Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Number One Under Heaven (64)

“He’s unavailable.” Elle replaced the telephone receiver into its cradle. Fuck, thought Blake. Then: “What else did they say?” “They said Gai’ll be back at the station later this afternoon.” “Fuck.” “Adam…” “Sorry, babe. It’s just so… fucking… frustrating…!” Blake was tugging at his hair. “I know, lover.” Now Elle’s hand replaced his, stroking his head in the same spot. “I’ve been thinking. Ever since I knew they brought her here,” she suddenly said. “What?” “There can only be one reason. It’s not a port town for nothing.” Blake was silent, momentarily. He rubbed his chin. “Where did the newspaper say the Customs guy was found?” he asked his pretty companion. “Qinzhou Marina.” “Of course. Of course… Fuck! Why didn’t we just go straight there before? It’s so fucking obvious…” “Come on then, let’s go. There’s no time to waste beating yourself up. Let’s get down there and see what we can find.”

Had the situation been different, the taxi driver would have felt the rough edge of Blake’s tongue, haggling as he was over how much he wanted for taking them to what he complained was an out-of-the-way destination. But on this occasion, the frazzled gwailo was even prepared to throw in a little extra, so long as the grubby Volkswagen got them there without delay, and by the quickest of routes.

Marching briskly along the dock after clambering out of the car, the couple scoured their surroundings for clues. Talk to me sweetheart, Blake repeated in his mind, hoping there would be another message left somewhere by his missing daughter. Their eyes focused somewhere in the near-distance, the couple almost missed a lone fisherman who was trailing his line over the pier’s edge. Head down, the old man appeared to be mumbling something to himself. Elle crept up slowly behind him, before crouching by his side, curious to hear what he was saying. Unmoving, the craggy fisherman appeared not to have noticed her.

“Poor gwaimei… No good… Bad thing they did… Bad thing…” he repeated, over and again, at a level barely above a whisper. Finding it difficult to make out the words, Elle moved her head closer to his, when her motion came suddenly within his field of vision. “Wah!” he yelled, jumping up suddenly. The hand he then thrust out to grab his toppling rod served only to send it more quickly over the edge and into the sea below. “Oh, no! I’m so sorry!” exclaimed Elle, instinctively raising a hand to cover her mouth. “I’ll… I’ll get you a new one… D-don’t worry,” she stammered. But the old man seemed uninterested. Staring at his feet, he continued to mutter the repetitive mantra that was possessing him. “What’s that you’re saying?” asked Elle, struggling a little with the local Guangxi dialect. “Gwaimei… Bad thing… Bad thing…” he continued, trance-like. “Did you say gwaimei?” Elle suddenly repeated, a sense of urgency now evident in her voice. Shaking his shoulder a little too strongly, she managed at least to gain his proper attention. “Did you say gwaimei?” she asked again. After a short pause the old man nodded, while raising a hand to point out to sea. “Not good. Not good.” “Adam!” shrieked Elle in the direction of her lover’s back, now some hundred yards along the pier’s edge. “Come here! Quick!

In the fifteen or so seconds it took Blake to cover the ground, Elle had established through a combination of word and gesture that there could be no mistake. The fisherman knew what had happened to Sophie. “He knows, Adam. He knows!” Blake’s reaction was predictable. Grabbing the old man by the collar he began shaking him, and act that caused Elle to slap his arm. “Stop it! Stop it, Adam! He’s upset about it – I can tell!” “Upset? I’ll show him what fucking upset means!” He raised his fist and was about to bring it crashing into the fisherman’s face when he felt the blow of a much smaller hand landing on his. Although slight, the shock of Elle’s punch was sufficient to stop him in mid-swing; the old man’s flinch proving not, after all, to be necessary.

For a moment the three stood staring at each other, the only sound being that of the water lapping at the pier’s edge. Then a wry smile began to form on Blake’s face, while Elle looked down shyly, embarrassed at her own effrontery. “Come on,” Blake said finally, breaking the silence. He released his grip from the fisherman’s coat. “Ask him what he can do for us. Whether he can take us to Sophie.”

posted by Kirk at 5:31 am  

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