It was just an ordinary Friday afternoon and I was heading home.
I knew I'd be alone in our big flat because my parents were at work and my eldest sister, Sydney, wasn't yet home from school. My little sister, Ashley, was at my aunt Loricce's place, as usual.
But I was excited because the school year was due to end in a month - and my birthday was approaching, too. On July 7, I would reach the grand old age of 13.
I couldn't stop thinking about the lovely summer holidays I was about to embark on. They were practically etched in my mind already. I imagined the hot, long sunny days at the beach and the fun times I'd spend chilling with good friends.
As I approached our building, I passed a Starbucks coffeehouse. I wished I could have just barged straight through the doors, not even caring that I looked like a coffee-crazed 12-year-old girl. But sadly, I didn't have any money on me.
Out on the street the sweet aroma of hot fresh muffins pulled me towards another cafe, luring me off my path towards home. I desperately wanted a caramel ribbon crunch frappuccino and a warm, fresh muffin. But sadly, I couldn't. I sighed as I walked past. How silly of me to have left my purse at home.
I was trying hard not to be envious and glare at everyone inside the cafe. But reality finally got the better of me.
Then something caught my attention.
My eyes settled on a creepy-looking guy standing at the entrance. He was apparently too busy talking to someone on his phone to notice I had stopped dead in my tracks to stare at him.
He looked like one of those bad guys - villains and murderers you always see in movies or read about in thrillers. Maybe he was indeed a villain ... maybe.
He caught me staring at him and scowled. I blushed and suddenly felt scared. What if he started thinking I was stalking him.
"What are you looking at, little girl? Go home," he snapped, annoyed by my intrusion on his privacy.
"Uh ... nothing, nothing, sir, just nothing," I replied nervously.
Dang! I had been caught once again. I would certainly not be a good ninja.
But I just couldn't help myself. I pretended to walk away, and when I was sure he wasn't looking, I hid behind a tree and eavesdropped on his conversation with the mystery person.
His voice was slightly muffled out of concern that someone might overhear him, but I did catch a few words:
"Yes, yes, tonight ... What did you say? No, just a nosy little girl ... She has already left."
That "nosy little girl" was likely me. Then he paused and stopped talking. After waiting for what seemed like hours, he began talking again: "Just kill her ... and be done with it. No, I'll do it. Goodbye."
I stood there paralysed, afraid to move. I was right: he was a bad guy! Who does he want to kill - me?
I wished I had never eavesdropped on him. I crept out of my hiding place, made sure he was not looking, and sprinted the rest of the way home as fast as I could.
Once there, breathless, I fished my phone from my bag and texted my best friend, Crissandra: "Hey Crissandra, you won't believe what I just heard!"
She was bound to understand and maybe she could help. I could hardly keep the phone steady in my hands. It wasn't long before I heard the beep and saw the new message: "Hey, so what have you heard, huh?"
I texted back at once: "There's this creepy guy. I think he plans to murder someone and I think it could be me!"
Then my phone started to ring.
Why would my phone ring? Crissandra and I had agreed we'd only text each other. Why is she calling? I pressed the answer button: "Hello?" I said, but it sounded more like a question.
"Sarah, let me put this lightly: you are out of your mind! Nothing like that will ever happen in a place like Hong Kong," she yelled at me. I winced at how loud and high-pitched her voice was.
"Crissandra, please, believe me. I'm so scared. I don't know what to do. It's really, really real."
"No, I'm sorry. You've officially lost your mind. Goodbye!" There was a long beep and I knew she'd hung up the phone.
Maybe Crissandra was right. I can be over-imaginative at times. Maybe I was just hearing things. I took a deep breath. After briefly thinking about it, I thought it seemed like a reasonable explanation.
Just then my sister came home. Maybe she would believe me? No, she'll probably say that I was hearing things. I realised no one was likely to believe me. I also wondered for a moment if I was losing my mind. But I was so sure about what I'd heard.
Should I at least tell the police? They might laugh in my face and tell me I was crazy, like Crissandra did. Then again, they might believe me. My doubts were tormenting me.
There was only one way to find out if I was right. I had to tell the police and suffer ridicule, if need be.
"Sydney, I'm going out for a little while, okay?" I told my older sister.
"Sure, but remember to be back home in an hour."
I went to my room to get changed and grabbed my purse and a small bag. I felt better having made up my mind. I was determined to make sure that nobody got killed.
On the way to the bus stop I passed Starbucks. I looked around but the creepy-looking guy had gone. I was so relieved. I made my way to the bus stop and got on a bus that would stop at the police station.
Soon, there I was - in front of the Wan Chai police station. Suddenly, I felt nervous again. What if the police thought I was crazy?
But I had to be brave: someone's life was in danger. I had to save her.
I psyched myself, took a deep breath and calmed down. I gave myself a pep talk in my head and mustered the courage to walk into the huge grey building. I told the first police officer I saw about the creepy guy and the bits I'd heard him saying on the phone. The policeman asked me what he looked like and I described what I could remember.
"Are you sure that you didn't leave out any details?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm sure," I replied nervously.
"The man you're talking about is a criminal we have just released recently. Does he look like this?"
I looked at the photo the officer showed me. It was the creepy guy, no doubt about it.
"Yes, yes, that's him!"
"Okay, then let's bring him in," he said.
The creepy guy's name, I later learned, was Thomas Liperi. He wound up being questioned by police about the planned murder. At first, he denied everything, but after repeated questioning, he finally confessed.
He was arrested for attempted murder.
I felt happy and proud. Not only did I save a person, a woman named Amanda Hockley, but I was brave. I appeared on the news and was interviewed by reporters.
The next day I noticed a headline in the South China Morning Post: "Attempted murder by convicted criminal foiled by 12-year-old". And there was a huge picture of me below.
I was famous! Sort of. For a day or two, anyhow.
I knew my fame would not last, but I wanted to enjoy it while I could.
I basked in the praise and attention people lavished on me wherever I went.
My parents said I was brave and smart. Had I not gone to the police station and an innocent life would have been lost. That thought will be with me forever.
I saved a life. I saved Amanda Hockley.
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