Viet Nam News
By Nguyễn Trí
Ruffians with their tattooed bodies are hired to claim debts for the creditor. They look terrible at first sight, yet when they face the police, they could testify right away the person who hired them to do it.
Hùng liked football and got infatuated with football betting. Manchester City was his favourite team. He lost so much money on betting that he committed a crime that put him into prison. After two years, he was released. In doing so, he could avoid being killed by the ruffians. The ruffians hired by the creditor had nearly killed Hùng’s sister. At the end of the day, his father had to sell the house.
“It’s quite fortunate for you to be home. Now, turn over a new leaf, son,” his father said.
But Hùng thought he would take revenge on those who had crippled his sister and ruined his family. Two years in prison gave him lessons to take revenge. He made a catapult, saying that he used it to shoot birds. After meals, he roamed around the rubber farm to shoot some ravens as practice. After one month, he had become a sharp shooter. Also during this time, Hùng knew who the culprit was. It was that drug gang leader. In the end, Hùng made his enemy blind in one eye and blind in another eye after one month. Yet, the family of that drug addict was overjoyed because their son could now stay home for good.
But the wife of the creditor was panic-stricken upon hearing the news. She said to her husband:
“I’m afraid our daughter will be avenged if she is splashed with acid on the face. What can we do now?”
Her husband was a loan shark and he could handle the affair with Hùng. He knew his daughter was certainly Hùng’s target. So this loan shark disguised as the owner of the Bồng Lai pawn shop convened his underlings who were the hatchet men. They decided to break Hùng’s leg so that he would be in a wheelchair for life.
One day, Hùng was driving a clapped-out old Dream motorcycle when two bullies forced him to stop in a deserted place. One of them took Hùng’s machine, while the other used an iron bar to hit Hùng’s leg. In an instant, Hùng avoided the hit and pressed a bottle filled with chili pepper hard into his opponent’s eyes. The bully boy yelled in great fright. Immediately Hùng rushed to punch him repeatedly.
After that, Hùng pulled out of his trouser pocket a knife and waved it before the other hatchet guy. Before heading out on his assignment, this guy had snorted some heroin, and he was still high. He quickly sank to his knees and pressed his palms together.
“That Bồng Lai loan shark hired you, didn’t he?”
“As much heroin as I could snort!”
“You are animals, so don’t blame me now!”
Having said it, Hùng brandished the knife and cut the face of that drug addicted rascal who uttered a fearful yell. Blood gushed all over his face.
The loan shark looked at these two underlings, feeling scared out of his wits. He came to see a local official for advice. This official was no stupid person to get involved in this, so he told the loan shark to leave it at that. The loan shark came to see a would-be poet for a piece of advice because he thought this poet could help him.
“This is a complicated case. Let me go and see Hùng to make peace with him.”
“Please help me. If this affair could be settled, I am much obliged to you. Please, take this modest sum of money as a transaction fee!”
The poet took the money and prepared to go and see Hùng. The loan shark was on pins and needles for almost the whole day until late afternoon when the would-be poet cropped up. He looked half drunk.
“Anything good?” the loan shark asked.
“I find him quite a gentle guy. You’d better come and see him in person!”
“But if he….”
“No, don’t worry. Everybody has got goodness in their hearts. You should admit your mistake, grease your palms and everything will be O.K. Even the rich are still knocked down by material things, let alone this ragged guy.”
“What if he kills me when I come to see him?”
“I don’t think that could happen. When I came, he was not at home. He was on the rubber farm. I asked him why he did not shoot at birds, but only at ravens. Do you know what he answered?”
“What did he say?”
“The birds have committed no crimes. Only the ravens feed chiefly on crows, so we have to kill them. This is synonymous with the fact that if we are living with gentle people, we will be gentle; living with cruel persons, we will have to be cruel.”
“It’s up to you to make a decision now. Please help me.”
“Come with me tomorrow. He said to me that if you want anything, see him.”
The meeting was smooth sailing. Hùng agreed to leave everything behind when the loan shark of the Bồng Lai pawn shop returned the house to Hùng. His sister’s leg had been operated on and returned to normal. But most important of all was that Hùng and the loan shark had fraternised with each other. It was right to say that there was no eternal enemy, but there was no friend forever, too. They had partnered with one another for the common good.
At the end of the day, Hùng came to work for the Bồng Lai pawn shop under the loan shark for a monthly salary of 10 million dong. On the other hand, if Hùng demanded the payment of a debt, he would have 40% and the rest belonged to the loan shark.
What the hell was Hùng like that could scare the loan shark in such a way?
Having heard that her husband had to pay a hundred million dong to redeem the house for Hùng, the loan shark’s wife jumped to her feet.
“Why on earth are you so stupid? A hundred million dong?”
“You should come see him to be polite. Don’t you think I don’t regret my money? Do you think he’s a normal guy?”
Then he told his wife about the meeting with Hùng.
When he came he saw Hùng was topless. His chest was tattooed with a demon and his back was tattooed with a dragon and the words: “To return a favour, to revenge a rancour”.
After the poet explained the reason for their visit, Hùng said in a polite way:
“You know, after two years in prison, I know how to be polite. Now I want to live in peace and try to build a house for my parents. It’s quite bad to live in a rented house, you see!”
Having just said that, Hùng pulled out from his trouser pocket a syringe, then he tore off the plastic cover and, with lightning speed, made an intramuscular injection into his arm. After that, Hùng continued to speak.
“Now I have only this to do. My life is almost over. I’m glad you two could come to see me.”
Both the loan shark of the Bồng Lai pawn shop and the would-be poet almost fainted. Hùng continued to talk.
“I’m jobless now. I’ve got nothing to do other than shooting those ravens, but we can’t eat ravens. Could I be a disciple of yours, Bồng Lai?”
The loan shark’s head nodded immediately. If this guy worked for me, no young debtor would have a chance to run away. In the immediate future, I should strike up a friendship with him, he thought.
“Yes, I am running short on employees. If you like, come and work with me.”
“What about the monthly salary? What am I going to do?”
“It’s ten million dong per month. You can do any job available.”
“So, can you advance me some money?”
“O.K. How much do you want?”
“There is a dilapidated house being sold at 100 million dong. Could you spare me the money equivalent to my 10 months’ salary? I will buy it for my old parents. If possible, could you advance some more money so that I could have my sister’s leg operated on? Is that all right for you? If I can’t provide more care to my parents, I’d rather die.”
The demand was heard in the loan shark’s ears as an order.
The loan shark of the Bồng Lai pawn shop told the story to his wife and concluded:
“If I did not give the money to him, you and I would enter death’s door right away. I’m afraid he has an HIV infection.
And the money the loan shark had given to Hùng was not useless at all. One day, Hùng came to demand the debt from Tuấn, the son of ruffian Tường. Hùng came to Tuấn’s house. Upon hearing it, Tuấn took French leave and only his parents received Hùng.
“Good day, uncle. Is Tuấn at home?”
“I have driven him out for a long time. What do you want?”
“Uncle, I am a brother of Mr. and Mrs. Bồng Lai, the owners of the pawn shop in town. Your son Tuấn bet on football and lost. He has borrowed 20 million dong from my brother with a monthly interest of four million dong. Tuấn paid the interest for one month and he has not turned up this month, and he has surpassed the deadline by 10 days. My brother told me to come here to ask Tuấn if he can pay the principal and interest.”
“I don’t know. Do get him to ask for the money.”
“Oh, no, I don’t ask for the money. It’s not my money. I only came to tell Tuấn about it.”
“So, do tell your brother Bồng Lai that I am going to report to the police about his high illegal interest rate.”
“Oh, God, you’ve got it wrong. My brother has not gambled at all. Your son came to borrow the money and he has to pay it back. If you want to report to the police, do it please. I don’t do anything to be afraid of.”
“Don’t challenge me. I am reporting it now.” Having said that, the old man phoned the police. Fifteen minutes later, four commune policemen were found present in the old man’s house. After that, the police asked both sides to go to the police station.
“I am not doing anything wrong, so why do you ask me to go to the police station? I won’t go.”
“Are you going to create chaos?”
Hùng laughed it off.
“I came here to ask these two old people to tell their son Tuấn to pay the debt, so there is not any chaos.”
But in the end Hùng was in handcuffs because he had pulled a syringe out of his pocket and was going to…. How could he have the guts to shoot up in front of the police? Yet, a few hours later, Hùng was on his way back. He saw Tuấn in the house. He said:
“Listen, you are now in debt, so you have to pay the debt. If you don’t have it now, you can fix the date. You’d better not take French leave like that. If my brother cannot take his money back, how can I do this job?”
The two old people were in great fright upon seeing Hùng back again. They wondered why such a drug addict would be released! They screamed for the heavens. Their son had spent a lot of their money and they were scared one day they would become beggars.
“I advise you never to get involved in gambling,” Hùng continued. “Even football is also fraudulent. And if you lose all your money, never be so stupid as to borrow money to play on. You’d better pay the debt now. You know, the gamblers are all gangsters. So goodbye! Goodbye, uncle!”
Having heard it, the old couple found that what Hùng had said was reasonable.
“Please, tell your brother Bồng Lai that I am going to pay him now. On the other hand, would you mind doing me a favour?”
“Yes, let me phone my brother so that he can talk with you and Tuấn.”
While Tuấn was talking with the creditor, his mother asked Hùng to demand a debt of 40 million dong because she had recognised the way Hùng claimed the debt.
“Can you make heads or tails of it?”
She told him that there was a monk who borrowed 40 million dong from her to repair the temple. But the monk took the money and left without a trace.
“If I could get the money for you, how much will you give me?”
“It’s quite lucky for me if you return 10 million dong to me.”
“O.K., I will get the money back to you.”
In the end, Hùng handed money to the loan shark.
“This is eight million dong for you.”
“Do take it,” the loan shark said with joy. “I want him to pay the debt, not the money he has paid.”
Hùng came to the temple one day. He said to the nun:
“Is monk Tâm here?”
“He is not yet back. What do you want to see him for?”
“Oh, my parents have lent him 40 million dong, but he has not paid it back for half a year now. Would you please tell the monk that he should pay the money so that my parents can use it to treat their diseases? When the monk is back, could you please phone me at this number?”
When Hùng met a motorcycle taxi driver, he gave him one million dong and said:
“Please, when the monk is back, phone me!”
“You can wait for him here until it gets dark. He is going to make money, you see!”
“Making money? Where?”
“The man in the monk’s robe has gone everywhere begging.”
When it got dark, when the monk and the nun were having dinner, Hùng appeared. The monk was in great fright. Hùng was very polite:
“Make yourself at home! I can wait!”
“What are you coming here for?”
Hùng told the monk about the debt of 40 million dong he had borrowed from a woman. Now the woman was ill and was hospitalised. She wanted to have the money back. The monk said:
“I didn’t say anything wrong here. No slander here. If you don’t believe me, I am going to call the woman to come here for a face-to-face talk.”
“But who are you? Bring the creditor here.”
“It’s quite dark now. I’ll bring her here tomorrow. Please give me a place to stay the night,” Hùng said, thinking that if he did not stay here, the monk would run away.
The monk phoned the police. Immediately the police appeared in the temple. It was unfortunate for Hùng that when he rummaged through the papers in his pocket, the syringe fell out. He was asked to go to the police station.
Yet, at eight o’clock the next morning, Hùng was present in the temple again.
The monk had nowhere to run. So he had to go to the ATM to withdraw the money to pay Hùng.
In the end, everyone was doubtful about what kind of heroin Hùng had injected into his arms. It was later revealed that he had injected a vitamin, that’s all.
Translated by Mạnh Chương