Su Lin lay on her bed, turning and tossing. "I must sleep. I have an exam
tomorrow," she told herself. But sleep evaded her.
Just as she was dozing off,
she heard a clang from the backyard. The sound of cautious footsteps on dried
mango leaves jolted her awake. She crawled quietly to the window and was just in
time to see a dark shadow moving towards the kitchen. Heart pumping wildly, she
shook her two room-mates awake.
"Robber downstairs," she whispered. Maria opened her mouth. Quickly Su Lin
cupped her hand over Maria's mouth to stop the scream that was coming forth. By
this time, Ah Chew had already barricaded their door with a study table. They
sat in the middle of the room, praying and listening for noises outside.
"Knock, knock, knock, Susan! Susan!"
"Jimmy, what's the matter? It's already very late. I've exams tomorrow,"
Susan's sleepy voice could be heard distinctively in the quietness of the night.
"Please open the door. There's something urgent."
"I'm sleepy. Please don't disturb me."
"Knock, knock, knock." The three girls jumped. "Ah Chew!" came Jimmy's voice,
low and uncertain. "Ah Chew! Ah Chew!", came another voice, slightly louder.
The girls looked at one another, paralyzed by fear. The door knob turned
quietly. Then there was silence.
Barely a minute later, the knocking started again. This time, it was on
Siva's door. "Siva, Siva!" Jimmy began, to be echoed by the alien voice.
"Robber! Robber! Help!" The stillness of the night was broken by a girl's
shrill voice. The neighbor's dogs began barking. There was a metallic clang,
followed by footsteps of someone dashing down the stairs. Su Lin caught a
glimpse of a dark-skinned man wearing a striped T-shirt sprinting away in the
"Ah Chew! Ah Chew!" came Jimmy's voice again. The girls looked at one
another, bewildered. Ah Chew got up to open the door but Maria pulled her back.
"Don't!" So they sat and waited. The knocking continued. No one responded.
Then suddenly everyone was talking. The girls couldn't contain their
curiosity any longer. They moved the table aside and opened the door. There
stood Jimmy. The kitchen knife lay at his feet.
He looked visibly shaken. "Why didn't you open the door? Do you know how it
feels to have the knife pointed at your neck?" Siva stumbled out of his room,
rubbing his eyes. Wong came up the stairs, looking confused. Obviously both of
them had slept through the whole incident.
"Where's Ah Boh? He's been kidnapped." Maria's eyes became as round as
"No. Come and see, " Jimmy said. By now, he was enjoying himself being the
hero of the night. Ah Boh lay on his mattress, mouth gagged, hands and legs tied
securely with his blanket which had been torn into shreds.
"Who gave the alarm?" Su Lin wanted to know.
"I did," Susan beamed. I was on my way downstairs to get a drink when I saw a
dark shape near our knife cabinet. Quickly I retraced my steps but I didn't have
time to warn any of you."
"So you knew what was happening when I called you."
"Yes. I've never heard of a robber who goes about waking people up. It must
be his first attempt."
"He chose the wrong time to strike. Susan, you call the police. I'll bolt the
door downstairs. The robber might come back. I may not be as lucky this time."