The traffic on the Amity Causeway linking Singapore and Malaysia was especially heavy for a Thursday, which put Dennis Quek even more on edge. He took a deep breath as he approached the first entry point station, hoping that he could swallow any obvious distress signs that the inspection machine might detect.
Finally, Dennis reached the front of a long queue. His car was pulled automatically into the right spot before the inspection machine. The hazy blue light filled the whole car, followed by the voice of the machine. “One person in vehicle. A driver, no passengers.”
Dennis nodded. He then turned his head to the right, ready for the facial identification. This time it was the warm, lemony light that filled the front of the inspection machine. Dennis squeezed out an awkward smile, thinking this was best for the situation. The smile was starting to get uncomfortable when the machine finally announced the identification.
“Dennis Quek, forty-four years old. Singapore citizenship. No listed law violations. No outstanding fines.” A few moments later, the machine sounded again. “Thank you, Mr. Quek. Please proceed now to my fellow station. Have your I.D. ready for inspection.”
Quek already had the card ready. The next inspection station was about ten meters from the first. When he reached it, his car was again automatically steered to the correct spot. “Good morning, Mr. Quek. Display your identification card, please.”
Dennis held his Singapore I.D. card up for inspection. This procedure took less time than at the first station, and he didn’t need to smile at all. About ten seconds later, this machine addressed him.
“Malaysia welcomes you, Mr. Quek. Enjoy your visit to our lovely country.”
Relieved, Dennis Quek spoke into his car’s auto-drive speaker, instructing it to take him to the Excelsior Mall parking lot. Although he had the car on auto-drive from the moment he approached the Singapore side of the causeway, Dennis kept his hands pressed tightly on the steering wheel, a way of dealing with his nervousness. As the first identification station had said, Dennis had never before had a violation of the law; now he was set to engage in a serious criminal activity.
It was a fifteen-minute drive from the causeway to the Excelsior Mall. As his car approached the mall, his GPS system asked. “Any preferred parking lot, Dennis?”
“Yes, uhh, Section D, please. Towards the front, if possible.”
“I’ll see what I can do, Dennis.”
As expected, the Thursday business was slow at the mall, so the car had no trouble finding a spot near the front. In fact, there were far more empty spots than cars in Section D, which faced the mall’s rear entrance.
Despite the dearth of cars, a large number of beggars were milling about. Most of them waited at the doors of the mall, ready to set upon shoppers leaving with a purchase of groceries or some edible treats from one of the stalls within. However, some beggars would approach newly arrived cars and bang on the windows asking for donations.
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