"Jean* came to work for us two years ago. She was petite and pleasant-looking, with tanned skin and long, dark hair. She was in her 30s then, and had left her husband and daughter in her village back home to work in Singapore.
She was my first domestic helper and came highly recommended, having worked for my sister-in-law Irene* previously.
Jean had asked to stay after her contract was over, and my husband and I decided to hire her, to help her out, as she didn't want him to return home.
A matter of trust
We genuinely liked Jean - she was hard-working, followed instructions and cooked well. We gave her the freedom to use her mobile phone whenever she needed to and even let her access the Internet on our computer.
Jean was left on her own for most of the day but my husband and I never questioned what she got up to. As long as the house was clean and there was food on the table when we returned home, we were happy.
However, a random chat with our neighbour, Gary*, made me wonder - fleetingly - if I should keep my eye on Jean a bit more. Gary lived with his wife Mrs Lim*, along with their daughter Lily* and her husband Jim*, several floors away from us.
Gary was always friendly to Jean, smiling at her when we met in the lift and chatting with her. We didn't know him very well but he struck me as a rich and flashy man. Jean, on the other hand, had simple tastes. She seldom wore makeup, and was always clad in a T-shirt and long pants, whether at home or on her Sundays off. I wondered what they would have in common.
It all started with a conversation about clocks, where Gary asked me, out of the blue, why I had a clock in every part of my house. He also pointed out that my bedroom clock was several minutes faster than the others.
What an odd thing to say, I'd thought, and wondered how he knew as he never been to my home. But I simply brushed it aside.