Wallace returned to Nic and Angela’s house that afternoon to apologize to both parties and explained to them what happened. Cyndi was also present but did not acknowledge Wallace at all. She had maintained her professionalism long enough and only felt she owed it to herself to behave in such way during working hours. She did not care to justify her actions after work. It was her life. And Wallace could just live with it if he had chosen to lead such a life. She did not even budge or care to comment when Wallace asked Angela to come with him. The Chang siblings did not question Cyndi’s behavior either. They assumed that it had been a long day.
“Where are we going?” Angela asked when they were in Wallace’s car.
“I want you to meet someone,” Wallace said, merging into traffic.
“You’ll know when we get there.”
He did not say more until they were at Tammy’s house. He introduced both parties but made sure to keep a polite distance from Tammy – for Angela’s sake. Yet it made him feel an unknown sense of discomfort. Like it was going against his principles. But he tried hard to hold it inside. He let both girls socialize among themselves while he made drinks for them all.
“You won’t believe what he did during our second year of high school…” Tammy continued when Wallace came back from the kitchen with a tray of drinks.
“Hey,” Wallace interfered, pointing a finger at her. “Don’t expose your buddy. That’s not fair.”
“Like you don’t expose me around others,” Tammy retorted.
“I was just telling those potential candidates what they got themselves into,” Wallace justified himself. He had settled down at the edge of the sofa next to Angela. He was actually between them in a way because Tammy was sitting at the loveseat next to them.
Tammy shook her head. “I thought you would eventually change but…you’re hopeless as always.”
Wallace smiled. “I’ll never change.”
“I don’t know whether that’s good or bad.”
“Good. Definitely good.”
They stopped to take a sip of the drink before continuing with the conversation.
“Yvonne stopped by earlier,” Tammy told Wallace, setting her drink down on the coffee table again.
Wallace’s smile stiffened. “Tammy…”
Tammy understood what he meant. “It’s not what you think. Yvonne’s trying to help you.”
Wallace scoffed. “She’s crying her hearts out to you so you could help her get to me?”
Tammy shook her head. “I made her tell me. She was just visiting and didn’t say much but she looked troubled.”
“She was just acting, you know her.”
He turned to her again, feeling her hand on his. He waited for her to elaborate. Whatever it was.
“You and Yvonne never see eye-to-eye on matters, but I know she…” Tammy paused, as if wanting to find the right words. She licked her lips once. “She’s still a friend. And I know she’s trying her hardest to expose Sylvie and catch those thieves for you.”
Wallace’s expression relaxed, but he was still on-guard. He shook his head. “She’s not helping. I saw her at lunch with Sylvie. They were laughing and having fun.”
“You guys met earlier?”
“She didn’t tell you?”
Tammy shook her head.
“See? She omitted that on purpose so you could pity her.”
Tammy shook her head again. “I know she’s not lying.”
Wallace looked doubtful.
“Have you ever considered that she was trying to coax Sylvie into talking? And possibly confessing?”
“I don’t believe her at all.”
Their conversation stopped at that. Tammy knew Wallace had his limits where Yvonne was concerned. She also know that time would prove itself. She soon switched subject and invited them to stay for dinner. It was like a welcome home meal for her. Both agreed and they stayed and chatted until late that night.
“Tired?” Wallace asked when he and Angela were back into his car.
Angela shook her head. “Not really.”
He turned and took her hands into his. “Yvonne is my ex-girlfriend.”
“You don’t need to tell me anything.”
Wallace knew she never liked to nag him. She did it for his sake. But he knew she had every right to know. He was not doing all these because Cyndi had made him feel guilty. It was because he would do it sooner or later. Why was Cyndi reacting so strong?
“I know,” Wallace said out loud. “But I want you to know that I have nothing to hide from you.”
So he continued with his story regarding him and Yvonne as they headed back to her house. And then more about Tammy.
It was over a week before Wallace was seen at a public area again. It was more like he had been cautious with his move to trap Sylvie. And Yvonne. He still proceeded with the usual business at the shop. Yet he was not letting on that he was pursuing the matter anymore than he had to. It seemed like one of those false alarms like in the past. The employees were sure he’d overreacted once again. They did not care to ponder. As long as their job was still secured, they did not care. He was moving onto a new project. That also meant he needed their help.
“Are you sure they’re here today?” Wallace asked, shifting the newspaper in his hands. He was posing at one of the tables and waiting for Sylvie and her contact to show up. He was also wearing a headset and hiding his cell phone in his coat pocket. The headset looked like one of those headphones – and made it looked like he was listening to music. It was less suspicious than say a Bluetooth. A fancy Bluetooth would appear cool on him but would draw more attention. He did not need or care to be cool this time around. He needed an answer. No, some results for his effort.
“Trust us,” A voice answered him on the other side of the line. “We verified the meeting time already. We just need to wait a little more and then you’ll have your answer.”
Wallace took a sip of his coffee, still pretending to be cool – and possibly carefree. “I better.”
Wallace turned out of habit.
Then he remembered. He must not let anyone suspect him. He reached for a compact sized mirror he pocketed earlier and used it to manipulate the angle to where a guy just sat down on the other side of the garden.
“Him?” Wallace asked.
“Yeah,” The other person replied. “She’s coming.”
Wallace was glad he wore a hat earlier. He hated hats. He did not like it when his hair was hidden under something like a hat. But he must admit it was a good disguise this time.
“We’re going to enter when they make the exchange, okay?” The man reminded Wallace of their plan.
“Got it,” Wallace said. He knew it was a reminder for him not to act on impulse until they had proof.
Fifteen minutes passed before that exchange happened. They streamed in and Wallace remained seated, watching with his mirror. He did not feel the satisfaction that he should be. But more of his hatred rising because they dared to use more excuses to cover up their act.
“You can move now,” The same man told Wallace.
Wallace finally got up from his seat, abandoning the newspaper and peeling his hat off. He was able to catch Sylvie’s wide-opened mouth as she was being hauled away.
“Wallace Huo!” She called out, her voice still pitching high and not an ounce of regret.
“I told you I would bring you down,” Wallace said, approaching her. “Too bad…” He stopped because he spotted Yvonne in a van outside. He dropped his attack on Sylvie and made his way toward Yvonne. “What are you doing here?”
Before she could answer, the man who had been talking to Wallace stepped out from the same van.
“Why are you with her?” Wallace demanded.
“She’s the one who helped us investigate these past days,” The man explained.
Yvonne finally stepped out of the van. She was wearing the same black coat as his. Just the female version of it. And she was also wearing a wool white hat to cover part of her hair. Wallace studied her as she approached them, wondering what she was up to.
“It doesn’t matter if you believe me or not,” Yvonne said. “It doesn’t matter anymore. Maybe you can think of it as my wanting to split the money with him by providing my assistant in the whole thing.” Then she left.
“All of the information she got was from spying on Sylvie and…” The man continued. “We needed her help with collecting information. Then we captured all of those clips ourselves.”
Wallace did not know how to answer – or what to say. He watched Yvonne walked down the path to her car, her footsteps echoed hauntingly in his mind. Just like she once did the day they broke up.
As if the man was afraid Wallace was not convinced, he continued on with his summarization. “We almost gave up because of how hard it was to link Sylvie with the buyer. But Yvonne persisted. She was the one who came up with this trap. You know, the whole thing with pretending that you’ve developed something new and want to move on since it’s always hopeless to catch the thief or prove it’s yours.”
Wallace did not care to input. He was still staring at Yvonne’s car disappearing down the street. Perhaps Tammy was right after all.
Wallace stopped at Tammy’s house first. Or more like it was a change of plans. He did not know what to think. Or how to collect his thoughts. He used his own key to enter like many times before. The only thing that pulled him out of his passiveness was voices from the kitchen. He increased his pace, wanting to know if Cyndi had come back to give Tammy a hard time. She was capable. She was still mad at him. Even at work. But the one who he discovered at the kitchen counter with Tammy was Yvonne. She had removed her wool hat but she was still wearing her black coat.
“Wallace!” Tammy called out. She was facing him so of course she spotted him first.
Wallace sent her a smile, but a tiresome one this time. One of those rare times when he had to force one – at least for Tammy. Yvonne turned then and saw him. She had on her serious look. He eyes diverted away slightly. Then she made her way to the living room, snatching her handbag up.
“I’ll see you around, Tammy,” Yvonne rattled out. “You two have fun.”
“Yvonne, don’t go!” Tammy called out, walking into the living room.
“Yvonne,” Wallace said, grabbing her hand as she walked by him.
Their eyes met then. He did not know what to say, except displaying his regretful look. He had never regretted anything in his life. Or so he thought. He was always sure he had it right. Yet he wasn’t so sure now.
Yvonne smiled then. Just a normal one, not out of mockery or sympathy. It was too passive. “I was told you’re not coming today. So I decided to visit. And my timing’s off.” She freed her hand then and continued down the hallway.
“Yvonne!” Tammy called again.
Wallace turned to Tammy, placing a hand on her shoulder to stop her. “Stay here, okay? I want to talk to her.” It was not an order. It was a plea – and possibly a request for a chance.
Tammy nodded. “Go.”
Wallace caught up to Yvonne at the door. He waited until they were both outside before speaking up. “You don’t have to go.”
Yvonne turned to face him then. “My presence would only create hostility for everyone.”
“No, it’s not.”
Yvonne had on her passive smile again. “You don’t have to try to be nice to me. I get paid for collecting those information too.”
“But I never realized you were…” He gestured his hand. “That what you did was for your job…and…I just had to…” Why was it so hard to explain? Why did he have to mess it up at the most crucial moment?
Yvonne shook her head. “It doesn’t matter anymore. Just take it that we already tried and we failed. Our communication has never been effective. Not in the past, not now, and it won’t be so in the future.”
“But it was my fault. I didn’t listen to you or try to. It was your job. And you had to keep it a secret because of confidentiality. I was the immature one. I…”
Yvonne raised a hand up to stop him then. “Stop blaming yourself. I could’ve told you about my job. It was not like I was undercover. Not really. I’m just a PI, not some government official.”
Yvonne diverted her vision from him then. It was like she could not bear to look at him anymore. “I heard you have a girlfriend now. That means you’ve already moved on. So treat her well.” She returned her eyes to his face then. “And maybe not get so worked up until you understand the situation fully.” She smiled and departed then.
She did not turn around. She did not wave either. She just continued to her car. The car parked so closed to his car that he did not realize earlier when he arrived. It was like he never paid enough attention to anything belonging to her. Not in the past, not now.
© Sunday, March 6th, 2011
Posted: Wednesday, March 30th, 2011