WRIT LARGE: Ch 9, Part 3
Treasures of the Orient
It doesn’t take me long to pack. I have taken advantage of the hotel’s laundry service and had my clothes cleaned; each item was returned neatly folded like a Christmas gift, tied with an ivory satin ribbon, a sprig of lavender attached to the bow, and smelling of sunshine and peaches. It almost seems a shame to layer the parcels inside my overnight bag, but I remind myself they will still smell like summer when we reach our destination.
I gaze around the room, double- and triple-checking that I have left nothing behind, not that I arrived with many belongings, and spot the ivory jacket hanging from the wardrobe door. I forgot to hand it back to Olivia after the excitement of the poker game. I think about her confession over breakfast that she feels a little overwhelmed by the spontaneous trip and decide on the spot that I am going to wear the jacket today. It will need to be cleaned before it is returned to Bernard anyway, so why not?
We are meeting Tuah, Putera, and the other guests, at the porte-cochere outside the Barracks, at 1pm. When I arrive, five minutes early, wearing the jacket and sunglasses provided by Olivia, and carrying my bag over my shoulder, I find that everyone else is already waiting inside a stretch Hummer limousine.
Tuah opens the door and greets me with a handshake. “I see you are dressed to kill again today,” he says. “Should we start calling you double-oh-seven?” I assure him that won’t be necessary, I am merely promoting the winning team that prompted the trip in the first place. He winks at someone inside the limo, and when I climb inside, I understand why. Olivia is also wearing the matching jacket.
She laughs when she sees me. “Great minds …”
I bow before I take my seat. “It was the boys’ idea. We helped each other pack and they insisted I wear it.”
“We knew you would do the same,” says the eldest lad. “You’re a team.”
I tell them that we are indeed a team. I greet the others inside the vehicle: Cathie who is looking elegant in white linen trousers and navy-spotted white silk shirt as though dressed for lunch by the pool; Putera, and the two gents from IHG Hotels and Resorts who are smart in beige slacks and formal white shirts. We are only waiting for Leann.
“Have you heard from Leann?” asks Olivia.
I check my phone and I have had no missed calls or messages. I take a seat beside Bernard’s eldest grandson and tell everyone that Leann is always punctual; I am surprised she was not the first to arrive. We wait ten minutes and there is still no sign of her, so I try calling her mobile. It goes straight through to voicemail.
Tuah is getting twitchy, checking his wristwatch every thirty seconds or so. I ask how soon we would need to leave and he shakes his head. “A few minutes more, and we should get going.”
I try Leann’s mobile again and still no answer. I text her, staring at the blank screen and willing a message to beep its arrival, and still nothing.
Finally, Tuah closes the Hummer door and tells the driver to set off for the airport. “Do you think she has changed her mind?” he asks.
“No, she was excited about the trip,” says Cathie. “I saw her rescheduling an appointment that she had in her diary for today.”
I suggest that maybe she will meet us at the airport; Leann would not decline an invitation without a valid reason and a heartfelt apology. I only hope that an emergency has not arisen, but I keep these fears to myself.
We make bland chit chat during the drive, Singapore passing us by behind tinted windows. We talk about the flight and the expected weather in Malaysia: around 21 degrees Celsius. Tuah and Putera are carefully elusive about any proposed itinerary for the visit, I notice.
On our arrival at Changi airport, the driver bypasses the terminal and pulls up beneath the nose of a sleek private jet. Olivia stares at the aircraft wide-eyed. The youngest lad offers her his hand, and says, “Come on, Olivia. I’ll help you with your luggage.”
I am last to climb out of the limo as a red Aston Martin pulls up, its nose almost touching the Hummer’s rear bumper. The driver door opens, and Leann greets us with a wide smile and large sunglasses, her hair swept up in an Audrey Hepburn style chignon. “Everyone ready?” she asks.
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