I was back to work early. Lam hadn’t come in yet, so I decided to do some research on Lau loh-si, as she would be called professionally. A quick search turned up her current place of work; West Ridge School.
That’s my son’s school! I realised. Wait, could the Lau loh-si be the Lau loh-si that my son mentioned?
I ran a general search on the internet and found her LinkedIn page. It was all in English and I remembered enough to understand most of it, but some place names I had to translate via a translation website.
Miss Lau had been educated to a high standard in English related subjects, after which she gained several teaching certifications in teaching English to students of other languages and as a foreign language mostly through online courses. Her first teaching position was just over a year ago just over the border in Shenzhen just like Mrs Wan had told me the other day. After the school year was finished, she started teaching at West Ridge School.
‘The phone company just e-mailed us the records,’ Lam spoke up.
I turned to my computer and opened the e-mail with the requested documents attached.
Opening the document, I quickly skimmed the contents.
Lam did the same. ‘“I’m very sorry…I want you back”,’ he read aloud. ‘I don’t remember Tsui sin-saang ever mentioning that he wanted to get back together with his ex.’
‘He didn’t,’ I replied, getting up from my chair. I quickly shrugged on my jacket.
‘Where are you going taam-zoeng?’
‘I think it’s about time I met my son’s English teacher.’
‘Would you like me to come with you, sir?’ Lam asked
‘No, thank you,’ I replied, quickly grabbing my keys, phone and wallet. ‘It’ll be easier to talk to her if it were just me, I think.’ And this gives me a chance to meet with my son’s new favourite teacher.
It was only about quarter past ten by the time I got to the school so classes were still in session. I went up to the receptionist at the front desk. Miss Hung, I think her name was. I had met her once or twice when I’d been called into the school to discuss something that Cheng-Lei and another student had done and my wife hadn’t been able to attend, and to talk to a teacher who had a loose connection to someone involved in a case last year.
What can I do for you, Cheung sin-saang?’ she greeted me.
‘I wanted to talk to my son’s English teacher, Lau loh-si. Do you know if she’s free?’ I asked.
She ran a quick search on her computer. ‘Aa, Lau loh-si will most likely be in the staff room at this time,’ he said.
I remembered the way to the staff room, so I declined when she offered to show me the way.
Miss Lau was scribbling a few notes at her desk, with her laptop open in front of her. She was prettier than her photographs. Her long dark brown hair was plaited in a long rope that hung down her back. She was dressed modestly in a dark blue dress over a black turtleneck and black stockings with short-heeled blue heeled ankle boots. Her face was very lightly made up as well, with only a pink lipstick and a grey-blue eyeshadow that made her blue eyes seem brighter and larger.
Though she was surprised that a policeman wanted to speak to her, I could see no detectable panic.
‘You’re Charlie’s father, the police inspector, aren’t you?’ she asked, using Cheng-Lei’s English name. ‘He talked about you in a spoken presentation last week.’
‘He did?’ Cheng-Lei had never mentioned it to me.
‘He’s very proud of you, and it showed in the way he gave his presentation,’ she smiled. ‘You’re his hero, you know.’
I couldn’t help the pleased smile that spread across my face.
‘Lau loh-si, I wanted to talk to you about something,’ I started.
Before I could she asked, with a shrewd look in her eye, ‘Why do I get the feeling that you’re here to talk about your son’s progress in class?’
I sighed. ‘I would like to talk to you about your boyfriend, Wan, Yeung.’
‘Ex-boyfriend,’ She corrected with a sigh. ‘And I haven’t seen him in over three months.’
‘Hoh? We were under the impression that you were still seeing him.’ No need to tell her that we already know they broke up.
‘Who did you hear that from?’ she snorted in amusement.
‘Wan tai-tai?’ Miss Lau appeared to visibly deflate. ‘He never told her, then. That is just like him; never could talk about the bad things he’d done. Can I ask what this is about? Surely you’re not here to just ask me about my failed relationship.’
‘Wan, Yeung is dead,’ I bluntly informed her.
Her eyes widened. ‘What? When?’
‘Early yesterday morning,’ I replied.
She paused before saying, ‘Well, I can’t say I’ll miss him,’
I blinked. ‘That was rather cold of you.’
‘He cheated on me, taam-zeong; and tried to blame his infidelity on me when I confronted him about it,’ she calmly argued. ‘I think I’m entitled to some bitterness where he’s concerned.’
‘You do realise that you just admitted to having a motive to kill him?’
‘If you put it that way, yes; but I have not seen or spoken to Yeung since early September.’
‘If that’s true, then how do you explain the text messages that he sent you?’
‘If you have his phone records, you should know that I never replied to those text messages,’ Miss Lau calmly pointed out. ‘Besides I’m in another relationship now, and I’m much happier than I ever was with Yeung.’
‘That’s a little quick, jumping into another relationship.’
Miss Lau smiled, slyly. ‘You’d have to know my boyfriend to understand. And besides, everyone recovers differently. While I admit it still galls me to think of what he did, Yeung actually did me a favour.’
‘How so?’ I asked.
‘Because then otherwise I wouldn’t be with Ngāan-Chong; and he treats me better than Yeung ever did.’
That name set off alarm bells in my head. Surely she wasn’t talking about the Ngāan-Chong that I knew.
‘I was angry when I had proof that he had been cheating on me, but not enough to kill him.’
‘Ngāan-Chong? That’s the name of your boyfriend?’
‘Yes; Yueh, Ngāan-Chong,’ I replied. ‘He’s a medical student at Hong Kong University.’
Damn fox! And I meant that literally. He was a wulei-jing met him on another case I’d worked about five years or so ago. While he hadn’t been directly involved in that case, I had been suspicious of him from the start. He had a spotless record that made me extremely suspicious of him. I confronted him on it, and after evading me, he revealed what he was. After that, we maintained a…distant acquaintance.
‘I see.’ He paused. ‘You said you confronted Yeung when you came across him in Tsim Sha Tsui. Could you tell me about it?’
‘Well, it was a couple of weeks before I started here. I was going to HMV because I wanted to buy a CD that I knew my cousin didn’t have and I wanted to surprise her with it. That’s when I saw him with the other girl. At first, I thought he was just out with a friend, but he was holding her hand and kissing her. I quickly took some photos of them with my phone, so he wouldn’t have a leg to stand on when I confronted him. ‘When she left, I called his phone while I moved to stand behind him. When he realised that, he tried to deny it until I showed him the photos.’ She paused in her narration of the events. ‘He said that I had forced him to find relief elsewhere. And then he called me a “prudish flower”. I’m a little ashamed to admit that I lost my temper when he said that, and I slapped him. I said we were over, and then I left. I haven’t spoken to him since.’
I had to admit, I liked the way she had handled it. ‘Can you describe the girl you saw him with?’
Miss Lau smiled broadly, and said, ‘I can do better than that.’ She pulled out her phone, unlocked the screen and opened her photo gallery and showed us a photograph of the victim and a woman with long black hair. ‘I’ve been meaning to delete these, but I suppose it was a good thing that I didn’t.’
I took the phone from her and quickly scrolled through the photographs. None of the photographs showed the woman’s face clearly, but from what I could see, she had very pale skin and dark eyes. But we could also guess her height range from these photographs. Except… ‘Was she wearing heels?’ I asked.
Miss Lau thought for a moment. ‘Yes, she was…Silly six-inch stiletto heels. Jimmy Choo, I think, but I’m not certain.’
Hmm, this woman, whoever she is, definitely has expensive tastes. ‘Would you be willing to send these to my e-mail address?’ I asked.
‘Of course,’ she said. ‘I’ll do it right now.’
After some fiddling, she declared that the pictures had been sent. Guess I will be checking my e-mail when I get back to the station. Anyway, I had to ask one final questions before I could leave.
‘I’m sorry, but I have to ask this,’ I started. ‘Where were you between ten and twelve o’clock last night?’
‘I was at dinner with my aunt, uncle and cousins at Cim Lung, the Thai restaurant in Sai Kung,’ she replied. ‘We eat there fairly regularly so they’ll know us. Is that all?’
‘Just one final question; have you ever died your hair? Black, for example,’ I inquired.
Miss Lau shook her head. ‘No, never.’
Just then my phone started ringing. I quickly excused myself to answer it.
‘Cheung, get down to the morgue!’ Dr Hu’s blasted into my ear. ‘Right now!’ Rather than angry, he sounded panicked. What could possibly scare Dr Hu to the point that he was shouting into a phone? I heard a resounding crash in the background and Mr Ip shouting in the background.
‘Wai! What’s happening over there?’ I called into my phone, trying not to panic. But all I got in reply was a dial tone. I was officially worried, now. I flipped my phone shut and turned to Miss Lau, who looked concerned as well.
‘Is everything all right?’
‘I’m afraid I have to go. Please contact me if you can think of anything else.’ I started to quickly walk back the way I came.
‘Of course,’ I heard her call out behind me.