Conflicted – Chapter 104

“Leaving already, CEO Xi Men? It’s only 4.40pm,”

Xi Men, who is clad in black trousers & a white shirt with his sleeves folded up to the elbows and his jacket hung over his hand, looked at Secretary Xu at his (Secretary Xu) desk as he (Xi Men) closes the door behind him.

Seeing the jacket hung on his hand, that’s probably the clue that Secretary Xu had picked up that Xi Men is going to leave.

Working with Xi Men for over a decade, he already knew that trait of Xi Men where if Xi Men is holding or wearing his coat, it means he is leaving the office. And if Secretary Xu isn’t following him leaving the office (to go to meeting or potential client’s office) then it means Xi Men is leaving work.

And since Secretary Xu is not leaving with him as well as aware that Xi Men has no further appointment for the rest of the day…

Xi Men smiled. “Yes. I am going to pick Xiao You up and we’re going to the florist to discuss about our wedding flowers as well as the flowers’ decorations on the wedding hall,”

“Oh, that’s nice, sir,” Secretary Xu smiled. “Have fun and enjoy the process, sir,”

Xi Men smiled, “I am. And thank you. See you tomorrow, Secretary Xu,”

“See you tomorrow, sir,” Secretary Xu said.

Xi Men then walked to the lift with the smile on his face.

***

After exiting the lift, Xi Men walked to his BMW parked in his designated parking bay.

He gets into the car, puts the jacket to the back passenger seat, and then starts the car engine.

He took his smartphone out from his pants’ pocket.

Click.

Whatsapp to Xiao You.

‘I am leaving office now. See you in a bit.’

Sent.

He puts the phone down, and engages the car into reverse gear mode.

BEEP.

*Stepped on brake.

*Puts gear into Neutral.

He then takes his phone up and looked at the newly received message.

‘Sure. Drive safely.’ – Xiao You

He smiled, and putting the phone down again.

He engaged the car into ‘Reverse’ gear mode again and reversed the car out of the parking bay, and then swerves onto the main road.

A black car soon followed.

***

While driving, Xi Men occasionally looked to the left, right and also to the back via the back mirror.

He gazes at the black car driving directly behind him.

“Safe distance,” Xi Men uttered, instead.

He then straightened his gaze to focus on the road ahead.

As he is approaching a traffic light controlled junction, the traffic light suddenly turned from green to yellow.

“Ah, shit,”

In that brief moment, based on the speed he is driving as well as the distance left (for him to stop), he figured he cannot stop safely, thus Xi Men proceeded to step onto the accelerator and crossed the junction.

After he had crossed the junction, the traffic light turned to red.

He lifted his eyes up and takes a look to the back mirror just to see if there’s any car right behind him.

None.

The black car that was directly behind him did not cross and stays at the junction.

And Xi Men continues to drive.

*****

Xi Men stops his BMW right in front of Hua Ze Corporation’s entrance and then turned his head to look at the entrance, and precisely into the lobby too.

Xiao You not in sight… yet.

Xi Men lifted his hand up and looked at the time on his wrist watch.

5.15pm.

He is early by 5 minutes as per the agreed time with Xiao You.

After he strays his sight for a while, he lifts his smartphone up.

He then pressed a couple of buttons on the screen, before he puts the phone on his ear.

The phone rings at the other side.

He waits… and waits…

“Hello?”

“Hey, dude. Are you in the office now?” Xi Men asked.

“Now? No. I am out. Just finished my appointment with client but still at client’s office. Why?”

“Oh, I thought of coming over and meet up with you for a while,” Xi Men said, turning his head to look at the entrance of the lobby again.

“For a while? Like… (paused) for 5 minutes?”

Xi Men straightened his head. “Err…”

“Screw you, Xi Men. I know you damn well. 5 minutes is all you have!”

Xi Men laughed, “How do you know, huh?”

“Your earlier message says you are going to the florist today with Xiao You. Xiao You told me that she will be leaving at 5.20pm. So what time is it now? It’s 5.15pm! You only have 5 minutes!”

Xi Men couldn’t stop laughing. “Well, at least I still have 5 minutes for you,”

Lei: Nowadays, the main reason for you to crash at my office to see me was because you have to wait for Xiao You. And since you have to wait for her for few minutes, thus you’ll come to look for me at my office. Don’t you think I don’t know. You are only all about love. Brotherhood stays at number 2.

Xi Men (laughed): Come on. At least I still see you for few minutes rather than staying in my car at the driveway.

Lei: You do that too!

Xi Men laughed again.

Lei (chuckles): So, waiting for Xiao You now?

Xi Men: Yes. (lifted his head up and looked at the entrance)

Lei: If she has not come down, give her a call. It is fine if she wants to leave earlier. She had already told me anyway.

Xi Men: Sure.

Lei: Are you at the lobby or the driveway now?

Xi Men: Driveway. (and then chuckles) Are you spying me now or something? (he straightened his head, before taking a quick gaze to the side mirror).

From the side mirror, he saw a black car parked about 100 meters away, at the back.

Lei: Spy you? Like I have nothing better to do?

Xi Men chuckled, as he lifted his eyes up and looked at the back mirror and casually looked at the black car now.

Now that he looked at the car, his chuckle slowly fades while a frown begin to form on his face; as he felt he has seen that car before… or somewhere.

Not that the car is special; there are lots of cars with this exact model on the road.

But somehow, this specific one just gives him a weird vibe.

Lei: Hey.

Xi Men’s eyes straightened and concentrate on the phone: Yeah?

Lei: So quiet all of a sudden?

Xi Men: Oh. I…

Lei (interrupts): For tonight… you don’t have to rush, alright. Just take your time. Since you have said you are not sure what time you’ll be done with the florist, we’ll eat first. And then when both of you and Xiao You came, we’ll order extra food for you.

Xi Men (smiled): Thanks.

Lei: No problem.

Xi Men (lifted his head up and looked at the black car via the back mirror again): Dude, I wanna ask you something.

Lei: What’s up?

Xi Men: I thought your company’s working hours, namely, for staffs, is from 9am to 6pm.

Lei: Yes, it is. Some staffs, such as Xiao You, leaves work later. Why such a weird question?

Xi Men: Well, it is just 5.20pm now but there is a black car parked right at the back there… isn’t that a little early to come and pick up a staff at this time? The fella needs to wait for 40 minutes.

Lei (frowned): A black car?

Xi Men: Yes.

Lei: At the entrance?

Xi Men: I would say at the driveway. About… 100 to 150 meters away from the entrance.

Lei: Umm… I can’t really chase the car away since the driveway is considered a public place and anyone can use that. And if the car did not block the road or caused disturbance or possibly a threat to my staffs, that gives me no reason to chase the car away. But I can get the security guards to check. Who knows maybe the driver is making a phone call (as it is not safe to drive while using phone) or…

Xi Men (lowered his gaze from looking at the back mirror): Nah. It is nothing. I didn’t ask you to chase him away. I was just curious if you have any staffs finishing work at 5 or 5.30pm.

Lei: Hmmm. Okay.

Knock! Knock!

Xi Men turned his head to the right and looked at Xiao You, who is wearing a dark blue shirt with a white skirt, waving at him from outside of the car.

Xi Men (immediately smiled): Oh hey, Xiao You is here.

Lei: Ah, alright. That’s the key to ditch me, right?

Xi Men (laughed as he unlocks car’s door): I need to drive, dude.

Xiao You opens the door and gets into the car.

Lei: You can talk on your Bluetooth headset! I thought Xiao You bought you one!

Xi Men: I have not paired it… alright, alright, let me pair the Bluetooth headset now and then talk to you… (begins to search for the Bluetooth headset)

Lei: Just kidding bro. Go ahead and drive and talk to your fiancée. I am going to my car as well.

Xi Men (laughed): Alright then. Drive safely, dude.

Lei: Yes. You too. Call me when you are done with your florist. Remember to use your Bluetooth headset at that time if you need to make a call.

Xi Men: Sure. See you later, dude.

Lei: See you.

Xi Men then hung up the call.

“Is that Mei Zhuo? Or Lei? Or Ah Si?” Xiao You asked.

“Lei,” Xi Men smiled as he leaned closer to her and exchanged a brief kiss with Xiao You.

“He’s at client’s office now,” Xiao You said.

“Yes. He said he has just finished with his appointment,” Xi Men said.

“Hmmm, okay,” Xiao You said. “So, we can go to the florist now,”

“Okay,” Xi Men smiled, “But before we leave, let me put my phone into vibration mode first since we are going for a discussion with the florist… I might forget later,”

“Alright,” Xiao You smiled, looking at him changing the ringing mode of his phone to vibration mode.

*****

“Who organizes the dinner tonight, by the way?” Xiao You asked, turning her head and looked at Xi Men as he drives.

“Lei. He said Jing misses everybody,” Xi Men replied with a smile.

“Ah… I miss everyone too. It’s been a while since we had dinner together…” Xiao You said. “Maybe… a month or two?”

“Yeah. About that. We are too busy with our wedding preparations for the last few months,” Xi Men smiled.

Xiao You nods with a smile.

As Xi Men wanted to change lane, he lifted his head up and looked at the back mirror, and then at the side mirror to look for cars, only to spot a black car at the next lane.

He needs to wait for the car to go before he can swerve into the lane.

He puts on his car signal and eventually slows down, as he looked at the black car.

Wait.

This car…

How come it looks like the same car he saw just now?

Same model of car but…

But is it the exact car?

This model of car is all over the city!

How can he be so sure it is the same car?

He didn’t know the car plate number; he had never paid attention to it at previous time, or times.

But this car…

He just has a weird feeling about it.

It is as though… he is followed.

His eyes widened.

Followed?

Xiao You happened to tilt her head to look at the side mirror at the same time, and then sees the same black car that Xi Men is eyeing.

She looked at the black car for a while.

Her eyes strayed.

‘Why do I keep seeing similar black cars nowadays? I have been seeing black car once in a while when I go to work…’ she thought to herself.

However, the black car puts on signal and then changes his lane, into the lane Xi Men is currently at, and right now is directly behind Xi Men.

Now obtaining space, Xi Men swerves to the lane he wanted to, and he warily watches the black car, before Xi Men slows down even more and then makes a turning to the right.

The black car goes straight when Xi Men turned to right.

Xi Men lifted his eyes up and looked at the back mirror to note if the black car is within sight… and finds none.

He then drives straight to the florist.

**********

The florist opened the door, “Good night, Mr. Xi Men, Miss Yang. Drive safely,” the florist said and gave a small bow at the door after Xi Men and Xiao You took a step out of the store.

“Thank you, Melissa. Good night to you too,” Xi Men smiled to Melissa as his right hand is holding onto Xiao You’s hand.

The florist gave another bow again and after she straightened her back, she waved at Xi Men and Xiao You, before she goes back into the store.

Both of them then walked towards Xi Men’s car which is parked right in front of the store.

“Wow, didn’t know it’ll take so long,” Xi Men said at Xiao You, and then lifted his hand up to look at the time on the wristwatch. “And it is already 8.20pm now,”

“Yes. I didn’t expect it will take that long too. And I thought flowers are pretty straightforward, until colors, ribbons, how to tie, how to present, where to put, where to get and so many more questions popped up!” Xiao You said.

Xi Men laughed. “Why do we make it sound like this is the first time we get married?”

“My previous wedding is so much simpler,” she said. “What about yours?”

“I don’t have to handle these. Juliana handles it with a wedding planner,” he said, unlocking his car. “You know I am not excited for the wedding after all,”

As he is about to open the door of his car, he paused briefly, and started to look around, while Xiao You has already opened the door and gets into the car.

It is dark now, thus it is tougher for Xi Men to check out.

Black, dark blue, dark grey, dark brown has all became black to him at this time of the day.

Several cars parked nearby, but he didn’t feel anything suspicious.

His stomach is starting to give him mild pain, leading him to touch his stomach.

‘Maybe I am the one that’s too sensitive…’ he thought to himself.

He opened the door and gets into the car.

“Ah, I am hungry already…” Xiao You said, buckling up her seatbelt.

“Me too. I am so hungry that my stomach is starting to act up now,” Xi Men said, starting the car engine.

Xiao You looked at Xi Men, “Are you alright?”

“Yes. I still am and it is bearable. So we’ll go over and eat straight away. Today is the only day we had dinner this late,” Xi Men said. “So there is no surprise for my tummy to act up at this timing,”

“Alright…” she said worriedly.

Xi Men puts on the Bluetooth headset on his ear, and after making sure the headset is connected/paired up with the phone, he passed the phone to Xiao You. “Can you call Lei for me? I’ll start driving now,”

“Okay,” Xiao You said, unlocking his phone and pressing the buttons.

Xi Men puts on the car signal and drives out of the parking bay, joining the main road.

He drove down the road as well as making a couple of turnings before Xiao You breaks the silence.

“Calling,” Xiao You said, putting Xi Men’s phone down.

“Okay, thanks honey,” Xi Men smiled, touching the Bluetooth headset on his ear briefly, just to make sure the Bluetooth headset is put on perfectly and it won’t drop/fall out of his ear in the middle of conversation.

“You are welcome,” Xiao You replied.

***

*Scoops rice and stuffs into mouth while Mei Zhuo yakking away.

RING!

Jing and Lei looked at Lei’s ringing phone on the table.

Lei puts down the chopsticks on the table.

“Xi Men’s calling,” Lei said, picking the phone up from the table.

Lei (munch): Hello, Xi Men?

Xi Men: Hey Lei. Xiao You and I have just done with the florist.

Lei (swallowed food): Just?

Xi Men: Yes. We are on our way now. Also, we are starving here, mind to order some food for us so that when we reached, we are able to eat immediately?

Lei: No problem about that. How long will it take for you to reach?

Xi Men: Hmmm… I think, 10 to 15 minutes? (puts on car signal)

Lei: 10 to 15 minutes? That’s fast.

Xi Men: Traffic looks clear. I am going down to the expressway so we can reach faster. Speed limit is higher there as well. (changed traffic lane)

Lei: Oh okay.

Xi Men: Are you guys still eating or already done eating?

Lei: Still eating.

Xi Men (enters expressway and began accelerating): Oh alright then. Why don’t you continue eating? I’ll be there soon so see you in a while.

Lei: Alright then. Drive carefully, okay?

Xi Men: Alright, I…

“AHH!!” (Xiao You)

That jolts Lei.

*CRASH!

*SMASH!!!!!

Lei’s eyes widened upon hearing what came after that brief scream from Xiao You.

He is stunned.

He knows it is the sound of collision.

And it sounds… extremely serious.

Lei remained stunned, as he listened to the phone still.

But it is all silence.

“Xi… Xi Men?” Lei stuttered.

Everyone at the table turned to look at Lei upon hearing the change of his tone, and all of them are surprised to see the pale face of Lei.

“Xi Men?” Lei called again, beginning to worry now; his eyes strayed to the left and then right, “Xi Men, are you there? Please answer me,” he held the phone tight.

Everybody exchanged glances, looking alarmed now.

Curious and worried too, especially after all the words that Lei is saying and reacting.

“Xi…”

“Ah…”

Hearing it stops Lei from calling further. His eyes brightened up too.

That’s basically WHAT he truly wants to hear: a respond from Xi Men.

But just one second later, Lei is able to derive that the respond he heard is actually a groan of pain.

“Xi Men? Are you okay?” Lei asked, panicked.

Everybody exchanged an anxious gaze.

“Where are you, Xi Men? Tell me where are you!” Lei said.

“What happened to Xi Men?” Ah Si asked, looking at Lei.

“Xi Men! Answer me! What happened?! Where are you now?!” Lei practically yelled on the phone now.

*Glass breaks (heard from the call).

Lei stopped.

What kind of sound is that…?

“Hi Xi Men,” (voice transmitted from the call)

Lei is startled.

“We meet again,” (voice transmitted from the call)

Lei’s eyes widened, and his jaw dropped.


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