Still, several days later, Joanne was seen sitting in the Chou living room browsing through some magazines while waiting for Cyndi to finish up on one of her project plans. It was in the afternoon and several hours before Joanne had to go to work. She was just dropping by to spend some time with Cyndi. Vic wasn’t around but he wasn’t so paranoid about Joanne’s presence as much as he had toward Sara’s. Not that he was favoring anyone, but he was at that very moment giving the old Tseng mansion another round of searching. Of course, he didn’t tell Cyndi since it was part of his investigation, and he did not want to put her in another difficult situation if he were to tell her.
“Done,” Cyndi announced five minutes more later, stepping into the living room again.
Joanne looked up from the magazine she had been reading and flashed on one of her mischievous smiles.
“What do you have in mind?” Cyndi asked, having gotten used to Joanne’s temperamental recently.
“What do you think would happen if I hire you to renovate our bar?”
Cyndi couldn’t help but burst out laughing. That got Joanne going as well.
“I don’t think your father would approve,” Cyndi said, settling down next to Joanne on the sofa.
“And your husband would flip too,” Joanne pointed out.
Cyndi nodded. “Definitely.”
Joanne set the magazine down at that time and turned to Cyndi. “So…what do you want to do now?”
Cyndi shrugged. “How about going out to eat?”
Joanne nodded in agreement. “Might as well since I won’t get to eat later. And let’s take my car. I’ll just drop you off at the station later so Vic could take you home.”
“Fine with me.”
They got up and Cyndi went to retrieve her handbag before meeting Joanne out front.
As the rest of the afternoon went, the girls ended up on some wild shopping trip and had lunch at the food court before heading back to Joanne’s car. It seemed like their friendship was very normal—if outsiders were to stop and observe them in particular. Yet between the two, it took a lot of effort to make it look normal. Especially on Joanne’s side because she had worn more of the tamed attires recently whenever she was around Cyndi. Though she said she didn’t care about what Vic thought, she still wanted to reassure him that she wasn’t going to take his wife to some dark side of civilization.
“Just in time for dropping you off at the station,” Joanne commented as they buckled up.
Cyndi didn’t say anything but just looked out at the scenery, pretending like she was just admiring the views since the season had already changed all around them.
“What’s wrong?” Joanne asked several seconds later. “Tired, eh?”
Cyndi nodded, half lying. She was still struggling inside with whether to tell Joanne what she learned or not. And how she should put it into context.
“This is going to be one interesting season,” Joanne continued with her random rant. “But I wouldn’t notice it since I’ll be spending half of my time stuck in a bar anyway, right?”
“Hey,” Cyndi spoke up finally, turning to look at Joanne.
“You don’t have to apologize for her. I know it’s not your fault she’s mad at me. It’s just some big misunderstanding and she and Jacky are just too stubborn to admit it.”
“It’s not about that.”
Joanne suddenly sensed Cyndi’s discomfort. And she had a feeling it was completely different from what she just suspected. “What’s going on?”
Joanne risked a brief glance Cyndi’s way before focusing on the road again. Something else she had to be careful of since she knew Vic would never let her off if she were to get in some type of accident—and with his wife involved.
“She’s not really who we all think she is,” Cyndi rattled out quickly, not wanting to back out any longer.
“What do you mean?”
“She’s…much more manipulative than you know of her.”
“Well, you already seen her all worked up, but she’s…I don’t know. Vic said Justin found some interesting stuffs about her. And maybe she and Jacky are…I don’t know…continuing their relationship underground without wanting to announce it or something.” Cyndi knew that was a lame jab since Vic and the others already established and disregarded that theory. But she didn’t know what else to say in order to warn Joanne without exposing too much information.
“I’m not trying to badmouth Jacky. I’m just worried that…”
Joanne smiled then. “I know. You’re worried for me…and I’m not involved with him in any way. I just found him an interesting person. And because I think it’s admirable how much he cares for Nana. He was even willing to drop everything and run back to see her when she was sick.”
“Did his grandmother know about him and Sara?” Cyndi asked, just looking for some other topic to cover.
Joanne shook her head. “Maybe he didn’t have time to tell her yet. But we all know it might as well be that way. Especially how it’s so complicated now with them.”
Cyndi nodded her head in agreement, her mind still spinning about the new information she learned through Joanne and not from Vic and the others’ wild guesses.
“Hard to believe we’re from the supposed dark side of society but we have family and could take care of them too?”
Cyndi shook her head. “No, I’m just thinking how hard it must be for him to run back and forth like that from time to time.”
“He has the neighbors to look after Nana from time to time. But you won’t believe half of them. I had someone look after her already. Someone local, of course, so it wouldn’t be too suspicious.”
“That’s not too bad then.”
Joanne nodded. “And here we are.”
Cyndi got out and said her usual goodbyes to Joanne—like she would if she were to hang out with her other friends. The difference was she was still thinking about what she just found out, wondering if she should tell Vic or not. Then she suddenly understood the complex nature of Vic’s work. It was never easy when you know people who had too much conflict of interest with you—or the people around you.
At around the same time Jacky parted ways with Joanne, knowing he did not have to take her to the Chou resident, he drove around for a while before heading toward the direction leading out of town. There was a place he had to check out. He had no idea someone was there ahead of him already. Yes, he was also heading toward the old Tseng mansion that afternoon. Vic had parked somewhere else and had walked there to ensure safety. Jacky did the same but parked closer. This time, he started in the basement. It was like he was looking for something as well. Yet his expression was much more serious than last time.
Upon hearing the door opened, Vic had stopped his search upstairs on the second floor and headed toward the stairs to inspect on matters. He appeared at the top of the staircase in time to see Jacky slipping inside and closing the door. He recognized Jacky right away and was puzzled by Jacky’s presence. It wasn’t like he didn’t see Jacky searching for some item the last time. Yet he didn’t understand why Jacky needed to return, especially when he already knew of the object through the conversation between Jacky and Joanne. What was Jacky searching for this time around? Or were they here for the same reason? He remembered back to Seth’s theory. That little theory—regardless of how silly he thought it might be, he didn’t want to miss a detail. He followed Jacky downstairs, keeping a safe distance. He descended the basement carefully and saw that Jacky seemed to have found what he was looking for. Because he soon saw Jacky smiling as Jacky leaned over something at one corner. He hid behind a false structure someone had stacked at another corner and waited for Jacky to move out of the way so he could see the object also. Yet Jacky didn’t move out of the way. Vic soon heard some clicking sounds. Camera flashes. Though subtle, because of the quiet atmosphere, Vic was able to recognize it immediately. Jacky soon moved out of the way and made his way back upstairs. It was like he had completed his mission. Vic made sure he heard doors closing before heading toward that direction to investigate.
“I’ll be,” Vic mumbled to himself upon his discovery.
He took out his own camera and did several snaps of the evidence before making his way out of the mansion also.
“We can’t make our move until we can prove those are Old Tseng’s,” Vic’s boss said.
Yes, Vic had presented the evidence to his boss—along with Seth and Brianna. Yet they still could not make a move.
“Whatever it is going on, Jacky snapped pictures too,” Vic pointed out. “If we don’t make a move, he and his people could get to it first. And then we get nothing.”
“He’s not going to make a move,” The boss told them.
“What?” Seth jumped in, displaying his apparent confusion.
“I’m going to make sure he won’t make a move. I’ll think up of something to arrest him for the time being.”
“He probably handed those pictures over to whoever he’s working for already.”
“Why don’t you three work on linking Old Tseng to those boxes instead of standing around and assume matters?”
That was the boss’ cue to dismiss them.
“But…” Seth managed, his voice reeking reluctance.
“Forget it, Seth,” Vic interfered, knowing if he didn’t, Seth would go overboard. “We need a better plan than just wasting the evidence on some loose arrest.”
“That’s right,” The boss said, smiling at Vic—and thinking that Vic was helping him.
So they had no choice but to leave the boss’ office and go back to Vic’s.
“Why did you stop me?” Seth demanded as soon as Brianna shut the door behind her.
“If he didn’t, you would lash out at the boss,” Brianna reminded Seth of his short temper at times.
“You know he’s getting suspicious too, don’t you?” Seth asked, still eyeing Vic.
“Of course,” Vic said, smiling. “In fact, this is getting quite interesting.”
“You don’t think some of the authorities are in this whole mess? Like they’ve been bought over by some even more powerful gang than Old Tseng’s group.”
Vic nodded. “I know. That’s why we have to keep calm. Or we will blow our chance at finding out the truth.”
“What do we do now then?”
“How about you two continue to follow Old Tseng and I’ll dig some more up regarding the link between our boss, the other authorities, and Jacky and Sara?”
Seth sighed out while Brianna nodded.
“This better be worth it,” Seth spoke up again, frustration drenched in his voice.
“I promise you it will,” Vic said.
Then they got back to planning the details like many times before. Saying it was easy but breaking down all the structures was harder than it seemed. They had to be prepared for this next part. And Vic knew they had gone too far to lose it all. He had a feeling they were closer to the truth than ever. Whatever that conspiracy might be.
© Sunday, February 12th, 2012
Posted: Monday, May 7th, 2012