Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (37)

Qinzhou Marina was already shrouded in a cloak of darkness as the black Alphard slowed to a halt alongside the dock. The precious cargo in its rear passenger compartment remained stolid and uncompromising: Sophie Blake had taken neither food nor water throughout the entire journey from Guilin. At this hour, the Marina was eerily quiet: other than the crew of a waiting launch, there was not a soul around. There were no unwanted eavesdroppers, then, listening in on the conversation now taking place by the quayside between a lone, rather portly Customs official and a gangster who some time ago had restyled himself as Bei Din Din. The notorious drug lord was making it his personal business to grease the cogs of Excise Department bureaucracy, thus ensuring the smooth export of the valuable consignment. This was a tricky part of the process Din knew he could never entrust to the likes of Guilin gang leader Wei, lest the whole venture be ruined by a slip of the tongue, or nervous gesture.

In the background the stuttering, baritone chug of the vessel that would ferry the girl on the next leg of her enforced journey throbbed away, unevenly. Its Captain needed no charts to plot the route he would be taking, for it was one he had plied on a countless number of previous voyages. But whilst these were all similarly illicit in nature, never before had they involved the carriage of human cargo. Initially, there had been a considerable amount of disquiet amongst his crew at the prospect. But such concern was quick to dissipate once he provided details of the lucrative deal he had struck with Din. And so the Captain would be hugging the coast Eastwards throughout the night, before the first rays of dawn lit up some of the thousands of small islands guarding the entrance to young Sophie Blake’s final destination – Ha Long Bay, where a luxury superyacht lay at anchor, in silent expectation.

With his back leaning against the side door of the Alphard, Wei Dang was meanwhile looking on with an anxious expression. Although his part in the drama was effectively over, he knew that without the assent of the man his eyes were now trained upon the whole deal might be called off, jeopardising the gang’s considerable bonus payout. “Sign the fucking paperwork, you son of a whore,” he suddenly blurted, the words issuing forth almost involuntarily. And unfortunately for Wei, his ill-conceived remark was just loud enough for Din to overhear. Cutting away from his discussions with the corpulent official, Din paced over to him, a look of thunder written across his face. “You speak only when I say, you piece of dog shit!”, he screamed into Wei’s face. The former drug king of Hanoi then began circling him, menacingly. “You just cost yourself a thousand US, prick!” he further spat, as Wei turned to avoid the risk of having his aggressor directly at his back. “Now shut the fuck up – unless you want me to kill you! Understand?

Wei knew that Din was not a man to make idle threats. It was evident that he was no stranger to violence; moreover, that he had an extremely short fuse. Din was indeed someone who needed to be handled with a great deal of care. Beaten down by his tormentor’s naked aggression, Wei wisely sloped off to join his accomplices while Din composed himself once more, before returning to the official in order to resume negotiations. “I’m sorry, my friend. I apologise for that… that jerk’s outburst. But in compensation for the further inconvenience caused, I can now add another thousand dollars… er… duty to my payment. Does that solve the problem we were having with your official chop?”

The Customs man scanned his surroundings left and right, seeking final reassurance that this was not actually some kind of trap, before smartly stamping the forms on the clipboard he held in front of him. Impatient to wait for the ink to dry, Din suddenly moved to snatch them away. But the corpulent official was having none of it. With surprising agility he lowered the board just in time, deftly avoiding Din’s lunge. “That move has just cost you another thousand,” he then said, superciliously, much to Din’s surprise. Who the fuck do you think you are, fat boy? he thought, angrily. And on further contemplation, the comment began to eat away at the seasoned killer, positively infuriating him. “What did you say?” he now countermanded, his eyes glazing over. “Three thousand? You’re now asking for three thousand?” The pause that Din then left was heavily pregnant with menace. “Tell me you’re kidding me. And make it quick,” he demanded. Incredibly, the other man stood his ground. Half smiled, even. “Do you think you can insult my intelligence like that and get away with it, you crumbling piece of dried dog shit?” Din concluded with a bark, while pumping out his chest.

The hapless official’s bluff was to prove one too many irritations for Din on this night, as quite suddenly the full horror of his dark side emerged. His temper back in Hanoi had been the stuff of legend, and he was about to prove that the intervening years had done little to soften it. Reflexively and with the swiftness of a cobra strike he lunged at the official’s fleshy throat. Stumbling backwards in his eagerness to avoid being trapped by Din’s grip, the Customs man was unfortunate to trip on a boat tether situated immediately behind his heel, toppling him in a wide arc, as he continued to clutch his clipboard tightly to his chest. With no hands to break his fall the corpulent official’s full weight brought him down heavily, with the back of his skull slamming into an errant quayside cleat, cracking it open instantly with a sickening smack. Gaping at his quivering body, the onlookers each knew there would be no need for any emergency assistance, nor official pronouncement of his condition. For as the grey stuff quickly began oozing from the long and gaping fissure, it was clear to all that the officer was already on his way to the next life.

“Quick! Quick, you fucker!” Din suddenly yelled at Wei, who was standing frozen, in shock. “Get her out of the fucking car. Now!” The Guilin gangleader was trembling as he then slid open the Alphard’s side door, looking in to see if the young guimei captive was still sleeping. But Sophie had revived herself and was very much awake. Too young to have fully understood the horror of the Customs man’s grisly demise, and with unexpected courage for a lost and frightened seven-year-old, she now swiped at Wei’s face, scratching all the way down his left cheek, from just below the eye socket. “Aaah, fuck!” he wailed, spinning away in pain. “Get out of my fucking way, you idiot!” Din shouted as he then took control of the situation, brushing Wei aside before lunging into the rear compartment of the vehicle.

Instinctively, Sophie bit into his arm: the pain it caused her bringing a tear to her eye. But she was no match for the brute strength of the cruel gangster, who grabbed her spitefully, before silencing her screams by pressing a hand across her mouth, hard. “Get her on the fucking boat! Quick!” he shouted at Wei, almost throwing the girl at him. In what seemed a half-hearted effort, the gang leader caught hold of the wriggling parcel, reaching in the same movement across the gap between the launch and the quayside, in order to pass her over to one of the vessel’s hands. The ropes were already being cast off as the chug-chug-chug of the engine was then revved up into a choking, smoke belching de-de-de-de-de-de-de-de, before the dilapidated boat finally pulled away into the blackness of a moonless night. Din, meanwhile, shook off something that appeared to be embedded in his arm. Something hard and white, like enamel. It dropped down to bounce in the footwell of the Alphard’s rear passenger compartment, unnoticed. Unwittingly, he had just left a valuable clue for any would-be pursuer.

In the stillness that followed, the four gang-members sidled up to Din like hyenas awaiting their share of the kill. Scowling at them, Din made a point of looking over to the dead official, whose blood was now spreading like a lake across the dock. “That wasn’t our faul–” Wei began to protest, realising the significance of Din’s gesture. The gang was about to be negotiated down from the agreed amount. “Shut up, you flea-infested mongrel! I told you earlier not to speak unless spoken to. We’re all in this together. Cleaning up this fucking mess will cost money, so we’ll all have to chip in. Here, this is all you’re getting.”

Thrusting a roll of notes into Wei’s hand, Din moved quickly off in the direction of the Alphard. Although outnumbering him four to one, none of the gang challenged him, such was the power of his terrifying reputation. And as he then sped off into the distance they melted away into the blackness while the dead Customs man’s hands gripped ever more tightly the clipboard that lay on his chest, as rigor mortis set in.

posted by Kirk at 11:58 pm  

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