Hong Kong - Tuesday December 3rd, 1996
At 1:00am in the Central Police Station, Jimmy Wong secured an interview room and ordered Tommy Chen to bring in the prisoner.
The room was small and bare except for a central table, four chairs and the recording equipment. Its clinical atmosphere unnervingly said, ‘This room is for a single purpose and there’s no comfort to be had here for wrongdoers.’
A stocky youth was ushered in and unceremoniously pushed into a chair. He wore blue jeans and a red-checked American western-style shirt under a short black leather jacket whose heavy zippers were decorated with showy silver ring pulls. His young face was set in an expression of bravado which slipped a little at the sight of the sergeant’s grim stare.
‘That’s all, constable.’
Chen hesitated. ‘You don’t want me to stay, sir?’
‘Take off, man.’
The prisoner lost even more of his tough leer, but he protested in a pseudo-American drawl, ‘That’s illegal. You gotta have a witness.’
Jimmy smiled dangerously. ‘Who’s to know? Get out, Chen.’
The door closed behind his colleague and the boy yelped. ‘You can’t do this. What’ya going to do to me?’
Jimmy pointed to the tape deck. ‘That’s up to you, dog shit. See that machine? It’s for recording interviews, make sure everything’s done legal. You’re pretty keen on being legal. So, you tell me what I want to know and the machine goes on and you’ll be a recording star. You mess me about and, well, we’ll leave it turned off so no one will know how uncooperative you’ve been and just how hard it was for me to change your mind. You savvy, you heap of pig’s dung?’
‘You can’t frighten me. I ain’t tellin’ you a thing.’
‘Oh ho, still talking tough? What’s your name, so I can tremble at what a big fish I’ve caught in my net tonight - or is it only your mother who’s impressed by your swagger?’
‘I don’t have to tell you.’ The boy’s lip trembled and his movie accent slipped further.
‘No, you don’t,’ Jimmy leaned over him, ‘but you’d have to be more stupid than even you look to play games with me.’ His voice took on a menacing tone and his victim shrank away, shivering.
‘Name!’ Jimmy barked out.
The boy said sullenly, ‘Second Vampire’.
‘Even the gods must be having a good laugh,’ Jimmy told him with heavy sarcasm. ‘What a great vampire you are, sitting in my trap, shivering like a baby in the snow. I hope the others are better vampires than you or we’ll all laugh ourselves to sleep tonight.’
The prisoner flushed. ‘I’m not telling you anything else, though; you can do what you like.’
‘Oh, I was going to, even without your permission.’ Jimmy casually produced a truncheon from under his jacket. ‘I’m a much tougher vampire than you, my lad. I can cause pain you wouldn’t believe and not even leave a mark to show where I’ve been. And I enjoy my work; it’s a pleasure to me. I’m sure you understand me. Now, talk, or I’ll get very angry indeed.’
The boy gave an involuntary sob. ‘I can’t, I won’t. You do your worst. If I talk,’ he closed his eyes and gave a shudder of pure fear, ‘if I talk, they’ll kill me.’
Jimmy tossed the truncheon expertly from hand to hand for a moment then, with a sudden swift movement, jerked Second Vampire’s head back and held the weapon against his cheek. He said, very deliberately, ‘And if you don’t talk, I’ll kill you, so you’ll be no better off, will you?’
The door opened and Bob Lee entered the room. ‘No need for that, Jimmy,’ he said cheerfully and nodded towards the terrified boy. ‘You shouldn’t upset Sergeant Wong. I’ve seen him do terrible things when he’s really angry and he looks pretty annoyed now.’ He turned to Jimmy. ‘Who’s this lad, anyway?’
‘A big man. Second Vampire. He says he won’t talk, but I think he will.’ Jimmy laughed dangerously and brought the truncheon down on the table with a bang that made the boy jump.
‘Doesn’t matter if he does or he doesn’t. His friends, all the other little Vampires, are next door, singing their heads off. It’s as noisy as the Bird Market in there. So we know all about Second Vampire. Sorry to spoil your fun.’
Second Vampire stammered, ‘They’re not. They wouldn’t break the vow of silence.’
‘I’m surprised you can’t hear them in here. Anyway, they’ve told us you’re the leader, the one who makes all the decisions. They’re such small fry, we’ll probably let them go. We’re not bothered about a third level neighbourhood tong. It’s you we want. You’re one of the big men.’
The boy looked amazed, then burst out, ‘I’m not, I’m not, they’ve made it all up to save their own rotten skins. I, I ...’
Crack! The truncheon slammed down again. Jimmy roared, ‘Don’t piss us about. One more lie and I’ll -’
Bob sat down and leaned across to the boy. ‘Tell me about it?’ he offered kindly.
‘I - no!’ He looked at Jimmy, still hefting the weapon in a businesslike manner.
Bob got up. ‘Well, I can see you’re a pretty tough case. I’ll leave you to it, Jimmy. Try not to kill him. We may want him in court.’
‘No!’ the boy screamed, then looked pleadingly at Bob. ‘I’ll talk to you, not to him. Make him go away. He’ll kill me. He’s crazy!’
Bob jerked his head towards the door and Jimmy, with a great show of reluctance, took the truncheon and left the room.
Outside, the constable asked, ‘How’d it go, sir?’
Jimmy grinned and leaned his broad shoulders against the door. ‘Piece of cake, Chen. You’d better get in there, now.’
Twenty minutes later a police car left the station and drove rapidly through the narrow, winding streets towards Quarry Bay and the Eastern Harbour Tunnel. Along the route the normally brightly lit streets with their colourful advertising signs clustered high overhead or strung across the road from building to building, were gaudier than usual. Although the majority of the colony’s population was Buddhist, they loved a festival, and had taken to the Christmas season in a big way. Splashy light displays, Yuletide decoration and sparkling tinsel added to the colour. The waterfront blazed with light, glittering with giant Santas and Christmas trees.
Through the tunnel, the driver turned left, skirting the Kwun Tong Typhoon Shelter, with its cluster of sampans and junks huddled together on the dark water, and finally pulled up outside a cluttered apartment block off Kwun Tong Road.
Bob Lee left the car and hurried into the building, taking the stairs two at a time. On the third floor he stopped, checked the number in his notebook, pushed the door bell for a long moment, then pounded on the metal-mesh security door.
Voices began to call out, neighbours complaining about the noise. A similar security door across the hall opened and a man cursed the intruder who cursed him back genially and knocked harder.
Sounds were heard on the other side of the door; the rattle of chains, a key turning in the lock. Finally it opened a crack.
‘What’s all the racket? Who’s this, coming in the middle of the night, disturbing a respectable household?’
‘Police.’ The sergeant held up his identification. ‘Open up, Lo Chin.’
The door opened further, a face peered out. ‘Bob? What’re you up to? What’s so important it can’t wait till morning?’
Behind him, a woman’s pale, startled face could be seen in the gloom. She held a sloe-eyed toddler in her arms while other children clustered around her, solemn-faced, eyes wide.
Lo waved her back. ‘It’s only Bob Lee.’
Mrs Lo frowned direfully at Bob. ‘What are you doing, waking up the children and frightening us half to death? I swear I nearly joined my ancestors, with you pounding hard enough to knock our door down.’
‘Sorry, Mrs Lo, urgent police business. We need to take Chin with us.’
She gave a scream of alarm. ‘What’s this? What’s he supposed to have done, tell me that? You’re no better than the European devils, or the communists.’
‘It’s all right, Mrs Lo, we need the foreman to get us onto the building site at Yau Ma Tei, that’s all. Go back to bed. Chin’ll be home again before you wake up.’
Grumbling, she gathered her brood back into the bedroom. ‘What will the neighbours think? We’re honest folk and yet the police can come at all hours and bully and take people away ...’ The door closed on her complaints.
After a few moments, Foreman Lo, a small, thin man with bandy, matchstick legs and a wispy beard, came onto the landing, pulling a thick felt jacket over his hastily donned shirt. He fumbled to do up the buttons as he followed Bob down the stairs.
The police driver skirted Kai Tak Airport, turned into Argyle Street, then Waterloo Road and Nathan Street and pulled up outside the LP construction site. The two sergeants and Lo Chin were soon through the front gate.
‘What about the dogs?’ Jimmy asked nervously.
Lo grinned. ‘I rang the security mob from home. It’s taken care of.’
A strong torch beam flashed across the ground and caught them in its glare. ‘What’s going on, Lo Chin? I’ve chained the dogs.’
‘Security guard,’ Chin said and called out, ‘Come with us and lend a hand.’
The group worked its way around inside the fence to a large orange industrial skip.
‘That’s the one,’ Jimmy muttered.
‘Good, let’s have it open. You, guard, get that torch over here.’
Minutes later Bob was on the car radio giving out a series of rapid orders while Jimmy took charge of the skip’s contents.
‘Chin, you’ll have to come back to the station and make a statement.’ Jimmy dismissed the guard and hustled the site foreman back into the car. It took off with a screech of rubber.
Bob continued his instructions. ‘Send a car to the Eastern Dawn Towers and another to Langford Drive. He’ll be at one or the other. Just find Mr Langford and bring him in, but with great courtesy. We don’t want more problems than we’ve got. He’ll cooperate. The Langford’s are very public minded.’
‘What’s our brief, Bob?’
Bob Lee shifted his eyes from the red top-security file, which lay tantalisingly on the desk between him and BJ, and chewed his lower lip thoughtfully.
‘Well, to investigate the sudden influx of weapons into the colony, track down and arrest the importers, plug whatever pipeline they’ve got.’
‘Did you wonder why?
‘I thought it was self-evident.’
‘Don’t play dumb, sergeant.’
Bob grinned. ‘Well, I did wonder, why a special unit with special powers, hand- picked by yourself, operating with utmost secrecy - and answerable only to the King?’
‘You never thought to ask?’
Bob shrugged. ‘I heard rumours.’
‘I’ll bet you did. Bob, so far, everyone on my team is operating on a strictly need-to-know basis, for security. No one has the full story except myself; and now, you.’
BJ spun the file around to face the sergeant and pushed it across the desk. Bob hesitated, flicked it open, rubbed a finger tentatively along the edge and watched the inspector’s face. BJ nodded at the file and Bob bent his head and began to read.
The silence grew in the office, broken only by the rustle of papers being turned. Finally Lee raised shocked eyes to the inspector. ‘Shit, sir! Have you told the King?’
‘Not yet. I’ve been checking it out first.’
‘But, BJ, no, really, he should be told, shouldn’t he - er, at once?’ Bob looked as upset as if he’d found a mouse in his lemon chicken.
‘It hasn’t been that long, Bob.’
‘You’ve had it over a week already. You know what this place is like. Rumours’ll get to him and he’ll have your guts for garters.’
‘I’m not ready yet, so keep it closely under your hat.’
‘Frigging hell! You’re a braver man than I am ...’
‘Gunga Din?’ BJ smiled at his sergeant’s sudden discomfort. ‘Come off it, Bob. Would you rush a report like this straight up to God without a thorough check?’
‘God’ll have your balls, sir!’ Lee predicted earnestly.
Thinking about it, Bob was right. BJ sighed. ‘Trouble is, I know exactly the interpretation he’ll put on it. He’s as biased as hell in that department and we all know why.’
Lee nodded. ‘He hasn’t forgotten.’
‘He never will. He hates David’s guts - and mine, sergeant, and mine. But you’re right, of course, it’s time he saw this. Damn you, Bob.’
He lifted the telephone receiver and dialled a brief, internal number. After a minute he spoke into the mouthpiece. ‘Sir, we need to meet. There’s a report you’ll want to see as soon as possible.’
Bob raised his brows and BJ gave him an amused look. ‘Right, I’m on my way.’ He picked up the file and both men went to the door, Bob politely standing aside for his superior.
‘Good luck, sir.’
‘Get stuffed, sergeant!’ his inspector told him cheerfully