Our next-door neighbour's maid of two short months absconded yesterday afternoon. And I was an unwitting witness to it.
I had just stepped out the door, trash bags in hand, when I caught sight of her grabbing her bright orange handbag, pre-stashed behind the half-opened door of the cleaner's room, and hurrying towards the lift.
[Each floor of this highrise has a small, unlocked cubicle for cleaners to stash their cleaning paraphernalia].
It was the sight of her, properly garbed in long black pants, purple blouse, a bright-coloured tudung and a pair of festive slippers making a beeline for her hidden tote that told me something was amiss.
However, it wasn't a done deal to simply confront her as she stood there waiting for the lift to arrive. For all it was, she could be going out with friends, and I would look like a moron.
So I kept it to myself; didn't even confide in the old man about it. I was waiting for the next door folks, a young couple with two kids, to return from their day out, to check things out.
The neighbour's much-loved, middle-aged maid had just returned home to Indonesia for good after eight long years of service. Her replacement was that sullen-looking woman in her early 20s.
This morning my suspicion was answered. The neighbour's wife stopped to chat as I stood by the door keeping an eye on our two cats, Lillie and Awang, having their daily excursion around the floor.
I told her what I saw when she informed that her maid had fled. She also said a quick check with the management office revealed quite a number of maids had taken to their heels these past few months, allegedly aided by 'orang dalam' (insiders).
Apparently there's a syndicate at work here, in this building, in which some of the janitors were allegedly involved. She mentioned the name 'Su', which gave me a jolt.
There's only one cleaner named Su, and with another named Eli, had been cleaning my unit twice weekly for the last one month since our old, dependable bibik returned home to Jogjakarta in November last year.
The duo had approached me soon after bibik left, asking to replace bibik. I was a-okay with the idea; after all they had only wanted to earn some extra cash and I certainly could do with extra hands to clean the bathrooms.
This morning I caught hold of Eli working downstairs and told her what I knew. She went pale, asking me again and again: "Puan nampak dia lari?" (You saw her flee?) "Yup," was my curt reply.
Hours later the neighbour rang my bell to inform that she had viewed the newly installed CCTV together with the security people. Su's involvement was confirmed.
She was in every frame, on the mobile acting as a look-out whilst a strange man came to collect the runaway maid's baggage. Eli was not to be seen, so we have yet to know the extent of her involvement in this charade.
Naturally the neighbour was very annoyed. "I confronted Su, Kak, but she denied everything. She chose to keep quiet when we told her we have the evidence on tape." She has since made a police report.
In the meantime, the agency that had employed the cleaners would conduct their own investigations on their workers' alleged involvement. They could be dismissed if proven true, I was told.
"It's not so much the RM6,000 that we have wasted in getting her here, Kak; it's the inconvenience that we have to face because we both work and the kids have school. Thank God for the holidays; at least we can take stock and get things organised before school reopens."
And me? These duo had just started working for us. They came in twice weekly, every Wednesday and Sunday; their job limited to cleaning the 3 bathrooms and all the windows, mopping the floor, dusting the fans, shelves etc.
I paid their first month's due just yesterday and I don't know if I want them to continue. feeling vulnerable the way I do now; I just don't feel safe anymore. Am I being paranoid?
Frankly, I'm pretty pissed myself at the goings-on. What's with these people, anyway? Don't they have any sense of amanah at all?