Several days later, Vic had another folder to add to his stack. It was the set of information he requested days ago and had received back from the Hualien authorities. He read it once already and was waiting for Seth and Brianna.
“Well?” Seth asked as he stepped into Vic’s office.
Brianna was right behind Seth. Vic signaled for her to close the door before sitting down behind his desk. The other two settled around his desk—with Seth grabbing the folder first. Vic waited in silence for both to finish with reviewing the materials between the two of them.
“Looks like the grandma story checked out,” Brianna noted.
“But how come it wasn’t in the other files?” Seth asked, his eyebrows coming together.
Vic shook his head. “That’s why I said it doesn’t add up with all this information.”
Seth looked at Vic. “What now?”
“Pull Justin off Sara and tell him to switch with me. I’m going to Hualien to check things out.”
“Do you have to?” Brianna asked. “I meant we’re supposed to be monitoring Old Tseng. And now you’re stalking one of his henchmen?”
“Old Tseng sent Jacky to the bar on purpose. It wasn’t just about keeping his daughter in line. He could’ve put Nelson in but he didn’t. I want to know more about Jacky before we make the next move.”
“Or he just doesn’t trust Jacky and wants to shoo Jacky out for the time being while having him monitored,” Seth pointed out.
Vic gave Seth a thumbs-up signal. “Good one. Possible. Either way, we have to make sure we exhaust our suspicions before we predict Old Tseng’s next move.”
“Where are the guns stashed then?” Brianna asked suddenly. “I meant he wouldn’t be suicidal to keep those hidden in his mansion. And it might or might not be at the bar.”
“What about that old mansion?” Seth continued with the questions.
Vic reached up to adjust his shirt collar. “I’m going to check it out later today.”
“When are you heading to Hualien then?”
“Sometime next week.”
Seth and Brianna nodded, knowing it was up to them to keep things in line when Vic was gone. They still had their backup team so it wasn’t like they were alone.
Jacky pushed the door open and peered inside. He made sure no one was present before entering. He closed the door behind him and scanned the perimeter once. Taking out a small flashlight from his pants pocket, he made his way toward a set of staircases to the left corner. He ascended cautiously, brushing aside spider webs and various objects in the way. He reached the top in just two minutes. Doing another round of inspection, he finally chose left. Down the hall, he headed for the room to the right. Like the other time, he peered around cautiously before entering. But unlike the last time, he didn’t bother to close the door behind him. He scanned the room to see dusty furniture everywhere—just like the ground he just covered. Letting the light make its round once more, he dropped down on the ground and started to inspect it. It was like he was looking for something. That little task took him almost half an hour to cover the front section of the room. When he reached the bed, he swung the flashlight under it before crawling inside. He did it even more slowly than when he was on all four. Other than the dust, he couldn’t find anything else. As he reached the last corner underneath and was about to call it quits with much disappointment, a spark of light caught his eyes. He shone the flashlight that way once more, this time more cautiously. A smile formed on his face as he saw the crystallized prism staring back at him. He reached inside one of his pockets and found a piece of cloth–in which he wrapped the prism carefully inside before crawling back out. Again, he did it slowly, not wanting any types of accident to occur, knowing too well this was marble floor, not carpet like her current room. The reason why this prism was still attached–unlike some bits and pieces he found while crawling around—was because it was stuck on one of the curtain’s edge. The advantage of having such a long curtain spreading toward the floor, he thought.
As he straightened up, he retrieved the prism from his top pocket and wanted to put it in a pouch. It was then that he heard some sounds coming from the door. He reacted as fast, turning toward that direction. But he didn’t forget about making sure the prism was safe as can be.
“Who is it?” He called out into the darkness.
It wasn’t exactly night. Yet it wasn’t exactly bright in this mansion either. And with the amount of time he spent inside, he guessed the sun had probably set by this time.
“I’m not going to ask a third time,” He warned the other party.
He soon spotted a silhouette reflecting on the door as he shone his flashlight toward that direction. A girl’s silhouette. He lowered his flashlight as she appeared at the door. Her hand had been raised to shield her vision from the bright light already. But that wasn’t why he was shocked.
“Qiao Qiao!” He called out, getting up from the cool marble floor—and making his way toward her. “What are you doing here?”
“I should be asking you that question,” Joanne returned, staring at him with her radar eyes.
Jacky flashed on one of his rare smiles then. He raised the hand that held the pouch. “Look what I found.”
Joanne reached out and retrieved the pouch from him. She undid the strings and took out the contents slowly.
“Careful,” Jacky warned, not wanting history to repeat itself once again. “It is really the last one this time.”
It was around then that Joanne gasped. Yes, she had seen the prism. She looked up at him, all dusty from the crawl. And before he knew it, she reached out and hugged him. Alarmed, he didn’t know what to say. But he patted her shoulder anyway, knowing she was crying at that very moment.
“Thanks so much,” She whispered, her tone beyond touched. “I was going to try my luck today. But…you beat me to it.”
Yes, though Joanne had accepted defeat—or what it seemed like. But from her behaviors these past days, he knew she still couldn’t let go. He had to try his luck—even if it was the slimmest chance ever, considering how this mansion had long been abandoned after the Tseng moved to their current estate. He had no idea she was going to try her luck as well.
As the two stayed frozen, lost in their own thoughts, they had no idea a third party was present. That person was actually behind the far-right curtain (when entering the room). It was Vic. He had arrived first, several hours before Jacky. He wanted to look the mansion over, pondering if it was the Tseng’s secret hideout at the moment. Yet he was met with mostly dust since his arrival. Then Jacky came. He was lucky enough not to be found out because Jacky hadn’t reached his side of the room yet. When Jacky had called out earlier, he thought he’d been found out. Lucky for him, Joanne had stepped in hence saving him in time. If not, he would’ve stepped out and risked his chance.
Through this particular discovery, it had fueled Vic’s suspicion even more regarding Jacky—and he made it known that night during his meeting with Seth and Brianna.
© Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Posted: Sunday, April 29th, 2012