them into the bag, then he walked off again into the
He walked by a hawker selling fresh fruit next to the cassette seller that
was crowded all around by a couple of Chinese families. He reached in behind a
couple of kids and grabbed a couple of Sunkist oranges off the table and
plopped them into his bag.
He walked further down and came to a gap along the side of the market where
there was a tent set up selling clothes inside and where there was an
alley-way leading to a back road in the row of shop houses on the side of the
street. He stood there for a moment and then noticed an old Chinese woman
walking alone with her handbag slung over her shoulder. She was wearing large
gold earrings and a necklace and bracelets and a couple of rings on her
fingers, and she was quite bent over and walked with a cane in her other hand.
As she slowly walked by him he quickly looked around and noticed that no
one was looking that way. He quickly pulled a pocketknife out of his pocket
and then with his other hand he grabbed the strap of her purse from behind and
cut the strap. He was so swift and smooth in the motion of this action that
she didn't even notice anything until after he pulled the bag with his free
hand from behind her and her strap gave way. He quickly dodged into the
darkness of the gap and into the alley of the shop houses, and he ran
the length of the back road until he came to the main street from which he
had originally turned up. There he stopped for a moment to catch his breath,
without any people around. He emptied the purse directly into his now full bag
and threw the purse into the corner of the back street. Then he crossed the
road again and continued walking quickly to his final destination.
He laughed quietly to himself when thought about how strange it was that
the lady didn't start screaming until he was already in the side alley, as he
heard a couple of men shouting behind him, and how by the time he stopped it
was completely quiet.
At last he came to the main boulevard where the shopping center was across
the road. It was all lighted up and all kinds of people were shopping and
He cross the boulevard in the middle of the road, just before the
pedestrian crossing at the light, and he had to run to dodge a truck that
honked it's horn at him.
When he got to the other side he sat for a moment to cool down and to rest
for a minute. He watched all kinds of people walk by. There were groups of
young girls and groups of young boys, young couples, older Chinese folks,
Chinese and Malay families, rich looking white couples and a dingy looking
young white man. A couple of the shopping center guards ambled slowly by and
stared at him as they past. He looked at them and then looked the other way as
if he didn't even notice them.
When they got out of his field of view around the corner of the building he
reached into the bottom of his bag and put on his jacket and then he decided
he'd better walk around and start from the other side. He walked around the
outside of the complex and then went up the escalators to level number three.
The inside of the mall was crowded with shoppers as there had been a holiday
promotion at the department stores.
He zipped up the bottom of his jacket and slung his bag over his left
shoulder. It was a fancy looking brown leather jacket, and with it on people
didn't notice his dirty T-shirt or pants so much.
Inside the mall he walked carefully behind the throng of people as it
slowly made its way down the main corridor. There was a promotion of gaudy
costume jewelry going on with loud speakers playing music. A lot of young
girls were there browsing on the shelves and all the sales girls were too busy
with their customers to pay much attention to him as he grabbed an handful of
fake gold jewelry off a shelf and slipped them quickly into his jacket. He
zipped up his jacket a little more as he quietly exited the store. He made his
way into the main department store on the other side of the mall and went up
to the top floor. He enjoyed walking the floors on the different levels, and
then coming down by the store escalator to the next floor.
He would act as if he were a customer shopping. It was a busy night and the
store personnel in their blue uniforms were all so busy with customers or
talking to one another by the cash register or bringing out more merchandise
to arrange on the shelves. So they didn't notice when he slipped into his
jacket a total of three new blank cassette tapes, some three way electrical
plugs, an expensive set of women's underwear, and four pairs of black dress
He didn't exit the store at the ground level where they sold groceries and
most of the store security hung out around the entrances. He waited around the
entranceway of the second level acting like he was interested in buying some
new shoes until he noticed a group of Indian women leaving at the same time
that a large Chinese family was entering. He got just behind the group of
Indian women on the opposite side of the security guard at the door and
quietly slipped through and then made an abrupt turn to the
right and walked outside of the shopping mall where the outside stairs led
down. He stopped to sit on the steps halfway down and when he saw that no one
was coming up or down the steps he quickly opened his bag and put the contents
of his jacket into his bag one thing at a time, taking stock of his booty.
His shopping bag (as he called it) was stuffed full and so he began quickly
rearranging its contents without taking his hand or anything outside of the
bag. Then he put the two oranges into the pockets of his jacket and slung the
bag under his left arm without closing the bag. By this time a young Malay
couple was ascending up the steps and got up and he walked down the steps. He
noticed that the young man was pretty small and the girl was cute so he
brushed against the girl on purpose as he descended the steps past them.
He waited under a tree at the bottom of the steps out of the light of the
street lamps. He was watching a tourist couple who had a VCR and a camera bag
taking video pictures of each other near the ground floor entrance of the
mall. When they finished they walked out his way and sat under the bench under
the tree next to his. As he was already sitting there and had a bag under his
arm they did not notice him. The old white woman then got up and walked by a
tourist promotion billboard and wanted her husband to take a picture of her
there. The old white man in white shorts with hairy white legs got up from the
bench with his VCR in hand and left the camera bag on the bench.
He moved fast in the shadows, grabbed the bag off the bench and then walked
quickly toward the bridge around the back of a row of phones. The couple
hadn't noticed the bag missing until he reached the busy one way road. He
slung the whole camera bag over his left shoulder as if he were a tourist and
hopped over the
planter with the yellow marigolds. He waited a second for an opening in the
traffic and then crossed against the cars, stepping between them as they
veered to avoid him.
He walked down the main thoroughfare where the tourists always shopped. A
lot of tourists and locals were out. He went down a few blocks, brushing
against people along the way. He stopped and waited at a corner where he had
just passed two young tourist men wearing shorts with loose pockets. They had
their backs turned to him as he stood there and turned half the other way. He
saw the tourist's wallet in his back pocket as he was looking at some leather
bags and talking with the other man. He quickly pinched at the wallet with his
forefinger and thumb, but just then the tourist began to turn around the other
way. He withdrew his hand for a moment and waited. The tourist had noticed
nothing. He turned back the other way and then the thief quickly pinched his
wallet and stepped out across the street just behind a car and in front of a
motorcycle making a turn. As he turned and walked across the road he quickly
put the wallet inside his jacket. He walked quickly across the road and moved
down to the next corner where he slipped a couple of caps off the table as he
walked by when he saw the lady hawker trying to sell a hat to a young Japanese
He reached the intersection with the traffic light at the other end of the
boulevard. He did not wait for the light to change but just stepped out into
the road against the oncoming cars. A car honked at him and another car honked
at the first as it's brakes screeched. He stopped and waited and then walked
in the gap behind these cars. Then he stood in the middle of the road and
waited for a couple of more cars to pass.
As he gained the other side he turned and walked up the dark
side street where he always hung out, transferring the caps and wallet from
his jacket to his now fat bag. There were no streetlights except on the
corners, and there were a few alleys and clean
side walks along either side of the rows of shop houses. One of the rows of
shop houses had been abandoned from a fire that occurred in one of them a year
ago. He slept inside one of these abandoned shop houses. It was locked with a
grill and padlock but he gained access by the back through the demolished shop
house just next door.
Inside the backroom he had made himself a small bed with some cardboard
boxes and newspapers he had scavenged. He had a small set of candles he would
light and he hung his three bags with clothes on nails from the walls.
He would sleep here at night or during the day when he was tired. Or he
would just wait hiding in the rubble next door for young drunk tourists to
come staggering by in the middle of the night, that happened quite frequently
as just up the road there were a couple of open air discos, and a few low
priced tourist hotels.
He lit one of the candles with his plastic cigarette lighter. He had stolen
the candles and the lighter at the same Chinese sundry shop just down the
road. He lit two more candles and propped them up on a piece of wood. Then he
sat down on his cardboard bed and opened up his bag with all his booty in it
and dumped it all out on the ground, spreading it out before him and then
taking the time to arrange it all very neatly. He looked inside the camera bag
and there he found an old Nikon 35 mm SLR camera and two sets of lens with some lens
cleaning equipment. He looked through the camera window as if he knew how to
take a picture and acted like a professional photographer. The view window was
very dim with only the candlelight.
He put the camera back in the bag and looked at the wallet.
There he found $138 dollars and a couple of U.S. traveler's checks. He took
out the passport of the person and an American Express card. Inside the wallet
was a couple of photos. One was of a young white woman in a two piece bathing
suit standing by the beach. A lot of people were there, walking by or swimming
in the waves. The girl in the picture was attractive. He pulled the picture
out of its plastic pocket and stuck it in a crack on the board on the wall. He
took out the other pictures and tore them all up.
He put the money into a pile on the floor underneath a rock. Then he looked
at the passport and the card and wondered what he could do with them. He put
them into another pile under another rock. Then he laid the wallet back down
on the floor. It was fairly new and nice.
He pulled out the other things in his bag. The pairs of dress socks, the
T-shirts, the caps, the electrical outlets, the cassettes, the things from the
old woman's purse, which included a small change purse with 15 dollars inside,
two bottles of medicine and a pair of glasses, and the things from the purse
he stolen at the beach. He looked at the gold chain with the monkey pendant
and figured he might get one or two hundred for it.
He didn't really know why he was such a successful thief. He had been doing
it for only a couple of years now. He thought that it was perhaps because he
had such a young face that everyone thought him innocent--he was only fifteen
and on the short side for his age.
He decided to keep a couple of the T-shirts and one of the pairs of socks,
a cap he liked and the hairbrush. These things he put into another bag that
was hanging from a nail on the wall. The rest of the stuffed he carefully
arranged back inside his carrying bag.
By the time he was finished the candles were getting low and
flickering. One had already gone out. He felt tired and decided to rest
because he wanted to get up early before the sun to carry his things to
He lay down and heard a rat scratching among the rafters overhead.
He awoke with a start when he heard the young drunk Australian singing and
yelling and kicking things outside on the street. He got up fast and ran
around to get a better look at the person. The young Australian was big and
had a short haircut. He was staggering in the street and appeared to be angry.
He could see that the Australian had a change bag slung around his waist. He
began kicking the tires of a car parked along the street and then staggered
back and fell over onto the ground. He sat there in the middle of the street
ranting and raving. It was late and dark and no one was noticing him.
He quickly picked up loose brick from the ground and ran out into the
street behind the Australian. He came up directly behind the Australian and
clobbered him over the head with the brick. The Australian bent over holding
his head and moaning. He quickly unzipped the change purse and took out a
handful of cash and a wallet inside. Then he ran off into the shadows around
the corner and made his way back to his room where he lit a burned down candle
and counted the cash. He could hear the Australian still moaning and groaning
outside. He counted 34 dollars. He opened the wallet and found another 100
dollars and the Australian's passport that he put with the other one. The
wallet was old and so he flung it out the back door into the rubble. The drunk
Australian outside started shouting again and cursing real loud, but soon he
heard the voice get fainter as the Australian moved off down the street.
When he woke up again he could see that the sun was
beginning to break on the horizon. He quickly jumped up and gathered his
bag of things and made his way down the street along the back alleys. He came
to area known as thieves' market. A few men had their things laying out on old
blankets. He didn't have a blanket so he found a spot along the curb and laid
his things out on the ground, including the camera, bag, lenses, the brush,
the wallet and the gold chain, along with some things he had previously stolen
but had not yet sold.
It was morning twilight and things were not yet very light. Just then a
large black Mercedes-Benz drove slowly up the road. When it passed by the boy
the driver slowed down and looked at his things. Then the driver backed up a
little and pulled over to the side so that the view of the boy from the road
was blocked by the car. The driver got out of the car and asked the boy what
he wanted for the necklace, the wallet and the camera and equipment. The boy
told him 500 dollars. The man said 100. The boy said 400. The man said 150.
The boy said 350. The man said 200. The boy agreed. The man took some cash out
of his pocket and counted out 200 dollars in 10 dollar bills. He gave it to
the boy. The boy put the things into one of the old plastic bags he kept extra
for that purpose. The driver got back into the car and drove off.
He didn't sell anything else that morning and after about an hour decided
to put the things back into the bag and move off. Besides, he now had plenty
of cash and was really feeling anxious to go find his dealer and buy some
heroine. He walked in the cool air of the morning. The streets were not busy
with cars yet and so he quickly made his way to an old shop house on the other
side of town. Below was a coffee shop that was already full of people going to
work at the office's nearby. He went inside and up the stairs and knocked on a
door. The door cracked open a little and a face peered through and told him to
go outside for a few minutes
and wait until he was ready.
He went back down and waited beside the curb. While he was waiting he
didn't notice 3 young Malay men dressed in plain-clothes walk up behind him.
One of them offered to sell the boy some drugs and the boy agreed and took
money out of his pocket. The other two then grabbed him from behind and
twisted his arm behind and put handcuffs on him. They were so swift and quiet
that hardly anybody inside the busy coffee shop noticed what happened. They
led the boy down the street to a car waiting by the curb, and then they got
into the car and the car drove off.
He put the plastic bag with the things he had bought from the Indian boy at
thieves' market that morning behind the driver's seat of his car. When he got
to his office that morning he carried the bag into his office. His secretaries
and all other agents acknowledged him as he came in and he went straight into
his office-room and closed the door behind him. There was already a note on
his desk to phone back a client as soon as possible. He looked at the camera
and found that it was in good condition and the lenses were of good quality.
He held the gold chain in his hand and was surprised by its beauty and weight.
He held it up to the light and estimated that it was indeed pure gold. He put
the gold and the camera bag and equipment into the wall safe in his office,
and then he set to his business.
Shipping and forwarding was a competitive business. He had worked hard and
had built up the business over the years since he had taken it over after his
father's sudden and tragic death. He had been lucky to cultivate the right
connections with Taiwanese, Indians, and more lately, with Japanese clients
and other agents. The Japanese had especially brought in a lot of business and
profit, and so the last couple of years were successful for him. He liked
doing business with them because they paid the asking price up front without
any questions, so unlike the Taiwanese.
He got up early every day, Monday through Saturday, and worked until late
each night. He liked to keep his new Mercedes-Benz spotless because he
frequently drove his clients and other businessmen in it. Some mornings he
would drive by thieves' market on the way to his office because he frequently
He had six children all in a row, and the oldest was now entering secondary
school. He was hard on his children and would not tolerate any nonsense from
them. He hardly had any time to talk or be with them, and he expected his wife
and his house-keeper to handle the lot.
He had been arguing with his wife a lot lately. He would scold her or
exchange a few harsh words with her. His wife would not fight back very much,
but just break down and start to cry.
Someone had told his wife that they had seen him getting fresh with a young
secretary who worked in his office. The girl was nice and very attractive and
he liked to go out to lunch with her sometimes. The girl dressed very
seductively and she had long slender, shapely legs.
The phone rang and it was someone from the Chinese Swimming Club inquiring
about his application for membership. He said he was happy that he was being
considered for membership and would pay the initial fees when they billed him.
In the evening he had a dinner date to take a client to one of the nicer
hotels in town where they were offering a buffet special. The client could
bring in a lot of money and he was anxious to see that everything went
smoothly with the appointment.
At noon he went out to get something to eat at the corner coffee shop. It
was his favorite coffee shop where he worked. Soon his secretary came in and
ordered some food and sat down at the table with him. They talked and laughed
together about things. She was young and fresh and fun to be. He liked her and
enjoyed her company. She wore a pretty dress and had an attractive face. Also
she was pretty smart and he liked intelligent women.
He knew his wife was put out with him over her. He had not
been serious with her at all, though she sometimes stayed over time to help
with the books after everyone else had gone home, and he would then take her
out again in the evening to buy some dinner. They had spent a lot of time
working together, and she was getting to know the ropes of the business
They walked back together to the office and went back to work. He had to go
out to take care of some cargo waiting on the docks. Before he left he opened
up the safe again and looked at the gold chain with the monkey pendant. He
couldn't make up his mind what to do with it.
While driving down to the docks in his car he talked with his secretary on
the phone and then called his wife to see how she was doing. After hanging up
he was debating whether to give the chain to his wife or to his secretary. He
felt like he ought to give it to his wife, though secretly he desired to give
it to his secretary. His wife had stuck by him through all those lean years,
and the five kids had not been easy to raise. He loved her a great deal. His
secretary had really been helping him out with his new clients and business
was doing better than ever lately. She worked really hard and he also really
liked to have her around. He couldn't get her out of his mind and wanted to do
something for her.
He worried though that if he gave it to his secretary then it would signal
something more serious between them, a commitment of support that would cause
a great deal of friction with his wife. On the other hand if he gave it to his
wife what would it matter, he thought. She had so much jewelry and a little
bit more wouldn't make much difference to her.
That night he picked up the clients at their hotel in his Mercedes-Benz. He
had invited his secretary along because she was
good socially and helped to break the ice. Plus she was attractive and he
felt good when he was with her in public situations, as everyone seemed to
treat them better. He was carrying the gold chain in his pocket but he still
hesitated about who to give it to and so it stayed where it was the entire
His secretary performed very well that night. She knew all the right things
to say and all the right things to do, and his clients seemed really relaxed
and to be enjoying themselves with her. They had had a couple of drinks with
their dinner, and because he hardly ever drank much, it had affected him quite
He drove his clients back to their hotel and then drove the girl to her
apartment flat she shared with her family. He let her off outside and she was
hesitant about asking him to come inside for a little while. He said good bye
and moved off.
He thought about his wife and children. He really loved his children. Every
Sunday they would do things together as a family, and this had become the most
enjoyable time of the week for him.
After dropping her off he didn't feel like going straight home. The drinks
he had with dinner had made him relax and loosen up a little. He turned on his
stereo and played his favorite music as he rode across town.
He rarely had much time to himself just to think about things and the
problem about what to do with the necklace was bothering him.
As he drove down the coast road he saw the lights of the local nightclubs
up ahead and as he came closer he impulsively decided to stop and have a drink
at the place he usually frequented with other businessmen.
Inside it was dark and filled with cigarette smoke. The red tiles of the
floor shinned in the sparkling of the multi-colored light
that rotated, suspended from the ceiling on center stage. A few couples
were doing a slow dance on the floor and the Filipino band was playing an old
mellow 60's number.
He found a seat at the bar and ordered himself a beer. He sat there
listening to the music and thinking about the day. The gold chain still
bothered him, as he was tossing between giving it to his wife and his
secretary. He began thinking about his business. He had started with very
little. His father did the business when he was young but he had never learned
much while his father was alive. His father's business just fell apart after
his death because no one wanted to step in and take it over for about a year.
His old partner wanted to buy their family's shares of the business from his
mother, but he had told his mother that he wanted to give it a try instead.
He owed a lot to his dad, he thought. His father had died unexpectedly
after he had gone to the restroom while they were having dinner, and he
slipped inside the bathroom and broke his neck. He died on the spot. He
somehow felt responsible for his father's death, as he had insisted that his
father go to the restroom just as they had been leaving. His father had been
an inspiration to him. He was not only a successful business man, but he had
also been a national champion badminton player in his younger days and playing
badminton was his whole life. He had always been a straight and honest man and
had given to charities and worshipped properly all his life.
Now he had been dead over ten years and he still missed his father and
thought about him a lot. His mother never really got over his father's death,
and she turned more seriously to worship almost everyday. His brothers did not
want to be bothered with the business and all had advised their mother to sell
of the father's shares to the partners. Now they looked enviously upon his
wealth and success and were demanding their own share of the profits of
He ordered another beer and the band had started on an old Elvis Presley
tune. Elvis Presley was his favorite singer and he listened intently to the
music, not noticing the poor English of the singer or the music that was out
of key. He forgot about his daily worries over his wife and his business and
just listened to the music for a while.
Since it was still not too late he decided that he would have another beer
and listen to the music a little longer. It was then that the girl came up to
sit next to him at the bar. At first he didn't pay much attention to her
except that she was on the small and thin side. She had a funny appearance.
She was a Malay girl but she was not wearing any veil and her hair had been
permed. He couldn't tell her age although she looked pretty young, too young
he thought to be in a bar like this.
The girl smiled at him and sat there a while without ordering any drinks.
Finally the bartender came up to her and asked her if she wanted anything. She
told him not yet and the bartender told her she would have to leave if she
didn't want to order anything.
He did not know why he did it. The impulse came over him to order her a
drink and he asked her what she wanted. Maybe he just wanted to see the site
of a Malay women drinking. "A Roman Coke" she said and the bartender
went to work.
She smiled again at him and asked him his name and what he did. He told her
and then asked her what her name was. It was hard to hear each other because
the music of the band was so loud. At first they were shouting to each other,
until the girl leaned over and began whispering into his ear.
She was a mysterious creature. She reminded him of an oversized black cat
without any hair, sitting on a stool too high off the ground. They began
talking about music and what kinds of
music they liked to listen to. He enjoyed the triviality of the
conversation. He began telling her of the music he liked to listen to when he
Very soon he ordered another beer and another drink for her.
He didn't know why he did it. It was all a vague memory. Something about
the girl got him really worked up and he ended up going up to a hotel room
with her. He paid the hotel desk clerk some money and they went inside the
room. It was an old Chinese style hotel and the furniture was very
dilapidated. There was a large square mirror that had been hung low almost the
entire length of the bed.
The girl went into the bathroom to shower and he just sat there on the bed,
his head buzzing with the tunes from the nightclub and not quite sure what to
do. She came out naked except for some long silk stockings tied at the waist
with a black elastic garter belt. She was pretty skinny, and looked even
younger than in the nightclub.
When he woke up it was dark. The girl was not there. He looked at his watch
and realized that it was not too late to get back home again. He was lying on
the bed naked, and his trousers were slung over the other bed and his shirt
was hanging in the little closet. He wondered where the girl had gone to and
then he thought about his wallet and remembered the gold chain he had left in
He had never done anything like this before and felt quite ashamed of
himself. He searched through his pants and found his wallet. His I.D. and
cards were all there, but all his cash was gone. Then he searched the front
pockets of his trousers and realized that the gold chain was also missing.
He quickly got dressed, and looking a little sheepish, left the
room. The hotel lobby was dark and the night watchman had fallen asleep on
a cot blocking the hotel stairwell. He shook the old man quietly on the
shoulder and the old man slowly got up and went downstairs to let him out
through the grills of the front entrance.
He drove back to his house and found all his family already asleep as he
snuck in quietly. He had never done anything like that before and vowed to him
self never to do it again. He went and showered and then went to bed himself.
He could sleep more easily because he didn't have to worry anymore about who
to give the gold chain to.
As he laid down on the bed next to his wife he thought how much he really
loved his family most of all.
The Pimp and the Prostitute
The girl got dressed as soon as the Towkay had fallen asleep on the bed.
Once dressed she quickly went through the pockets of his trousers and found
the gold chain and took all the cash he had out of his wallet. Then she
quietly left the room and went out the rear exit of the hotel. Her pimp had
been waiting outside for her the entire time since she had first gone up with
Her pimp grabbed her by the arm and scolded her for taking so long. She
showed him what she had gotten and he became silent, pocketing the money and
the gold chain. They walked back to their own hotel as it was too late now to
get any more business that night. They rang the buzzer of the bell for the
night watchman to come and open the gate so that they could go up. The night
watchman was asleep and didn't hear the bell. They rang and rang and
shouted up the circular stairway. About five minutes of this the old man was
finally roused and, still in a drowsy state, he went down and opened the grill
for the young Malay couple. The young Malay man scolded him and cursed him for
taking so long. Then they both ascended the stairway and went up to the top
floor and locked themselves in their room.
He was as short and small as she was and he dressed in fancy clothes,
though between them they hardly made enough to eat or to pay the hotel bills.
They were hoping to strike it really big one night and then make enough to
skip out of town without paying the balance of their hotel bill which they
hadn't paid in over a week.
She was only 17 and he was only 19, though to her he acted much older and
mature. Both had come from outstation. They had stayed at the capital for a
while, and, leaving there in a hurry, had
come to this city to make more money. She liked him because though he was
small he was tough. Sometimes he was real mean to her, especially when they
weren't making any money, but otherwise he bought her clothes and made her
feel like a woman. He was the first boy to pay any real attention to her or to
make her feel like she was someone. After she ran away with him to the city,
he began to change and threaten her and forced her to do bad things.
They would go out every night to try to make business. She was young but
not very attractive. He had her make herself up and dress up, so that in the
dark of the night she looked prettier. She already began looking older than
They had been in the hotel now for two months and owed a total of 16 days
back rent to the hotel management. Whenever the hotel manager or manageress
were about during the day they would try to avoid them as much as possible,
because they were always kachowed for the money. He would only pay one or two
days at a time, because they were planning to skip out of town at the first
opportunity they had to make a lot of money.
Mostly they got local young Malay men or sometimes middle aged Chinese men
for business. Usually they would arrange a room at a special rate with another
hotel, the night watchmen of which they had befriended. Every evening they
would go out to get makan and wait outside of certain hotels. Last night was
only the second time they had tried the nightclubs, the management letting her
come in the back way without charging any door fee.
When they came back to the hotel it was usually 2:00 or 3:00 in the
morning. They usually scolded the old uncles of the hotel who opened the
gates. They would go up to their rooms, first walking through all the
corridors to see if any doors were open or if
anything was going on.
He wouldn't let her talk to anyone in the hotel without his presence. They
would sleep until noon, and then get up and go out and eat and snoop around
One afternoon a young American traveler checked into the hotel room just
next door to them. He was a very big fellow who looked like he lifted a lot of
weights, and he was very friendly. He had just come from Thailand. The young
Malay man was by the front desk arguing with the manageress over payment of
his debt, when he saw the American carrying his backpack. He got the room next
to their own and he pulled out a big wad of cash he had in his pocket to pay.
He followed behind the American as he went up to the room. The American
went inside and left the door wide open. He went to his own room and told the
girl about the guy next door. He told her to get fixed up, then he went out
and started talking to the American.
The American had thrown his pack down in the corner and was going to take a
shower. He noticed that the American had a fat wallet that he had put on the
little night table by the bed. Bills were sticking out of its side. Then he
told the Malay man that he was going to go over to the bar across the street
to have a beer. The Malay man left and went back to his room and told the girl
to go over to the bar and wait for him to come in.
She went over to the bar and ordered herself a coke. She waited about a
twenty minutes like that until the American came in and ordered a beer and sat
down at the bar. He was laughing, talking with the female Chinese bartender.
She was sitting at the end of the bar and looking at him through the mirror.
The American noticed her looking at him and he said hello to her.
He scoffed his first beer in almost a single swallow, and then
he ordered a second one which he still drank fast but more slowly. She
didn't know English and he didn't know Malay, so they couldn't say much to
each other, but she could tell that he was interested in her and was behaving
very friendly toward her. He went and put some loud music on in the jukebox
against the wall. It was hard rock music.
Barely a half-hour had elapsed and he had already finished his third beer
and ordered his fourth. She felt very awkward but now he was sitting next to
her at the bar. Finally he asked her if she would like to dance. Not
understanding him, she just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. She was nursing
her now flat soda, in which the ice had all melted. He led her by the hand to
the center of the room between the tables and he began moving his hands and
legs in a funny way. She smiled and started slowly, seductively moving her
hips and arms back and forth.
The song finished and they went back to their seats at the bar. The
bartender was laughing at the American and having fun teasing him in English
and then in Malay with the girl. The girl would smile and joke back with her.
The American didn't know anything what was going on. He ordered another beer
and another drink for the girl. When he pulled out his wallet to pay for it
the girl noticed that he had quite a few hundred and fifty-dollar notes
haphazardly shoved into his wallet.
They sat in that bar for several hours like that. She nursed her coke and
he drank close to eight bottles of beer. He was acting very strangely and
wildly, and he was frightening to her a little, but funny as well.
Finally she excused herself to him, translating through the bartender that
she had to go to the restroom. As she got down from her barstool she put her
hand on his and brushed by his side with
She stepped outside and her boyfriend came out of the shadows. He asked her
what was taking so long and she told him that he was really drunk and had a
lot of money in his wallet. She told him that he was really falling for her
and that she would try to lead him out. He told her that he had a plan, and
would try to lead him down the street. He had talked to an acquaintance at a
Chinese medical clinic down the street and that man told him he would sell him
some drugs in a hypodermic needle for a price.
She went back inside and sat back down with the American. At first he
didn't notice her, almost as if he had forgotten about her, but then he turned
and recognized her and laughed. He asked her if she would like to leave the
bar and go with him somewhere. She didn't understand but the bartender told
her in Malay what the American had asked. She had the bartender tell the
American that she knew where they could go. Then the Malay girl led him by the
hand and they walked out into the nighttime air. He smelt of beer and could
When they got outside she grabbed his hand in hers and she led him down the
street. Her Malay boyfriend was walking ahead of them on the other side of the
road as they walked up the road nearby where the clinic was. She led him up to
where the Malay boyfriend had thrown his cigarette upon the ground and she
waited there a couple of minutes.
The American was growing restless but acted unafraid. She saw her boyfriend
motioning to her from the alley across the road and then she led the American
into the shadows of the alley. The Malay boyfriend came up behind the American
in the shadows and quickly injected the shot into his rear end. He hardly
noticed anything and he turned around to look at the man standing behind him.
He started looking real dizzy and heaving. He sat down on the ground and was
having a hard time breathing, then he laid down on
the ground and closed his eyes, holding onto his chest.
After a couple of minutes he was silent and still and out cold on the
ground. The Malay boy and his girlfriend didn't know what the drug was or what
its effects were. They didn't know if he was dead or just knocked out. But
soon he stopped breathing and they feared that he had died. They quickly went
through his pockets and took the change in his front pockets and the money out
of his wallet, putting the wallet back into his pocket. Then they laid
another, empty hypodermic needle beside the American and they quickly walked
It was now pretty late and no one was nearby on the street. They quickly
walked back to the hotel and packed their things. She had hidden the gold
chain she had stolen from the Chinese Towkay a few nights ago from her
boyfriend because she liked it and knew that he would take it from her to sell
for cash. She had secretly hung it behind the wardrobe on a nail. He never
looked behind things or under the bed, and never really cared much if the room
was clean or not. But now she was nervous and they were in a hurry, and so she
had completely forgotten about the gold chain. They counted out the cash and
found they had over 2000 dollars. They packed their things in their small
shoulder bags and left the key in the room and the door unlocked. They
kachowed the night watchmen to let them out through the gate.
They stalked off into the night like two alley cats, and they were never
seen again. Agents from the American Consulate visited the hotel the next day
to investigate the mysterious death of the young American down the road, whom
the Malay authorities had attributed to drug overdose and left it at that
without further investigation.
Now it happened that the next person to rent the room after the police had
come to search the room next door where the American had stayed who had died,
was a British ex-pat who frequently came to stay at the hotel because he knew
the manageress and liked the old 1920's style of the hotel. Also he liked the
fact that it was inexpensive and yet had air-conditioning and hot water and a
When the Malay couple had skipped out without paying the debt the
Management was angry, but the incident was soon eclipsed in importance by the
discovery of the body of the American down the street and the tracing the
American to the hotel where he had rented a room. The police had come up and
checked the room and the hotel register two times, and officials from the
American embassy had also come to inspect the register and to gather his
belongings in the room.
The management did not make the connection between the Malays leaving and
the American's sudden and mysterious death. Everyone dismissed his death as
drug related when they found the hypodermic needle by the body, and the
police did not bother to investigate the death further than that. It was
surprising that no money was found with the body, as the manager remembered
seeing a lot of cash with the American when he had checked in. The manager
only figured that a policeman may have taken the money. They didn't tell the
police about the Malay couple leaving the night before as they didn't like to
involve the police in hotel matters.
So nothing more was made of the affair, except that they all
speculated about how it was that the American had suddenly died under such
capricious and strange circumstances. Rumors soon circulated that a young, bit
American had died of a heart attack.
When the management found that the Malays were not coming back two days
later, they found that the door was unlocked and the key sitting on the
side-table. The hotel maid and an old uncle went in to clean the room
thoroughly, as they had left it a mess, with one bed frame broken and the
mirror all messy with fingerprints and lipstick. They cleaned the room and
mopped the floors, changed the linen and then left.
That evening, the old British ex-pat, Tom, had arrived with his son, who
was a teenage Anglo-Asian boy. The mother had died several years earlier and
Tom was trying his best to raise his young son as best he could, even though
he was now in his late seventies.
They checked into the very room that the Malay couple had occupied. They
each carried a small suitcase and they laid their things on the bed. Tom was
the first to notice that there was a little trash underneath the beds and a
lot of dust. He decided to look behind some of the furniture to see the state
of the room's health. He and his son moved the large closet away from the wall
to reveal an empty whiskey bottle and a couple of clothes pins, and then they
noticed the gold chain hanging from the nail.
They took it down and admired its beauty. Tom's first impulse was to take
it to the hotel management as he thought that the person who had left it
behind might come back to reclaim it. But then he thought about it a little
while. He reasoned that the person who had left it behind would have already
come back to reclaim such a valuable thing if it had been very long ago.
Then he thought that any other occupant of the room between that time and
now might just as easily have taken the chain. He looked at the chain and saw
how beautiful it and the pendant were,
and the more he studied it the less he wanted to give it back to the hotel
management, whom he suspected might just keep the chain for themselves anyway.
His son, who was a more than a little superstitious about such things,
thought it was a good omen and that they should hold on to their lucky
Tom was not quite sure what to do with it and so wrapped it up in a
handkerchief and put it into his pant's pocket. He would hold on to it until
he could figure out the best thing to do with it.
His son went to take a shower and Tom sat down in the low legged Chinese
chair next to the round table to feel the cool of the air-conditioner and
ceiling fan at the same time. Though he was now getting old his memory was
still good and he liked to think about the events that happened to him in his
His dear wife had died several years earlier of breast cancer and since
then he took it upon himself to raise their son well. She was a Malay woman
and he had loved her dearly. He had lived in that country since before the war
and had nominally converted to Islam though he still liked his scotch.
He had come as a young university educated man during the mid-thirties. He
was teaching English and Math to the secondary school students of the British
administrators and officers there. He enlisted before the war when war looked
eminent and had been commissioned an officer.
He remembered fighting the Japanese when they invaded from the North, and
of fleeing into the jungle to hide and fight a guerilla war. Then he had been
captured by the Japanese and he was sent north to Burma to work on the
Many people had died on that railroad and he wondered how he had survived
it all when so many he knew had perished. He had contracted a case of acute
malaria and was on the edge of death
when the war ended and he was liberated by the American forces.
He made his way back to Malaysia and regained his health and strength in
the military hospital there. The government was then in the emergency state
and they needed his skills in the jungle to help fight the communist
insurgents, some of the same people with whom he had been fighting the
Japanese during the war.
He was older by then and had been put in command of a company of forces who
patrolled the interior and that had frequent skirmishes with the guerillas.
He remembered the night he had almost been killed when they came up to the
window of his hut and fired their submachine guns into the room. He rolled off
the bed and threw a couple of grenades he kept under the bed out the window.
Then he slipped out another window with his revolver and shot two more Chinese
men dead as they came around the corner of the building after the grenades
His units had been ambushed several times, but each time he had used a
special tactic of a small group of men to follow the main body of soldiers and
to attack the ambushers from the flank and rear with machine guns so that the
main body could escape.
Now he sat under the cool of the fan and looked at himself in the cut-glass
mirror that was chipped at the edges. The hotel was about as many years old as
he had been in the country, and he felt a certain kind of attachment with the
hotel. He first visited the hotel when he had been a teacher before the War,
and he remembered that then there were not many hotels in the town and that
this was a first-class one where many important people had stayed. Now it was
a run-down place, clean but in need of repair. The furniture was exactly the
same as he remembered it, though it had been arranged differently in the room.
The tiles of the floor were the same. Now
the rooms were painted yellow, but they were originally a light green
color. Of course, then there was no hot-water heater or air-conditioner.
He had come back to stay here after the war and he learned that it had been
bombed by the Japanese and that later the Japanese officers used the hotel as
their residence. After that he came back to the hotel almost every year or so
as he traveled between his residence in Thailand and Singapore where he
managed some of his finances.
He thought about his wife. He had married late in life. He had met her when
he started at a teaching post at the national university.
She was a young student of his. It was a time in his life in which he was
feeling particularly lonely. She was a good student but had a difficult time
with her English. He began giving her extra tuition outside of classes and
they got to know and like each other very well, almost like a father daughter
friendship. When she left the school to go abroad to medical school he helped
her with her tuition and to gain admission to a good school. They wrote to
each other almost every week and he found he missed her more than anything.
When she returned from her studies abroad, she was a mature woman and was
one of the first woman doctors in the country. It was then that he asked her
to marry him, and she consented. He willingly converted to Islam as religion
really never mattered to him as much as scotch did.
He continued with his teaching post while she built up her practice in the
capital. She had a hard time at first, but slowly was able to get a private
clinic going which specialized in treating pregnancies and women's disorders.
She was a woman ahead of her time and she fought for the place of women in
Islam and in her own
They lived modestly and neither of them had owned a car or learned to drive
before. They depended upon the bus to take them to their work, though between
them they could easily have afforded a car.
Since she died he stopped taking care of himself very well. He still wore
the old khaki pants that she would hem and hand sewn up the small tears for
him. He thought about her often and it made him sad.
Since her death he had lost contact with his in-laws. They had lived in a
Kampong and were never overly friendly with him, as they always expected him
to help them out and to adopt a stronger Muslim way of life. After she died he
bought a few acres of farmland for the family, and since then he had very
little communication with them.
Now he was old and living on the pensions that both the British and the
local government paid to him. He owned several properties still and he would
travel between them. For the most part he educated his son himself, but was
worrying that his son would soon need to go on in school to gain his
certificates. Otherwise they did not have a lot of extra money.
Now he was old and tired and worried all the time about what would become
of his son after he died. He had left all his properties and savings as well
as her money to his son after he died. He was hoping to send his son back to
England for college.
Things had changed a great deal since he had first come to live in that
country. He could never have imagined when he was a young man coming down from
the freighter that he would spend the rest of his life here. Now it was in his
blood and it was all he knew. He would not know what to do if he had ever gone
back to Whales, as it had been so long since he had seen it, and his own
were long since passed away.
He was amazed by all the recent changes that had been happening in the
country. He remembered that when he first checked into this hotel there were
barely 500 cars on the whole Island. Now there were thousands.
He went out to talk with the management. He spoke excellent Malay and they
liked to sit around the big table and drink the spirits he always brought as a
gift and joke and laugh. He found out that a big developer had bought the
hotel and that they were soon going to tear it down and replace it with a more
modern hotel. They had been losing a lot of business and the reputation of the
hotel had recently gone down hill with the change of management among the
shareholders. The original manager of the hotel who took the business over
from his father had gambled away most of his shares in the hotel, and now
other people had taken it over. The manager and manageress remained to run the
hotel and take care of things, but they were not making much profit from it.
He asked them who had the room before him and they told him all about the
Malay couple and their strange behavior and how they had skipped out without
paying over half a month's rent. Then they told him about the American whom
had stayed in the room just next door and had just died mysteriously the two
days before he had come. Tom felt a little more uncomfortable about the gold
chain in his pocket.
The subject of the conversation had switched to the world cup games that
were then playing and they were talking about which teams had lost and which
teams seemed to have a shot at the cup. The games had gone well, but teams
expected to win had lost and mostly unknown teams were now in the finals.
Soon his son came down and they went out to get some makan and to do some
shopping down at the new shopping center. The son
liked the new mall and knew his way around it well, but his father
preferred to go in the old shop houses and bargain and speak Malay with the
shopkeepers. The shops all seemed old and anyway his father was very stingy
and almost never bought anything for himself. He just liked to talk to the
people and tease all the girls.
Now he was thinking about buying his son a new computer. He knew absolutely
nothing about computers and mistrusted them. He didn't believe in all the new
sciences and thought them basically impersonal and inhuman. For him
Shakespeare had been the beginning and end of all proper education, and he had
published several critical studies of Shakespeare's plays.
But he thought that perhaps his son would do well to get a computer. He had
been taking computer lessons from an acquaintance who knew a lot about
computers and his son had really become enthusiastic. His son was now dragging
him down to the mall so that they could look in the computer stores and find a
computer magazine by which to compare and price all the different kinds. It
was exhausting and confusing for the old man, and he ended up allowing his son
to figure it all out for himself. He would buy whatever computer his son
decided upon if it was inexpensive enough.
He loved his son a great deal and would do anything for him. His son
reminded him of his wife, as he looked more like her, he thought, than
himself. But he had spoiled his son, giving in to him on just about anything,
and he was always hesitant to punish him too severely. But his son was a good
boy and worked hard in his studies.
Because he was handsome all the young girls were infatuated with him and
flirted with him where ever he went, and a lot of young men were jealous of
him. His handsome, beautiful "kopi-susu" son was finally growing up, becoming a young man he mused, as he
remembered how he looked in his dirty diapers screaming at the top of his
Now he was old and he didn't talk a lot with people. He liked to go to the
barbers once a week and have his haircut and to sit in the coffee shops and
listen to all the aggressive young Towkays talk business.
He used to know quite a few people in this town, whom he would visit
whenever he came to stay. But now most of them were either dead or gone away,
and there were just a few of them left that he knew about. He saw a billboard
for a charity dinner and auction that was asking for donations at the old
recreation club. He remembered this place and thought he would like to go to
the dinner just to get to look at the old clubhouse where he had spent so much
of his time recuperating after the war.
At first he thought about giving cash for the charity fund, but then he
remembered the gold chain in his pocket and thought that it would make a
fitting contribution to put up for auction.
So he made reservations for two to attend and the next evening he and his
son took a taxi to the old club house that had since then been renovated and
converted into a Chinese restaurant. Outside there were mostly fancy
Mercedes-Benz's and BMW's and a couple of limousines with chauffeurs waiting
and talking with one another.
The facade of the building was the same, and the layout of the floor plan
inside was little altered, with a small stage for performers and a small dance
floor in the center. But otherwise nothing else looked the same. It was all in
a modern decor that he detested and it made him feel uncomfortable. When he
and his son walked in all the people, mostly Chinese businessmen, stopped and
just stared at them and spoke under their breaths about them. But nobody
to recognize him or remember him and he didn't seem to recognize anybody
there except for one old Chinese gentleman who sat over by a wall and just
looked at him and smiled.
After they seated themselves, he took the gold chain which he had put into
a nice black jewelry box he had bought downtown for the occasion. He walked up
by the stage and gave it to the master of ceremonies and auctioneer who were
arranging things back stage and getting ready to do the bidding. The MC looked
at the box and opened it and was surprised to see what was inside. He asked
Tom who it was that was giving such a nice gift for the charity drive but Tom
told him that it was an anonymous donation and walked back to his table near
the back wall of the great central hall. A disk jockey was performing and
playing music on center stage and people were so busy eating and talking that
no one noticed his coming or going along the back wall.
They ate good Chinese banquet dinner, with fried bee hoon and roast duck and
rice and soup. They were served warm tea for drinks. After a few minutes the
disk jockey stopped talking and the MC and auctioneer came on stage to start
the bidding. Mostly rich looking Chinese Towkays and their families sitting in
the tables nearest the stage took part in the bidding.
Soon the gold-chain in its black box that he had donated was being put up
for bid by a person in the audience who wished to remain anonymous. It
immediately got a bid of 1000 dollars, and soon was up to 2000 and then 3000.
One older Chinese man was bidding against a middle aged Chinese woman at
another table. Finally the bidding stopped at 4000 from the Chinese lady.
Tom felt good that his gift had fetched such a good price and after the
dinner he and his son went out and waited by a nearby bus stop to go back to
The next day, with the new computer for his son and a new set of clothes
for himself, they left the hotel and went back to their home. It was the last
time that Tom ever stayed in that hotel.
The Dragon Lady
The woman who had bid so high for the gold chain thought nothing about the
money. She saw the gold chain held up on stage from afar and knew that she
wanted it even though her vision was now poor and could barely see it. But
even at a distance she could see it was something valuable and worth of being
coveted, and she usually got what she wanted.
She sat there with her god-son and his wife and children. She wanted them
to take her to the dinner function, though he was busy with his work and could
hardly afford the time out.
People called her a dragon-lady behind her back because she was not a very
nice person. She was really not a happy person. She had no children and her
husband had died a decade ago and she was the second wife of a very successful
businessman who had left her with three large homes on the island.
The first wife left her deceased husband two sons but they were not very
clever and were not able to take over the business, so that his entire
business enterprise ended up in the complete control of a business partner.
Her Godson managed her business for her, and she allowed him and his family to
stay for free in one of her homes, while she lived with a maidservant in the
Actually she was illiterate, and so she could not understand a lot of the
legal documents she had to deal with and didn't trust lawyers. Her Godson was
dependable and was the only person alive that she could trust. She had used a
lawyer once before to settle her husband's estate, and she felt that he had
somehow cheated her out of a lot of money, and had even tried getting a house
from her, if she hadn't at the last moment gone to seek the advice of another
She did not worry about spending money on anything she wanted, but she was
very stingy with her money and would pinch every penny when it came to the
management of her rentals.
She was ashamed of her illiteracy and a few years back had taken an English
course to try to overcome the problem, but it didn't help much and she soon
grew tired of the work and the classes.
So now she lived mostly alone and had no friends, and went and bothered her
Godson and his family almost every day. After the dinner had finished she went
up to write a check for the gold chain and collect her prize. She took it out
of the box and admired its beauty and was happy she had decided to attend the
dinner after all.
She had gotten into religion more heavily and worshipped the Sai Baba at
her home. She had been planning to go to India to attend the Sai Baba's ashram
with a few other disciples but was afraid to go so far away.
One day she was returning to her home in her car. Her maidservant had the
day off and so she was alone. As she pulled up in the drive way and young
Chinese man came out from the bushes behind the car. He had a knife in his
hand. She quickly rolled up her car window and locked the doors. She was
frightened to death as he threatened her and hit the window and told her to
open the door.
Finally he broke the glass by hammering it with the end of his knife and
the glass shattered and hit her in the face. He reached inside the car and
started to cut her arm, and told her to hand him her purse. She did and he
took off running. She was frightened and didn't know what to do as she sat
there bleeding in her car.
Since then she was afraid to be alone at her home and that was why she
liked to spend her days at her Godson's house or going out shopping or walking
the shopping center.
When she got back to her home with her maidservant she went into her
bedroom and put her new gold chain with the rest of her jewelry. It was by far
the most outstanding and strangest piece of jewelry she possessed. She decided
she would take it down to the gold shop the next day where she always did
business and have them assess its value for her.
The next day she drove down with her maidservant to the gold-shop. She
couldn't find a place to park near the shop so ended up parking on another
road a little ways away from the shop. Because it was hot out she decided to
take a lanchang who was peddling by. She had hardly ever rode in a trishaw but
this old man's trishaw was polished and exceptionally clean. She got in and
bargained with him over the price as he rode the short distance to the
gold-shop around the corner and just down the street.
She told the lanchang to wait for them and they got out and went into the
shop. After about half-hour, they emerged from the shop. She had the necklace
in a plastic bag in her hand and another plastic bag with another gold
bracelet she had bought that she had tried to match with the necklace as close
As they were going back down the road the maidservant noticed some silks
hanging in a shop window and they decided to stop the lanchang and go inside,
taking their bags with them. Soon they emerged from the shop with an armful of
more bags and got back into the Trishaw, who peddled them back to their car.
They were talking so much about what they had just bought and seen at the
material shop that neither of them noticed that the bag with the gold chain in
it had slipped out of the dragon lady's hand. It had fallen down on the side
of the seat of the trishaw cart.
They were so busy talking the rest of the way home that it wasn't until
they got to their house and were taking the bags out of their car that they
realized the gold chain was missing. They
guessed what was happening and frantically drove back downtown to where
they had taken the Trishaw but could find no trace of him. They asked around
about his whereabouts but nobody knew him or where he came from. They then
drove around the town for over an hour but still could see no trace of him.
They saw a lot of trishaws, and even a few old men who at first looked like
the man, but they didn't know where he was.
She thought about going to the police to file a report, but she didn't
trust the police either since the incident with the robber, because it looked
to her they weren't really interested in what had happened to her.
She came back down to town to look for the man again the next morning, but
still couldn't find him. She looked like that for two more days but to no
avail. Finally she gave up on ever finding the man or of regaining her lost
necklace, and she consoled herself that the bracelet she had bought to go
along with it was almost as nice. She went back down to the gold shop to buy
another necklace that perfectly matched her bracelet. It was not the first
loss in her life, and was liable not to be the last.
When the trishaw had picked up the old Chinese woman and her servant whom
he took to the gold shop and then waited in the hot sun to bring back, he had
just dropped another person off who had taken him far outside of his usual
area, and he was quite hot and tired. And after letting the Old Chinese woman
and her servant off back at her car he then rode right away back over to his
own side of the town to park his trishaw and take a break at his usual coffee
When she had lifted all those plastic bags into the seat, he didn't notice
that one small one had slipped down on the side of the seat. He took a couple
more customers that day, and no one noticed the bag that had lodged itself
It wasn't until late that night when he was weary and found a place to rest
for the night that he opened up the seat to get out his blanket and tarp to
cover the trishaw that he noticed the white plastic bag and found the gold
It was the most beautiful thing he had ever held in his hands his entire
life, and he felt at that moment the luckiest person in the entire world. He
had never stolen anything in his life. He did not even know for sure who might
have left it there, although he figured that it probably was the old lady who
was carrying all the bags. At first he thought that he might try to find her
to return it to her, but then he thought that if she wanted it she could come
and find him. He would keep safely inside his trishaw until someone came to
claim it. And if no one showed up to claim it, then he
would be in possession of a very valuable piece of jewelry.
But he was already getting old and had no idea what he could do with it
short of selling it for a lot of cash. He had been peddling the trishaw for so
long that he couldn't imagine what else to do.
It had been his entire life since he had been a young man, and now that he
was getting old he felt very tired. He had no family except relatives he knew
as a small child in China, but he could not remember these very well and would
not know how to find them if he ever went back to China. He was alone in this
country, as he had always been, and he had grown into it well over the years.
Not having much, he peddled the tri cart around during the day and
sometimes in the evening and then he would find a spot somewhere to park it
and sleep without too much disturbance. Sometimes he would peddle it all the
way out to the river by the Hospital so that he could park it under the shade
of the trees and wash himself and his clothes in the stream near by. He did
not make much money in a day--mostly just enough to eat a little. If he had
much leftover it would afford him a new shirt or something to fix his cart
He knew a lot of people in his regular area, which was over by the Jetty
and the poorer side of the town. He had a lot of usual customers, mostly
middle-aged Chinese women whom he would take to the morning market and
children he would take and pick up from school everyday. People trusted him
because he was honest, worked hard and asked for little--the proper
ingredients of a successful Chinese businessman.
A few months before he had fallen sick and someone found him half-dead in
his trishaw. He was rushed in an ambulance to the hospital where they had
performed an operation on him and where he remained for over a month. He was
worried what would become of his trishaw when he got out. He did not even know
where to go to look for it but found that the person who had discovered him
called the ambulance had parked the trishaw and locked it with a chain to
the grill in front of his shop. He was very grateful to this person and
whenever he gave him or any of his family a ride in his trishaw he would not
charge them anything.
People around liked him and called him old man. He was friendly and always
smiled and was nice to all the children he drove to and from school everyday,
making sure that they didn't have to cross any busy streets and taking care
that they went directly home after they got out of his trishaw.
Now it was late and he held the gold chain in his hand as it shinned in the
light of the street light across the road. He admired its beauty and noticed
the humanlike appearance of the monkey pendant. He thought that if no one
turned up to claim it from him then he would just keep it for himself, though
he didn't know quite what else to do with it.
He had parked in an area that had been demolished and cleared for the
construction of a new office building. He had parked there the last few nights
and figured he'd get up early enough to leave the area before the workman came
in the morning. He knew many different spots around the town that were safe to
park and sleep for the night. A few he preferred over any of the others, as
long as there weren't any other trishaws in them first.
One of the construction workers who arrived early to the site was the first
to find the old man sitting stilly in his cart with his hand stretched out.
His body was stiff and the worker called the police who came and bought a
small truck to lift his body into the back and take it away to the morgue at
the general hospital. The gold chain he had been holding slipped out of his
hand during the night as it was outstretched over the side of the trishaw
cart, and it fell in between a couple of pieces of rubble on the ground.
That morning a couple of workers were assigned to shovel up all the loose
rubble on the ground and use it to fill in a couple of large holes in the back
of the construction area. Neither of them noticed the gold chain with the
monkey pendant as they scooped up the small chunks of broken concrete and
sand, and dumped it into the hole in the back of the lot. They managed to fill
all the holes and then someone came with a water hose and watered the fill
down to compact it better in the hole.
During its most recent journey on earth, the gold chain with the green jade
monkey pendant passed through the hands of many people until it was finally
returned to rest in the earth. Of all the many people who saw, coveted and
admired it, not a single soul had noticed a lengthy, but minute inscription
barely visible to the naked eye on the back of the pendant which read (roughly
translated) in an ancient and long forgotten Chinese script:
"What is firmly rooted cannot be pulled out;
What is tightly held in the arms will not slip loose;
Through this the offering of sacrifice by descendants
Will never come to an end