A Stacked Deck
by S. H. Linden
|part 4 of 10|
China Chong’s Hotel Suite
The living room of the hotel suite was dimly lit. Faust was stretched out on the sofa. China Chong, who looked like an old Chinese aristocrat, dressed in traditional Saville row clothing, was seated in a chair near him.
Also in the room, wearing a black suit and looking sinister enough to make you believe he could kill without any remorse, was a man called Roberto Fong. He was sitting in a dark area by the far wall, smoking a cigarette.
The room smelled of incense and cigarette smoke. Soft Chinese music was playing in the background. China Chong watched his daughter, Mai Ling, dip a wash cloth into a basin of cold water and put the compress to Faust’s head. Faust stirred, then opened his eyes slowly. What he saw was a smiling China Chong looking down at him.
“Did you have to do that?” asked Faust.
“My men tend to be cautious.”
“I view it as bad manners.”
“In our business it is better to be alive through bad manners than dead from propriety.”
Faust laughed, then grimaced from the pain in his head.
“Perhaps some tea would make you feel in a better mood...?” China Chong said.
Mai Ling poured a cup of tea and handed it to Faust. He drank in silence for a few minutes. “All right, China, get on with it. I’m in no mood for an all-night session.”
“Ah, you Westerners... always in a hurry. One time it was your greatest asset. Now it’s your greatest liability.”
“Perhaps. But it may be the Asians as well? Or, haven’t you noticed lately?”
China Chong smiled and sipped his glass of tea. He was lost in thought. “You may be right, Faust. But let us get down to business. This one will be a delicate project. One that could change world events.”
Chong handed Faust a news clipping from the South China Morning Post. The headline read: British Prime Minister arrives Friday in Hong Kong. Seeks end to bank panic. There was also a photograph of Alan Lankford, the prime minister, waving to a crowd from an airplane doorway.
“Are you saying, someone has put out a contract on the prime minister?”
“Precisely. But they want the hit to look like it was done by some Chinese madman reliving some grievance or slight done by the British,” China Chong said. “Anger England enough to break the treaty. Is that the game?”
Faust made a hard laugh. “Yes. The timing is perfect. An assassination of a prime minister by a Chinese fanatic would cancel all agreements, don’t you think?”
For a brief moment Faust smiled, then got up from the sofa slowly and reached for his camera. ‘’I’m afraid, China, if you want him dead, you’ll have to do it.”
China Chong looked surprised by Faust’s statement. It was a look like: What have I said that insulted your senses?
“British security is probably the best in the world. I’d have two chances to get out of this alive: slim and none. I don’t operate under odds like that.” Faust began walking for the door then suddenly stopped. He turned to look at Roberto Fong, who was still partially hidden in the shadows. “Is there some reason why you are here?”
“I came to observe you, Mister Faust.”
“Oh... and what did you observe?”
“I saw a man that trusts no one. An admirable trait.”
Faust studied the man for a long time in silence. “I don’t believe I caught your name?”
“Fong. Roberto Fong.”
“And what do you do for a living, Mister Fong, besides listening to other people’s conversations?”
Fong made a slight laugh at Faust’s put-down. “I offer large sums of money to people who take on difficult assignments.”
“Such as killing prime ministers?”
Fong lit another cigarette before his smiling face returned to the shadows. “I’ve heard that you have the knack to think quickly on your feet... Overcome adversities. Is that true, Mister Faust?”
“I’ve also heard that you live well... have nice things... A life style like that must be very expensive?”
“All right Fong, get to the point.”
“How does $25 million dollars sound?”
“Well it’s yours if you take on the assassination of Alan Lankford.”
“Think, Faust: a chance to change world events,” China Chong said.
Faust showed no emotions as he coolly lit a cigarette and sat down in a nearby chair. After staring coldly in the direction of Fong, he snubbed out the cigarette and stood. “Who are you working for, Fong?”
“If you agree to take on the assignment, I will tell you.”
Faust spotted an old pornographic litho on a wall and walked over to study it. After a minute or so, he turned to face Fong. “All right Fong, here are my terms: I choose when and where I make the hit. The time and place known only to me. Half the money up front, the other half upon completion.”
Fong nodded that he could agree with Faust’s terms.
“The contract starts when there’s confirmation of ten million in my bank account. Now your turn.”
Fong made a slight bow before answering. “You will be working for the Bank of Finance and Development: BOFAD.”
“Ah, yes... So they were the ones that sent the invitation...”
“That favor you did for them still stands out in their minds, Mister Faust.”
“Well then, I guess we don’t have much time, do we, Mister Fong?”
Fong made a chilling smile and bowed again. Their eyes fixed for a brief moment, then Faust turned to Mai Ling. “How about that drink we were supposed to have? Is it still on?”
“Let’s extend it to include dinner, if you’re free,” Mai Ling said, with a smile on her face.
“Why not? I have this strange desire to have a good meal and look at a pretty face before I die.”
“I see you still have excellent taste, Faust,” China Chong remarked, sounding much like a proud father.
“Yes, fortunately,” replied Faust with a wry grin. “You wouldn’t mind if my chauffeur and car joined you for the evening, would you, Faust?” China Chong said with a friendly grin on his face.
“Of course not. I’ll even let the chauffeur pay the bill.”
China Chong laughed. “Then enjoy the evening, my dear friend. Consider it a gift from one friend to another.”
Faust bowed to China Chong then headed for the door. As he passed the two Chinese bodyguards, he made a sudden move and shouted, “Watch out!!!”
The guards quickly turned to the back wall ready for an unseen attack. Faust stepped forward and knocked their heads together. The men slumped to the floor, writhing in agony.
Faust turned to China Chong and pointed to the two bodyguards still moving around in agony on the floor. “Perhaps you should give them some tea? It might put them in a better mood.”
Faust left the room, and everyone looked at each other, stunned by his action.
* * *
The China Club
The night was beautiful. Mai Ling and Faust had a spectacular view of the harbor and the Hong Kong skyline. They had finished dinner and a waiter was pouring cognac into two snifter glasses. He put the bottle down and exited the room quietly.
The two diners clicked their glasses in a silent toast. After taking a long drink, Mai Ling got up and went around the table. She sat in Faust’s lap and began nibbling on his ear with her lips and tongue. She seemed a bit drunk but knew what she was doing.
“I don’t bed comfort girls, Mai Ling,” Faust said coldly.
Faust took the hard slap to the face without flinching. The hit made him laugh, and the red hand mark on his face disappeared after a few seconds.
Mai Ling studied Faust for a long moment, then, she too, laughed and fell once again on to Faust’s lap. She stared into his eyes, searching for the key element that would unravel the mystery that surrounded Faust. Here, she thought, she was having dinner with a man she would never know. It scared her and fascinated her at the same time.
Giving up all intellectual thoughts that were traveling through her mind, Mai Ling slowly brought her lips to Faust’s lips and gave him a long sensual kiss.
When they parted, Faust smiled. “You’re drunk,” he said.
Mai Ling thought for a moment. “You’re right. Now I can do what I’ve wanted to do for a long time.”
“And what is that, my young beauty?”
Mai Ling smiled coyly at Faust. She was in a room with a handsome man who was a generation older than she. But beautiful women, even those as young as Mai Ling, are well aware of the power they have. So, Mai Ling decided, from this moment on, she and Faust would play a game, and it would be called, “Cat and Mouse.”
“I’m rich, Faust. My mother left me millions. I do what ever I want to do. I command you to ‘do me’.”
“Do you?” Faust answered. “For Chrissakes!” The room roared with Faust’s laughter.
“Does your father know how much money he’s lost by sending you to a private school for girls?”
“I’m a woman now, or haven’t you noticed?” She was hurt by Faust’s comment.
“I told you before: I’ve noticed.”
The cat and mouse stared into each other’s eyes again. “May I ask a personal.question?” Mai Ling asked.
“Oh, I suppose so.”
“Do you ever get afraid?”
“Occasionally.” Faust was amused by the question. “Do you think killing a British Prime Minister is a worthy cause?”
“Yet, you would still kill?”
“Isn’t that my line of work?”
“You disappoint me.”
“There are no causes that you believe in?”
“No. I ceased believing in causes a long time ago.”
Mai Ling looked disappointed. A long silence followed.
“Want to go home?” Faust asked. “No. But I’m tired of talking... Make love to me.”
“Why not? A dragon lady does it wherever she pleases.”
“Ah... So you’re a dragon lady now?”
“Yes. I bring fire to the loins of men I’m seducing.”
“God! That sounds right out of a romance novel. Is it?”
“Mai Ling blushed, then buried her face into her hands. “Yes. You bastard! Now I am ashamed I said it.”
“Come here wench,” Faust said gently. Mai Ling snuggled closer to Faust.
“You still hot, dragon lady?”
“I guess there’s only one way to find out, isn’t there?” Mai Ling liked Faust’s answer.
Faust carried her to a sofa where they started making love. First softly, then with more passion. Suddenly, Mai Ling stopped and turned serious. “Do you like my father’s gift?”
“Remember it then, because it may be the last gift you’ll ever get in this life.”
* * *
A Darkened Store Front
Ticky Snyder was hiding in the shadows of a dirty doorway that was across the street from the China Club. He watched as Faust and Mai Ling got into a Rolls Royce. The chauffeur closed the door and the Rolls drove off, blending into the night.
Ticky looked at the direction the Rolls had gone for a few seconds, smiled, then tossed a cigarette butt into the wet street. It landed on the reflection cast from the China Club sign. Then he walked east down the empty street and eventually turned a corner and disappeared into the foggy night.
* * *
The Bar In The Hong Kong Hilton
A musician sat at a piano playing cool American-style jazz. The penthouse bar room at the Hong Kong Hilton was filled with sophisticated tourists. Tony Janeway entered the room and spotted Ticky Snyder at the bar. Snyder’s head was buried in the International Herald Tribune.
“The Dodgers still losing?” Janeway said. Ticky pulled away from the paper, his eyes blinked from his afiliction. “So you keep up, huh?”
“I hear they may be looking for a cleanup hitter? I hit to all fields.”
“The only hits you made were on the killing fields, Tony. Where I’m from, the prison league’s class ‘B’ ball.”
Janeway made a hard laugh at the remark.
“Wanna a drink on the company before we let you run your own tab?” Ticky said.
“Sure. Why not?”
Ticky motioned for the bartender to come over. “A San Miguel and a double Jack Daniels straight up,” Janeway said.
“Yes Sir.” Janeway lit a cigarette and blew the smoke in Ticky’s face. Ticky slowly waved the smoke away. He tried to stare Janeway down, but lost.
The bartender brought Janeway his drink. Janeway raised his glass, saluted Ticky, then downed the drink.
“You make the hit when I say and not before... Got that?” Ticky said.
Janeway coolly took a sip from his beer. He casually looked around the room, mainly at the pretty girls.
“Am I boring you?” Ticky asked, with irritation in his voice.
“You were always a bore, Ticky. I’m used to it.”
Ticky reached into his coat pocket and popped a mint into his mouth. He started to blink rapidly. “Thanks for the compliment.”
Janeway gave a smirking laugh, then took another sip of his beer.
“Before you get too cocky Tony, remember this: Keep up the wise guy stuff and we take away the lunch money. You won’t need it, because you’ll be back in the slammer.”
Janeway laughed. “Speaking of money, where is it?”
Ticky pulled out an envelope and gave it to Janeway.
Janeway took another sip of beer, then opened the envelope. He began counting the money. “You said you’re keeping tabs on Faust. Where is he?”
“He’s moving around. We can’t pin him down yet.”
Contempt was written all over Janeway’s face. “Relax, old buddy. We’ll find him. When we do, that’s when you and Nino make him stop enjoying life.”
Janeway held up the money in front of Ticky. “This is a little light, pal.”
“We bring you a bigger envelope after the hit,” Ticky said.
“Half a mil for you, two-fifty for Crazy Eddie.”
Janeway’s face turned bright red. He violently grabbed Ticky’s lapels and lifted him off the ground, shaking him hard. “If you ever call Nino crazy again, I’ll cut your tongue out. Got that?”
Ticky’s face grew ashen with fright.
Janeway pulled his face away from Ticky’s, then slowly let Ticky down, brushing away the wrinkles on Ticky’s lapels.
“It slipped out, Tony... I know what he means to you.”
Janeway took a drink, then slowly calmed down. He waved the money in Ticky’s face. “You know what, Ticky? Me and Nino got a little problem with lunch money: It’s chump change. Hitting Faust is long odds. We want long money.”
“You got a short memory,Tony. We just sprung you out of the slammer.”
“No. For a hit on Faust you’re offering a low bid.”
“Do you know what it costs to buy a parole board these days? Quit biting the hand that’s feeding you.” Ticky lit a cigarette with a nervous hand. A critical moment has been reached.
“You done with the lecture?”
Ticky popped another mint in his mouth, blinked a few more times, then walked out of the Hilton bar room in a huff.
Janeway motioned to the bartender to come over. “How about another San Miguel and double Jack.”
* * *
To be continued...
Copyright © 2008 by S. H. Linden