Hong Kong - Wednesday December 11th, 1962
BJ and David sat on either side of David’s big executive desk sharing a companionable silence and David’s Chivas Regal.
Finally David spoke. ‘You haven’t really told me anything.’
‘Sorry, David, I don’t really know anything. It’s not my case. I’ll ask Brian Tan to keep you informed. Does Pat know about Lo Chin?’
‘Pat left for China this morning. Guy’ll call him tonight in Guangzhou.’
‘Nothing he can do, anyway,’ BJ said. ‘This is Guy’s problem.’
David swore. ‘What the hell’s wrong with Michael’s side of the family, that they attract disaster?’
BJ’s face closed. ‘Michael’s troubles weren’t accidental.’
‘Alan’s death was an accident,’ David said coldly. ‘It was never proved otherwise.’
‘Only because Michael covered his tracks so brilliantly. But you know the police were never entirely satisfied.’
‘You mean, you weren’t.’
‘I don’t like coincidence. Don’t trust it. I know Michael was embezzling money from the company and Alan Price found out. Was it, then, just coincidence that the fork-lift Michael was driving lost its load and crushed Alan to death?’
‘It was an accident.’ David repeated, ‘You never proved Michael was stealing from the company.’
BJ gave his friend a compassionate look. ‘I never told you. David called me one night, worried sick. He told me someone had found a way to embezzle huge sums from Langford-Price.’
‘Yes. He knew it could only be you or Michael and he trusted you implicitly.’
‘If he’d trusted Michael more, he might have walked a straighter line.’
BJ shook his head. ‘Michael was always crooked. I think Alan discovered the theft; he was your accountant. He threatened to tell David, Michael killed him, then got drunk and committed suicide. He knew we’d be on to him sooner or later.’
‘There’s no proof,’ David said angrily, ‘and it’s a family matter. You believe what you bloody well like; Michael did not intentionally cause Alan’s death. Afterwards he went on a blinder out of sheer remorse. He shouldn’t have been riding in the Cup that day but no one knew how bad his condition was. When his horse came down, it was an accident.’
BJ expression was inscrutable. ‘Have it your way - but don’t let his bad joss revert to you.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘I was in Upper Wyndham Street on Saturday night, at the Bengali Rose. Opposite the Star of India.’
‘Damn you, Philip.’
BJ shrugged. ‘I thought an explanation would be appropriate.’
‘None of your damn business.’ David countered hotly.
‘I’m making it my business, for Jean’s sake.’ BJ’s voice was soft. ‘Don’t tell me I don’t have the right. We’ve been friends too long for me to stand by and watch you stuff up your life.’
‘You can go to hell.’ David finished his drink and poured another. Then he smiled reluctantly and offered BJ a refill.
He shook his head. ‘You were about to say ...?’
‘You’ve been a detective too long. It’s twisted your brain.’
‘Then help me untwist it.’
David sighed. ‘All right. Pull your nasty mind out of the gutter. I took Wanda to dinner with the intention of paying her off if she’d get the hell out of our lives for good. I offered her a very substantial settlement, which she refused. Jean doesn’t know and I’ll thank you not to mention it.’
BJ relaxed. ‘I thought it might be that.’ He eyed David with exasperation. ‘You crass idiot, anyone could have seen you and made sure it got back to Jean. My God, David, she knows you go astray once in a while but what would it do to her if she heard you were seeing Wanda behind her back?’
‘She’d have understood, and she doesn’t know about the others.’
‘Balls!’ BJ told him. ‘You poor deluded bastard. She knows about every one and she shuts up because she knows the Langford men. She also knows about those cosy evenings aboard your yacht; she always has.’ BJ’s jaw tightened. ‘There’s not much to choose, sometimes, between the lot of you. David Senior and Michael and you and Guy. Good God! Pat shines like a bloody saint against the rest of the clan.’
David was white to the lips. He gulped down his whisky and set the glass back on the desk, finally raising his bright blue eyes to the inspector’s stern face. He said stiffly, ‘Thanks, BJ, you’re a good mate.’
‘I know it.’ BJ grinned at him. ‘Go easy, David.’
‘I will. Are you still coming next Wednesday?’
‘The Langford dinner? I wouldn’t miss it.’ He rose and held out his hand. David gripped it. The two men walked out to the lift and David watched as the doors snapped shut and BJ was carried smoothly down.
‘Are you all right, David?’
He realised he was staring like a fool at the closed lift doors, and turned quickly to smile at Susan. ‘Of course. BJ couldn’t tell us much but he’ll ask Brian Tan to call me if anything comes to light. I’m free for calls now.’
He went back into his office and closed the door, staring with unseeing eyes at the portrait of Jean which hung behind his desk.
DCI Tan held up a sealed plastic bag.
BJ looked at its contents impassively. ‘Pretty,’ he commented. ‘Is this what the well-dressed foreman’s wearing this season?’
Tan shrugged his thin shoulders. ‘It doesn’t look much, does it? See the handle? Entwined dragon, common as muck in Hong Kong. Not a long blade but lethal, for all that. Sharp as a razor. Got him in one, straight through the heart.’
‘Not a hope. Wiped clean as a whistle.’
‘What’s your progress so far, sir?’
‘We’ve interviewed Tommy Chen. It’s a safe bet that whoever Lo was meeting that night is now short of one ornamental dagger.’
‘Damn! If he’d been more specific ...’
‘Lo Chin had a reputation for talking in circles. It’s a bugger, but there it is. We’ll interview all the LP management, ask if any of them had a meeting with the foreman - and of course they’ll come right out and admit it.’ He gave a lugubrious sigh but a twinkle in his eyes deepened their laugh lines.
BJ grinned. ‘If I hear anything, I’ll pass it on. You’ll keep me informed?’
‘Why not? What I know I could write on a postcard.’
‘And sir, put David in the picture.’
‘Why?’ Tan shot him a searching look.
‘Politics,’ BJ answered soberly. ‘On a strictly need-to-know basis, of course. After all, he is MD, Langford-Price, with influence at the highest level.’
‘The police commissioner.’ Tan sighed. ‘I get the point.’
There was a knock at the door and Bob entered. His eyes went to the dagger in its tagged and sealed bag and he stopped.
‘Murder weapon,’ BJ said briefly.
Tan picked up the exhibit, nodded to his two colleagues and sauntered out.
Bob came out of his reverie. ‘I’ve been talking to Tommy Chen about Second Vampire.’
‘When he realised Yeo Ping had been employed on the site, he asked around to see what he could pick up. Yeo came to work every day with a large holdall, much bigger than he needed for his lunch. He opened it quite freely in front of the others. A couple of them joked about it but they reckoned all he ever had in it was his lunch box and an occasional change of clothing. Could he have taken the guns out in it?’
BJ shook his head. ‘The guards checked everyone leaving the site. Guy told me, until the guns, they only searched the workers going out, to make sure they weren’t nicking.’
‘If he filled the bag and chucked it over the fence to an accomplice?’
‘Another little Vampire? No, he called attention to himself with the oversized bag. It was a joke. He’d have been noticed leaving without it. He wouldn’t have risked that if he was nicking the guns.’
‘Holy shit!’ Bob swore, I’ll have to haul the little bastard out of his cell again.’
‘Use Jimmy. Ping’s scared shitless of Sergeant Wong.’
Bob went out, cursing.
BJ sat for a while, toying with an irrational thought that refused to be dismissed.
Doesn’t make any sense, he told himself, but what other explanation is there?