Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (45)

There was no mirth in Blake’s demeanour as he waited his turn in the Immigration queue, after arriving at Liangjiang airport. Indeed, he had the appearance of someone who was in the mood to kill. Finally gaining the opportunity to approach the counter, the glare he threw at the uniformed officer would have rankled in many parts of the world, perhaps even arousing suspicion. But here in Guilin, the young Chinese official was mercifully unable to read his posturing. Stamping Blake’s passport with a healthy dose of indifference, he simply called the next person forward.

In fact, the surliness of Blake’s expression was more the result of his desperate frustration than a hatred of bureaucracy, or even the Chinese. His stomach felt as if a horse had kicked it – he wanted to rip out his insides as punishment for the lack of attention he had paid his daughter in recent months. What the fuck did I think I was doing? he interrogated himself. I should have spent so much more time with her. Read to her. Shown more of an interest. His heart sank as he thought of Sophie’s white-blonde ringlets jigging about as she played. And then the anger returned as once again he pictured her, miserable and lonely in her plight. Calling out for her Mummy in whatever dark place she was being kept. Over and over, he chastised himself for his failings. What was I doing, instead of being a proper father? Gallivanting around with some Chinese bird… Why wasn’t I there to stop this happening? However illogical it seemed, Blake still held on to the belief that there was some way he could have prevented his daughter from being snatched.

Blake’s thoughts then switched to the other woman in his life, this distraction that had swept in from nowhere and demanded entry. An inviolable, evergreen visa to his soul. But he knew in this instant that Elle was not just some floozy who had ambushed him in order to steal him away from his family. No: the emotion she had displayed back at Chek Lap Kok was real, he was sure of that. With such a hole at the heart of the relationship he shared with Kate, Adam Blake had fallen helplessly in love. Elle gave out freely the warmth he craved, rescuing him from the frozen desert his marriage had become. Elle… Elle… I need you, babe… More than ever… More than you can know… he confessed, inwardly.

“Taxi, Mister!” “Mister!” “Taxi!” Suddenly, the squawking of a group of drivers noisily touting for business jolted him from his reverie. There seemed to be no shortage of them, and a minor scuffle broke out as at last he acknowledged their presence, indicating that he would indeed be needing a ride. Blake settled for the only one whose appearance did not resemble that of a beggar. “Take me to a hotel. Any one, I don’t care,” he instructed, his tone unnecessarily harsh. Around an hour later, he found himself checking into the Xiu Xiang Seven Star Hotel, a modest but clean three star establishment in the city centre – accommodation that was perfectly suited to his needs, therefore. Blake was not expecting to spend much time in his room, after all. Somewhat surprisingly, he now began to feel positive – it was the best he had felt, in fact, since the shock of the morning’s news had buried him in a trough of anxiety. At least I have acted, he thought, gazing somewhere off into the distance. Done something about it.

And now I’m going to find my daughter.

Blake nodded silently, pursing his lips before exhaling, slowly. Although he still felt somewhat numb, the earlier fuzziness in his head was beginning to clear. Opening a few drawers and cupboards to discover what amenities the Xiu Xiang had to offer, he then came across a poorly stocked minibar. It occurred to him that for the first time in months, he had not imbibed a drop of alcohol so far that day. Lying back into the cushions on his bed, he then vowed not to take another hard drink until Sophie was found – his little girl back under the care and custody of her rightful guardians. Or guardian? he now thought, for whatever reason. In the singular, that is? But there was not enough time to embellish upon this sudden notion, before he drifted off into a deep sleep. And it was not until an hour or so later that he woke with a start, snatching up the phone from his bedside cabinet in order to dial the hotel operator. “Get me the number of the police station. Fast!” he barked…

Somewhere in the centre of Qinzhou, an old woman was meanwhile vacuuming the interior of a black Toyota Alphard that had been returned to her boss’s rental pound that morning. As she leant inside, she noticed something unusual lying on the carpet in the footwell of what was a distinctly malodorous rear passenger compartment. Something small and white, having the appearance of enamel. For a moment, she thought of simply hoovering it up, but her curiosity suddenly got the better of her and, having changed her mind, she reached down to pick it up. Drawing it up close to her face she twiddled between her thumb and index finger what by now she had identified as a child’s milk tooth. Why would someone leave such a thing behind? she wondered. It certainly seemed a rather uncaring thing to do, even to a simple labourer. Callous, even. Slipping it into the large pocket of her apron, she muttered something under her breath before continuing on with her work.

posted by Kirk at 11:52 pm  

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