Hong Kong - Thursday December 26th, 1996
The Evening Star cut through the choppy sea, her sleek prow parting the rough water like a dagger thrust. A sharp wind tossed Carol’s hair and pulled at her anorak.
Guy leaned forward and refilled her glass. ‘Do you mind rough weather? My captain’s the best on the coast so we’re perfectly safe.’
She sipped the wine, her eyes alight. ‘I love it. It’s exhilarating and I never get seasick.’
‘The mist’s rising fast; we’ll have a sunny day and the wind’s due to drop. The Star loves this weather.’
‘I thought you sailed her yourself?’
‘Normally I do. Today I’d rather concentrate on you.’
Carol gazed out across the harbour. Wall to wall ships from every country loomed through the mist, all at anchor, waiting to come in to the docks and off-load their cargoes. From small coastal freighters to great container ships, they lay in seemingly unending rows. An occasional fishing boat worked between the towering vessels. Tourist junks and pleasure boats sailed back and forth, their white wakes lacing the deep green sea.
Guy watched Carol’s absorbed face. ‘Impressed?’
‘I’ve never seen anything like it. So many ships … they must extend right across the harbour.’
‘From the air on a clear day it’s the most amazing sight in the world.’ He paused. ‘You haven’t told me why you weren’t at the hotel this morning. They said you checked out. With BJ.’
Carol turned back to him.
‘I’m sorry, it’s none of my business,’ he said quickly. ‘I was just a bit worried about you. You don’t have to tell me.’
‘My room was searched and bugged,’ she said bluntly. ‘BJ thought I’d be safer somewhere else.’
‘At another hotel?’
‘I’m staying with him.’
His jaw tightened, ‘Why didn’t you call me? You could have come up to the house. Company for Gloria as well ... unless you thought I couldn’t be trusted.’
‘It was a police matter. I notified them and BJ arrived and - took over.’
‘Oh yes, I know that habit of his.’ He gave a short laugh. ‘But you’re not bound to stay with him; you’re not his prisoner. Why don’t I pick up your things when we get back and take you up to the Peak?’
She considered for a moment. ‘No, I’ll stay where I am. But thank you. It was a kind thought.’
His mouth twisted. ‘Well, if you change your mind, Galahad will come to your rescue. BJ can’t be exactly scintillating company.’
‘To tell you the truth, he’s hardly been there. But I expect he’s right when he says no one could get to me without his knowing it.’
Guy took her hand. ‘If you were under my protection, no one would dare to touch you.’
He leaned forward. For a moment his mouth was warm against hers; his aftershave was a heady scent of musk and spices. Carol felt his vibrant energy as he touched her bright hair and smiled into her eyes.
He kissed her again, this time more urgently, pulling her against him. She felt the rough warmth of his sweater under her hands.
A warning bell went off in Carol’s mind; at the same time Guy suddenly released her and gave a shaky laugh. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t bring you out here to make love to you.’ There was a gleam in his eyes. ‘Unless you want me to, of course.’
She drew back and studied him, a small frown between her brows.
He picked up his glass and drained it. ‘Oh, God, Carol, you must know how I feel,’ he said softly. ‘I’m sure you’ve been warned about me, my reputation. You’ve met Wanda; I suppose she told you all the dirt. I can imagine what you think. Do you understand that it doesn’t mean anything? It’s just face. China is different from any other place in the world; values are different. Having a beautiful mistress makes no difference to the way a man feels about - about someone like you, for instance.’ He bit his lip. ‘How can I explain?’
Carol looked at him steadily. ‘I haven’t asked you to explain anything.’
‘I know, but I want to. Otherwise you’ll see me as some egotistical super stud with his brains in his trousers.’
She shook her head. ‘Believe me, that’s not how I see you.’
‘Thank God for that.’ He lifted her hand and kissed it. ‘I have no intention of using you.’ His eyes searched hers. ‘I - I think I’m in love with you. No, I know it’s too soon; I don’t want you to say anything. I just want you to know I’m very serious about this.’
‘I know you are.’ She touched his face fleetingly. ‘Let’s leave it there, Guy.’
He gave his charming Langford smile.
Carol thought suddenly, I wonder how alike he and Pat really are.
Jean smiled at BJ. ‘We’ve just finished lunch. I don’t suppose this is a social visit?’
‘Sorry. It’s David I want to see.’
She sighed. ‘He’s on the terrace. Go on out. You’ll be private there.’
‘When does Jon arrive?’
‘Tonight. The funeral is on Saturday.’
‘Right.’ He went past her.
She laid a detaining hand on his arm, her pale face questioning. ‘BJ, how long now?’
‘Soon, Jeanie, I can promise you that.’
‘You’ll keep David safe?’
He hesitated. ‘What if that’s not possible?’
‘I don’t care what’s being said,’ she declared vehemently, ‘I don’t believe David’s involved with any of it. And, even if he was, I wouldn’t care. I’d still love him. Do you understand me?’
His face was stern. ‘I understand.’
He found David on the terrace, relaxing in a deep cane chair, whisky and soda on a stand beside him. David’s eyes widened when he saw the inspector but he said affably, ‘Pull up a chair, fix yourself a drink.’
BJ poured a Chivas Regal, added a splash of soda then took an appreciative sip. ‘The last scotch I had was undrinkable. This is superb.’
‘The difference between mugging your liver and stroking it.’ David chuckled. ‘All right, what is it now?’
‘I’ve been talking to Ho Chung.’
‘Did he tell you anything of interest?’
‘What he didn’t tell me was more interesting.’ BJ leaned back in his chair, cradling the whisky glass gently between his hands. ‘The Ho family and the Langfords go back a long way.’
‘Captain Ho’s father served mine. We’ve always used the Ho family ships for the coastal run to Shanghai. If it’s shipping information you want, you’re talking to the wrong man,’ David added. ‘Ben and Paul ran that side of the business. Now Paul will have it on his own until I appoint someone to work with him.’
‘You always held that a managing director’s job is to know every part of the company and its affairs. “Know even more than the managers or how can you be an efficient director.” Unquote. Do I have that right?’
‘Word for word. Are you going somewhere with this or just grazing?’
‘Thinking aloud, really. Thinking, it’s convenient all round. Captain Ho owns ships. Second son Ho imports, and exports jade and other items of value. Third son Ho works in Customs. Lots of opportunities there.’
‘I wouldn’t know. Is that what Chung tells you?’
‘Chung tells me he went to the Langford-Price number two warehouse in October to clear a shipment; a normal, long-standing service for the company. He’s got to know the men there pretty well. He met Ben, examined the cargo, signed the documents then stayed to have a cuppa with the men.’
‘So?’ David watched BJ intently.
‘Later Ben was concerned about some inaccuracy, possibly a shipment he noticed that wasn’t on the list. He went back.’
‘If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have discovered the break-in until morning so it was just as well.’
‘But Ho Chung hadn’t noticed anything wrong with the manifests. He said they were in order.’
‘Ask Paul,’ David recommended. ‘He’ll be able to tell you.’
‘There’s no need to disturb the Choys at the moment. Ben put it down to the warehouse manager’s inefficiency.’
‘There’s nothing inefficient about Roger Quong,’ David said. ‘He’s a good man. I recommended him for the job.’
‘A protégé of yours?’
‘If you like.’
BJ’s hawk-eyes were veiled. ‘Guy tells me he and Ben doubted the man’s ability. Ben was going to table it at the next board meeting.’
David gave a short laugh. ‘Guy put forward his own man for the job. His qualifications weren’t on the same level as Quong’s so I vetoed the appointment.’
‘How did Guy take that?’
‘You know Guy.’ David grinned. ‘He hates to lose. He’s always in my office trying to get his own way. Mind you, some of his ideas are bloody brilliant; but he doesn’t always plan them through, doesn’t see the pitfalls, then resents opposition. Left to cool his heels for a while, he’ll suddenly realise the flaws and take himself off without seeing me.’
‘You say this happens often?’
‘Well, no, that’s unfair.’ David’s brow furrowed. ‘Look, case in point. The day before Pat left, Susan told me Guy came up, desperate to see me. I was out with a client. Guy waited for a while then rushed off. He never got back to me about whatever it was; he must have thought it through, seen it wouldn’t work and dropped it.’
BJ sipped his whisky, savouring it, then rested the glass on his stomach. ‘I see. I’m told you had a major row with Guy at the Choy’s yesterday. What was that about?’
‘None of your bloody business.’
‘You’re probably right,’ BJ agreed peaceably.
Carol watched the steady procession of islands rising out of the mist. Guy had said there were over two hundred, from little rocky outcrops to big, inhabited islands. Some had a ferry service, he said, and were interesting, mostly for their fishing villages and temples.
Carol perched on the rail in the sunshine, the wind whipping the salt spray into her face. Beside her, Guy kept a strong arm around her.
‘If you went over, I’d have to dive in and it’s too damned cold for swimming,’ he joked.
She looked around. ‘We suddenly have the sea to ourselves.’
‘Yes, so it would have to be me. This is usually a deserted spot. In summer, it’s perfect for a swim. Just strip off and in you go, if you don’t mind sharks.’
‘You swim with sharks?’
‘We keep a look out. It all adds to the excitement.’
He laughed. Carol thought he looked exultant. Fey. His mood affected her and she laughed with him.
He pointed out the island of Lantau, twice as big as Hong Kong Island. It had a famous monastery, he said, and a great bronze Buddha on the peak above; a big tourist attraction. A number of Hong Kong business people had holiday homes on Lantau.
‘Yes, I call it a bungalow but it’s a big house overlooking a private beach. Very quiet and secluded.’
Carol stared across the water. ‘Can we go there?’
‘Not today, we’ll run out of time.’ He gave her a quizzical look. ‘Are you tired of sailing?’
‘No, I love it.’
‘I’m glad.’ His smile glinted.
She said, ‘You look happy.’
‘I’m feeling extraordinarily pleased with myself,’ he admitted. ‘You see, egotistical is the word. I’m out on a beautiful day with a beautiful woman who looks very contented, even if she is risking her life perched up there.’ His arm tightened around her. ‘And this is my favourite spot in all the ocean.’
‘Why?’ Carol asked curiously. ‘There’s nothing here.’
‘In fact there is, fire woman, but you can’t see it.’ He lifted her down from the rail. She felt the strength in his arms and thought, He’s suddenly like a wild thing. Is he a little crazy?
His mouth closed over hers. She felt his hand unzipping her anorak and pulled free. ‘The captain can see us.’
He lifted her hands and kissed her palms. ‘You really know how to get me going.’ His voice was husky. ‘You taste nice and salty and your hair is all messed up by the wind.’
‘Thank you.’ She laughed. ‘I’m going below to change that right away.’
He called after her, ‘It won’t last. Anyway, I like you looking wild and woolly.’
Carol climbed down the steps to the luxurious interior of the yacht. Guy had shown her through the living area earlier. The lounge and cabins were fitted out with every comfort and finished with golden timber, polished to a soft sheen.
She went into the master cabin, took off her anorak and splashed cold water on her face, then grimaced at herself in the mirror and combed her tangled curls.
She felt disturbed by the turn of events. What had begun as a pleasant day’s jaunt now had an inexplicable feel of danger. Not from Guy; she could handle him. She’d expected him to try to make love to her and she had no intention of letting it get out of control. But what had caused his escalating mood of triumph, even jubilation? She couldn’t believe it was her.
In the mirror she saw him enter the cabin and close the door behind him. He carried a bottle of champagne and two glasses which he placed on the bedside cabinet. He came slowly up to Carol. His eyes blazed but his voice was very calm.
‘The captain is also extremely discreet, If we spent a long time down here together, he wouldn’t notice, I guarantee it.’
She turned, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea, Guy.’
His long fingers traced the line of her cheek, lingered over her mouth, slid down to caress her shoulders. ‘We could try,’ he said tentatively. ‘I promise you’d enjoy it very much. And so would I. In fact,’ he gave her that glinting smile, ‘this would be the most perfect spot.’
Carol glanced towards the closed door and her heart began to pound. She felt a familiar sinking feeling of helplessness and fought to control her breathing.
He took her hand and drew her towards the wide double bed. She was powerless to resist; she stumbled slightly but his attention was too fully focussed on his own rising emotion to notice. He poured the wine and handed her a glass, touching it briefly with his. ‘To us, Carol. Let me show you a really perfect time.’
She swallowed. The cabin seemed to shrink around her. She finally found her voice but it sounded far away to her own ears. ‘No, not here,’ she said unsteadily.
He removed her untouched glass from her suddenly nerveless fingers and placed it with his on the cabinet. It hadn’t occurred to him that she might be shy. Slowly, slowly, he cautioned himself. He stroked her hair softly and cupped her face between his hands.
She shivered, still in the grip of helpless paralysis. Run, Carol, run! She shut her eyes and tightly clenched her hands as nausea threatened to engulf her. She couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe.
His magnetism seemed to flow into her. ‘It’s all right,’ he murmured thickly, ‘no one will know. We have the rest of the afternoon.’ His lips rested on her hair, then brushed over her lids, then her mouth.
‘Please, Carol,’ he whispered against her. His hands slid under her jumper.
She opened her eyes and looked desperately around the cabin. She felt close to collapse, Guy’s arms around her the only reason she was still upright. He was still unaware of her distress. He pulled her down to the bed and held her closely, his mouth searching hers.
Strength suddenly flowed back into Carol’s numb body. ‘No!’ She pushed him away. Her voice rose. ‘Guy, stop this.’
He drew back and gave her a sudden intense look.
She shuddered. ‘I can’t stand it. I’m - I’m claustrophobic. It’s the cabin, the closed door.’
Guy released her with a chuckle of genuine sympathy. ‘Oh, God, you poor darling, why the hell didn’t you say?’ His shoulders shook as he handed her a glass. ‘Drink this, you idiot, it’ll make you feel better.’
He crossed quickly to the door and flung it open.
Carol took a sip of champagne and the nausea receded a little.
He came back and helped her to stand. ‘Damn you, Miss Monk, it would have been bloody marvellous.’ His face brightened. ‘What if we left the door open?’
Carol shook her head. ‘No, I couldn’t. Really.’
He grinned. ‘Well, don’t think I’m giving up. I’ll get you away from your watchdog and we’ll take up where we left off.’ He kissed her cheek gently. ‘Hold that thought, Carol Monk.’
She pulled on her anorak. ‘I have to get back on deck. You don’t mind?’
He shrugged. ‘I mind like hell but I live in hope.’ He followed her up the steps and she went to the rail.
Guy signalled to the wheelhouse. ‘Time we headed back, anyway.’
Carol turned impulsively. ‘I’d love to see your bungalow on Lantau.’
He studied her face intently then slowly shook his head. ‘No, Lantau is out for today. Perhaps next time.’
Captain Ho watched the last crate being winched up to the freighter and scowled at the seaman who stood beside him on the deck of the China Wind.
‘Where’s Captain Fraser?’
‘He’s ashore. Be back later. Oh, there’s a package for you to deliver to Ho San.’
‘What is it?’ Ho’s sharp eyes looked suspiciously at the man.
‘Just a package. Didn’t he tell you?’
‘No. Deliver the cargo to the Elaine MacKenzie. Nothing about a package to go back.’
‘Well, what’s the harm? Take the parcel and tell him, compliments of the shippers.’
‘All right, stow it below, then.’
‘Thanks. See you next trip.’
‘You won’t see me. After today, I don’t carry cargo for Ho San.’
‘Suit yourself.’ The man went to the ladder. ‘Go safely, now.’ He swung himself up to his ship.
The China Wind moved off, her powerful engines throbbing. As she cleared the freighter the crew hoisted her great red sails and she began to flirt through the water like a huge seagoing butterfly.
Captain Ho trained his glasses on a sleek yacht, recognising her classic lines. Another woman on Mr Guy’s boat, and how long will it be before he has her on her back in his cabin? He thought sardonically. I’ll ask his captain if he broke the record with this one. She’s European, a redhead. That’s a nice change. Give a bit of variety to Mr Guy’s menu. A red hot chilli to spice him up. He chuckled.
Guy pointed across the water. ‘That’s the China Wind, one of the junks we use for our cargo. Captain Ho has several ships but he loves the old junk.’
‘She’s beautiful.’ Carol leaned over the rail. ‘And fast.’
Guy grinned. ‘She has to be, to dodge the Marine Police. Ho’s a bit of a smuggler on the side.’
They were still watching the China Wind when a sheet of flame went up from her hold followed by an explosion that echoed across the water. A seaman ran, screaming, into the sea, his body a torch of flame. Debris, hurled high into the air, showered across the scene; a pall of black smoke rose as burning fuel ignited shattered timbers. A broken red sail floated aimlessly, like a torn, discarded wing.
The China Wind rested on the waves, groaning like a wounded thing, then slipped beneath the surface.
In the horrifying silence that followed, Carol turned a shocked face to Guy. He was staring at the scene of devastation, a look of pure fear in his eyes.