Hong Kong - Thursday December 19th, 1996
The implications were too horrendous to consider; yet it was still all just speculation. BJ needed hard evidence, and quickly.
‘Mrs Lo might know more than she’s telling. Bob, get over to the foreman’s place. Have a chat with her.’
Bob grimaced and hurried out. As he headed down the corridor, rapid footsteps followed him. ‘Sergeant Lee, message for you.’
He stopped and the constable caught up with him. ‘From Mrs Lo, sir. She wants to see you straight away.’
Well, shit! Bob thought. BJ’s intuition fully on track, as usual.
He called for a car and in minutes was on his way to Kwun Tong. As they turned off Kwun Tong Road, a red Porsche drew away from the kerb outside the Lo’s apartment block and slid past them, accelerating with a muted roar.
Bob watched it go, then went up to the third floor and knocked on Mrs Lo’s door. The foreman’s wife opened it and stood stiffly aside without a word to let him in.
‘You wanted to see me, Mrs Lo?’
She pointed to a chair and he sat down. She sat opposite him, her face drawn, her eyes dark pools of pain.
There was a brief silence, then Bob said, ‘Well, I’m here. What is it?’
When she finally spoke, her voice was low and ice-cold. ‘The night you took Foreman Lo away with you; that night you killed my husband, Bob Lee.’
Bob was startled. ‘That’s nonsense,’ he said. ‘We were acting on information received. We found a load of guns on the site. Didn’t Chin tell you?’
‘He told me.’ Her words dropped one at a time with a hollow sound. ‘He talked about it every day, worried himself sick over it, couldn’t stop thinking about it.’ Her eyes suddenly filled with hate. ‘Why couldn’t you leave us alone?’ she hissed. ‘Chin wasn’t involved. He was a good man, a good husband and father. Now he’s gone, and what will we do? The Triads would have taken the guns out and no one any the wiser. But you had to involve us. Curse you and all your family.’
Bob felt uncomfortable under the scourge of her bitterness. ‘I was doing my job,’ he protested. ‘We knew Chin wasn’t to blame but he was the site foreman; it was his responsibility.’
‘Chin knew his responsibility without you having to tell him,’ she flung back. ‘He started asking questions, watching people. Then he told me he knew the truth. That’s what killed him. He found out too much. Now he’s dead.’
Bob leaned forward. ‘What did he find out?’
She reared back as if his closeness might contaminate her. ‘He didn’t tell me,’ she said harshly. ‘I begged him to share his secret. He said it was too dangerous.’
Bob was growing impatient. Had she demanded to see him merely to accuse him? He sat up. ‘Why wait until now to tell me?’
She made an abrupt, angry gesture. ‘I wouldn’t have told you at all. I spit on you. But Chin left something.’
Bob waited. After a moment she continued, ‘He had a box, always locked, for his private papers. They sent me his things from the office. The key was with them. There was a letter in the box and a note saying if anything happened to him, I should give it to you.’
She buried her face in her hands and wailed, ‘He knew he was a marked man but he wouldn’t stop. Now I’m a widow and my children have no father.’
Bob rose and went to the tiny kitchen. He filled a glass with water and brought it back to her. She gulped it down.
‘Where’s the letter, Mrs Lo?’
She pulled an envelope from her pocket and almost threw it at him. ‘There. Take it, and you’d better catch the dogs who killed my Chin, although it won’t make up for what you’ve done, you and your devil police friends.’
Bob opened the envelope. The letter inside was written in English but not to him.
‘This is to Mr Langford.’
She thrust a second paper at him. ‘In the event that anything should happen to me, give this letter to Sergeant Bob Lee and tell him to make good use of it.’
Mrs Lo stood up. ‘I’ve done what he wanted. Now, go.’
Bob pocketed the envelope. ‘Why was Guy Langford here?’
Her face closed. ‘What business is it of yours? Chin worked for him so why shouldn’t he come to see if I’m all right?’
There was a pretty jade carving on a small table. Bob didn’t remember seeing it last time. He picked it up. Chinese characters down one side spelled out a familiar name.
‘Where’d you get this?’
Mrs Lo snatched it from him. ‘I won’t have you poking and prying about,’ she shouted. ‘You’ve got your letter. Now, get out, Bob Lee.’
‘All right, I’m going.’ He paused by the door. ‘Look, Mrs Lo, I’m sorry about the foreman. If I can do anything to help ...’
‘You’ve done enough already,’ she said snapped. ‘If you’ve got any conscience, I hope you suffer like all hell.’
Bob knocked on the inspector’s door and entered briskly. He made his report succinctly and handed over the letter.
BJ unfolded it. ‘“Dear Mr Langford,”’ he read aloud, ‘“I deeply regret to inform you that I have discovered information which, if it became known, would cause much trouble for the company. I have always been a loyal company man and would not accuse another company person without good reason. But I became suspicious and have watched and listened with only the good of Langford-Price, its directors and shareholders, at heart. I beg you to believe this. Now I am satisfied that I do not accuse a co-worker unjustly.”’
He paused and scowled. ‘I assume he does get to the point,’ he commented. He continued to read in silence.
“There is a new man working on the site who has had police training. I will ask him to watch someone. If he confirms my suspicions, I will name this person to you. Expect to hear from me very soon. If you will please make the time to see me, I will tell you everything that I suspect. I am truly most concerned.”
BJ impatiently laid the letter down. ‘It’s dated Monday, the ninth. Damn Chin! He’s as long-winded as an old woman and tells us nothing. Which Mr Langford was he writing to, and who’s this person he’s so careful not to name? Male or female? Site worker or management?’
‘He couldn’t have been killed for the letter,’ Bob said. ‘It’s never been sent.’
‘Where are your eyes, Bob? This is a draft, not even properly completed. See the corrections? I’ll bet he wrote it all out again, sent it off, and kept this as a copy.’
‘If that’s so, then the person most likely to have silenced him is this Mr Langford,’ Bob said. ‘Unless he told someone else, perhaps all the directors. Or, perhaps Lo gave himself away or was overheard talking to Tommy Chen ...’
‘We’re going around in circles.’ BJ folded the letter and returned it to the envelope, his deep eyes hooded.
Bob said carefully, ‘I have to point out that all the Langfords are still in Hong Kong and behaving normally, except for Pat.’
BJ’s hard gaze raked the sergeant. ‘Damn you, Bob, I’m fully aware of it.’ he snapped. ‘But Pat’s been away from the colony for twelve months.’
‘If it was his operation he’d have had a second in command.’
BJ felt suddenly sick. Not David, he pleaded silently, he couldn’t be involved. It’d kill Jean.
‘His absence could be explained another way,’ Bob continued. ‘Pat’s servants are saying Wanda flew into a jealous rage over his involvement with Gloria and he asked her for a divorce.’ He pulled a face. ‘My aunt’s furious. After all her hard work to get them back together again.’
‘Is it so important to her?’ BJ asked.
‘She likes being Patrick Langford’s mother-in-law,’ Bob explained. ‘Huge face, and power among her friends. Wanda also fed her snippets of company news. It helped her investments on the Exchange, to be one step ahead of the game.’
BJ raised his brows. ‘That’s almost insider trading,’ he said, suddenly amused. ‘Cunning old Alice Lee.’
‘She’s always had her eye to the main chance,’ Bob said, ‘like everyone else. But, did you notice Gloria last night?’
‘Point taken.’ BJ nodded. ‘She looked like the cat who found its way into a very large bowl of cream.’
‘I’ve been making inquiries about Wanda for Donald Ryder,’ Bob said. ‘According to Sylvia Wong and Auntie Alice, she decided to get out of Hong Kong until Pat returns. She’s staying with friends in Macau. I’ve informed the ambassador.’
‘Right. Well done,’ BJ said absently,
Bob grinned. ‘And I notified Missing Persons. Miss Dawson rang them and demanded they find Wanda, which surprised them very much as no one had reported her missing. Auntie told them to get stuffed and mind their own business, so they were relieved when I explained.’
He paused. ‘You’ll have to do something about Pat,’ he said quietly. ‘You’re caught between both sides and I don’t envy you.’
BJ drummed his fingers on the desk. ‘Definitely between a rock and a very hard place.’ He smiled slightly. ‘Old Sing’s theory is that the boy’s worried sick by his family putting pressure on him, and he’s torn between Gloria and Wanda, so he’s run away. Sing asked me to talk to him.’
‘I rang Chow Lin-chi earlier. Pat is staying with them for Christmas, at Pat’s request, but he’s not there yet. Lin-chi saw him in Shanghai a few days ago, then Pat went to Beijing. He’s due at the Chows’ on Christmas Eve. Lin-chi said he’d make sure Pat called home.’
‘Then you’ve done all you can,’ Bob said.
‘I suppose so.’ BJ grimaced. ‘This whole situation’s a bastard.’
‘You wouldn’t be bothered if it wasn’t for Jean.’
‘That’s true.’ He shrugged. ‘Well, we can only wait and see what those gods of yours come up with.’
‘There’s something else,’ Bob started, and broke off as the phone buzzed. BJ answered it.
‘Inspector! I want to see you, my office, now.’ Peter King’s voice was curt but BJ thought he detected a faint echo of satisfaction.
He dismissed Bob and, with a heavy heart, went to see the commander.
Gloria, her fair hair expertly cut, shampooed, conditioned and swinging around her shoulders in a shining wave, entered her brother’s department with a brisk and happy step.
Jenny and Mary both stopped work, their hands poised over their keyboards, and looked up in surprise. Gloria smiled at them and, without asking, tapped on Guy’s door and entered his office.
‘Well.’ Mary’s eyes spoke volumes. ‘I thought you said Pat was going to take Wanda back.’
‘That’s what Sylvia said. She got it from Wanda herself.’
‘That little cat would say anything,’ Mary said disdainfully. ‘She tells more lies than she could confess in a month if she went to see her priest every day. Did you see Gloria?’
‘As well as you did,’ Jenny retorted. ‘If she’s suffering, she certainly doesn’t show it.’
‘Fresh from the hairdresser, notice? A new cut and style, and a smile from ear to ear.’
‘She must have heard about the quarrel.’ Jenny returned to her work.
Mary stared. ‘What quarrel?’
Didn’t you know?’ Jenny’s busy fingers halted. ‘Mona Feng’s niece, Cissy, told me. Pat and Wanda had a terrible fight. He asked her for a divorce.’
Jenny nodded. ‘That’s the rumour.’ She wrinkled her pert nose thoughtfully. ‘I suppose Gloria heard it from Sen Chiang, their chauffeur. He’s Pat’s cook’s cousin.’
Mary grinned. ‘Well! No wonder she looks like she won the lottery. She’s waited long enough.’
‘She’d have done better to get herself a man, learn a few tricks about making love,’ Jenny said wickedly, ‘Could Gloria match a sexpot like Wanda?’
Mary stifled a laugh, then said, ‘What if someone heard you? Get back to work, Jenny Wong.’
Guy, going over some figures with Ben Price, broke off and welcomed Gloria with a smile. Ben went into his adjoining office and closed the door.
‘You look beautiful today, little sister. What’s the occasion?’
‘Oh, well, a girl can’t mope about forever,’ Gloria replied airily.
Guy looked at her closely. He’d noticed the change in her. Suddenly she was the life and soul of the party. She really believed the rumours, God help her. Damn Pat! She was going to be severely hurt and Guy couldn’t help her.
Gloria broke into his thoughts. ‘Did you see Mrs Lo?’
He nodded. ‘This morning. It’s all fixed up - and she has our token of faith.’
‘The jade cat?’ Gloria laughed. ‘Good. I’ve been worried about how she’ll manage, with all those kids.’ She kissed his cheek. ‘You’re a generous man and a kind brother, Guy Langford, and I love you very much.’
His arms went around her and he pulled her close to him, feeling an overwhelming tenderness, a desire to protect her gentle innocence from every possible hurt. He sometimes wondered if Gloria was some sweet angel sent to remind him of paradise lost. He knew she was the only person he’d ever loved with his whole heart, and he hated himself for not being able to protect her.
If we hadn’t been brother and sister, he told himself, I’d have married her and loved her and kept her safe from every harm.
He smelled the fresh salon scent of her hair and pulled himself up sternly. Not the thing at all, Guy Langford, he admonished himself. What the hell’s the matter with you?