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Chapter 7

chapter_seven

The rest of the day went on in that same hectic fashion. It wasn’t extreme to the point that they were pulling out guns on one another like what Wallace and Penny did earlier, but it was too obvious they were under high surveillance toward one another. Well, with the exception of Rainie that was. She didn’t seem to notice much of their hostility toward one another, because she only focused on her work and maintained her cheerful attitude to greet clients and helped them as was according to her duties. Chun, although he wasn’t in on the whole confrontation, had noticed signs of intensity increasing rapidly since Wallace left Enson’s office that morning. Words seemed to travel around like rapid fire, because even Van was cautiously looking at Enson from time to time. He pretended there wasn’t anything wrong, but Enson noticed his attitude changing since they had their meeting. Did Wallace pass the words on to Van? Because in the past, Van had always sided with him and Penny.

By the time they were closing, Chun and Rainie were in the storage room checking on inventory for Van when another confrontation edged itself into being elsewhere around the shop. It was by Penny’s territory, right in front of the counter where she often commenced business.

“What have you got to say for yourself?” Van asked, looking at Enson. He had slammed down a folder in front of Enson.

“What are you talking about?” Enson asked, reaching for the folder.

Penny and Enson were actually discussing some final details relating to a recent project when Van walked in with Wallace and Tammy. Penny had turned to scan the three faces when Enson had taken to reading the contents inside the folder.

“This is ridiculous,” Enson said, slamming the folder back on the counter minutes later. “This is why you’ve been staring at me all day and not because of him?”

Van had given Wallace a look before turning to Enson again, confirming that Enson’s guess was true. “Stop changing the subject. You have one chance to explain or the company will take legal actions toward you.”

“What?” Penny asked, her surprised expression matching her voice. It was her turn to reach for the folder and read the contents inside. Her eyes widen in shock before she looked toward Van. “This isn’t proof. It’s just some random report.” Then Penny directed her eyes toward Tammy. “You did this, didn’t you?”

“Penny, stop mixing personal and business,” Van interfered, his expression reflected impatience. “We’re talking about serious matters here, not your jealousy episodes.”

“I don’t believe Enson did it,” Penny said, her voice firm, unwavering.

“He doesn’t seem to have an answer for this one,” Wallace jumped in, smirking.

“If I wanted, I could just quit this place and bring my proposal elsewhere,” Enson said. “Why would I work my ass off here and then sabotage myself by selling the project to another company for?”

“That’s where you’re clever,” Wallace said. “No one would ever guess.”

Enson scoffed. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were the one who set me up.”

“I’m not the one on trial here, you are.”

“You were the one who hired the PI. How would we know you didn’t tell him to forge all the reports?”

“All right,” Van interfered once again. “Enough with the fight. It won’t help us solve this matter. But Wallace is right, he’s not the one on trial, you are, Enson.”

“It wasn’t me,” Enson said, his voice firm, his expression grim. “If you want to take legal actions toward me, go ahead. We’ll see who’s really behind this.”

After saying that, Enson walked away from them. He didn’t care for the threats from Van nor Wallace. He continued on to his office. He cleared out his desk, only taking his pen and folder—a signature that the others had often teased him about. He used his other hand to retrieve some folders on his desk. Then he was out by the main reception area. The others were now standing there. Or more like they had stopped upon seeing Enson making his way back out. Even Chun and Rainie were present. They had already finished with their tasks and only wanted to hand the list over to Van before taking off. But when they came back to the main reception area, they had discovered the hostile atmosphere hence not having a chance with talking to Van. In fact, they were standing at a distance from the group—with Chun in front of Rainie. Rainie seemed timid for some reason and was hiding behind Chun.

“Here,” Enson said, handing the folders to Van. “I resign, and I’m only taking what’s mine. If you want to go through it to see if I had snatched up some secret information to share later, go ahead.” Enson opened up the folder, which consisted of only blank pages and some business cards stashed within one of the small pockets inside. He quickly grabbed those cards and placed it on the counter. “I guess I don’t need these anymore.”

“Just because you’re throwing a tantrum and storming out of here doesn’t mean that you’ll be off the hook,” Wallace said.

“Weren’t you even listening?” Enson returned, not flinching an ounce. “Or were you too busy figuring out who to spend the night with tonight?”

Enson took a step toward the front door after that. But Wallace had lunged at him after saying “You” with much hatred in his voice. Van had to pull Wallace back while Penny stepped forward and used herself to shield in front of Enson again. Enson was puzzled, because it wasn’t like Wallace was pulling a gun on him like before. He attempted to step forward, standing his own ground again. Yet Penny increased the pressure she used on his arm and forced him to stay put.

“I believe Enson,” Penny repeated her answer previously. “Your words aren’t final, Van. The way I see it, we should all go to the boss and see what he has to say about it.”

“What’s going on here?” Chun asked, not able to stand it anymore with being in the blind.

“We just found out who the culprit behind the thievery is,” Van said.

“Your so-called findings aren’t facts,” Penny jumped in. “We’re going to the boss or I’ll go on my own and tell him you’re just trying to find a scapegoat, not the real culprit.”

“Penny, don’t be unreasonable,” Van said. “We still haven’t investigated this thoroughly and you’re blowing this way out of proportion.”

Penny pointed at herself at that point. “I’m the unreasonable one? Then who was the one that just said Enson only has one chance to explain?”

“Stop,” Enson spoke up again. He stepped out of Penny’s grasp and stood a distance from her and everyone else. “I will tell you one last time, I didn’t do it.” He was looking at Van. “But I will go to the boss and explain.”

“When?” Wallace challenged. “When you’re already out of town and plan to send him a postcard?”

“Right after I get away from your nonsense,” Enson returned.

He made his way to the door again at that time. Yet he was once again unsuccessful. But it wasn’t because of Wallace or Van’s interruptions. It was Megan walking in.

“What’s going on here?”

“We found the culprit behind the thievery incident,” Van informed Megan.

“No, we haven’t,” Penny jumped in like before. “Those are just his accusations.”

“I think I have enough of these roundabout confrontations,” Enson said, his tone reflecting obvious annoyance. “Let’s all go to the boss and settle this once and for all.”

“He left for a business trip already,” Megan said. “He won’t be back until next week.”

“Then we’ll wait for his return and then settle this,” Enson said, looking only at Megan at that moment. “You know where I live and you have my number.”

Megan nodded, stepping aside to allow Enson’s departure.

“He can’t leave,” Wallace said, stepping in front of Enson’s path.

Enson opened his mouth, but he didn’t get to speak up. Megan had grabbed Wallace aside and gestured for Enson to go.

“There’s no point in arguing right now,” Megan said, releasing Wallace’s hand at last. “We have to take care of our public image first, at least until the boss returns.”

“Enson, wait up!” Chun yelled out then, not wanting to lose the opportunity.

Enson was actually opening the door. Chun didn’t want to stay for anymore dramas unfolding so he had to take the risk. He handed the list over to Van before dragging Rainie out of there as well.

“What’s going on here?” Chun asked when they were safely inside Enson’s car already.

“You heard them,” Enson said, firing up his car. But before he could pull out of the spot, he heard tapping. He looked up in time to see Penny by the passenger side. Enson had no choice but to unlock the car.

“There’s no point staying,” Penny said as she buckled up.

“I felt like I just got trapped in the Twilight Zone,” Chun confessed when they were in traffic already.

“At least you weren’t accused of thievery or sabotage,” Enson said, his tone bitter.

“They can’t touch you,” Penny said. “I’ll get to the bottom of this.”

“How?”

“We investigate on our own. When the boss comes back, we’ll present the evidence to him.”

“You’re helping me?” His voice was full of surprise. “Because you want to take revenge on your boyfriend?” He didn’t know why he felt bitter, but after that fiasco in the shop, he no longer wanted to refrain his words.

“What?” Rainie yelled from the backseat.

Yes, Chun and Rainie had opted for the backseat, considering how Chun felt Rainie needed some reassurance at that moment.

“It’s not about that,” Penny said, not answering Rainie’s confusion on purpose. “I really want to help you.”

“Because?” Enson prompted.

“Because we’re friends.”

“Are we?” Enson had sent Penny a glance while they were waiting for the light to change.

“Of course we are,” Penny responded, obviously offended.

“Then tell me who you are. Who you really are, your real identity.”

“And I got in your car for this?” Chun jumped in, his eyes darting from Enson to Penny and back.

“You didn’t have to follow me, you know,” Enson snapped, not caring that his attitude was getting worse and worse by the second.

“Enson, you don’t have to take it out on Chun,” Penny interfered.

“Then who should I take it out on?”

“They don’t know what’s going on.”

That got to Enson. He realized Penny was right. It wasn’t Chun or Rainie’s fault that he had landed into the current situation. He didn’t need to take it out on them.

“Sorry,” Enson said aloud, glancing at Chun’s reflection in the rearview mirror.

“Forget it,” Chun returned.

The rest of the ride to Rainie’s house continued in silence. It wasn’t until Rainie was safely inside that Chun spoke up again.

“What was that all about?”

“I think it might be better if you’re not involved,” Enson said, his tone edging toward concern this time, not the hostility that had leaked into his attitude earlier.

“To hell with it,” Chun said, not caring if he had subtly swore in front of a lady’s presence. “I’m already involved the moment I saw Penny and Wallace together.”

“Well, we’re not anymore,” Penny said, holding back the bitterness her expression was exuding.

“What happened?”

Enson sent Penny a side glance before pulling out toward traffic again. “Let’s get out of here first, before Rainie suspects us.”

*****

They chose Enson’s place.

“There’s some soda in the fridge,” Enson said as he settled down at a chair in the living room.

Chun nodded and went to get some juices instead. When he returned, he actually poured some for both Enson and Penny as well.

“How about that story?” Chun said after sitting down at a chair next to Enson.

Their attention was on Penny now. It was up to her to start. Penny sighed and glanced around the place for a few minutes before beginning.

“The company you’re all working for isn’t what it appears to be upfront,” Penny said, speaking slowly as if needing to choose her words carefully.

“We’re actually working for mobsters?” Chun joked, taking a sip of his juice.

That was when Enson reached across the table and hit Chun with a cane. Chun had on the shocked expression and turned to Enson.

“Where did you get the cane from?” Instead of asking why Enson had attacked him.

“You’re not making this easy for her,” Enson warned Chun.

That was when Chun mumbled an apology Penny’s way before focusing on stirring his juice again. Although that was odd since his juice didn’t need any stirring at all. Or was he just trying to recover from his nervousness?

“We’re actually assassins,” Penny continued after silence settled in the room again.

That was when Chun’s mouth opened wide. Enson, although was also shocked, gave Chun a look. So Chun didn’t interrupt—unlike last time.

“I meant Wallace, Van, Tammy, and I,” Penny clarified.

“What?” Chun blurted out. “Tammy’s an assassin?”

“Looks are deceiving,” Penny told Chun, her furious expression on. Although she didn’t mean to take it out on Chun, considering how she and Tammy had been at odds lately.

“Sorry,” Chun mumbled before staring at his juice glass again.

Penny cleared her throat before continuing. “We use the wedding parlor as a front to collect information and carry out our missions.”

“Does that mean our boss is also…” Chun said timidly.

Penny nodded. “He’s our leader. It was his idea to set up a post here. Wallace is in charge of all operations here.”

“Does Ruby know?” Enson asked, looking at Penny intently.

“Who is Ruby?” Chun jumped in. He had been dying inside and had always wanted to ask someone.

“Ruby is Penny’s older sister,” Enson answered.

“No, Ruby doesn’t know,” Penny said. “Of course she doesn’t know. She only disapproves of Wallace and me.”

“That’s the reason why she has been coming to the shop?”

Penny nodded.

“How long have you been doing this? Since the shop opened?”

Penny shook her head. “Longer.”

That was when Chun gasped. He had on the fearful look. Like what they’d been hearing hadn’t been strange enough already.

“What?” Enson asked, somewhat annoyed.

“Does that mean the killings around town….” Chun said, his voice trailing as he stared at Penny.

“I did it,” Penny said—without even blinking. It was like she had confessed that she just ate the last cookie in the jar.

Enson had somewhat figured it out while Penny was telling him all these details but he just didn’t want to believe. Now that Penny said it out, it was like it had dissolved all his excuses. He didn’t know what to say. It was his turn to stare at Penny. Not with fear on his face but traces of wonderment.

Penny smiled—as if understanding too well of the judgments she was currently facing. “Looks are deceiving.” She had said that with much bitterness. “It’s not just Tammy or Van. There’s also me.”

Chun gasped again at that time. Enson and Penny turned to check on Chun, making sure he was still breathing.

“What?” Enson asked, feeling his annoyance rising. He didn’t know why he was taking his anger or confusion or whatever it was he was feeling at the moment out on Chun.

“Does that mean Wallace and the others are targeting Enson next?” Chun asked. “I mean the way things were at the shop earlier.”

Penny sighed out then, turning to Enson. “That was why I told you not to follow me.”

“So it’s true?” Chun asked, anxious. “They’re going to off Enson now?”

Penny shook her head. “I don’t know. All I know is, I have to go meet up with them to see what they’re up to.”

“I’m coming with you,” Enson said, knowing too well he couldn’t let Penny face those three alone. Even if he knew Penny was more than capable of taking care of herself. After all the murders she committed. It was just that he didn’t know why. He just had to. It was still too confusing to put into focus at the moment.

Penny had on her amused smile then. “You think you could protect me from them?”

“I…” Enson managed. “I don’t want you to go alone. Not after what you did, going against them like that at the shop.”

“Don’t worry. They all thought I was throwing a tantrum over what happened between Wallace and Tammy. They don’t know anything.”

As if that was final, Penny got up from her seat and went to her room. No, it was Enson’s room. But it had become her room since she stayed there and Enson took the sofa.

“Well,” Chun said, tapping on the coffee table with the spoon in his hand. “I guess that’s decided.”

Enson didn’t know what to say either. He just stared at Penny’s back and then at the closed door.

*****

Late that night, Penny left Enson’s place and went to the same spot that she had met up with Wallace, Tammy, and Van like many times before. She had texted them earlier to set up a meeting. She knew they would all show up—especially after what happened at the shop. Their disagreement was left hanging.

“Was it his idea or yours to pin the whole thief incident on Enson?” Penny asked, staring at Wallace.

“You think I would use such tactics to get rid of him?” Wallace asked in disbelief. His expression projected of hurt.

Penny wasn’t backing down. Her expression maintained its firmness. “We all know what you’re capable of.”

“You obviously need to get your priorities straight,” Tammy said, staring at Penny.

Penny didn’t want to acknowledge Tammy’s existence. She was there that night for some answers, not fight. Yet now that Tammy had called her out for it, it was hard to ignore. She turned her sharp glare toward Tammy then. “I need to get my priorities straight? The big boss actually trusts Enson and wants to use him to cover up for whatever we’re doing here. Do I need to lay it out for you bit by bit? If we get rid of Enson, who are we going to find with such a wide network of connections within this industry?”

“You’re exaggerating,” Tammy returned. “After words are out that he’s nothing but a fraud, his reputation will be tarnished. His wide network of connections won’t mean a thing.”

“We don’t know for sure if it was him,” Penny argued. “Your vague reports mean nothing.”

Penny had looked at Van when she said the second part.

“You think I would forge something like that?” Van asked, his voice confident and leveled. It was like he had nothing to hide. “Like you said, Enson’s a valuable asset to our boss, why would I want to get rid of him?”

“There must be some sort of mistake then. Why would Enson want to sabotage his own project for? If he wanted to leave, he could do just that.”

“I thought we were going to wait until the boss comes back to settle this,” Tammy reminded them of the conversation that afternoon at the wedding parlor.

Penny turned to Tammy with a mocking expression then. “Do you seriously think the boss has left town? That was just for the benefit of the rest of the employees. We all know where to find him. If we honestly want to find him, we will be able to. Besides, I don’t think anyone of us should approach the boss until we sort this mess out.”

“You’re saying you want to hide this from the boss? Do you have a death wish? Do you even remember what happened to the last one who did that?”

“I’m not saying we hide it from him. He expects real results from us, not having to resolve our internal conflicts. Do you want us to stand in front of him and argue like we do now?”

“It’s too obvious it’s Enson, what’s there to discuss?”

“Obviously I’m not convinced.”

“Penny, don’t tell me you sympathize with him,” Van said, looking at Penny cautiously. “You? Sympathizing with someone?”

“I’m just looking out for myself. If you make a mistake regarding this and the boss finds out that you three want to off his most valuable asset, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“What else do you want me to do then?”

“Give me another week to investigate.”

“That’s too long.”

“Five days then.”

“Three days max.”

“Fine.”

“Van,” Wallace interrupted their negotiation. “We don’t have anymore time for this nonsense.”

Van turned to Wallace then. It seemed like he wasn’t threatened or intimidated by Wallace’s state. In fact, he had turned into their leader among the four of them at that moment. “Three more days won’t kill anyone. After all, you did bring us to this current situation.”

Wallace wanted to argue, but he knew Van was dead serious this time. He knew Van won’t back down. “Fine.”

“If anyone dares to make a move before the deadline, don’t blame me for being cruel,” Penny warned, scanning their faces.

“Don’t worry,” Van assured her. “I will keep my words.”

As if that was settled, Penny turned and walked back to civilization.

© Sunday, February 15th, 2015

Posted: Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

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