Chapter 3

chapter_three

Several days later still, the shop resumed with their routine. It wasn’t until the end of the week that Chun walked into the shop with a newspaper in hand and was calling for their attention. It was more like he was calling for Enson and Penny. The others were already gone for lunch.

“What happened?” Enson asked, looking up from his light brown leather folder. He often carried one–and was often made fun of by others, even Wallace. It was his other trademark, aside from his famous casual attires.

“A shooting several blocks down from here several nights ago,” Chun replied, waving the newspaper in his hand.

“What?” Enson repeated, his expression confused.

Chun handed the newspaper to Enson as Penny walked over to them. Enson didn’t have to read the article to be shocked. He snapped his attention on Penny as soon as he saw the large picture right on the front page.

“What?” Penny blurted out, giving Enson a look. Like he was weird.

Enson handed the newspaper over to Penny. Penny still had on that look, indicating that Enson was losing it. Yet she took the newspaper from him anyway. Then she understood and turned to Enson, her shock mirroring his.

“It’s them!” Penny exclaimed.

“You two know them?” Chun asked, looking from one to the other.

“They attacked Penny several days ago,” Enson said.

“Who could have done it?” Penny asked, returning her attention to the article.

“It’s still under investigation,” Chun answered. “Police talk, you know the routine. Probably they’ll have to file it away again.”

“But our area’s pretty peaceful.”

“I guess it’s about time we pack and leave,” Chun joked.

“Tea time?” Wallace’s voice spoke up then.

They all turned to see Wallace walking toward them. He was all business like always. Chun’s smile had turned off upon seeing Wallace’s disapproving glare. Enson’s expression had also turned intense.

“It’s lunch time in case you don’t know,” Penny snapped.

“That shooting is going to affect our collaboration,” Wallace pointed out, ignoring Penny–like always.

“It’s not like we could convince them otherwise. It’s not our fault.”

“We have bigger troubles ahead,” Van said at that time. He also walked in from the entrance after saying that. “Some of our female employees just quit after that massacre.”

“Those girls are useless anyway,” Wallace said, his voice stern. “We’ll just hire some new employees who are willing to work and not gossip.”

Chun had his head down around then, because Wallace was staring at him.

“It’s not gossip, it’s called understanding the situation,” Penny jumped in, defending Chun.

Wallace scoffed. “Really?”

“If it wasn’t for the shooting, they would’ve quit anyway. Seeing your long face every single day, who wouldn’t quit?”

“Then why are you still here?”

Penny turned and walked away, just like in the past. Enson gave the others a quick scan before chasing after Penny.

“Uh…I’ll go check on inventory,” Chun rattled out and turned to leave as well.

“It was Penny,” Van whispered to Wallace after the others were gone already.

Wallace nodded, his face still troubled, but a new kind of worry.

*****

Still, days passed by. They were in the process of hiring new employees to take over different duties. For the past few days, Tammy and Brad had to help Penny in the main shop while Chun covered the rest of Brad’s assignments. Megan was no longer around since the auditing process had finished. Enson ended up doing interviews since Van and Penny had outvoted Wallace. They both agreed that Wallace’s strict attitude would scare away potential candidates.

“Rainie Yang,” Enson called out by the end of another long day. He had to use his folder to cover a yawn–after the past few candidates.

A tiny girl walked toward the door at that time. Enson gestured toward a seat before approaching his desk–like many times before. The interviews were also taking place at his office.

“You from around here?” Enson asked, eyeing the girl cautiously.

Rainie shook her head. “I just came back from Taipei recently.”

Enson nodded and proceeded with some questions. He had a list ready from the start–and had never reused one. He had kept his office door opened on purpose. It was his trick to see who was eavesdropping and if the potential candidates would want to use someone else’s answers. That was the other reason why he had kept his voice low enough for the current candidate to hear only.

Fifteen minutes later, he was done with Rainie’s interview and escorted her out. He was also glad that she was the last one for the day. The usual greetings were exchanged at the door before he turned back to his office.

“How did it go?” Penny’s voice asked fifteen minutes later.

Enson looked up from his folder and sent Penny a smile as she was walking in with a cup of water for him. “Only one passed.”

Penny gasped, placing the cup of water in front of him before sitting down at the place where candidate after candidate had been sitting all day long. “And we thought Wallace’s strict.”

“I don’t like him, but I have to admit, he’s right,” Enson returned before taking a sip of water.

Penny had on her half teasing and half shocked expression. “You’re agreeing with Wallace?”

Enson smiled, not bothered by her comment. “Just because we have different perceptions in the creative area doesn’t mean I disregard his principles on other matters.”

“Who’s the lucky candidate that passed the test then?”

“The last one.”

“The tiny girl?”

Enson nodded.

Penny’s teasing expression turned back on. “Or is it because she’s cute so you…”

Enson had on his amused look. “No one is as cute as you.”

Penny shook her head in a disapproving manner. “Too obvious.”

“How about dinner then?”

Penny glimpsed her watch. “I can’t tonight.”

“That was what you said yesterday.”

Penny shrugged and got up at that time. Yet Enson wasn’t offended. He returned to his work until the sun went down.

*****

“So you’re saying that Wallace and Enson are at odds?” Rainie asked, looking at Chun.

Chun nodded. “Yeah, so don’t get stuck in between them. I made that mistake once.”

“Is that why the others quit?”

Chun shook his head. “No, they quit because of the shooting several weeks back. But lucky things died down since the authorities caught some people so that was why we even got some people coming in for interviews at last.”

“Should I be grateful that I passed the radar?”

Yes, only Rainie passed the interview. She was actually welcomed by the majority of the staff. Then Tammy walked her through most of the duties at the shop. After that, Tammy handed Rainie over to Penny before heading back to her station. Brad was allowed to return to his own duties as well. Although only Rainie passed the first round of interviews, Enson had promised to recruit more.

“Maybe,” Chun answered after a moment of reflection.

“Scaring the newbie already?” Penny asked as she walked by them.

“Miss Lin, I was going back to work,” Raine said, her anxiousness visible on her face.

Penny switched on her sweet smile at that time since she had sent Chun a warning look seconds ago. It was her teasing expression, but Rainie had misinterpreted because Rainie was still so new. “Don’t worry. It’s lunch time, remember?”

Just like last time, they were interrupted by Wallace. The exception this time was that Enson wasn’t around.

“Penny, I need you to go do something real quick,” Wallace said as he spotted her talking to the other two.

Penny’s smile turned off then. She turned to face Wallace and gave him her usual cold stare. “What?”

“We’ll talk in my office,” Wallace said.

Wallace made his way to his office, expecting Penny to follow without any other words to clarify of his actions–just like always. Penny mumbled something about ‘slave driver’ as she followed him.

“Let’s go eat,” Chun said to Rainie after both were out of sight already.

“Is he always like that?” Rainie whispered to Chun as Chun led her out of the shop.

Chun understood that Rainie was still frightened by Wallace’s presence, so it would be better to take her to some other place for lunch. But before they were able to take leave, they bumped into Enson by the entrance.

“You guys see Penny?” Enson asked, looking from Chun to Rainie.

“Wallace summoned her to his office,” Chun replied, still having a hold on the glass door.

“Slave driver,” Enson said, shaking his head.

“Penny said the same thing.”

Enson entered as Chun and Rainie headed to lunch–like they planned.

*****

“Why is it always me?” Penny asked when they were in Wallace’s office.

“Because he trusts you,” Wallace reasoned.

Wallace was actually leaning on his desk with his hands crossed. Penny was facing him, her expression no longer hostile like it had been in front of the others. She seemed hurt by his words, instead of the aggressiveness she exuded in front of the others whenever she was dealing with Wallace.

“Why can’t Tammy do it? She has the gentle look. She could fool anyone, even more than me.”

Wallace smiled then, a rare smile. “We all know she’s just heartless. She could play the part, but not up to the point that it’s so convincing. Your smile will fool anyone. You know that.”

“He’s already tagging me to the point of annoying. I can’t give him even more reasons to tag me.”

Wallace reached out a hand and placed it gently on Penny’s shoulder then. It was indeed a very rare thing to see that he was smiling at her, but now he was trying to comfort her. She recoiled, taking a step back from him.

“Stop,” Penny warned.

That was when they heard a knock at the door. They exchanged a look before turning toward the door.

“It’s Enson,” The voice on the other side said.

“What do you want?” Wallace asked, his voice mirroring the annoyance shown on his face–to which only Penny could see. “It’s lunch time.”

“I need Penny to help me with something,” Enson returned.

Penny gave Wallace a look, hinting that she didn’t want to deal with it now.

“I have something I want Penny to do too,” Wallace said, reaching for Penny’s hand at that time. He squeezed it gently to give her a sense of reassurance. “I asked her first. Go find Tammy or that new girl.”

“If they could do it, would I ask Penny?”

“No deal.”

“Enson, don’t argue with him,” Penny spoke up then, her eye still staring intently at Wallace as he was smiling at her. “I’ll just finish his task first and then come back to help you.”

“You sure?” Enson asked from the other side.

“Yeah.”

“All right then.”

They finally heard footsteps walking away from the door. Penny breathed out at last and sent Wallace a chiding look.

“It’s all your fault,” Penny whispered to him, not wanting Enson to hear–if Enson was still near them.

“You’ll be fine,” Wallace returned, his other hand reaching for her as well.

*****

That afternoon, Enson and Penny were walking together along some familiar sidewalk around town. They just finished some negotiations with another partner.

“You want to grab something to eat before we head back?” Enson asked. “After all, you had to work earlier.”

Penny shook her head. “I’m fine. I just want to drop this off and then head home.”

“You sure?”

Penny nodded. She slowed her pace and tried to tag a Taxi coming their way instead. Yet that Taxi didn’t slow down. Possibly because it was currently in service, transporting some other customers already. Penny didn’t bother keeping conversation either. She didn’t care to disclose that she had lunch with Wallace earlier.

“Oh, no wonder they’ve been sneaking around lately,” Enson said suddenly.

Penny didn’t know what he was talking about, so she turned to give him a look. Enson pointed, a cunning smile on his face. Penny followed his hand to see Van and Tammy eating ice cream together in the shop they just passed by.

“Well, there are no rules with employees dating, right?” Penny returned. “Besides, what are we doing? Tying the knots for people here.”

“I didn’t say that I object,” Enson clarified. “I’m just saying we finally solved the mystery.”

“You and Chun are seriously gossipy,” Penny chided him. “And you still dare say that you agree with Wallace about the employees?”

Enson wrinkled his face. “I didn’t say I agree with him on that matter. What I meant was hiring employees who know how to work during working hours and relax during break time.”

“Whatever.”

After that, Penny continued on her way again. Enson seemed disturbed because of Penny’s sudden change in moods these past days. However, he didn’t dwell. Or it was more like he couldn’t. His cell phone vibrated at that time, so he had to pick it up. It was Chun. He had to meet up with Chun at some location, so he had to separate from Penny. That was when Penny let out a sigh of relief and returned to her Taxi hauling task again.

© Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Posted: Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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