The Dreaded “to be continued…”

Posted in News with tags on September 25, 2008 by jlebourhis

I didn’t want to have to put it, we all hate seeing it at the end of a good movie or TV show … that damned “to be continued…” in italic … as if to give a sense that things are still moving forward … leaning towards the three points.

So I didn’t put them up but I probably should have, it’s been a long time. Since I last posted on this website, things have really spun around! I got a job, the dog has stopped peeing in the house … mostly. So I should have time to write right? No actually, I’ve been working quite a bit, quite a lot actually. I haven’t been able to sit in front of the home computer in about … I don’t know, since mid august (I’m a little confused these days). So it’s been a sleep/ eat/ shower/ work/ eat/ sleep period. But things are calming down, I’ve just got my week-ends back and nights are starting to open up as well.

The good is that I work in the part of town that inspires me the most for Bugsy. I have to imagine it dirtier, darker, less commercial, less touristic and I see the scenes take place around me, it’s really fun. The old Montreal is really inspirational.

So, if all goes well, I should have time to update Bugsy the Clown very soon, I can’t wait to get back into it.

Until then,

joel

Special Treat!

Posted in Drawings with tags , , , on July 26, 2008 by jlebourhis

It’s been a long time coming. Here’s the drawing I promised. Took some doodleling while I was waiting after my computer to render some stuff for my portfolio. I was inspired by a scene I was writing at the time. I scanned the drawing and went all out photoshop on it!

Now, this is like a preview of sorts, this is a scene that should pop up in just a few weeks, I’ll let you know but I think it’ll be obvious which scene it’s representing.

So before I spoil anything storyline wise … I’m just gonna post this thing!

Bugsy the Clown: Part 20

Posted in Story with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2008 by jlebourhis

A good ten minutes of running and I’m back near the warehouses. Uncle Leo is there watching Marlon beat an answer out of the crook that didn’t run away.

   ‘What were you after you wanker!?!’

   The man is on his ass, sliding away like a snail, I can easily imagine mucus forming under him to ease his escape, that rot of a thief. He doesn’t talk, he gives no answer, that fuck is gonna talk, I’ll make him. Little does he know he’s crawling towards me, Marlon knows this and stops, taking pleasure in watching the scum thinking he’s been given pardon and been allowed to escape. The anger I couldn’t let out on the guy who actually stole something boils up the closer the scum gets. I’m going to let it out on him! I swear!

   I grab him abruptly by the collar and drag him quickly towards the edge of the stagnant water.

   ‘No! NO! Please! PLEASE!’  

I pick him up and spin him around so he can get a good look at my face and see the rage in my eyes … perhaps that’ll be enough to make him talk.

   ‘WHAT WERE YOU HERE FOR!!!’

   He squints and curls his head in, looking more like a turtle now, trying to protect himself from harm within a carapace. He doesn’t say a word. I start leaning him over the edge and a look at the water makes him react.

   ‘I don’t know what I was sent here for!’

   Marlon catches up to us at that moment looking rather aggressive, nothing like the fooling jester I’m used to seeing everyday. He looks like he might snap and swing at the guy.

   -‘BOLLOCKS!!! That’s all that is! BOLLOCKS!!!

   -No! I swear! I don’t know what we were supposed to steal!’

   I raise my arm and clench my fist and aim it right at the man’s nose, I’m gonna break it, make him bleed, whatever gets him to talk.

   -‘Brandon!’

   Uncle Leo intervenes. What? Why? Let me finish this, I NEED THIS!

   ‘Let him go!’

   I release my grip from the scum’s collar and he steps slowly away from the stagnant water and actually walks towards Leo!?

   -‘We were sent to wreck and steal a package. We were given a specific serial number but not told what the package was.

   -What number?!’

   He slips a balled up piece of paper to Leo who unwraps it. He breathes in deeply taking in the knowledge of what has just been stolen and then takes a long look at the pathetic man standing before him, the thief is nearly crying now.

   ‘Why did you do this?’

   He begins to cry, yet he seems to stand up straight now, he seems a different person than the turtle like creep he was moments ago.

   ‘I just moved here from China. I was promised a good job with a good salary to feed and educate my children. But all I get are these contracts to steal and sabotage. I don’t even get paid if I don’t bring back the package, it is payment on delivery only. Please, don’t call the police. I have nothing but my children.’

   In this circumstance that line should sound like bullshit, or “bollocks” as Marlon would say but it doesn’t. The man isn’t an actor, he’s naked and completely honest before us, he’s laid his life bare before us. My fists unclench and I’m no longer tense. We knew Yuanjia did this kind of shit, we were just never faced with it. This man is educated, speaks English quite well, he frankly looks like a small time lawyer with his hair combed to the side and his skeletal, angular build.

   Uncle Leo steps towards the guy and places a hand on the man’s shoulder to comfort him. The man raises his head up from the sorrow and shame that overwhelmed him.

   ‘Come back tomorrow with your kids so they can be present when their father is offered a decent job.’

   What?!

   ‘Brandon, you’ll be training this man to help you out on the crates and all.’

   I can’t believe this! This man was wrecking our cargo and attempting to steal from us and now he’s been given a job?! What the hell is that?!

   The man bows repeatedly before Leo, obviously pleased by the offer of a job. He smiles and bows to me and Marlon too and them clumsily heads towards the exit to leave the harbour. Uncle Leo heads back to the office and I follow but before I catch up to him Marlon stops me.

   -‘What the hell was all that talk of giving that man a job?

   -I dunno. That’s what I’m going to find out.

   -Gotchya. I’ll see you tonight after your shift chum?

   -For beer and nuts at the cabaret… maybe not tonight.

   -Oh! … Alright then, catch ya’ later I guess.’

   I walk away focused on my uncle walking in the big piece of tole he calls an office. I walk straight in and see him in the back office, passed all the desks, behind the glass wall with the name of the company engraved in, his name. He’s looking at that paper with the serial number on it, looking rather discouraged. I head straight to his office and close the door behind me ready to pop.

   ‘Why the hell would you give that man a job?!’

   He looks up at me and right at that moment I remember arriving after a round of job hunting that was severely unsuccessful in this very office with a posture resembling the one that man had minutes before. It was years ago, I had barely gotten my high school diploma and no place would have me, there were few jobs and I had few talents. I had already worked at the harbour for Uncle Leo during summers, but I had gotten it into my head that there were bigger and better things for me out there and Uncle Leo and I got into a fight about it, I was a cocky little bugger. So I moved out into my apartment with little to pay the rent with and I soon came back begging for a job. He welcomed me back with open arms, he didn’t say anything about the past. I haven’t complained about my job since, in fact, I love this job but I’m complaining now and I already know the answer to my question.

   ‘That man, he reminded me of someone, you know? You had that same look on your face.’

   He looks down at the files on his desk.

   ‘He came here a few weeks ago for a job, said he wanted to leave Yuanjia ‘cause they weren’t payin’ him, he needed to care for his family. He was as honest and straightforward as he was just out there in front of you and Marlon and I turned him down. I turned him down because he was one of them, a Yuanjia and I didn’t want to look past that. I didn’t want to see the man, the father underneath, I threw him away like if he was trash. You know, I’m supposed to be better than that and I hope to think I’ve learned a valuable lesson here.’

   I feel cheap, I feel like saying I’m sorry for putting him on the spot, for forcing him to explain why he took a chance on me a few years ago. Here before me is a man with a heart and passion to make the world and the good people in it better with one small action after the other. I can’t see the world like that, I see Shan and remember my father and see the bad in all those very same people Leo would give a chance to. I praise my Uncle for that, I admire his natural optimism, he doesn’t force himself into positive thinking, he is positive. But I see an idealist in him and I’m afraid he’s going to get hurt. That’s why I’m sceptical right now but I leave Uncle Leo on this one, he’s appointed me bodyguard, I’m trainin’ the guy, I’ll be watching his every move.

   ‘What did they steal?’

   He looks at the paper in the palm of his hand. His expression becomes quite serious.

   -‘It’s a statuette, an antique, priceless to the owner. “The Tang Horse” he called it. I’m going to be in trouble on this one. The company is gonna take a serious hit. Yuanjia knew about this, he found out somehow we had it and he knew it was going to hurt us if we screwed up. There was supposed to be a guy watching the warehouse twenty-four seven. Can you find out where that lowlife went? He should know a lot more than our little friend who only had a serial number for a crate.

   -I’m on it.’

   I head out. I’ve got a little detective work ahead of me, should be fun.

Bugsy the Clown: Part 19

Posted in Story with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2008 by jlebourhis

   I’m setting up crates with the lift in one of the hangers, I’m almost done before lunch time. My head’s full of thoughts and I barely pay attention to what I’m doing but I’m so used to doing it that everything is staking up just fine, one crate at a time. Soon the day will have passed by in a flash.

   Suddenly, abruptly, Marlon comes running into the hanger and scares the crap out of me.

   ‘Some Yuanjia boys are fucking up some of your shipments!’

   I jump out of the lift and as I land Marlon starts running to lead me to it. We head towards the secluded areas, the warehouses hidden to plain sight, those in shadow, where the illegal dealings usually take place. We arrive before long in front of warehouse fifteen, the third one in the last row, the security guard’s nowhere to be seen! He must’ve been paid off! I look at these thugs and they don’t even realize we’ve arrived. There they are, just smashing the crates down and breaking all the contents and flushing away my payday!

   ‘HEY!’

   They jump and turn back. When they see us standing there ready to fight it turns into the most chaotic scramble ever. They’re running each and everyway but there trapped inside. Marlon and I storm in and start to fight. They smash bottles and one takes out his knife. I run up to these two crooks and we exchange punches, I can’t connect but I’m also too fast and too skilled for these guys, though they do know Kung Fu. One of them slams his bottle against a post, I just ducked that one! I step back, this is intense! WHOA! I almost get one right on the nose. I get an opportunity, I grab one by the back of the head and slam him face first into a crate, I think I got rid of him for a few seconds, I start to fight the other guy.

   This guy’s more skilled but I’m better, I GOT HIM! I punch him once, twice, then in the stomach and he reels back curling up in pain. I hear a crunch on the ground behind me, the other guy’s back! He just put his weight on his left leg, I can tell he’s gonna’ swing from the left, I duck and I see the metal rod crash into a crate above me, shards and splinters fly off all over, can’t let any into my eyes! I jump back up and hold the rod down with my left hand and punch the guy straight on his nose and I feel it break just before my fist recoils. He falls to the ground, I think he’s knocked out.

   I study the surroundings and see Marlon’s got his hands full with these two other jerks but where’s the skilled crook that I was dealing with just before this guy?

   I leap over some crates and dropkick one of the guys keeping Marlon busy, it sends him head first into the metal wall of the warehouse! BANG! This other guy Marlon is dealing with is also quite skilled though he’s now outnumbered. I rise back up from the dropkick and swing in a kick but miss and the crook gets right back into it and exchanges fists with Marlon. Together we fight him out of the hanger but that’s when the other thug I had lost track of run’s out carrying something in his arms, clutched safely like a football. They were here for something specific?! I have to leave Marlon and the other guy and I dash after the thief!

   I chase him through the secluded warehouses towards plain daylight. This guy is fast and agile! WHOA! He ducks and slides under a lift that nearly slams into him from an alley between two warehouses and just keeps running. SHIT! The lift driver isn’t stopping! I run around it almost getting struck but unlike the thief … OUF! I lost precious time.

   I think this guy’s heading for the Yuanjia owned sector eastwards, I’ve got to get him before he gets there. I’ve got to quicken the pace, my lungs are burning already but the adrenaline keeps me from stopping. We’re clear out of the warehouse sector and he breaks left, just like I thought, he’s heading east!

   As if this thief wasn’t hard enough to catch up with, he just leaps like a frog onto these huge containers like if they were simple steps. He’s going up another and jumps once more to run atop a warehouse! This guy’s unbelievable!

   I give up on climbing those containers and run alongside the warehouse and try to keep him in view, but I know where he’s headed and there aren’t two ways to get there!  

   I catch up to him, but he’s still up there and about to get to the edge of the roof. He’s going nowhere! WHAT?! He jumped down?! I don’t believe it! He’s already running off away from me northwards!? After him! He arrives by the corner of the warehouse to the right, he’s hesitating?! NO! A lift from the left! He jumped on! I’m gonna’ lose him! I get to the corner, delivery truck ten o’clock! I grab onto the rod and pull myself up next to the truck’s cargo door. There he is! A little ahead of me but I’m catching up! I can’t jump, pillars every half second! He’s looking back, he doesn’t know what to do … HAHA! … Wait! NO! He’s off again, headed back south in between two warehouses! I jump off the back of the truck, I head into the narrow corridor a few steps behind him! He stops, dives to his left through the door and into the warehouse! I’m right behind him but I skid a little too much! COME’ ON! I put more weight on my right leg and catapult my way inside. WAIT! Where as he gone?! I run passed the crates stacked up left and right. SWOOSH! I almost get struck by another rod! Too many rods today. He tries to hit me again but I duck, I dodge … he’s too slow with that thing he’s stolen! He realizes that now and he throws the rod at me and starts running towards the other end of the warehouse but I catch the rod and throw it right back at him!

   GOT YA! He slams into a conveyor belt! Ouch! He stumbles but he’s right back up and I’m just a few steps from him! He’s clever though, he’s tossing boxes and parts of I don’t know what in my way, he’s slowing me down!

   BOOM! Out into the open! There’s a lot of circulation here, delivery trucks whizzing left and right! He’s crazy, he jumps right into it, I’m even crazier going in after him! He criss-crosses through them like if there was no fear in him! I slam on the brakes and nearly get hit! This is nuts!

   ‘You fucking nuts or what?!’

   Looks like the truck driver thinks so too. I dash forward and look up and I see the labyrinth of containers, they’re stacked up four, even five high in some places, it’s imposing. The guy’s headed right in there and I’m still just halfway across the street.

   I’m finally inside. Where the hell is he?! I look right, no sign of him. Left? There he is! He’s up atop a container! Damn it, enough of this monkey business! I arrive by the container and he’s already up atop another one. This place is too confusing, I’m gonna have to climb up after him this time if I don’t want to lose him. He’s gaining ground all the time, I just can’t climb like he does, he’s like a spider.

   I’m up three high and he’s gone down one since then, heading south but now he’s gotta climb back up two more to keep heading in that direction, it’ll give me some time. I take a less direct route but I don’t have to go up nor down. There I am, right next to him! AAARROUGH! He kicked me … I’m on my back looking up … my ass hurts! He’s climbing to the fourth container … so high. I toss the pain away and get right back up … THERE! Atop the third again, FOURTH! Wait he’s still there, he’s hesitating, but now he jumps across! SHIT! I get into it faster, no fear, no consequence, I run to the edge and jump! OUGHF! … I’m across! He’s up further, atop three high looking down. I gotta take a moment … NO! He’s getting away! GET UP BRANDON! I run and jump my way towards him and he jumps down like a candle! Unbelievable, he’s down on the ground, up and running southwards and heading outside of the container labyrinth.

   I can’t make that jump … I’ll snap my legs! I jump alongside the containers, keeping my grip on the edge and letting myself fall to the edge of the other until I get to the asphalt. He’s far away now, I have to hurry! He’s at the cranes now and he’s headed behind some crates, I’m gonna lose him but these damn delivery trucks again!

   I’m at the crates under the cranes, I can’t see him, I lost him! WAIT! A noise, he’s hiding behind some crate. I stop moving, gotta be absolutely quiet but I can’t stop running …

   ‘What the hell are you doing there?! Get outta here!’

   There! Behind this row of crates! He’s pissed off the wrong harbour employee. He’s up and running again and headed towards me but he can’t see me now, behind these crates. Wait for it, wait for it … NOW! I push a crate into him and it crashes and sends him into the crates on his right. Beautiful! I jump over and land at his feet. OOW! He kicks me on the shin and fall to a knee. He gets up like a cat and dashes east again. I’m up right behind him. WHAT?! This crane swings a container off a ship and above us, he jumps and grabs on to it as it keeps swinging away, too fast for me. He’s off and running a great distance from me, I have to catch up somehow but the odds aren’t in my favour. He jumps onto some containers again, he knows he’ll gain more ground in doing that. I follow him up climbing, my hands hurt. He’s already passed the containers and onto the ground again and a delivery truck is about to hit him! He spins about and grabs on to the back and as I fall onto the ground and do my best to run as fast as I possibly can, my feet are killing me! He’s a mile away waving goodbye!

   ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!’

   There I am, in the middle of the harbour screaming out my lungs in anger! He got away! I had him! I HAD HIM!

   ‘Outta the way SHIT for BRAINS!’

   Just my luck, that’s when the other delivery truck decides to show up, a little earlier and I would have caught up. In the distance I see the thief jumping off the truck and running into Yuanjia Shipping grounds. Touchdown.

Bugsy the Clown: Part 18

Posted in Story with tags , , , , , on June 27, 2008 by jlebourhis

   These past few days have been full of emotions and worrisome thoughts. I need to exorcise some demons. I head to the gym, it’s a few blocks from Jeremy’s place, he trains there during the day and on week-ends I usually train with him. We do a bit of sparring, some rope jumping, some speed-bag and hit the training bag and that is usually my favourite part, that’s where I let it all out. I imagine my father or Shan’s face on there … sometimes it’s some jerk that cut me off or lacked any ounce of courtesy, a politician, a lawyer, … it feels good to smash the corrupts’ faces in.

   Having lots on my mind these days I seem to hit the bag with a lot of ferocity and Jeremy’s having a little trouble keeping the bag in place which I’ve never seen before.

   ‘Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Easy Bug! Geeze! What did you eat?! Or better yet, what’s eating you?! You’re gonna’ sprain your wrists! You’re really aggressive today …’

   He looks back towards the ring, a small cornered smile creeps in at the thought of what took place a little earlier. 

   ‘… Jim was a bit wobbly after the sparring.’

   I step back and take a breather and walk around in circles, puffing like a locomotive goin’ uphill. I look at my feet stepping one before the other, I feel like sending one straight into some fucker’s face. I want to hurt someone, beat someone up and make that person hurt and pay for everything I have on my mind. This bag training isn’t satisfying me anymore, Kung Fu is not such a source of outlet anymore, Shan pisses me off just by the sight of him. This anger is boiling up inside and I need to find some way of letting it out.

   ‘Brandon … something you need to talk about man?’

   I raise my head up, Jeremy steps away from the bag and taps me on the shoulder. There’s so much on my mind and every day seems to add to the pile and the baggage gets heavier and heavier and I can’t seem to lighten the load.

   ‘Whatever’s on your mind man, my father always use to say … and he was a religious guy and even though I’m not, I still think this makes sense … ‘Give me strength to accept that which I cannot change, and courage to change that which I can.’ Now I don’t know if there’s someone up there listenin’ to us … but I guess there’s no harm in thinkin’ it, or sayin’ it. Now I know you aren’t the most talkative fellow, heck you rarely do talk … but I can tell something’s eating you up … and I’m here for you, to lend an ear if you want to talk man.’

   Jeremy’s a good friend, scratch that … a great friend. I cherish this friendship. But I can’t say or share these things I have on my mind … I can’t tell him about my father or what Shan did to Mee Lien … those things are so private … so shameful.

   ‘I’m just … a little on edge this week. I got a little anger to let out. Let’s get back into it.’

   He looks at me and I know he can see I’m holding these things back, he’s known me since I was a munchkin. He nods and I can tell he’s disappointed and worried at the same time but he reluctantly gets behind the bag again and goes along with it, in turn hiding his emotions, putting on a mask. We all put a mask on at one time or another, some more than others.

   ‘Alright, give it your best shot Bug!’ 

Bugsy the Clown: Part 17

Posted in Story with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2008 by jlebourhis

   I slip into bed, the covers are a little cold but it brings comfort to my warm skin. My mind is filled with thoughts about what Mee Lien shared on her past. I also keep thinking about that girl, so lonely, so closed off from the rest of the world and I can’t help but be reminded of me as a child. I was never raped and could never comprehend all that she must be going through, but I remember being alone, ashamed to speak out about the troubled life I had at home. My eyelids become heavy, I don’t want to fight it, I want to sleep and forget about this day for at least a few hours. Sleep will allow me to disconnect.

   I’m … I’m dreaming. I’m in my old room. I can’t fall asleep … Mom and Dad are having an argument, their screaming their lungs out. I can hear Mom running up the stairs … I get up from bed and head to my door and crack it open just so I can see. She storms into their room slamming the door behind her and soon after Dad runs up to the door and crashes into it … I suppose he expected it to just swing open … but he must be drunk because all it takes is a turn of the handle and he enters the room, slamming the door back with more vigour.

   Things become quiet, I get sleepy standing there. I jump back into bed and fall into a light sleep.

   ‘AAAAAAAaaaaaaah!’          

   I sit up instantly, someone just screamed! It was muffled through the walls but loud enough to wake me. I head to my door again, there’s nothing to see in the hallway but I expect another sound and it’ll be clearer from here.

   -‘Shut up! SHUT UP!

   -No! Let go of me!

   -You do it! You take it! I’m your husband and it’s your duty as a wife!

   -No Richard! No- ooOO!’

   I step into the hallway, I don’t know why I’m doing this, my feet are carrying me to their room but my mind tells me to turn back and hide in mine … but I feel stuck … I’m afraid to make too much noise turning back, cracking the wood planks of the floor.

   -‘Give it to me! Yeah! That’s it!

   -Let go Richard! You’re hurting me! It hurts!

   -Take it! TAKE IT!’

   She becomes more silent every time she pleads for him to stop as if she’s getting weaker. But I hear her crying … what is he doing?!

   -Richard plea- please … sto- … st- … stop …

   -Shut up … take it and shut up … your duty as a wife …

   -Ow!’

   That’s it! I’ve had enough … he’s beating her again! I run into the door bashing it open with the weight of my body thrust into both my arms. The door swings open and crashes into the wall. It’s blurry and dark, I’m scared and I don’t understand what I’m seeing, what they’re doing … Dad wraps the sheets around his waist in a quick gesture, ripping them away from Mom. She lays there, turned away from me, her hands covering her face and chest and she cries harder than she was before. Dad stumbles towards me and almost trips when he steps on the sheets wrapped around him. He slams the palm of his left hand in my face and pushes me briskly out into the hallway and smashes the door as he heads back in.

   My face stinks … like sweat and armpits. Mom starts complaining and crying again. Dad keeps hurting her … I head back to my room and burry my head under my pillow … trying to keep out the sounds.

   I wake up suddenly from this nightmare, my head hidden under my pillow as it was that night so many years ago. I can hear my neighbours making love through the thin walls but the sounds she’s making have nothing in common with the pleading and crying I heard from my Mom that night long ago. He raped his own wife … he raped my mother. In the eyes and mind of a child, I couldn’t fully comprehend what he was doing … I thought he was hurting her … beating her as usual … but now that the memories of that night come back to me … I remember him now as being a rapist also. As if the memories of him beating me and treating me like a dog weren’t enough … I have some repressed shit to deal with as well … let me go … …

   Sleep, swept away in a world where nothing is real except what you feel. Most of the time, not this time, it is such solace to be within this realm of unreality, I tend to forget everything or feel detached from what aches me everyday. If only this could be eternal, if only I could sleep forever…   

Bugsy the Clown: Part 16

Posted in Story with tags , , , , , on June 13, 2008 by jlebourhis

Blur. ‘You’re fucking worthless! You can’t do anything right can you!?’

   I’ve got two bags full of groceries barely holding on as I ride down to an apartment block a few minutes out of China Town. Mee Lien isn’t feeling good or something so she asked me to bring her a list of grub from the market. I’ve never heard her sound so low key, so concerned I guess, yeah … concern is what I felt in her tone, like the weight of the world was on her shoulders.

   I park my bike just outside, under an abandoned shop’s sun roof, looks like it’s gonna rain soon. The apartment block is the most monotone looking thing, a building twenty floors high in nearly the same shade of grey as the sky behind it. There’s no motif, no sign of creativity in its architecture, no effort in its design. It’s the most blatant example of practicality, just built to work and nothing else.

   As I step inside, I’m reminded how much I hate this place. It’s like the people living here have nothing better to do than to hang out in the hallways, intoxicating the air with smoke in an already cluttered space. I feel as if the stink of sweat and smoke pours out of the walls like they’re sponge or skin and now, I feel like the food I’m carrying in those two bags is getting infected by all this pollution. It’s such a dirty rat hole.

   I tear my way into the elevator and hope the doors shut before one of these hallway rats joins me but they seem too stoned to give a shit but the food I’m carrying seems to peak their interest, just enough for them to raise their heads ever so lightly.

   I arrive on Mee’s floor, the air seems cleaner, free of the smoke and stink I was in a minute ago. I reach her door and knock and it takes a good minute before she answers. The door opens, for a brief instant I see distress and a face full of thought but all that vanishes as she smiles spontaneously.

   -‘Brandon! Get in here!’

   She rips one of the bags out of my hands nearly dropping all its contents onto the floor. I see before me a space so different from the rest of the building, she’s made her small part of heaven in an otherwise hellish place.

   -‘Close the door will you?’

   I kick back to shut the door and walk into the kitchen to the left of the entrance to drop off the bag I’m still holding but as I do I quickly spot some young woman sitting in the living room, sobbing, holding a box of tissue. With one quick look I notice a blank expression that inspires a great loss. I make myself discreet as Mee Lien empties the contents of the bags into her fridge.

   -‘Who’s that in your living room?’

   She rises slowly from behind the fridge door holding prune juice in one hand and a pack of chicken breasts in the other.

   -‘An old friend of mine, she’s going through a rough time so I’m housing her for a few days.’

   She’s rather serious, I’ve rarely seen her that way before. She looks like she’s holding a lot back and a few seconds of silence from my part seems to drive her mad, to compel her to share.

   -‘It’s those fucking Yuanjia guys who hang out with Shan … wait! Fuck that! Shan … Shan raped her.’

   Mee stashes away the prune juice and the chicken with anger, the shelves in the fridge let out a loud rattle. I stand there like a stupid jackass … with nothing to say … I’m shocked.

   -‘It’s not the first time he’s done this. His gang finds the girls and fill them up with booze. They drop them off at his place and he has his way with them. The girls usually come out limping and bruised all over … I should know I dated the bastard. The difference with me though is I could hit back and at first that must’ve been exciting and new for him but in the end that’s most likely one of the reasons why it didn’t last long. I had to buy these big sunglasses, to hide the blackened eyes I would get every so often. I was soar, bruised here and there but I still stayed with him a while … out of fear … out of threats. I caught him doing it with another girl, that’s why I put an end to it … that’s why you saw us in a fight that day in front of the dojo. Enough was enough.’

   And I thought that argument was about me and my right to learn Kung Fu. This version makes more sense, what also makes sense is why she kept it under wraps until now. She’s venting a lot now, her breathing is heavy …

   -‘I get to his condo, two of his goons are checking the door, they won’t let me in. Naturally I know something’s wrong. So … you know me, I kick one in the nuts and slide under the other one …’

   Her eyes fill up with tears, I tense up as I see her revisiting the horror in her mind.

   -‘… I walk down the hall and I hear muffled screams … around the corner … chained … mouth taped … bloody face …’

   Her crying intensifies and shame seems to invade her thoughts.

   -‘She looked at me … stumbling on this atrocity … she cried out for me to do something …’

   She walks up to her counter and kneels over, drops her head down. I can’t see her face anymore under all that hair but it’s probably better that way, this is hard enough to hear without seeing how horrible it makes her feel. I close the fridge behind her.

   -‘… I couldn’t. I DIDN’T! I ran out of there … out of shame, out of disgust. I never turned back.’

   All this time I feel anger boiling up inside too, my expression becomes severe, my teeth clench, my fists close up and tighten and my fingernails dig the skin in the palms of my hands. I look for something to hit, something to vent the anger on … for now all I can do is exhale and listen. As if I didn’t hate that fucker enough already, he continually proves to be the worst of scum … wretched, WRETCHED fuck!

   -‘Anyways. That’s why I haven’t been out this week, keepin’ and eye out for her … doing the guard dog. I use to hang with her when I frequented those parts, the Yuanjia lot. She’s a good kid … now she’s gonna be spoiled forever, ruined. They left her in the back alley like trash Brandon! Can you believe that?!’

   She’s making up for not helping the last one. The troubled look on my face is the only answer Mee Lien needs. What could I say anyway? This is seriously fucked up. That sick fuck gets these girls abducted and rapes them, butchers them … dumps them out in the back along with the trash … and nobody does anything?! This makes me sick! Daddy Yuanjia protects him and defends him no matter what!

    I come back to the present and pay attention to Mee Lien, she’s shaking and crying. I’m not too comfortable with physical contact but … she needs me right now. I walk to her, raise her chin up and as I begin to clutch my hands around her to hold her and comfort her, she grabs a tight hold of me and sinks her head in my chest letting it all out, crying intensely.

   Moments pass and as her head rests under my chin, I slide my free hand along the curve of her head caressing her black bluish hair and I look out into the living room and see her friend looking outside through the rain dripped windows, headphones isolating her from the rest of the world. She’s alone, destroyed and oblivious to all that had been said. She looks truly, utterly alone.