Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (47)

“There’s some kind of problem,” the voice on the other end of the line informed him, gravely. “They found some paperwork on the body. It seems that it may identify some of the gang. And you, I’m afraid.” The news from his man on the ground in Qinzhou was exactly what Din had dreaded. His flight from the grisly scene that had unfolded at the quayside, his mistake of not cleaning up properly, was now returning to haunt him. He cursed the fact that he had succumbed to panic, when the composure of a professional killer had instead been required. Din reflected that when the moment had come, back there in the Marina, his nerve – unusually – had failed him. Am I beginning to lose it? he wondered. Why didn’t I dispose of the body? What was now troubling him most was that a link to Guilin, and the disappearance of the guimei, might be established. I need to move fast, he began rousing himself. Act now, before that happens. For Din was in no doubt that the members of the kidnap gang would crack at the first sign of danger. Would somehow contrive to invite attention to themselves, signalling their guilt. And worse still, their link to him. Furthermore, he knew that the penalty for abduction – particularly that of a western child – was death. An invisible, silent death in a lonely place, following some particularly nasty form of torture at the hands of the PLA.

“I need you to find out exactly what they know. Urgently!” he barked into the receiver. “And while you’re doing that, see how much it’ll take for them to close the case without a full investigation. Tactfully!” Din was now thinking on his feet. “Understood,” came the voice from Qinzhou. “I’ll call again later, when I have further news.” “Get on with it. Fast!

Din dialled again, to his former protégé this time. Whilst he knew it would be difficult to conceal the setback that had occurred, the call would have to be made nonetheless. Nguyen Tran, the man with the money, was expecting nothing less. Din’s concern was that his accomplice would attempt to use this adverse development as an excuse to stall the final payout: there was, after all, no honour among thieves – even when they had a history of mutual cooperation and respect. As he mulled over what to say, Nguyen’s voice came on the line, startling him a little. “Hello?” “It’s m-me. Din.” “Cam. You OK? What news?” “All’s quiet. Relax. My man has called and will call again tonight. He’s very thorough.” “What did he say?” “Er… he said, er… that nothing much is happening. There’s no real news.” “Nothing? Nothing at all? Din – what the fuck is this guy up to? Are you sure about him? Sure we can trust him?” “Yeah, of course. Like I said – don’t worry.” “But surely something’s been said about the slaying of the Customs pig? It must be all over the papers by now. This wasn’t some fucking low-life, Cam – it was a fucking party official!” “Well–” “Word must’ve been put out on the street about who they think did it, no?” Din was beginning to sweat. “Well, he just said it’s all quiet. That’s all.” “Cam. We need more than that from this fucking shrimp-head you’ve got on the ground there. Make sure he understands that. Or I’ll go there myself and fuck him over! Understood?” “OK, OK. Calm down, my friend. Like I said, he’s calling again tonight. I’ll call you as soon as–” “The minute you hear from him.” “Sure. And, er… how about the money?” Din bit his lower lip. “Cam. The merchandise is only just being delivered, remember? The customer’s not going to transfer the balance until he’s tried it out and found that it meets with his satisfaction, is he now?”

Shit, thought Din. I knew it. I hope he’s not going to try and cheat me. ’Cause if he does… Replacing the telephone in its cradle, he paused for a moment’s reflection. And now his earlier doubt began to nag at him again: do I still have it in me? Shrugging it off with a shake of his head, he then began packing an overnight bag for the next phase of the mission. The journey to Guilin…

In the filthy changing room to the rear of the car rental pound, the old woman removed her apron and hung it by its strings on a rusty nail jutting out from a wall. Routinely, she checked the pockets of the grubby garment, which her relief would soon be adorning. Having reunited herself with the tooth that nestled inside, she rolled it around in her fingers once more, puzzling as to why it had been left behind. “Hey! What’re you doing in there? Why are you taking so long?” her boss abruptly yelled at her, from outside. Slut, he added, under his breath. Moments later, she stood before the counter in his office in order to collect her days’ pay. “Here.” The man threw a few notes on to the counter. Counting them out, the woman noted that the payment came up short. “Not enough,” she pleaded. “You give forty, not thirty.” “Sorry – business not so good right now. Take it or leave it, hag.” “You dog shit! You fuck!” she screamed at him. “I not come back this shithole!” In the heat of the moment, she threw the object in her hand at his head, the shiny white tooth flying harmlessly past before bouncing off a wall and, by sheer fluke, coming to rest in a plastic container full of keys. “Fuck you!” the man shouted. “You come here again and I’ll wash your hair in the fucking toilet!”

posted by Kirk at 11:59 pm  

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