Hong Kong - Tuesday December 24th, 1996
Armed with a list of addresses from the phone book, Carol, wearing practical brown wool slacks and a caramel jacket, caught the MTR to Sheung Wan. The platform was crowded. People crushed into carriages, eagle-eyed for a vacancy as seated passengers left the train. Carol settled for a strap by the door and stood for the short journey, quietly surveying her fellow commuters, watching for her invisible ‘tail’.
Alighting at her stop she passed a few moments studying the information on the bank of ticket vending machines while the crowd thinned around her. Then she browsed the various shops in the underground station and bought a small carving; a stylised cat, in pale, translucent jade.
The shop assistant wrinkled her nose. ‘Not good quality jade,’ she warned, ‘too pale. See here, better quality.’
Carol eyed the better quality carvings then said, ‘No, I like this one.’
The girl shrugged and wrapped the little figure.
Carol left the shop and glanced rapidly around. No one showed the slightest interest in her doings; no sudden, surreptitious movement - a newspaper raised, a step back, a quick head turn - caught her attention.
She walked to the Connaught Road exit and made her way to the waterfront. The low bulk of the Macau Ferry Terminal was directly in front of her and she went towards it with a determined step.
At the Excelsior, Cissy Feng hovered by the public telephones, a troubled look in her dark eyes. She pulled at her short black fringe, wondering what to do. She had a few moments before she went back on duty but, had she imagined what she thought she’d seen, and was it something she should report to a busy detective like Inspector BJ? She moved towards the booths then away again. Then, with a little toss of her head, she went back and gingerly picked up the receiver.
Twenty minutes later Carol caught the train back to Central. On a newsstand the headlines of an English newspaper leapt out at her.
‘Triad Murder. Body of beautiful Wanchai hostess found in harbour.’
She bought a paper and continued on to meet Gloria Langford.
Carol entered the cream and rose foyer of the women’s club which occupied the top floor of a city high-rise. Gloria, watching for her, came over with a light, graceful step, her hands held out in welcome. She wore a white silk suit with a calf-length skirt and smiled a gentler version of Guy’s crooked grin as she shook Carol’s hand.
Carol liked Guy’s sister immediately. They lunched in the peaceful atmosphere of the club’s elegant dining room where the service and food were equally excellent. After lunch Gloria took her through to the spacious lounge room whose wide picture windows allowed panoramic views of the harbour and skyline. High-backed lounge chairs were grouped around coffee tables on a floral carpet. In the spirit of the season, each table bore a small artificial Christmas tree.
The two women found a corner away from the other members and a waitress brought them a silver coffee service. When she left, Gloria, who’d kept up a flow of social chit-chat during the meal, gave a small sigh.
‘Guy said you’re here to find Wanda.’
‘That’s right.’ Carol sugared her coffee.
‘I wish someone would find Pat,’ Gloria said. ‘I can’t understand why he’s not back yet. Guy keeps telling me to drop it because everyone knows he won’t leave Wanda.’ Her violet eyes sparkled with unexpected mischief. ‘Let them think it. I know better.’
Carol waited, interested. Gloria gave a little chuckle. She pulled a letter from her handbag and handed it over. ‘I don’t mind if you see it, but don’t tell anyone.’
Carol opened the letter. It was from Pat.
Gloria’s face was radiant. ‘To me, written the evening before he left for China. They’ll all see.’
Carol read the message swiftly.
‘My darling girl,’ Pat had written, ‘I can’t bear this any longer, not to be able to be with you in the only way that means anything to me. When I said goodbye to you last night I was determined to honour my commitment to Wanda. But your sweet, sad face and your generous offer to give yourself to me brought me to my senses at last. No, my sweet angel, I won’t ask you to sacrifice yourself to vicious gossip and I’m not prepared to give you up now I’ve found you again.
‘My darling, I won’t have time to see you before I leave and the phone seems so impersonal. Wanda will be here soon. I intend to ask her for a divorce. She can’t refuse; I could certainly prove infidelity. When I return I’ll beg you to marry me. You will, won’t you? I want you so much.
‘Wait for me, Cousin Gloria, I’ll be back soon and we’ll make a wonderful, happy new life for ourselves. I’ll think about you every minute and wait impatiently to be with you again.
‘All my love, my darling.
Carol returned the letter to its envelope.
‘See, the rumours were quite right.’ Gloria said triumphantly, ‘Guy said they couldn’t be true; he thinks Pat should stay with Wanda. What business is it of his? Why should he look out for Wanda when she can’t stand him?’
‘Perhaps he doesn’t want you to get hurt?’ Carol handed back the letter.
Gloria tucked it carefully away in her bag. ‘Anyway, when Pat comes back I’m going to marry him.’
‘Suppose Wanda won’t divorce him?’
Gloria smiled confidently. ‘It won’t matter. We can go anywhere in the world and start a new life. But Pat will make sure she lets him go.’ She finished her coffee and confided, ‘Guy’s never liked the idea of Pat and me. He’s always trying to outdo him, to beat him. It’s silly, but I know why he’s like that.’
‘Can you tell me?’
‘It’s no secret,’ Gloria said regretfully. ‘Our father was like Guy; a gambler, liked the Chinese girls, had a disastrous marriage. Then there was some trouble in the firm, and a terrible accident. One of the partners was killed when a load slipped off a fork-lift Dad was driving. The police thought it might not have been an accident, and David never trusted Dad. They had a blazing row about it. Dad got drunk and was killed, riding in the Langford Cup.’
‘I’m so sorry,’ Carol said quickly.
Gloria patted her hand. ‘Don’t be. Dad was volatile and quite wild. He had bad joss. David thinks Guy’s like that, too. No matter how hard Guy works, David doesn’t trust him as much as he should. It makes Guy furious. He’s a company director but David only tells him what he needs him to know. But then, what on earth can Guy expect?’ she asked honestly. ‘He has behaved badly in the past and he is like poor Dad.’
Carol smiled and Gloria said quickly, ‘Guy’s a generous, caring man, just a bit wild sometimes, He’d settle down if he found the right woman. He likes you, Carol,’ she ventured. ‘There’s a lot of good in my brother. Don’t let the gossip turn you off.’
‘I promise. Anyway, I make up my own mind. Guy said old hatreds and old loves went very deep here. It seems it’s true.’
Gloria nodded wisely. ‘You’ll find that out. If I can help you, I will. I want Wanda found, too. You’ve heard what they’re saying about Pat? It’s not true. Even if he thought Wanda wouldn’t divorce him he’s far too level-headed to think killing her would be a solution.’
‘Yes, that didn’t ring true with me, either.’ Carol hesitated then said tentatively, ‘Wanda and Pat seem to have both gone missing, Pat in China and Wanda in Macau. Look, I have to ask. Macau has a border with China; is it possible Wanda’s gone to join Pat for some reason?’
Gloria shook her head. ‘No! No way. Well, she might have gone after him, but he’d have sent her back.’
Carol wondered if that might be keeping Pat away. Wanda had joined him, he was trying to convince her to give him up. At least they wouldn’t be in the limelight with everyone discussing their affairs.
‘It’s not possible,’ Gloria said stubbornly, ‘Pat wouldn’t let her stay with him. He just wouldn’t.’
‘Okay, I’ll take your word for it.’ Carol smiled at her. ‘Tell me about the party tonight.’
In the mortuary, BJ looked down at the body of the prostitute.
Doctor Chan turned her gently. The pathologist’s eyes, world-weary behind small, rimless spectacles, daily witnessed the ugly results of human brutality, but he treated each corpse with respect for the soul it had once housed.
‘Bruising on the back, here and here,’ he said in his quick, jerky way, ‘to the back of the head, quite severe, you see?’ He lowered the body. ‘She must have been beautiful, before they cut her face so badly.’
‘Cause of death?’ BJ asked harshly.
‘A knife wound to the heart, here. She’d been dead for at least two days before she went into the harbour.’
‘What happened to her?’
‘Ah! My interpretation?’ Chan pursed his lips. ‘She was tied up, rope marks to her wrists, ankles and upper arms. The beatings occurred while she was still alive but the face was mutilated after death. She was stabbed to death some hours after the bruising. She was buried - Forensics will give you a report on the soil samples - then exhumed. I’ll stick my neck out here because, as usual,’ the pathologist looked severely over his glasses at BJ, ‘you haven’t given me any time at all so this is only speculation; she’ll have been put in the water last night. Does that satisfy you?’
‘Thanks, Kai.’ BJ nodded. ‘I’ll call you if there’s anything else.’
‘Well, you’d better bugger off then and let me finish my work,’ Chan advised him, ‘and don’t send Bob Lee around every five minutes to pester me.’
In his office high above the harbour Guy read through the newspaper report, an odd little smile on his lips.
‘Poor girl,’ he said aloud. ‘God, what a waste.’
He remembered her beautiful face, the feel of her silken skin under his hands, the soft curve of her breasts. He dropped his head into his hands. ‘Oh, shit!’ he swore.
There was a rap at the adjoining door and Ben Price looked in. ‘Guy? You all right?’
‘Absolutely.’ Guy quickly turned the newspaper over. ‘What’s the problem?’
‘I’m not sure.’ Ben, small, plump and dark-haired, advanced into the room. His dark eyes held a puzzled look. ‘You’re not storing any crates in number two warehouse, are you?’
‘Not that I’m aware. Why?’
‘The lists don’t add up again.’ Ben shrugged. ‘It must be a computer error. There’s a glitch somewhere in the system.’
Guy glanced at the papers in Ben’s hand. ‘I expect you’ll sort it out.’
‘I’ll have to get Jenny to do another check. These items aren’t listed. Bloody inefficiency, if you ask me. I’ll be recommending we look at Quong’s record at the next board meeting.’
‘Wasn’t Quong appointed on David’s recommendation?’ Guy asked pointedly.
‘Yes, David thought he was ready for the responsibility but he’s screwed up again.’
‘It’s probably not serious,’ Guy soothed. ‘Have a word with him.’
‘Don’t worry, I intend to. By the way, that glass of yours has arrived from Beijing. Paul rang from the warehouse. He’ll rush it over to Yau Ma Tei, ASAP.’
Guy’s twisted smile flickered. ‘Let’s hope it’s right, this time. Good old Pat.’
Ben went towards the door. ‘I’d better get Jen onto this mess,’
‘Right.’ Guy stood up. ‘I’ll get over to the site. See you tonight, Benny.’
BJ summoned Tommy Chen who arrived promptly.
‘A little job for you, Tommy. Get down to Causeway Bay and see Cissy Feng. She believes someone’s following Miss Monk. Get all the info you can, see if you can identify the man. I want a tail on him. No contact yet; I just want to know who he is and why he’s so interested in our Australian visitor. Have a full report on my desk tomorrow morning. Miss Monk is lunching with Gloria Langford at her club.’
‘Who do you want to tail this man, sir?’
BJ considered for a moment then asked, ‘Your girl friend, Connie Wu; how would she be at this?’
Tommy thought she’d be excellent.
‘All right, I’ll get her released for some plain clothes work. You brief her. You’ll like that,’ he added softly, as the door closed behind Chen.
It opened again almost immediately and DCI Tan came in. ‘I hear you’re interested in the murdered prostitute.’
BJ gave a brief nod. ‘She worked for me.’
‘You’re not in Homicide now, BJ,’ Tan said. ‘That’s our job. What’s going on?’
‘I’m not sure I know, sir.’ BJ leaned back in his chair as Tan sat on the corner of the desk. ‘However, I can tell you who had Silver Moon murdered. You won’t prove it, of course.’
Tan sighed. ‘Another of your murky little cases? Let’s have it, BJ, anything you can give me.’
BJ told him in a few short sentences.
Tan rose, smiling urbanely. ‘Thanks. I hope we won’t keep tripping over each other. By the way, one good turn and all that. Some information for you.’
BJ’s mobile eyebrow asked the question.
‘The Chinese police can’t trace Pat. He’s gone underground completely. Now, who’s hiding him, and why? Simple loyalty to a friend - or conspiracy? It poses some very bloody interesting questions.’