This is my NaNoWriMo entry Part 1.
(While all locations are real, by necessity and for authenticity, the events and characters are entirely fictitious. Please read this as a Draft. I am writing this from memory. Please excuse inaccuracies. I will amend these as I get the chance to peruse my old diary entries and copious brochures and pamphlets I acquired while living there. A murder mystery requires research, but in order to try to keep up with the spontaneity of NaNoWriMo projects, I will get on with the narrative, and tidy up the errors in the Second Draft stage.)
Singapore Slasher – Part 1.
The thing about Singapore is its air of ‘Safety’. Although a fair size city of multi-cultural enclaves housing millions of people, there is very little apparent crime. True – you could see unobtrusively-guarded orange-overalled gangs picking up litter and cleaning the street gardens at times during the day, but their crime was Littering. It was the cleanest city she had seen. Mind you some of the rules were a tad over the top, yet the resulting benefit was evident – for example the No Chewing/Bubble Gum Law. It was great to not see jaws continually grinding and rotating, no bubbles being blown at inappropriate times and places, and for that matter no spitting either. Manners prevailed – mostly – despite the diversity of cultures. Amazing really.
She couldn’t quite adjust to the fact that she could walk home from teaching English at the language school late at night, the full length of the well-lit Orchard Road, then down along the less-lit Orange Grove Road with no sense of danger, no feeling of anxiety, no looking over her shoulder ‘just in case’. It was very odd. Back home in Australia she couldn’t do that. Not even in the outer suburb of Perth by the ocean where she lived. She would not feel safe.
Yet here she was, strolling along, alone, late at night, unaccosted, past the pick-up-bars busy plying their trade, past the boy-girls sitting on the pavement walls, smoking, chatting and calling to passers-by, in complete confidence. It was amazing. As if she was a different person – unafraid and carefree.
The first time, her husband had met her at the school and they’d strolled home together. The city was much quieter at this time of night, peaceful, very little traffic and relatively few people on the street. Those that were, were clustered around the supermarkets and food halls that were still open, though preparing to close down. The air was cool and moist – it was always moist in this city. The aroma of Singapore noodles wafted out of the food halls as they passed. Their footsteps echoed on the pavement.
It was a chance to look at the city without the obstructive noisy pushing jostling crowds that needed your full attention to navigate safely. Odd word to use, but a different kind of safety. One of reaching your destination in the neat unfrazzled state in which you set out. Of not getting crowded off the pavement and into the road. Of not having people step out of doorways without looking right in your path, stepping on you if necessary. Of not being accosted by tailors trying to sell you a suit – “Do I look like I want a suit?!” Orchard Road is quite a long road, with many Hotels, commercial premises of all types, restaurants, government buildings with wonderful gardens, then shops, shops, shops, majestic Emporiums, underground malls interconnecting with shop-lined tunnels, cinema complexes, food halls galore, and bars. During the day it is constantly busy. On weekends there is easily a hundred thousand people moving along it. She learned to avoid it at the weekends.
But at night it was peaceful, serene, mystical, enchanting. At night she had time to look at the city, to drink in its atmosphere, her surroundings, and admire the buildings. The architecture was wonderful, colourful, stylish, a real mixture of designs, making it stimulating to live amongst. And fun. There was even a building decorated as a Mondrian painting. Fantastic. She loved the Singapore architecture. And the city seemed to change from week to week – certainly month to month. How could they build so fast?!
Sometimes, when her husband met her, they’d have a bite to eat at a food hall, or grab some groceries from a market store, as they passed, to cook for a very late meal when they got home. But other times, if it was very late, she would walk home alone, then have the meal he’d cooked when she arrived. It was a different pace of life there – a different pattern of living. They went out for casual meals frequently – food was so cheap in the food halls and cafes. They spent their weekends visiting places – Botancial Gardens, the Zoos, both day, and night zoos, Sentosa Island, exploring the various computer-mart complexes, riding the MRT out to the suburbs to visit the Chinese Gardens, the Boat Quay and Clarke Quay, Raffles Hotel, the CBD, and on and on. She loved it. She felt like she really ‘had a life’.
Mind you the humidity was hard to take at times. Thank goodness their apartment complex had a pool and spa in which she could cool down. They had a poolside barbeque once a month for all the tenants which was socially bonding. There were many people living there on a permanent basis, others semi-permanent like she and her husband – just there for the duration of a contract, while others were more like hotel guests. But it made it feel more like home, as people became familiar faces, then friends.
So it was so shocking when she turned into Orange Grove Road, passed the Shangri La Hotel, and found the body propped against the steps to the rear gate at the corner of their wall. It was obvious that it was dead. It was not curled up in a peaceful sleeping position. It was sitting on the bottom step with legs extended, draped back up the steps, head back on the top step, eyes staring into the jungle that dangled down the walls, sides and over the top of the gate-arch. Across the exposed throat was a dark gash, visible even in the dim light and shadows cast from the nearby street light.
She took a step closer, peered, then backed away and ran down to the steep driveway of her apartment complex. Reaching the Security Box just inside the gate, she discovered that the nightwatchman wasn’t there. So she struggled up the slippery, steep, always-difficult drive to the lobby, where she staggered in, gasping. Calling out, she banged her hand, rapid fire, onto the lobby counter bell.
“There’s been a murder. Call the Police! Are you there? Can you hear me? Call the Police!”
A startled Concierge emerged from the back room.
“Call the Police. Let me speak to them. Quickly.”
Luckily for her, the Concierge knew her well, enjoyed chats with her daily, understood her character as intelligent, humorous, practical, so realised that this was serious and not just hysteria or a prank. While she regained her breath, and regained her composure, the Concierge dialled the counter phone, spoke, then handed it over.
After identifying herself, she explained what she had found and exactly where – calmly, precisely. Handing it back to the Concierge, she thanked her, then turned to walk through the walkway by the pool, to the lifts. At her apartment she told her disbelieving husband.
“There’s been a murder. I have to go back down there and wait by the body till the police come.”
“No. Stay here. They’ll come to you when they are ready.”
“No. I have to go down and wait by the body. So nothing gets touched. They said so. Please come down with me. I don’t want to stand there alone, in the dark street.”
Dubiously, he shook his head. Then, seeing her determination to do the right thing despite her vulnerability, agreed. They returned down the treachorous drive, around the bend, to wait at the bottom of the steps. After a glance to see that the body was still there, and in the same position as before, assumably untouched, they stood with their backs to it looking anxiously up and down the street.
Now it didn’t feel safe any more, even with her husband beside her. Her heightened senses saw movements in the foliage, heard the creaking, twitching and scraping of leaves on leaves, the branches on walls, night creatures scurrying, fossicking in the overgrowth. Singapore was continually overgrown – constantly being trimmed, cut back, pruned, brought under control. Then it would rampantly break out again – usually in colourful abundance, which was a delight to see. Except down the alleys where the mould also broke out and festered in the humidity, turning the walls to slime.
The arrival of the Police shattered the peace, shocking the neighbourhood.
(C) Jud House 4/11/2012
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