Hong Kong - Saturday December 21st, 1996
Jimmy Wong hurriedly finished his breakfast, trying to avoid looking across the table at Sylvia’s hurt and angry face.
They’d started the morning with a major row and there was nothing he could do to make it up at this late stage. He’d told Sylvia he’d be working today and couldn’t take her to watch the Langford Cup. He couldn’t get out of it. He was rostered. No one would want to swap with him and miss the race.
‘All right,’ she said, with a brittle airiness that scraped his nerves raw. ‘I’ll go by myself. I’ll wear my very best new dress, put on all my jewellery and my French scent. I’ll win a lot of money and find myself a real man to be my escort for the afternoon. Maybe for longer, because it seems to me that my husband isn’t interested any more.’
‘Sylvia, don’t,’ Jimmy pleaded. ‘I can’t just not go to work, let everyone down. It’s my turn.’
She got up and went to their small bedroom. Jimmy could see her at the dressing-table, making up her face.
Like a Wanchai bar girl, he thought furiously. She’s doing it to wind me up. He finished his tea and glanced at his watch. He’d be late, but he couldn’t leave her like this. He suspected Wanda’s influence. She was turning his Sylvia into a cheap little tart like herself, with all her talk about fame and men and money. Since Sylvia got mixed up with the Lees he couldn’t seem to get through to her.
He went to the bedroom door and leaned miserably against the frame, watching his angry wife as she brushed her dark hair, twisted it up in a knot at the back of her head and secured it with a red butterfly clip.
‘Why don’t you go to Happy Valley with Jenny?’ he asked gently.
‘Jenny will be with William Langford,’ she snapped. ‘They won’t want me spoiling their fun. He’s off to Tokyo tonight, on business, so she won’t be able to see him again until after Christmas. No, I’ll find someone to take care of me. When you can find the time to come home from your precious job, don’t be surprised if I’m not here.’
Jimmy’s mouth felt suddenly dry. ‘I work hard as much for you as for me. Surely it won’t be long before I get promotion and we move out of here.’
Sylvia swung around to face him, her eyes blazing. ‘You don’t care about me, only yourself. Wanda was right. She thinks I could have done much better for myself.’
His face hardened. ‘Then you should have waited for a better man, if I’m not good enough for you.’
‘Don’t think I couldn’t have got someone else,’ Sylvia taunted him. ‘I should have listened to my mother. She said policemen don’t earn enough.’ She turned back to the mirror and carefully applied a bright red lipstick to her mouth.
‘I’ll go with Mrs Lee,’ she said casually, knowing how to hurt him. ‘She made a top match for Wanda; perhaps she knows a rich business man who’d give me a better time than you do.’
Jimmy said sternly, ‘Stop it, Sylvia, you’re not a whore but you talk like one. You bring shame on your family, on mine. I won’t stop you going to the races, but I won’t have you talking like that. Haven’t you got any pride?’ His hurt young eyes met hers in the mirror.
She got up suddenly and went to him. ‘You’re jealous.’ She began to stroke his face in the way he couldn’t resist. Her fingertips lingered on his cheek, his mouth. She rubbed her body invitingly against his and he roughly pulled her negligee open and pressed her hard against his chest, crushing her soft breasts, fondling her naked back. She laughed huskily and stretched her arms around his neck, pulling his head down until his hungry mouth closed on hers. After a moment he reluctantly drew back.
‘I’ll spoil your pretty lips,’ he murmured huskily.
She laughed softly. ‘Silly, it’s kiss-proof. Look, I’ll show you.’ She demonstrated slowly and expertly until he groaned and pushed her away.
She dropped her flimsy gown to the floor and posed in only a pair of white lace panties. ‘Come here, Jimmy.’
He reached for her, then forced himself to stop. ‘I can’t Sylvia, I’ll be late for work.’ He picked up the negligee and draped it over her shoulders. ‘Go to Happy Valley ,’ he said unsteadily, ‘but keep all this hot for me, little witch, and I’ll show you tonight why you married me.’
She giggled. ‘Oh go on then, Jimmy Wong. You’re enough to drive a girl crazy; but I expect you back here, on time, because I’ll be waiting. I promise.’
He kissed her again, relieved that she was restored to a good temper and, inwardly cursing his duty, left the apartment.
At the race track, BJ was chatting with Jean in the Langford’s box. A number of Langford friends and business associates were also there, enjoying the company’s lavish hospitality. Guy had gone to change into his silks for the big race but the rest of the family was present. The Langford Cup, held each year on the Saturday before Christmas, was one of the premier events of the racing calendar.
Gloria was laughing with a group of friends. Jean smiled across at them. ‘She’s very much happier, lately. It’s practically certain Pat will divorce Wanda. Gloria will be a much better wife for him.’
BJ said gently, ‘It’s still only servant’s gossip. You can’t take it as read.’
‘Oh, BJ, you know very well the servants always know everything before we do.’
Jack Taylor, manager of ComNet International, passed them on his way to the bar and greeted BJ. They chatted for a moment, then Jack continued on his mission for drinks. BJ suddenly recalled that, years ago, it was rumoured Wanda was Jack’s mistress. He watched the stocky, dark-haired business man return to his wife and wondered if she’d ever had an inkling.
Wanda didn’t always go for blond, Langford types. BJ remembered others, A Eurasian business rival. And that fat, balding American - what was he? Some punter or other, wanting a slice of the colony’s money and playing some funny games on the Exchange. Rumour said he’d almost outmanoeuvred David, had come close to bringing down Langford-Price.
BJ looked across the gathering at David’s tall, handsome figure. He was playing his usual skilled game of social business, his senses alert, his rivals kept superbly off balance as his eyes observed every tiny change of expression. A champion fencer, outplaying his associates with consummate charm and ease.
BJ turned his attention back to Jean. She’d been talking about Pat, saying she was quite reconciled to his prolonged absence. He listened, his policeman’s mind dropping in the questions he hated having to ask, even in friendship. But he wanted to know the truth, no matter how unpleasant.
Jean, although still unhappy and concerned for her son, laughed at herself for being overly maternal. ‘Of course there’s nothing in Pat’s staying away. You make it sound sinister. I’m sure, when he finally gets home, it’ll all be explained.’
‘He still hasn’t called you?’
‘I haven’t spoken to him myself but I believe Guy has. Pat probably feels guilty, thinks he’s let me down. His trip’s going well. He’ll be back after the New Year, then everything will be sorted out.’
Her eyes strayed to Gloria again. ‘I’m relieved Wanda’s out of town. It saves me the embarrassment of running into her at parties. I’d have no idea what to say to her.’
BJ nodded. ‘Yes, she seems to have done the decent thing for once and spared us all.’
‘I never wanted her,’ Jean confessed, tight lipped. ‘God knows, I tried to like her, for Pat’s sake, tried to accept her when I saw nothing would make Pat see reason. I blame Guy very much; he brought her into the family. I try to forgive him, but every time I see him I can’t help thinking, It’s all your fault; if you’d never taken up with Wanda - good heavens, BJ, she was only a child! Guy was a man, ten years her senior.’
She gave a little grimace of disgust. ‘I wish Pat hadn’t felt the need to make their relationship legal,’ she said. ‘I was forced to open my home to Wanda, introduce her to my friends. They all knew what she’d been - whose property she’d been, because you can’t call it anything else. Elaine was absolutely right to put a stop to the arrangement before she married Guy.’
BJ smiled. ‘Let me know if Pat gets in touch with you, Jean. It’s urgent and I do need to know. Please trust me.’
She kissed his cheek. ‘I never regretted doing that.’
People were beginning to gather with their binoculars focussed on the gate. Around the track the crowds pressed forward.
Gloria came to stand with Jean and BJ. ‘This is it,’ she said and held up both hands, fingers crossed on each. ‘I don’t know who I want to win most, Guy or Pat, so I’ll send them both good joss and let the gods decide.’
The loudspeaker called the horses into their positions. A sudden wave of nausea threatened to engulf BJ. He closed his eyes briefly. Behind his lids, like a brand new film, brightly coloured and overloud, another running of the Langford Cup began to play vividly. The crowds, the colour, the intense excitement mounting, the horses surging forward, My Glory coming erratically, tossing her head, fighting her jockey, screaming in her fear, careering across the track. The thunder of hooves deadening all other sounds, or was it the blood pounding in his temples? Women rising to their feet, horror in their eyes, their mouths soundlessly open, their screams drowned in all the other noise.
Then the fall. My Glory thrashing on the grass, other horses crashing heavily, a red splash of blood on the white rail. The mangled indecency of crimson and mud and torn flesh that had been Michael Langford, now a grotesque effigy with limbs at crazy angles, lying still at last as the jockeys managed to control their mounts, finally avoiding his body as the stewards stopped the race.
Michael had died as dramatically as he’d lived and took two horses with him, which BJ found unforgivable. If you wanted to kill yourself it was selfish to involve others and unacceptable to destroy two such beautiful creatures. My Glory, straining to lift her head, whinnying in shock and pain, received one shot from the high powered rifle and was still. Lucky Lord, his luck run out, died with the next shot. His jockey, the brilliant young Australian who’d taken the colony by storm, was too badly injured ever to race again.
As suddenly as it had begun, the picture faded. BJ opened his eyes. Around him women squealed, men shouted, laughed. Gloria hugged Jean. The track was in an uproar.
‘Did you see that?’ Gloria shook BJ’s arm, her face flushed with excitement. ‘He won! Guy won! I’ve never seen the Lass run so well and Guy rode like a champion. What a race!’
Jimmy Wong and the other police who’d had the misfortune to pull duty on Langford Cup day, clustered around the radio. As the race went to the triumphant Guy Langford on Lively Lass, Jimmy grinned like a maniac and thought kindly of his bookie.
‘If Pat Langford isn’t riding, Lively Lass’ll come home a length ahead.’ He’d predicted. ‘Simon Long’s good, but Guy Langford can bring the Lass in ahead of him. I’ve been watching them work.’
Jimmy called across the room to Sergeant Melling, ‘Bad luck, Sam, should’ve listened to my advice,’ and laughed as his friend raised two fingers suggestively.
A telephone shrilled and Jimmy answered it. ‘Sergeant Wong.’
‘Sergeant?’ The pretty voice was breathless. ‘I asked for Inspector BJ but he’s not on duty. This is Silver Moon.’
‘Just a minute.’ Jimmy pressed his fingers against his ear to drown out the noise of the room. ‘You can talk to me.’
‘I have urgent information. I need to see you.’
Jimmy felt a surge of excitement. He ran a hand through his short, rough hair while he thought rapidly. ‘All right, when and where will I meet you?’
He carefully wrote down the details, folded the paper and tucked it into his wallet. This he glanced at the clock. Plenty of time before the rendezvous, time to celebrate his win. Sylvia would be pleased with him tonight. He remembered her passion, the softness of her body, and his breath quickened.
Sylvia, in her new red dress, was celebrating her own win. She’d listened attentively to Alice Lee’s reasons why Lively Lass was the best bet; now she crowed with delight as she collected her money.
She’d buy one of those lace nighties, like a Hollywood film star. She’d have a bath, pour in lots of her new French scent and get ready for Jimmy. She’d give him a night he wouldn’t forget in a hurry. He’d be so eager please her, he’d do anything. Sylvia would twist him around her finger like a baby.
She thought how lucky she was to have found favour with Alice Lee, then shivered slightly, remembering the circumstances that had led her into intimacy with Wanda’s mother.
She’s been very good to me, Sylvia thought, in spite of everything. Whatever she wants me to do is a small price to pay. When I’m through all this I’ll make sure never to be so stupid again.
‘Sylvia! Sylvia Wong!’
Sylvia looked around and her face broke into a surprised smile. ‘Chloe? Chloe Xian!’
The two young women hugged each other.
‘It’s been ages, Sylvia. You look wonderful. What a gorgeous dress! Did you win on the Cup? Me, too. Wasn’t Guy wonderful?’
Sylvia agreed enthusiastically, ‘He rode like a demon.’
‘Or a god.’ Chloe Xian giggled. ‘He has a way with women, that one. They were all over him after the race; some even got his autograph. Of course, he won’t care about that. He’s not conceited.’
Sylvia’s jaw dropped. ‘Do you know him?’
‘Sure,’ Chloe said airily. I know his girlfriend. I’ve met Guy at a few parties. He’s really sexy. My friend says he’s great in bed.’ She took Sylvia’s hand. ‘It’s so good to see you. You’ve been a stranger since you got married.’
Sylvia sighed. ‘It’s being so far away from town. It’s a real problem, because we don’t have much money. I hardly ever go out.’
Her friend ran a critical eye down her. ‘You look as if you manage, though.’ Her face lit up. ‘Sylvia, listen, I’ve just had the most wonderful idea. Oh! Is Jimmy here, too?’
Sylvia, reminded of her disappointment, scowled. ‘No, today of all days in the calendar, he gets picked for work. A policeman has no life of his own. I tell you, Chloe, he never stops working.’
‘Good.’ Chloe laughed. ‘In that case, let’s you and I go down to Wanchai and see what fun we can find.’
Although she’d threatened Jimmy with much the same idea, Sylvia was taken aback. ‘I couldn’t. Jimmy’ll be home and I promised ...’
‘You said he works all the time. What if he’s held up and you’re sitting at home, waiting? Come on, Sylvia, come with me. We’ll find a bar, have a drink and a meal to celebrate meeting again, perhaps even pick up a couple of foreign sailors. They’ll pay top dollar to be with two pretty girls like us. We’ll go dancing and then, who knows?’
‘Chloe, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t do that,’ Sylvia demurred nervously.
‘Stupid, I didn’t mean that. Just flirt, have a dance, have some fun. I’ll bet you haven’t gone dancing for months, and you were always ready for a laugh, you and Wanda Lee.’
Sylvia protested but let Chloe persuade her. She’d go for a drink and a meal but then she’d have to go right home.
‘Sure, sure, but if we get picked up by some great-looking guys, I’ll bet you’ll change your mind fast enough.’
After the races the two girls made their way down to the Wanchai district. The buildings were a blaze of lights, the streets swarming with American and British sailors, cheerfully trading insults and, occasionally, punches; tourists from every country, eager for a taste of the seamier night-life of Hong Kong; Filipina housemaids looking for a good time; prostitutes, bar girls and club hostesses. In Pomeroy’s, British bankers and brokers relaxed over a meal. American tourists packed Dan Ryan’s, looking for a friendly home-town face or two.
Sylvia drank in the atmosphere as she followed Chloe past bars and tattoo parlours, gambling dens and strip joints. She took note of the business girls, their sharp eyes quick to size up customer potential, and was glad Jimmy had been taken out of this area to work with BJ. Not, of course, that Jimmy would ever ...
‘Good heavens!’ Chloe stopped. ‘Isn’t that - no, it couldn’t be.’
Sylvia followed her friend’s gaze and stiffened with shock. Jimmy, she thought, that’s my Jimmy.
He was standing outside a closed door. The bright neon sign above said, ‘Heavenly Joy Club’.
Is he back on his old case? Sylvia wondered. The door opened and Jimmy was joined by the most beautiful woman Sylvia had seen yet. She had creamy skin, hair as lustrous as polished ebony and a figure like, like ... Sylvia clenched her teeth. The girl took Jimmy’s arm and they walked quickly away.
‘That’s Silver Moon,’ Chloe squeaked, ‘my friend, the one who’s with Guy Langford. She works there, at the club.’ She stopped as she saw Sylvia’s rigid face.
‘Oh, Sylvia,’ she gasped, ‘you poor thing. I’m so sorry.’