Chapter 24


Hong Kong - Friday December 20th, 1996




BJ experienced a frustrating and fruitless two days and was totally at a loss to know how next to proceed. He had an uncomfortable feeling that everyone knew more than he did and was protecting family secrets.

          Face! He scowled at a report he should have been dealing with. It all came down to face.

          He’d spent a good deal of time at Langford-Price, knowing that, in the eyes of the staff, he’d stepped over the boundary of friendship, reverting to mere police officer. Faces which had smiled warmly at him now closed warily and answered him with the correct politeness he hated.

          David had been in his office, kept there by Susan who was actively discouraging his presence at the building site.

          ‘She says I’m too old to be playing in a big sand pit,’ he’d said ruefully. ‘She’s got me there. I enjoy the construction side of the business, watching things grow - and our fortunes with them. I handled that side of it before Dad retired.’ He frowned. ‘Why all this interest in Pat? Surely it’s nobody’s business but his and the family’s if he chooses to stay with the Chows? Brian gave me the distinct impression he thought Pat was somehow involved in Lo’s murder. Bloody cheek!’

          ‘It is strange that Pat won’t be home for the Cup tomorrow and to be with the family for Christmas.’ BJ had commented.

          ‘I disagree,’ David countered sharply. ‘Boy’s doing the best thing by staying away, although you won’t convince Jean. At home he’d have to face Gloria and Guy, all the speculation and gossip. It’s already common knowledge he and Wanda had a fight. Nobody’s business but their own. I’m tired of all this.’ His eyes had challenged BJ. ‘There’s no mystery, believe me. Pat’s in contact with the company; he’s never very communicative unless he strikes trouble. Everything’s completely normal. The police must have better things to do with their time.’

          Then why are you worried? BJ wanted to ask. However hard David tried to convince him, he knew it was not normal behaviour for Pat. Could the boy have had some sort of breakdown?

          Guy hadn’t been in his office but Mary Choy had politely made BJ welcome and given him a cup of tea.

          She confirmed she’d seen faxes. From Guangzhou, to say Pat’s negotiations with the Chung Kwon Shipping Line had gone well; from Shanghai, about business, then to say he was staying with the Chows over Christmas. They hadn’t heard from him in Beijing, but Mary thought they would if there was any trouble, so she assumed he’d dealt with the problem of Guy’s glass.

          A sudden thought struck BJ. ‘Mary, if you were writing a letter to Guy, would you address him as Mr Langford?’

          She smiled. ‘I’d call him Mr Guy. It saves confusion. In correspondence, we only address David as Mr Langford.’

          BJ had continued on to Yau Ma Tei. He had no heart for this but wanted to find out anything he could before Brian’s twenty-four hour deadline. He’d looked at his watch and realised he was too late, by a good couple of hours.

          Guy had answered him openly enough. ‘Pat called me,’ he said calmly, ‘didn’t Mary tell you?’ Then he clicked his tongue impatiently. ‘No, of course. Sorry, BJ, she’d gone to lunch. I forgot to mention it to her. I just rushed out. We’re having a problem maintaining the schedule without the bloody windows.’

          ‘He phoned you?’ BJ had repeated.

          ‘Yes, from Hing’s, to ask about the glass. He’s phoned me a couple of times.’

          ‘Why you and not David or Jean?’

          Guy had grinned. ‘I’m enough removed, being his cousin, not to lecture him. Heaven knows, I’ve no cause. I haven’t been a saint in my lifetime. Pat feels he can talk to me. If he rings David, he’ll get a lecture on family responsibility. Jean would be so understanding he’d still feel guilty days later.’ He’d shrugged. ‘Me, I just ask him about the trip and let him know what’s happening in the firm.’

           BJ asked, ‘Doesn’t it strike you as odd, Pat’s choosing not to see his horse win the Cup for the third year running?’

          Guy’s handsome features had twisted into a cheeky, puckish grin. ‘My dear inspector, what makes you think Langford’s Pride is going to beat Lively Lass?’

          ‘Old Sing predicts a walk over,’ BJ had told him.

          Guy shook his head. ‘You’re betting on the wrong horse. On Chee predicts a similar win for my Lass.’

          ‘Pat’s got the lucky red and the number eight.’

          Guy pretended surprise. ‘I didn’t know you’d gone totally native. We have the best position; and I’m riding, in the Langford Cup tradition. I may be tall, but I’m light, and I’m a damned good rider. The Lass’ll do for me what she won’t do for anyone else.’

          ‘That’s true,’ BJ agreed. ‘I’m almost tempted.’

          ‘You’ll be sorry if you don’t back Lively Lass. Well,’ he’d given BJ his quick, charming Langford smile, ‘was that all? except, I’m pretty snowed under.’

          ‘One more thing.’ BJ held up a restraining hand. ‘Do you know Pat’s schedule for the tenth?’

          ‘The Tuesday before he left?’ Guy thought back. ‘Well, he told me he’d worked out with the Pride. He had a lot of last minute things to clear up. He checked with me again about the glass and said he was having dinner with Wanda. Rumour is she was furious because Pat’s paying attention to my sister - servant’s gossip, inspector. Pat drove her home, returned to the house, went to beddy-byes, and not before time, I gather; then set off at the crack of dawn for China.’

          ‘On the first flight?’

          ‘That’s right. Pat hated Chinese trains.’

          BJ had paused. ‘That’s odd.’

          ‘What’s that?’

          ‘You said Pat hated Chinese trains, not hates.’

          Guy grinned. ‘Well, he hadn’t been in one for a hell of a time. They have improved, if he’d come down from his ivory tower and risk a first class sleeper.’ He looked closely at the inspector. ‘You do pick up the fine detail, don’t you? I daresay Pat still hates Chinese trains.’

          ‘I’m sure Brian Tan’s already asked you,’ BJ said quietly. ‘What was Pat’s relationship with Lo Chin?’

          ‘Did Pat have a relationship with him?’ Guy raised a considering eyebrow. ‘Yes, I suppose he did. Well, he’s a company director so at work, in front of the men, Lo always treated him with formal respect. They did get together, I believe, outside work, for the odd game of mah-jong. So you might say they socialised.’

          ‘There was friendship between them?’ BJ persisted.  

          ‘Usually. God knows what caused Pat to go off the rails, but I suppose he had his reasons.’

          ‘I don’t follow.’

          ‘Oh, I thought you and Brian ... no?’ Guy’s mouth twisted wryly. ‘Well, it probably wasn’t anything. I came into the site office on Tuesday morning, just before lunch. Walked in on Pat tearing strips off Chin; verbally, that is. As soon as they saw me, they both looked bloody uncomfortable. Pat went scarlet and walked out. He never explained and I never asked.’

          ‘And you have no idea ..?’

          ‘Not the faintest. Pat was himself again when we had lunch, very bright and chatty - for Pat.’

          There was no more to be got out of Guy who was called away by the new foreman before BJ could frame the next question.

          BJ had phoned Brian Tan to report his progress. The DCI was sympathetic but unmoved. ‘Very much like the response we got. I’m sorry, BJ, Pat is now a suspect. We’ve been back in touch with Hing. He still denies seeing Pat, so presumably he was lying when he contacted Guy.’

          ‘Perhaps Hing thought it wasn’t our business.’

          Tan hesitated. ‘Well, I’ll talk to Guy again but in the meantime I’ve got a warrant to search Pat’s house. Don’t worry, we’ll be very discreet.’

          Someone should tell David and Jean and prepare them, BJ worried. No, better to wait. Of course Brian won’t find anything. Oh, hell, David’ll hear about it, anyway. Too good an opportunity for the King, not to leak that piece of information. David will want to be present. Should be, really, as head of the company, and Pat’s father.

          He’d rung David and told him the bad news, feeling as if he’d betrayed Brian, now, as well as Pat.

          ‘Damn all this,’ he said aloud as David, protesting loudly, had rung off. ‘Damn, damn, damn!’



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