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(Edwin, now a successful businessman, takes his wife Lucy, to the old underworld boss, the Laozi, who has requested to meet her)

The Laozi* took Lucy by her hand and sat her close to him. She perched on a well-worn wooden stool, he on another. He folded one leg, placed it on the seat with his heel pressed tight against a sinewy buttock.

He held her thin hands: they were work-hardened. He stared at her: age had sketched laugh lines. He bore into her large round eyes: they had witnessed struggles and touched lives. His eyes ventured to her neck: a thin gold chain held a crucifix. His gaze glided over her: a weathered leather strap held an old Seiko around her wrist and a wedding band on her finger.

No other trinkets, he mused. None needed to enhance your worth. He leaned back and smiled. Lucy returned his smile, looked away and sensing that he was still watching her, turned to him and held his gaze again.

The Laozi spoke in Hokkien. “I wish Mei Ling was here to meet you.”

She smiled but said nothing. The fan caught the curly strands of her hair that suspended and bounced along her ears. Lucy sat with her palms on her closed knees.

Father and daughter had met after a lifetime, each not knowing the existence of the other. There was plenty to say, much to share and a lot more to catch up. He knew now Edwin was the one for the task he had.

Edwin must have felt like an intruder, for he withdrew to a neighbouring coffee shop and found himself a glass of coarse tea sweetened with thick condensed milk. The women who plied their trade kept away from him. They knew he was family to the Laozi, the old man was more than celibate: he was Buddha.

“The streets outside are full of beautiful and willing women, yet your husband sees them not.”

“He’s an honourable man and a faithful husband.” Lucy spoke softly.

“Yes, honour and integrity are elusive chalices of the modern world. For these reasons and much more, I’ve selected him. My brothers have assessed him too and drawn the same conclusion. In fact, Straw Sandal recommended and vouched for your man. Only the Red Pole opposed it, but he is not one of us, never was.”

“Laozi, who’re these people?”

“Your man knows them. It’s for him to share with you when he thinks fit.”

(An Extract from my novel – Beck And Call, A Business Thriller Set In Singapore)

*Laozi – Old Master

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