Hong Kong - Wednesday December 11th, 1996
The phone in Guy’s house shrilled monotonously. Gloria came running in from the garden and, forestalling the housekeeper, picked up the receiver.
‘Gloria Langford speaking. Oh, hello, Mary. I’m sorry, you just missed him. You might get him at the yacht club. He said he rang the office; he’s gone sailing. An emergency? Oh, dear, what a nuisance. Can I help? Oh, something at the site. Well, I’m sure you’ll catch him at the club.’
She rang off. Poor Guy, she thought, they can’t seem to manage for a minute without him and it’s probably not very important. Surely Lo Chin can cope.
David Langford stared at William in disbelief. ‘They found what in the skip? Oh, my godfather! Where’s Guy?’
‘He rang earlier. Taking the Evening Star out. He has a new girl, so we assume …’
‘Get him found, Bill, and get him back here on the double.’
‘His mobile’s off. We’ve left a message at the club for him to ring as soon as he arrives. Should’ve heard by now.’
‘Send someone over there to stop him. If he’s hell bent on sailing, he might not ring. Wait.’ William stopped at the door. ‘Have the police been called?’
‘First thing. They’re at the site now.’
‘What the hell’s going on?’ David worried. ‘First the guns, now this.’
At Central Police Station, Chief Inspector Brian Tan of Homicide dropped into BJ’s office and perched on the edge of his desk. Tan was tall and whippet thin. High cheekbones and a receding hairline emphasised the leanness of his mobile face; laughter lines permanently creased the corners of his shrewd black eyes.
‘Don’t you fellows have an interest in the LP construction site on Nathan Road?’ he asked lightly.
‘Could do, sir. Why?’
Tan grinned. ‘Cagey bastard. We’ve just been called in. Don’t want us treading on each other’s toes. Is there anything we should know?’
BJ stilled. ‘What’s happened?’
‘A body, in an industrial skip. The site foreman, Lo Chin. Still wearing an ornamental dagger through his heart. Want to tell me anything?’
BJ shook his head. ‘Thanks, sir, but we’re only interested in guns.’
The DCI nodded and stood up. ‘If you suddenly think of anything, we’d keep quiet about your involvement. Chap doesn’t seem to have any enemies; just a quiet, hard working family man. Bit of a worrier, I gather. No debts, no Triad connections, no recent quarrels.’
‘I’ll bear it in mind, sir.’
BJ waited until the door closed behind Tan, then dialled an internal number.
‘Bob, get over to the Yau Ma Tei site, now. Arrest Chen.’
‘You heard me. Get him back here ASAP.’
‘What am I supposed to arrest him for?’
‘Whatever you damn well please. Gun running, suspicion of murder, loitering with intent, if you like. Just make it look good - and Bob, watch out for the Homicide boys. They’ll be all over the place. Lo Chin’s been murdered.’
‘Shit! On my way, sir.’
The inspector drummed his fingers on the desk for a moment then put through a call to Langford-Price.
‘LP Constructions. Mr Guy Langford’s secretary speaking.’
‘Mary. Is Guy in the office?’
‘BJ! thank goodness it’s you. Guy’s out sailing this morning. We couldn’t catch him in time. You know about the foreman?’
‘Yes. I gather Guy doesn’t.’
‘No. Bill went to the yacht club, too late. Guy’s left his phone in the car and he can’t be wearing his pager, either. He said he’d be in after lunch but it’s very awkward.’
‘I’ll see if I can find him and get him back.’
‘He’s probably with a girl called Silver Moon.’
‘Ah. Don’t worry, Mary, I’ll see what I can do.’
BJ disconnected the call and punched in another number. Silver Moon answered her telephone in a sleepy voice just as he was about to hang up.
‘So you’re not with Guy Langford.’
‘No, I was with him last night but he got a message and left early.’
‘What message, do you know?’
She stifled a yawn. ‘No. He just said something came up.’
‘What time was this?’
‘Before midnight, five to twelve. Mr Sung came in so I went with him. I’ll be seeing Mr Langford tonight.’
‘Try to find out what he was doing after he left you.’
Silver Moon said she’d do her best.
Tommy Chen stood in BJ’s office, looking shaken. Having delivered him to the inspector, Bob now stood quietly, listening to the constable’s report.
Lo Chin had arrived at Chen’s place the previous night.
‘He asked if I was a cop.’ Chen anxiously watched BJ’s face for any sign of disapproval. ‘I said I’d left the force, had big debts, and my pay was too small so I’d do anything, like extra jobs, to get some more cash.’
Then the foreman had told Tommy he’d been watching him. Lo said he seemed a bright lad but he should stop asking questions. They got all sorts of men for casual labour; if it became known Chen had been with the police he could attract trouble.
Chen took a deep breath. ‘Then he said there might be a job for me. There’d been a breach of security. I’d have to watch someone without being seen. Like, spy.’
He paused but BJ’s face remained expressionless. Chen continued in a rush that Lo Chin hadn’t wanted to discuss it then, but he had information about something. He needed proof but he’d see Tommy in the morning.
Tommy had asked who he wanted followed. The foreman said only that he was on his way to meet someone.
Chen hesitated then finished his story. He’d gone to the site office first thing that morning, as instructed, to be told the foreman hadn’t arrived. He’d resumed work, then a worker had opened the skip to dump some rubbish and found the foreman dead, stabbed through the heart.
Tommy had managed to view the body. ‘I think Sergeant Ng from Homicide recognised me. Sorry, sir,’ he said quickly, ‘but I knew I should find out as much as I could for you.’
BJ nodded. ‘Their DCI came by to warn me, so I gathered he knew we had a man on site. Did Ng say anything?’
‘No, sir, just looked at me for a moment then looked away. But I knew he’d spotted me.’
BJ studied the constable’s face. ‘So, what do we do with you now?’ He thought for a moment. ‘How’d you feel about going back?’
Bob broke in swiftly, ‘Chen’s cover’s probably been blown, although we picked him up like you said and treated him like a prisoner. But if his cousin’s talked to anyone, or they were overheard on Monday, he’ll be a marked man.’
‘I’ll go back if you want me to, sir,’ Chen volunteered.
‘No, Sergeant Lee’s right,’ BJ said reluctantly. ‘Your cousin knows your background, so did Lo Chin. I don’t want you turning up in a skip with a dagger in you, Tommy. Lo knew something and was silenced before he could speak. He may have already voiced his suspicions to the wrong party. I’m taking you off the site.’
Bob looked relieved as Chen was dismissed. ‘Although it’s a pity. We could really use someone over there now.’
BJ leaned back and closed his eyes. ‘What was so urgent that Guy Langford rushed off at midnight, leaving the lovely Silver Moon to Sung Yen-lo? Find out where he went and if he stayed at Eastern Dawn or went home to Langford Drive.’
Two hours later, a police launch in the West Lamma Channel hailed a fast moving yacht.
‘Ahoy, Evening Star. Please heave to. We wish to come aboard.’
BJ waited on the jetty of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club with his friend from the Marine Division, a sandy-haired Englishman, Inspector ‘Mitch’ Mitchell.
‘No worries, old man, Didn’t take our lads long to spot him. I gather he was on his way back anyway, so we provided an escort.’ He pointed across the harbour. ‘She’s coming in now. What a beauty. Flies like a bird, all the latest computer technology. A dream of a smuggler’s boat. Fully equipped with all the electronics, including a twenty-four mile range radar.’
‘You think Guy uses her for smuggling?’
‘Did I say that?’ Mitch winked. ‘He does a lot of lone sailing; he needs all that stuff. Damned shame to spoil his day with this news.’
The Evening Star came to rest at her berth next to David’s Buccaneer and the police launch tied up alongside.
Guy came ashore at once and walked quickly along the jetty to the inspectors. ‘BJ, what’s all this about? They said an accident at the site? It’s not David?’
‘No, not David. Lo Chin.’
‘Bugger, that’s a nuisance. How bad is he?’
‘Let’s walk.’ BJ nodded to the Marine inspector. ‘Thanks, Mitch.’
Guy fell into step beside BJ. ‘All right, tell me the worst.’
BJ told him, watching him closely to see his reaction. Guy came to a halt as he finished and stared across the water with a worried frown. ‘This looks pretty bad for us. I was prepared to say the guns were a mistake, a coincidence. But murder? And the body dumped in the same skip? Like a bloody warning. Someone has it in for LP and they’re making sure we know it.’
‘That’s certainly one explanation.’
‘What else could it be?’ Guy stared at him. ‘You think ... someone in the company? Someone running guns, silencing any opposition? My God, if Lo Chin had known something about those guns, he wouldn’t have stayed quiet about it. Absolutely loyal. He couldn’t be bribed to keep his mouth shut.’
‘Guy,’ BJ interrupted, ‘What’s the Jade Cat Society?’
Guy looked startled, then threw back his head and gave a shout of laughter. ‘Where did you hear about that?’
‘Never mind. I know it exists, that you and various business men are members, including Sung Yen-lo and Pat. What I don’t know is what the society’s for.’
Guy grinned at him. ‘You know BJ, I don’t think I’ll tell you. You’re the detective. I’d love to know how you got hold of the name, though.’
‘You can’t keep a secret in Hong Kong.’
‘I rather thought we’d done pretty well so far. We’re sworn to secrecy, like any good society.’ He gave BJ a mischievous look. ‘I can promise you, it’s very harmless, a bit of fun, really, and totally beneficial to the community. Nothing to do with guns and murder.’
He held out his hand. ‘Well, thanks for finding me. I’ll ring Mary and get over to Yau Ma Tei. They’ll be frantic with worry.’ He looked down at his yachting clothes. ‘I’d better stop in at the apartment and change.’
BJ returned to the police car. He wondered if Mrs Lo knew anything. It might be of value to have Bob pay her a visit.
‘Where the hell is he?’ David asked in exasperation.
Susan Yeung went to the drinks cabinet and poured a scotch. She added a small squirt of soda. ‘Drink this. You look as if you need it. Guy’s on the site, finally, and you can’t go running over there as if you didn’t trust him. He’s the LP manager and it’s his job to deal with the police.’
David swallowed the whisky and Susan took the empty glass as her boss left off pacing up and down his office and stood at the wide picture window, staring across the harbour to Kowloon.
‘Did Guy see you yesterday?’ she asked, to divert his mind.
David turned impatiently. ‘What? No, was he supposed to?’
‘I don’t know, David. He waited for you for quite a while.’
‘When was this?’
She thought for a moment. ‘It was just after the mail was brought up. I put your private letters on your desk and when I went back out Guy was there. He waited in here while I made those calls to Melbourne and Tokyo and sent the faxes to Toronto. I’d just finished when he came out in a hurry, said he couldn’t wait after all and he’d speak to you later.’
‘Well, he didn’t,’ David said shortly, ‘so it couldn’t have been very important. Guy’s too much like his father for my peace of mind.’
Susan smiled comfortingly. ‘He’s certainly as charming as Michael and as handsome, and he does gamble a bit too much sometimes. But he’s not unstable.’
‘He’s volatile. He has a wild streak in him that’s too much like my brother. Look at the business with Elaine.’
‘He’s still young, and too attractive for his own good. But you have to agree he’s become much more dependable since he’s had the children to look after. His temperament’s more even now and he’s made a strong effort to change his really wild ways.’
David grinned. ‘Nothing like kids to steady a man. At least he seems to be right with his creditors these days. Rumour says he pays his gambling debts promptly. If only he’d find himself a wife and settle down.’
Susan raised her brows. ‘It didn’t do any good when he married Elaine.’
‘It did the company good,’ David countered dryly. ‘Gave us the MacKenzie shipping line.’
‘That’s an awful thing to say.’ Susan looked shocked, then conceded, ‘But it’s true Guy didn’t love Elaine. It was a company merger, not a marriage. It was poor Elaine’s money Guy was in love with.’
‘And the Pacific and South China Traders shipping potential. Well, he got the money and we still have substantial shares in Alistair’s ships.’
‘If Guy fell in love properly, it would be a different thing. He always knows how to hold on to what he wants.’ Susan stopped at a sudden thought, then said carefully. ‘David, your letters yesterday, they were all sealed, weren’t they?’
His face darkened. ‘Yes, fortunately. You’re thinking Guy might have opened my mail?’
‘No, of course not ... it’s just, I remembered that scandal with Michael. Of course Guy didn’t read your letters.’
‘I’d have known if they’d been opened. Relax, Susan, I don’t mistrust Guy to that extent.’
One of the telephones on David’s desk buzzed and Susan picked up the receiver, spoke briefly, then said thankfully. ‘It’s BJ. He’s on his way up. Now we might find out what’s happening.’