Chapter 9

The sky was a shade of aqua several days later. Joanne was at her old place and sitting in her hammock once again. Like the last few times, Vicki was the one holding the fabric and Joanne was just sitting there studying her prism like it was some newly found item. Yet she had been more careful with this prism because it was really the last one. She’d never brought it out in public again–regardless of reasons. It had stayed hidden in her room until she was safely at home and could stare at it like then.

“Vicki, why is it so hard for me to find a friend?” Joanne asked, shocking Vicki with her question.

“Uh….” Vicki managed, not daring to shift in her place.

Joanne gestured toward the fabric swaying in the wind. “You can lower it now.”

Vicki nodded and did as instructed.

“And you can go rest too.”

Vicki nodded again and went on her way as Joanne laid back on her hammock again, looking at the clear blue sky above. Her feet were taking turns kicking the ground as she lost herself in thoughts like many times before. Yet this time, it was about Cyndi and then Sara, and the events that unfolded since she discovered the many things about Jacky. And as if thinking about him conjured him by her side, he soon appeared in front of her.

“Hey,” She mumbled, slowing her pace down–and allowing him to settle down on the hammock.

He was getting quite comfortable with this routine nowadays–and did not care about keeping distance either. In fact, that little detail changed since they returned from Hualien.

“What’s bothering you?” He asked, knowing too well of her moods already.

She kicked the ground upon hearing the question. It was like a trigger to her moods.

He had on his teasing smile, thinking it was one of her bizarre ideas being turned down by her father again. “That bad?”

She placed her feet down to stop the hammock abruptly and straightened up again, staring at him. “I ran into Sara the other day.”

Jacky’s smile faded then. “You what?”

“It was an accident.”

Jacky stayed quiet–though he was getting anxious inside, wondering if Sara was giving her any trouble. Then Joanne recounted of her tale, starting with meeting Cyndi at the mall.

“You befriended the cop’s wife?” Jacky asked when Joanne was done.

Joanne shrugged. “How was I supposed to know? I was bored waiting in that long line.”

“What were you doing at that furniture shop anyway?”

Joanne didn’t feel threatened or embarrassed by his confrontation though. She stared right back at him. “Hey, Nana’s chair’s old. I had to look for a replacement, okay?”

Jacky had on his amused smile again. “Qiao Qiao, they have chairs there. The neighbors could help her look for a new one. I told them already.”

Joanne scoffed. “Sure. You don’t see half of the stuffs the neighbors brought over, do you? Nana will be having more accidents around there if you hand her over to them. I have to look for the best, okay? I got it delivered already.”

Though Jacky seemed amused at her choice of words but a sense of gratitude washed over him then. His amused smile finally turned off and it was replaced with a more genuine one. “Thanks.”

Joanne’s face finally softened. She shrugged, not wanting to take credit for her effort. Her temper seemed to have ceased also. Whether it was because of his words or because of hearing about his grandmother, he was not sure. But she soon returned to her routine of kicking the ground to move the hammock again.

“So, are you going to meet up with the cop’s wife again?” Jacky asked casually.

Joanne’s face showed some signs of trouble once more. “I don’t know if it’s a good idea. I meant Vic doesn’t mind that I’m around Cyndi–at that moment. But Sara…”

“I’ll take care of it,” He promised.”

Joanne knew it was just his way of reassuring her. But she smiled anyway, appreciating his effort in showing support for her.

*****

Jacky got out of his car after parking at a somewhat deserted corner of an unfamiliar street. He looked both ways, in fact, every way before approaching the path leading left. He was careful, but not careful enough since he didn’t realize he was being followed. It was Vic–again. And this time was no accident, just a coincidence. He was out getting some supplies for Cyndi when he spotted Jacky’s car hence following Jacky. He didn’t realize he was onto something since he was just scratching his curiosity, wondering if Jacky had really gotten back together with Sara.

Jacky turned around to check on his status every once in a while–and to which Vic managed to dodge out of the way in time. It came with experience because he’d been tailing Jacky for so long now. Jacky finally stopped in front of a warehouse and turned to check his surroundings one last time before approaching the door. Vic waited for a while before entering, knowing the perimeter too well because he’d been there once or twice in the past. He knew he was safe because there was some sort of screen in front so if he slipped in, he wouldn’t be seen or heard.

“I don’t know what you’re pulling lately but stop attacking her like that,” Jacky’s voice traveled through the hall as Vic circled around some structure for safety.

“You’ve changed,” Sara’s voice remarked. “Don’t forget about your initial intention. You can’t get involved with her no matter what.”

Vic silently swore because Seth was onto something when he mentioned about some spy conspiracy. If Vic knew it was that cliché, he would’ve watched more daily soaps to solve his cases instead of relying on the actual system.

Jacky scoffed then. “If you remember, then you can go ahead and finish it.”

“What are you talking about?” Sara asked, sounding alarmed.

“I’m out.”

“There’s no time for games. Stop it with this childish rebellion just because I won’t let you fool around with Old Zeng’s daughter.”

“Don’t talk about her like that. You don’t know her.”

“You’re definitely losing it. You can’t quit now. What will the boss say?”

“Just tell him to go find another lackey.”

After Jacky said that, there were footsteps coming toward Vic. Vic braced himself and found a spot to hide behind in time, not exposing his feet like some cliché movie often showed some signs of clue that he was there and was panicking.

“Hey!” Sara called after Jacky.

More footsteps making its way to the door. Yet Jacky’s footsteps already vanished from the atmosphere after the door opened and closed the first time. The second time, Vic knew it was Sara. But what about the third time? He risked a look and spotted Justin’s shadow. He wasn’t sure. He stayed in his spot until he was sure everyone left before making his way out of the warehouse and back down the road to his car. Jacky’s car was already gone when he returned to the corner of that deserted street.

*****

“If I had bet money, you would already lost big time,” Seth gloated over dinner that night.

They were actually having one of those rare dinners at Vic’s house. And without Sara of course.

“I didn’t know guys like to gossip so much,” Cyndi teased.

“You have no idea,” Vic mumbled. “Come down to the station sometimes and you will see how us cops gossip.”

Brianna wrinkled her face in disagreement then. “Come on, we’re not that bad.”

“You mean we’re behind other stations in the gossip department?”

“But if Jacky’s a spy then he’s using Qiao Qiao?” Cyndi asked suddenly, looking at the others.

Justin shrugged. “All I know is, he was mad. Okay, mad is an understatement. Because from where I was standing, he looked like he wanted to murder Sara right there and then.”

“That means he doesn’t want to use Qiao Qiao for whatever he’s doing?” Cyndi poked again, her tone edging over to indicate it was an interrogation more than curiosity.

“Wait,” Vic interfered. “What were they talking about before I enter?”

Vic and Justin had traded somewhat of the notes after Vic confirmed the third person in the warehouse was Justin. Yet they had moved on to helping with preparing dinner that they didn’t continue.

“He was asking her if she ran into Joanne recently,” Justin answered. “It was like he was giving her a chance to explain with her own version before actually attacking her.”

“What did she say then?” Vic asked, giving Justin his full attention.

“She said she ran into them while visiting Cyndi so she had to play out her role a bit so it wouldn’t look suspicious, whatever that meant.”

“What role?” Cyndi asked, confused.

Vic was also confused, somewhat. Yet he just waited silently for Justin to continue.

Justin shrugged. “I don’t know either. But the next part I think you already heard about him saying whatever Sara was doing, she better stop attacking Joanne like that.”

“He wasn’t convinced that she was just playing out her role then?” Vic took over with the questioning. “Whatever the role is.”

Justin nodded. “In fact, he was really protective of Joanne.”

“But they’re not together?” Cyndi asked, wanting some sort of confirmation aside from the guys’ random exchanges since the last hour or so.

Justin shook his head. “I don’t know. But I don’t think so.”

“You found out anything else about Sara?” Vic asked, moving forward because he knew there was no point dwelling on unsolved questions until they had more information.

“It’s locked,” Justin replied.

The others stopped eating then, even Cyndi who was only half listening to their conversation.

“What?” Vic asked, wrinkling his face.

“Someone went in and locked Sara’s files,” Justin answered.

Vic exchanged a look with the others then, pondering about the strange matter.

“She knows we’re onto her,” Brianna said, stating the obvious.

“Did you check Jacky’s files too?” Vic asked, turning to Justin again.

Justin nodded. “Locked.”

“Either they have a hacker on their team or they’re involved with the authorities,” Seth noted.

Vic had on his cunning smile then. “That’s where they went wrong. They’re letting us know we’re onto to something. And they can’t risk it.”

“But now that Jacky’s out, would his files still be locked?” Justin pondered. “Or would they throw him out to the pack of wolves since he doesn’t have a purpose in their grand plan anymore?”

“So we’re wolves?” Vic asked, his glare threatening.

“Hey, it’s an expression.”

“Hmm…” Cyndi murmured. “I should tell Qiao Qiao about this so she could watch out for them.”

Justin had on his alarmed look at that time. “You can’t!”

“Why not?”

“Because whatever it is, we need to see those two make a move before we could jump in and grab them.”

Cyndi had on her disapproving look then, not threatened by Justin’s demeanor at all. “At the expense of having Qiao Qiao get hurt?”

“Uh….”

Cyndi and Justin had both turned toward Vic then, waiting for his decision. But Vic was suddenly saved by the doorbell.

“I’ll get it,” Justin jumped out of his seat, glad for the distraction.

“You…” A familiar voice uttered as soon as Justin opened the door.

“You’re looking for…?” Though he knew exactly who the other person was looking for. He was just pretending not to know.

The others had gotten up from their seats then and made their way to the living room. They knew who it was as soon as the other party spoke up.

“Hey Qiao Qiao,” Cyndi called out, walking toward the door–and allowing Justin to step back safely without another word of awkwardness to maintain some source of conversation.

“I don’t care if we’re on opposite sides or not, but I’m not going to be threatened by some outsiders telling me off,” Joanne said as soon as Cyndi approached her.

“Come on in then,” Cyndi said, opening the door wider to emphasize her sincerity.

Joanne didn’t enter though. Instead she shook her head, contradicting her claims of a friendship pact seconds ago. “You probably know from your husband, I have to work in a bit. But I just want to drop by and say a few words before I go.”

Cyndi nodded, understanding. “Stop by whenever during the day then. I’m here most of the time. Better yet, call me up first.”

Joanne nodded, agreeing. Then she did a little wave at the others before turning to leave.

“That was strange…” Justin commented nearby.

But just as quick as she left, Joanne returned to their sight before Cyndi closed the door completely.

“By the way, aren’t you supposed to be following me now?” Joanne asked, looking at Justin.

“No, I’m tailing Sara,” Justin blurted out without thinking.

Joanne wrinkled her face. “Why are you tailing her?”

“Uh….” Justin struggled, turning to the others for help.

Vic stepped forward then. “He meant he’s following Sara because I don’t want her to bother my wife anymore with her dramatic rants. We’re trying to see when she’s done with the Drama Queen soaps.”

Joanne nodded in understanding then. “Oh.”

“And Roy’s the one assigned to you, not Justin,” Vic clarified, not caring if he got Roy exposed. In fact, he had a feeling Roy had already exposed himself.

“I know. But just thought you might want to shuffle your crew since it’s getting pretty obvious.”

Vic had on his amused expression then. “I think that’s all we should be exchanging before I get hauled back to the station for revealing too much.”

Joanne nodded again, knowing too well of their clash and conflicts. She finally turned to leave again after sending Cyndi a light smile.

“What do you know, huh?” Seth asked when Cyndi already closed the door.

“I have to warn her in some way,” Cyndi said, turning toward the others again. “I’m not going to say it out what exactly is going on so don’t worry. But I have to tell her to be careful or I won’t be able to live with myself.”

Cyndi’s stern look had caused the others to exchange looks among themselves also. Yet they didn’t object. They nodded, knowing too well she was torn because of Joanne’s persistent to befriend her.

*****

Meanwhile, after Joanne left the Chou resident, she returned to Jacky’s car. Yes, Jacky was waiting for her outside, not wanting to encounter Vic anymore than he already had been all these times at the bar. He also knew of Vic’s sharpness so he didn’t want to risk anymore than he had to.

“How did it go?” Jacky asked after he pulled out of the spot.

“I told her I didn’t care about her husband’s investigation but only if she wants to be my friend or not,” Joanne answered.

Jacky smiled, understanding too well of Joanne’s straightforward approach. “That’s good. What did she say then?”

“She agrees. But…”

“But…?”

“Vic told me he pinned Justin on Sara to see what game Sara’s pulling.”

“He actually told you that?”

“Actually, Justin spilled the beans first since I turned back and told Justin he could go ahead and follow me now since it’s his job. But he let it slip that he wasn’t the one responsible for following me but he’s tailing Sara right now. So Vic had to explain that he pinned Justin on Sara to protect his wife.” Joanne gave Jacky a side glance then. “Are you sure you don’t want to talk it out with Sara? I meant she seriously cares about you. As much I don’t like her attitude since she’s attacking me, you have to admit she really loves you to take it so hard with the whole misunderstanding.”

“I’m done talking to her. And she will never get it.”

“That’s cold. How long have you been with her? It’s seriously disturbing if you just toss your ex-girlfriend aside like that without caring if she lives or dies. Improper closure, you know.”

“It takes awhile for some people to get over it. You can’t expect me to cave in to her demands so she could be happy and normal again, can you?”

Joanne shrugged then. “It’s just creepy to see how you treat her like that.”

“She’s the one attacking you.”

“And I don’t blame her. Even if I really hate the way she pokes at me.”

Jacky didn’t say anything. He was actually deep in thoughts about something else. It had to do with Sara, but not in a way Joanne was thinking.

“You’re thinking about talking to her, aren’t you?”

Jacky shook his head. He risked a glance her way then. “Vic actually shared that piece of information with you?”

“He even told me that Roy was actually the one responsible for tailing me.”

Jacky had to laugh at that. “That Roy guy was being too obvious. It doesn’t matter if Vic tells you or not.”

“You changed the subject on purpose.”

“I don’t want to talk about that anymore. What I’m more interested is why Vic’s telling you all that information. Is he trying to gain your trust and then extract more information?”

Joanne shook her head. “I don’t think so. We established that I will be his wife’s friend and not him.”

Jacky had on his doubtful look. “You never know.”

“Want to bet then?”

Jacky smiled, shaking his head.

© Saturday, February 11, 2012

Posted: Saturday, May 5th, 2012

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