Hong Kong - Monday December 23rd, 1996
BJ and Bob were lunching at the Bengali Rose.
‘I gave Lo’s letter to Brian,’ BJ remarked. He saw Bob’s expression. ‘What the hell else could I do? Brian’s quite right. I can’t protect Pat. I’ve handed our information over to Homicide. By order of the King.’
‘Tell me about the dagger,’ BJ asked quietly.
‘How did you ..?’
‘You recognised it. I’m surprised Brian didn’t nail you to the wall on the spot.’
‘It’s identical to one Wanda carried about with her,’ Bob said unhappily. ‘If she was angry enough with Pat, she might have attacked him with it and got hurt herself; maybe killed. Then Pat would have been in possession of it and could’ve used it on Chin.’
‘I see. How very convenient. Well, there’s no reason yet to assume it’s the same one. Were there any special markings?’
‘Not that I’m aware.’
‘We’ll trust so, for now. You should have told me.’
The inspector smiled slightly, then said, ‘We’re being joined by Tommy Chen and a WPC.’ He looked across the restaurant. ‘Ah, here they are, now.’
The two constables sat down. Connie Wu, looking subdued, kept her eyes downcast.
‘Constable Wu,’ BJ smiled at her. ‘May I call you Connie?’
‘Sir.’ She gave him a fleeting glance.
‘I believe you have a friend at the Excelsior and you’ve given Chen some good information.’
‘Yes, sir, thank you, sir.’
‘I also believe you go with Sergeant Ng from Homicide.’
‘Sometimes, sir. My friend, Cissy, goes with his friend.’
‘Connie, my department has a special brief. We’re doing secret work, vital for the future of Hong Kong. Do you understand?’
‘It’s important that whatever we talk about doesn’t get back to Sergeant Ng, or anyone else.’
She lifted her eyes again and gave him a straight look. ‘I’ll be very discreet, sir.’
‘I’ll expect you to be. We’re interested in the Australian woman, Miss Monk. I need an informant in the Excelsior, someone who’ll watch her and report directly to me about her activities. Would your friend do this for me?’
‘I think so, sir, if you offered her some payment.’
‘That’s understood. How soon can I meet her?’
‘What about my duties, sir?’
‘I’ll square it with your sergeant. He’ll release you to me for as long as it takes.’
‘All right, sir. Cissy has some time off this afternoon.’
‘Good; arrange it. Impress on her the importance of secrecy. It’s not for Mona Feng’s ears.’
‘Yes, sir. I’ll see her right away.’
‘Good. Off you go, then.’
The two young people went out. Connie said indignantly, ‘He’s nice. You make out like he’s some sort of dragon.’
‘He can be, so watch out. If you worked with him all the time, like me, you’d learn not to cross Inspector BJ.’
‘Maybe I will be working for him and maybe I’ll be even better than you.’
‘Oho, don’t you just wish. BJ relies on me a lot.’
‘Since when did you have permission to call him that?’
Tommy looked abashed and Connie laughed. ‘You’re not such a big man yet, Tommy Chen.’
Bitch! he thought. I’m as good as any of the others. Why does she always put me down?
In the restaurant Bob said, ‘Customs and Immigration say Wanda never went to Macau. They’ve got no record of her. And she never bought a ticket on the jetfoil. What’s going on?’
‘Could she have gone privately?’ BJ queried.
‘She’d still have to go through Customs.’
‘Depends who she went with. She must have a number of contacts. Perhaps a junk, doing the coastal run, slipped her ashore.’
‘Why? Why all the secrecy? I’m inclined to believe she never went at all. Brian Tan has the Macau police checking on her friends. Shit, BJ, it’s looking worse and worse.’
‘I’m not writing her off yet,’ BJ said. ‘Her body hasn’t turned up. Wait, Bob. I have a feeling we’re nowhere near the truth of this.’ He pushed his chair back. ‘Come on, we’ve got work to do.’
Mary Choy watched Guy covertly. Guy stopped dictating and smiled at her. ‘Thanks, Mary. Get me a copy of that, and call Ho San. I’ll fit him in at 4:30.’
‘Yes, Guy.’ She went back to her desk.
‘Well?’ Jenny asked, ‘What did he say?’
‘Nothing.’ Mary bit her lip. ‘Just dictation. Something’s happened, though. He went out to lunch with that woman and came back a different person.’
‘He’s fallen for her.’ Jenny said astutely.
‘Nonsense!’ Mary returned sharply. ‘It’s nonsense.’
‘You’ll see.’ Jenny’s buzzer sounded and she quickly gathered up some papers and went to Ben Price’s door. As she turned the handle, she hissed, ‘I’ll bet you a hundred Hong Kong dollars I’m right!’
In Queen’s Road West, Bob Lee talked to a stall-holder in his tiny booth which was nothing more than three rough walls, a corrugated iron sheet for the roof and a roller-door with a stout lock. BJ waited across the street beside a wide steel door which was securely locked. An old man, squatting on the pavement beside a suitcase opened to display a quantity of cheap jade jewellery and carvings, glanced up at him from time to time through narrowed, rheumy eyes and silently wished the inspector to hell.
Bob waited for a break in the traffic and dived across the road. ‘He says there’s no new activity to report.’
BJ inspected the door. ‘Where’s the owner?’
‘He has a warehouse upstairs.’ Bob led the way up a narrow lane which was nothing more than a steep walkway and found the stairs leading to the next floor. The detectives climbed them and knocked firmly on the first door they came to.
Shortly afterwards the owner, protesting loudly, produced the keys to the lockup. ‘It’s a violation of privacy,’ he complained bitterly. ‘What will Mr Langford say?’
‘If you’re smart, you won’t tell him.’ Bob countered cheerfully. ‘It looks as if your lockup’s been used for illegal purposes. You could be in serious trouble.’
Dismayed, the man squawked, ‘It’s nothing to do with me. I only rent the place to Mr Langford. I don’t pry into what he does there.’ He began to back away in alarm. ‘You leave me out of it. Look all you want but make sure you return the keys when you’ve finished.’
Bob followed BJ down to the street. They unlocked the door and entered the lockup. BJ slid the door closed behind them.
Bob flashed a torch around. ‘There must be a light,’ he muttered. He found the switch and flooded the room with a bright fluorescent glare.
‘That’s better.’ BJ moved forward. ‘Let’s get this over.’
The room was big enough to park at least three cars. Oil stains on the concrete floor witnessed to its regular use as a garage. There was a work bench with various drawers but these revealed only a set of carpenter’s tools and plastic garbage bags. Several hessian sacks were neatly folded in a corner, half a dozen wooden crates were stacked against a wall. They were empty with no trace of what they might have contained and no names or markings of any kind. The only other fixtures were a tap over an old, stained sink.
There was a locked door at the far end. Bob tried the keys until one fitted. The door opened into a room converted to living space with a sofa, comfortable arm chairs, a well-stocked drinks cabinet and a small fridge stacked with beer and soft drinks. Thick carpet covered the floor. Behind a screen was a narrow camp bed, a wardrobe containing items of men’s clothing, and a dressing table.
BJ opened the drawers. ‘After shave, electric razor, talc, deodorant, brushes; all very handy.’
‘They must be Guy’s,’ Bob said. ‘Why doesn’t he use his place at Eastern Dawn to change?’
‘It’s a useful hideaway,’ BJ looked about him, ‘but there’s no sign it’s being used at present.’
‘There’s another door.’ Bob went through the keys again. It swung open on a laneway piled with junk; grimy air-conditioners, broken furniture, assorted planks of wood, cracked plastic buckets. Cane baskets were stacked on a narrow footpath and a child’s tricycle rusted quietly in the gutter.
BJ walked into the lane. ‘A back entrance. Well, well. Let’s look around.’
They made a quick search of the lane, stopping as it joined a main thoroughfare.
‘She’s not here.’ BJ turned back. ‘Did Pat bring her to the lockup and dispose of her body later, and was Guy an accomplice? If so, where did they put her, and was this where Pat cleaned up the Jag, not very expertly?’
‘We don’t know she’s dead,’ Bob reminded him.
‘We’ll cover all possibilities.’
They searched the rooms again but found no telltale signs of blood. As they turned to go BJ’s sharp eyes noticed a small white object in a crack in the cement. He stooped and picked it up then silently handed it to Bob. It was a single pearl on a curved gold base. ‘It’s off a woman’s earring. Do you recognise it?’
‘You mean, as Wanda’s?’ Bob shook his head. ‘No, I wouldn’t know what her jewellery looked like. She’s got enough of it.’
‘We’d better go. I’m due over at Causeway Bay to meet Miss Feng. Bag that, Bob. Show it to Alice. And ask her about the scarf. If she won’t tell you, you might be able to pick if she’s lying.’
Carol rode the underground railway three stops from Causeway Bay to Central and emerged in Connaught Road. She crossed the street and, following Cissy Feng’s directions, headed towards the Central Market.
‘It’s the longest moving walkway in the world,’ Cissy had announced proudly. ‘See much view, much Hong Kong. You watch signs, get off right in your street at Mid-Levels.’
Carol’s senses were alert as she left the hotel. By the time she’d entered the underground station behind Sogo’s, she was sure she’d picked up her elusive tail once again.
‘Much good may it do him,’ she muttered to herself. ‘He’ll have a nice long walk for his troubles.’
She wondered if she should take a taxi, then dismissed the idea. Her shadow could just as easily follow her that way. Taxis were everywhere. She’d be unlikely to spot one following her in the constant snarl of vehicles.
Whereas, on foot, I might just catch a glimpse. Now, why am I so interesting and to whom, I wonder?
In the maze of streets, steep lanes and high-rise towers Carol found directions that had seemed easy at the hotel now proved difficult. Many tiny, narrow alleys were unnamed on her map, street signs, when visible, were placed haphazardly at any convenient place on building walls. Few were set obviously at street corners.
She consulted her map. She must be in Queen’s Road … she hesitated, trying to determine which way to turn.
A deep voice behind her said, ‘Are you lost, young lady? Can I assist you, perhaps?’
Carol swung around to find herself staring up at a tall, well-built Indian with a long, gentle face and deep brown eyes under heavy lids. His skin was light brown. Unruly black hair spilled forward onto his forehead as he bent to see her map. ‘Where do you want to be, miss? Let me show you.’ His accent was heavy, almost exaggerated.
‘I’m looking for the escalator to the Mid-Levels,’ Carol told him. ‘I think I should go along here.’
‘Yes, you are absolutely right. I am going that way myself. I will walk with you and make sure you find yourself where you want to be. Yes.’
‘Thanks, you’re very kind.’ Carol fell into step beside him.
‘Don’t mention it, please. I am Mr Philip Bannerjee, at your service. It is not a bit out of my way.’
Carol thought she detected an amused glint in his eyes but he chatted genially as they walked. ‘So, we are now in Queen’s Road, a jolly good shopping area. The escalator you are looking for runs most conveniently from Central Market to the Mid-Levels, very useful. You are visiting friends there, perhaps? Or just exploring our enchanting city?’
‘A bit of both.’ Carol smiled at him. He smiled gently back, putting out an arm to steer her safely around a pavement booth. His walk was curiously at odds with his soft flow of conversation and his mild face. Carol strove to remember, then it came to her. He had the concentrated, effortless lope of a wild animal, or a trained athlete. Or a bodyguard, her inner voice warned. This man is not just anyone. Be careful.
‘What do you do here?’ She asked casually. ‘I gather you live in Hong Kong?’
‘Absolutely right again.’ He beamed approvingly at her. ‘I work here. You are in my area so I know this place jolly well. Ah.’ He stopped. ‘Here is the escalator. I will leave you to travel up and enjoy your day. Goodbye, young lady.’
‘Carol,’ she said impulsively. ‘Goodbye, and thanks again.’
She stepped onto the staircase which moved slowly up the mountain. When she looked back, the man had vanished.
Carol stared down, fascinated, as she was carried over the warren of streets lined with booths and awnings. Everywhere someone was selling something, their outlets ranging from rickety, makeshift, sheet iron lean-to’s to open briefcases on the pavement. Carol passed markets sprawling out into the street, wide main roads, laneways which were merely flights of concrete steps lined with shops, their floors built up to stand level on the steep slopes. Towering over her, high-rise apartments lofted narrow balconies. Washing stretched out across the streets on poles. Everyone seemed to possess an air-conditioner. She peered down into back alleys piled with every kind of jumble creating, she thought, a major fire hazard.
Signs along the way indicated the exits. Carol finally saw the name she was waiting for. She left the escalator and, glancing back, made her way down a flight of steps into the street.
I’ve lost him, she thought. Perhaps Mr Bannerjee put him off. For all his sweet smile, I wouldn’t like to tangle with that one.
Carol made her way quickly along the road. Her destination was clearly visible, an elegant rose pink building with a roof garden, above which a sign clearly proclaimed, “Eastern Dawn Towers”.