"It is huge and explosive!" said the female voice on the phone - her sudden call the prelude to an unlikely adventure for this Parliament reporter, still struggling to cope with Monday blues.
"I am in Parliament, can I check with my boss first?" I asked casually, wondering how big the news really was.
I leaned back to rest my back against the leather sofa, sitting amidst fellow reporters in the lobby of the Dewan Rakyat, head still woozy recovering from Sunday.
"This is bigger than Parliament. If you want the story, be at the main lobby of Carcosa Seri Negara at 11.45am sharp," she said.
I drove out of the Parliament compound at 10.10am, the guard on duty at the main gate looked at me with a quizzical expression on his face. Wondering why a reporter is leaving early, perhaps? Just as the question-and-answer session is about to start.
Suddenly realising that I had left Parliament rather early to go to the Carcosa Seri Negara, which is just a stone's throw away, I drove around the area several times to kill time until 10.50am. After which I drove towards the guarded gate of the luxury hotel.
I waved at the guard, who smiled and pointed me to where the main lobby was.
Parking my car, I briskly walked to the lobby, joining several other reporters from the mainstream and alternative media, who also seemed to have been informed of whatever it is that was brewing.
One of them, whom I know quite well, waved at me and I joined the group, trudging up the path. Exchanging notes while walking, none of us seem to know what was going on.
The lobby of the posh hotel was eerily quiet as I entered, with the two grey-uniformed staff on duty speaking in whispers as my soft-soled shoes stamped upon aged carpets.
Muffled voices drifted from the dining area off the left of the main entrance.
Heading towards the dining area, I was greeted by three senior journalists from Utusan Malaysia , New Straits Times and Berita Harian .
The trio were sitting down, their faces unreadable masks, smiling that half-smile of insiders sharing an inside secret.
Unopened bottles of wine stood on a side table, wine goblets arrayed on nearby tables, part of the decor or perhaps in anticipation of a private dinner.
Muzak was piped into the room via concealed speakers, music that somehow seemed off-tune, helter-skelter-like, grating the nerves.
“The music is so eerie!” said one young female reporter, shivering as if trying to ward of some non-existent cold wind.
“I feel like I am in the Godfather ,” she added mentioning the Francis Ford Coppola cult classic based around the fictional organised crime figure, Michael Corleone.
“All of you so serious and like you are in the know, while I am here like an outsider,” she added, referring to the mainstream reporters’ all-knowing look.
The reporters smiled collectively, and further prodding only returned a vague “just enjoy the show” remark, and that they did not want to spoil it for us.
More reporters began to stream in, with more and more handshakes, quizzical looks, head shakes and blank looks exchanged.
As 11.45am approached, the mainstream reporters left, finally revealing that they had already seen a video clip of an opposition leader caught in very “compromising positions”.
The remaining reporters stewed in the minutes after they left, and every minute seemed to drag for an eternity.
Rumours poured in from SMS, BBM and emails, as phones and Blackberries jarred to life delivering one minutiae after another. Wild tales ranging from another clip from a prominent MCA leader to one of an opposition figure, killing us not so softly with heart-wrenching anticipation.
At 12.10pm, relief appeared in the form of a small-framed and careful looking man wearing dark sunglasses, and dressed in dark suit sans tie.
Walking softly down the grand staircase, he was attended to by an large heavy-set man who acted like his bodyguard, and who was dressed in a dark brown suit.
“Where are you from?” asked the soft-spoken careful looking man, gathering business cards and identifying each and every reporter with careful and measured gestures. I could feel his eyes boring into every face from behind his dark-glassed eye-fortress.
“Okay, there are too many of you guys, so we shall break into groups. You, you, you and you first,” he said, pointing to a senior Bernama editor and reporters from FreeMalaysiaToday , The Malaysian Insider and Harakah .
Security precaution: Leave all your things behind
“You guys wait here first. We have to do it this way as a security precaution,” he said, adding that once upstairs, all of us would have to leave our electronic equipment and gadgets behind. Even pens and notebooks are not allowed.
Without identifying himself to anyone, Mr Sunglasses led the small subdued group up the grand staircase, as we waited below. He said that it would take about 20 minutes for the viewing, as his ‘bodyguard’ watched us closely.
The lobby turned silent again, not even the pitter-patter of feet disturbing the tension, as those left behind waited in tortured silence.
Sometime before 1pm, just before the batch that went up finished their viewing, Mr Sunglasses waited ominously at the foot of the stairs to announce that the viewing session had to be relocated for security reasons.
“You don’t worry, I shall call you after two o’clock and tell you where the next viewing is,” he assured the waiting reporters, collecting more business cards from those who newly arrived.
Disappointed, the reporters milled about, some left and others waited around, hoping to get lucky.
I was feeling rather disappointed as well, thinking that I had gotten all worked up for nothing, but midway up the stairs, Mr Sunglasses called out, “ Malaysiakini !”.
“Yes sir!” I answered immediately.
“ Malaysiakini , come up, I want to speak to you,” he said.
I followed Mr Sunglasses into a room on the first floor. My entry was blocked by his ‘bodyguard’, and another man, more casually dressed in pants and shirt, told me to leave all my belongings on a side table before trying to put on me an ankle-length jacket made of a soft, light-brown material.
Unfortunately, the jacket did not fit and had to be simply tied around my neck by the sleeves and draped over the front of my body. Presumably, this was to stop me from reaching whatever I had inside my pockets.
Walking into the room, I was greeted by two more men, one a rather plump, unidentified gentleman wearing a beret.
The other, a skinny man wearing a cap and shirt, was sitting in front of a computer screen and he later introduced himself as ‘Datuk T’.
I walked into the room, which appeared to be the living area of a guestroom, with a bay window overlooking the lawn.
Both of them shook my hand and asked me to sit in front of the screen. Sitting next to me, Datuk T then started to relate to me how he found the video recording, while Mr Beret stood watch from behind.
“This video was shot in a spa in KL,” he said, hands nimbly moving a mouse to click open a directory on the screen, showing six video files.
Shooting by four cameras set at different angles
Clicking on a video file, he continued to explain that the shots were from four cameras set up in the venue - four different cameras from the same direction, but set at varying angles.
“The cameras were professionally done, these fellas are quite good,” he said.
True to his word, a split-screen of four footages appeared on screen.
He went on to explain how the angles were different, but pointed out that the objects in the room and the setting remained consistent.
“Take note of the date and time code,” he said pointing to the date, which was 2011/2/21 and the time code, 22.23.
He also said the pictures were in monochrome, low light as the video was shot in darkness, with the only light streaming in from a bathroom light that had been left on.
The four split screens were slightly different, with the top left one seemed to be clear, while the other three were slightly grainy.
The room in the video was sparsely furnished, with a wall-mounted air-conditioning unit, a queen sized-bed, a small dresser, vanity mirror and a table by the bed.
He proceeded to run the footage, which showed a man with an uncanny likeness to a key opposition figure walking into the room through a door that Datuk T said led to an adjoining room.
A Chinese-looking woman was waiting on the bed. Another man appeared to be escorting the man resembling the opposition figure into the room and giving instructions to the woman, though his face was never on camera.
“Okay, I will forward the video now because it only shows them disrobing and the woman taking a bath,” said Datuk T, clicking the close button on the footage.
He then clicked on another file that showed the same scene, but with an advanced time code.
The scene then proceeded to the sex act between the man in the video and the woman that Datuk T claimed to be a “hooker from China”.
From foreplay to vigorous sexual acts
The 17-minute scene shifted from foreplay to oral sex to various vigorous sexual acts in several positions that, from this reporter’s perspective at least, was surprising of a man said to have a bad back, even if that was him.
All the while, Datuk T narrated the ongoing scenes and then handed me a letter which he said he would also send to the opposition politician whom he named.
Prior to actual sexual intercourse, the Chinese woman was seen, in the footage, reaching out to the small table to get something, possibly a condom, and put it on the man.
After the act, Datuk T told me to pay particular attention to the man who, squatting on the bed, took off the condom and with a rumple of tissues in his hand was dabbing his crotch, alleging that this could be how semen may have leaked onto the mattress in a previous case.
The man in the footage then went into the bathroom for a time, with the woman standing around.
Datuk T directed me again to the woman, telling me that she would steal a watch from the man. After a few moments with what seemed to be several furtive looks, the woman was seen to be riffling into the heap of clothing that the man had earlier deposited on the side table next to the bed.
It is this watch that Datuk T claimed the opposition politician later found to be missing and asked him to retrieve. He further related that he was looking for the watch when he discovered the cameras and recording devices.
Afterwards, the woman went into the toilet to shower, while the man got out as he was about to dress.
'Focus on one shot for you to see his face clearly'
“I am going to focus on one shot so that you can see his face clearly,” Datuk T said, clicking on one of the feeds and zooming it out to replace the split-screen.
The screen zoomed in on that single feed, this time showing the man facing the camera at an oblique angle, slightly to the left.
The man could be seen in his full frontal glory as he dressed. While his facial features were unclear in other shots, this angle seemed to show a face that could be recognised as being very similar to one opposition leader in particular.
However, the black and white nature of the full footage made it difficult to really established hair colour and skin tone. The man in the video also seemed to exhibit a slight pot belly.
At the conclusion of the video, Datuk T clicked closed the video and asked me to write it the way I see it. It was only then that he introduced himself as Datuk T.
I tried to chit-chat for a bit, trying to pry more details, but Mr Beret appeared apprehensive and said “Okay” several times, clearly wanting to shepherd me out of the room, egging Datuk T to conclude the presentation.
Shaking hands with all present, I recovered my belongings and then walked out of the room, down the stairs and out the main entrance of the hotel lobby, fending off questions and searching looks from other journalists, hands quickly reaching for my BlackBerry to call my editors and type out a story.
It would seem that today was not quite the boring day in Parliament I thought it was going to be, more like a roller-coaster adventure that I fear is only the beginning.