by Kitty Yip Kee Wah
I finally went back to Honkers this month, though under less than ideal circumstances. I received a summons to HK from my Aunt Clara, though she was very hazy on exactly what for. As I booked my tickets, I also received a rather curious and badly punctuated email from my old school friend Annie - "Kitty hope u r well lol, when you come here must meet total strangers." That was all. I presumed she'd somehow found out I was coming to Hong Kong, but why she wanted to go and meet strangers, I had no idea. Well, I had a few, but I didn't see why she needed to email me about it.
Before I left, a police detective visited my office. He said Madeleine had gone missing and did I know anything about it? They'd called her and her mobile answering message said she'd left for Singapore for two weeks. I said I hadn't seen her recently but if she said she was in Singapore then that's probably where she was. I nearly made a joke saying I'd killed her with an axe last week, but I realised that might be a bit of a faux pas.
I flew to Shenzhen and got the train over, which wasn't bad. My uncle (the one who's in shoes) has a big villa type thing in the New Territories because he wanted to get plenty of space for his decorative lake and pavilion combo. Why did he need the lake? To keep his flamingos. Why does he have flamingos? That we've never been able to work out.
When I pitched up at the place, whom did I see in the hall but Annie? I had not been expecting to see her at Aunt Clara's - as far as I knew they were unaware of each other's existence. I called out her name and she ran over all panicky, shushing me with a terrified look in her eyes.
"No! Didn't you get my email?" she said.
"Yes," I replied, "but it didn't make any sense."
"You've got to act like you've never met me before."
"I'll tell you later. Right now, I'm working for your aunt as a tutor for her son George."
"Cousin Georgie? Why?"
"Because your aunt and uncle want their little darling to have the Best Possible Education. They're unaware that their own material success is derived from an accident of birth, not from any superior education they might have had - and I might add, their education from going to the 'right schools' is no better than it would have been at the wrong ones. They're sure their wealth is the product of their own abilities and effort, not their connections, and so they also don't realise the little Georgie will do well based purely on being their son, not any merit he might or might not have."
"Actually, I meant why are you working as a tutor? You're a technical illustrator."
"Ah, yes, well. Brad left me in charge of his chihuahua for a couple of weeks, and gave me six thousand dollars to buy a dog tiara for it. Unfortunately, I blew it all at Happy Valley - got a dead cert from my tipster that didn't come in. Freelance work's thin on the ground, so I got this job as a quick way to make the money back before Brad comes home so that I can get that doggie tiara in time."
"I can't believe it," I said.
"You know what I'm like with money," said Annie.
"No," I said, "I mean I can't believe anyone would put a tiara on a dog."
Our conversation was cut short as Aunt Clara came screeching down the corridor and emracing me in a very unseemly hug. I unpacked my things in the guest room and changed for dinner.
To be continued...