Sunday, July 22, 2007

Not the Usual Date: Bargains (Part Six)

The lock up. Badly lit. Buzzing. Flickering. Fluroscent light. Hanging from the ceiling. There's a table. A man. Tied to a chair. A black eye. Bleeding from the mouth. Nose. Head. Seven police officers. Two standing on either side of him. The one with knuckle dusters is standing in front of him. Both hands lowered. Though one had a sheen at the edge of his knuckles in the silhouette. Another stood over a bucket of water. Another two stood by the door next on either side of us, near the door. One more stood by the table at attention, eyes fixed on the seated man. The place stank. Of Fear. Hate. Tears. Blood. Piss. Shit. Spunk.
Behind the man in the chair, a cell sat shrouded in darkness. Except for a few dark coloured shafts reaching out of the darkness. You would have missed it.
Nadia lets out a sharp soft gasp when we step in.
Not sure at the sight. Or the smell. Both perhaps.
'Who the hell is that?' shouts Knuckleduster. He cannot see us. Wrapped in darkness.

Our good man salutes. 'Tuan, these are Tan Sri Kamil Aris' lawyers. They were sent here to pick up his nephew who was one of those rounded up at the Masjid just now.'

Knuckleduster turns around.
'Tan Sri's lawyers, eh? Come forward so I can see you. What's your name?'
Stepping into the light. As soon as he sees me.
He smiles.
'Ah. If it isn't the great Zachary Kamaludin.'
Cannot help. But smile. Back.
'Good evening, Dato' Lee. You are very kind to take the trouble to remember me. '
'You are also very kind to call me Dato' even though I don't have one. But I have to say, Encik Zachary, you are quite rude. You have not introduced me to your companion.' Must. Becareful. With this one.
'I do apologize. Nadia, please meet Dato' Lee. Dato', this is Nadia.'
Nadia. A hint of nervousness. at the edge. Of her smiles.
Felt her hand. Suddenly grasping mine. A little harder. Did not even notice it. To be honest.
'Good evening my dear. What brings you down here with Encik Zachary?' he asks. As charmingly as one could be in a singlet drenched with sweat and fine blood splatters on his shirt, and one hand cased in a bloody knuckleduster.
'To be with him,' she said. Slightly shrugging at me.
Could feel his. Disappointment. Slight. Drop of his shoulders. His face. Hardening.
Damn. May backfire.
Turns to me.
'Tan Sri must have serious cash to burn seeing that he got you. And that you got this far. Who are you here for?'
'Saiful Azman.'
He turns around. Asks loudly. At the man by the table. Thin man. Dark. With a crater face. Thin slit eyes. He turned away. To look. What looked like a handwritten notes. In a long rectangular book. He nods.
'Looks like he is here,' he says. 'But he is wanted for questioning. We haven't even begun with him yet.'
'Ah. That is precisely what I'm here to ... assist you with. As he is my client, let me assure you of his cooperation. I can give you my mobile number. Whenever you want to meet him. Call me. Or we can arrange something more convenient.'
He pauses for a while.
'Everybody out, he said. Loud enough. Everybody shuffled out of the room.
Last shuffle. Disappears. With the closed door.
It's just three of us. But Nadia gets more nervous. Her hand. Cold and clammy. He tries hard. Not to look at her. He jerks his head. Up slightly. What about her?
'She's cool. Nothing leaves this room, except him and us.'
He pauses. He can. Live with it.
'Convenience is expensive.' He says. Cannot argue with fact.
'Who said it was free?' His face brightens. Somewhat.
Continue: 'Everything always costs something, no?'
A smile creeps. Into his face.
'I'm glad we understand each other.'
'What's the cost of convenience these days?'
'For something like this. I'm not sure. Perhaps ten large.'
''Then he's off records?'
'That's extra.'
'What isn't?'
'Nothing.'
'Off records?'
'Fifteen.'
Fuck. I don't have fifteen. Large. Right now.
And with them. It's always cash.
'How about thirteen?'
'You want three for the price of two? Come on, Mr. Zachary. What's a hot shot like yourself bothering yourself haggling over a few cents? I'm sure that sum is not even ten percent of your usual retainer.'
'Sometimes what others see is not what is real. Tell you what. Let's make it ten and I'll do a case for you. Any case you want - yours or anybody else's. But just one. I'm not making anything out of this. I'm here as a favour tonight.'
'How can I trust that you will honour your promise?'
'Dato' Lee, my word is my bond. You can just about ask anybody. I don't often make promises because those that I make I keep. And I'm offering you a promise. I can assure you that my promise is going to be worth a great deal more than fifteen.'
He turns away and walks deliberately and slowly. A wide circular arc. Eyes steadily on the floor. His mind grinding. Suddenly, he stops. Turns to me.
'You have it now?'
'I've got about two now. I need to get the rest later.'
'I want it all. Now.'
Fuck. Fuck.
'Tomorrow morning. First thing. Or you tell me when and where. '
'Encik Zachary, you're making this very hard for me. If you take him now, I have nothing to hold you to.' Dammit. Instinctively, turn to my watch. It was very late. Wait. It's a Rolex. Bingo.
'Tell you what. I'll give you my watch to hold to show my sincerity. My grandfather gave it to me.' He comes forward. Unclasp the strap. Hold it up for him.
'It's real.' I tell him.
He smiles back. 'I would be disappointed if it was not.'
'And you're not keeping it because I want it back. You hold it until tomorrow. I pass you the balance, you return the watch.'
He is pensive. His right hand. Drifts to his chin. To stroke it.
'I'm going to go out on a limb here. You better not be full of shit Mr. Zachary.'
'Dato' Lee, I'm a lawyer. I'm full of shit. But sometimes my shit is gold. You're getting your gold tomorrow. My word. Now where and when?'
'Give me your mobile and I'll tell you tomorrow.'
Tell him. My number.
He turns to Nadia again. Glares. At her. In warning.
Then slowly. Walks past. The man in the chair. Unconscious. Blood still drips. From his wrist.
To the cells in the dim darkness. Jangling keys. Sound of metal brushing. Clank. The door groans its reluctance. Soon. Saiful's in front of me. Just a few bruises. Only. He hasn't been interrogated. Fully. Yet.
'So this is the Tan Sri's nephew. How did he get mixed up in this?'

'Oh you know, Dato'. Idealism of youth and all that crap.'

He grunts. In acknowledgment, as he walks to the door. Opens it. Barks. The men file back into the room behind him. Including our guide to the lockups. Dato' Lee orders him. To lead us to the service entrance. Behind the police station.
Saiful's quiet. Eyes on floor. Compliant. Tell him. Stay close. Don't speak.
We're led out. Several corridors. The buzz of the crowd. Faint. Like Mist.
Once at the back, our guide says, 'Dato' Lee has arranged for the squad car with tinted windows to take you out. Please tell the driver where you want to go.'
We thank him. Nadia. So happy to get out. Throws in. Kiss. On his cheek. Even as. Her hand. Firmly in mine.
He's on. Cloud nine.

It's three. In the morning.
It's Kajang. Far from the station. Dirty air. Bloodied floor. Official sleaze.
We're in.
Wan's stretched limo.
The air. Reeks of ganja.
Wan. Ida. Clothes. Unkempt.
She's snuggled up. Content. Against him.

Saiful. In a corner. Nadia. Sits. Next to me.
'You're fucking amazing man. Only you can pull of shit like that man,' Wan says. Again. He has repeated this. Four times already. Last ten minutes.
Nadia's still. Pumped. From the adrenaline.
'He was amazing!' Nadia chimed in.
'Nothing amazing about it. I still gotta get ten large over to him tomorrow morning for that shit. And I don't think I could have done it without Nadia. If it were not for her dishing out her phone numbers, we would not have gotten past the gate.'
She smiles. And leans. Lightly. On me. Nice. Nice. Nice.
'Oh my fucking god! You gave out your numbers?!' ejaculated Wan. Outraged almost.
'Nolah. I just made up those numbers.' Rather pleased. With herself. But Zack, the way you carried yourself and spoke with such conviction and confidence was just amazing. I thought we'd never make it out of there alive!'
'That's what lawyers do, my dear. Bullshit something out of nothing.'
'See Nadia, that's why I hang with Zack. That way I can get away with anything. Like this.' And he takes a long drag. On the joint. 'So what's next?'

We. Make it back. To the house. By about four.
Saiful mumbles his thanks. Salams us. But not the Nadia or Ida. Opens the door.
Cool fresh air. Rushes in. Ganja smoke escape.
Get out. Breathe. Nadia steps out. Too.
'Finally. Some fresh air.' I stretch. My arms up.
'Yes,' she says. As she rests her back. On the car. 'Are you staying over?'
'I think I'm going to have to.'
Suddenly, Saiful's next to us. Didn't notice him.
'Mama nak cakap ngan Zack,' he says. Waits for me to acknowledge. Then leaves.
'Well, there you go. Right on cue.' We both laugh. 'Anyway, I want to thank you for your help this evening and apologize for ruining the evening.'
'Oh no! I had a wonderful time this evening and it is I who should thank you.'
'
You’re thanking me? For what? For disrupting dinner? For barely getting you out of crowd that seemed bent on molesting you? For taking you to a police station where just about every guy practically undressed you with their eyes? Or for …’
She stops me. With her eyes. Light brown.
My heart. Triphammers.
‘For taking me along… and opening my eyes. You were brilliant. ’
I was? Witty reply. Witty reply. Think of something clever. Quick.

‘I… uh… thanks?’ Stupid. Stupid bastard. She smiles.

'So… I guess this is good night, then.’

'But not good bye, I hope.' Good save. Good save.
We stand. Just looking at each other.
I want to. Touch. Hold. Hug. Feel. Kiss. Smell. You. You.

‘I was…’ ‘Do you…’

Laughter. Nervous. Charged.

‘You go ahead.’

‘No please, you.’

‘Ladies, first.’

‘Okay. I hope I’m not too forward if I ask for your number. I would really like to meet up again. Without, you know, the drama.’

Wow. Forthright. Open. Ballsy.

Miss Malaysia asked for my number. Un-fucking believable.

I smile.

‘You know, I was going to ask you for your number but with all those guys asking for your numbers all night, I figured you’ve heard that question enough tonight.’
She laughs.
‘Oh Zack. You're so silly. You're the only one I've been dying to give my number too tonight.'
Thumpa. Thumpa. Pull out pen. Write numbers. On my hand.
'Say, these aren't the same numbers you gave those guys are they?' Teasingly.
'
Why don’t you give it a try and find out?’
'Guess, I’ll have to do that because I plan on asking you out for a date. So this number better work!'

'I’ll be looking forward to it.'
She smiles. Sparkle me silly.
'I'll shall endeavour to leave the drama out of it next time.'

'You need not do so on my account. I enjoyed myself immensely this evening.'
We stand. Smiling at each other.
'I know I'm supposed to say good bye, but I can't quiet bring myself to at the moment.'
'Me too,' she concurs.
'What should we do then?'
'I think we need a nice ending for tonight. Something we can both take home and savour.'
I'm just loving her already.
'I think you're right.'
Move in close. Lower and cock my head.
Press my lips to hers.
She does not resist.
Perfect.

1 comment:

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