Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (51)

Blake stood before the counter in Guilin’s main police station, fuming. “Can anyone here speak proper English?” he asked again, for what felt like the hundredth time. Inside his head, the pressure was building. It seemed that each way he turned, another obstacle was placed in the way of progress. Almost twelve hours since he had learned of the dreadful news, he still did not have a single lead in the pursuit of his missing daughter. “English,” he insisted. “English speaker. Please.”

Depressingly, and with what Blake assumed to be a practiced nonchalance, the desk sergeant simply repeated the words he had uttered just moments earlier. “No Yingyu speak. You go tourist police.” “For fuck’s sake!” Blake suddenly yelled, banging a fist down on to the counter. Losing his composure, he thought for a moment of reaching across to grab the offending officer’s lapels, repeating the move he had made on the concierge, back at the hotel. But the descent of red mist was transitory this time, and he thought better of it. “Please help me! My daughter’s missing. Little girl,” he pleaded, instead. Blake held out an arm at waist height, his palm turned down, to indicate Sophie’s approximate height. “Blonde hair.” He touched his head, his eyes darting about in a kind of bewildered helplessness. Detecting the note of despair in the Englishman’s voice, the desk sergeant was forced to take more interest in him. “Please,” Blake persisted. The officer sighed deeply. He was finding it difficult to maintain the offhanded manner that was a trademark of those in his position. The Yingguo ren’s obvious distress was beginning to get to him. After finally reconciling himself with the fact that he would, after all, need to disturb the Deputy CI – something he was under strict instructions not to do – he stood and pointed to some chairs in a corner of the room. “Wait,” he simply instructed.

Somewhere on the floor above, Deputy Chief Inspector Gai En-rui was in mid-sentence when the flimsy door creaked slowly open: “…there is anything else you remember about those last few minutes in the market?” In a disciplined but compassionate way, he was continuing to quiz the twenty-something teacher from the Sunny Bay school party, in his trademark near-perfect English. A rather nervous looking Brad Taylor was about to formulate his reply, when a uniformed officer entered cautiously and tiptoed across the room at the DCI’s reluctant beckoning. Stooping, the officer Taylor now recognised as the desk sergeant whispered something in the senior man’s ear. Taylor’s anxiety increased as he watched the eyes of his inquisitor drill into him while processing whatever information the desk sergeant was imparting. Have there been any developments? the young teacher mulled, anxiously. Have they… found her? But if this latter outcome were true, he noted with dread, then the expression on the DCI’s face surely indicated that the news was bad. Dear God… Please… Not that… The image of a child-size body bag suddenly flashed in his mind, tormenting him further. They’re bound to find out about me and Sally, he chided himself, guiltily. That we’d taken our eyes off the ball… Brad Taylor wanted to scream, to turn back the clock. He needed to be comforted, told that everything would be all right. But more than anything, he wanted to be home, and out of this hellish nightmare the school outing had become.

“Please wait. I’ll be back shortly,” the DCI abruptly said, a false smile flashing momentarily across his face. He had not been surprised to learn of Adam Blake’s arrival in Guilin. Rubbing his chin as he then descended the dilapidated stairs, he wondered what type of person he would be confronting in the reception area below, and in what kind of mental state. Himself the father of a young son, he struggled vainly to imagine the agony that Blake and his wife were surely going through. “My name’s Gai and I’m Deputy Chief Inspector of the Guilin municipal police force,” he announced, holding a hand out towards Blake as he emerged from behind the counter. “We’re doing everything we can to find your daughter.” Momentarily taken aback by the man’s eloquence, Blake was nonetheless glad to at last have found someone he would be able to converse with; importantly, someone in the know. “Is there… any news?” he asked, afraid of the answer. “Nothing concrete, I’m afraid, Mr. Blake. But I’ve got my best Detectives working on the case. We’re confident of turning up something very soon.” But despite his assurances, DCI Gai was in fact less certain than he sounded. For he knew that the key breakthrough had actually been required a full day earlier, in the hours immediately following the girl’s disappearance. Deflated by the news, Blake’s head dropped. “Try not to worry, Mr. Blake,” the DCI chirped, noticing the distraught father’s sorry demeanour. “We’re also questioning the teacher who remained behind. He may remember something that seems trivial to him, but proves ultimately to be a vital clue.” “Teacher? One of the teachers is still here?” queried Blake. He felt a strange mixture of anger towards this stranger, paired with a certain gratitude that he at least had not abandoned his little girl, like the rest of the party seemingly had. “Yes. He’s in for questioning.” “Can I see him?” “All in good time, Mr. Blake. We haven’t finished our interrogation yet. There’s really nothing for you to do at the moment, except return to your hotel and try and get some rest. We can talk again in the morning.”

Buoyed a little by this latest twist, Blake took DCI Gai’s hand firmly in his, managing a half-smile in acknowledgement of the uniformed man’s efforts. At least there’s someone I can communicate with. Someone who has the appearance of being on top of things. And this teacher… I need to get to him… Find out what he can remember… Get him to take me to the exact spot where… where… Sophie was… last… seen…

Blake did his best to disguise the tears that were now flowing down his cheeks once more, as he picked up his bag and strode wordlessly out through the station door and into the night. But they did not escape the DCI’s attention: in fact they tore at his heart, strengthening his resolve to locate the missing girl, and bring her captors to justice. For Gai knew that the little gwaimei had not simply got lost. This was no fairy tale with a pre-ordained happy ending. No: there was not a single doubt in his mind that she had been abducted. The only questions were: by who, and why?

posted by Kirk at 9:32 pm  

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