Hong Kong - Thursday December 26th, 1996
Carol let herself into BJ’s apartment, her fingers trembling as she fitted his spare key into the security lock. A mind-numbing cold made her movements slow and clumsy. She shut the door and leaned against it to steady her breathing.
The inspector was asleep on the sofa, his unruly dark hair across his forehead. Carol stood looking at his untroubled face. He didn’t know. Should she wake him? He probably hadn’t slept much last night. She desperately wanted to speak his name, pour out her distress to him.
As if aware of her, he opened his eyes and gave her his gentle smile. ‘Carol?’ He stretched sleepily. ‘Hello.’ Then his eyes focussed sharply on her white face and wide, anxious eyes. In one swift movement he was on his feet, looking down at her with concern. ‘What is it? What’s happened?’
She gave a helpless little gesture and he touched her face briefly, then her hands. ‘You’re frozen. Sit down.’
Her knees suddenly stopped supporting her and she slipped to the sofa. BJ went to the kitchen, returning minutes later with a steaming mug of coffee. He paused by the drinks cabinet and added a generous dollop of whisky.
‘Here, drink this. It’s strong. It’ll help.’
She began to sip the hot drink gratefully. BJ sat beside her, his face stern. ‘Was it Guy? Did he do something?’
She gave a little shake of her head and sighed deeply. ‘There was an - accident. A junk exploded. Guy knew the captain, Captain Ho. It was - horrible, terrifying. Just a sheet of flame, and debris falling out of the sky.’
BJ stared. ‘The China Wind?’
She nodded. ‘People were on fire. We were quite close. Guy’s captain tried to help. He radioed the Marine Police and went in to try to rescue the crew. We picked up a couple - they were terribly burned.’ She gave a long shudder.
BJ laid a calming hand on her shoulder. ‘Captain Ho?’
‘He wasn’t found.’ Carol’s eyes filled with tears. ‘The police said he must have gone down with - with -’ she gulped back a sob. ‘They said it was probably the stove. They said it happens sometimes on the boats; stoves explode, ignite the fuel. Two men were taken to hospital. They were pretty bad - they might not live. The others are dead or missing.’
‘Did Guy bring you back?’
‘No, We both made statements, then he went to see Captain Ho’s family. A Marine inspector drove me, a friend of yours. Inspector Mitchell.’
BJ smiled. ‘Good man.’ He released her and said levelly, ‘It’s true, accidents do happen.’
‘I don’t think it was an accident,’ Carol’s mind replayed the shocking scene, her eyes narrowed as if looking into a vast distance. ‘Guy didn’t think so, either,’ she said slowly. ‘I saw his face. He looked as if his worst nightmare had come true. He agreed with Inspector Mitchell about the stove - even said he’d warned Captain Ho about it before. But, at the time,’ she looked at BJ, ‘he was petrified.’
He gently took the empty mug from her and placed it on the coffee table. ‘I didn’t imagine it,’ she said defensively.
‘I know.’ He studied her. ‘Are you feeling better now?’
‘Yes.’ She managed a tired smile. ‘It must have been delayed shock. I was fine until the inspector dropped me off.’
BJ hesitated. ‘I need to check this out. Would you be all right if I ...’
‘Of course. You go, and don’t worry about me.’
He got up and put on his jacket. ‘I’ll be back soon.’ He gave her a troubled look. ‘Take care of yourself.’
Carol watched the door close behind him and went into the bedroom, suddenly shaking with sobs.
Jenny lay on the bed in the tiny spare room in her brother’s apartment, crying softly. So far, neither Jimmy nor Sylvia suspected anything was wrong, other than her distress over Ben Price’s death. Sylvia had taken at face value Jenny’s story of ripping her blouse on the edge of a filing cabinet drawer.
‘I’ll buy you another one,’ Jenny promised. Sylvia examined the tear and said it could easily be mended, she wasn’t to worry.
Jimmy had been unexpectedly supportive when Jenny asked to stay on, even offering to ring the office in the morning and report his sister as sick. She wondered what BJ had told him.
The inspector knows I did it, her mind chattered. I’m in terrible trouble. If someone really wants me dead, I haven’t a chance. Sooner or later I’ll have to leave here, and they’ll get me.
In the living room, Jimmy yawned widely. Sylvia, nestled beside him on the sofa, watching a movie on TV, glanced up. ‘You’re tired. We had hardly any sleep the night before last and we were late in bed last night. We could lie down now.’
He grinned at her. ‘Is that what you want to do? Sleep?’
‘Maybe. You won’t go out and there’s nothing else to do. Jenny’s asleep so you don’t have to worry about her for a while.’
‘Come on then, little witch.’ Jimmy rose and pulled her to her feet. ‘But I warn you, it’s not sleep I want.’
Sylvia giggled. ‘Maybe I don’t want to sleep either. Maybe I want to show my husband how a good wife can make her man happy.’ She pressed against him.
He hesitated, glancing at Jenny’s closed door.
Sylvia slipped her arms around him. ‘She’ll be all right. She was tired, she’ll be sound asleep for ages yet.’
‘Yes, you’re right.’ He took her face between his hands and saw the passion smouldering in her dark eyes. He kissed her slowly, then went with her to their bedroom.
The phone in BJ’s apartment rang. Carol answered it on the extension in her room.
‘Carol?’ The voice was barely audible. ‘This is Jenny Wong.’
‘Jenny! Did you want the inspector? He’s out.’
‘No, no, I don’t want him. Can I see you? I’m scared. I don’t know what to do.’
Carol opened her notebook. ‘Where are you?’
‘You can’t come here, I don’t want anyone to know I talked to you.’
She waited, pen poised. ‘Where, then?’ She copied down Jenny’s directions. ‘All right, I’ll come right away. But be careful. The inspector thinks you’re in danger.’
‘I know. Don’t worry, I’ll be extra careful. Just hurry, please.’
Jenny hung up the phone and paused, listening. She could hear sounds from the bedroom; the bed creaking, Sylvia’s muffled cries. She smiled and slipped into her coat. She eased the front door open and waited. The sounds continued. Satisfied, she went quickly out and closed the door softly behind her.
Jimmy, in the grip of unrestrained passion, abruptly ceased his rhythmic thrusts.
Sylvia groaned and pushed her body urgently against his. ‘Don’t stop. Don’t stop now. What’s the matter?’
His senses dulled with lovemaking, Jimmy looked down at her flushed face. Her body glowed with perspiration, her excitement aroused him painfully. He mumbled reluctantly, ‘I thought I heard something. A noise.’
‘I heard nothing.’ Her ardent hands worked down his damp back as she moved sensually under him, uttering little moans of pleasure.
His mouth came down hard over hers and she closed her eyes, carried away by his renewed desire.
BJ’s friend Joe would feel obliged to tell him where Carol had gone. She leafed through the phone book and chose a taxi company at random.
Her driver spoke English and had no trouble understanding her instructions, merely informing her that it was a ‘Helluva long way, lady.’ She assured him that was all right and he took off with a speed which suggested that there was something extremely important he had to get back to as soon as possible.
Carol kept a sharp ear tuned to the two-way, but the driver ignored the radio’s chatter. She relaxed and settled back to watch the changing scenery.
The New Territories were less crowded than Hong Kong Island or Kowloon, with expanses of lush valleys and thickly wooded hills. They passed reservoirs and ancient temples and Carol saw a troupe of monkeys swinging through the trees by the road. New towns, with their high-rises and McDonalds restaurants, had spread across the countryside.
The driver pulled up in one of these and indicated a fenced park. ‘This is it, lady, you want me to wait, or what?’
‘How much money if you wait?’ she asked doubtfully.
He grinned. ‘Not much. Inspector BJ’d get real mad if he found out I went away, left you out here. Better I wait, lady.’
Carol sighed and agreed. She went through the park gate and walked along the central path. Under a spreading tree she found Jenny, in blue jeans and a black wool coat, sitting on a bench and anxiously watching for her.
The park was popular with the town’s inhabitants. Old men played cards or mah-jong at tables set under the trees, children sailed boats on an artificial lake, joggers pounded along the paths. In one corner a group practised Tai-chi to the tinny strains from a tape recorder on the grass. Further along, others exercised with swords to different music. Children flew colourful kites shaped like bizarre birds and dragons.
Carol sat down next to Jenny. The girl gave her a tight smile, her eyes huge behind their glasses.
‘Thanks for coming. I’m just so scared I didn’t know who to talk to.’ She clutched her fringe with nervous fingers. ‘Bob Lee told my brother where you were, so I rang ...’
‘Your brother’s a policeman; wouldn’t he help you?’
Jenny flinched. ‘He’d tell Inspector BJ. He already told him I went into the office yesterday and now the inspector knows I hit Arthur Yi.’ She gave a convulsive sob.
Carol put an arm around her. ‘Tell me what happened?’
Jenny took a deep breath and began to talk, spilling out her story with relief.
The taxi let Carol out on Langford Drive. She walked up to the colonial house, set in its lush, tropical gardens, and rang the front door bell.
The woman who admitted her was small and stocky. Her dark hair, pulled severely back from her wrinkled face into a sparse bun, was streaked with grey but her black eyes were as bright as a child’s. She stared at Carol with interest.
‘Mona Feng?’ Carol asked.