Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (43)

Blake’s anxiety was mounting as the Captain made the latest in what had seemed an endless series of announcements. By now, they had been stuck on the ground for over thirty minutes, the aircraft’s wheels seemingly glued to the apron, while Blake wanted action, and fast. Through a large passenger terminal window, he had earlier watched Elle’s Air France flight take off and now he, too, wanted to get airborne. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We’ve, er, now finally been given clearance for take-off and subsequent routing, er, all the way to Guilin. So we’ll be pushing back, er, very shortly. On behalf of Kowloon Airways I’d like to apologise for this, er, this delay… which as you will, er, appreciate… er, was beyond our control. Meanwhile, we’re just, er, waiting for one more passenger to board, after which we’ll be on our way. Once again, thank you for your, er… understanding.” But the Captain’s conciliatory tones did nothing to soothe Blake’s impatience and he reached up to press the call button, intending to vent his anger on whichever cabin crew member had the misfortune to offer assistance.

Within a matter of moments, a smartly uniformed young man flicked off the call button, before leaning across from where he stood in the aisle, to Blake’s window seat. “What is I can do you, sir?” he asked, in broken English. Coincidentally spotting the final passenger boarding, Blake took his opportunity to release some of the venom that had been building inside. “Why the fuck did this aircraft wait for that slit-eyed prick to board?” he said, pointing to what from his appearance was a local businessman. “We’re well past fucking take-off time.” His outburst caused a mixture of mirth, anger, and perhaps even a little fear, as passengers of varying ethnic backgrounds turned to stare at him. “I bet he’s some kind of fucking VIP, isn’t he? Fucking place,” he continued. “Sir, that language not at all appropriate,” replied the young steward, testily. “The Captain already explain we only just clearance all way to destination.” Blake fidgeted in his seat. Knowing that his assertion was not exactly rooted in solid ground, it seemed that a reasonably justified dressing-down loomed uncomfortably close. “We will on our way in just moment, sir. OK?” the young man concluded, letting him of the hook. Were it not for the circumstances, Blake might have sniggered at the way the steward then minced his way along the aisle as he moved off, huffily. “Cabin crew: set, er, doors to automatic,” said the Captain over the tannoy system.

It seemed to take an eternity for the aircraft to taxi into position at the start of the runway and when the engines finally began to roar, accelerating them along its two kilometre length, Blake remained frustrated that right now, right at this moment, he was utterly unable to do anything more proactive in order to locate his little girl. With a deep intake of breath, he deliberately steered his thoughts not to his wife, but to the woman he knew was already somewhere near the Himalayas, on her way to Paris. Elle… Elle, he sighed. I need you… Need you more than ever, right now, baby… Forcing himself to lean back into the little comfort offered by his seat, he then closed his eyes while continuing his deep breathing exercise. And whilst he accepted that she could not be beside him in body, he hoped that Elle was with him in her mind, thinking of him right now, just as he was thinking of her. Exhausted, Blake gradually fell into a deep sleep…

Nguyen Tran listened gravely to the news. The accidental killing of the Immigration official was unscripted, and something that had the potential to threaten the entire enterprise. He said nothing for a moment, thinking. “You’re sure there were no witnesses?” he finally asked, seeking further reassurance. “Absolutely,” Din replied into the receiver. “And the men you hired to do the job. They got away from the scene. Nobody was apprehended.” “Of course,” Din lied. For actually, he had no way of knowing.

Din chose to omit the news that one of the men was now sporting scratch marks down one side of his face, from just below the orbit of an eye to the corner of his mouth. Neither was he about to reveal that he had kept back five thousand dollars from the gang’s bonus payout. “What about the vessel? Was it registered?” Nguyen’s voice suddenly barked from the earpiece, quizzing him further. “Unmarked.” “Good. Well, I think all we can do is lie low for a while. See what sort of fallout there is. But from what you’re saying there is no possibility of anyone connecting the guimei kid’s disappearance with the death of this Immigration pig. I hope I can trust you, Din.” “Hey, how long have we known each other? And by the way, when am I getting my money?” Questions that Tran ignored. “Do you have someone there with his nose in the trough, as it were?” was all he said, instead. “Like I told you, don’t worry. I have a reliable man there. Someone with good connections. I’ll be getting a report on the situation tonight, tomorrow and every day after that.”

But the machine in Nguyen’s brain was still whirring, trying to cover every angle, picturing the scene in his mind. However evil his trade might be, he had turned it into a profession. And Nguyen Tran was, himself, the consummate professional. A man who prided himself on being the best. He had missed something, he was sure. He struggled again to think what. “The car!” he suddenly chirped, realising. “What about the car, Din?” “Returned it this morning, on schedule. No questions asked.” “Yes, but did you clean it thoroughly before handing it back, like I insisted?” “Yes.” “Inside, I mean?” “Of course. Don’t worry my friend.” But Din was lying again, for he had forgotten that he had promised to do this. Had specific instructions, in fact. Because if he had remembered, and then cleaned the Alphard’s interior, he would have noticed the milk tooth lying on the urine-stained mat in the rear footwell, and removed it.

posted by Kirk at 2:34 am  

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