I never bowled over a Malaysian terrorist. I never met Rupert. I was totally engrossed, deep under cover on Google Street View. I was getting lost in the writings of Jake Needham. I was down the rabbit hole. The Girl in the Window was pulling me in. This was the real Singapore. It wasn’t Malaysia, but it was.
‘Just a cleaner version.’
That’s right.I travelled the same streets as Inspector Tay. I took the same taxi routes. So that’s where the Australian High Commission is?
And that ghastly grey bunker?
That was the American Embassy, but the manicured garden made up for the prison inspired architecture.
I spent another afternoon outside the Fortuna Hotel. I was looking for the Mango Travel Service. I searched on my Kindle. ‘It was in Chinatown dummy.’
I had seen intrigue over a vegetarian dish. I had been threatened, ‘I’ll call the police if you don’t put that cigarette out.’ I was following very closely in Tay’s footsteps. Everything was real, right down to the scratch on that railing outside the Fortuna Hotel or the rust stains running down the wall from the leaky air condition units on the old rundown apartment across the road from it.
This was real, realer than any travel reports I’ve read on Singapore. It was so gloatingly real that I wondered why Needham’s books were shunned in the Island State.
And I also wondered where Tay lived. I didn’t get it right the first time. Maybe his house doesn’t exist, but the Alley Bar does.
I turned right from his fictitious house and walked in the direction of Orchard Road. As I passed through Preranakan Place, I spotted the Alley Bar and like Tay, was surprised to see it wasn’t very busy.
‘It was high-ceilinged and pleasingly dim,’ wrote my guide – you’d think he was doing a review for Time Out, it’s that sleek – ‘and the long bar with the big mirrors behind it stretched for what must have been fifty feet until it almost disappeared into the cool interior shadows.’
I’ll have a beer please.
‘We don’t serve white scum who enter bars wearing flip flops.’
He just didn’t like my Malaysian tracksuit pants. I bought them over the causeway. Singaporeans don’t like Malaysians very much.
‘You’re nothing but a fucking racist,’ I told the Indian, whose hair was so sleeked back with oil, I was almost tempted to call the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the spillage that was running on the marble floor.
My guide continued waxing lyrical about the Alley Bar as I chucked a hissy fit. ‘Somehow the scarred wooden bar and hazy mirrors and under-lit interior of the place all combined to make Tay think of what he was sure had been better times, although more and more he wondered if those times had ever really existed.’
The Indian barman called his manager. It was a ruddy faced Irishman.
‘Get out now, before I call the coppers,’ said Paddy.
But I’m only following the Tay Trail. Think about it, I said, this could be a real draw card.
‘We don’t read him on this island,’ he said, as he grabbed me by the scruff of my neck.
I let him do his thing. I was prepared.
But he wasn’t when I put my Taser Gun, which I bought across the causeway in Johor, right into his balls and let those volts work its magic.
‘For the love of Mary,’ screamed Paddy.
‘You don’t even serve Powers whisky you fucker,’ I said, as I hoofed it out of the area before the pigs arrived.
It was true, they only sold Bushmills.
Singapore attracts a certain type of tourist, and apparently I wasn’t one of them.