Chapter 1

The sky was a shade of pink. Even though it was supposed to be mid-day. Joanne was relaxing in her favorite hammock–with one hand holding a crystallized prism while the other at the tip of her forehead, trying to shield out the sunrays.

“Hey, your dad wants you inside,” A rough voice spoke up, slicing through her reflective moment.

She scowled and lowered her hands, dropping them both to her sides. Then she turned toward the person of which the voice belonged to, icing him with one of her glares.

“You don’t want to keep him waiting, do you?” That annoying voice continued on without caring to acknowledge her current mood.

She got up from her hammock reluctantly–and made it known. “Vicki, you can lower the fabric now.”

Vicki nodded obediently before lowering the light pink translucent fabric. So that explained the pink sky previously.

“I don’t know why Dad even hired you in the first place,” Joanne continued in much bitterness, still sulking over the interruption.

The guy didn’t say anything. He just kept pace with her, walking by her side on purpose, not wanting to surpass her. His patience, whether still attached or not, he didn’t show any trace of it. In fact, his face was as emotionless since the first time they met. And showed even less emotion than any one she’d ever encountered. No matter how she tried to rattle him, it never worked. It was like his bridge of emotions was kept locked up somewhere. Or he was just mad trained as not to be easily riled. The only thing she succeeded in doing was getting herself worked up even more–than she intended in the first place. But her persistence hadn’t been fully extinguished yet. She vouched one day, she will get to him.

“Jacky, stay,” Joanne’s father instructed as they entered–and Jacky was about to depart.

Joanne, annoyed–still, turned to her father. She had settled down on the black leather sofa. “Why do you need him here anyway?”

“We’ve been through that before,” Her father said, his expression matching his stern tone. “I have my reasons for hiring everyone.”

“Do you need him here when you’re just talking to me?” Joanne returned, not backing down. She had crossed her arms to show her apparent objection.

“This matter includes him as well,” Mr. Zeng clarified, ignoring his daughter’s stubbornness completely.

But that comment had sparked some traces of surprise into Jacky’s eyes. He looked toward his boss and waited for the man to continue.

“Starting tomorrow, you’re going to help Joanne manage the bar,” Mr. Zeng continued, looking at Jacky–and still opting to ignore his daughter.

“What?!” Joanne exclaimed, getting up from her seat, her arms on her hips. “Don’t you trust me at all?”

“The cops are onto us at the moment and I would be more assured that Jacky’s going to be there with you.”

“But he…” She stopped to point an accusing finger at Jacky.

“That’s final.”

“I rather have Nelson with me if you have to transfer someone over to my territory.”

“I rather Jacky go help you.”

Joanne–if she hadn’t despised enough of Jacky’s presence or nature of importance around there–channeled her fury to the point of a volcano upon its eruption. “What’s wrong with Nelson? He’s been here since forever.” Though that was an exaggeration but it was true that Nelson had seniority over Jacky.

“If Nelson could only be as alert,” Mr. Zeng replied, his patience running low.

And Joanne indeed recognized her father’s tolerance level rapidly decreasing. She only had one choice: leave and sulk on her own, which was what she did next. She stomped out of there, not forgetting to give Jacky a shove on his left shoulder on the way out. Jacky only veered slightly because of the force Joanne applied but maintained his composure.

“You know how she is,” The boss reassured him–or what could count as a sense of comfort at all.

Jacky just nodded. Then the boss got right back to business, handing him some files involving the bar’s transactions and operations, knowing too well Joanne would never toss Jacky any of those lifelines the coming days.

*****

The phone rang loudly, breaking through Cyndi’s dream. Annoyed, she yanked her covers off and reached her hand toward the nightstand to grab the receiver.

“Hello?” Cyndi answered groggily.

“Honey, I forgot to tell you I’ll be late tonight so you could go ahead and order first at the restaurant,” Her husband’s voice traveled across the way.

“Okay,” Cyndi responded, only half listening.

“And remember…” The voice droned on.

“I know, I know,” She cut him off, knowing it would never end with his constant reminders.

“Okay then,” He finally said–getting her impatient. “I’ll see you tonight.”

Cyndi finally slammed the receiver down and got back into bed. She had stayed up late last night to finalize someone’s project and had e-mailed the whole package to the other party already hence not having to worry about it today. Just when she thought she could sleep in, her husband had to remind her of the endless list she was supposed to take care of–because she had long ago put off. Pulling her cover over her head again, she vowed to get it done….later…much later.

*****

Vic just barely replaced the receiver when the phone rang again. He returned it to his ear and listened while at the same time leafing through the folder in his hand.

“New developments at the bar,” A familiar voice said.

“What’s going on?” Vic asked, only answering to move the conversation along.

“They sent some guy in to help manage the place.”

“Who?”

“Some guy called Jacky. I’ll send you a picture in a bit. See if he’s in the files.”

“Okay.”

Vic hung up again and waited for the other party to send him a picture. Five minutes later, he entered his boss’ office.

“You know anything about this guy?” Vic asked, handing over the picture he printed out.

That got a reaction from the boss all right. He grabbed the picture right out of Vic’s hand–though it wasn’t like Vic was going to deny the man of the picture’s view. In fact, Vic’s intention of entering his office in the first place was to hand over the new information.

“Where did you see him?” The boss asked, finally looking up at Vic.

“Roy just called and said that this guy just got moved to the bar to help with managing it,” Vic answered, turning on his radar eyes to detect any other visible suspicious reactions from his boss.

“He usually follows Old Zeng. What’s going on here?”

Vic knew that was a rhetorical question since his boss had the habit of thinking out loud. His boss was still fidgeting with some papers around the desk. It was like the boss expected those papers to talk to him, telling him the exact answer.

“You might want to stop by and check it out a bit. Just rattle them a bit. See if those punks would blurt out anything by accident.”

Vic nodded and left the office without another word.

© Sunday, January 29th, 2012

Posted: Saturday, April 7th, 2012

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