THE INTELLIGENT SINGAPOREAN

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The Confessions of a Singaporean Gangster in London – Chapter 19 & 20 “Nine Months later – Mr & Mrs Lim Teck Heng”

Posted by inspir3d on February 19, 2005

By the end of the ninth month in hiding – It was safe enough to make a trip down to Manchester China town along Charlotte street –Manchester was the home of the forger (you remember the merchant who sold me the second pair of pearl earrings) – I needed to finalize a few details concerning our new identities, without the right papers, we were like fish swimming in the barrel, it would only be a matter of time before someone would seek us out either by accident or design – as it was the chances were about 50/50 – but they’re were still risk, forms had to be filled, questions had to be answered – those sort of things and if we stood any chance of escape –this was the only way, there was no other way.

Just the other week, I had managed to enter the record office under the pretense of fixing the clock in the tower. There I had scanned through the records searching for a new identity and found it in the form of a certain Mr & Mrs Lim Teck Heng who roughly fitted our age.

The couple had emigrated to the UK from Hong Kong some 3 years ago and died in a freak car accident. It wasn’t a perfect fit, he was 2 inches shorter and she had a large mole on her left cheek and that’s why I needed forger.

The edges were rough and there were a host of significant details that still had to be conjured up and worked into the scene – for the purposes of fullness and authenticity, for them to be brought back to life.

Only the forger could fill in the missing blanks with the occasional stamp, or connect the images with the odd scrap of birth certificates.

So far the first part of my plan was panning out exactly the way I hope – I know a few things about doing this sort of thing – though I don’t wish to elaborate further on it – let us just say in life – there will always be men who conduct their business in the shadows and I am irrevocably one of them who belongs to this fraternity.

Though it is difficult for me to recount to you, why I choose to place my trust in this strange character who once sold me the second pair of pearl earrings – I cannot actually say for certain, just as a man who steps in a lottery booth chooses a set of numbers randomly and has faith in they may be magically picked out of millions – as incomprehensible as it is to both you and me – I simply had the same instinct concerning the forger.

As I entered the store, I saw that he was hunched over a pad of paper, writing down columns of figures with a black mechanical pencil. In spite of the chill in the air that day, he was dressed in short sleeved shirt – one of those flimsy, loose- fitting summer things with an open collar – which accentuated the thinness of his coppery arms. The door made a tinkling sound, and the forger lifted his head for a moment to give me a polite nod of greeting, though I registered a slight look of pity in perhaps the way he noticed my scars which were still reddish tinged with purple spots. I nodded back, but before I could say anything to him, he lowered his head again and resumed his calculations. This was a good sign, “he doesn’t recognize me” I said to myself.

Then the forger looked up again, this time removing his reading glasses,

“Can I help you?”

I placed the pearl earrings on the table, hardly had he looked at it, he looked up again this time straining his eyes, gradually he realized who I was.

“You shouldn’t have come here – men have been asking for you (the forger began closing his blinds) – you’re putting me and my family in danger – go I beg you!”

“I need you help” my voice firm and a long pause ensued while the forger remained quite still as if considering my words, then looking down and up again, he said.
“Look, I really cannot afford to get involved mister!– I can only help you by giving you some money….(opening his cash register)”

Somewhere along the conversation, a slight rustling from the back sounded followed by the sound of footsteps and a boy ran in toying with a model aero plane.

‘Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” the boy mimicked the sound of the engines.

“Siauh Chu, go back upstairs, daddy is busy”

“Can uncle see your plane” I bent down.

The boy thrust the model aircraft into my chest.

“Do you want uncle to tell you a story?”

The boy neither looked my way or either way, there was something wrong with him, his eyes possessing a quality of blankness, but since, I had started, I continued,

“It’s a Spitfire – you know why they call it Spitfire? (again the boy simply looked blank) – well you see the exhaust on the side aircraft, just where the engine sits – whenever the pilots started the engines, fire would spit out from the sides – like a dragon – and the sound this plane made when it flew was a funny little sound – do you want uncle to make this funny sound?

The boy simply looked out at space, his face hardly registering a word I said.

“brrrrbrrrrrbrrrrrbrrrrrbrrrrrbrrrrr”

Hardly had I finished the story – the boy grabbed the plane and ran off

“brrrrrbrrrrrrbrrrrrrrrrbrrrrrrrrrrbrrrrrrrrrr”

The father looked astonished – “he actually heard you, you see that, listen” the forger quite a different man from the man who I just spoke too a few minutes ago. Then as if thinking aloud to himself with his eyes still fixed on his son running back upstairs, he said.

“They say he’s slow my boy, but what do those fucking English teachers really know”

Then as if suddenly embarrassed by allowing his mind to wander off like that, he went back to the counter and assumed a business air.

“Well thanks for your time – one last thing – I was never here” I said pulling my collar up as I prepared to face the bitter cold of winter.

Hardly had I stepped out of the shop, when the forger came running out, the cold seizing him as he trembled and shuffled after me

“Wait – I forgot to ask you what you want me to help you with?”

“I need some papers to be forged.”

I whispered, the howling wind tearing away at some of my words.

“Do you have any money?” I didn’t answer and the forger continued motioning me back into the shop, where the boy appeared to peering with his nose pressed firmly against the window.

“Come in from the cold, I’ve close early – we can work out something over dinner – and you can tell more of your ridiculous stories to Siau Chu.”

That evening after dinner, where I had split every rib of my host with my ridiculous stories, whose son seemed to even appear to be quite thoroughly entertained – the forger busied himself weaving a new life for both me and Jeannie – though he had mentioned, it would take a few weeks for him to get everything ready – when he opened a crisp manila envelop I brought with me, all the things he really needed was already there names, age, nationality, religion copies of birth and death certificates right down right down the home office approve sized passport photographs – the forger looked at me from time to time when he examined this pile of mixed lives who obviously belonged to someone else, quite openly thinking aloud – “good, you have this” – “ah that’s what we really need” – “Yes, we can’t do without this, it’s good that you have it” – only to finally say with a satisfied look in his eye after three or so hours laboring in his study to put everything together and handing me the documents.

“I don’t know who you are – but you have done this before haven’t you. Or perhaps someone has trained you?” he looked at me differently with knowing eyes which reflected a slight tinge of admiration one professional gives to another.

“You broke into the records office……?”

I didn’t answer and he didn’t press on.

Soon the matter turned to payment, and I came straight to the point.

“All I have are those pearl earrings – you can keep them – till I return to square the accounts one day”

“I have heard that before -what if you don’t ever come back my friend” he said while walking me to the door his tone suggesting for a moment, he would even miss my company.

“Trust me my friend, even if I never ever return – those earrings have a funny way of turning up in unexpected places – I wouldn’t be surprised if they searched me out some where in the middle of the Gobi desert ” I smiled, the best I could without feeling the sensation of the stitches pulling and tugging against my flesh.

The forger paused just before the door – an expression of concern and regret gradually clouding over his eyes,

“They say, you’re an educated man – and from what little I have seen tonight, you are different from the rest of them – so you seem to me like a man who knows this sort of book and studies things quite well, tell me my friend– man to man, because I can take it! – do you think one day my son is good enough to go to university, get a decent job, get married, be a father like the rest of those English boys?” his expression hanging like question mark.

“You’re not been listening to me have you my friend – like I said – those earrings have a funny way of turning up in unexpected places – don’t be too surprise if you suddenly woke up one morning and found your grand daughter wearing them and asking kong kong how do I look?”

With this words, he smiled in confirmation and just before he opened the door – the forger thrust a box the size of dictionary under my arm,

“You need this my friend – when the come looking for you” then sensing my slight embarrassment for not being able to pay him properly again, the forger continue.

“Don’t look at me like that benefactor – I am a business man – I need to protect my investments – like you said, the accounts will be square properly one day – for that to happen you no use to me dead.” he smiled again.

I simply nodded and just as I stepped out into the biting cold of a moonless night – entombing both the man who walked in that afternoon along with Jeannie Lam forever – though I didn’t know how it would end for either me or her –I knew for the time being at least two people who were once dead would rise again and speak freely – Mr & Mrs Lim Teck Heng.

Just before the back door shut with a clang – the forger turned to me and said,

“Oh I forgot to mention this earlier………the third wife of the old man just gave birth to a son.”
————————–

One week ago.

During World War II– the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) under the command of Air Marshall Herman Goering – launched a relentless bombing campaign on London– known as the “Blitz”.

One of the primary targets was the Central Record Office located off Whitehall, South of Westminster Abbey. This building housed all the records concerning the issuance of both birth and death certificates in the whole of the British Isle – In 1941, due to the extensive damage inflicted on public building as a result of intensive German bombings – the Surveyor’s General Office was called upon to identify a suitable location in the United Kingdom where the records and archives could be relocated for temporary safe keeping – in Jan 1942 – the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells was proposed by the Surveyors –general office.

The natural fortifications afforded by the mountains rendered an enemy aerial attack virtually impossible– the town was so insignificantly small it failed to qualify strictly under the criteria of a town under the City and Town ordinance byelaw– thus escaping the attention of the map makers who even omitted any reference of such a place in the whole of the United Kingdom , other than perhaps to include a symbol of church on the map issued during the period before the war.

The other compelling reason for the surveyors recommendation was the town hall in Llanwrtyd Wells, constructed out of two feet thick Cumbrian stones, each weighing 1.2 metric tons.

In March 1941, the town hall was converted to house rows and rows of filling cabinets –to further improve security, the 21 French windows were sealed up and cemented.

The architects did highlight one security flaw in the lay out – the tower clock – which stood some 24 meters high with it’s hollow rectangular profile opening all the way to the bottom directly into the record office!

When this security flaw was subsequently highlighted, as a possible entry point by someone who could all too easily masquerade as a tradesman, who periodically serviced the clock.

The architects considered this notion absurd for two reasons, firstly the quarter chimed free wheel clock manufactured by German firm, Kieninger in 1870 proved extremely reliable and robust, even the firm responsible for maintaining the proper workings of this clock, William Potts and Son of Guilford in Leeds were hardly ever called to maintain the near perfect mechanism which hardly ever required any oiling or greasing, only a weekly pull on a rope from the clock all the way to the ground floor by three strong men every week for five minutes was enough to keep it running and chiming a whole week! –and a cast ironed hand crank located at ground level connected to the main mechanism of the clock allowed for adjustments should the clock be either to slow or fast – it seemed to the architects and those who manned the town council since there was no possible reason for any one to ever go to the top neither could there be any risk from anyone posing as a trades man to gain unauthorized access into the Welsh record office – that could really only happen, if there was a reason to fix the clock and since it the quarter chimed clock never ever really needed any fixing – the threat was not considered insignificant for the architects to add another slab to seal off the hollow shaft of the clock tower which opened up to the main floor area.

At the end of the second world war – all the birth, marriage and death certificates were relocated to back to Whitehall – Welsh & Cumbrian authorities retained all documentation for occupants who lived in the area of Wales and the County of Lancashire – not only did this guarantee the continued existence of the town, since registered citizens from around Wales would often make their way to the little town and stay a few days in one of those quaint inns as they visited the natural springs will waiting for either this or that document they either loss or simply needed renewal to be processed.

The following Monday, when the records administration clerk arrived late for work and hardly had she made herself a cup of tea and settled down on her desk – she noticed two brown envelops which must have arrived from London from the special courier service train every week – the envelops were slightly off color she couldn’t help noticing, but the type print and seal of the Home Office,

“IN THE SERVICE OF HER MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT suggested everything was in order. Except for a few oily smudges.

though she could have sworn there were no documents in her “IN” tray when she left last Friday – because she had a keen eye for such details – nevertheless, she proceeded to process the application for the issuance of a social security card for a Chinese couple by the name of Mr and Mrs Lim Teck Heng – as usual she proceeded to the filling cabinet marked “L” which was located just beneath the hollow shaft of the clock tower and when she finally retrieved the small reference card with the details of Mr Lim Teck Heng – who immigrated from Hong Kong, she noticed a discrepancy between the two pictures, when she brought it to the attention of her supervisor who never really recovered from his hangover till some time around lunch – the Welshman hardly bothered with the clerk and her usual nit picking observations which he regarded as chronic pettiness, a disease which afflicted middle aged spinsters like the nit picking clerk– he simply said,

“Those Chinks – they all look the same don’t they? What’s that old bat on about? – them photo’s not being right and all that.”

Barely, realizing the man in the form was the quiet man from the ‘magic bowl’ who had just finished working on the clock tower during the weekend after he had given him the blueprints of the clock a week before.

When one of the clerks was just about to post the newly issued social security card to Mr and Mr’s Lim – she recognized the couple and remarked.

“Well fancy that – it’s them Chinese, you know the magic bowl couple – wonder why they bother themselves with all this papers, only city folk seemed to care about – they hardly looked like the sort to travel even outside the valley.”

Hearing this, one of the clerks remarked cheekily

“Won’t be surprise if the chink meant to apply for passports to take his wife out for a nice little holiday”

“Blind me!, now what ever gave you that idea?” another surprised clerk added.

“Well, keep it to yourself alright – just paid the Chink for the work he did on the clock this morning. The guv allowed him to work on it through the weekend – so our little friend has a bit of cash to show off to his missus ain’t it”

darkness 2002

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