Present-day Jakarta. A Korean Woman in her mid-thirties stares at a skinny young man behind the check-in desk of a Hostel House. The young man looks at her with a bored face, handing her back a photo. The photo shows a young Korean girl in a college graduation gown.
“Her name is Alice. Korean name is Eun Jung Chae. Are you sure you didn’t see her leave last month?”
She asked frowning, doubtful. Young man shakes his head, pulls up a backpack from below the desk, and hands it to the woman. The woman sighs as she receives the backpack. She checks the tag on it, which reads, ‘This belongs to Alice, from South Korea’.
The young man turns around to grab a broomstick and dustpan.He leaves the counter area and climbs up the stairs leading to the upper floor. He opens one of the hostel room doors and starts cleaning up the vacant room.
The Korean woman looks around the large hostel house. It has two floors with 12 differently sized private rooms attached with individual bathrooms. The upper floor has a circling inner balcony that allows you to look downstairs without climbing down. The first floor has a small garden in the center of the house, with sunlight shining down from the rusty glass ceiling on the roof. She turns around, swings the backpack over her shoulders, and leaves the hostel house.
Surrounding the hostel house is a residential neighborhood with large gated houses. The Korean woman walks through the neighborhood, past a playground where some local kids are playing, toward a narrow alley lined with rickety shops. She comes to a bench-style convenient store cum cafe. She plops down onto a bench and puts down the backpack next to her. A local woman, the Shopkeeper comes out smiling, recognizing her. Korean woman also smiles back, as she orders.
“Bir satu, rokok malboro satu(one beer, one ciggy).”
Shopkeeper answers and walks off. Christine pulls out a small leather notebook and reads through her scribbled notes and drawings. She has crossed off several names and places on the list already. She wipes her perspiration, fanning herself by flapping her shirt top. She looks down at the backpack next to her. Shopkeeper comes back with a can of beer and cigarettes. Christine lights up a cigarette and goes through the backpack. There are some clothes, a computer mouse, academy program booklets, receipts, pens, a used perfume bottle, and snack bars. She puts them all back into the backpack and exhales long.
In a couple of hours, the tropical sky dims into sunset…
Christine finishes the fifth can of beer at the same spot as before. She pulls herself up and goes to the store to get more beer. Shopkeeper is inside, arranging some nicknacks from boxes. She sees Christine and mouths‘one more?’ with her finger pointing one. Christine nods.
Christine leans onto the cabinet counter, slightly drunk and looks into the glass-paneled cabinet shelf. In it are some odd mix of items on sale. In one corner, she spots something familiar. She squats down to take a closer look. Shopkeeper comes back out to see that and opens the glass shelf door, pulling out the box. She smiles as she shows Christine the items. They are passports from various countries, including the Republic of Korea. Surprised, Christine picks it up and flips through it. It’s not real. Shopkeeper points to the back of the shop where her son is busy drawing onto a canvas. Then she asks.
“You want to buy? My son make really nice one. This one Korean, like you.”
Christine smiles and shakes her head, pays for the beer and turns around. Just then, a thought pops into her head. She quickly grabs the backpack and rushes off.
A Caucasian man and woman stand in front of the immigration counter, handing over their passports. The officer looks up at them. The couple looks well off, decked with luxury watches, handbag, jewelry, hats and sunglasses. The officer returns them the passports after stamping the entry date.
The couple comes out to pick up their luggage at the conveyor belt. The Caucasian man pulls off three Louis Vuitton suitcases as they appear. They put them onto a trolley and walk out onto the arrival hall.
A handsome Javanese Indonesian Man in his mid-thirties stands at the hall waiting, rubbing his flashy car key in his hand. He takes off his sunglasses as he spots the Caucasian couple. He smiles and walks over to greet them.
“Mr. and Mrs. Myerscough, welcome to Bali.”
“Oh thank you, it’s pronounced meersko, you must be Ric.”
The two men shake hands, then with the Mrs.
“Yes, Mr. Myerscough, good to see you at last. Let me help you with that.”
Ric gestures to a porter standing behind him. He hurries over and takes hold of the trolley. They follow him out of the arrival hall.
Ric stops in front of a sedan and opens the door for Mrs. Myerscough. The porter places the luggage into the trunk and closes it. Then rushes over to the driver seat. Ric gestures to Mr. Myerscough that he’s driving his own car, pointing to the sports car parked in front of the sedan. Mr. Myerscough and Ric shake hands again as they confirm the destination, then each climb into their cars. The two cars soon drive out of the airport.
Ric parks his sports car outside a large mansion atop a hill looking down at the seashore next to paddy fields. The sedan also stops behind him. Mr. and Mrs. Myerscough get out and follow Ric into the mansion. They walk around the well furbished spacious estate, checking its condition, ending with the view outside the second-floor balcony above the outdoor swimming pool. As the couple marvel at the view, Ric makes a phone call to confirm his reservation.
Ric leads Mr. and Mrs. Myerscough into the exotic Balinese Restaurant. They are all dressed up. Ric is guided to a table right next to the fountain by the manager. Ric pulls out the chair for Mrs. Myerscough, she smiles at him as she sits. The three sit and happily look at one another. They soon order dinner and a quartet starts to play some lively jazz. They first get their drinks, then Ric slides over the sales contract to Mr. Myerscough.
“Please take a look and let me know if there’s anything you need to adjust.”
Mr. Myerscough smiles as he takes the contract, he exchanges glances with his wife. She smiles at him. Mr. Myerscough folds the contract, passes it to Mrs, and she puts it into her purse.
“We’d like to give you our confirmation by the end of our holiday, if that’s alright with you?”
Ric nods and smiles.
“Of course, by all means. Enjoy your well-deserved break before you fly back to England. You must be exhausted from packing two decades worth of things from Jakarta.”
Mr. and Mrs. Myerscough laugh and nod in agreement.
“Indeed, the Mrs had a handful, orchestrating the massive shipment of our antique collections. It’s a good thing we’ve been planning long before my retirement.”
Ric nods and raises his glass.
“I believe you are probably the longest-serving regional director at the shipping company. Here’s to you!”
Mr. Myerscough chuckles and raises his glass to clink with Ric.
“I had the good fortune of having talented people work for me.”
He turns to see someone entering the restaurant and adds, “and here she is!”
Ric turns to look, he sees a beautiful woman walking over to their table. He finds himself standing up as Mr. Myerscough waves at her and she comes over to hug him with a big smile. She also embraces Mrs. Myerscough.
“You made it! I thought my handover had you buried under paperwork. Oh, this is Dia, my previous associate and now the head of regional sales.”
Ric and Dia shake hands, she smiles at him, then looks away. Throughout dinner, Ric is watching Dia more frequently.
The night ends, Ric foots the bill and calls a limousine taxi to take the Myerscough couple back to their hotel. He shakes hands with the couple as they climb into the taxi. Dia also bid them good night and turns to walk out of the restaurant. Valet drives over Ric’s car to the driveway but Ric goes after Dia.
“Miss Dia, would you like me to give you a ride back to your hotel?”
Dia smiles, and shakes her head.
“Thank you for the suggestion but I’d like to take a night stroll. Have a good night, Mr. Ric.”
She turns and walks down the pathway beside the main road. Ric watches after her for a while, turns slowly, and returns to his sports car.
Christine gets out of the taxi in front of an office building in the city. As she walks in, she notices a sports car parked in the space reserved for a language academy. She takes the lift up to the academy. Some people get onto it as she gets out, leaving their offices for the day. As she pushes open the main door, the staff at the registration counter looks up and blurts out,
“Oh, we are closed for the day, please come back next week.”
Christine ignores the staff and walks straight towards the headmaster’s office. The staff stumbles out of the counter area and tries to stop her from entering the headmaster’s office.
“Excuse me, you can’t go in there!”
Christine barges through, swinging the office door open and stepping in. At that moment, the Headmaster is about to put a brown paper bag into his briefcase on his desk. Startled at the commotion, he almost drops the paper bag. He sees Christine and speaks up in Korean loudly.
“What the, Miss Chae? What are you doing here? I told you I never saw Alice for weeks before she disappeared! You have to leave, before I call the police!”
At that moment, Christine pulls out her Korean police badge and shoves it to his face. He gulps, shocked and confused. The staff stares at both of them behind. He gestures at the staff to leave them alone. The staff nods and leaves, closing the door behind her.
Headmaster tidies up his balding hairline and gestures at Christine to take a seat on the sofa in front of his desk. Christine looks at him and the briefcase for a second then sits down on the sofa. Headmaster also sits down across her, his posture tense and upright.
Ric walks into a Hotel Bar alone. He spots a man drinking alone at the bar counter and comes up to him. He slaps him on the back and sits next to him. The man winces then smiles at Ric, they share a fist bump. Man asks in Indonesian and Ric replies in the same tongue.
“So it’s done?”
Ric shakes his head and raises his finger to the bartender, ordering a drink.
“That bastard is delaying again. Never easy to take rich man’s money. But I know his wife loves the house. So we’ll ask for the downpayment by the end of the week. Or the house is gone.”
Ric winks at the man. The man nods and smiles. The bartender brings Ric his drink. He sips and sighs.
“How’s the conference prep going, Mac? All set for the youngsters?”
Mac nods and asks for another glass.
“Yes, boss, the biannual Asian Young Entrepreneurs Conference is all set to happen, as you commanded.”
Ric nods and then gives another order to Mac.
“The Korean kids love to party hard, so give them what they need. Otherwise, they’ll post complaints all over social media.”
Mac nods, and then smirks as he pats Ric on his shoulder.
“Got it, man. No more shop talk, it’s already ten. How’s your wedding prep going? Who’d have thought a couple of dockworkers will end up here, drinking together and marry a rich professor’s daughter?”
Ric doesn’t look too excited at this remark. He drinks up and blurts out,
“No more wedding talk either, man. I want to get wasted. Let’s hit the clubs!”
Mac looks surprised to hear Ric wants to party. Ric puts down some bills and jumps out of his seat. Mac quickly follows him out, shouting,
“Okay, man, you got it! Party time!”
We walk through throngs of people at the Bali club district in the wee hours. People are drunk, screaming, singing, dancing, kissing, hugging and mingling. Dia appears, walking through them. She stops at a wall, takes out a cigarette and smokes.
From a door next to her pops out two Korean men, drunk and pissed off at losing a gamble. Dia watches them argue with each other on where to go next. One of the men sees Dia, scans her up and down. He smirks, staggers over to her and tries to chat her up. He taps her shoulder with his finger, acting cute.
“Excuse me, didn’t I see you at the international trade conference in Jakarta?”
Dia snorts, looking at the men who are waiting excitedly for her reply. She answers back in fluent Korean.
“How could you tell?”
The man raises his arms and tries to hug her, happy to be correct.
“I’m right! I knew it! Come on, let me buy you a drink, okay?”
Dia exhales her cigarette and starts walking first, the men staring after her. She turns her head and tilts at the men, signaling at them to follow. The Korean men gladly rush after her down the street.
They come to a small bar club near a beach. Dia enters, the manager recognizes her and nods at her like an old friend. The Korean men rush in after her. They take a seat around the cocktail bar and the bartender shows them the menu. It’s already fully written in Korean. The men order their drinks and Dia greets a couple of women at the bar. She introduces them to the Korean men and they lead them to dance, in front of the bar where the DJ is playing. Dia sips her cocktail and watches the people dance in the moonlight for a while. Then she gets up and heads towards the entrance. The manager gives her a hug and hands her a sum of money for bringing in customers. But Dia refuses, smiling. She gives the manager a peck on his cheek and quietly leaves the bar.
“The students had a great time playing on the beach of the island. It has a rather run-down resort house but they offer buffet and everything. The owner runs the shuttle boat to and fro the mainland. I made sure the boys and girls stay in separate rooms throughout the farewell trip. I mean, Alice was a good girl, she didn’t wander off like the others. I had to keep an eye on the boys, you know. I swear, that’s the last time I saw her, please believe me.”
Headmaster shrugs his shoulders with his both palms together, begging for understanding.
As he talks, Christine looks around the headmaster’s office, the walls decorated with various certificates, thank you plaques, degrees, photos with local celebs or authority figures, recommendation letters, business permits, and pictures of graduations. Alice is not in any of them. She turns around to face the headmaster and he blurts out a question.
“I’ve never heard that Korean police can work a case in Southeast Asia though. Is that authorized?”
Christine keeps her mouth shut. Headmaster raises his eyebrows, sensing he struck a nerve. He gets up slowly and grabs his briefcase. He talks as he walks toward the door.
“It’s really late Miss Chae, I think we are about done, don’t you think? I feel terrible I can’t help you any further but you really shouldn’t flash your badge around when you are not on official duty. It could be against the law somewhere, right? Let the local police find your sister for you. I’m sure they are doing all they can.”
Headmaster pushes open the door and holds it, signaling at Christine to get out. Christine looks at him and snorts at his remark but steps out of his office quietly.
They come out of the academy office and step into the elevator.
They walk out onto the ground floor and Headmaster nods at Christine.
“Okay Miss Chae, good night! Hope you have a safe trip back to Korea. Goodbye!”
Christine nods back at him as she watches him walk over to his sports car. She watches the sports car drive away, pulls out her cigarette and smokes as she thinks.
Mr. and Mrs. Myerscough, Ric and Dia sit by the seaside table finishing off their luxury dining. Mr Myerscough drinks his last glass of scotch and signs on the last line of the sales contract. He passes it to Ric and Ric receives it with a big smile. They shake hands.
They arrive back at the Bali airport and walk with Myerscough couple to the check-in counter. The driver helps them check in their luggage. Ric takes the boarding passes and hands them over to the couple. Dia and Mr. Myerscough shake hands as he pats her shoulder. Mrs. Myerscough shares a hug with Dia. They walk into the departure hall as they wave goodbye at Dia and Ric. They soon disappear past the gate. Ric exhales and looks at Dia. Dia turns around and walks out of the airport.
Ric follows Dia out, she raises her hand to hail over a taxi. This time, Ric steps in front of her and whistles. The driver pulls up in his sports car right next to Dia. Ric opens the passenger side door for Dia. She looks at him for a second, smirks, and gets in. Ric smiles wide as he walks over and climbs into the driver seat. He drives the sports car out of the airport.
Ric leads Dia into a 24 hour Cafe. They sit and Ric orders some night snack. The waiter brings over egg omelet and juices. Dia looks around the cafe when some young children in haggard clothes come up to them begging. Ric turns his head away. A child shoves a clumsy-looking piece of wood carving statuette to Ric. Ric frowns at the child for a split second but he pulls out a bill and hands it to the child, buying the crappy statuette. The children rush off, thanking him. Ric places the statuette on the table in front of Dia. She gently touches the statuette. Ric watches her fingers as he chews the omelet. Soon they finish the food and drinks. Ric pays the bill to the waiter and asks Dia,
“You didn’t touch the omelet. You don’t like eggs?”
Dia smiles at him as she dabs her mouth with a napkin and gets up. Dia replies as they walk out of the cafe together.
“I heard sometimes these eggs are drugged.”
Ric snorts as he questions.
“You mean, I ordered them on purpose, to drug you?”
Dia shrugs, smiling at him.
“I only heard, never tried it. I’m sure they are delicious. I don’t eat after seven. Thanks for the lift, Mr. Ric. It was nice meeting you.”
She puts out her hand to shake. Ric shakes her hand slowly.
“Don’t mention it. Nice meeting you too.”
Dia smiles, turns and climbs into a taxi sitting by the road. She adds,
Dia closes the door and the taxi drives away down the empty street. Ric stands and stares after the taxi until it disappears.
Ric stands on the balcony of the mansion overlooking the paddy fields, sipping his morning coffee. A woman is seen far off on the shore taking a stroll alone. He stares down at her, the woman turns around and for a split second, he thinks he saw Dia. But it isn’t her. Just then, his cell phone rings. He sighs and answers it.
“Yes, Sheila darling, of course. I’ll be there at the gala tonight. See you soon, love you.”
He hangs up and walks off the balcony.
He comes out onto the front yard past the outdoor swimming pool. He shuts the main entrance behind him and passes the keys to a local woman who is waiting at the gate. She nods at him. Ric gets into his sports car and drives off, back to the airport.