Ben is an ex-cop.
If one thing can be said about his career, it was destined even when he was in his teens. Ben was in the National Police Cadet Corp when he was in secondary school. His passion for drills and discipline allowed him to rise in rank during his school days in this extra curriculum activity.
It was in secondary school that Ben and myself became close friends as we were in the same class. Both of us loved to play mahjong and as we were beginners in the game, we usually shared our play as we took turns to play as a single player. And most of the times, we lost money. But it was all in good fun. Me being the early dozer and he'd play on throughout the night with our secondary school friends.
Ben joined the Police Force soon after we parted ways in secondary school. As I pursued on my university degree, he worked hard chasing down criminals. I believed he was in the force for slightly more or less than 10 years. The ten years in the force hardened him. It wasn't until recently that Ben tried to make contact with his old friends whom he haven't met for more than 10 over years.
His recent photos on facebook showed that he'd put on a little weight, most significant around his cheeks. He was a much thinner boy in our school days.
Through facebook, he'd made contact with many of his secondary school friends and had engaged all if not most in actively chatting on MSN.
It was there that we would chat about the more serious things in life. And it was also in MSN that he'd reveal some of the dark secrets that he'd uncovered during his time with the force.
The tales he told me about what he'd uncovered in the Force were shocking...
Perhaps too shocking to be published. It was one of the reasons he quit the Force after close to 10 years. It was also hard to leave the force as the system made it difficult for him to leave after knowing what he had knew.
Ben was always the calm one, he'd planned carefully his exit from the force so as to be as inconspicuous as possible. He cited wanting to seek better prospects in other government agencies and he even got an offer from a Government-Linked intelligence agency to be more convincing to his employers at the force. Just before he left the force, he made good connections to those whom will eventually assist him to really escape from the shadow of the long arms of the force.
One of the connections was another long time secondary school friend, RQ. RQ was also an officer with the force. Prior to being an inspector with the Serious Crime department, he was at one time stationed at the hospital. He stood guard mostly at the mortuary of the hospitals. Checking the identities of recently deceased due to mishaps or automobile related accidents. RQ shared also with Ben on the loopholes of identifying the recently deceased. On how fingerprinting could not be used to identify bodies of drowned victims.
As long as the body could be identified by a family member and if the body had photo credentials such as NRIC or driving license on him/her, the body could assume the identity of his credentials. DNA testing was only done at the request of the deceased family. Usually, DNA testing wouldn't need to be done as the family would want the poor soul to rest in peace and moreover, DNA testing is still a relatively expensive procedure to do at the expense of the authorities. RQ had seen many of such cases... Enough to know how to fake a death. RQ had also shared with Ben on how the bodies "John and Jane Doe's" can be collected with minimal security checks.
With a scheme in mind, Ben was also eyeing on the right time.
Ben had left the force 6 months ago. And he did not join the "other" agency. That had got the force worried as this meant Ben was no longer under their jurisdiction and could mutter out the exact details which I'm unable to share here. For the past 6 months, he'd been doing odd jobs for his relative's business. Off and on, the past 24 weeks, Ben had been jostling in and out of a Casket company. Most will call it Funeral Services, Ben just call it the Casket Company. He picked up quite a few good skills and knowledge there. All which will assist him to his escape. He used to tell me how one day he'd become invisible during our chats on MSN.
During his 6 months off the force, he'd been constantly followed and traced. The force also called on him a couple of times to ask why didn't he joined the other government agency. The force was relentless in keeping track of him. One of the reasons he wouldn't meet any of his old friends was because he didn't want us to be implicated in his situation. That was also why he usually chatted with us on MSN using a public computer in cybercafes.
On the 20th December, the "casket company" received an call from an Indian family whom had a son recently deceased due to drowning in a local river near to the Southern part of the island. Ben was one of the helpers tending to the funeral.
Ben's scheme had begun to unravel. He was there to collect the body with the deceased's family from the mortuary of a local hospital. One of the police officer stationed there was an ex-colleague whom had known Ben. The usual practice was done like clockwork. First, the family was shown the wallet and personal effects found on the body when it was recovered from the river during its subsiding tide. Then the family was brought to the "cold" room and shown the body. As the hospital orderly pulled the body drawer out, the family broke into sputter of tears. The body had started to bloat while it was submerged in the river and the face was already beyond recognition. This meant that it'd be a closed casket for the unfortunate drowned deceased.
On the 24th December, Ben executed his final part of the scheme. He went out alone from home at about 7pm. Ben's wife didn't accompany him as he wanted to have some male bonding with a couple of his closer guy friends. Ben was a good drinker and would always drive regardless of the traffic condition and jams expected along the way to town. But that fateful night, he chose to take the public transport to meet his close friends for a night of drinking. Ben was also known for being a good drinker and had never been seen drunk or behaving awkwardly after drinking. No one knew whom he was to meet in town for drinks on Christmas eve.
In the early morning of Christmas day, headlines flashed across all local major news media. Another person drowned in the famous river downtown. The nation's best divers had been engaged and could not find the body. It was not until after more than 26 hours that they'd recovered the body. The subsiding tide had made it easier to find the body.
On the body, they found Ben's credentials.
Bystanders whom saw Ben just prior to his death told reporters that Ben looked like he was going for a swim at the river in the wee hours of Christmas day. The body was found fully clothed. No one could be reached to clarify the comment of the bystanders.
A couple of our old secondary school friends went to his wake. I was told by him specifically to go on an overseas trip with my family during that period so as to prevent myself from being an alibi. I didn't know what he meant then. Only when I got the call from "B", another old secondary school friend, on 27th December, then I know the shocking news.
Friends whom attended the wake of our dear friend wasn't able to find out anything from his family. No one at the wake knew the real details on whom he went out with, how did he fall into the river. It was a closed casket. The casket along with Ben was cremated on 28th December 2008 at around 2pm SG time.
The above story is mere fiction created by me to ease the pain of losing a long time friend whom I should have met up with him when he contacted me on facebook about 2 months ago. We haven't met for more than 16 years. He drowned in Singapore river on Christmas morning 2008, after headed out for drinks with some friends on Christmas eve. I wasn't able to attend the wake as I was in KL and friends whom went for the wake did not get any closure on the how and the who and the why. The little fiction I created, hopefully, gives myself closure to my own regrets. And I hope Ben Tan Beng Sien [ Chen Mingxian ] is really in a better place..
Today is 29th December 2008
Time now is 17:07hrs
Rest in peace , dear old friend.
Ben Tan Beng Sien