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author: d.m. jewelle ([livejournal.com profile] dmjewelle)
e-mail: jv.choong [ at ] gmail [ dot ] com


Lee Loh Kie discovered that the Royal Malaysian Police have plenty of bite when Sub-Inspector Balder Singh's fist connected with his stomach. His face landed on the aluminum table in the interrogation room.

Balder Singh grabbed Loh Kie's hair and screamed into his face.

"Where. Is. The. Necklace!?"

Loh Kie wrinkled his nose. "Your breath stinks. Nobody wants to know what you had for dinner-" Another backhanded slap across his face.

His voice sounded slurred and unfocused as the room. "I think you hit me a bit too hard on the head; the Joker said it affects a person's memory." His head slowly descended onto the table's cool surface but a hard grip on his shirt collar yanked him backward so hard he nearly fell over.

"You can rest after giving up the necklace, con man!" Balder Singh roared.

Loh Kie's chest tightened. He had a few choice words for the insult but stopped when the door creaked open; Balder Singh snapped to attention and saluted the broad-shouldered man who entered. Loh Kie made out the faint smudge that was Chief Inspector Sallehudin's cloth eye patch wrapped around his right eye.

"Good evening, 'spector Udin," Loh Kie slurred. "Nice eye patch."

"No time to put on my false eye." Udin pulled up the chair directly across Loh Kie. "Ready to talk?"

Loh Kie tried to straighten his back, but his stomach still stung. "Always am, but your muscled goon only talks with his fists. Was wondering if I'd get any good conversation tonight."

Balder Singh immediately pulled back his fist, but Udin's raised hand made him immediately drop his arm. Udin fished out his phone from his pocket and swiped the screen a few times.

"Customs discovered an antique smuggling ring from China recently, you may have heard of it?"

"I think it was in the corner of page ten."

Udin showed Loh Kie a picture on his phone. Loh Kie leaned closer: he made out a golden necklace with a large glittering sapphire set in the middle with smaller sapphires inlaid around the chain.

"It's called the Rantai Berising, comes from Indonesia. It's valued around thirteen million USD, and it's the last artifact we've yet to recover."

"It's lovely. What does this necklace have to do with me?"

"We received a tip-off that you have it."

Loh Kie's head was still fuzzy, but the reason for his detainment was clear. His mouth opened, but it took a while to speak.

"...You think that I'm involved in a Chinese antique smuggling ring?" Loh Kie snorted. "I barely speak the language!"

Udin shrugged. "Con men can do anything."

"I've been clean for six months; I was coming home from work when you guys threw me into your car and brought me here to cough up an antique I never knew existed." Loh Kie's voice rose higher and faster with each word. "And you're basing this on...what, one anonymous phone call?!"

"We've searched your house," Udin said.

Loh Kie's jaw dropped.

"You've got really questionable tastes, con man. Humanized cartoon ponies?" Balder Singh sneered.

"You may see the search warrant," Udin continued.

Loh Kie's anger energized him. "No, that's pointless! You've ransacked my house, invaded my privacy, confiscated my belongings before interrogation, and kept me here for hours without food, water, or legal justification! Why not do a thorough body search as well?!" Loh Kie kicked his chair back, spread his legs, and pointed a long thin finger down to his crotch, all while glaring at the police officers.

Chief Inspector Udin gave Balder Singh a side glance and a nod, which was the Sub-Inspector's cue to beat Lee Loh Kie into a bloody pulp.

Udin pulled out Loh Kie's handphone from a zip-lock plastic bag and thumbed through it.

"Odd that a con man doesn't have better phone security...Anyway, if you have any information on the Rantai Berising do inform me or Balder as soon as possible. I'd give you my personal number, but it appears you still have it."



*



Loh Kie winced at the stabbing pain in his arm when he turned the doorknob. He held his wrist tightly with the other arm, then nudged the door open with his toe. The area showed no signs of forced entry. Had Udin lied about the warrant, or perhaps they had headed straight for his room?

He scanned for signs of his housemate while his head throbbed in time with the swaying room. His legs buckled and he landed on the sofa head first.

Loh Kie's stomach burned hotter than his multiple bruises - Balder Singh's taunt had stung hard. He always preferred the term 'trickster' - it implied nobody got hurt and everyone had a good laugh in the end. Con men were criminals, and he had never spent a night in jail. He would scream for revenge if his jaw didn't hurt each time it opened.

He faced the coffee table, and saw the Rantai Berising's sapphires silently staring back. The discovery pushed Loh Kie to the edge of the sofa. He stretched out and hooked the necklace on his fingers. Almost on cue, a sapphire the size of his thumb tumbled out of the necklace and clattered to the floor.

He blinked.

"...Toh?" Loh Kie mumbled.

No reply.

He shouted louder, "Toh, I know you're home!"

A tall Chinese man pushing his bleach-blonde hair from his bleary eyes emerged from the door next to Loh Kie's room.

"You yelled?"

Loh Kie pushed himself up until he sat upright on the couch. He dangled the sapphireless necklace at his housemate. "Do you know anything about this?"

Toh put on his spectacles and shuffled to the table. "Oh, I was trying to fix it."

"Why?"

"The jewel in the middle keeps falling out. I don't think Fa would like taking home a broken necklace."

Loh Kie frowned. "Fa? Who's Fa? When did we become a smuggled antique warehouse?"

"Shi Fa, the girl from China I met last month? You saw her at dinner yesterday," Toh explained.

"Uh huh..." Loh Kie carefully replied.

"She's going back to China on Sunday, and she bought this necklace for her mom's birthday. She doesn't trust her housemates so she asked if she could keep it here...what was that about a smuggled antique warehouse?"

Loh Kie pinched his nose. "Toh, have you read the news?"

"Is it on Facebook?"

"I don't think so."

"Then it's probably not worth reading."

Loh Kie sighed. "The police came to search the apartment for this necklace."

"No wonder the place was a mess when I came back with the necklace. Took me two hours to clean up." Toh headed to the kitchen and grabbed his mug.

Loh Kie glared at Toh. "Somebody told them I had it."

"No, I had it, but I stopped by the gym before coming back."

"So I suffered police brutality for nothing!"

Toh took a sip of water. "Sounds rough."

"Have you seen what they did to my face?"

"Blue-black always brings out your cheekbones nicely." Toh grabbed an ice pack from the freezer and tossed it at his battered housemate.

"I'll keep it in mind," Loh Kie muttered while dabbing his bruised eye.

"You met Chief Inspector Udin?"

"He told me to call him if I found anything. Give back the necklace and they'll forget it ever happened."

"Are you going to do it?"

Loh Kie looked at Toh with his good eye, then back to the necklace. He could get in the police force's good books, keep them off his back - until someone like Shi Fa sets him up and they haul him in, that is.

If it was just the police Loh Kie would give them a quick run-around before handing them the necklace; make Balder sweat for making fun of his cartoon ponies. But now a girl he barely remembered had set him up for trouble. He had to teach them all not to pick on a trickster.

His eye narrowed. "After a trip to the craft store."




*



Toh cringed through ten seconds of mandopop before Shi Fa picked up.

"Hello?" She sounded lovely even when she was annoyed.

"Fa, it's Toh."

"I told you not to call me when I'm working," she snapped.

"I know, but this is about your mom's necklace."

A pause. "What about it?" she asked slowly.

"Loh Kie says it's actually a stolen antique."

"Oh?"

Toh swore he heard Shi Fa snicker. "Someone told the police that Loh Kie had the necklace. He needs to lie low for a while, so he's borrowing the necklace for some quick cash to flee the country-"

"Wait, how?"

"He found a buyer willing to pay twenty thousand ringgit in cash. He promises he'll get you a new necklace from wherever he ends up."

"It's not for - where's Loh Kie now?!"

"He went to meet his buyer at Hilton half an hour ago, probably will be on the next train to KLIA once he's done - hello? Shi Fa?"

Toh stared at his phone for a while before he hung up. After that, he picked up a dark blue backpack and headed out.



*



Loh Kie unzipped the backpack and laid a velvet box in front of the sheikh. The glow of the Rantai Berising's sapphires fluttered across the man's sunglasses. He nodded with a satisfied smile and put a briefcase on the table. Shi Fa's stomping heels drowned out the sound of briefcase locks.

Loh Kie looked at Shi Fa, then smiled. "Good afternoon. Fa, was it? This is a surprise."

"Where is the necklace?" She demanded.

"Don't worry, give me a month or two and I'll get a nicer necklace for your mom. Trust me when I say she'll like diamonds a lot more-"

"Are you stupid?" She snatched the necklace from its velvet-lined box. "This is a thousand-year-old antique! How much do you think this'll go for at Sotheby's?!"

"I'm pretty sure it'll go for a few mil, but I'm in a tight situation at the moment-"

"You and your 'situation' can go to hell! Any money you get goes to me!" Her ranting turned a few diners' heads to the table.

Loh Kie slumped his shoulders in defeat. "Well, it IS your necklace..."

"Damn right it is!" She shoved the Rantai Berising into her handbag. "No idea why Toh thinks you could be a trickster god," she grumbled.

Loh Kie shrugged. "I don't know why either." He then turned to the sheikh. "Did you get all that?"

The sheikh stood up and removed his turban and sunglasses, revealing Sub-Inspector Balder Singh as three plainclothes policemen cornered Shi Fa.

"Complete with video," Balder said as he plucked her handbag away from her slim white arms. "Good job, con man."

"Always glad to help," Loh Kie said, bowing lightly.

She would have clawed Loh Kie's smug look off his face if her hands weren't handcuffed.



*



Chief Inspector Udin tapped the microphone, staring at the group of eager reporters in front of him.

"I am pleased to announce that we have recovered the Rantai Berising and arrested the last member of the China antique smuggling ring."

He hoped the evening news wouldn't make his eyes too uneven; his good eye was more sensitive to camera flash recently. Sub-Inspector Balder Singh opened the velvet box containing the necklace and displayed it to the reporters. Photographers rushed for pictures. It was hard to tell whether the sapphires or Balder Singh's silly grin shone brighter.

"We wll hand the necklace over to the Indonesian embassy so they can take the Rantai Berising home," Udin announced. A man in a grey suit stepped forward to receive the necklace. Camera flashes flooded the room.

Just as the man took away the box, the largest sapphire wobbled before falling onto the carpet. A slew of gasps and shocked exclamations followed. Balder cleared his throat, keeping the reporters away while bending down to pick up the stone.

"I'm sorry about that. Antiques these days are so old, you know?" Balder joked.

A handful of reporters laughed politely; Udin and the representative were not amused.

Balder handed the sapphire to the man, who held it in his hand for a while.

"Is something wrong?"

The man held up the sapphire to the light. Fluorescent light poured into the stone, turning dark blue to almost white. A few confused reporters whispered among themselves. Finally, the man shoved the stone into Balder's face, glaring furiously.

"This is glass!" he roared.

The microphone caught the sound of Udin's jaw hitting the desk.



*



"Do you think they've found out?" Toh asked.

Loh Kie inhaled the bus exhaust fumes that smothered the Pasar Seni LRT station.

"I didn't put a lot of glue on it, so it should've fallen apart by..." He checked his watch, "...now."

Toh stood up. "They'll come and get you. You won't survive."

Loh Kie twirled a keyring with two tiny metal keys. "If they want to know which bank the safety deposit box is in, they'll need me alive."

"Surely someone would've been willing to buy the sapphire?"

"Nah. It'll take too long, and nothing good comes from being greedy." Loh Kie dropped one key into a tiny cloth pouch and pulled the drawstrings tightly. "Plus, I want the police to sweat a little."

Toh looked at the crowd walking past them, eyes set on their various destinations. Despite standing two storeys above the Klang River, it was easy to lose oneself in Kuala Lumpur; yet the police would come knocking in seconds if they had to.

"But I'd be a lousy trickster if I didn't charge them for rental and lost key." Loh Kie rode the escalator down and stood as near as possible to the concrete barrier separating him from the river.

Toh tilted his head. "What lost key? You've got both-"

Loh Kie held the second key in his fist, wound his arm back, and threw it over the barrier. The murky brown water rose and swallowed the safe deposit key into its belly.

"-Oh, that lost key!"

Date: 2015-08-07 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mistressnaoko.livejournal.com
This is always a fun read! :D

Date: 2015-08-08 06:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dmjewelle.livejournal.com
Trivia: The original version (with different ending) was sent to KL Noir Blue (and obviously rejected). A condensed version was published in Esquire Malaysia last October. This is probably the final version unless I figure out how to close up all the plot holes.

Thanks for reading! :D

March 2016

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