Hong Kong - Monday December 30th, 1996
BJ drove into Kowloon from Kai Tak airport and took the Cross Harbour Tunnel into Causeway Bay. On the car radio, music played softly, then was interrupted for a late news flash.
“Earlier this evening, the body of prominent Hong Kong businessman, Guy Langford, was pulled from the harbour. Mr Langford, a director of Langford-Price, was stabbed to death and his body dumped in the harbour in what police describe as a Triad killing. Anyone with information is requested to contact the police immediately.”
BJ turned off the radio, his face impassive. ‘So it continues,’ he murmured. ‘Joss, Guy.’
Sandra King, a thin, taut woman in her late forties, knocked at her husband’s study door and nervously opened it. Once Peter was ensconced in his oak panelled study he hated to be disturbed. This was his retreat from the world around him, deliberately English in style. The commander’s pipe rack was on his desk and framed photographs of career events hung on the walls; police ceremonials, awards given, parades reviewed, dignitaries welcomed, special mess dinners. The Royal Hong Kong Police force was based on the British army with all its pomp and ceremony, tradition and initiation.
King looked up, frowning, from his solid leather arm chair.
‘Inspector Bannerjee is here.’ Sandra’s voice was tense.
He looked startled but recovered quickly. ‘Send him in then, and leave us alone.’
Sandra said over her shoulder, ‘You can go in, inspector.’ She walked quickly away, a small frown furrowing her brow. She sensed this extraordinary visit spelled trouble.
BJ entered the study. The last time I was in this room it was covered in blood, he thought. Then, so was the King. And so was I.
‘Shut the door.’ The commander’s face was forbidding. ‘I’m surprised to see you here. Couldn’t it wait until morning?’
BJ sat down, uninvited. ‘No, Peter,’ he answered quietly, ‘this won’t wait.’
‘Spit it out, then.’ With a show of nonchalance, King leaned back and crossed his legs, but his pale eyes were wary.
‘I made a very great mistake,’ BJ remarked reflectively. ‘I allowed a grand passion to die. This past week I’ve been forced to relive old times, renew that old passion.’
‘I haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re on about,’ King said. ‘Get to the point.’
‘The point is, I made a promise, a long time ago, in the heat of a great rage.’ BJ’s voice was suddenly stern. ‘It’s time I made good on that promise.’
King shrugged. ‘Is this supposed to mean something to me?’
‘I certainly hope so,’ BJ said. ‘I’ll make it plain, Peter. You’ve outstayed your time in Hong Kong. Tomorrow you will resign your position and take early retirement.’
King sat bolt upright, bristling with anger. ‘You’re out of your frigging mind, inspector. Why the hell should I?’
‘It’s very simple.’ BJ smiled. ‘For a long time rumours have said you’re past it, your judgement’s bad, you’re increasingly obsessive. Over the past few months I’ve watched that obsession grow. You’ve done everything possible to jeopardise my inquiries, destroy David and Pat Langford and pull down Langford-Price. You’ve failed. David will continue here as before.’
He eyed the commander grimly. ‘You put every obstacle in my way. You tried to prevent me doing my job, having decided who was guilty without a shred of evidence. You acted on rumours, went against my advice, tried to build up a case against two completely innocent men, with total disregard for justice or the truth.’
King opened his mouth. BJ swept on relentlessly. ‘You questioned my loyalty to my job and ordered me to concentrate my energies and my team in the wrong direction, to prove your theory correct. That could be seen as a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.’
‘Damn you!’ King sprang to his feet. The violence of the movement jerked his heavy chair back. ‘Get out of my house.’
‘Sit down.’ BJ’s voice was like ice. ‘Hear me out, Peter. I’ve written a comprehensive report on this case and your interference. I’m quite prepared to submit it upstairs. There’ll be an inquiry. It will mean total loss of face for you.’
The commander sat down, glaring into BJ’s calm eyes. ‘You couldn’t wait, could you?’ he ground out. ‘You’ve hated my guts all these years. Do you think I can’t bring my own evidence to prove you want to get rid of me?’
‘Unless you’re prepared to explain why,’ BJ said smoothly, ‘I don’t think you’ll do that.’
‘What do I have to lose?’ King shot back. ‘If you force me to bring up the past, David will suffer the most, and Jean. You didn’t think of that.’
‘The Langfords won’t come into this,’ BJ said. ‘I’ve been investigating the Heavenly Joy Club. You go there on a regular basis, you have an addiction to gambling and, in your pillow talk with the hostesses, you’ve revealed secret police information.’
King stared. ‘It’s a lie!’
BJ dismissed his protest with a shrug. ‘I have statements from Wing Chang and his girls. If you choose not to cooperate, I’ll give the story to Walter Delaney. How will your marriage survive that, I wonder?’
King sat back suddenly, a look of comprehension dawning in his eyes. ‘You bastard, it isn’t true!’ His voice shook.
‘It’s as true as your story that Jean went to you willingly and that later I took advantage of David’s absence to force myself on her,’ BJ snapped.
‘I see.’ Suddenly the commander’s face was still. He stared at the wall, thinking furiously.
‘Bring David into this, and Wing Chang’s girls will back up my story that you were obsessively committed to destroying Langford-Price because David, a liaison committee member, suspected there was a serious leak of information from the top,’ BJ warned. ‘They’ll quote your conversations word for word if necessary. You’ll be suspended and investigated. Even if you were exonerated, the rumours would finish you.’
‘That’s enough.’ King said. ‘Curse you, BJ, that’s enough.’ He shook his head in disbelief. ‘I’m retiring in six months. Couldn’t you wait?’
‘I’ve waited too long already,’ BJ said.
King gave an angry laugh. ‘Have it your own way. What do I care anyway? A few months either way ... I’ll still go with honours, distinguished career, loyal service. What’s the point of all this?’
BJ stood up. ‘Submit your resignation in the morning. I’ll see myself out.’
As the door closed behind him, King stared blankly at it for a long time, then said bitterly, ‘Damn you to hell, BJ. God damn you to fucking hell!’
He rose and went to his desk. He sat down, his head in his hands, his body racked with harsh sobs. After a long moment he pulled a sheet of paper towards him and began to write slowly.
BJ ran down the steps of the commander’s house, whistling lightly. As he opened his car door, his mobile phone, left on the passenger seat, was chirruping. He answered it cheerfully. ‘Yes, I’m here; what is it?’
Bob’s voice said, ‘An incident, Queen’s Road Central. Looks like a hostage situation.’
‘Right, meet me there, I’m on my way. What’s the address?’