Chapter 9

Bright and shine was how Dawson wanted to do it. Well, bright and shine was only an expression because he chose the wee hours of the morning, so the sun was not rising yet. He actually listened to Vic to change the location. After all, they were quite exposed at the warehouse, even if it was abandoned. It was right at the edge of town. Anyone driving by would be able to spot them. They changed to a junkyard across town. It wasn’t exactly what Vic thought would be a perfect meeting location, but Dawson wanted to act like he was in charge, so he only listened to Vic halfway. Not that he wanted to listen to Vic in the first place. But Vic had a good point. Sean had botched the operation from the start. Who knew what else could go wrong? That was why he decided to keep Vic for now to use for some brainwork while figuring out the next step later. It wasn’t like Vic was going anywhere anytime soon.

“What are you doing?” Mr. Liu whispered to Vic as they were standing around waiting for Jensen and the others to show up with the requested documents. “You have a plan or what?”

“Stalling,” Vic said casually. “Sean was right. I have no plan.”

“Hey, why are you two standing together?” One of the henchmen yelled out. “This isn’t a picnic.”

Vic and Mr. Liu stepped away from each other at that time, following the directions that the other person just pointed to.

“Don’t have to be so hostile,” Vic muttered. “It’s not like we’re going to walk right out of here.”

“Would you all shut up for one minute?” Dawson jumped in then, walking over to them.

“I didn’t want to argue,” Vic defended himself. “But someone wanted to accuse me of fleeing.”

Dawson turned on the person who was yelling at Vic previously.

“Boss….I… was…only….was….only….”

Dawson pointed at the guy. “I don’t care who started it. Just shut up.”

Dawson walked away at that time, displaying an expression that he was surrounded by idiots. Vic shrugged as the other guy gave Vic a look.

“Come on, it wasn’t my fault that I was telling the truth,” Vic explained, like they were suddenly best buddies or something.

As if having had enough of that nonsense already, the other guy walked away from Vic as well. It was like he knew Vic was a magnet for trouble. So better stay away or he would be offed by his boss or something.

When the sun was on the brink of rising, they finally saw some commotion. A car approached from a distance. Vic recognized that car was Mr. Liu’s car. As it got closer, Vic had on his shocked expression. He knew Jensen had to come, that was one of Dawson’s conditions. Yet what shocked him was seeing Cyndi and Kimmy tagging along. They were in the backseat, but Vic spotted them easily. Sitting next to Jensen was someone around their age. Vic guessed it was one of Mr. Liu’s staff.

“Your son must be deaf and blind,” Dawson spoke up at that time, eyeing Mr. Liu. “I told him to come alone and he brought his girlfriends and lackey as well?”

Although Dawson’s words were meant in mockery, his icy cold expression suggested he had other plans. Before anyone could react, Dawson did a quick twirl and grabbed Vic with one hand while aiming a gun at his head with the other.

“Awww…come on, Dawson,” Vic managed to get out. “I didn’t tell him to bring a circus. You were the one who talked to him, remember?”

That was also when Jensen’s car stopped and all four of the parties in the car got out. They obviously saw Dawson grabbing Vic and aiming a gun at him. They had formed a line not far away from Dawson’s henchmen and were staring in anxiousness.

“Hey!” Jensen called out. “The deal was I bring the documents and you let them go.”

Dawson still maintained his grip on Vic. “The deal was you bring the documents and I consider letting you and your father go. I never said anything about letting him go.” He used the end of his gun to whack Vic on the head real quick as a demonstration. “But it seems you can’t even follow simple instructions.”

“Ow, man,” Vic protested. “Seriously, you’re going to pin someone else’s incompetent on me?”

“Shut up!” Dawson said, still having a firm grip on Vic—though he had already lowered his gun hand. He turned to Jensen standing across the field and gestured with his gun hand. “Get rid of those three before I change my mind.”

Vic had to roll his eyes. “Seriously? We’re here to exchange documents, not seeing who wins a popularity contest with drawing more crowd.”

“I told you to shush,” Dawson said and whacked Vic on the head again.

“Ow, come on, man,” Vic tried again. “They weren’t sure before if we were all here. But now they are. You’re going to let those three run back to the police and tell them of our location? Why don’t you broadcast our locations to them too? It would save them a lot of work.”

Dawson finally pushed Vic out of his vision line. “I had enough of you.” He pointed his gun at Vic, releasing the safety on his gun.

“Hey! Do you think I want to help you? But if you shoot me now, you must kill everyone and that’s a lot of bodies going missing. Then, how are you going to get out of this one? Flee the country? Don’t you think that would cut into your plan of building a new empire for yourself?”

“God, I hate it when you’re right,” Dawson said, withdrawing his gun again and turning back to look at Jensen. “Tell your girlfriends and that lackey of yours to get out of here. Last chance. I will shoot you all if I have to.”

“But…” Vic protested again.

Dawson pointed at Vic with his free hand. “Don’t tempt me. I already gave you plenty of chances, kid.” After saying that, he turned to Jensen again. “Last warning.”

“All right, they’re going,” Jensen said before turning to his three companions. “I told you guys not to come. Now’s your chance to go.”

“But…” Cyndi objected. “What about…”

“Don’t you trust me?” Jensen asked. “Come on. Before he changes his mind and we’re all dead.”

Cyndi looked like she wanted to argue still but Jensen gave Kimmy a look. Kimmy understood so she pulled Cyndi back to the car as Jensen handed the other guy his keys. An unexpected role reversal yet Kimmy was more determined to protect her friend. As they departed, Jensen turned back to face Dawson.

“Hand over the documents now,” Dawson ordered.

“How do I know you will let us go?”

Dawson laughed. “You don’t know. But if you don’t do as I say, your stinky old man will die.”

Vic scanned his surrounding as Jensen looked like he was thinking things over. “Hey, man, where’s Sean?”

“Will you shut up for one second?” Dawson returned, not caring to look at Vic. “Stop talking nonsense. I’m still reconsidering about letting you go. If you don’t shut up, I might not have to think.”

“Hey, I’m just saying we haven’t seen Sean since last night. What if he ran to the cops and ratted us out?”

Dawson turned to Vic then. “Mind your own business. I sent Sean to take care of loose ends for me. And who said I’m on the same side as you?”

Vic shrugged. “Doesn’t look like Sean liked his job a lot lately, what’s with messing up the assignment and all. Maybe he decided that he didn’t want to die so he just wanted to use that excuse of tying up loose ends to run.”

Dawson ignored Vic and turned to Jensen again. “Hand it over now.”

Jensen hesitated before extending the package in his hand out toward Dawson. He was still a distance from them, but it only took that for one of the henchmen to take it. However, before anyone could do anything, they hear sirens everywhere. Dawson scanned the area then, trying to triangulate an escape route maybe. Vic used Dawson’s distracted state to zip zap out of some of the henchmen’s way and grabbed Mr. Liu. He hauled the old man toward one of the structures of the junkyard. By the time Dawson thought of looking for them, they were already out of sight. The cops had moved in and arrested all parties. Or at least they were surrounded, and guns were pointed. They couldn’t react. They had no choice but to surrender.

After a few more minutes when Vic was sure it was safe, he led Mr. Liu back out to see Dawson and his men all arrested and were being transported to cop vans. Jensen’s car was also on its way back with the other three. That was also when Jensen ran to his father.

“Hey, Dad,” Jensen said. “Are you hurt?”

Mr. Liu shook his head. “I’m fine.”

“Let’s get out of here first,” Vic told them.

As Vic said that, the three occupants in Jensen’s car had stepped out of the car and were heading toward them. Cyndi didn’t wait for the others but ran right up to Vic and ended up hugging him.

“You’re all right.”

Surprised by her reaction, Vic couldn’t say anything. He only patted her back and sent Jensen a look.

“She was really worried for you,” Jensen said.

Cyndi, seeming to realize that the others were around, finally pulled away from Vic and stepped aside. She had her head down. “I just meant you’re alive.”

Vic still didn’t know what to say. Luckily for him, Jim walked over to them at that time.

“Hey, your plan worked out great,” Jim said, patting Vic on the back.

Vic had on his proud smile. “I told you it would work. Kind of underhanded and kind of anticlimactic but at least no one died, right?”

“What are you talking about?” Cyndi asked, her head snapped back up at that time. “What plan?”

Jim looked at Vic real quick before turning back to the others. “Vic didn’t lose me on purpose. We planned out the whole thing because Vic knew no one would appear if I was still around. I had him wear a wire, so we were in contact the whole time. It was thanks to Vic that we managed to let Dawson fall into his own trap.”

“So, you knew where he was all along?” Cyndi asked. “And you didn’t tell us? And made us worried?”

“It was necessary for the plan to work,” Jim replied. “If we didn’t let everyone else think that Vic had been captured, Dawson would never fall for it. Not to mention, we needed to separate Sean and some of the others from Dawson before we could move in.”

“Sean’s captured already?” Jensen asked.

Jim nodded. “That was why Vic kept bringing Sean up. It was to throw Dawson off his game. Vic had to disagree whenever he wanted Dawson to do something. It was like making it Dawson’s idea. Reverse psychology and manipulation at its best.”

“Or worse,” Jensen said.

“Let’s get out of here,” Vic reminded them all. “We can talk when we get back to town.”

After saying that, Vic turned to leave. He wasn’t heading for Jensen’s car but ended up dragging Jim with him. He needed time to sort out his head first. What was with the shorty acting strange like that. She can’t really like him, can’t she? That was way crazy and cliché. Liking someone and getting their attention by involving in all childish pranks? Or those challenges. It was just crazy. Not to mention unbelievable. Or did she just suddenly like him recently? It would explain the stalking when he was with his sister and all.

*****

They met up at Jensen’s house. It was actually his father’s house. It was a distance from the hotel. Jensen hadn’t been back since he returned. That was because he didn’t want the servants to slip it to his father about his whereabouts by accident.

“I initially wanted to surprise my dad by coming back here like this,” Jensen said. “You know, different name and all. Didn’t realize it caused so much trouble. I meant, it almost got Vic killed. And then Dad got captured and…”

They’d been spending the last half an hour or so explaining to Cyndi and Kimmy about their identities and how they got involved with this mess in the first place.

“We’ve been in the States studying since high school,” Jensen continued with his tale. “We just wanted to come back for the summer. Then we found out about the local event. It was for old time’s sake that we joined this game. We didn’t mean to deceive you girls in any way.”

Cyndi and Kimmy had been trying to stay patient since they’d learned of Jensen’s real identity as the owner of the hotel’s son. Then they had to wait for everything to be resolved. So everything got moved to the current time for the explanation and all.

“So your real last name is Liu?” Kimmy asked, wrinkling her face. “That also means…”

Jensen walked over to Kimmy at that time and took her hands into his. “Kimmy, I know we only met briefly and got to know each other these past months. But aside from the last name, the rest I told you were all true.”

“But you said you’re only staying for the summer,” Kimmy said, her expression still wrinkled.

“That was the initial plan,” Jensen said, smiling. “But I think I’ll probably stick around longer. I need to make sure Dad’s fine and all.”

Kimmy’s face lit up then. “Really?” Then she realized what she just did. She turned toward Mr. Liu with her head slightly bowed. “Sorry, Uncle. I didn’t mean to say that you wouldn’t be well for a while.”

Mr. Liu—unlike most strict, snobby, rich parents they heard about—just shook his head. “It’s okay. I know you’re Jensen’s girlfriend. We’ll get to know each other better in the future.”

It was almost like those were words of approval or something. Because they saw Jensen smiling. Both returned to their seats at that time and waited for the others to speak up again to fill them in with the rest of the stories.

“So, is your name your real name then?” Cyndi asked, turning to Vic at that time.

Vic nodded. “Sean got it mixed up. It wasn’t my fault he thought I was Jensen.”

“I didn’t mean that, I…”

Vic held a hand up then. “It’s okay. I guess I can’t blame you for suspecting me.” He scanned the room once before continuing. “Jensen had used Jim’s last name to deceive others. I suggested that in case we run into Jim and maybe have a talk.” He had on a bitter smile then. “I didn’t realize how involved Jim would get.”

“What were those documents Dawson Young want?” Cyndi asked. Then she realized too late she shouldn’t have asked. She turned to Mr. Liu. “Sorry, Chairman Liu. It’s none of my business.”

Mr. Liu shook his head. “It’s okay. You’d all been pulled into this one way or another. I guess it’s only right to disclose some matters.” He sighed out slowly before talking again. “Dawson and I used to work together on this project ten years ago. We almost merged our companies too. But I discovered he was mismanaging his funds and severed our business relationship. That had caused some investors to pull out of his other projects. He blamed me for it and vouched for revenge. It has been ten years now. I thought he would have forgotten about it already. Considering how he managed to launch another company overseas and found success. I didn’t realize he still kept what happened in the past at heart.”

“Taking revenge after ten years?” Vic asked, his amused smile on. “How cliché.”

“What’s with you and wanting everything to be original, man?” Jensen asked. “Nothing in life is original. It’s always repeating—whether you realize it or not.”

Vic raised an eyebrow. “You’re turning into Mr. Philosopher now?”

Jensen shrugged. Then he looked at his watch. “I think we should all go and wash our faces or take showers or whatever and then meet back here for dinner.” He paused as if remembering something. “You have to leave soon too. So maybe your sendoff meal?”

“Vic’s leaving soon?” Kimmy asked, looking toward Cyndi.

“Yeah, it was always his plan,” Jensen said. “He only returned with me because of his sister. He has to take her back to the States later because…”

Jensen stopped because he wasn’t sure Vic wanted him to disclose that part.

Vic nodded. “It’s okay. Might as well tell them.” But he didn’t let Jensen finished. He turned to the others. “I’m taking my sister back to the States for her surgery. It has been planned for a while now. We have the summer to prepare. I initially didn’t want to participate in the game but Margie insisted. She wanted me to win in her place.” Vic had on a bitter smile then. “I guess I failed as a brother because I can’t even fulfill that promise to her.”

“Yeah,” Jensen said, sighing out. “The game got postponed indefinitely.”

Vic got up at that time. “I’m going for a walk, if you don’t mind.” Then he turned to Mr. Liu. “Uncle Liu, take care.”

Mr. Liu nodded and thanked Vic once again for his fast actions.

After exchanging some more words, Vic actually gestured toward Cyndi and pointed toward the front door. She understood and got up also, saying some words of goodbyes before walking out with Vic.

*****

Vic and Cyndi descended the stairs and made their way out into the terrace that stretched ahead.

“So, this is it, huh?” Vic said casually, gesturing his hand for emphasis.

Cyndi nodded, not knowing what to say.

They stared blankly at the scenery ahead, continuing down the path and allowing their thoughts to drift with the flow of time. When they finally reached the edge of the property, Vic turned to Cyndi, calling out to her.

“Huh?” Cyndi asked, turning to him, waiting anxiously for his upcoming words—though restraining her emotions with allowing herself to display only the most passive thought.

“How about we play another game?” Vic asked, his smile widening.

“What game?” Cyndi asked, clueless.

“Fate game,” Vic answered with traces of mischief apparent on his face.

Cyndi stayed quiet for him to elaborate.

“Let’s see if we’re meant to be together.”

His smile was still ever so teasing yet she did not feel like returning the courtesy. Why?

“I’ll be leaving in two weeks.”

She already knew that. They all did.

“When I return around Christmas…”

He never mentioned about returning ever again.

“If we meet by the giant Christmas tree at the park before midnight, then I guess we won.”

If it was any other circumstances, she would’ve scolded him for being non-creative, unimaginative, or other vocabularies she was able to come up to describe his little scheme. Yet she felt like it was a lifesaver at that moment. It was his way of saying he wanted to return and see her. Be with her even. A dull glint of hope she was willing to gamble.

“What if we end up meeting other people? Or…”

“The person who doesn’t show up will be at lost. Traffic is not an excuse for delay either.” He extended his hand, his teasing smile still on. “So, are you in?”

She reached out and shook his hand. This time, her face was not displaying a stern expression like when they first met. It was not a fierce shake either. Yet she felt a jolt. It was Vic tugging on her hand and pulling her to him.

“I’ll miss you,” He said.

She only nodded into his shoulder. Somehow, she never wanted the moment to end. But she knew it was impossible.

© Saturday, June 26th, 2010

Posted: Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

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