Hong Kong - Christmas Day, 1996
There was a street festival being held in Wyndham Street. After lunch, BJ took Carol to see it.
She stood absorbed as the man in the booth deftly folded grass canes into a perfect little grasshopper. BJ had said grasshoppers brought good luck. Carol thought she might need one.
The man glanced up, completed the insect with a few quick scissor cuts and held it out to her.
She looked doubtfully at BJ. The man pushed it at her. ‘For Inspector BJ’s lady. You take.’
She delightedly accepted the gift. BJ exchanged some words with the man and they moved on.
‘Look, isn’t it perfect? Obviously it’s lucky to be a friend of yours. Everyone seems to know you.’
‘Everyone wants to do me a favour,’ he said caustically, ‘just in case.’
They passed a group of girls in long, brightly coloured dresses, dancing with rippling fans and a juggler balancing a ball in the centre of a rope.
BJ, watching Carol’s enjoyment, pulled himself sternly into line. You’re too old for her, he told himself bitingly. Perhaps, if she’d come into your life years ago ... He grinned, remembering that the age difference would have still been the same. Besides, whispered a little devil inside his head, she thinks of you as a substitute father. It’s Guy she’s interested in, not you, you bloody fool.
Carol stopped to watch a woman folding exquisite flowers from tissue paper. The woman glanced at BJ, muttered something in Cantonese, then offered Carol a delicate pink lotus blossom.
They walked on. BJ commented, ‘It’s a pity you don’t speak the language.’
‘What are they saying?’
‘They’re complimenting me on your beauty,’ he said gravely.
‘Oh!’ She threw him a quick look. ‘How - how kind of them.’
They passed a souvenir stall. Carol picked up a small deep blue carving of a cat, mottled with flecks of gold. ‘This is pretty.’
‘It’s lapis lazuli.’
Carol asked the price and began to haggle for the cat. Finally the woman gave a brisk nod and wrapped the carving.
BJ smiled. ‘Well done.’
‘I still feel awkward, bargaining,’ she admitted.
‘Don’t; you’re not cheating them,’ he reassured her. ‘If you offered too little they’d simply refuse to sell. They know exactly how much each item is worth.’
‘And we can’t have BJ’s lady fleeced?’ She laughed.
His face closed. ‘No, indeed.’ He turned away.
Damn, I’ve lost him again, Carol thought, frustrated. He probably thinks I’m a pushy bitch. ‘I bought a little jade cat yesterday,’ she offered tentatively, ‘Did you ever hear of the Jade Cat Society?’
BJ stilled. ‘Yes. I think it might be important.’
‘Gloria belongs to it.’
He listened in silence as Carol recounted the story of the jade carving in Guy’s collection.
‘Gloria blushed when Guy overheard her. He looked annoyed.’
‘If Gloria’s involved, it must be harmless. I had a hunch - well, never mind.’
‘But you’d like to know? I might be able to find out for you. I think she’d tell me.’
He said tautly, ‘All right but be careful. When do you see Guy again?’
‘Tomorrow. He’s promised to take me out on his yacht.’ She saw a muscle jump in his cheek. ‘It’s all right, isn’t it?’
‘Of course,’ he answered crisply. ‘The Evening Star is an impressive boat. You’ll enjoy her.’
A group of serious young police men and women in navy uniforms and berets saluted BJ smartly and eyed Carol with undisguised interest as they passed. The inspector ignored their curiosity. He stopped at a stall where kebabs sizzled over a burner, bought a couple and handed one to Carol.
‘Dip it in the sauce. It’s chilli but fairly sweet.’
‘After that lunch, how can you?’
‘It’s good,’ he said. ‘Try it. You’ll walk it off,’ he added and Carol was relieved to see the gentle smile glimmer in his deep eyes.
A constable detached himself from the others and came over. He saluted again and spoke to BJ in a deferential tone.
BJ listened, his face calm, then dismissed the man and turned to Carol. ‘I have to go, there’s been an incident at Langford-Price. I’ll drive you back to the hotel.’
‘You don’t have to do that. I can find my own way.’
‘I want to be sure you’re safe,’ he said shortly.
She glanced up at his set face and nodded. ‘All right, BJ. Thank you.’
Brian Tan stood by the hospital bed looking down at the security guard’s body. ‘The man said he was his brother?’
‘Yes, yes, his brother.’ The nursing sister was clearly angry. ‘Of course we let him sit by the bed for a while. He seemed overcome with grief.’
‘No one else came to see this man?’
‘No; Mr. Langford rang to ask about his condition, that was all.’
Tan shook his head. The sister said defensively, ‘How were we to know? He wasn’t under guard and we had no instructions. There was a nurse on duty just outside the door all the time.’
‘I’ll speak to her. Arthur Yi does have a brother but he lives in Singapore.’
‘We weren’t to know,’ she snapped. ‘We’re quite busy enough. No one warned us there was any risk.’ Her expression accused the DCI of negligence.
‘Well, obviously there was.’ Tan cut through her protest. ‘I’ll see the nurse now, and anyone else who was on duty in the ward.’
BJ followed Carol through the hotel’s revolving glass doors.
‘The small woman in the green slacks and fawn anorak, on the sofa facing the lifts. Her name is Connie Wu.’
He took Carol’s arm. ‘The man in the coffee lounge, looking over the balcony. Yes, that’s right.’ Carol pretended to look for her key card. They continued on to the lifts.
‘That’s my tail?’ she whispered.
‘A small-time crook employed by Wing Chang; casino operator, supposed pillar of society and a thorn in my side. You met him at Guy’s party. Chang’s been up to some nasty tricks and he’s right in the middle of whatever’s going on. I plan to bring his little empire down around his ears before I’ve finished.’
The lift doors opened. A group of tourists got out, slung with cameras and wearing blue tour stickers. Carol and BJ rode up to her floor. He waited while she opened her door.
‘It’s been a lovely day.’ She smiled warmly at him. ‘Thanks, BJ.’
‘My pleasure.’ He took her hand and held it for a moment. ‘Contact me if you’re worried about anything. Remember, I’ve got my eye on you. Just be careful what questions you ask and whom you ask them of.’
‘I will.’ She wanted to ask, When will I see you again? but held her tongue.
‘Enjoy yourself tomorrow,’ he said smoothly. ‘You’ll be safe with Guy.’ He stepped back and the door closed behind Carol.
May his liver turn black and rot and may all the dogs in hell feed on it for a fortnight, BJ cursed silently. Damn you, Guy, damn you to hell and back again.
Carol dropped her bag on the bed and shrugged. He’s just not interested, she thought, annoyed at the depression which threatened to engulf her. He wants me to have a lovely time with Guy, stay out of trouble and get off his precious patch as quickly as possible.
As she slowly took off her jacket her eyes fell on the small set of drawers by the bed. She stiffened, a warning prickling her scalp. She opened the drawer. Someone had been through her things. They were still neatly arranged but with small differences.
She scanned the room, noticing infinitesimal changes. A newspaper angled differently in the wastepaper basket, a brochure moved a fraction. She checked her belongings carefully. They were intact.
She rang the service number and asked for Cissy Feng. A few minutes later there was a knock at the door and the housemaid entered.
‘Cissy, have you been in my room?’
She shook her head. ‘I do room this morning, while you eat breakfast in restaurant. Not again.’
‘You didn’t come in for anything after I left?’ Carol persisted.
‘No, miss, you want something cleaned now?’
‘No, it’s all right.’ Cissy moved to the door and Carol put out a detaining hand. ‘Could anyone else have come in?’
‘Maybe other maids or butler, don’t know, miss.’ Cissy smiled. ‘You have happy Christmas with Inspector BJ?’
‘You know the inspector?’ Carol’s brow puckered.
‘Everyone know Inspector BJ.’ Cissy fidgeted. ‘I go now, okay?’
‘All right, Cissy.’
The girl left. Carol thought, It couldn’t have been my tail, not with that police woman watching him. Lucky I had my notes with me, and Mike’s fax. If they were after information, they were disappointed.’
She sat on the bed, a sudden anger shaking her. How dare they? They must have bribed somebody in the hotel, one of the staff - or was Cissy lying and it was her?
Another thought struck her. Of course! How stupid not to think of it straight away. She got quickly to her feet and made another, more detailed, search of the room; and found what she was looking for. Only it wouldn’t be the only one, and she hadn’t the equipment to check.
She picked up her bag and went back down to the foyer. The girl in the green slacks was reading a paper. Carol paused by the sofa and made a show of searching her handbag. With an impatient gesture she sat down next to Connie Wu.
‘My room was searched and bugged while I was out,’ she muttered. ‘I found this.’
Her hand rested briefly on the sofa. The other girl looked at her watch, yawned delicately and stretched. She brought her hand over the tiny device and neatly pocketed it.
‘Tell the inspector.’ Carol pulled out her purse. ‘I need a sweep done for the rest.’ She rose, went to the currency exchange counter, changed some traveller’s cheques and made her way to one of the hotel’s coffee lounges. She needed to be with people. The thought of her room made her feel suddenly claustrophobic. When she passed through the lobby the police woman had gone.
Guy grinned at BJ. ‘There’s no problem. Mary checked all the files, everything’s intact. Someone probably took advantage of the holiday to do a little spying in the name of friendly competition. We don’t leave cash around and no attempt was made on the safe.’
‘Don’t you think it’s a touch coincidental?’
‘How so?’ His eyes narrowed.
‘This is also Ben’s department,’ BJ reminded him.
‘Damn, you’re right. I wasn’t thinking. How bloody stupid of me.’ Guy looked rueful. ‘It must be the shock; first Benny then the break-in. Honestly, BJ, I never made the connection.’
‘Jenny said there was something wrong with a shipment?’
Guy shrugged. ‘Ben told me yesterday he couldn’t match up the consignments but he put it down to Quong’s inefficiency. One of David’s white-haired boys and, quite frankly, both Ben and I thought he wasn’t up to it. Ben was going to mention it at the next board meeting.’
‘What happens now? In the company, I mean?’
‘Damned if I know.’ Guy pulled a wry face. ‘I suppose Paul will be promoted and move into Ben’s office. Poor little Jenny. She liked Ben. She’s gone all to pieces, I gather.’
‘No doubt, when Arthur Yi comes around, he’ll identify his assailants. You’re quite sure this couldn’t be anything to do with Ben’s concern over the shipments?’
‘Quite sure. It’s a coincidence, as you say.’ He looked at BJ curiously. ‘Rumour says you saw Carol today.’
‘I took her to lunch. She tells me you’re taking her out on the Evening Star tomorrow.’
‘Yes, should be a great day. Just Carol, a wonderful picnic lunch, the South China Sea - and me. Worried, inspector?’
BJ smiled. ‘Not in the least. I know you’ll look after Miss Monk and bring her back safely.’
‘You can count on it. Why? You weren’t concerned about her, were you?’
‘Haven’t you already saved her life once? I told her she’d enjoy the Evening Star. I also assured her she’d be safe with you.’
Carol finished her coffee and returned to the lobby. There was still no sign of Connie Wu. Carol certainly couldn’t ring anyone from her room so she crossed to the public phones. There was no one in earshot as she dialled.
A subdued Gloria answered the phone and apologised that the day’s plans had been messed up.
‘It’s all right,’ Carol said, ‘I had lunch with the inspector and then we went to a street festival.’
‘With BJ?’ Gloria asked doubtfully.
‘Yes. It was very nice. Are you all right?’
‘Just sad; for poor Ben and the Choys … for all of us. Guy rang Jon. He’s coming home on the first flight.’ She paused. ‘Did you want Guy? He’s at the office. We’ve had another break-in; at head office this time.’
‘Actually, I wanted to ask you something.’ Carol said. ‘Last night you mentioned a sort of club … the Jade Cat Society?’
There was a silence, then Gloria said quickly, ‘I shouldn’t have mentioned it. Forget I said it.’
‘Is there a problem? Don’t worry, I’ll ask Guy.’
‘No, no you mustn’t.’ Gloria gave an uncertain laugh. ‘Look, this is silly. It’s nothing, really, just kids’ stuff. We act as if it’s a secret tong because Guy likes to play Robin Hood. He has a romantic streak.’
‘So, you can’t tell me? I’m really curious now.’ Carol laughed. ‘What are you two up to?’
‘Look, if I tell you, you’re not to tell a soul. It’s secret.’
‘Do I have to promise on my grandmother’s grave?’ Carol teased.
Gloria hesitated, then gave in. The society had been Pat’s idea. When they were children he’d been distressed to hear of a family who was starving. He thought it wrong that he should be so privileged and others not. The three Langford children began to look for people in need, sending them money or food, along with a jade cat and a note from the Jade Cat Society, warning them to keep the secret.
‘You’ve kept it up all this time?’
‘Oh, no, we dropped it when we went to boarding school. But a couple of years ago, Guy heard of a very desperate case. He resurrected the society, only this time we had the cats specially made. It’s a secret charity. Guy would hate people to know. He tries to look like a hard businessman but he’s got a really soft spot. He runs the society from his office.’ Gloria chuckled. ‘Now, don’t, for goodness sake, tell him I told you.’
‘He’d have you taken out and shot?’ Carol asked lightly.
‘He’d be extremely embarrassed. Anyway, a real tong doesn’t break its vows. But, the way Guy feels about you, you might end up a member yourself, Carol.’