Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (33)

“I’m sorry, but Mr. Blake no longer works at Valuri Doyle. Can I ask whether anyon–” What? Kate was floored. First there had been the issue of Adam not answering his phone, and now this. She moved quickly through from the lounge to their bedroom, discovering immediately the reason for his unresponsiveness: Blake’s cell-phone was nestling atop a pile of discarded clothes, strewn right across the bedcovers. The tears were streaming down her cheeks as the Canton Air widow came up from behind, to comfort her. “I can’t believe what’s happening to me…” Kate sobbed. “He’s lost his job, as well…” “C’mon, doll. It’ll be all right,” said the other woman, putting an arm around Kate’s shoulders. There was nothing else to say. But Kate could not be consoled. My little girl… My little Sophie’s missing… She burst into tears at the thought, at the nightmare that would not go away, now burying her head in the other woman’s bosom, the full horror of everything that had happened now crystallising into reality from its earlier, surreal state. Sophie is missing! Lost in China, of all places! And now her husband had apparently lost his job and, what was more, could not be contacted. Where is he, for fuck’s sake? she thought, angrily. Finally, when I need him – want him, even – he goes missing on me, too! An awful feeling of hopelessness was welling up in Kate’s stomach, as her legs suddenly began to feel like jelly. The Canton Air widow needed all the strength she could muster as the dead weight of Kate’s body then collapsed into her.

“C’mon, darlin’. Wake up, girl.” Kate could vaguely hear the woman’s voice as the gentle slaps brought her round. She vomited the instant she opened her eyes, spattering her blouse with acrid, yellow bile, before the tears came once again. With a compassion that Kate had never imagined could be a quality of the coarse Australian before her, her newly-acquired friend then began putting a positive spin on events. “Here you go. Drink this. I made it while you were… y’know… out.” The woman passed Kate a cup of freshly brewed, sugary tea, while dabbing at her blouse with a tissue. “Look, I spoke to the school. They’ve heard from Hewitt, the Deputy Head. Said your little girl was only missin’ ten minutes ’fore they realised. The teachers and police are all lookin’ f’rer. She can’t have gone far, darlin’, can she? Not in ten minutes.” The woman puffed on a cigarette. What she could not know was that the news she was now relaying was at least an hour old. The school party, minus Sophie and one of the teachers, was already on its way back to Hong Kong, on the command of the Chinese police authorities. Kate tried to sip the piping hot drink, recoiling as it scalded her lips. The other woman persisted: “The school said they called you before ’cause it’s their policy – y’know, to let you know what’s going on – but it’s just a precaution and you’re not to worry too much.” Her words carried a not insignificant amount of poetic licence. “I wouldn’t be surprised if your baby’s already sitting on the bus, telling her little mates all about her adventure.” Chuckling, she tried to garner a smile, but Kate simply broke down again, inconsolable. “I can’t stand it any more. None of it,” she sobbed. “I just want to get back to England with my Sophie. Get a job, start again. I don’t care what school she goes to, as long as she’s safe and close to me. I’ll never, ever let her out of my sight again!” Forming two fists with her hands, she then began banging on her temples before letting out a scream. Kate was now in the throes of a total breakdown. “I hate this fucking place! Hate it, d’you hear?” she screeched.

Suddenly grabbing the nearest object of any real substance – a Lladro figurine given to her and Blake by his parents on the occasion of their tenth wedding anniversary – she then hurled it at a wall with an angry force that came from deep inside her, one she would have found impossible to manufacture. Smash! The fine porcelain exploded into a thousand splinters that shot up and down the wall, a cloud of dust now bellowing out from the point of impact. “What the fuck d’you do that for, doll?” yelled the Canton Air widow, startled and perhaps a little afraid, now, and shell-shocked by the violence the ordinarily mild-mannered Pom had just unleashed. Kate simply screamed again, shaking her head while pulling at her hair, relieving herself of several clumps in the process.

Taking out her cell-phone from her handbag once more, the Australian woman quickly called Cape Surgery, demanding they send a doctor without delay. Nodding at the receptionist’s initial response, she then repeated the address. “That’s it. Flat D, 33, Caperidge. Come quick. Yeah, straight away. I think she’s really losing it, big time.” Concluding, she flipped shut the handset. Kate, meanwhile, had returned to her bedroom and tossed Blake’s clothes on to the floor. Her face was buried in her pillows, while her aching body jerked with each painful sob. Sitting on the edge of the bed while stroking Kate’s back, the Canton Air widow tried to provide what little comfort she could, under the circumstances. “Don’t worry, love. Doctor Elliot’s on his way. And your little girl is probably already on the plane… On her way home, right now…”

But with every passing second, poor Sophie was in fact speeding further away from her teachers, her friends among the school party, her previous life, her home… For the black Alphard was now fast approaching the outskirts of Liuzhou, speeding past the flat arable land that was typical of the region. Now blazing its way around the recently constructed ringroad, the car would soon be entering the expressway beyond, in the direction of Nanning and then, ultimately, the port town of Qinzhou, close to China’s border with Vietnam. Curled up on the back seat, unspeaking and numb, Sophie meanwhile continued to conduct her private war. Still resolutely refusing to take water, she was rigid to the touch and now successfully beginning to cause the inexperienced gang members no small degree of consternation…

posted by Kirk at 4:05 am  

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