Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Monday, December 17, 2007

Through The Godless Hours (14)

It was already two hours past regulation prayer time when the driver swung the army-issue Timor through the gates that sealed the short drive leading into the Captain’s residence. Essentially a Korean made vehicle with a local badge slapped on its tail, the car’s performance had been sluggish once more today, as a result of which he had been instructed – in no uncertain terms – to find a Bengkel that was equipped to fix it. The problem with this was that whilst the model was regulation issue for all civil servants – from the armed forces to the Ministry of Religious Affairs (and everything in between) – spare parts were hard to come by. He cursed the fact that, yet again, the crawl around town through rush-hour logjams meant the rest of his schedule would be disrupted. For what was left of the evening, he would be forced to play catch-up. Leaving the lumpy engine running as he stepped out of the car to open the garage door, a pang of hunger gurgled audibly in his stomach. But although the driver was hungry, his faith insisted he should always pray before eating. So, closing the door again after he had parked the car inside, he disappeared into the house to lay down his prayer mat and make his simple truce with God. Fifteen minutes later he re-emerged, clutching a small package of food. At this moment his thoughts were confined to taking his leave for the day, eating and then enjoying the deep slumber of someone whose boss has just left town.

Adi allowed him to walk about thirty paces before he opened his car door with a metallic creak. Then getting out of the dilapidated red Toyota he headed off in pursuit, the sound of his footsteps lost amidst the cacophony of the busy street. Shortly after rounding the first corner, he approached the driver from behind. “Hey, ’Pak – can you spare me a moment?” he asked, placing a hand on the man’s shoulder. He flicked his warrant card from a pocket. The startled driver only just managed to resist his first instinct – which was to run – stopping instead to turn and face the Detective. Seeing the warrant card, he instinctively thought he was about to be arrested. For although he was a relatively law-abiding man, he knew that innocence did not necessarily count for much when hailing from among the lower echelons of society, here in the city of his birth. “W-why? What’s wrong? W-w-w-what have I done?” he stuttered, nervously. “Relax. And follow me,” Adi simply replied.

They sat facing each other in a simple cafeteria. Adi tried to steady the jumpy driver with small talk and the odd wisecrack, as they were served steaming hot tea in traditional tall glasses. The Detective’s buoyant personality proved to be an asset on this occasion and he handled the situation well. Talking first about nothing in particular and then around his subject, when finally arriving at the reason for the interview the driver could almost imagine that he had acquired a new friend. Thus becalmed, he willingly revealed he had been aware for some time that his boss – of whom he was terrified – had somehow strayed from the path. Having grown uncomfortable with the way things were developing in that quarter, the Detective’s approach was therefore not altogether unwelcome. But what the driver needed in order to participate in Adi’s scheme was a one hundred percent guarantee of protection. For he had seen ample evidence of the cruelty of which the Captain was capable. “’Pak Detective,” he now began, “if I become your informant, can you promise to look after me if…if things go wrong?” The young Detective chuckled dismissively, as if this were a trivial demand. For unlike the driver, he had little real idea of what he was up against. “Don’t worry about that, my friend,” he laughed, “you’ll have the full force of the law behind you. Trust me.”

The driver excused himself and left his seat to find a lavatory. Noticing the food package that sat unopened atop the table, Adi took his chance. Unwrapping two or three layers of the greaseproof paper, he slipped two filthy twenty-dollar bills inside, before re-packaging the man’s evening meal of nasi bungkus. The spider’s web had begun to be spun. Looking less sure upon his return, the driver then indicated his desire to leave for home, a request to which Adi consented. He was experienced enough to know that it would take more time to fully convert the man, but at least the first seeds of their future arrangement had been planted in his head. “OK my friend,” he said as they parted. “Enjoy your meal. I’m sure you’ll find it…er…quite rich.”

posted by Kirk at 10:19 pm  

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