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.
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.
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.’
‘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.