Chapter 5 – A Perfect Accident

Qiao Qiao hit the alarm with her left hand and rolled over to go back to sleep. She managed to catch another fifteen minutes before the alarm went off again. But this time it was not the annoying loud ringing. It was actually the sound of the radio turning on.

“Annoying radio…” Qiao Qiao mumbled groggily, still reluctant to wake up. She pulled the blanket over her head again. Then she could hear Orchids calling her name from the hallway. “Coming!” She rolled around to the other side, trying to turn the radio off without opening her eyes, but somehow she missed it. Frustrated, she sat up and tossed her cover aside. Rubbing her head, she let out another complaint, “Another day.”

“Qiao!” Orchids’ voice called out again.

“I know! I’m up already!” Qiao Qiao yelled back to inform her cousin of her consciousness.  She walked over to her night stand and reached toward the radio to turn it off, but she changed her mind and turned the volume up instead. She stopped herself as she could hear a familiar voice talking.

“ … not just that,” The radio delivered a fragment of a sentence Qiao Qiao missed. “But what’s even more interesting was my little adventure yesterday. It’s definitely the season for reunions and many other excitements. As usual, Sonia and I will join together to do a weekly events report starting next week to both inform and introduce to you all the exciting activities you could possibly be doing during this summer. So I leave you with the best wishes for today and see you again tomorrow around 6. I will leave you all with an inspirational and joyful song to start the day off–A Beautiful Day Just Started.”

The song began to play after that.

Qiao Qiao turned the volume higher and walked toward the door, opening it and making her way to the restroom to brush her teeth.

*****

“And you know what’s even funnier?” Wallace asked Cyndi.

“What?” Cyndi asked back.

“I even warned him yesterday too, but he was like…”

“He’s a daredevil.”

“He will be a dead one soon if he doesn’t stop.”

“Can’t blame him. It’s in his blood.”

“Lucky I’m not blood related to him.”

“Or maybe you wish you have his courage?”

“Correction–dumb courage.”

Cyndi smiled.

At that time, Chen Yi walked into the break room.

“What’s with you two and chit-chatting?” Chen Yi asked, eyeing them suspiciously.

“We were waiting for our coffee so…” Wallace explained, gesturing toward the coffee maker.

“It’s ready?” Chen Yi asked, stating the obvious.

Wallace held up his coffee cup that he had been stirring while talking to Cyndi.

“I’m getting a cup,” Chen Yi announced before preparing his own.

“Help yourself,” Wallace encouraged.

Wallace and Cyndi walked out of the break room together, leaving Chen Yi behind.

“I wonder if there’s any show to see today,” Wallace continued their conversation from earlier–before Chen Yi interrupted them.

“You can bet on it,” Cyndi said.

They saw Simon walking in the door at that time.

“Morning!” Wallace greeted him.

“Hi,” Simon said, letting out a timid smile, mirroring his voice.

“There’s coffee in the break room if you want some,” Cyndi said with a friendly smile.

“Thanks,” Simon said, still smiling and settling his eyes on the desks. “Which one is mine?”

“Take the one next to Wallace since the one we told you about is already taken,” Cyndi informed him. “Sorry.”

“No problem. I haven’t settled in yet.”

Cyndi smiled.

Simon put his briefcase down on the desk. “I’ll just go get some coffee then I’ll be back.”

“All right.”

After Simon was gone, Wallace and Cyndi resumed their conversation.

“How was it last night with Angela?” Cyndi asked, her tone full of concern and not consisting an ounce of mockery.

“It wasn’t exactly a date,” Wallace clarified.

“I know. But I just want to know how she’s doing.”

“Good as always. Talking about that, you know who we bumped into while we were going to the old noodle shop again?”

“Uncle Ben’s noodle stall?”

Wallace nodded.

“Who?”

“A group of interesting people.”

“That’s so clear.”

Wallace smiled. “Just kidding. Okay, seriously, we bumped into Jacky and some of his co-workers and/or friends.”

“That coincidental?”

“Strange or what?”

“I’ll bet,” Cyndi said casually to maintain the flow of conversation. Then she realized something so she turned her full attention to Wallace. “Was that the reunion Jacky was talking about on the radio earlier?”

“Yeah.”

They could see Chen Yi coming so they stopped talking about Jacky and sat down at their desks–ready for work.

“Qiao hasn’t come yet?” Chen Yi asked, looking around.

“Doesn’t seem like it,” Cyndi said.

“Looks like someone’s anxious,” Wallace noted.

“I’m not,” Chen Yi contradicted Wallace, his voice hinting defensiveness all over again. “Just that it’s not fair that the boss’ cousin can come late while the rest of us have to be on time.”

“I heard Orchids say she was detained,” Wallace said.

Chen Yi snapped his head up from his coffee cup. “By who?”

“Hunger,” Wallace said.

Chen Yi went back to stir his coffee.

Qiao Qiao breezed in through the door at that time. They couldn’t tell who since they all had their heads down–looking at some files on their desks and drinking coffee. But Qiao Qiao was singing a song as she was walking in so they know it was her.

All three looked up to see Qiao Qiao in a light yellow mini sports t-shirt over an over-sized black t-shirt and black skirt that go down to her knees. She had on black pantyhose to cover the rest of her leg and feet with black shoes to complete the outfit. Her hair had been curled with some pink tiny hair ribbons accompanying it. Wallace looked shocked while Chen Yi had his mouth wide-opened. Cyndi’s eyes were still studying Qiao Qiao. At that same moment, Simon walked out from the break room–stirring his coffee. He stopped mid-way to his desk, looking at her and back to the others.

“Hi, Miss,” Simon rattled out, finally unfreezing himself from the spot he was standing at. “Can we help you with anything?”

“It’s me, you guys!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed cheerfully.

“Uh…” Simon managed, scratching his head absent-mindedly.

Wallace and Chen Yi managed to unfreeze themselves when Simon spoke up.

“Oh,” Wallace said lamely, still trying to recover. “It’s Qiao. Don’t worry.”

“Oh,” Simon said, feeling foolish. “She looks…”

“Strange?”

“No. Different.”

Simon walked toward his desk and sat down also, reassured that the person in front of them was no stranger. Chen Yi still stared at Qiao Qiao as she sat down at her desk.

“What?!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed, feeling annoyed that she was being stared down. “Stop staring!”

“Okay, it’s you all right,” Chen Yi confirmed–to himself more than the others. “I meant with the yelling.”

“Qiao, what happened?” Wallace asked–out of concerned and confused more than a confrontation.

“It’s just a nice day so I decided to dress up,” Qiao Qiao answered with a bright smile.

Chen Yi couldn’t help but reached over to touch Qiao Qiao’s face.

“What are you doing?!” Qiao Qiao exclaimed in alarm, snapping her attention to him.

“Is that makeup on your face?” Chen Yi asked.

“So?” Qiao Qiao retorted, wrinkling her face.

“Don’t wrinkle your face,” Wallace said. “All of that makeup would go to waste.”

As they were talking and teasing Qiao Qiao, Orchids’ office door opened and she came out. “I’m done with this file now so you guys can take a look at it and see if you want to take on the case. And….” She stopped because she finally noticed Qiao Qiao. “Qiao?”

“Yes,” Qiao Qiao answered, smiling.

“I thought you said you went to grab something to eat.”

“Uh…bumped into a friend so went to get my hair curled for Saturday.”

“During work hours?”

“I’m not late. I was here exactly at 9.”

“Still…”

“Don’t worry. I’ll get right to work.”

“Don’t let this repeat though.”

“Yes, Boss.”

“As I was saying…” Orchids resumed her words from earlier as she handed Cyndi a file.

Cyndi glanced at the file briefly and looked up at Orchids again. “We’ll get back to you on this.”

“Within the next hour?”

“Okay.”

Orchids went back into her office after that.

Wallace grabbed the Training Manual in the center area and gave it to Simon. “No rush, just browse through it casually since this isn’t your last time looking at it.”

“Unless you’re like me,” Chen Yi jumped in, pointing toward his head. “Graphic memory.”

“Stop bragging already,” Qiao Qiao sabotaged him before turning to Wallace and Cyndi. “Did you guys listen to the radio this morning?”

“KFT?” Wallace asked back.

Qiao Qiao nodded and smiled. “Yes.”

“Is that why you were singing that song just now?” Wallace asked, realizing of Qiao Qiao’s sudden high spirits.

Qiao Qiao nodded.

“Were you actually up that early to catch the first half of the show though?”

“I was up around 7.”

“There was more excitement at the beginning though.”

“Oh?”

Chen Yi cleared his throat several times.

“What?” Qiao Qiao asked, turning to him.

“Nothing,” Chen Yi mumbled.

“What kind of excitement?” Qiao Qiao asked, turning back to Wallace and Cyndi.

“He dedicated a song to you,” Wallace answered.

“Really?!”  Qiao Qiao blurted out gleefully.

“Want to listen? I recorded it for you.”

“He did?!” Qiao Qiao repeated her excitement, still not believing it. “How come he didn’t mention it earlier?”

“Earlier?” Wallace asked, his turn to be in the dark.

Qiao Qiao could feel her face burning red since the others were looking at her now–all three of them, including Simon.

“Uh…he picked me up earlier at Orchids’,” Qiao Qiao explained, trying to divert attention away from herself as quickly as possible.

Wallace looked over to Chen Yi by impulse. Chen Yi pretended not to care and continued to stir his coffee–although the sugars had probably dissolved like five minutes back.

“And?” Wallace asked, turning back to Qiao Qiao.

“We went for breakfast and this…” Qiao Qiao recounted, tugging on a strand of her hair.

“So that was the ‘friend’ you were talking about,” Wallace said, nodding his head.

“Yes.”

Cyndi looked up from the file she was reading at that time. “I didn’t know they could do hair that fast. And the nearest place around here is very popular and probably booked until next month or even further down the line than that.”

Qiao Qiao smiled. “Jacky has connections.”

“Ooohh…” Cyndi said, nodding and smiling at the same time.

Cyndi went back to reading the file as Wallace opened the top drawer on his right and took out a mini cassette player. He handed it to Qiao Qiao before reaching in the drawer to take out earplugs also.

“Here you go,” Wallace said.

“Thanks,” Qiao Qiao returned, taking the items.

Chen Yi looked annoyed but couldn’t do anything since Wallace gave Qiao Qiao earplugs, so he couldn’t say that they were disturbing him.

“Good morning, everyone,” A familiar voice traveled into Qiao Qiao’s ear. “As I was driving to work today, I could see that it will be a clear and cheerful day. Most of you are still in bed right now or trying to wake yourself up. If you’ve set your alarm to tune in with KFT, then we’re probably the luckiest station around to have been your final selection. To start off the hour, I would like to share with you a song–soft and lighthearted. But hopefully, it won’t set you off into Dreamland again thus preventing you from getting up or getting yourself ready for work.” Then Qiao Qiao heard a chuckle. She turned to look at Wallace before taking out a piece of the earplug and motioned to Wallace.

Wallace was actually reading the file that Cyndi just handed him. He caught Qiao Qiao staring at him out of the corner of his eyes so he stopped to address her again. “What?”

“Where’s the song?” Qiao Qiao asked impatiently.

“After the first song,” Wallace replied.

“Oh.” She plugged the earpiece back in and turned the volume up again. She waited patiently for the first song to finish and Jacky’s voice came back on.

“With that song,” Jacky continued from his previous topic. “I would like to move on to a similar theme relating to what the song was pointing at. Each one of us travels down a different path every single day, thriving to achieve our goal and hoping that with all the effort we’ve put in, we would be rewarded with a satisfying result. Whether it is visible or invisible, it would depend on our priorities. But I must say even though our beliefs and values are different thus affecting how we would make our decisions, we have one thing in common. And could everyone guess what is it? I’ll give you a moment to think about it.”

There was some soft background music playing while Jacky left some time for listeners to think. Qiao Qiao tapped impatiently, wondering where he was going with this.

“What’s the answer to the common thing?” Qiao Qiao asked Wallace.

Wallace looked up from the file again, flashing on a smile. “No cheating, Miss Zeng. Guess.”

“Did you get it right?”

“You have to know him to get it right.” Then he remembered his promise from last night, so he tried to divert it toward a different direction. “But the answer’s quite obvious though.”

Of course the music already ended while Qiao Qiao was asking Wallace, so she had to stop the cassette to finish her words with Wallace before going back to listening again.

“All right,” Jacky’s voice came on again. “I think most of you have already guessed it, so let’s shout it out together. Self-pride!”

Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “Self-pride?”

“Told you!” Wallace said in a tone as if that was the most legit answer in the world.

Qiao Qiao continued to listen.

“If you thought I meant a kind and loving heart,” Jacky continued. “Then you’re close–but it’s not quite. Why self-pride? Because each and every one of us must know how to love ourselves first before loving others. Why? Because if we don’t have the confidence and self-pride to love and take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others? Think about it. Some of you are wondering why I brought this topic up for discussion so early in the morning. It’s because I want to share with you something that happened to me yesterday that has caused me to reconsider certain things about life. I just met a girl yesterday who has unintentionally changed my views. You’re thinking what’s so special about her for me to go live and brag about her. Well, she’s the kind of person that I just described. She has so much self-pride and confidence to say and do what she wants that most of us might hesitate or re-think the situation before we actually would do such things.”

Wallace passed the folder over to Chen Yi at that time. Qiao Qiao hoped that the song would come on before it was her turn to read the file.

“What I really want to say is anything is possible,” Jacky’s voice resumed its course. “Sometimes you feel something is impossible, but it would suddenly appear in front of your eyes to contradict your views. This takes us to the next song I want to share with you. I want to dedicate this song especially to Qiao–the girl whom I met and know only for a day but show me a different side of this world–the world I never thought existed before. A Perfect Accident.”

The song came on at that time. Chen Yi passed the file to Qiao Qiao. She took it absent-mindedly and continued to listen to the song. She turned the cassette player off and pulled off the earplugs seconds later. She handed the set back to Wallace.

“Disappointed?” Wallace asked, sensing her apparent mood.

“A Perfect Accident?” She asked back, wrinkling her face.

Wallace smiled. “He put you on.”

“How come I never heard of this song before?”

“I’m guessing he wrote it last night.”

“What?! He writes songs?”

“I said ‘I guess.’”

Qiao Qiao looked disappointed, but didn’t say anything more. She concentrated on reading the file instead. Chen Yi had gotten up after passing the file over to Qiao Qiao and went to the break room again, refilling his cup. Cyndi looked over to Wallace upon the sudden silence of the atmosphere. Wallace shrugged his shoulders.

“Qiao, you want to keep the tape?” Wallace asked, turning his attention to Qiao Qiao again.

“No,” Qiao Qiao replied crisply.

“Come on, you’ll get it later. Stop being impatient.”

“I don’t know.”

“He’s not faking it.”

Qiao Qiao looked up from the file. “Faking what?”

“If you think he’s trying to be deep and mature to score points with you, you misunderstood.”

Qiao Qiao gave Wallace her full attention. “Why are you talking like you know him?”

Wallace’s supposed promise to Jacky surfaced his mind once again. “Uh…I’m just saying maybe since I listen to his shows too. But…uh…never mind.”

“What?” Qiao Qiao said, confused.

Wallace didn’t say anything, but took the tape out and placed it on Qiao Qiao’s desk. “Think about it.”

Cyndi couldn’t take it anymore so she grabbed Wallace’s hand and pulled him toward a corner of the room.

“What?” Wallace asked.

“You know what you’re doing?” Cyndi reminded him of a situation he should’ve known or supposed to know if that was the case in the first place

“What?”

“Are you siding with Chen Yi or Jacky?”

“Uh…”

“Just yesterday you were worried for Chen Yi and now you’re explaining for Jacky? You’re getting Qiao confused.”

“I’m just being fair.”

“I know what you’re thinking, but you promised not to expose Jacky so don’t try to play Mr. Nice Guy. Chen Yi’s smart. He’ll figure it out if you keep this up.”

Chen Yi walked out of the break room at that time. Wallace and Cyndi walked back to their desks.

“What’s with you two and chit-chatting again?” Chen Yi pondered, stirring his coffee. “Always doing this. It’s like you got something to hide.”

“Nothing,” Wallace said quickly.

“It’s boring,” Qiao Qiao concluded, closing the folder in her hand. “I don’t want to take it.”

“You don’t know when the drama starts,” Wallace said.

“No, thanks.”

“You sure?”

Qiao Qiao nodded.

Wallace turned to Chen Yi. “You?”

“No challenge,” Chen Yi echoed Qiao Qiao’s tone of boredom.

“All right then.” He turned toward Cyndi and handed it to her.

“Smart,” Cyndi muttered.

“I got Mr. Paranoid to take care of,” Wallace reasoned.

“Like I don’t have Mr. Cowardly Lion,” Cyndi returned.

“Who?” Qiao Qiao asked.

“Ehlo.”

“Cyn!” Wallace jumped in.

“I’m not going to say anything further regarding that, of course.”

Wallace got up at that time and walked toward Orchids’ office. Cyndi began to search for potential candidates through the database system on the computer.

Qiao Qiao looked around and turned to the view in front of the shop. It was such a nice day. She didn’t feel like being coped up inside. She twitched her lips a bit and turned back to see Wallace sitting at his desk again. He was holding some folders from his hand.

“More cases?” Qiao Qiao asked, knowing too well of it.

“Yes,” Wallace replied casually–just to maintain some form of conversation. Although he was sorting through the folders but he could see that Qiao Qiao was anxious about something. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” She said automatically.

“Come on,” He urged.

“It’s just that it’s such a nice day. I don’t want to be shut-in.”

“Maybe this is your answer,” Wallace said, handing her a folder.

“What is it?” Qiao Qiao asked, taking it from him.

“Read it.”

Qiao Qiao opened the folder and began to read the documents inside. Qiao Qiao’s eyes brightened. She looked up at Wallace again. “Are you kidding me?”

“Nothing is impossible.”

“Okay then. I’ll take it.”

“That’s the spirit. But…maybe you should take Chen Yi with you. It’s not safe for you to go alone.”

Qiao Qiao’s cell phone rang at that time. She picked it up immediately since she had set it out on her desk awhile back. “Hello?”

“Want to go somewhere?” A familiar voice asked. “It’s even nicer right now.”

“You’re free?!” Qiao Qiao asked excitedly.

“I’m out looking for interesting events to report for next week, remember?”

“That’s great! Maybe you can help me.”

“All right. I’ll swing by and pick you up?”

“Okay. See you.” She hung up at that time and grabbed her handbag also.

“What’s going on?” Wallace asked.

“I’m going to his house right now to check out if he’s really a ‘shut-in’ or just lazy.”

“Are you taking Chen Yi with you?”

Qiao Qiao looked toward the break room. It was odd that Chen Yi hadn’t come back yet from his latest trip to the break room. But she couldn’t ponder much right now. Maybe he just needed to make more coffee. She got up and headed for the door.

“Qiao!” Wallace called out. “What about Chen Yi?”

“I’m going with Jacky!” Qiao Qiao reassured Wallace.

At that same time, Chen Yi came back and heard her last words. Wallace knew it was Chen Yi coming back when he could hear some type of metallic sound making contact with the floor. He turned around to see Chen Yi picking up the coffee spoon. Chen Yi went back to the break room to get another spoon after that. Wallace turned to Cyndi.

“Don’t ask me,” Cyndi said before he could say anything. “I don’t want to interfere.”

Wallace went back to the files on his desk instead. But he was still uneasy about what was going on. What was really going on here? Suddenly, this place had changed into a place for dramas to unfold instead of helping to resolve others’ dramas.

*****

Qiao Qiao could see Jacky’s car pulling up to the curve as she stepped out of the agency. She smiled and got in the car as he stopped in front of her.

“Wow!” She remarked, amazed. “That was fast.”

Jacky pulled out as Qiao Qiao was putting on her seatbelt.

“I was in the area,” Jacky explained.

“Or you never left to begin with?” Qiao Qiao joked.

Jacky smiled. “You sure are straight-forward.”

“What’s the point of suppressing it inside? It’ll only cause more confusion and uneasiness.”

“So…how many people freaked out in the past hour?”

“Umm…all five of them.”

“Five? I thought there are only four.”

“You haven’t met Simon yet.”

“Who is Simon? Cyndi’s new boyfriend?”

“Hey!”

“What?”

“Wallace said the same thing yesterday.”

“He did? That’s strange.”

“Indeed,” Qiao Qiao said casually as she was opening the folder in her hand. “Oh…turn right here.”

“Where are we going?”

“I’m trying to check something out for Orchids.”

“Okay. Say no more.”

Qiao Qiao felt the need to explain although Jacky was not pursuing the matter. “Sorry, it’s confidential.”

“I know. That’s why I have to stop you before I get involved.”

“Usually, people would get curious.”

“I wouldn’t expose our future plans at the station with you either so why would I poke into your agency’s matter?”

Qiao Qiao smiled, surprised at how considerate he was. “So, what are you going to do later when we’re there? Plug your ears?”

“What happened?”

“Since you said you don’t want to interfere with my work, so you’ll have to plug in your ears as not to hear any of it,” Qiao Qiao teased.

“You should have gone with Chen Yi.”

“Wallace said the same thing earlier. But it’s okay. I got a plan.”

Jacky sneaked a glance at Qiao Qiao. He could see this mischievous glint in her eyes. She was up to something.

“What?” Jacky pressed.

“We have to test someone to see if he’s really a ‘shut-in’ like he claimed or maybe he made it up ‘cause he’s too lazy to go out and meet girls himself.”

“That’s all? Easy.”

“Don’t you want to hear my plan?”

“Okay. Go ahead.”

“First, we have to…” Qiao Qiao began in an excited tone.

Jacky’s cell phone rang at that time, cutting Qiao Qiao off.

“Could you get that for me?” Jacky asked.

“You still haven’t found your earpiece?” Qiao Qiao asked back.

Jacky shook his head. Qiao Qiao grabbed Jacky’s cell phone out of the little compartment under the CD system.

“You want me to talk or place it on your ear?” Qiao Qiao asked, waiting for his reply.

“Go ahead and answer,” He said.

“All right,” She said before picking up. “Hello?”

“Jacky there?” A girl’s voice asked.

“He’s kind of busy right now,” Qiao Qiao informed the other party.

“Could you tell him to pick me up at the station in an hour?”

“You are?”

“It’s Sonia.”

“Hold on. Let me ask him.”

“Okay.”

“Sonia wants you to pick her up at the station in an hour,” Qiao Qiao repeated Sonia’s request.

“Tell her no deal,” Jacky said without thinking.

Qiao Qiao wrinkled her face. “What?!”

“We can’t get back in time.”

“You can just drop me there and go back to pick her up.”

“Are you kidding me?” Jacky asked, gesturing toward the view in front of them with one hand. “This place looks too…eerie…”

“I can take care of myself,” Qiao Qiao argued

“I don’t care. What if he poisoned your drink?”

“Come on! Don’t be paranoid.”

“I’m a guy. If I can think of such things, so can he.” Jacky finally parked. He grabbed the phone from Qiao Qiao and answered. “How desperate are you to get out of there? Can you wait for 2 hours?”

“Is that Qiao?” Sonia asked.

“Yeah.”

“She has a cute voice.”

“Miss Sui, we don’t have time.”

Jacky could see Qiao Qiao reaching for the door handle. He grabbed her left hand with his right and pulled her back.

“What?!” Qiao Qiao reacted, slightly annoyed of his over-protectiveness.

“Don’t you dare,” Jacky warned. “It’s too complicated here. Wait for me.” Then he said into the phone, “From the sound of your voice, you’re not in a hurry. Wait for me, okay?”

“All right,” Sonia said. “If you say so.”

“We can go now,” He announced as he was hanging up and finally letting go of her hand.

They both got out at the same time. Jacky followed Qiao Qiao closely, scanning the surrounding area. Qiao Qiao wasn’t so used to being protected by someone–especially a guy. It made her feel a bit uneasy. She stayed silent until someone came to the door after Jacky pressed the doorbell.

“No way…” Qiao Qiao mumbled under her breath.

“You know her?” Jacky asked upon seeing the look on her face.

“No. Just unbelievable.”

Jacky smiled. She’s still a kid after all, he thought.

The lady who came to the door smiled at them.

“How can I help you?” The lady asked.

“We’re here to see Richard,” Qiao Qiao said in a professional tone.

“He’s inside,” The lady said. “Please come in.”

She stepped aside for them to enter. Jacky followed Qiao Qiao closely, not wanting to lose sight of her.

As they entered the room, the atmosphere was a bit gloomy because of the darkness with only a little light for the whole room. The lady led them down the hall and to the right.

“He’s in there,” The lady informed them, pointing toward a door.

Jacky and Qiao Qiao walked into the room to see a guy watching TV. Oppose to the gloomy atmosphere in front of the house, the room was full of light. The guy turned around when he heard them come in.

“Richard?” Qiao Qiao asked politely.

“Yes,” The guy confirmed his own identity.

Qiao Qiao cleared her throat. “We’re from the Orchids Agency.”

“Oh,” Richard said, gesturing at the sofa on his left. “Please sit down.”

Jacky and Qiao Qiao sat down on the sofa, but only partly.

“So…have you come up with a plan to help me?” Richard asked, his tone somewhat eager.

“Actually, I’m here today to collect more information, like your hobbies and interests so we could arrange for a meeting,” Qiao Qiao continued in the same professional tone as before.

“What else is there to talk about?” Richard asked impatiently. “Haven’t you read the files? I told your boss already.”

“This is too general,” Qiao Qiao pointed out. “We need more specific information.”

Jacky got up at that time and walked toward the curtains. He stopped in front of it, but pretended to be noticing a vase on the table to the right. Richard turned his attention back on Qiao Qiao after that.

“What else do you want to know then?” Richard asked Qiao Qiao.

Jacky took this time to open the curtains. Richard noticed the light flooding into the room. He turned to Jacky.

“What are you doing?!” He exclaimed in both alarm and fear before dropping to his feet and hiding behind the table.

“Close it!” Qiao Qiao shouted across the room, standing up and walking toward Jacky, abandoning her professional tone altogether.

“Not that I don’t want to,” Jacky said. “I just saw the maid talking to some guy outside.”

Richard–forgetting that he was supposedly scared of the outside world–jumped up from his hiding place and ran toward the window. “What?! That despicable woman!” He looked anxiously outside, trying to locate the maid.

“Case closed. Let’s go,” Jacky said casually, walking back to Qiao Qiao while looking at his watch. “Still plenty of time to pick Sonia up. Great or what?”

Qiao Qiao followed Jacky out as Richard was still peering anxiously outside. He snapped his attention back to them as he heard the door being opened. He ran straight to the door and stopped them from leaving.

“What are you two doing?!” Richard exclaimed, throwing himself in front of their path. “You’re supposed to be here to help me. You call this being professional?”

“You’ve deceived us,” Jacky reminded the man. “It’s not our fault to cancel your case.” With that, he tugged on Qiao Qiao’s arm to go.

“What?!” Richard bellowed. “Are you accusing me of lying? How dare you!”

He lunged at them. Luckily, Jacky was faster and managed to grab hold of his arm.

“Watch it,” Jacky said, gritting his teeth and staring at the man straight in the eyes.

As fast as he caught Richard’s blow, he let go of the man’s hand in an instant also before leading Qiao Qiao back outside. The maid spotted them halfway down the hall but didn’t dare to stop them when she saw Jacky’s expression. It was not until they were outside again that Qiao Qiao finally found her voice.

“Jacky, that was…” Qiao Qiao began.

“I told you it’s a good idea to wait for me,” Jacky said.

“But I…” Qiao Qiao managed, still numbed.

Jacky looked at her. “Did you have time to strike?”

“I…”

“Yes. You were shocked. You didn’t have time to react. Real life isn’t like your self-defense class.”

Qiao Qiao could see how serious he looked, so she knew that he was not mocking her. “I guess so.”

Jacky could see her timid look, so he put his hands on her shoulders, mustering up a light smile in the process. “Let’s get out of here, okay?”

Qiao Qiao nodded.

Jacky waited for Qiao Qiao to get into the car safely before circling around to the driver side and getting in himself. He pulled out and sped back into town.

© Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Re-posted: Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

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