A character from my novel – by Peter Carseldine

I collect faces, interesting faces, real faces that are alive. One face among my collection I based my heroine on, Pamela Rodriguez. I would recognise that face anywhere.

It was raining when I arrived at the train station in Singapore. I grabbed my bag out of the taxi, darted into the reception hall and checked my luggage in with my reservation, then headed through the turnstile.

The Eastern and Orient Express was already at the platform as I jostled my way through the crowd. Looking at my ticket for my carriage number, I figured it was the one directly in front of me.

The rain continued to fall, making the humidity on the platform oppressive. The crowd did not improve matters. The humidity created a fog on the carriage windows and it ran in rivulets of condensate, trickled down the glass, creating clear streams.

The Porter checked my ticket and pointed me to the carriage.

I glanced toward my compartment window and to my surprise, there was a person inside, looking directly at me through the fog and clear rivulets. I had booked a private compartment. Surely there must be a mistake.

Looking closer, I got a shock. I recognised her. It was my character Pamela Rodrigues, my heroine in my bestselling novel, and there she was, behind the glass, smiling. Could it possibly be the person belonging to the face I had in my collection? I had taken the photograph from the internet. One in a million chance and even more remote as she was in my compartment. Despite the Portuguese name I had given the face in my novel, by the description on the internet, I knew the real person came from Melaka, in Malaysia. In real life, she is Straits born Chinese. Was there a remote chance she could be on the train and in my compartment?

The last line of my novel came to mind, Pamela slumped into the chair, raising her glass of wine, saying, “Well Le Rouge, we are safe at last even though we have lost everything, including the gold locket. Now we will never know the secret of Princess Hang Li Poh.”

I walked along the corridor to compartment three and with some apprehension, knocked on the door. No answer. I gingerly opened and looked in. The compartment was completely empty.

I entered and closed the door. There was lingering fragrance of perfume filling the air and a strange feeling as if a spirit was present.

Something then caught my eye. I picked up a gold locker from the seat and engraved on it was the name Hang Li Poh.

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