Chapter 13

The wait for Joanne to appear was unfruitful. Unlike what Seth and the others believed, Joanne didn’t go visit her father at all. She only left behind a letter, asking someone to deliver it for her. Vic and the others had no choice but to go out of their way and search for her, mostly for Cyndi’s sake. And because they were also curious. On the other hand, Sara didn’t dare to step near the Chou resident after two more failed attempts to persuade Cyndi of her harmless intentions. As for Jacky, he had also disappeared after that night they saw him depart from the Chou resident. Vic had poked around and found out that Jacky had resigned the same night he went in to see his boss that last time.

“Maybe they had another meeting somewhere and she killed him already,” Seth guessed one afternoon when he, Vic, and Brianna were wandering along the streets again.

It was one month later–more or less. They were assigned another case already, a homicidal one instead of somewhere along the line of gang related. Or would it eventually turn in that direction as well?

“She wouldn’t,” Vic argued, his voice leveled since he had returned to his confident self instead of the devastated one like what had happened after the truth was revealed during the last case.

“How could you be so sure?” Seth probed. “You’re not her.”

“Because she would never back out on her promise regarding Nana.”

“Then why didn’t she go see her father or…”

Vic shook his head, his mischievous smile appearing for some unknown reason.

“What?”

“We’re not her, remember? How could we explain it?”

Seth sighed out, defeated. “The harder for us to find her then.”

Yes, they were still searching for Joanne on their spare time.

Vic’s smile disappeared then, replacing it with a troubled expression. “I don’t know.”

“And I thought you were getting back to normal,” Seth said, his voice edging toward annoyance again.

“It’s hard not to be affected by it whenever that topic is brought up.”

Seth nodded. “Tell me about it.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence. It wasn’t until they arrived at their preplanned destination that they resumed conversation again. It was the house of one of the witnesses of the current case.

*****

Jacky emerged again one month later. Though not anywhere near their surroundings but in Hualien. He had returned after much failed attempts at locating Joanne. It was like she had hid herself good and away from him, knowing their current circumstances and the irreversible stage. Even if he had remained behind for some time after to help Mr. Zeng in reducing his sentence by coming up with techniques to convince the man to confess for a lighter term–and only working behind the scene with the lawyer and staying hidden, he didn’t think he deserved to be forgiven. What if Old Zeng was really guilty? The man still trusted him greatly at one point. What was more, Joanne had trusted him greatly, even using herself as a shield at various points to allow him much more freedom than that was given after suspicions had arisen.

Returning to his grandma’s place, his troubled moods were often lifted because it was home. Yet it was totally different this time. He was haunted by Joanne’s ghosts because he was reminded of those walks to the markets to buy the usual for his grandma. Or it was the two of them accompanying his grandma on one of her walks around town. Lingering a little at the crossroad that led into their more deserted side of town, he took in a breath of fresh air, wanting to collect himself again–and knowing too well he couldn’t bring his morbid face to greet his grandma. When he finally made his move, his face was that of peacefulness again. And as he turned at the bend toward the other side of civilization, he stopped short because he had spotted his grandma standing a distance from him. With Joanne. It was like they were on one of their walks. Nothing unusual.

“Fan Gang!” His grandma called out to him, her expression beyond happy.

“Nana,” He returned. “I’m back.”

Instead of running over to embrace her after saying those words like he usually did many times before, he stood still and stared at Joanne. She was like her usual self after work, tamed attires and her face placid. He wasn’t afraid of what she might do to his grandma because he knew she would never do that. Yet that haunting look within her was no longer present. He wondered if she had forgiven him or was she just concealing all those feelings for Nana’s sake? But it didn’t make sense. Because if she still hadn’t forgiven him then why was she there?

“Nana called me and said she wanted me to visit her,” Joanne answered his question without him even asking at all. It was like she had caught it from his expression. “I told her you would return soon.”

Jacky nodded, getting it. Though he was still numbed from this strange occurrence.

“And I promise Nana I would never leave again either,” Joanne continued, her voice determined and sincere.

Jacky exhaled then, not even realizing that he had been holding his breath. His eyes were still holding that tint of guilt and it had sparkled because he was trying to hold back tears. “Does that mean…”

Joanne nodded as Jacky’s voice broke, smiling at last. “You’ve been forgiven. But it’s only because of Nana.”

“Thanks.” And that was all he could utter.

Joanne had on her authoritative look then. “Let’s go home then.”

Jacky nodded and made his way toward Joanne and Nana. Joanne was still escorting Nana while Jacky walked on Nana’s other side, feeling like he was given another chance. And he was so glad of it, knowing he would always cherish that chance.

Just when they made their way down the road leading toward Nana’s house, Vic and Cyndi stepped out from a tree nearby. Yes, it was the same tree Vic had camped under that one time while trying to hide from the sun–and had discovered Jacky and Joanne walking with Nana. They had witnessed that scene between the three, knowing it was going to be all right in the end.

Giving Cyndi another minute to look after the three, Vic slipped a hand around her shoulders. Soon, they were walking along the road in the opposite direction heading back to civilization. Their hands were linked this time, but it was swinging back and forth along with the carefree wind–and not feeling so heavy-hearted like before when they were still on the search.

“I guess you could read her mind after all,” Cyndi joked.

Vic turned to her with a mischievous smile. “Jealous?”

“Never,” Cyndi returned, her smile as cunning. “Because you could never get rid of me.”

Vic let out a laugh. “Fair enough.”

No longer needing any words to express themselves, they continued along the road with the late morning sun shining on them while the trees surrounding them on both sides danced back and forth–celebrating for a hopeful beginning.

© Monday, April 23rd, 2012

Posted: Sunday, May 13th, 2012

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