From Deadly Traffic:
Sandi found Win leaning on the bar counter, waiting for her when she came out of the Ladies’ room. A greenish glow from the wine bottles above the bar accented the planes of his handsome face. The young bartender smiled as she returned his change. A hostess led a party of three toward a table along the wall. He frowned at the receipt in his hand and stored it in his wallet. She couldn’t see him turning it in to his boss; since when did petty criminals ask for meal allowances? More likely, it would be kept to demonstrate how well he treated her, right after he told her she didn’t deserve dinner at such an expensive restaurant.
He plucked a toothpick from a shot glass near the cash register and used it like a wand to direct her toward the door. Sandi winced as a punishing blast of hot air struck her face, giving a longing look back at the cool interior of the restaurant. Win slid a stiffened palm to the small of her back to make sure they stayed hip to hip as he chose a pace that suited his long legs. “Don’t try anything,” he warned, speaking in their native Burmese, making it personal.
As they walked, Sandi kept her eyes fixed straight ahead, on a distant point that existed only in her mind, so she could pretend not to see the shock on people’s faces when their eyes landed on her, the ungainly girl at his side. He, as usual, basked in the attention he drew from passersby. Impervious to the heat, he wore all black, chosen, she knew, to complement his hair and highlight the three diamond studs that sparkled in his left ear. A manicurist, outside for a smoke, paused mid-puff and stared in admiration, as if Sandi’s companion had stepped straight off the glossy cover of one of the People magazines in her salon. Sandi wished she could hold that fantasy cover in her hands and shred him to bits, starting with his complacent smile. Why didn’t anyone ever see him for what he really was?
Of course, Win got a kick out of seeing her humiliation. The way he played up his resemblance to Bruce Lee only served to accentuate her inadequacies—skinny legs with thick ankles, a sway back, and pudgy cheeks that refused to go away no matter how much weight she lost. The only thing that marred his perfection was a gold tooth that showed when he smiled. But women didn’t consider it a flaw, they liked it, said it gave him character.
Sandi tracked away, pretending she wanted to avoid a bike rack, but he steered her back to his side as they joined a group waiting for a traffic light at a busy intersection. On the far corner, a steady stream of customers went in and out of the Arbor City Gourmet Deli. A wiry blond man stepped toward the curb, sipping at a large coffee. He barely caught her attention until she saw him retrieve a dog from where he’d tied it to a street sign. In a flash of recognition, she quickly sidestepped into the recessed doorway of a clothes boutique.
“Where do you think you’re going?” barked Win, catching up to her in two strides.
“Hah! Not really ‘all American’ yet, are you?” she replied deliberately in English. She pressed her nose to the glass, feigning interest in the merchandise. She needed to do something to gain more time. Playing to his vanity, she said, “Look here, these leather jeans would look good on you.” As he checked out the jeans, she chanced a look down the block, starting to breathe again when she saw that her “uncle” hadn’t seen her. He was leading his dog in the opposite direction.
Note: Recently one of the largest labor fraud cases in US History was settled after labor recruiters were found guilty of labor trafficking, forced labor, fraud, racketeering and other charges. Due to a flaw in the H-2 visa rules, as discussed in my novel, these practices are all too common.
From School of Lies:
Vice Principal Zant’s enraged voice easily penetrated the office’s thin walls, which provided only a token sense of privacy. Kendra inched closer to the windowed partition and took in the unfolding drama through the dusty blinds.
The setting and script were familiar, as were the lead protagonists. The boy’s black hair and matching attire made a bold silhouette against the dingy beige walls. From her vantage point she could just see the glass tank that housed the VP’s pet tarantula.
This would be the umpteenth student rescue operation she had mounted since the newly promoted Zant had arrived at Standard High, vacating his previous niche as the worst English teacher in the district. Upon hearing a hall monitor make reference to a skirmish in Zant’s office, Kendra had detoured from her path to the teachers’ lounge.
Empty your pockets, son!” The Vice Principal slammed the behavior slip to his desktop.
I ain’t your son. Your son’s in a cage at the zoo.”
Mr. Zant reared from his chair, affronted at the student’s impertinence, although he couldn’t have been surprised. “I’ve heard enough!”
His bulk poised to move in on the gangly teenager seated before him. Then, for once realizing he was showing a lack of self-control, he retook his seat and conjured up a frosty and very fake paternal smile.
Kendra froze. Although she’d chalked up a moderate success rate in her duels with Zant, the encounters stretched her courage to the limits and she knew hours would pass before she’d recover from what was to come. Mr. Zant thought to cover his ineptitude by attacking anyone who questioned him. Kendra braced herself, turned the doorknob, and stepped in. The Vice Principal’s chair squeaked at the intrusion.
“Ah, look who’s here. It’s Ms. Desola. But I don’t recall asking you to come down. Really, there’s no need for you to be here. I’m sure you have plenty of your own work.”
Kendra made a show of setting down her load of books and lunch bag while she frantically worked up a fitting reply. Sensing that the heat was momentarily blowing in another direction, her student assumed the facial expression of an orphaned puppy.
“Ms. D., I ain’t done nothin’.” Jon shuffled his feet, or what could be seen of them under his voluminous jeans.
The VP countered. “The only place where I’m sure you haven’t done anything is inside a classroom.” Zant smiled at his riposte.
Jon blinked and offered, “At least I ain’t been inside my sister.”
Mr. Zant bridged the desk with his hands as he stood. “For that, I’m adding two more days to your suspension!”
In spite of the closed quarters, the office temperature dropped very low. Kendra prayed that Mr. Zant's lips would be frozen shut before he traded another insult.