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23

Chan wanted badly to know if the divers had discovered anything at the second dive site where he had seen the trunk, but he resisted calling Higgins. It was Sunday. Moiras plane would be leaving early the next morning. He took her to breakfast in a large hotel in Central, then proposed that they check into the Grand Hyatt for a day and a night. Chans flat wasnt designed for full-time habitation by adult humans. Moira agreed on condition she pay half the bill.

The Grand Hyatt was a Chinese impression of Renaissance Rome. Marble pillars soared past two mezzanines to a cupola also of marble. There was a marble font, a marble floor leading to a marble check-in desk. Small and large bronze cupids held up silk lampshades, Cantocamp statuettes slouched on every shelf. Only God was missing. Chan and Moira checked into a room on the executive floor. They spent the day like good lovers, took a swim early evening in the Olympic-size swimming pool with a view over the harbor. Chan said it was like being in an advert for cognac. They had dinner in the Italian restaurant on the second floor but raced back to the bedroom without bothering with dessert.

Its fun being sixteen again, Chan said.

Especially for me. I think I missed it the first time around.

She didnt disguise her obsession with his lean body. For him she offered the endlessly voluptuous experience of total acceptance. Nothing kept an erection better than unremitting appreciation by ones lover. They hardly slept, but the night was over in a flash. Moira took the wake-up call. Chan steeled himself to say good-bye.

At the airport only his twitch gave him away. They were careful not to promise to see each other again soon. Or at all. Nevertheless, in the taxi back to Mongkok Chan carried her with him: those generous breasts, long legs that gripped him close. Most of all, though, he retained a subtle memory of something entirely new: uncritical affection. And by a Westerner at that. To sleep with a woman who somehow knows all about you and forgives everything was-well, a lot better than being called a misogynist by a vegetarian grouch. He could still feel her strong American hands gripping his buttocks just before she slipped away to the security area.

At Mongkok he checked his watch: 10:00 A.M. on a Monday. He was due into work after lunch, but he would phone Higgins as soon as he reached his flat.

His detectives instinct told him something was wrong as he walked along the corridor to his flat on the tenth floor. Silence. It was as if the corridor had been evacuated.

There was no damage to any of the three bolts on his door. He tried to recall the best karate maneuvers to disarm an assailant; in Hong Kong the favored burglars aid is the small meat cleaver. Then he pushed open the door. He had long enough to take in two people in white spacesuits with matching soft helmets and visors passing black instruments with luminous dials slowly around the kitchen before something hit him on the back of the neck and he slammed into the floor.

They were still checking him with the black boxes when he came to. The two spacemen took off their headgear, revealing the blotchy complexions, round eyes, receding hair of Englishmen in their early forties.

Hes clean. So is the flat.

Clean? Well, well, well, isnt that a coincidence, a voice behind him said. He twisted to look.

We thought youd done a runner, old chap, the same voice said. Mind telling us where the hell youve been?

Chan twisted further, ignoring the pain. He had assumed that it was the owner of the voice who had hit him, but he saw that that was a false assumption. The owner of the voice was surely the slim, impeccably dressed Englishman with black polished shoes and sober tie whom he dimly recognized. The owner of the rabbit punch would be the tall and very muscular South African standing next to him whom Chan knew to be a senior officer in the Independent Commission Against Corruption.


| The Last Six Million Seconds | c