The mystery unraveled itself the following day. It was in the afternoon. Vic was following Jacky again. And it was another sad coincidence since Vic was on his way home. He found it extremely odd that Jacky was roaming around when he should be lying low, considering how they had all learned from Mr. Tseng’s constant rambling since his arrest that Jacky could be the traitor—and making Seth’s guess possible. Not to mention how Joanne wasn’t with him either. He was the other person who wasn’t arrested yesterday so he was her only contact at the moment. She had nowhere else to go—for the time being. So Vic was more than puzzled as to how Jacky could risk from being followed, especially by Joanne. After all, how could she just disregard her father’s words like that, right?
And Vic was right. He spotted Joanne and dived out of the way safely before he got caught. Jacky was heading toward that one warehouse again. It was the same one Vic and Justin witnessed the disagreement between Jacky and Sara that one time. Vic braced himself as he let the other two entered first. In fact, he circled around back and made sure to find a good spot to watch and listen. If he entered after Joanne, he would get himself exposed, knowing there was only one hiding spot by there. It would be impossible for her to not hear the door opening.
“What do you want today?” Jacky’s voice questioned from the center of the room.
“You don’t have to be so hostile,” Sara returned, her voice unusually calm. “It’s finally over. I didn’t tell the boss what happened with you backing out after you handed the photos over. So, you could still come back. In fact, this is our last case as…”
“It doesn’t matter if he knows or not,” Jacky cut her off. “I quit.”
Vic saw Jacky shoving some items back into Sara’s hand. She had handed it to him while she was talking earlier.
“What are you talking about?” Sara asked, her voice containing more of emotions than before. “The case is over, you could just pull out of it. Stop acting like you care for her when we all know what type of people they are.”
“You’re the one who doesn’t understand,” Jacky shot back, his anger rising. “The evidence only points to Old Tseng. Qiao Qiao’s innocent. And I’m going to help her maintain the place to make up for what I did to her father.”
Sara laughed then. “This is ridiculous. Old Tseng’s guilt isn’t even your fault. Why are you sympathizing with criminals? You should remember that you’re a cop.”
The world didn’t crumble down for only Vic at that moment but the structure that had been used as a hidden place by the front door had literally crashed down at the same time. Vic jumped out of his hiding place the minute he saw Joanne advancing. He didn’t know whether he wanted to protect her or the other two. It was also then that Jacky and Sara turned around in time to see Joanne’s beyond outrage expression.
“Qiao Qiao, what are you doing here?” Jacky asked, his face showing definite panic.
“I should be asking you that question,” Joanne blurted out. “But it’s too obvious, isn’t it? My father was right!”
“Qiao Qiao!” Vic called out at that time, taking a few more steps toward the three standing in the center of the room. “Don’t do it!”
Joanne had grabbed the gun from Jacky’s hand and pointed it at Jacky the moment her voice rose. Yes, the items Jacky wanted to hand back to Sara hadn’t been returned yet—and one of them was the gun in Joanne’s hand while the other was his police badge. Sara, of course, did not take them. Those had stayed in Jacky’s hand until Joanne heard about his real identity.
And Vic’s little warning didn’t shift Joanne at all. She was still pointing the gun at Jacky and staring at him with hurtful eyes.
“And you cops still have the nerve to say we are the criminals?” Joanne asked, her voice rising to another notch. “Lying and playing with others’ emotions and calling yourself good?”
“Qiao Qiao,” Jacky finally spoke up.
“Shut up! You don’t deserve to call me by that name.”
“Qiao Qiao, give me the gun,” Vic interfered, having seen Joanne’s hand wavering slightly.
Joanne turned slightly toward Vic then. “This is between me and him.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Vic coaxed.
It was then that Sara took full advantage of Joanne’s diverted attention to try and attack from the sideline. But Joanne was faster. She turned to face Sara and released the safety on the gun—with it still pointing at Jacky.
“You don’t think I could shoot?” Joanne asked, her eyes piercing through Sara’s. “Back off.”
“You’re not going to shoot him,” Sara said—though she had taken some steps back already.
Joanne scoffed. “Will I?”
“Sara, stay out of it,” Jacky jumped in, his voice annoyed.
Joanne turned on him again. “You can stop playing that supportive role to gain my trust now.”
“Qiao Qiao, I…”
“I told you not to call me by that name!”
Her voice echoed into the atmosphere, shutting them all up for the time being. Yet the hurt in Jacky’s eyes looked quite genuine. But Vic couldn’t be sure. He was still as shocked of the newly learned information minutes ago.
“I followed you to make sure you’re not going to try other means to help my father and endangering yourself,” Joanne continued. “How stupid could I be? How could you be in any danger when you’re just meeting up with your so-called girlfriend?”
“She’s not my girlfriend,” Jacky clarified, his voice edgy—and somewhat defensive.
“Do I look like I care? The only time I should be listening to my father’s words and I didn’t? If my father’s really guilty with this whole thing, then it’s his fault. But you know what’s really despicable? Why can’t you be like him and just stalk us from the outside?”
Joanne was, of course, talking about Vic—and his team.
“If it matters to you so much, he pulled out halfway through so he wasn’t as involved anymore,” Sara interrupted Joanne.
Joanne turned to Sara again, her gun hand still on Jacky. “I’m not deaf. He handed those pictures over so he played a major role in this whole thing.” With that, she returned her glare to Jacky. “Because you found that last crystal, I will allow you one last wish.”
Both Vic and Jacky knew what she meant by that. Yet before Vic could convince her otherwise, Jacky spoke up again.
“Yes, I’m guilty of having a hand in your father’s arrest,” Jacky said, his voice unusually calm at that moment. “And I know you will never forgive me. But you have to believe me that I really treated you like a friend, a close friend, because…”
“Enough!” Joanne cut him off, her finger edging dangerously toward the trigger.
“Qiao Qiao, don’t!” Vic called out again.
“All I want to hear now is your last wish,” Joanne continued, her voice still maintaining its sternness.
Jacky’s guilt stricken expression had ceased at that point. And it was then replaced by a subtle smile. He nodded before speaking up again. “Take care of Nana for me, but don’t tell her what happened, because she honestly doesn’t know what I do.”
Upon hearing about Nana, Joanne’s hand shook slightly. Yet she resumed her composure. “You’re still using that card? How much did you pay the old lady to play your grandma?”
“She’s really his grandma,” Vic said, knowing she needed to hear it from him—and not Jacky or Sara.
Joanne looked at Vic again, her expression still doubtful.
“I pulled his files,” Vic explained. “At least what I could find before my boss made me stop. Most of them were sealed but not that one. The only thing that was fake on the file was the address. It was probably to protect her from the others while he was on the job.”
As if convinced, Joanne turned back to Jacky, nodding at last. “I will take good care of her.”
“Wait until several more years,” Jacky continued. “Her memory’s starting to fail now. So if you wait several more years, she won’t remember and then you could find a good place for her…and move on with your life…”
“She’s not going to get anywhere if she shoots you,” Sara reminded Jacky.
“You’re not helping!” Vic yelled across the room at Sara.
“Yes, she will,” Jacky said, looking at Sara. “Because his words are against yours. And he will make sure she could get to Hualien. Or would you rather Nana find out now that her grandson got killed because he was a traitor?”
“You’re not a traitor!” Sara yelled out, frustrated. “You’re a cop just doing your job!”
“And a liar!”
A thud was heard then. It was Jacky’s gun hitting the floor. It wasn’t because of anyone’s actions that had knocked it out of Joanne’s hand. It was Joanne’s own doing. She slammed it on the ground. Jacky reacted first, taking a step toward her, wanting to comfort her. Yet she took several steps back, her eyes still brimming with tears.
“I’m not doing this for you, but for Nana,” Joanne said, trying hard to keep her voice steady. “I will never forgive you.”
And with that, she turned and ran out of the warehouse. Vic ran after her, calling out her name. But it was in vain. It wasn’t because he couldn’t chase her down. He wanted to stay on purpose, wanting more answers from Jacky—and Sara.
But the questions and answers session didn’t happen until after Jacky was forced to follow Sara down to the station and meet up with his own boss. The team hadn’t moved out yet hence Jacky and Sara still able to go in for a meeting locally. It wasn’t until night that both Jacky and Sara accompanied Vic to his house for further explanation. Sara had wanted to explain some things to Cyndi as well so Vic had agreed to hold the meeting at his house. He had called Seth, Brianna, Justin, and even Roy to meet up as well. Like it wasn’t obvious with Jacky and Sara’s identities already but he didn’t want to risk it.
“What are you all doing here?” Cyndi asked when she opened the door for Vic.
“Um…” Vic began, not knowing what to say first either.
“It’s a long story,” Seth said from behind Vic.
Vic nodded and stepped into the house, allowing the others to pile in. He had not called Cyndi beforehand because he seriously didn’t know what to tell her. Besides, that was the point of having them all there—to explain and fill in the blanks for him.
“Hey,” Sara greeted Cyndi with a happy smile.
Cyndi did not know why Sara was with Vic and the others. Yet when Jacky stepped into the house, some things clicked in for her.
“You two got back together?” Cyndi asked, looking from Jacky to Sara—and guessing that was the reason for Sara’s happy mood.
“No,” Sara answered, shaking her head with her smile still attached. “We were never together in the first place.”
Cyndi turned to Vic with her confused look. “What?”
Vic let out a sigh and stepped toward Cyndi, wrapping his hand around her shoulders and leading her back into the living room. “It’s complicated.”
The others left their shoes at the door like usual and followed Vic. Vic did not care to make a move to get the usual beverages as the typical offerings for guests. He didn’t let Cyndi either. He waited for them all to settle down around the living room before beginning.
“Sara,” Vic prompted, knowing it was easier for Sara to do her own explanation.
Cyndi was still eyeing Vic with her suspicious eyes yet she forced herself to let him off—temporarily—and turned toward Sara. Of all the ones in the living room, only Jacky and Sara remained standing. Jacky was standing at a spot behind Sara but had kept his distance obvious. Sara was standing straight in the center.
“I need to apologize for whining to you for these past weeks,” Sara said, looking at Cyndi—and smiling. “Jacky and I aren’t really boyfriend and girlfriend. We were just playing our roles to help our case.”
Cyndi was wrinkling her face and her eyes looked impatient. Yet she remained silent, waiting for Sara to continue—if only Sara would get to the point faster.
“We’re actually cops,” Sara said after a brief pause.
“What?” Cyndi exclaimed, standing up from her place—and brushing off Vic’s protective hand around her. After diverting her eyes to Jacky for a quick assessment, she turned to Vic. “What is going on here?”
“It’s true,” Vic confirmed. “I went with them to the station because some of the teams from the other district are still around.”
“We have been working on trying to find out about Old Tseng’s weapon dealings for a long time now,” Sara continued. “Actually, we started from the other side, i.e. his buyers. But we didn’t know if he was really the seller. Thanks to the weapons Jacky found stashed in the Tseng’s old mansion, we got what we needed to move in.”
Cyndi’s eyes traveled back toward Jacky at that time. It showed disbelief at the moment. Of what, the others couldn’t be sure, but they remained silent as Cyndi took a step toward Jacky’s direction. Vic was the only one following her, knowing his wife too well—and wanting to be there if she should make any move.
“So you used Qiao Qiao all this time in order to investigate?” Cyndi interrogated, not even showing fear.
Jacky’s face had looked so dark since he entered that it was hard to miss. But unlike when he attempted to explain to Joanne, he just nodded, admitting his guilt to Cyndi.
“You know how undercover works are,” Sara jumped in, attempting to rescue Jacky from the situation. “Sometimes, you can’t sympathize with the criminals or…”
“I am a criminal?” Cyndi snapped, turning back to look at Sara, her expression matching her anger. She marched over to where Sara was standing and pointed at Sara. “You’ve been bawling like everyone in your family had died for the past weeks and wasted my time and you dared to act like you have no choice but to?”
“I wasn’t talking about you,” Sara clarified regarding her choice of words previously. “What I meant was…it was necessary to get creative while…”
“What did Qiao Qiao do to him then?” Cyndi continued, cutting Sara off—and pointing her accusing hand at Jacky this time. Her eyes were still on Sara though, waiting for Sara to come up with yet another excuse for their behaviors. “In fact, she didn’t get arrested, did she? So why are you calling her a criminal?”
“You misunderstood my words,” Sara tried again.
Cyndi scoffed then, reminding them all so much of Joanne’s attitude. Yet they—minus Jacky and Sara—knew that was how Cyndi was whenever she was mad. And that was rarely. Perhaps that was why she and Joanne had gotten along so well, with their similar frame of mind.
“You’re the one not getting it,” Cyndi iced Sara. “Just because you need to investigate, you would make such lame excuses when you wronged someone? I’m so glad my husband never volunteered for those stupid undercover jobs.”
“If there is no one willing to go undercover, some of those unsolved cases out there wouldn’t get cracked at all,” Sara resumed with her patient voice. “I know it’s because she’s your friend that you’re defending her. But do you know that not each case is as complicated as this one and some of us got pulled in with our emotions? You can’t just disregard our efforts like that.”
Cyndi ignored Sara and returned her attention to Jacky. “Just answer my questions.”
Jacky nodded, waiting for Cyndi to continue.
“Do you know how much she cares for you?”
The “she” in question was of course Joanne. They all waited for Jacky’s answer, even Sara had opted to stay silent—for once. Jacky nodded without needing to think—and was ready for round 2 of Cyndi’s questionnaires. If only there was round 2. Because before anyone could react, they had heard a smack. Vic had reacted a few seconds too late—even if he finally managed to grab a hold of his wife’s hand. Jacky had received the slap in full without dodging.
“Knowing and still doing it,” Cyndi said.
“Cyndi, you can’t…” Sara spoke up again, still shocked by the turn of events.
Cyndi wasn’t finished though. She turned to Sara at that time. “Get out.”
“Get out of my house!”
Vic had attempted to pat on Cyndi’s shoulder to calm her down. Yet she was already on a roll. She advanced toward Sara and ushered her out.
“Honey, calm down!” Vic finally jumped in, trying to separate the two.
“Calm down?” Cyndi yelled out, turning toward Vic. “You expect me to calm down when someone like that is in my house?”
“Cyndi,” Seth interfered, knowing he had to help Vic somehow.
Seth and the others had gotten up from their seats also, ready to take action.
“If the rest of you feel the need to defend your fellow cops, then you could all go,” Cyndi rattled out, not caring if that also meant her husband. “Including you.”
Yes, she had looked at Vic.
“Get out!” Cyndi bellowed again. “Now!”
It didn’t take a third warning for Jacky to head for the door. He had also ignored Sara’s calling out his name. And he didn’t care if Sara had to walk home either because she’d come with him earlier. He could only hear her being shooed to the door by Cyndi. He started his car and drove away from it all, not wanting to see anyone having to do with this case anymore. The state he was in couldn’t be described in a specific word because his mind was all jumbled up.
As for Vic, he had opted to let Cyndi kick Sara out. After all, like he needed to sacrifice himself to save Sara. His marriage was much more important. If Sara had cared so much for her friendship with Cyndi, there were better approaches than what Sara had took all this time knowing them.
“What are we going to do now?” Seth asked, scanning the faces around him.
Vic shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“What happened to Qiao Qiao then?” Brianna asked, her eyes on Vic.
Vic sighed out. “She ran off after letting Jacky go. I should’ve run after her instead of following those two.”
“She’s going to be around here somewhere, right? I mean her father’s case’s far from over. There’s the trial and…”
Vic shook his head again—as if that was his most recent acquired habit. “I don’t know. Anything is possible at this point. She almost shot him. And I don’t blame her.”
Brianna looked at Vic closely, still trying to detect the expression on his face—aside from the fatigued look. “Would you have let her off if she did?”
Vic shook his head yet again. “I don’t know.”
“Could you say something else aside from that?” Seth exclaimed, his patience draining.
“What else do you want me to say? I don’t know why this case is so…frustrating on so many levels. It’s not just because we couldn’t call it our case anymore but…”
“If only we didn’t know them,” Justin spoke up at that time. “It would be less frustrating.”
“You want to blame it on me then?” Cyndi asked, stepping toward them again.
Yes, she had successfully kicked Sara out and locked the door.
Justin had on his timid look then, even saluting to her. “Wouldn’t dare to.”
Cyndi returned to her place on the sofa next to Vic. “Are you guys going to go look for Qiao Qiao or should I rely on myself?”
“Wait for her to appear on her own,” Seth said. “She’s going to go visit her father, right?”
“You guys better tell me about it when she does.”
Seth saluted then. “Yes, ma’am.”
And he was dead serious, not even wincing or flashing out his usual teasing smile.
After that, they ended up making dinner—together. The dinner came and went in silence for the most part. Yet they didn’t care to ease the heavy atmosphere. It was like they all needed some time to think on their own.
© Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Posted: Friday, May 11th, 2012