Chapter 5: What happened in the Skate Park – and in Magistrate Fang’s Courtroom.
Emily set off at speed – but she didn’t get far. As she ran along the footpath beside the skate park, she searched the small crowd of busy skaters – and her heart stopped. In a corner of the park under the rain trees was a group of boys who were no longer busy with their boards. Seven or eight smaller boys were gathered around three older ones who had their backs turned to the street so that any curious passersby would not be easily able to see what they were doing. Emily didn’t recognise any of the Chinese and Indian boys there – but she did recognise the great bottom on an English boy who seemed to be dominating the little ones. It was, she knew at once, Dudley Dursley – the boy who had planted the chewing gum on Father Christmas and who, as Mr Kampong had told them, had been bullying boys at the skate park since the day he had arrived in the Republic. And it looked, Emily thought, as if that was what he was doing at that very moment.
Emily couldn’t know that with Dudley standing over the little ones were Tiger Tail and Piglet. They had decided that they should stay away from the park for just a little while- at least until the police officers had moved on. They had enjoyed their hamburger and now returned to the park and the scene of their triumph. And how Dudley crowed about his success! Father Christmas and his two little friends were in custody and accused of chewing gum. The punishment for this, Tiger Tail had warned when the first sticks of gum were produced, was a term in prison and a beating with a cane. Dudley’s only regret was that he wouldn’t be able to see all this himself. Now, however, was the time to boast and take advantage of his success. As they finished their burger, Dudley announced to Tiger Tail and Piglet that he had been far too kind to the little boys in the skate park. Next time he was going to take everything from every one of the boys. He was leaving Singapore anyway in two days and he wouldn’t have many more chances to steal from them. That’s just how he approached the boys: stopping their game and summoning them to him with a waggle of his fat finger.
Emily saw some of this as she ran past and she pulled up with a start. Katie had told her that her job was to go to get Nanny and Old Grandad but she was so angry to have Dudley put in her way at that moment that she couldn’t help herself. She was overwhelmed by the arrogance of the boy: any other bully who had had such a great triumph might have quietly let things be for a moment and made himself scarce. Not Dudley: no sooner had the police left than he was swaggering around the skate park. She stopped awkwardly, leapt over a low hedge and swinging the bag with the Smiggles pencil case on to her shoulder, she moved as silently as she could to the group of boys in the corner under the tree.
She arrived just in time to hear a little Indian boy say as bravely as he could, “Leave us alone! We won’t give you any more money! You’re nothing but a cruel bully..”
It was the bravest thing for a little boy to do but Dudley simply grunted at Piglet who stepped forward and hit the Indian boy in the head with his hand. The boy tried to be brave and not to cry out but Piglet hit him again and this time he fell to the ground.
“You little squirts don’t get it, do you?” said Dudley with a swagger. “We own this park: if you want to skate here, you’ve got to pay us for the privilege. And since this little jerk has decided to play the hero, I’m going to charge you double this time. So empty your pockets. I want everything you’ve got – including your MTR cards, your watches and your mobile phones. You can give them to Tiger Tail. And watch this: Piglet, hoist the Indian kid up so that I can get a good go at ...”
Dudley didn’t finish the sentence because Emily had come roaring into the middle of them, swinging the Smiggles bag and aiming right at Piglet’s ugly face. He was so surprised that he suddenly had to handle this mad hornet of a girl that he dropped the Indian boy who rolled away and sprang to his feet. The rest of the little boys drew back in surprise. So did Dudley and Tiger Tail. Emily, her anger blazing, put herself between the boys and the bullies.
“Well, if it isn’t Emily Bland!” said Dudley with a smirk. “I don’t normally hit girls but I’ll make an exception for you. The wisest thing you could do at this moment, Miss Emily, is keep on walking and leave these kids to me. It will be easier on everyone if you do. You don’t want to see your pretty face all bruised and bleeding, do you?”
“I know what you’ve done, Dudley!” said Emily. “You put the gum in Father Christmas’s bag. You and your gang have been spitting the gum in this park for a week now. You and your gang have been stealing money from the boys here for the same time. But right now, Katie and an eye witness to your dirty tricks are on their way to Central Police Station. Once they tell their story, the police will release Father Christmas and Anouk and Nu. They’ll come here to collect you. And then we’ll see who owns the park.”
Dudley only smirked. “I’m really frightened, Emily. I don’t see any police here yet and you’re only making it worse for the boys here. In fact, instead of rearranging your face, I think we might work on the Indian kid. How are you going to feel when you have to see him all bloodied – and you’ll know that it’s your fault?”
And here Dudley made the biggest mistake of the day. He grabbed for the Indian boy, seizing him by the neck. The rest of the little boys shrank back in terror but Emily stood as tall as she could and pushed in ahead of Dudley. “Boys!” she cried, “there are only three of them today – and seven or eight of you. Help me – together we can beat them. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of these three bullies.”
“Why you..” Dudley’s anger filled his face with power; he let go of the Indian boy and swung at Emily with his fist. But Emily was furious and determined. All week she had regretted that she hadn’t taken on Dudley at the swimming pool and that Nu had been the one who punched him to the ground. She wasn’t going to be denied a second time. If she could only get in one good blow, she might have a chance. She dropped the Smiggles bag and ducked her head to make herself a tiny target but she felt the power of Dudley’s fist as it sailed over her. He was a big strong boy, certainly, but Emily was right: it might only take one good punch. As Dudley staggered awkwardly after his failed punch, Emily came up from below like a fire cracker and her fist found its way right to Dudley’s big belly.
He bellowed his anger and gasped in pain. And that cry seemed to release the fear of the little boys. In a moment, the truth of Emily’s call was clear to them. Most of the gang was not here; this was their best chance to put the bullies in their place. The Indian boy jumped now and followed through by slugging a startled Piglet as hard as he could. The other boys fell on Tiger Tail and sooner than you might think, those bullies were howling and trying to run. People in the park had quickly gathered to watch and the other skaters, seeing the bullies being put down on the ground, cheered their support.
Emily kept swinging; Dudley kept howling; Tiger Tail and Piglet struggled desperately to get away. And then the air was full of different sounds: police sirens were blaring, there were blue uniforms pulling everyone apart and Emily felt herself lifted up gently and her glasses were put back on her face. “Emily, what are you doing?” demanded Nanny. “I’ve been waiting for you and Katie to come home and thought I might walk down to find you. Look at you!” Emily couldn’t say anything for a moment but she flung her arms around Nanny and hugged her tight.
The next few minutes where a confused blur. Lieutenant Bharath called for back up and soon there were several police cars driven up into the park. Crowds of interested people began to gather. The older skaters – those who had seen the little boys being bullied but had stood back and not risked offending the Chinese gang – now came forward to explain what had been happening to Lieutenant Bharath. He also tried to get some of the story from Dudley but the fat English boy seemed to understand that his terrible plan was now unravelling. Emily would have loved to give her side of the story but the poor Lieutenant – who checked his watch frequently and looked alarmed –could only hear one person at a time.
In the middle of all the excitement, it was the little Indian boy who had been the target of the cruellest actions by the bullies who had the last word. “Lieutenant,” he said with all the dignity that a ten year old boy can muster, “my name is Asoka Rawalpindi Singh. I must tell you that the man and the boys you have arrested are innocent. The man is, in fact, a very distinguished visitor to Singapore. My father had the honour to be invited by the Prime Minister himself to meet him at the airport and if news of his arrest is known to the world media, there will be nothing but shame for our island republic. I implore you to take these three louts to the magistrate’s courts immediately. I will also give evidence. And so will my friends. And so will this brave little girl. [Here, Asoka indicated Emily.] But you must hurry! We have no time to lose.”
It was a tight squeeze in the seven police vehicles that were now assembled. Dudley took up most of the back seat of one of the police cars and no one wanted to have to sit next the great blubbering bully but Old Grandad had arrived by this time and he took pity on the boy. The little boys wanted to take their precious skate boards with them and when they were all squeezed in, Lieutenant Bharath ordered the sirens to be put on and the police vehicles set off in convoy for New Bridge Road.
You can imagine how absolutely miserable Father Christmas was by the time he was escorted from the cells and led with Anouk and Nu up into the body of the court. It was a busy afternoon and the court room was packed with people. Anouk was trembling with fear; Nu, who had been a soldier after all and had faced terrible things before was less frightened but he still felt very angry and hostile. Father Christmas guessed how he was feeling and while he put one comforting arm around the little African boy, he tried to gently reassure Nu as well. Of course, Father Christmas could easily have escaped from the cell and made his way home without any fuss at all. He was, after all, one of the most magical people in the whole world and quite used to coming and going through bolts and bars to deliver parcels on Christmas night. But he couldn’t escape and take Nu and Anouk with him: all that he could do was hope that justice would be done and they would all be freed very quickly.
Magistrate Fang – the most unforgiving Magistrate on the Bench
But his heart sank when the three criminals climbed the steps from the cells in the basement of the court house and found themselves in an old fashioned chamber with heavy dark wooden furnishings and a strong sense of sadness pervading everything. For many years, poor prisoners and wicked criminals had stood in the dock where they were now placed and that unhappy memory seemed to linger in the wood and stone of that courthouse. A horrible shudder ran through Father Christmas’s old body and he instinctively drew closer to the boys. He was tempted to ask to speak quietly to the magistrate and explain who he was –that would surely result in their release.
They had little enough time to take in anything, however, before there was a stir in the body of the court and people fell silent.
“All rise for the entry of the Honourable Magistrate Fang!” called the Bailiff – a stocky Chinese gentleman who looked very serious. Into the court from a door against the back wall entered a severe, cruel looking woman in a sweeping black gown. She was wearing a horse hair wig – the kind worn by judges all over the world- and she looked particularly unhappy to see an old man and two little boys standing before her in the dock. One look at the terrible woman seated high above them on the bench scotched all their hope and Father Christmas felt suddenly very cold inside.
The Bailiff read the charges in a loud voice, noting for the Magistrate, that the oldest of the accused would not give any name other than Nicholas and that neither of the small boys, Nu and Anouk, appeared to have a family name either. They were accused of the crime of the possession of a banned substance and the distribution of this banned substance to citizens of the Republic of Singapore. These offences related, he stated, to chewing gum.
“How do you plead?” demanded the Magistrate fiercely.
“We are all three of us Not Guilty, Your Honour.” said Father Christmas.
“How can that be?” demanded Magistrate Fang. “This appears to be a perfectly straightforward case of chewing gum possession! We have the evidence. You have been caught in the very act. Are you lying to the court, Sir?”
“Your Honour,” said Father Christmas evenly, “the chewing gum is not mine, nor does it belong to either of these two young men who stand with me. I believe it was planted on me –put into my satchel by a gang of boys at the Somerset Skate Park.”
“A likely story indeed!” said the Magistrate. “You will soon find that it is unwise to waste my time by denying what you have done. Call the arresting officer!”
There was a pause here while the court waited for Lieutenant Bharath to come to give his evidence – but the Bailiff returned after an uncomfortable wait looking quite frighted. “I am sorry, Your Honour, but the arresting officer, Lieutenant Bharath, is not here to give his evidence. I have looked everywhere for him and.. ”
Magistrate Fang was furious. “Not here to give his evidence? Well I will make an example of him! No doubt he is loitering about drinking coffee instead of doing his duty. I will make things very warm for this officer when he does arrive. Is there anyone who can give evidence in this case?” The magistrate appeared to becoming more and more furious.
The poor Bailiff was used to dealing with the Magistrate’s bad temper and said simply, “There is the evidence of the chewing gum itself, Your Honour.” Here the Bailiff held up a clear plastic bag in which there were ten or eleven sticks of gum. “And there are the results of the DNA testing now come to hand. It appears that none of the DNA extracted from the gum found on the path of the Skate Park matches the DNA taken from the three suspects. “
“Oh that’s not surprising,” said the Magistrate. “I can see that these three are hardened criminals who have probably been chewing gum and spitting it about for many years. They have no doubt induced others to chew their gum and spit it too so that would explain why there is no DNA match. You only have to look at them to see that they are the types who would do this. They are not citizens of the Republic of Singapore- which is no excuse and which makes this case all the more terrible. We have laws here to protect honest people from foul habits like chewing gum. Have you anything to say before I pass sentence on you?”
“Your Honour,” said Father Christmas simply, “I do not chew gum; these little boys do not chew gum. We are innocent.”
The three little friends stood together holding hands. Father Christmas was heartbroken: this was not the holiday he had wanted to give the two little boys who had suffered so much in their short lives. Anouk was crying openly now and despite all his courage, Nu was weeping too. He had taken Anouk’s hand to try to comfort him but he felt so desolate himself.
“Very well then,” said Magistrate Fang, fixing the three accused with her most terrible stare, “I find the three accused Guilty as charged. They are sentenced to pay a fine each of $2 000 and each one is to receive three strokes of the cane. This sentence is to be carried out immediately..”
But before she could finish, there was a tremendous ruckus at the door of the courtroom. The courtroom staff were trying to hold back a girl pushing an elderly Malay gentleman in a wheel chair; the man was calling out to the Magistrate to stop. He had evidence the court must hear! And just when he had pushed his way in, there was much more commotion when eight police officers lead by their Lieutenant came into the court escorting a large, blubbering English boy and two sly looking Chinese gang members. There was also with the police, a blonde haired young Australian girl with glasses, a Nanny, an Old Grandad and five little boys with skate boards. In all Magistrate’s Fang’s years of service on the bench, she had never encountered this sort of disturbance.
Of course you will now who all these people must be. Dudley, Tiger Tail and Piglet were sullen and silent [apart from Dudley – he was still feeling the effects of the one good punch Emily managed to get in to his fat belly and he was howling miserably. ] But everyone else – Katie, Emily, Mr Kampong and Lieutenant Bharath were all trying to talk at once. Magistrate Fang banged her gavel angrily and finally there was silence. She had silenced even Dudley with this display of fierce rage but brave Lieutenant Bharath stepped forward and bowed.
“Your Honour, please hear my evidence – and the evidence of this gentleman, Mr Ibrahim Kampong, who is an eye witness to what has happened. I am Lieutenant Bharath of the Singapore Police and these good people in the dock are completely innocent. Your Honour ..”
“Silence!” commanded the Magistrate. “Lieutenant Bharath is it? You are the arresting officer who failed to appear in my court a moment ago when you were called. I understand that you were lolling about drinking a mug of flat white in a coffee shop when you should have been here to give your evidence. I have just sentenced these three to be caned for their gum chewing; I have a good mind to sentence you to be caned as well. Then you would know what it is to fail to do your duty!”
Poor Anouk! His heart had leapt up when Katie had pushed Mr Kampong so bravely into the court. And here was the policeman who had arrested them now telling the magistrate that there all innocent. It still looked, however, as if they were going to be punished after all. It was actually Mr Kampong who broke the awful moment by pushing his chair forward and speaking quietly.
“Your Honour,” he said, “throughout the Republic your Court is famous for its honesty. You yourself are famous as a fearless judge who is no respecter of persons when there is an issue of justice to be decided. Believe me, Madam, that in your quest for justice, you would be wise to listen to what I have to tell you about this wicked and mysterious case.”
Justice Fang was most impressed by Mr Kampong’s respectful flattery- most of which was quite untrue. Justice Fang was actually well known throughout the Republic for her bad temper and lack of mercy but she was quite taken with Mr Kampong and was very pleased to take advantage of the little break in all the chaos. “Lieutenant Bharath,” she said, turning on the poor police officer, “why have you not produced this excellent and reliable witness until this moment? If you had been doing your duty instead of skiving off to drink coffee we might have settled this case long ago. Bailiff! Swear this gentleman. I want to hear what he can tell the court! All of you others- sit quietly and I will deal with you soon.”
So Mister Ibrahim Kampong told the court his story: of his long time in a wheel chair at the entrance to Somerset MTR; of the terrible things he had seen in the park in the last week; of the gang of bullies who extorted money from the little boys who came to ride their skate boards – and of the behaviour of the large English boy who had brought the gum into the park. “And, Your Honour, with my own eyes I have seen that same English boy put chewing gum into the shopping bag and satchel of the kind, elderly gentleman who stands in the dock. He is innocent, Your Honour. And the little boys with him are innocent too!”
Magistrate Fang fixed the old man in the wheelchair with a determined stare: “Sir, do you see this English boy in the court? Please take your time and look carefully.”
There was a terrible silence in the courtroom. Ever since Mr Kampong had been sworn to give his evidence, Dudley had been squirming his way towards the door as quietly as he could go. He might have got away, too, but for the vigilance of the little boys with their skate boards who blocked his way.
“Yes, Your Honour. I saw that boy, there – the English boy with the big bottom. He’s the one who has been beating the little boys and stealing their money all the week. And today, I saw him take the sticks of chewing gum from his underpants and those two Chinese boys there were with him.”
“Bailiff, bring that fat English boy and those two Chinese boys before me now!” said Magistrate Fang. Tiger Tail and Piglet were white faced and frightened; Dudley, long used to wheedling his way out of problems, took to whimpering again and started to tell the Magistrate how he had been cruelly bashed by Emily but the Magistrate was having none of it. She banged her gavel angrily and silence was restored.
“Lieutenant Bharath, Mr Kampong has told the court that this boy produced the gum from his underpants. Will you please take this English boy out of the court and check to see whether there is still some of the offending material there?”
Dudley reacted immediately at this and desperately lurched for the door to escape but in vain. Lieutenant Bharath was firm but severe and the little crowd parted to allow Dudley and the policeman to leave the court. There was silence for just a moment and then a howl – as if an animal were in terrible pain- and then the policeman returned pushing a blubbering Dudley ahead of him and holding up three sticks of gum triumphantly. An enormous cheer went up from the little boys with their skate boards, Nanny, Old Grandad and Katie and Emily. Father Christmas gently put his arms around Nu and Anouk as they blinked back tears.
“Bailiff,” said Magistrate Fang with the most determined ice in her voice, “Kindly stand down these three good people in the dock and replace them with these three villains. I think we can settle this matter very quickly.”
It had all happened so quickly – and so unexpectedly- that for all the friends it was like being suddenly wakened from a nightmare. Now Katie and Emily could hug Father Christmas, Nu and Anouk; now, Dudley, Tiger Tail and Piglet were made to stand in the dock while the Magistrate demanded their names and addresses.
“Dudley Dursley, Tiger Tail and Piglet: you have heard the testimony of Mr Kampong and Lieutenant Bharath has found the offending gum on your person. I daresay that if I subject you to a DNA test that you will be identified as the source of the foul gum found on the paths of the park. Have you anything to say before I pass sentence on you?”
All Tiger Tail’s confidence and bluster had long disappeared and he confessed everything. Yes, he had taken money from the little boys; yes, he had taken the gum from Dudley Dursley – and chewed it and spat it. He was a bully – but he had become much worse since Dudley had arrived in the Republic only a week ago. Piglet tearfully apologised for what he had done; he had foolishly followed the lead of Tiger Tail and Dudley.
Now it was over to Dudley and through his howls and sniffles he blamed everyone else but himself. He hated Singapore: it was hot and humid and filled with stupid people. Their laws about chewing gum were also stupid and their police officers were stupid. Their pencil sellers in wheel chairs were stupid. Yes, he had brought the gum into the republic – but all his problems had started when he had been knocked to the ground at the swimming pool by one of the boys who had just been freed. He- not Dudley- was the terrible bully! The Chinese boys beside him had encouraged him to abuse the little boys at the skate park. He had given them the gum to chew but they were the real villains. He was an honest and good boy visiting this hot and stupid place. And he was also hungry and when could he go home to his anxious parents waiting for him in Lanson Place?
Magistrate Fang listened to all this in grim silence. Dudley thought that he was excusing what he had done; in fact, he was only making things much worse for himself. All the time he was talking, Magistrate Fang was thinking how much punishment she could impose – and increasing it with every new comment.
When everything had been said, the Magistrate turned severely on the three accused. “There are many things here that are shameful,” she said. “Mr Dursley, you brought chewing gum into Singapore knowing that it was a banned substance. You threatened and abused little boys much smaller than you. You took money from these boys. You spat gum all over the Somerset Skate Park. And what is more terrible, you tried to blame three good and innocent people for the wicked things that you have done. Yes, Singapore is a hot place – and I am going to make it very warm for you! It is the judgement of this court that each of you pays a fine of five thousand dollars and that each of you receive ten strokes with the cane. This is the maximum punishment that I can impose – and how I wish that it were twenty strokes! It is the sentence of this court that the fine be paid within a week and that the cane be given this afternoon by Lieutenant Bharath – if he can spare some time from his drinking cappuccinos in the coffee shops of Orchard Road. And may God have mercy on your souls!” The magistrate banged her gavel to dismiss the court but Father Christmas bravely stepped forward to the bench.
“Your Honour, before you dismiss the court, may I speak to you in private for a moment?’
“This is most irregular, Sir,” said the magistrate. “But I will make an exception in your case. Bailiff: hold all of these people here while I speak to this gentlemen in my chambers.”
Five minutes later, Magistrate Fang returned to her court, looking kinder and gentler than you might think that such a fierce woman could look. Remember that Father Christmas is a remarkably magical man; in the magistrate’s chambers he had worked all his charms to persuade the Magistrate to change her mind. [Emily said afterwards that she had seen Father Christmas do wonderful things when he needed to but he had never done anything quite as extraordinary as turning Magistrate Fang from a hard hearted, vengeful woman into a model of mercy and kindness.] Now, she nodded kindly at the girls and Mr Kampong and fixed Dudley, Tiger Tail and Piglet with a terrible glare. “In all my years as a judge, I have never regretted imposing a sentence in my court. However, in this case, I wish to change my sentence. This kind gentleman who stood to suffer so much from these wicked villains has pleaded for me to show mercy. And while I would love to see these boys being punished by Lieutenant Bharath, I now order the fine of $5 000 to stand but the sentence of caning is commuted to ten days of service to the republic in whatever capacity Lieutenant Bharath decides.”
The court erupted in busy noise as the Magistrate swept out and the Bailiff moved forward to shepherd Dudley, Tiger Tail and Piglet down to the cells. There were many people [Emily included] who wished for a moment that Father Christmas wasn’t always so kind – and that Dudley in particular would be much improved after a caning from Lieutenant Bharath. It seemed a cruel thought to entertain, however, when everyone was gathering round and cheering. Father Christmas swept Anouk up in his arms; the little boy burst into tears as he realised how close he had come to the terrible world of cruelty from which he hoped he had escaped forever.
What Happened Afterwards
Just as the friends were spilling out on to the street outside the magistrate’s court, a large black limousine flying the flag of the Republic of Singapore swept to the kerb and two distinguished gentlemen in suits stepped out anxiously. They appeared delighted and relieved to see Father Christmas, Anouk and Nu, free and happy and surrounded by Katie and Emily, Nanny and Old Grandad, an elderly Malay gentleman in a wheelchair and eight excited little boys with skate boards.
One of the boys, young Ashoka Amritsar Singh, ran up to the Indian gentleman in his dark suit and claimed him cheerfully. The men in the limousine, of course, were Mr Ajay Peshawar Singh and Mr Soong Min-Wei – the same gentlemen from the Prime Minister’s office who had met Father Christmas at Changi airport only six days earlier. Both men looked white with fear; they dreaded what they might find - and what the President of the Republic would say- if so distinguished an international visitor as Father Christmas had been punished in a Singapore police station! Asoka had sent his father a text message while he was in a police car heading towards the Central Police Station on their mission to rescue Father Christmas from Magistrate Fang. It took just a moment to share the exciting news with them and for colour to return to the faces of the two proud fathers.
Father Christmas travelling through the streets of Singapore after the trial.
What to do now? It was almost dinner time and Father Christmas pressed everyone to come back to Lanson Place to celebrate. Sufficient police cars were called up to take everyone although Mr Soong pressed Mr Kampong to come in the limousine where his wheel chair could be much more comfortably stored. There was room for just one more person to travel in the back seat and Father Christmas asked if he might the honour of travelling with the brave Malay gentleman who had saved him alive. Mr Kampong readily agreed and off they went. The police cars were joined by other police officers on motorbikes and with sirens blaring the convoy set off for Killiney Street. Everyone in the street stopped to take in the marvellous sight. Five police cars! Five motorcycle police cars! A black limousine flying the flag of the Republic! It must mean, the citizens thought, that a very distinguished visitor was travelling through the busy evening rush hour. And of course, they were right - although they couldn’t but wonder what all the little boys with skate boards were doing in the police vehicles, waving excitedly to the crowds along the way.
What a party it was that night! Nanny was just trying to think how she could feed all these visitors with the simple cold chicken and salad that she had organised for dinner but Mr Ajay Peshawar Singh and Mr Soong Min-Wei were having none of this. They had a departmental MasterCard and were soon on the telephone ordering take away pizzas, luscious fragrant curries, spring rolls, roti carni and a big ice cream cake. Katie, Emily and all the boys went up to the swimming pool and had a great time together while the adults chatted happily in the penthouse suite. Mr Soong insisted on opening an icy bottle of coca cola to celebrate; Mr Kampong, being a Malay and a strict Moslem, couldn’t drink any of the champagne that was first proposed. The children came down wet and happy just as the take-away was delivered and for a long while, even the most excited of the little boys was quiet as they worked their way through the pizza and poppers.
Then it was time for the speeches. Father Christmas thanked everyone. He began with Mr Kampong, then Mr Singh and Mr Soong. Finally, he turned to the girls and thanked them for their courage and determination. Katie, who had sprung into action and pushed Mr Kampong through the busy streets to give his evidence in the court, was praised by everyone and Nanny couldn’t help shedding a few tears of pride. The little boys, of course, thought that the real hero of the day was Emily, who had stepped in to protect them from Dudley, Tiger Tail and Piglet. “You should have seen Emily punch that fat bully,” said little Asoka to Old Grandad. “I never knew that a girl could punch so hard. Why..” Emily didn’t like the drift of this conversation at all and before Nanny and Old Grandad heard any more about how hard she could punch [even for a girl] Emily was up handing around the Twisties and the Tim Tams. Lieutenant Bharath arrived just as the ice cream cake was served and he called up the five police men waiting downstairs hoping there might be some party to spare. No one was more pleased with the outcome of the day than the good police officer who had attended the scene of the crime.
When the last spring roll and the last slice of pizza were eaten and the last happy policeman had gone, the seven friends shared one last cup of tea. It had been an amazing day. Katie and Emily were just about to head off to bed; they had so much to tell their parents but the thought of skyping them at that moment was just too overwhelming to even think about. There was a knock at the door and Katie sleepily got up to see who it was. And there was Lieutenant Bharath again- holding out her shopping bag with Emily’s Smiggles pencil case safe inside. She had dropped the parcel during the fight with Dudley Dursley and some honest soul had picked it up after the police had cleared the area and handed it in at the MTR Lost Property desk. What an amazing place Singapore was, Katie thought.
Katie and Emily slept in the next morning; they were really exhausted by the emotional rush of the last evening and as they were going to the Singapore Zoo that day, there was no need to be up and doing too early. Apparently the animals all sleep in so that they can be bright and refreshed for the busloads of tourists who arrived when the gates opened at 10 am.
Nanny was cooking pancakes as the girls came to the kitchen, looking very happy and proud of her little girls. Grandad was on the telephone and when he came to the table, he looked just as pleased as Nanny. “We’ve had a little change of plan for today, girls – but I don’t think it should bother us too much. Mr Ajay Peshawar Singh has just called; he’s going to send the limousine in an hour to collect you and Nu and Anouk to go to the zoo with Asoka and Mr Soong’s little girl, Li-Ying. Do you think you could enjoy the zoo without us and Father Christmas today? You see, the Prime Minister of the republic is still interested in taking some of us at least to a performance of Chinese Opera and as tomorrow is our last full day here – and we’re all going to Universal Studios – today is the last real opportunity. Katie: you’re the oldest. Will you be able to take care of the little ones? Mr Singh assured me you would be safe – all the animals are behind bars or safely out of range. If you could go alone, I would appreciate the chance to see the opera.”
Katie and Emily squealed their excitement. Having some fun time with Anouk and Nu and the others was just what they most wanted and to be trusted to go alone was a great honour – almost as much as being able to fly unaccompanied on the Emirates jet. The only one who wasn’t best pleased was Nanny who had been looking forward to seeing the polar bear at the zoo; she wasn’t half as interested in the opera as Old Grandad but he promised to take her afterwards to the Cold Rock ice cream shop and that would be a treat, certainly.
At the zoo, the limousine was met by two of the young guides, Sanjay and Parvati, who whisked the little group of six children around in a golf cart past all the queues and into the most exciting exhibits. Anouk and Nu loved the elephants most – they said that they reminded them of their jungle homes when they had been very little boys. The tigers were ferocious; the lions were having a kip in the sun; the polar bear was everything that the girls had hoped he would be; the Asian rhinoceros was suitably large and imposing. Emily thought that the chimpanzees and bononos were cute but that nothing was as charming as the family of meerkats from Madagascar. They were just about to head off to the buffet for lunch when Sanjay took a call on his pager: “I am sorry. There’s been a disturbance at the baboon enclosure. Knowing that you were coming, I have arranged to have the baboons with the reddest butts out on display but there has been a kind of riot there. I can’t imagine what has happened; most of our baboons are normally such gentle, charming creatures!”
These lady baboons were especially selected for Emily to admire. Cherry is on the left; Strawberry is in the middle.
When they reached the enclosure, the children couldn’t believe their eyes. There was Dudley Dursley dressed in a pink overall with the words Singapore Gaol stencilled on the back. He was howling and trying to climb a tree to escape from two very large and angry baboons who had the reddest butts you can imagine. “That’s Strawberry and Cherry!” said Parvati. “They are our bravest lady baboons – and proud mothers. I wonder what can have happened?”
The story was soon told. Magistrate Fang had that morning ruled that Dudley, Tiger Tail and Piglet could do their community service at the zoo. The Chinese boys had been given enormous brooms and set to sweeping out the droppings in the elephant enclosure. Dudley had been given a bucket of bananas and sent to feed the littlest baboons. Of course being Dudley he had decided to bully the small baboons, throwing the bananas in the garbage bin – and closing the lid when any little, hungry baboon ventured in to retrieve his treat. When the mother baboons saw what was happening they were furious and chased Dudley up the tree. Of course the baboons could climb better than Dudley but they were happy enough to circle the tree, throwing anything they could at the naughty boy. How the children laughed at seeing the bully cop a little bit of his own medicine. He was still in the tree when the children came back from their excellent buffet lunch an hour later. Sanjay quietly walked into the enclosure and took Cherry and Strawberry by the paw; he had a very large watermelon for them to share and they were soon squabbling over it and Dudley could sneak down and run away.
Their last day in Singapore was spent at Universal Studios – and if I tell you all the terrifying rides the children went on, all the scary things they encountered and all the fun they had together I will have to write another long story. All you need to know is that Katie and Emily, Anouk and Nu, Asoka and Li-Ying had the best day imaginable while Nanny and Old Grandad and Father Christmas were the guests of the Manager of the park who entertained them to a chilli mud crab lunch. They all went home exhausted but very excited.
The Dursleys, of course, had to change their travel plans so that Dudley could do his community service. I wish I could say that Dudley became a nicer, gentler person but that was not likely – although after the incident with Strawberry and Cherry he was at least a little less nasty. He pleaded with the keepers at the zoo not to put him back in with the baboons. They reluctantly agreed and instead he had to join Tiger Tail and Piglet sweeping up the elephant poo. They quickly became very tired of his nonsense and one day threw him in the big pile that they had just gathered together. Some boys are, you know, very slow learners. Vernon and Petunia were furious with everyone except Dudley of course and they never missed the opportunity once they got home to tell anyone who asked what a dreadful place Singapore was.
The next morning it was time to be up and packed for the trip to Changi Airport and home. The limousines came, everyone was checked in and then it was time to say goodbye. “How can I ever thank you enough,” Father Christmas said simply as he hugged the girls one last time. “Without you girls, I think Magistrate Fang would have punished us all.” The girls couldn’t hold back their tears; nor could Anouk and Nu; nor could Nanny. Old Grandad cried more than any of them: he was so proud of the girls – and couldn’t wait to get home to tell Uncle Robert about them. There were promises to send emails and put Anouk and Nu as friends on facebook but all of that would have to wait until they were safely home.
And there was one last surprise for the girls. An astonished Emirates Flight Attendant couldn’t believe the boarding passes the girls were given at check in. The seats they had been given were 1A and 1B – right up the front in First Class! On their seats when they took them was a beautiful framed photograph of Anouk and Nu, Katie and Emily, Strawberry and Cherry and their little babies taken by Sanjay at the Singapore Zoo. The little card said To our new best friends, Katie and Emily, from Anouk and Nu. If you hadn’t saved us, our butts would have been the same colour as Strawberry’s and Cherry’s! It was just what the girls would need when they came to tell Mummy and Daddy all the exciting things that had happened to them in Singapore – the best place to go for a holiday in the whole world.
Emirates First Class- for Katie and Emily!