Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (72)

They alighted from the provincial bus into drizzle, as dusk began to fall on the capital. Darkness was threatening to arrive much earlier than usual, owing to the heavy cloud cover. Glancing up, the sight of the oppressive sky caused Ramani to shiver, suddenly. “Shall we take a mikrolet?” she suggested to the old man, while covering her head with her scarf. “What about a taxi, ’Bu?” he replied. “It’ll be more comfortable, and we can share the cost.” Obligingly, Ramani followed him as he trotted off with surprising agility, in pursuit of a cab.

Before long, a Blue Bird drew to a shuddering halt at the kerbside in front of them. The muddy water that splashed over their shoes resembled chocolate milk. But the old man was still pleased, for he knew that this particular taxi firm, rare in Jakarta, employed drivers who could be trusted to take their passengers along the most direct of routes, and without trying to swindle them via the levying of unnecessary extras. “Ke mana, ’Pak?Where do you want to go? asked the driver, as the old man settled himself beside Ramani in the back seat. “Just drive,” he replied, somewhat mysteriously.

Turning her head sharply in his direction, Ramani was about to challenge the old man’s instruction when, anticipating this, he cut her off. “My dear, you must forgive me. Ma’af, ya – you must think it strange. But I have to confess that there’s something I’ve been withholding from you. You see it was no coincidence that I sat next to you on the bus, and also no accident that we now sit here together, in this taxi.” There was a sharp intake of breath from the woman beside him. “Please… Please…, my dear,” he soothed, patting her arm. “I pose no threat to you; you are in no danger. On the contrary, I’m here to help. See, I know who you are, Ibu Ramani, and why you’re making this journey today.” A thousand questions were now flashing through her mind. What’s going on? Who is this person? And how does he know who I am?

Reading her thoughts, the old man continued: “Do you remember what I told you, back there on the bus? About the fact that I had only ever worked for one company, all my life?” Ramani simply stared at him, suspiciously. What’s that got to do with anything? “That my boss, a generous man,” he went on, “had seen to it that I – and all the other workers, too – were always well provided for, to the extent, even, that we were allowed, over time, to accrue stakes in the company?” She nodded now, recalling the story that had ushered her into a spell of peaceful slumber. “Well that man was – is’Pak Bambang, and the company I have worked for all these years is PT Bambang–” “Edible Oil,” she completed his sentence, as the penny began to drop. My God, what is this? she asked herself again. Why is someone from the plantation tailing me?

“Tell me what’s going on,” Ramani insisted. “Please.” Detecting the rising note of anxiety in the woman’s voice, the old man once again attempted to soothe her. But what he next said served only to send her into a tailspin of alarm, instead. “My dear, like I said: try not to worry. Your boy is stable, but weak. All he needs is–” Stable…? Weak…? What does that mean? Your boy? What does he know about Anath? What’s happened? “What’s happened? Please ,’Pak. Tell me,” she begged him, becoming hysterical now. “What’s happened…? Tell me!” And now it was the old man’s turn to experience surprise. Could it be that she genuinely doesn’t know…? he asked himself. But why, then, did she take the first available bus to Jakarta…? No. Impossible.

He paused for a moment to think, before issuing fresh instructions to the driver: “’Pak: Rumah Sakit Medika!” Absorbing everything, and captivated by the drama that appeared to be unfolding, the driver responded by nodding into his rear view mirror. Stable…? Weak…? thought Ramani, again. Rumah Sakit Medika? “What d’you mean? Please!” “But surely you know? If not, why were you on that bus, so soon after it happened?” “What happened? Please! I don’t understand! What’s happened…?

“OK, OK… I can’t really believe… But look, if you are truly unaware of today’s events, then I can tell you. There was a fight, Bu. Outside Sate Blora, where your son’s newsstand is. One of the men involved pulled a gun. Fired a few rounds…” But this was now far too much for poor Ramani to bear, the old man’s partial revelation producing an anguished shriek, as she buried her face in her hands. “Nooooo…!” she wailed. “Shh… come on, now. It’s all right, Bu. Like I said, your boy is stable. He was just a bystander. Took a bullet in the shoulder, that’s all. He’s going to be all right.”

By now, the old man was gripping her arm firmly, by way of reassurance. “The wound’s not a problem, but he’s lost a lot of blood. He’s very weak, according to the Doctors.” Summoning all the composure she could, Ramani lowered her hands from her tear-streaked face and stared at him, her eyes still brimming. “He’s got a very rare blood type. B negative,” she suddenly blurted. “Just like me.”

Bingo, thought the old man.

posted by Kirk at 10:59 pm  

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (52)

Detective Superintendent Howie Moore paused, as the Wanchai police station tea lady unsteadily lowered a cup in front of Hewitt. “Gavin, this ain’t no inquisition, all right?” he said, as the old woman eventually shuffled back through the door, her task completed. “All I want yer t’do is recount the events o’ yes’day morning. As you remember ’em, like.” But the school’s Deputy Principal was squirming. Wringing his hands uncomfortably, he was unable to look his inquisitor in the eye. “Gav,” the Detective Super continued, noting the other man’s unease. “I ver’ much doubt there’wll be a criminal aspeck t’this case, in terms of yer own pers’nal involvement, like. Jus’ relax,” he reassured him, holding out a plate piled high with an assortment of filled rolls. Whatever the circumstances, Howie Moore never missed his breakfast.

Tormented by guilt, Hewitt had been unable to rest. In fact, he had been up all night: he looked wrecked. But, during the small hours, the habitually thorough schoolmaster had at least had the presence of mind to write down what he could remember of the sequence of events back in Guilin’s ancient marketplace. And now, thankful for the foresight to have created what had become a useful crib sheet, he painstakingly walked Moore through every step of the party’s final outing, from the formation of the children into three groups, and the assignation of a teacher to supervise each of them, to the painful recollection that white group, of which Sophie Blake was a member, had brought up the rear.

“…And so whilst it’s not at all my intention to abdicate responsibility, it was Sally Henderson who should’ve been at the cow’s tail of white group, sweeping up any wee stragglers. But for whatever reason, Howie, this didn’t happen.” “Some’ow, the girl slipp’d through the net.” The big Detective bit into a cheese and pickle roll, gesturing for to Hewitt to take one from the plate that now sat on the table, between them. “That’s right,” the Deputy Principal, now gaining a little confidence, agreed. “And so as soon as we realised there was one missing, Brad Taylor, Sally and me sprinted back to the market. We scoured it for over an hour, Howie, without result. We turned the place upside down, inside out. Asked all sorts of people whether they’d seen her. She was – is – a striking young girl: all curly, blonde locks – a kid who’d stand out, particularly in those type of surroundings. But there was no trace of her. Nothing.” Playing with his hands again, Hewitt was once more showing signs of his frustration, and anxiety. “And wha’about the loc’l police? They get involv’d?” “By this time, we’d already managed to communicate with them. Got them to understand what the problem was. The severity of the situation. The trouble with that was that they wanted to take over. Virtually herded us back on to the bus and told us to go. Clear off, like. That it was their issue now, not ours any more. Poor Brad… I feel so sorry for him.” “What d’ya mean?” “They made us leave the lad behind, to help with their enquiries, they said. It felt like he was being… well, taken hostage. I’ve not heard from him since, Howie. And I’m worried about him. He’s just a lad. In his twenties. Apart from finding the young lassie, contacting Brad Taylor should be a secondary priority, in my view.”

“All right, Gav,” concluded Moore, licking some errant pickle from his fingers while jotting down some notes. “I fink I’ve got enough to go on fer now. I’ll be gettin’ in touch wiv Guilin this mornin’. Let y’know wha’ ’appens, later. Meanwhile, why don’tcha go ’ome get yer ’ead down for a while. You look knackered, like…”

It was a visit the Detective Superintendent was dreading, but one he knew he had to make. Let into the Blakes’ Caperidge apartment by someone he presumed to be a close family friend, he found Kate curled up in a ball on the sofa, staring absently out to sea, through what was, he noted, a rather dirty window. Sentinel-like, the other woman remained stock still by the door, as he moved across the room. “Mrs. Blake–” he began. “Find my daughter,” Kate cut him off, abruptly, while drawing on a cigarette. She dabbed at her eyes with a well-used ball of tissues. “Don’t waste time talking, just go and find her.” “Mrs. Blake, we’re doing our bes–” “Don’t give me that shit!” Kate screamed. “Find my daughter, you bastard!” Detective Super Howie Moore raised his eyebrows. “Fucking find her, OK?” She was sobbing now, her head buried between her knees, which she had pulled up so as to hug. The other woman moved silently away from the doorway, to sit beside the distraught mother and place an arm around her, in comfort. Looking at Moore, she suggested with her eyes that he might as well leave, the good his visit was doing.

Sighing, the portly Detective turned on his heels and retraced his steps to the exit, acknowledging that the woman was right. There was nothing he could offer the Blakes, except some form of contribution to the mission that brought about the successful return of their daughter. But what the fuck am I act’yally gonna be able to do? he asked himself, as he quietly closed the door behind him.

posted by Kirk at 5:28 am  

Saturday, September 27, 2008

“Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West)”, by Benny Hill

Beginning a series of classic song lyrics, what finer opener than “Ernie”, accredited to the late Benny Hill:

“You could hear the hoof beats pound as they raced across the ground,
And the rattle of the wheels as they went ’round and ’round.
And he galloped into Market Street, his badge upon his chest,
His name was Ernie, and he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie loved a widow, a lady known as Sue,
She lived all alone in Lily Lane at number 22.
They said she was too good for him, she was haughty, proud and chic,
But Ernie had his cocoa there three times every week.

They called him Ernie, (Ernie…),
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

She said she’d like to bathe in milk, he said, “All right, sweetheart,”
And when he’d finished work that night he loaded up the cart.
He said, “D’you want it pasteurised? ‘Cause pasteurised is best,”
She says, “Ernie, I’ll be happy if it comes up to my chest.”

That tickled old Ernie, (Ernie…),
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

(Head ’em up! All right!)

Now Ernie had a rival, an evil-looking man,
Called Two-Ton Ted from Teddington and he drove the baker’s van.
He tempted her with his treacle tarts and his tasty wholemeal bread,
And when she’d seen the size of his hot meat pies it very near turned her head.

He went on the make with his Dundee cake and said, “If you treat me right,
You’ll have hot rolls every morning and crumpets every night.”
He knew once she’d seen his macaroons he’d have his wicked way,
And all Ernie had to offer was a pint of milk a day.

Poor Ernie, (Ernie…),
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

One lunch time Ted saw Ernie’s horse and cart outside her door,
It drove him mad to see it was still there at half past four.
And as he leapt down from his van hot blood through his veins did course,
And he went across to Ernie’s cart and didn’t half kick his ‘orse.

Whose name was Trigger, (Trigger…),
And he pulled the fastest milk cart in the west.

Now Ernie ran out into the street with his gold top in his hand,
He said, “If you wanna marry Susie you’ll fight for her like a man.”
“Oh, why don’t we play cards for her?” he sneeringly replied,
“And just to make it interesting we’ll have a shilling on the side.”

Now Ernie dragged him from his van and beneath the blazing sun,
They stood there face to face, and Ted went for his bun.
But Ernie was too quick for him, things didn’t go the way Ted planned,
And a strawberry-flavoured yogurt sent it spinning from his hand.

Now Sue, she came between them and she tried to keep them apart,
And a three-day-old rock cake caught Ernie underneath the heart.
As he doubled up in agony, the concrete hardened crust
Of a stale meat pie caught him in the eye and Ernie bit the dust.

Poor Ernie, (Ernie…),
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west.

Ernie was only fifty-two, he didn’t wanna die,
Now he’s gone to make deliveries in that milk round in the sky.
Where the customers are angels and ferocious dogs are banned,
And a milkman’s life is full of fun in that fairy, dairy land.
But a woman’s needs are manifold and soon she married Ted,
But strange things happened on their wedding night as they lay in their bed.
Was that the rustle of the leaves, or the creaking of the gate?
Or Ernie’s ghostly gold tops a-rattling in their crate…?

They won’t forget Ernie, (Ernie…),
And he drove the fastest milk cart in the west…”

posted by Kirk at 4:45 am  

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Through The Godless Hours

anath.jpg
Anath

posted by Kirk at 1:32 am  

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Streets Of Mumbai (Continued…)

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Where am I?

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Buildings like this one fascinate me. I’d love to climb the stairwell and find out what’s going on inside.

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Mumbai’s mad on balconies.

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See…?

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Flower pots in a leafy suburb.

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Something hiding in the leaves…

posted by Kirk at 12:55 am  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (71)

It was evident from the look on both men’s faces that there was something terribly wrong.

Sunday evenings at the family home were generally relaxed affairs, with very little ‘shop talk’ over what would commonly be a traditional meal of rice and the usual mouth-watering array of local dishes. On the contrary, the family’s light-hearted banter would generally cover the topics of the day – whether politics, the arts or, particularly in the case of the men, sport. But tonight would be different. An uneasy atmosphere had descended upon the gathering, stifling the casual exchange of views, as the extended family awaited the return of their host and his heir. For it had been obvious from the moment the guests arrived that Daman’s wife was deeply upset about something. Something her sisters-in-law had subsequently tried to tease from her, without success, despite their persistent coaxing. A problem, they consequently surmised, which must relate to her marriage. Fussing around her, the worried sisters had been swapping sympathetic glances all evening. No-one suspected that the anguish she was harbouring related to ’Pak Bambang himself.

But now, as the old man and his son finally entered the room without offering the customary greeting, it was clear that some kind of grave announcement was about to be made.

In the silence that quickly fell, the old industrialist sidled slowly across to his wife and placed a hand upon her shoulder. Daman, meanwhile, stared down at his feet, looking up occasionally to check his wife’s expression. “My dear wife… Everyone…” ’Pak Bambang began with notable solemnity, as the quiet in the room seemed, somehow, to gain latency. “It’s good to see you assembled here as usual, and I’m delighted you could all make it. It’s through these regular gatherings that the foundations of our values are reinforced. I want you to promise that you’ll continue to meet like this, long after I’ve gone…” Across the room, one or two quizzical glances were shared. “But tonight, I’m afraid I have some bad news.” His wife gazed up at him, a look of bewilderment etched across her face. Silently, the old man patted her shoulder. “Truth is, I’ve not felt one hundred percent for a while now,” he continued. “And at my recent check-up, the doctor confirmed my worst fears.” There were a number of gasps from among the women present. ’Pak Bambang looked down into the eyes of the woman who had stood by him resolutely for over fifty years. The expression on her face seemed to beg him to go no further. Gripping her shoulder more tightly, he nonetheless pressed on. “Look, there’s only one way to say this… And it’s not exactly easy. I’ve… It’s kanker.” He felt his wife jump. “The big ‘C’.” The old man tapped his ribs with his free hand, as if to make light of his condition. “In here. Throughout the lungs. Inoperable, I’m afraid. I’m sorry.”

He looked down as his wife slapped both hands to her face, a low moan escaping from somewhere deep inside her. ’Pak Bambang rubbed her back, slowly, attempting to comfort what had become a shuddering parcel of grief. Presently, she made as if to stand, but through his eyes the old man entreated her to remain seated, to breathe deeply, relax. “It had to come some time, dear,” he whispered, acknowledging his own mortality. “At least we can plan for it now.” Across the room, Daman gestured for his wife to stay put, as her instinct told her, too, to go to the old man and offer comfort. Eventually, it was the younger of Daman’s two sisters who broke the ice, rushing across to embrace her beloved father: “Oh, Papa!” she cried, the tears streaming down her cheeks as she buried her head in his chest. The old man wheezed, narrowly avoiding the cough that, had it materialised, would have resulted in a series of bloody splutters. “Look, I don’t have much time left,” he finally managed to exhale. “But I want to enjoy it. So please: no tears. Come on now, I want everything to be as it’s always been. I’ve got to live a day at a time from here on, and this has always been my favourite day of the week. Please don’t deny me that pleasure this evening, my sweet. It’s your beautiful smile Papa wants to see.”

Around the room, the sucking in of air was almost audible, as those present took stock of what they had heard. Then, taking turns to approach him, a procession of close family members paid silent tribute to the old man’s courage; some clasping his hand, others embracing him fully, while some simply nodded their acknowledgement.

Just outside, on the table in the hall, the notepad upon which the word “Lurah” had been scribbled lay dormant, and quite forgotten…With a feeling of utter exhaustion, Detective Adi climbed out of his battered Toyota and kicked shut the door. Let them have it if they want it, he thought, walking away without bothering to lock the car. Wearily, he climbed the stairs, his body aching in places he did not recall having. Shit! I promised the Tukang Warung that I’d be going back to the hospital later, he suddenly remembered. But what the young Detective needed was rest – lots of it. Pushing the key into the door to his apartment, he began savouring the thought of lying beside her again: Lulu, the girl who was fast becoming the centrepiece of his life.

Sayang? Honey? I’m home,” he called out, on entering. Nothing. “Sayang?” Adi walked briskly across the hall and pushed open the bedroom door, to look in. Empty. Now in a state of mild panic, he raced through to the bathroom, where he was met with an equal absence of the warm, living thing he so craved. The apartment was clearly empty. Where on earth is she?

Retracing his steps, he rushed back through the bedroom to the hall, where he noticed for the first time a note on the table by the side of the entrance door. Snatching it up, he shook his head in dismay, on reading its simple message:

‘SUNDAY’ COMES,

WE CHAT,

I GO.

GOODBYE.

Fuck! he thought, now realising that the day’s events had consumed him to the extent that he had forgotten completely about his regular Sunday liaison. Shit! She must’ve been lying there in bed… When ‘Sunday’ arrived… Fuuuucckkk! Summoning all the energy he could muster, Adi slammed the door behind him and descended the stairs two-by-two, before pelting across the uneven pavement to his car, half-stumbling along the way. The old Toyota’s tyres let out a rare squeal as he then raced away, speeding downtown as fast as he dared, in the direction of Endang’s.

posted by Kirk at 10:34 pm  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Inflight Update – Cheese Etiquette Explained

cambazola.jpg

In a previous blog, entitled Inflight Update, I posed the following question to Paul Kelly, Hemingway’s de facto Cheese Ambassador:

Question for Paul Kelly: what is the correct procedure if, when cutting into a sliver of Cambazola, one finds that a few crumbles of Double Gloucester have remained on the knife, surreptitiously stealing the opportunity to attach themselves to the krautkäse? Gently brush off the offending flakes? Or perhaps ignore them, and simply chug down the whole fromagesbord together?

His answer is so good, I thought I’d publish it:

“Whilst one may have lowliness thrust upon one, and in this case one has, as Cheese Ambassador, I feel that only a suitably diplomatic response to your enquiry can be proffered. As your dilemma pertains to social manners, may I direct you to the Ministry of Socially Acceptable Manners as this office of ambassadorial duties is already well versed in all such matters. For a more immediate and long term solution please refer to Emily Post’s 1922 book entitled ‘Etiquette’ for all you’ll need to know to avoid any future faux pas. To get you started on the right path, it is important to know that a soft cheese like cambazola and a semi hard cheese such as Double Gloucester should never, ever be cut with the same knife. That’s the sort of thing associated with people who have to buy their own silver.
[I think he means me – The Kaptain]

For Cambazola, or any soft cheese, a flat bladed knife is the best option, something resembling a butter knife would be passable and for semi or hard cheeses then a de facto cheese knife is the implement of choice (ivory handled preferably, although optional). This would at once make ‘chugging’ the fromage farrago a moot point and the world a more pleasant place. And, of course, having the cheese cut and served with white gloves on is an absolute necessity.

From the Office of Hemingway’s Cheese Ambassador.”

So now we know. All in all a damn fine explanation, what?

posted by Kirk at 3:51 am  

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (51)

Blake stood before the counter in Guilin’s main police station, fuming. “Can anyone here speak proper English?” he asked again, for what felt like the hundredth time. Inside his head, the pressure was building. It seemed that each way he turned, another obstacle was placed in the way of progress. Almost twelve hours since he had learned of the dreadful news, he still did not have a single lead in the pursuit of his missing daughter. “English,” he insisted. “English speaker. Please.”

Depressingly, and with what Blake assumed to be a practiced nonchalance, the desk sergeant simply repeated the words he had uttered just moments earlier. “No Yingyu speak. You go tourist police.” “For fuck’s sake!” Blake suddenly yelled, banging a fist down on to the counter. Losing his composure, he thought for a moment of reaching across to grab the offending officer’s lapels, repeating the move he had made on the concierge, back at the hotel. But the descent of red mist was transitory this time, and he thought better of it. “Please help me! My daughter’s missing. Little girl,” he pleaded, instead. Blake held out an arm at waist height, his palm turned down, to indicate Sophie’s approximate height. “Blonde hair.” He touched his head, his eyes darting about in a kind of bewildered helplessness. Detecting the note of despair in the Englishman’s voice, the desk sergeant was forced to take more interest in him. “Please,” Blake persisted. The officer sighed deeply. He was finding it difficult to maintain the offhanded manner that was a trademark of those in his position. The Yingguo ren’s obvious distress was beginning to get to him. After finally reconciling himself with the fact that he would, after all, need to disturb the Deputy CI – something he was under strict instructions not to do – he stood and pointed to some chairs in a corner of the room. “Wait,” he simply instructed.

Somewhere on the floor above, Deputy Chief Inspector Gai En-rui was in mid-sentence when the flimsy door creaked slowly open: “…there is anything else you remember about those last few minutes in the market?” In a disciplined but compassionate way, he was continuing to quiz the twenty-something teacher from the Sunny Bay school party, in his trademark near-perfect English. A rather nervous looking Brad Taylor was about to formulate his reply, when a uniformed officer entered cautiously and tiptoed across the room at the DCI’s reluctant beckoning. Stooping, the officer Taylor now recognised as the desk sergeant whispered something in the senior man’s ear. Taylor’s anxiety increased as he watched the eyes of his inquisitor drill into him while processing whatever information the desk sergeant was imparting. Have there been any developments? the young teacher mulled, anxiously. Have they… found her? But if this latter outcome were true, he noted with dread, then the expression on the DCI’s face surely indicated that the news was bad. Dear God… Please… Not that… The image of a child-size body bag suddenly flashed in his mind, tormenting him further. They’re bound to find out about me and Sally, he chided himself, guiltily. That we’d taken our eyes off the ball… Brad Taylor wanted to scream, to turn back the clock. He needed to be comforted, told that everything would be all right. But more than anything, he wanted to be home, and out of this hellish nightmare the school outing had become.

“Please wait. I’ll be back shortly,” the DCI abruptly said, a false smile flashing momentarily across his face. He had not been surprised to learn of Adam Blake’s arrival in Guilin. Rubbing his chin as he then descended the dilapidated stairs, he wondered what type of person he would be confronting in the reception area below, and in what kind of mental state. Himself the father of a young son, he struggled vainly to imagine the agony that Blake and his wife were surely going through. “My name’s Gai and I’m Deputy Chief Inspector of the Guilin municipal police force,” he announced, holding a hand out towards Blake as he emerged from behind the counter. “We’re doing everything we can to find your daughter.” Momentarily taken aback by the man’s eloquence, Blake was nonetheless glad to at last have found someone he would be able to converse with; importantly, someone in the know. “Is there… any news?” he asked, afraid of the answer. “Nothing concrete, I’m afraid, Mr. Blake. But I’ve got my best Detectives working on the case. We’re confident of turning up something very soon.” But despite his assurances, DCI Gai was in fact less certain than he sounded. For he knew that the key breakthrough had actually been required a full day earlier, in the hours immediately following the girl’s disappearance. Deflated by the news, Blake’s head dropped. “Try not to worry, Mr. Blake,” the DCI chirped, noticing the distraught father’s sorry demeanour. “We’re also questioning the teacher who remained behind. He may remember something that seems trivial to him, but proves ultimately to be a vital clue.” “Teacher? One of the teachers is still here?” queried Blake. He felt a strange mixture of anger towards this stranger, paired with a certain gratitude that he at least had not abandoned his little girl, like the rest of the party seemingly had. “Yes. He’s in for questioning.” “Can I see him?” “All in good time, Mr. Blake. We haven’t finished our interrogation yet. There’s really nothing for you to do at the moment, except return to your hotel and try and get some rest. We can talk again in the morning.”

Buoyed a little by this latest twist, Blake took DCI Gai’s hand firmly in his, managing a half-smile in acknowledgement of the uniformed man’s efforts. At least there’s someone I can communicate with. Someone who has the appearance of being on top of things. And this teacher… I need to get to him… Find out what he can remember… Get him to take me to the exact spot where… where… Sophie was… last… seen…

Blake did his best to disguise the tears that were now flowing down his cheeks once more, as he picked up his bag and strode wordlessly out through the station door and into the night. But they did not escape the DCI’s attention: in fact they tore at his heart, strengthening his resolve to locate the missing girl, and bring her captors to justice. For Gai knew that the little gwaimei had not simply got lost. This was no fairy tale with a pre-ordained happy ending. No: there was not a single doubt in his mind that she had been abducted. The only questions were: by who, and why?

posted by Kirk at 9:32 pm  

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Streets Of Mumbai

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“Pathare Prabhu Thakurdwar – Mahim – Re-Built 1929” reads the inscription.

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Bombay colours.

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Leaves and grilles.

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Moustachioed man hangs out his washing.

hidden-park.jpg
Nestling within a circle of low-rise apartments, a hidden park…

posted by Kirk at 12:08 am  

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (70)

“This must be them now, ’Bu,” the woman called out to her mother-in-law, hearing the shrill ring of the telephone. Moving through into the hallway, she picked up the receiver from its cradle, expecting to hear the voice of her husband, Daman, on the other end of the line. “Hello?” But instead, she was treated to the abrupt manner of the kampung’s Lurah: “’Pak Bambang,” he stated, gruffly, without apology for his failure to observe even the slightest element of telephone etiquette. “Oh, I’m afraid he’s… er, not back yet. Who’s speaking, please?” “’Pak Lurah. Where is he?” “He’s, er, at the golf club. We’re expecting him back any time now.” “Well, tell him to call me. Urgently,” the Lurah concluded, curtly. “OK, I’ll–” But the line was already dead. What a rude man, she thought, scribbling the word “Lurah” on some paper by the side of the handset. I’ve never really liked him

Replacing the receiver, the phone rang again, instantly, making her jump. Twitchily, she picked it up. “Er… Hello?” “Hello, sayang.” It was Daman. “Hi! Are you on your way back?” she asked, the deliberate note of enthusiasm in her voice easy to detect. “Yes. We’ll be about another twenty minutes.” But her husband’s voice seemed unusually cold. She sensed that something was wrong. “Are you… OK? You sound a bit, well… funny.” “I’ll… We’ll tell you when we get back. It’s about Papa.” The woman remained silent, pensive. Oh no… Dear God, please don’t let it be what I think it is… “Papa…? What abou–” “I can’t tell you on the phone,” Daman continued. “But try and make sure that Mama’s settled, by the time we get there. Don’t let her fuss over the dinner, or get stressed about anything.” “OK, sayang. I’ll do my best. But you know what she’s like.” “Yeah… Just be prepared for when we get there. There’s bad news, I’m afraid.” “OK, my love. Bye.” “Bye.” She replaced the receiver and shook her head slowly. It was not going to be the type of relaxed Sunday evening the family normally spent together, then…

Waking with a start, the old woman wondered for a moment where she was. The light was fading and the only shapes her failing eyesight could make out seemed a little unfamiliar. But reaching around her sides, the familiar feel of her wheelchair’s frame reassured her. What time is it? she wondered, wheeling the contraption across the floor. “Nearly five,” she said aloud, looking at the kitchen clock. Masya’allah! I’ve been asleep for ages!

Turning a knob on the stove, she listened to the click-click-click of the ignition, which eventually caught the gas with a quiet boom. Now deciding to give up on the boy, she slid a pan of water across, to begin preparing her dinner. He’s really disappointed me, she contemplated, a little sulkily. This is the first time he’s let me down. I just can’t understand it. He’s usually thoughtful enough to let me know when he’s going to be away. But suddenly she paused, as another thought then occurred to her, causing her brow to furrow in concern. I do hope he hasn’t met with an accident. He’s such a lovely boy

Just then, there was a rapping on the door. Alhamdulillah! He’s here! But after wheeling herself from the kitchen to the hallway in order to call out her invitation: “Masuk!” the figure that subsequently let himself in made her recoil in shock. For this was not her usual boy, the one from the newsstand – it was someone much bigger. Someone who had a frame that was more like her son’s. Budi? Is that you…? And, more worryingly now, as she began to focus better, it appeared through the gloom that there was someone else there, too. Standing behind him.

Summoning all the nerve she possessed, the old woman was about to challenge the men when the silhouette before her piped up: “It’s OK, Nenek,” it said. “Don’t worry. I’ve brought you your paper, that’s all.” Detective Adi had been quick to recognise that his unscheduled appearance at the old woman’s home would likely be a cause of concern. “Oh… But where…?” “Everything’s OK, ’Bu,” the Detective continued, the tone of his voice deliberately soothing. Placing the paper in her lap, he indicated that he was about to take his leave. “I won’t keep you. But I’ll be back tomorrow. Earlier, so you can get a proper read.” “But my usual boy?” she appealed, as he turned to go. “I’ll tell you tomorrow,” he replied. And with that, he was gone.

posted by Kirk at 12:22 am  
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