Hong Kong - Sunday December 8th, 1996
Sylvia Wong wrapped her flimsy chiffon negligee tightly around her and poured the tea. ‘It’s ridiculous. A meeting on Sunday morning? They work you too hard, expect too much. You’ve shown them how willing you are; now they take advantage.’
‘You wanted me to work hard, be noticed. Now you’re complaining.’ Jimmy teased.
She pouted, flicked back her hair. ‘I thought at least we’d have Sundays together. We’re supposed to be seeing Jenny this afternoon, have you forgotten? Or doesn’t your sister matter to you anymore?’
Jimmy’s face was suddenly grim. ‘You know what Jenny means to me. I’ll be back in time. BJ only wants us this morning. Something’s gone wrong, I can feel it.’
‘Then you’ll have to fix it or no promotion, then where will we be?’
He smiled at her. ‘I’m not the boss. If anything needs fixing, BJ’ll do it. I pity the poor bastard who’s made a mistake, if that’s what’s happened. The inspector is a very hard man when he wants to be. He won’t let up until he finds out exactly who’s to blame.’
Sylvia shivered. ‘It’s a terrible job, working with all the criminals and low life of Hong Kong. What if BJ’s angry with you?’
‘Don’t go on, Sylvia, why should I be in trouble? I haven’t done anything but work hard and keep my mouth shut.’
She sat down and buttered her toast. ‘I know. I love you, Jimmy. Naturally I want you to get on and succeed.’
‘I mean to, don’t worry. You dress up nicely for this afternoon and we’ll take Jenny to Ocean Park to see the dolphins. You’d both like that.’
Sylvia clapped her hands and nodded. ‘Oh, yes, that’s perfect.’ She hesitated, then went on brightly, ‘William Langford took Jenny out on Friday, to one of the floating restaurants at Aberdeen.’
Jimmy frowned. ‘I know she’s been with him. I don’t like her going with a Langford.’
‘He’s not like the others. Jenny says he’s steady and he’s really interested in her. If you really loved her, you’d be pleased,’ Sylvia coaxed. ‘Think of her position as Mrs William Langford, all the money she’d have. And she wouldn’t forget her brother and sister-in-law. We’d be made for life.’
‘No.’ Jimmy brought his fist down angrily on the table. ‘Don’t have anything to do with this. I’m against it and I won’t have you encouraging Jenny just to better your position.’
Sylvia blinked rapidly. ‘Why, Jimmy, what made you think ..? I’m pleased for her. You should be, too. Surely Jenny’s happiness is important.’
‘It won’t bring her happiness,’ Jimmy said darkly. ‘She’s better off without that lot. I’ll talk to Jenny; she’s always taken my advice. I’ll tell her to stop seeing him.’
‘I don’t think she’ll listen.’ Sylvia smiled knowingly. ‘It’s gone too far for that.’
Jimmy jerked his chair back and quickly got to his feet. He leaned over his wife, his hands hard on her shoulders. ‘What do you mean? Is she - has she slept with that man?’
Sylvia twisted away. ‘Ouch! You’re hurting me. If she had I wouldn’t tell you. And what if she has? It’s important for a girl to get a hold on her man. If she’s in his bed she’s got power over him. Look at Wanda and how she got on from the minute Guy made arrangements with Mrs Lee.’
‘They wrecked Wanda’s life,’ Jimmy said harshly. ‘Don’t you see that? The Langfords could ruin Jenny.’
‘You’re too gloomy.’ Sylvia shook her head at him. ‘Jenny’s a beautiful girl and I’ve taught her some tricks. What’s a sister for? Don’t frown at me, Jimmy Wong, I’m not one of your poor suspects you can browbeat. I’ve got as much right as you to advise Jenny how to make a good catch. This is women’s business, so you leave it alone.’ She stood up angrily and banged her cup down on the table.
Jimmy glared at her. ‘I’ll put a stop to it, you’d better believe me, and you’d better do what I tell you.’
With one of her mercurial mood changes, Sylvia moved close to him and rubbed her cheek against his shoulder. ‘Darling, Jimmy, don’t be cross. I want Jenny to make a marvellous marriage and be made for life. Don’t you?’
His arms went around her. ‘This isn’t the way, Sylvia. Please don’t encourage her anymore.’
‘All right, you’re my husband, so of course I’ll do what you want. You’d better hurry now and go to your meeting.’
Jimmy gathered his briefcase, leather jacket and crash helmet and went to the door. He glanced back at his wife.
She blew him a kiss. ‘I’ll be ready when you come back and I’ll make myself especially beautiful for you. I bought a new bracelet, jade and gold. I won at cards again. I’ll wear it and you’ll be proud of me. Off you go, darling, or you’ll be late.’
Jimmy gave her a concerned look and left the apartment.
In an upper room in a building overlooking a tiny back lane in Central, BJ closed the windows and pulled the curtains closely together. He switched on the single electric bulb which hung on a long flex without a shade, and drew four chairs up to the table. The utilitarian, sparsely furnished flat was used by the inspector for meetings, and as a safe house.
There was a brief knock at the door and he opened it to Bob who entered quickly.
‘Good. Make enough for all of us.’
Bob grinned and disappeared into the tiny adjoining kitchenette.
A few minutes later there was another knock and Jimmy was admitted.
The three men sat down with their drinks. BJ said, ‘Let’s have your report, Bob.’
‘Surveillance on LP Construction site, Nathan Road. It’s not too good.’ Bob glanced hopefully at BJ. ‘We need a man on site. As far as observations go, the place is clean, no one’s panicking. The guns seem to be looked on as more a nuisance, a reason to tighten security. Guy Langford’s a cool customer but there’s no reason to think he’s implicated. He’s pro-China.’
‘Yes, there is that,’ BJ murmured.
‘While David’s clearly worried about the future and is pro-democracy. Nothing there, either. The HKDU are clean, so far; they work closely with Free Citizens for Democracy. That group checks out, too. Top business men are involved, not just David. By the way, Jonathan and Benjamin Price are also members of the FCD, through their sister, Daphne. Walter Delaney’s the director of FCD.’
‘The American newspaper man,’ Jimmy put in. ‘Editor of the Post.’
‘I know him. Also through the Choys?’ BJ asked.
‘The other way around. Delaney’s a friend of Paul and Mary Choy. Don’t forget their mother was an American. He got the Choys involved. The Americans are very hot on democracy in other countries, even if they don’t practise it at home very much.’
BJ grinned. ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people, doesn’t appeal to you, Bob?’
‘Government of the people, by the lobby groups, for those who can afford it and for as much as they can get out of it’s more the truth.’
‘Delaney’s respected, but a hot head. Anything known against him?’
‘He’s right wing. He’s afraid, after the transition, he’ll be restricted, made to toe the party line, or be censored out of business. He was very vocal about Tiananmen Square. He was one of those who sent substantial aid from Hong Kong, which allowed the student movement to hold out for so long. Beijing knew about the aid and Deng Xiaoping was extremely irritated. Delaney’s known to the Chinese government as a troublemaker. He’s stated more than once in his column that the only hope for Hong Kong and the Chinese people is democracy in China.’
‘All that’s known,’ BJ said briskly, ‘but does it make him a gun-runner?’
Jimmy murmured. ‘It certainly puts him high on the list.’
‘Delaney’s a close friend of David and Jean Langford.’ Bob spoke carefully but his inspector’s face remained calm.
‘I know. He was at Pat’s homecoming, bashing Pat’s ear about the democratic movement. Pat had other things on his mind, as it turned out.’
Bob looked uncomfortable and BJ gave him a quick smile. ‘Not your fault, sergeant. Thank God we’re not responsible for our relatives’ behaviour or we’d all be in the soup.’
‘Chinese families stick together.’ Jimmy said shortly. ‘Family ties, family loyalties, are very strong.’
BJ let this pass without comment. ‘LP are taking on new labour this week,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘We’ll have to get someone on site legitimately, as a worker. I’ll see to it. Jimmy, report on Eastern Dawn.’
‘Yes, sir. Just the usual comings and goings, lots of Langford-Price connections, of course.’ He handed over a list of names. ‘These are the people who’ve used the building during the time of surveillance.’
BJ read down the list. ‘Second son Ho? Why does he go there, and so often?’
‘Business meetings with Sung Yen-lo. He imports jade and sells to Sung.’
‘Captain Ho does a coastal run to Shanghai, also to Macau. For the Langford-Price shipping line,’ Bob said.
BJ nodded and returned to the list. ‘Wanda, yes.’
‘Only we don’t know why,’ Jimmy answered with a reluctant look at Bob. ‘As you see, all three men ...’
The inspector’s face closed. ‘Sergeant Lee and I have discussed this. I hope I’ve made my position clear.’
Bob said doggedly, ‘All the Langford men have been known to - ah - stray, except Pat. David’s no saint.’
‘We’ve covered this.’ BJ’s tone was final. ‘Jimmy, your sister’s on the list.’
‘Yes, sir, there are sometimes office parties. She also visits the Choys with Mary from time to time.’
‘And Friday night? She was seen going in late, after 11:00pm. With William.’
Jimmy swallowed. ‘Perhaps she just went in for coffee after dinner,’ he said unhappily.
‘Perhaps.’ BJ put down the list. ‘This affects us all in some way; our - loyalties to our friends.’
‘Sir,’ Jimmy said urgently, ‘Jenny may be heavily involved with William. Sylvia’s all for it, thinks it’ll be great face. But if it’s true that someone in Langford-Price is behind the guns, what’ll that do to the company? To Jenny?’
BJ looked at him compassionately. ‘Jenny means a great deal to you, doesn’t she?’
‘I raised her, after our parents died in the typhoon. I worked, put her through school and secretarial classes. We were over the moon when she got the job at LP. Good salary, big company. But, is she in danger, sir?’
BJ paused and the silence grew in the room. After a while he said, ‘There’s nothing to show Bill’s involved, but he’s still a giddy bachelor and Jenny’s not his only interest. If it were my sister, I wouldn’t want her mixed up with a Langford, especially not now. It puts her too close to the action, even if she’s not personally part of it.’
‘I see. Thanks.’ Jimmy set his mouth in a firm line, his young face troubled.
‘Now I want to ask you both a question.’ BJ’s keen eyes watched the two sergeants closely. ‘What connections do either of you have with Langford-Price?’
Bob looked startled. ‘Well, the obvious ones.’
‘Wanda and Jenny. What else?’
‘Sylvia and Wanda are friends,’ Jimmy put in. ‘Sylvia plays cards with Wanda’s mother. Pat Langford’s mother-in-law,’ he added pointedly.
BJ nodded. ‘And my friendship with David is well known, and with Jean and most of the family. Plus, we three are on the police liaison committee so meet regularly with David and Guy, and Ben Price.’
‘What’s this about, sir?’ Bob asked abruptly.
‘Just covering bases, in case of trouble. Any other friendships in the company?’
‘No, sir, not on my side.’ Jimmy said earnestly. He fingered the thin line of his moustache worriedly.
‘Our work is top secret,’ BJ said seriously. ‘You both knew that when I took you on. I picked you because I knew you, Bob and I knew of your work, Jimmy. You both impressed me as being level-headed and, I hope, incorruptible.’
‘I hope so, too,’ Bob said evenly.
‘This society of ours has corrupted better men than any of us. Money, girls, drugs, all too easily available, temptation everywhere; and you can’t say we’re overpaid.’
Jimmy grinned. ‘Sylvia complains about how poor we are, but she’s been lucky at cards lately. She’s won a bit, gambling with Mrs Lee.’
Bob broke in. ‘Wanda’s mother, my Auntie Alice, is a neighbour of the Sungs. Lives next door.’
‘So you have a connection with Sung?’
‘Not that you’d call a connection. I know him, of course. But my being a policeman isn’t exactly popular, especially with big traders like Sung. He keeps his distance when I’m around.’
‘I see. Of course, the liaison committee was set up to promote greater understanding between the police and the business community. We’re making progress, but we can’t force people to cooperate, or welcome us.’
‘No.’ Bob agreed wryly. ‘Too much smuggling going on to be friends with the police. It was Sung who introduced Wanda to Guy,’ he added darkly, ‘so I have my own reasons for not wanting anything to do with him.’
‘Sir,’ Jimmy asked cautiously, ‘is anything wrong?’
‘Like what, sergeant?’
‘I don’t know. I just have a feeling ...’
‘Perhaps.’ BJ said shortly. ‘Just make sure, both of you, that you continue to be very, very discreet.’
Bob shot a quick look at the inspector. He’d worked closely with BJ for many years and thought he knew him better than most. They’d become friends, more so since the inspector’s wife had died in a landslide following a severe typhoon. Victoria had been a beautiful and charming woman, devoted to her husband and, since her death, he had never looked at anyone else. Not even taken a girl for comfort, as far as Bob knew, although, as he’d said, they were readily available with skilful hands and bodies that knew how to please a man. After a brief period of mourning, BJ had immersed himself more than ever in his work and lived strictly alone.
Except, I always suspected he was half in love with Jean, Bob thought, but he’d never betray David and, after that business with the King, it wouldn’t have done at all.
‘Who’s the extra chair for, sir?’ he asked.
BJ gave him a half smile. ‘A visitor. She’s due any minute. Bob, I don’t expect you to approve, but I do expect your support and silence on this.’
Before Bob could speak, there was a gentle tapping on the door. BJ went to open it. After a brief, muted conversation, the newcomer was ushered into the room.
Both sergeants gaped at the vision. She was an exquisite doll with skin the colour of old ivory, long black hair in an unchecked shining fall down her back, expressive dark eyes and a sweet mouth, the top lip slightly short. Her teeth gleamed like perfectly matched pearls as she stared with parted lips at the men. She wore a short, tight dress of apricot satin which revealed most of her slim legs, and matching shoes with high stiletto heels. An apricot handbag swung from one shoulder on a gold chain.
Jimmy took in her delicate beauty, thought her pert little nose adorable and quickly looked away, guiltily thinking of Sylvia. Bob, not so recently married, continued to stare.
The girl sat in the vacant chair which BJ was holding for her and smiled prettily in thanks. He resumed his seat with a wry smile as she gazed at the two sergeants with undisguised interest.
‘Sergeants Bob Lee, Jimmy Wong.’ BJ said finally in Cantonese, ‘This is Silver Moon.’
‘Beautiful name,’ Bob said reverently and grinned as Jimmy frowned sharply at him.
‘Silver Moon’s helping us,’ BJ told them. ‘She works in that very exclusive establishment, the Heavenly Joy Club, and she’s agreed to bring us information about certain business men we’re particularly interested in.’
Bob bit his lip but said nothing.
‘Which business men, sir?’ Jimmy asked and glanced again at the girl’s lovely face. She gave him a mischievous look.
‘So far, Guy Langford and Sung Yen-lo,’ BJ said blandly, ‘perhaps others later, if we need her services further.’
‘I hope my - services - please you,’ Silver Moon said softly.
‘You speak good English?’ Bob asked.
She gave him an innocent stare. ‘Of course. I spend time with English and Americans. I also speak Japanese, French, some Italian and German.’ She dimpled. ‘I’m a very exclusive hostess; very much in demand.’
‘Good enough for you, Bob?’ BJ asked. He turned to the girl. ‘What have you got for us?’
‘Something important, I think,’ she said. ‘Have you heard of the Jade Cat Society?’
BJ raised his eyebrows at the others who shook their heads. ‘What is it, this society?’
Silver Moon wrinkled her nose. ‘It’s very secret. Mr Langford and Mr Sung are members. They laughed when I asked, like it was a joke, very funny, but they didn’t tell me. I’ll find out for you. You want to know?’
The inspector nodded. ‘I want to know everything about those two, their associations, their business deals. Bob, Jimmy, see what you can find out about this secret society.’
‘Doesn’t sound like a tong, does it?’ Bob said. ‘They’d hardly treat that as a joke.’
‘Anything else?’ BJ asked.
‘Mr Langford’s gambling very heavy. Some wins, big losses. Owes Wing Chang much dollar. He’s been very quiet, worrying. Now suddenly he’s flush again, spending big. He says a big deal came through, no problem.’
‘Sounds like Guy.’ Bob grinned. ‘He has the luck of all the gods.’
‘Mr Pat Langford’s going to China for ten days, starts next week, for business. He’s also in the Jade Cat Society. He was at the floating restaurant with his lady cousin, Friday night. I was with Mr Guy. Guy says, very soft, maybe he’ll have some more good jade cats when Mr Pat comes home. Then they laugh.’
‘That doesn’t sound too serious,’ BJ said. ‘Right, thanks, Silver Moon. If anything urgent comes up and I’m not available, report to the sergeants.’
‘Okay. I’m off. First a hot bath, then sleep.’ Her smile embraced them all, then she was gone, leaving behind a lingering scent of magnolia blossoms.
‘Holy shit!’ Bob breathed. ‘What a stunner.’ He looked severely at his boss. ‘Why’s she doing this?’
‘Money, why else? She wants to get out of the colony before June and needs cash. She doesn’t qualify for a British passport. So I made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.’
Jimmy looked at him wonderingly. ‘I thought the slush fund was just so much talk,’ he said. ‘A rumour.’
BJ looked amused. ‘It’s definitely more than that.’
‘And, no doubt, in a very healthy state.’ Bob frowned.
‘Don’t go all moral on me, Bob,’ BJ said tartly. ‘I know you disapprove. You’ve entrapment and unacceptable risk written all over you. I disapprove of corruption and gun-running and secret societies I don’t know anything about and citizens in open warfare against the People’s Army. I’ll use whatever methods I can to keep this place relatively sane. We’re heading for troubled times. Let’s make them as easy as possible by cutting out as much of the rot as we can now.’ He grinned suddenly. ‘Anyway, I know you’d like to get something on Sung. Maybe this’ll do it.’