“You are sure?” the boss asked in a quiet voice. The sun had only begun to rise on this miserable day and already his generals brought him more bad news.
“Yes, positive,” replied The Voice, fury burning in every syllable.
“And you are sure about our source?”
“Yes. He’s one of the runners, young and stupid but no fool. He says the man, this Jonny O,” he virtually spat the name out, “walked right up to him and told him where to find Shayu.”
“Walked right up to him…” the old man stood by the window and gazed with sightless eyes across the canal to where the Dragon Lady’s hotel sat amid the swirling snow and wind and looked down on Shanghai Boardwalk and the Shamian slums as if mocking the Bing Kong’s lowly status and peasant roots. “Walked right up to him and told him what he’d done…”
It wasn’t a question, but The Voice answered anyway “Yes. And then he laughed. He laughed and swaggered off into the slums.”
The room was silent except for the boss’ quiet, rhythmic breathing and the sound of The Voice squeezing and releasing his small hands into tight fists. Eventually the boss broke the silence, “And Shayu?”
“Han went as soon as the runner told him but the Jager patrol were already there. He’s dead though, Han saw him hanging in front of the tunnel that leads to the forests where that logger lives.”
The boss turned and fixed his milky, un-seeing eyes on pint-sized his right-hand man, “And do we thing he had anything to do with it? I ask as I’d like to know before I have Han burn him alive anyway?”
The Voice sneered cruelly, “I doubt it, that whole area is cut off by this damn storm.”
“So, just this Jonny O then. And what has Fan discovered about him?”
Han looked across at his small colleague and raised an inscrutable eyebrow at him. “Nothing,” The Voice said coolly.
“Nothing?” the boss roared, smashing both fists down onto the table which all but exploded into matchwood at his touch. He flung a chair against the wall and threw a chest of drawers after it. He stood for a while, his chest rising and falling in ragged, angry breaths until he regained his composure, “Are you telling me that still all we know comes from this one man this morning, am I right? No one else has seen this bastard and no one has been able to make the pigs here squeal?”
The Voice nodded.
“And the runner says this Jonny O has a red dragon tattooed on his face?”
Another nod, “Yes.”
The old man, once more calm, turned back to the window and looked up at the hotel, the home of his enemy, the symbol of all that he hated, all that he wanted, and said, “Then if she sends out assassins to kill us one by one, we will send out an army and kill her once and for all.” He turned back to look at his generals, “Tonight. I don’t care how. Do you understand?”
The two generals nodded and turned to leave.
“Voice?” the boss called quietly. The Voice turned round, the boss was staring out of the window again, “Bring me Fan. I wish to discuss his failure in this matter.”
Only a stupid man would think everything was going well. Only a stupid man would imagine loyalty counted for more than failure to the Tong. Only a stupid man would say that after Chang and Shayu he would not be next. Fan was many things, but stupid was not amongst them. He had heard that the Tong had set their dogs running for him and he’d spent the whole day scuttling from one hiding place to another. Someone would sell him out, someone would give him up. This was his last safe place, beneath the wharves of Shanghai, in the filth and stench. No one would find him here and that gave him time to think.
What he needed was a sign, a gesture that not only demonstrated that his loyalty was beyond question, but that he had not failed the Tong. Jonny O’s head would be good, but Fan had a decidedly realistic view on success of such a venture. No, what Fan needed was something that struck at the heart of the boss, something that would stop the old bastard feeding him to his generals. His life depended on his next move, but what that move was he had no idea. That is, until fate brought him a small water taxi.
Meili had tried to concentrate all day, but her heart and mind had not been on her work and she made too many mistakes. Yet instead of the Yan, the den’s doorman, shouting at her, she received a visit from her Lady. “Go child,” her Lady had said, “go and see him. But do not hurry back, the storm breaks tonight after all.” She had given Meili some money and even walked her out to a waiting water taxi, “Take her to Shamian Alley,” she had said and smiled the strangest smile as the boat rowed Meili out into the approaching twilight.
1) This post follows on from Aoi’s here.