Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (60)

The journey to Qinzhou was an uncomfortable ride on sticky seats, over worn out track. Blake kept close vigil on the Zhongguo ren sat opposite him, instinctively unable to trust the man. “Want some fruit?” Elle piped up, a little way into the journey, while plucking a pear from her bag. “No,” replied Blake testily, before: “Sorry. It’s just tha–” “It’s OK,” his lover reassured him. “Don’t worry, Adam. We’ll be there soon.”

Outside, the indistinct Chinese countryside was flashing by – mile after mile of agricultural smallholding criss-crossed by countless dirt tracks and punctuated, on occasion, by the random clusters of buildings forming yet another nowhere town. The day itself had turned into something as dreary as the expressions on the passengers’ faces, while the sky was as heavy with foreboding as Blake’s heart. He was about to say something when, unannounced, the pickpocket suddenly stood up. Without hesitation, Blake reached out and grabbed him – a move that caused some consternation among those sitting about them. Hearing the petty thief’s grunted objections, Elle was prompted to speak. “Adam – he needs the toilet. Let him go,” she instructed. Releasing his clutch, Blake was nonetheless tempted to follow the man, fearing his intentions. But what can he do, anyway? he suddenly figured. Jump to his death? No: if the lowlife had changed his mind and was planning to make a run for it, he would do so upon arrival in Qinzhou. That much was surely obvious. Blake made a mental note to keep a particularly close eye on the man when they reached the end of their journey.

Some time after the petty crook had returned to his seat, the squeal of brakes announced that they had reached their destination – the grimy platforms of the port city’s central railway station sliding ever more slowly past, while the train itself began to shudder. Blake took up the rear as the three alighted, sticking closely to the man’s back lest his earlier hunch proved correct. “I’m starving. Can we eat first?” said Elle as they stepped down, with what was more of an instruction than a plea. Blake silently nodded his assent, after which they trudged off through the station turnstiles and out into the street to find a café. Noticing at this point the helplessness and fear etched into his face, Elle quietly interlinked her arm with Blake’s: an act which almost brought a smirk to the pickpocket’s face – something he thought better of, however, once he caught sight of the woman’s knowing glare.

“The first thing we need is a phonebook – we need a list of all the car hire companies,” she encouraged, as they waited for their dim sum to arrive. “You’re right: they’d have used a hire car,” Blake replied. “The old woman said it was big. Black, right?” “Yeah, and he said he thinks it was a Toyota.” Elle jabbed a hostile thumb in the petty thief’s direction. “Fucking animals,” said Blake, staring directly at him. “Anger’s going to get us nowhere,” his lover quickly replied, denying her own feelings. “Sorry – you’re right,” Blake admitted, glumly. Squirming as if he could sense what was being said, the man opposite them had nowhere to look, his eyes darting about in search of some kind of distraction. “And there’s another thing,” she added. “Which is?” “He’s not the ringleader, this one here.” Again, she spiked a thumb in his direction. “Not clever enough.” “No?” “No. He’s just a pawn. A paid hand. There’s not a single original thought inside that fucking wooden skull of his…” “And you say I need to calm down,” Blake chastised her.

It was just then that Elle, ignoring his comment, noticed the ashen look that had begun to creep over their reluctant associate’s face. Following his stare, her eyes were directed to the front page of a local daily, where the headlines bore witness to the sorry tale of suspected murder: that of a promising young Customs official, no less. She noticed that the man appeared fixated by the garish characters announcing the poor fellow’s demise, accompanied as was customary by a series of touched-up photographs, resplendent in vivid red.

“Adam!” she suddenly burst, her mind at once contriving the possibility of a link. “He’s scared! I think… I think there might be a connection.” “What’re you talking about?” Blake responded, not quite catching her point. “Look at him: he’s fucking petrified!” “I have no idea what you’re on about,” Blake continued, flustering. “The headlines in the newspaper! Some Customs official was found dead on the quayside – I… I think there’s some kind of link… It’s like… like he knows something! Look at his expression!”

With this, Blake’s mind and body synchronised in a sudden burst of activity – every ounce of frustration he possessed crystallising into a parcel of energy he directed with shocking, unexpected force into his hapless victim’s face. The outflow of blood was sickening, drenching their clothes and spattering the tabletop with globules of scarlet fluid that was, to all intents, still living. Elle retched before reeling away from where they were sat, while Blake, swallowing, grabbed the semiconscious man by the arm and began dragging him towards the door.

In his other hand, the copy of the local rag remained tightly gripped.

posted by Kirk at 10:37 pm  

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