Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (17)

When Blake finally pitched up at his office, just before eleven, his secretary had a look on her face he did not recognise. His hangover was now fading a little, as a result of the three Panadol Extra he had taken after waking at nine-thirty. Kate had placed them on his bedside cabinet with a glass of water, her anger from the previous evening apparently having receded. “What’s up with you?” he asked the Icicle, trying to read her expression. “He’s waiting for you in the boardroom,” she replied, without making eye contact. “Who?” “Loren Deeds.”

Blake’s stomach fell through the floor. Screwing up his eyes he groaned, weary of the drama of it all. For a moment, it felt like he was acting in a pantomime. How the fuck did he get here so quickly? he suddenly asked himself, a look of mild panic now spreading across his face. Must’ve taken a flight last night. Seven o’clock. Singapore Air. SQ85…4? Yeah, that’d be it. But more importantly: why’s he here? Then slowly, the memory of the previous afternoon’s conversation returned to him, descending like mist to enshroud his mind, awakening him in the process to a dark possibility.

Oh, fuck. Is this what I think it is? he instinctively realised.

Sucking in a deep breath, Blake pushed open the boardroom door, putting on as cheerful an expression as his stomach would allow. “Loren! Morning! Surprised to see you here! I’ve just got back from a meeting, and–” “What meeting? Why didn’t your secretary know about it?” “With John Barnes. You know – the supplier.” Blake knew that his friend and mentor would always back him up, if necessary. It was probably the one sure thing in his life, right now. “Adam, sit down,” said Deeds, sternly. There was a pause before he began.

“Look, Adam. I’ll come straight to the point. We’re going to exercise the termination clause in your contract. I am hereby formally giving you notice. You are not to go back to your room, or come to the office again unless we ask you to. I will arrange for your personal effects to be packaged up by your secretary and forwarded to your home address…” Blake noticed that Deeds was reading from a prepared note, his head swinging from left to right as he read the text. Fucking doughnut, he managed to think, in spite of the circumstances. “…You’ve got six months to find yourself another contract, during which time you are effectively still under contract to us, and must behave as if you are. If at any time you’re in breach of the contract between us, your salary payments will be suspended and we may take legal action.” Deeds finally looked up. “Adam. I am sorry it has had to come to this, but do you understand what I have just said?”

Blake was staring vacantly at a framed Monet print on the wall of the boardroom. At first his mind had been sent spinning as Deeds passed sentence, the cold monologue as lifeless as the man himself. He had begun to wonder what on earth he was supposed to do next – how to tell Kate, and then explain to Sophie why Daddy no longer put on a suit and went to work in the mornings. But these concerns had quickly faded as the elation of his release swept over him. Within seconds, a calm had descended; an endorphin rush, almost. “You stupid Septic cunt,” he said, baldly, a half-smile forming on his face as he rose from his chair. “You’re such a fucking fake.”

“Adam–” Deeds began, but Blake was raising the bird-finger as he turned to leave, showing his back to the American regional executive while silently exiting the room, closing the door softly behind him. In the waiting area immediately outside the boardroom, he saw that his jacket and briefcase had already been placed on a chair near the reception counter. She knew, he thought. Fucking Icicle. That look on her face. She fucking well knew. Blake laughed quietly to himself and shrugged his shoulders in resignation. He even managed to cast a smile in the direction of the receptionist, who wished she could disappear, right now. In his numbness, he did not notice the business card that fell from a pocket as he picked up his jacket and made to leave.

“Bye,” he said to the shy young girl. “Oh – Mr. Blake,” she said, as he turned away. “You’ve dropped something.” Gliding around the desk, the petite receptionist then picked up the stray card before passing it to him without studying its contents. “Thank you,” Blake replied, taking it from her and slipping it absently into his pocket. “And good luck,” he offered, walking out through the main entrance of Valuri Doyle, for the last time.

posted by Kirk at 4:29 am  

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (36)

Sitting in the lobby of the Hyatt, Detective Adi felt distinctly ill at ease. For this was a dangerous moment in what was already a risky strategy. Confronting the monster of a man his adversary represented was not something he took lightly: the fact that he had been unable to contact the driver served only to add to his disquiet. Adi knew that a further cash for guns transaction would soon take place – the most lucrative yet, if the snippets of information he had so far been given were accurate. But the location of the drop would be different this time, following his rude appearance at the coastal resort. The driver had been vigilant – piecing together, from half-conversations he overheard, information that would eventually provide the Detective with this vital piece of knowledge. For Adi believed that once he could demonstrate the extent to which he had infiltrated the Captain’s secret domain, the potential nuisance value alone would probably – hopefully – be sufficient for him to be cut in on the deal, if only to keep him quiet. But what had happened to his informant?

As he continued to fidget in the hotel lobby, Adi’s mood flitted between anxiety and false confidence. I’ve got him where I want, anyway, he asserted, trying to convince himself that even without the final piece of information he sought, he was close to crafting a winning strategy. But it was already ten minutes after twelve and the Captain had still not shown his face. He shivered at the thought. Where is the bastard? Consumed by his thoughts, Adi vaguely heard the light tinkle of a glockenspiel, as the bell-boy marched his message board through the lobby. Twelve-fifteen. Still no Captain. Twelve-sixteen. The bell-boy walked before Adi again, under the watchful eye of the Concierge desk assistant. The senior man’s arms seemed about to break free from his body, as he frantically gesticulated to his colleague, urging him to re-approach the only plausible candidate for the role of Detective F. Adi. Finally getting the point, the bell-boy – who looked barely old enough to attend high school, let alone be at work in a hotel after midnight – obliged.

“Sir…?” Adi looked up, almost jumping out of his seat as he saw the name on the message board. Alerted by this reaction, the desk assistant shuffled quickly from behind his counter, almost tripping in his effort to speed across the lobby and hand the envelope to its intended recipient. As he did, he glanced back in the direction of his counter and the clock above it. Twelve-seventeen. Damn it! He prayed that the delayed delivery would not result in a diminution of the lucrative payout he had been promised. By now, Adi was reeling – in a blind panic as he ripped open the envelope, unaware of anything around him. This is not part of the plan. He sensed that he had lost his advantage in the game, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach reaffirming what he already knew. He could almost feel the situation slipping out of his control. A chill ran through him as he contemplated the confident manner by which his adversary had thrown back his vulgar taunt. Detective F. Adi. Detective Fucking Adi… Fuck!

He turned the scrap of paper over and over in his hands, in the hope that what was scribbled on it would somehow expand, would offer more clues. But still it imparted nothing more than what appeared to be a telephone number, and then ‘Room 414’. Pushing past the desk assistant without acknowledging his presence, Adi moved off, in order to find a quiet corner of the lobby. He felt for his cell-phone, finally managing to pull it from his jacket pocket. Almost in the same movement, he dialled the number: 2-8-3-9… 6-6-4-4. There were three rings, and then: “Veza Hotel.” “Where…? What… is this…?” asked the Detective, screwing up his eyes. “Veza Hotel,” replied the voice at the other end of the line. Veza Hotel, thought Adi. He had never heard of it. “Room 414, please.” There was a moment’s pause on the line. “Er, em… I’m sorry… sir… but I am unable to put you through to that room,” the operator’s reply finally came. “Is there… er… anything else I can do for you?” “Why not? I need to talk to someone. Urgently.” “I’m sorry, sir, but my instructions are that the person in room 414 may not be disturbed under any circumstances. It’s… it’s more than my job’s worth.” Adi paused in silence, for a few long moments. “Hello…? Hello…? Will that be all…?” The operator was about to ring off, when Adi cut back in on the line. “Where are you?” “Excuse me?” “Where is the Veda Hotel?” “Veza Hotel. In Jalan Pura, near the old masjid, downtown. Kota. Know the area?”But Adi had already rung off, and was on his way back through the lobby and down to the car park, to fire up his old Toyota. He’s waiting for me. Wants me to go there, he thought. And it was partly true. The tables had indeed turned and the Captain was now pulling his strings – had summoned him to bear witness to the macabre display his accomplice – the doctor – had arranged in room 414. To see what happened to those who dared cross him.

posted by Kirk at 4:14 am  

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (16)

Kate was not in the apartment when Blake returned later that night, now strangely sober, but feeling unwell and more than a little doleful. He gazed at the flowers he had sent, picking up the greeting card to read his own message to her.

Sorry, it read. Sorry.

Fucked up again. I’ve gone and fucked it up again, he pondered, now sorry for himself, too. Blake was unable to cry, although he desperately wanted to. He wished he could let go, to sob his heart out, release all his frustrations, re-calibrate his emotional gauge. Instead, he quietly moved to the bedroom, where he sat on the edge of the bed before roughly kicking off his shoes, discarding them carelessly on to the floor. Without removing any of his clothes he then laid back, his head nestling atop the plump cushions, and fell quickly into a deep and alcohol induced sleep…

“No tennis gear?” asked Tommy. “I’m not really in the mood,” Kate replied, unenthusiastically. “Sorry – but I’ve brought a bottle of wine.” She pulled the article from within a large designer handbag, to show him. “I thought we might… you know… go back to your place. And drink it.” Fresher now, her voice rose in pitch at the end of this sentence, as if she were asking a question. “Excellent idea. Awesome,” nodded Tommy, a glint in his eye. Without a further word, they walked side-by-side in the direction of his apartment, which was situated just a few blocks from the Club’s tennis courts. He turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open, gesturing for her to enter, before closing it behind them. Kate pounced on him in an instant, aggressively pushing her mouth against his, lunging with her tongue to lap around, inside. Pressed tightly together, their lips slid over each other in a frenzied dance, like mating snakes. She reached a hand down to feel for his cock, while biting around his neck and earlobes. Locating the steel hard member, now bulging in preparation to make good its escape from inside his shorts, she let out a moan. “Fuck me. Fuck me, come on. Please fuck me.” Tommy was excitedly pulling at her top to get inside and grope at her firm breasts. As they popped out from under her sports bra, he licked her erect nipples in turn, before sliding his mouth across her skin and up to her neck, where he bit her playfully, producing a soft moan from deep within. Drooling, she licked the air. But it was not oxygen she wanted to suck. Having managed to pull down his shorts, Kate now knelt to stroke his erection, cupping his balls with her other hand. She licked the tip of his stem, where the viscous drops of his seed were already beginning to bud. Salty. “Jeezus Chroist,” he gasped, as she then took him fully in her soft mouth. “Aaah… Oooh, babe… That’s fucking awesome…” “I want you now,” she said, suddenly withdrawing from him, to stand again. “Inside me. I need your cock inside me. Now!”

Taking her hand, Tommy led her into the lounge, where she fell back on to the sofa, legs splayed. One of these shapely limbs was now draped over the armrest, the other at an angle, so that her foot gained some purchase against the coffee table in front. He knelt in between them, lifting up her skirt to delight at the contrast between her crisp white panties and the soft tan of her skin. Wide-eyed, he slowly pulled down the undergarment, revealing for the first time the carefully tended, blonde bush that sat atop the mound of her vulva. Stooping to lick the slit immediately below, his tongue flitted expertly across her wet, aroused clitoris. “Aaah… Fuck!” she squealed, in ecstasy. “Fuck me, Tommy. Fuck me. Come on. I want your cock… I want it in me, now. Please. Fuck me. Now…! Come on!” The tanned athlete was now eager to oblige, needing also to feel the sensation that was unsurpassed by any other in his experience. In an instant, his cock was resting on her clitoris, rubbing slowly against it. Without moving her gaze from his eyes, Kate reached down to position him correctly, before they jointly moaned as he thrust powerfully inside her, pushing so deep she felt him in her stomach. Rhythmically, he then set about gyrating his muscular body to some inner music playing in his Aussie soul. INXS, probably.

And Tommy proved to be every bit the lover she had imagined, combining his hard fitness with the finesse of a well-practiced performer. She climaxed with a scream just ahead of his first spurts into her hot and sated body, the sweat now dripping off his brow, his eyes closed in the bliss of the moment. There was nothing in her mind except the cloud on which she now floated. Not a thought for her alcoholic husband; no space for contemplation of her pretty seven-year-old daughter, now sleeping soundly in southern China.

posted by Kirk at 4:16 am  

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (35)

The driver was late – very late – which was unusual. By now, he should have dropped off the Captain at his residence and walked around the corner, to the small café, just as the pair of them had when Adi insisted upon their first teatime chat. This is not a good sign. Something’s happened, he worried, while calling for the check. A growing sense of unease had begun to well up inside him. For any kind of setback was exactly what Detective Adi did not need, today of all days, when the next – and most critical – phase of his plan was about to be executed. And whilst the venue he had selected for the meeting offered the protection of the public glare, he knew that his ploy would still carry a substantial risk: for ultimatum spelt danger whenever it was directed at the embodiment of terror Captain Farid represented.

As he covered the bill with his money, Adi began to feel a distinct anxiety – a churning sensation in the pit of his stomach reinforcing his unease. It was as if his body was confirming the suspicions in his mind: suddenly, and for whatever reason, all was not running as smoothly as before. Dolefully, and with his hands in his pockets, he slipped out of the cafeteria to walk the hundred or so paces to his aging red Toyota. It was a reluctant stroll – his body language a world away from the confident swagger he would commonly project. Deep in thought, the young Detective then slid into his car and pulled away into the chaos of the evening traffic…

As instructed, the assassin left the door to room 414 very slightly ajar, allowing a narrow chink of soft light to spill out into the darkened corridor. Still inside, he quietly busied himself with his preparations for the next stage of the mission. Although approaching just ten p.m., the motel was already deadly quiet. The afternoon office affairs had ended hours ago and the evening’s prospective patrons had not yet drunk enough to summon the dare to commence their illicit trysts.

On the bed, the perfectly still body of the driver had begun its imperceptible decay. His heart had long slowed to a halt – his peaceful, almost beatific look denying the deadly events that had consumed his body, rendering it exhausted, used up, dead. His face wore an interesting shade of pink – a flushed effect, as if he had been drinking. His limbs still awaited the arrival of rigor mortis, a few hours to come. And around his nostrils the traces of congealed blood seemed to advertise the fact that his breathing had stopped a while ago. 21:36 precisely, the patient is confirmed dead, the doctor had earlier sent by text message to the Captain’s cell-phone.

At a few minutes to ten, the assassin primed a second syringe, this time with a lower dosage, and took up position behind the door. Fucking expensive way to kill two low-lifes like these, he thought. And he was right: there were much cheaper ways of wasting people. But Captain Farid wanted extravangance; he wanted it to be obvious that a lot of money had been spent here… Spent by the driver, the Detective’s informant… Using his bribe-money… On whores and drugs – the danger posed by which he had failed to understand…

Almost exactly on cue, just a couple of minutes after ten, there was a light tapping on the door. “Captain…? My Captain? Are you there…?” Slowly pushing it open, the hooker nervously stole into the room. In the soft light she could just make out the prone figure on top of the bed… “Ow! No–” Suddenly, she was grabbed roughly from behind, a hand now pushing hard on to her mouth and nose, restricting her breathing. Kicking out wildly, she struggled with all the instinct of a lion’s prey, but the man was simply too heavy; too strong. She felt herself blacking out, swaying in and out of consciousness, at some point imagining the sensation of a prick on her arm, a needle being pushed firmly in… All too easy, thought the assassin, as the lethal dose was unloaded. All in a casual moment’s work.

And whilst, in their struggle, he had this time missed the vein, the intra-muscular injection the assassin had managed to administer would send this pretty young whore off to the same place as the driver in a matter of just a few short minutes. Tying her up as a precaution, he took the opportunity to survey her shapely body, reviewing the young face of a world-weary passenger – the mask of someone much older than her years, a common feature of those who were forced to ply the oldest of trades. But she is certainly pretty, he now reflected, studying the small and perfectly positioned beauty mark to one side of her upper lip with which she had been graced at birth. Continuing to draw breath, it seemed to him that the girl was not willing to let go. In his irritation, the assassin considered throttling her, in order to accelerate events. But he had been paid handsomely for the job and did not want to make any mistakes, or jeopardise any future commissions the Captain might send his way. No: he had very clear instructions and would carry them out to the letter.

Moments later, the girl at last sucked in a final, shallow breath before… shuddering slightly… she stopped. On this cue, the assassin once more took out his cell-phone and typed another text message, before following his remaining instructions.

Partially undressing her, the assassin then laid the whore beside the driver, arranging the ‘lovers’ in a macabre and graceless embrace. After covering the syringes with their fingerprints he then scattered them randomly, together with their plastic wrappings and a few empty phials. Then rummaging around in the whore’s handbag, he located a stick of red lipstick. Twisting the base so that it spiralled out, he scrawled the words on the driver’s body precisely as instructed, before taking off his gloves and dropping them into his briefcase, snapping it smartly shut. Then snatching up his promised down-payment, which he found on the bedside table by the driver, his final act was to pick up a clump of paper tissues, which he would use to close the door behind him…

22:09. The dogs have been put to sleep. The Captain had laughed aloud on receiving the doctor’s second text message, confirming the successful execution of his mission. What are you going to do now, Detective Fucking Adi? he giggled to himself, maniacally. Driving at a sedate pace on his way home, relaxed and contented, he then called ahead to his wife and suggested she made herself ready, got dressed up in style, to which – surprised – she had readily agreed. They would be going out for a late bite to eat and perhaps a dance at his favourite club. Yes, this was going to be the night the tide turned. His night. And it had been effortless. Just effortless.

posted by Kirk at 3:56 am  

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (15)

Situated in the heart of Guilin, the Goldfish Hotel consisted of a low-rise building arranged in a horseshoe shape, around a central courtyard. For the annual school trip, Sunny Cape International School had reserved all the rooms on the ground floor, while most of the others remained vacant. The hotel’s two wings were occupied by red and blue group respectively, with the pupils in white group housed in rooms within the central building. Each of the three groups had been assigned a teacher to oversee its eight young members. The overall tour leader – Deputy Principal Gavin Hewitt – sat above this structure, providing additional resource as required. The most experienced among the four teachers, he would also be the ultimate arbiter in the event that important decisions had to be made.

The school party’s first evening at the Goldfish was largely uneventful – the kids’ enthusiasm for the organised party games fading quickly because of fatigue. Inevitably, their energy had dipped after the earlier peak in their excitement, when first arriving at the hotel. By nine, they were all safely under their bedsheets, sleeping the deep slumber only the young, bereft of worry, can experience. In the three-star establishment’s lobby the teachers now sat around a rudimentary bar, discussing the events that were planned for the following day. “Now then. Tomorrow, as you know, we’ll have a boat trip along the river Li. It’s a good way to start things off, as there’s plenty for the kiddies to see along the way,” began Hewitt. “Some of them might get a wee dose of the boak, though, if the turtle soup man shows up,” he then remarked in his thick, Glaswegian accent. “What?” asked Abigail Newton. “They might be a bit squeamish, I mean,” replied the Deputy Principal. “Why’s that?” quizzed Sally Henderson, Sophie’s teacher at Sunny Cape and the leader of white group, to which the ringleted girl belonged. “Well, it’s not like yer Ma’s broth, if you know what I mean. Basically they appear to smash the poor creatures to pieces. The soup contains everything – broken bones, bits of shell, tiny feet and even miniature toenails: you name it. It’s pure boggin, mun. Can be quite upsetting to some of the more sensitive ones.” “Yuk!” remarked Brad Taylor, screwing up his nose. A little naïve for someone of his age, Brad was nevertheless a physically fit Kiwi, and red group leader. “Typical Chinese. Eat everything, they do. Chickens’ feet, pigs’ intestines…” “Yes, thank you Brad. But actually you’re right, son. Trouble is, there’s so many of them that we’re now the ones in the wrong.” Hewitt was whispering as he stressed this last point, lest the hotel bar staff overhear him. “We’re now the minority that only eats proper meat, not ducks’ tongues, sparrows’ gizzards and stuff,” he continued. “Speak for yourself,” corrected Abigail Newton, the last of the four teachers and leader of blue group. “Och, I’m sorry love. Forgot you only eat veggies,” Hewitt apologised. “Now, where’s that so-called bartender? I need another drink. And why do they never stock Grouse in these places. Why do the bloody Chinese love Black Label so much, the beggars?” “Not only vegetables. Bean curd, pulses, fruits, nuts. There’s more to vegetarianism than vegetables, you know,” said Abigail Newton, to no-one who was listening…

Blake poured himself off the ferry, staggering down the ramp on to the dock and almost tripping over in the process. The back of his head was now smarting where it made contact with Bar George’s – fortunately – wooden floor. He bumped into an old Chinese woman, who scowled as he engulfed her in beer breath. Startled, she snorted an insult – something about his mother – in Cantonese. But Blake was already gone and would not have understood, anyway. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. I’m go… in’ t’be in tr… trouble a… again… he thought, hurriedly making his way towards Hemingway’s. There was no sign of Kate as he arrived, his having managed along the way to crash into just three tables at the neighbouring restaurants that fringed the waterside – a recent personal best for a man whose descent into alcoholism was becoming evident to all who knew him. He was relieved that she was not yet there, for this meant he could knock down a couple of Martinis, restoring him to the plane on which he was floating a few hours earlier. It was big Jack who served him, dripping the angostura bitters into the wide-brimmed glass before carefully stirring the heady mixture with a harpooned olive. The jovial manager had a fetish for workbench tools, and was already enthusing about the recent purchase of some grinder or other, as Blake grimaced after gulping a large mouthful of what was virtually neat gin.

“Morrre… than th… thisss… n… nnothing,” he sang, screwing up his eyes and clenching his teeth. “What?” Jack quizzed, puzzled by the song routine. “Bryan Fe… erry mo… mment. Jus’ ’ad a Br… ryan F… Ferry mom… ent,” Blake explained. “Mar… tini,” he added, pointing to his glass, his eyes now crossed. “Oh, I see. Anyway, you wouldn’t believe what this thing can do…” Jack continued to relate the virtues of his latest gadget, but Blake had drifted off. He was now staring at the in-and-out-of-focus image of the athletic torso of Tommy, as the tennis pro walked past the restaurant, a multiple racquet holdall hanging from his shoulder. Just then, Kate emerged from around a corner and made directly for the tanned sportsman. As they met, the couple – cou… ple, Blake once again seethed, inwardly – stopped for a peck on the cheek, and what appeared to him a far too intimate chat. He was just about to try and get down from his stool when they parted, but not before sharing a moment’s hand holding, something that lingered way too long for Blake’s liking. Kate was smiling as she finally approached him, but her face quickly soured on spying her husband propped up at the bar, recognising at once the all-too-familiar signs of his drunken disorder.

“Hell… lo D… Darlinnn,” he just about managed to slur. “Adam,” she replied, crossly. “You’re pissed again, aren’t you? What have I got to do to make you stop doing this?” she pleaded. “What’s the point of us going out to dinner when you probably won’t eat anything and you’re so drunk that we won’t even be able to have a half-decent conversation?” “Dar… lin… Shhh… Shhh… Do… n’ be like… that. C’me… onnn… S’phie’s… away… fe… ew days… ‘We c’n do… some thing romm… manic… Yeah… Roman… nic. Ma… Mac… Macau…? Wha… wha… d’ya thing?” “Adam: there’s no point in doing anything at all, if you’re going to be drunk all the time.” Kate was exasperated. “No point at all.” She shook her head, her face an expression of sadness, confusion, anger. Her arms were folded around the pink cardigan she was carrying as she then stormed off, a single tear rolling down her cheek. Blake lowered his forehead to the bar, still clutching his Martini, before rising up again and downing the remainder of the drink. Abruptly he shook his head, eyes screwed up, as the hit of the gin rocked him. “Whass’er n… ame? Vi… ginia Pl… ain!” he suddenly exclaimed. “What?” asked Jack, puzzled again. “A… An… other… other one, pl… ease,” he hiccoughed.

posted by Kirk at 3:57 am  

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (34)

Captain Farid took his time driving to the Hyatt, comfortable in the knowledge that he was now in control of the situation – that the next events would be at his bidding, rather than that of the upstart Detective. At around nine p.m., he drove into the hotel’s underground car park, spiralling down under the large mall complex to one of the very lowest floors. There were few other cars around, at this level. Reaching into the glove compartment, he rummaged around amongst some of the driver’s paltry possessions: a used safety razor, a comb, some toothpicks, each sealed in its own, individual paper sleeve… What is this guy, a fucking squirrel? he thought to himself, irritably. Yeah… and due for a long hibernation, he now smiled, his annoyance banished momentarily by the thought of what would later happen to the traitor back at the motel.

Finally, his search uncovered what he was looking for – an old biro he knew he had tossed in there some time ago, and a scrap of paper. On it, he simply jotted down the telephone number of the motel, followed by ‘room 414’. Minutes later, after emerging from the car park lift directly into the hotel lobby, the Captain walked briskly over to the desk marked ‘Concierge’. “Good evening, officer,” the desk assistant greeted him. There was a slight note of caution in his voice, as he surveyed the uniformed figure that stood before him. “And how may I help you, sir?” “Give me an envelope,” the army man instructed, curtly.

After slipping the note inside, the Captain sealed the heavy wove envelope before scribbling something on the front. Detective F. Adi it read, the upstart Dick’s new moniker prompting a snigger. Grinning, he handed the envelope back to the assistant. “What time does your shift finish tonight?” he asked, abruptly. “Me?” quizzed the desk assistant, nervously. “Why I… I’ll be here till morning, officer,” he continued. Why does he want to know? the young man immediately began asking himself. There was something about this army officer that unnerved him. “Good. I need your help,” the Captain then said, unwittingly answering the desk assistant’s silent question. He pushed a fresh twenty US dollar bill into the young man’s hand, relaxing him considerably. “Wow! Thank you, officer!” “Shhh… Keep your voice down. You’ll get some more, if you do as I say. Tonight at twelve midnight there will be a…” the Captain hesitated for a second before continuing “…a rather good-looking young guy sitting here in the lobby, on his own, waiting for someone. He’ll probably be smartly dressed – a light suit, or jacket, perhaps. Black, spiked-up hair. Name’s Adi. I think you’ll spot him easily enough.” “OK.” “At precisely twelve-fifteen a.m., I want you to give him this envelope – understand?” “Yes, officer. Of course.” “When I know that he’s received it, I’ll come back and give you more of this,” he then concluded, showing the desk assistant a roll of dollar bills he had pulled from the breast pocket of his fatigues. The young man’s eyes lit up. “OK, officer,” he said, anxious to convey his unswerving commitment to the task, as instructed. “And thank you, sir. Thank you. Oh, and don’t worry – your instructions will be carried out to the letter.”

At the same time as Captain Farid was returning to his car in the underground car park, the assassin was slowly climbing the stairs of the motel’s fire escape. Coming to the next landing, he pushed open the door on which a large numeric ‘four’ was marked. Breathing harder than when he began his climb, and carrying a convincingly worn and heavy-looking briefcase, he surveyed the corridor for the wall-mounted sign that would lead him in the direction of his intended destination. In the dim light ahead, he was eventually able to spot an arrow pointing to the right, above which the numbers ‘401-409’ were written. It must be to the left, then. Three doors down the corridor to the left, the assassin knocked on the door of room 414. Nothing. He knocked again, this time with more urgency, while pressing his face close to the door. “Hello? It’s the doctor.” Another urgent rap on thin veneer. “Hello?” Slowly, the handle of the door was turned until, with a click, it sprang open a little, but only to the extent of the chain that still had one end slid into the groove on the inside, the other attached to the room’s interior wall.

“Er… I’m feeling much better, ya? I think I’ll just rest up awhile – relax, er… like the Captain said. Thanks, ya?” explained the shaky voice from within. “Look. You must let me in. I have a job to do, my friend. If he finds out that I haven’t carried out his orders, I don’t know what’ll happen to me, you understand?” the assassin cleverly posited. The poor driver could only empathise with the man, reluctantly opening the door to let the doctor in. “Thank you.” A well-built man with lank, greasy hair entered the room, placing a medical case on top of the bed. The driver looked uneasily at this figure, who seemed unlike any doctor he had previously known. “OK. Take off your shirt and sit down for me, would you?”

Opening the case to reveal an array of medicines, instruments and syringes, the assassin began pulling a pair of disposable surgical gloves over his fingers. The driver, who by this time had managed to clean himself up a little, slowly complied with his instructions, finally perching himself on the edge of the bed. He looked worn out – defeated – but still considerably better than he had an hour or so earlier. “Now, let me have a look in here, please. Open up,” the assassin instructed, placing a rubber-gloved hand beneath the driver’s chin. He shone a small torch with the other into the hole where a rather prominent front tooth had once been rooted. “Oooh… Ouch. I bet that hurts.” The driver nodded, his mouth still gaping open. “OK. The first thing I’m going to do is give you something to take that pain away, OK? Then I’ll do a little remedial work. Start getting you back into proper shape,” the assassin continued.

The driver said nothing, but continued to feel uneasy, sitting as he was with his shirt off on a bed in some tawdry motel in this stranger’s presence, still unaware of what was in store for him. Forcing himself to think positively, he contemplated the extra money he had recently earned, and how he might choose to dispose of it. Maybe a couple of hours with some hooker, here in this very room, he thought to himself. The poor man had no way of knowing how ironic this reflection would later prove to be. But he was beginning to relax now, comforted by the thought that tonight’s ‘little chat’ with the Captain had seemed to wipe the slate. That henceforth, they could return to their previous relationship, before he had strayed on to the other side… For after the initial violence that followed the discovery of his treachery, the Captain had opened up to him more than on any previous occasion. Had even seemed, at times, a little more… well, human and caring.

It was as his mind began drifting off, pondering these last few thoughts, that he felt the sharp prick of a needle puncture his arm, jerking him from his contemplations. He turned with a start to look into the smiling face of the doctor – an eerie visage that now slowly nodded back, in what was more a chilling, than calming manner. Not that the driver would be in need of reassurance for much longer, as five hundred milligrams of the purest street-heroin then began coursing through his veins. For in as little as seven seconds, he would be as high as a kite – flying up and away, to meet his maker.

He’s no doc… docto…

posted by Kirk at 3:37 am  

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (14)

The town of Guilin in the southern province of Guangxi is considered to be among the most beautiful in China. Surrounded by forests of the fragrant Sweet Osmanthus tree and with the Lijiang river forming an aquatic, north-south tangent along its eastern border, Guilin’s combined features of water and verdant mountain provide a stunning backdrop to its commercial activities, founded mostly in tourism. In fact, it is so beautiful that the literal meaning of its name in Chinese characters is The Number One Under Heaven.

But as they were conveyed by bus from Liangjiang airport, some twenty kilometres distant, the excited schoolchildren barely noticed the crystal clarity of Guilin’s elegant waters, or the loveliness of its abundant surrounding hills. Babbling animatedly as they alighted at the end of their journey, the schoolkids were corralled by their somewhat frazzled teachers into three groups labelled red, white and blue. The colours of the Union flag, now represented in the dusty courtyard of the Goldfish hotel by three groups of eight seven-year-olds. Red, white and blue. The national colours of Sophie Blake’s country of domicile.

Once the teachers had managed to achieve something approaching a hush, a register was taken, in order to ensure that none of the children had been lost along the way. “Mallory Anderson.” “Yes.” “Evan Barnard.” “Yes, Mr. Taylor.” “Sophie Blake.” “Yes, sir.” And so on. The teary farewells outside Sunny Cape International School a few hours earlier were now all but forgotten, the children’s eagerness to learn what the sleeping arrangements were and what events had been planned for the evening sufficient to blot all else from their minds. It had, in any event, been mainly the mothers that cried as their precious children embarked upon the trip, shedding tears as Kate had on holding a last, lingering glimpse of the blonde curls atop her pretty young daughter’s head. Smiling, Sophie had waved while blowing her mother a kiss, happy and confident at the outset of her adventure.

The unease Kate had felt upon parting with her daughter for what – sparing a few sleepovers, here and there – was essentially the first time had been momentarily quieted by the girl’s easy resolve, and she had subsequently returned to the apartment cheered by thoughts of Sophie’s apparently rapid progress towards adulthood. She’s growing up so fast, Kate mused, as all parents do. There were flowers waiting for her upon arrival, with a single word – Sorry – scrawled in Adam’s handwriting on the accompanying card. She had a text message from him, too, which read: Dinner, Hemingway’s on the Cape, 730? X

It was obvious that her husband was trying to patch together the rift that had developed between them of late. And this should have made her feel good. But in truth, it did not. Worse than this, it seemed to Kate that she felt nothing at all, which worried her. Sort of. “Hi.” It was all she could think of saying, she was so nervous. “Hi babe,” replied Tommy, super-confident as ever. “Ready for your lesson tonight?” “Well, I’m supposed to be having dinner with Adam – not that I’m particularly excited about that.” “Look, we can switch you to tomorrow morning, if you like,” Tommy replied. “Let me see what I can do,” Kate hurriedly interjected. “I was looking forward to it. Our lesson. You know, like before. I’ll see if I can switch the dinner, instead.” “Babe, that’s waiting for you any time you like. No need to rush it – don’t worry. Chill. Just don’t do anything that makes him suspicious.” “Well actually, I think he already is,” said Kate. “He’s started acting totally out of character – sending me flowers, and stuff.” “Sounds scary, babe. Take care. Text me later and let me know if you can make it. I’ll keep the slot free. It’s no big deal.” Kate bit her lower lip as her athletic Aussie tennis coach then rang off. She was going to have him, and that was all there was to it. Tonight, if possible.

posted by Kirk at 1:34 am  

Friday, February 8, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (33)

A look of fear was writ large across the driver’s face as the Captain re-approached the Timor. “OK, let’s go,” the army man said, pulling open the front passenger door. “But B-Boss…” “Look. This is now an order. What happened tonight mustn’t be discovered by anyone. People will suspect, if they see you in the state you’re in – mentally, as well as physically. That wouldn’t be good for either of us. I want you to take some time out and relax, so your face can heal. You’ve been through a lot. In spite of what you’ve done, you probably deserve a break.” The driver began to slowly crawl from the car, avoiding direct eye contact with the uniformed man. Trembling, he remained petrified of what else might happen to him. “Like I said,” continued the Captain, “you’re going to need a doctor – which I’ve already arranged. Now, don’t make me angry again by refusing my help.” At the mention of this, the driver’s thoughts returned instantly to those moments of savagery an hour or so earlier, when the Captain had shown how cruel he could be, when angered. Wincing inwardly, he quickly conceded that his only option was to go along with his Boss’s instructions.

He was led not through reception and into a lift bank, but directly around to the rear of the motel, where a fire exit was wedged open with a brick. Captain Farid knew of this arrangement – that the door was kept permanently open – since he sometimes used it himself, whenever he felt that entering the building with ‘a friend’ via the main entrance was too risky. Hands in his pockets, the driver stared down at his feet as he walked, still locked in something of a stupor. His mind was whirring with all the possible outcomes of this hastily arranged excursion, as he dolefully followed the Captain’s heels. They ascended a few flights up a dimly lit stairwell, before arriving at a fire door to one side, which was marked with a large numeric ‘four’. After pushing through it, they promptly arrived at the place it was intended he took his rest. Room 414 was a standard but surprisingly clean room, of the type in which the motel specialised. Closing the door behind them, the Captain gestured for his fidgety driver to sit.

“OK. Settle in, relax and wait for the doctor to come. Order yourself whatever you need from room service and I’ll take care of it when I settle the bill,” he said, turning to leave the room. “Oh – and here’s something for your trouble.” Taking out his wallet, the Captain then pulled a wedge of high denomination Rupiah banknotes from inside and handed them over, without counting. Looking up from the edge of the bed, his hands clasped between his thighs, the driver cut a pathetic figure as he nodded a token thanks. At the prospect of the Captain’s departure, he was at least beginning to relax a little. But there was still one additional piece of information his Boss required before leaving. “That Dick who’s been pestering you,” the army man said, abruptly. The driver looked at him and swallowed hard, automatically fearing the worst. “It’s OK. It’s OK,” the Captain went on, noticing the man’s unease. “Nothing’s going to happen to you. I’ll be gone in a minute, anyway. I just want to know if he has a name.” “Detective Adi,” replied the driver, nervously. There was a brief pause while the Captain registered the information, before making his next move. The driver’s sigh of relief was audible as his Boss then turned to walk towards the door.

Captain Farid let himself out of the room and descended the stairs, exiting via the same rear door. He walked leisurely around to the front of the motel and then slid comfortably into his car, smirking. Before turning the key in the Timor’s ignition, he then made two calls on his cell-phone. The first was to a whore. The bitch of a hooker who had barged in on him at Endang’s, unannounced. The filthy slut who had just walked into the room without warning and seen it all. Seen everything. And laughed. Shrieked maniacally at what she had stumbled upon. The filthy whore had the fucking audacity to laugh at me, he now seethed, as he listened to the ringtone at the other end. Now dead bitch walking. Who’s going to be laughing now, bitch? Fucking whore. The Captain was smiling again, now. At the neatness of his plan. A two-for-one special, he chuckled inwardly. Perfect. Effortless. His confidence fully restored, the Captain felt once again in complete control of his destiny, as the girl eventually came on the line. There was no exchange of pleasantries. He simply asked her to come by room 414 at the motel. 10 o’clock. Sharp. A request to which she readily acceded. Just as he knew she would. Effortless. The second call he made was to the assassin. A longer conversation, full of detailed instructions, to the man he had earlier referred to as the doctor.

posted by Kirk at 2:08 am  

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (13)

Blake gently dropped the receiver back into its cradle. Although he was not totally sure, it seemed that his Boss had just fired him. Seconds earlier, he had known his current employment status implicitly. But a few moments later, here he was – less sure: quite uncertain, in fact, as the waves of alcohol battered his sensory neurons. Why the fuck did I bother coming back from lunch? he asked himself. Deciding to ignore as best he could the cross words he had just exchanged with the American, he determined to write the day off – to see what tomorrow would bring. And this regardless of the fact that he could now, once again, distinctly recall the man telling him he was finished.

If the Septic prick wants to fire me, he’ll have to come here and do it himself, face-to-face. Yeah, that’s right. Man-to-man, he bluffed, while belching loudly. Blake puffed out his chest while clumsily rearranging some of the items on his desk, for no apparent reason. His face wore a mask of comic belligerence. But there’s no way he can do that today, right? Correct, old son? So I’m off to Lan Kwai Fong for a drink. It was still before six, with almost all his staff remaining at their work stations, when Blake then departed for the pub – just an hour after returning from lunch. While he could vaguely recall some of the elements of the blistering row with Deeds, these came and went, fading in and out with each fuzzy moment.

“Cuuuunnnttt!” he yelled involuntarily, before giggling to himself, like a maniac. “Did I just say that? Or was it the voices in my head?” Blake continued, aloud again. “I haven’t got Tourettes – you’re just a cunt!” More insane laughter. Leaving the office, he did not bother pausing on this occasion to relate anything to Miss Icicle, the secretary, whose breath increasingly appeared to blow from the north – the garlic north, that is, he sniggered, inwardly. For although he had a sudden urge to ask her how much of the shite she loaded on top of her noodles every day, he decided against it. Wisely, because he could barely speak.

Staggering round to the lift lobby, he chose for whatever reason to press the call button with his nose, which hurt as he leant too heavily forward. Hurt a lot. And this in spite of the general anaesthetic he had personally administered over the previous several hours. “Fuck!” he screamed, just as one of his staff rounded the corner from the main office exit, client in tow. “Er… this is my boss, er… Adam Blake,” said the smartly dressed, upwardly mobile Hong Kong Chinese staffer to his client. The businessman offered a hand. “Up yer arse,” said Blake, uncharitably, while probing gingerly with a hand around his face, to see if there was any blood. Embarrassed, the two other men feigned indifference. “I said: shove it. Up – your – arse. OK?” Blake repeated, ensuring they were now all on the same page. The lift doors banged shut, trapping them inside. “Don’t want any misssunnnderstanding, see?” he added, unnecessarily.

“Fucking cunts,” was the next thing Blake uttered, to the backs of the two men as they exited the lift, several floors earlier than they had originally intended, or needed to. Though he would never remember how, Blake then somehow managed to leave the building and scramble across the open pavement towards the bustling roadside. “Taxi!” he yelled, loudly, gesticulating like a mad man. Presently, a red Toyota Crown pulled up, the rear passenger door flipping open automatically. “Lang Kuwaiy Fwong,” was all Blake could utter.

“You know, I can’t believe it… I really can’t! Everything I’ve been working for… It’s finally paid off!” Elle said animatedly, wiping a tear of joy from the corner of an eye. The lively atmosphere at Bar George in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong entertainment district provided a perfect backdrop to the excited babble now being chirped among the cheery group of six. Elle’s closest friends were visibly thrilled for her, while she herself was becoming progressively more stunned as the implications of her successful bid for the Skin Sanctuary contract began to sink in. “I mean, I know that this was the plan all along… but now it’s happened I can’t quite believe it!” she exclaimed. “You’ve worked real hard for it, girl. Now it’s time to celebrate!” her closest friend Cindy congratulated her. They ordered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, chinking glasses once it was poured. Just then, Elle spotted out of the corner of her eye a well-dressed figure seated at the bar. The man was alone, evidently deep in thought. His melancholy in stark and obvious contrast to the joy welling up inside her. And although from her initial assessment he appeared not to be her type, there was something about him that attracted her. He needs someone to talk to, she decided. For some strange reason Elle felt drawn to this man, eager to unlock the mystery that she sensed lay somewhere beneath the surface of the lonely veneer he projected.

“Excuse me for a moment, would you, girls?” Elle asked her friends, taking out the champagne bottle from its ice bucket. “I’ll be back in a second. Approaching the bar, she flashed him her best smile, which no man on earth could ignore – set as it was on the face of an angel, with the body of Venus. “I’m celebrating. Can I offer you a glass?” she said to his glazed expression, gesturing with the bottle. The man was possibly looking in her direction, but more likely over her shoulder. Perhaps, even, nowhere in particular, as he swayed a little on the stool while trying desperately hard to formulate a response in his mind. Closer now, Elle noticed that much of what she had mistaken for the man’s melancholy was in fact his drunken stupor. She now began to feel a little silly, as he appeared to be completely ignoring her. But his intended reaction to her approach was merely on pause and, once his pickled brain had managed to process the information she fed into his ears and eyes, he slurred the best response he could muster: “Shuurre… wh.. what’s the occ… occaishhhhen…?”

Elle was about to respond when she sensed he had begun to topple away from her, off his bar stool, in an arc that could only lead to concussion, perhaps even death. “Watch out!” she yelled, trying to grab the man’s lapels, dropping the champagne bottle – crash! – on to the floor in the process. Horrified, she realised that, if anything, she had given him a slight shove in the process, as though helping him on his way. There was an awful-sounding thud as his head hit the floor, which caused her to gasp. By now, however, the bartender had raced around the counter to assist, while at the same time calling for additional help. She looked on helplessly as the two Philippine tangueros then manhandled him back upright, slapping his face lightly in an attempt to rouse him. Sloping off, Elle returned to her friends somewhat deflated, and minus the rest of the champagne, which was now bubbling in a sorry lake on the floor, around the broken bottle.

“Shit. I wasn’t expecting that,” she said to her friends, at least one of whom now had a secret, warm feeling that super-Elle had finally fucked something up. “Not your fault, girl!” Cindy reassured her. “That guy was halfway to oblivion. Everyone could see that. What a state some people get themselves into! Waiter! Another bottle!” The group’s revelry was then reignited and, for all but one of them, the episode with the drunk at the bar was over: it was history. But Elle still kept a concerned eye on the man. Strangely, she sensed that for her it was not yet over – although she had no idea why the episode seemed yet to have reached its conclusion. And as the man was later helped past her and out of the bar into a waiting taxi, she managed quietly to slip one of her business cards into his jacket pocket, without anyone noticing.

posted by Kirk at 4:58 am  

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Through The Godless Hours (32)

“Thank you, boys,” said the Detective, counting out another forty thousand Rupiah into the tallest one’s hand. “You did well: exactly as I asked. Here’s a bonus for your trouble.” Four pairs of young eyes lit up as he added a further twenty thousand, plus all the coins from his trouser pockets. With a wink, Detective Adi then began to move off. He had more work to do – and some additional information to gather – before the night’s big event took place. As his shadow disappeared around the next corner, the street urchins excitedly distributed their booty. They would again have some interesting tales to tell on their return tonight to the ramshackle hutments they shared with their fellow Kampung-dwellers. Their efforts to scrape some cash together no doubt greatly appreciated by their impoverished parents and kid siblings…

Captain Farid pulled off the main highway and came to a halt shortly after entering the small side street. Disembarking from the army issue Timor, he walked round to its rear, springing open the boot lid with the key fob once again. A pitiful sight awaited, inside. In his terror, the driver appeared to have entered a state of shock: his eyes staring into nowhere, his body stiff, and trembling. Drooling spit, his blood was still seeping from nose and mouth, although a little less profusely than before.

The Captain gave him a few slaps across his face, gentler this time. But even this invoked instant panic: the memory of his Boss’s earlier brutality still fresh in the luckless driver’s mind. Flinching, he began to blubber – begging the dispassionate officer not to mete out any further punishment. As his focus began to return, to his surprise the Captain took his arm – a firm but unthreatening grip that ushered him from the boot and down, on to the road behind the car. “Come. I overreacted. My temper… my goddamn temper. It’s always been a problem for me to control,” the Captain said, somewhat unconvincingly. “I’m–” “Shhh… Don’t say anything. Come on: get back in the car. I’ll drive.” The Captain again sat in the driver’s seat, with the driver now beside him. They drove in silence for about twenty minutes as the man slowly regained his senses. But the restoration of full consciousness came at a price, and the pain arrived too, in particular from the broken nerve ends sunk deep within his gums. “Boss… Sorry, ya? Boss… My mouth is hurting so bad… I can’t take–” “Shhh… I’m taking you to a doctor friend of mine. He’ll take care of you. I’ll have someone call your wife, tell her you’ve been instructed at short notice to join me on an official trip. Once the doctor has seen to you and you’ve rested up for a couple of days, you can go home to your family in reasonable shape. Take a few days’ paid leave.” “But Boss: you don’t need to–” “Yes, I do. I’ve messed up and I’m going to make amends. We’re here now, in any case.”

They pulled into the driveway of a motel that was often frequented by the Captain – the kind of no questions asked place where cash was the preferred method of settlement by customer and proprietor alike, and rooms were often booked by the hour. “Wait here,” instructed the Captain, alighting from the car. The motel’s proprietor knew of this particular army officer through earlier visits, and was a member of the growing club of people who were terrified of him. Approaching the front desk, the Captain banged loudly on the counter and asked to see him personally. Ushered by a timid young girl into a small office at the back, he began speaking to the man in a low voice that was just above a whisper: a throaty sound that augmented his sinister manner.

“I need a good room in a quiet part of the hotel for tonight. A friend of mine has been a loyal servant to me for over ten years and I want to reward him with… well, I think you know what I mean. I don’t want him disturbed unless he calls for something, or have any of the comings and goings to and from his room to be questioned or even noticed, understood? He’s travelling incognito and needs your total discretion.” “Of course, officer,” said the proprietor, shuffling uneasily in his chair. “OK, let me have the key to the room. I’m going to take him there personally and settle him in. He’s never done this sort of thing before and he’s a little nervous at the prospect.” The Captain grinned in a chilling manner, as the owner of the cheap motel then handed him a key. “Room 414,” he stated, anxious for the imposing figure before him to leave. “Thank you,” replied the Captain. “I think this should be sufficient compensation for the… arrangements.” The Captain then handed over the cash equivalent of approximately double the normal room rate to the visibly twitchy proprietor, who nervously beamed his satisfaction. “Thank you, officer. I guarantee your friend will enjoy our complete discretion. And a late check-out, of course,” he quickly added. “I’m sure he will have a most enjoyable stay.” “I’m sure he will,” said the cold army officer as he then disappeared back around the counter and out of the main entrance to the car. He’ll be checking out sooner than you think, he thought to himself, with a smirk.

posted by Kirk at 10:28 pm  
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