home | login | register | DMCA | contacts | help | donate |      


my bookshelf | genres | recommend | rating of books | rating of authors | reviews | new | | collections | | | add


Often on Saturday afternoons Chan went to a beach or pier to watch the human species migrate from land to water. Square miles of sea disappeared under a counterpane of sampans, junks, tiny catamarans, seventy-foot sailing yachts, snakehead boats, twin-engine motor cruisers, board sailors, swimmers, divers, snorklers, water scooters, fleets of sailboats of a specific class competing in races, very large luxury yachts that almost deserved to be called ships. There was no real need to stare and yearn; he could have bought a small dinghy or rejoined his diving club. Ever since his divorce he had tended to deprive himself of pleasure, although he could not have explained the connection.

For example, the Emily was a 120-foot triple-decker, the largest pleasure boat in Hong Kong, fully equipped with compressor and diving equipment, and Chan had refused the invitation to spend the weekend on it. When his sister, Jenny, had insisted, he had finally given in as a kind of social duty, like grave sweeping and writing Chinese New Year cards.

He rode the underground from Mongkok, emerged at Central and took a taxi to Aberdeen. The marina was a large crescent with floating wooden docks attached to a spacious club that sold debentures to large corporations and consulates. The biggest boats berthed along a finger that pointed at the famous three floating restaurants where all tourists must eat once. Top heavy with lions and dragons in gold, red and green, they had emerged out of Western fantasies of mysterious China and were still cashing in. The Emily took up a double berth at the end of one finger with her stern pointed toward the largest of them.

Chan could see her from the other side of the marina. Her hull was white with blue trim, her triple-deck superstructure blue with white trim. The paintwork was polished to a mirror finish. In the heat she undulated as if she were her own reflection. At the forward end the two lower decks ended in tinted wraparound glass. Emily was a billionairess in designer sunglasses.

Chan wore white shorts, T-shirt, plastic thongs and carried a light backpack with his scuba gear, change of clothes, one book.

People were spilling all over the marina, scrambling to find the boats theyd been invited to sail on or rushing with last-minute repairs to engines, sails, lines, halyards, outboards. On the Emily, though, a permanent crew kept the boat in readiness for the owners whims.

Only Jenny was there to meet him. He kissed her on both cheeks, hugged her, studied her belly that seemed as flat as ever.


End January.

My God, youre as beautiful as ever.

She touched his nose. Dont flirt with your sister; its against the law.

Chan grimaced. Pity.

There are twelve cabins-berths to you. Jonathan and I have chosen ours, and of course Emily will have the what dyou call it?


Exactly. So that leaves ten for you to choose from.

No one else is coming?

Jenny hesitated. Therell be one or two. You know how these high-powered people are; they always manage to drag along someone terribly important at the last minute. But since youre so early, you can select your own accommodation.

He followed Jenny below to a narrow corridor lined with polished teak. She turned to him with a grin.

Want to see the stateroom?


A solid teak door, arched, with Stateroom emblazoned in brass over the arch waited at the end of the corridor. Inside Chan saw a low king-size bed with red sheets, a panoramic window in curved tinted glass, polished teak wardrobes and chests all built into the curves of the hull, a red Chinese carpet with the double happiness character in gold in the center, a nautical writing desk with brass fittings and a brass lamp screwed to the top. Inside a polished bamboo and glass cabinet were a dozen opium pipes of the kind everyone collected. He gazed at a television/video/stereo/laser disk combination opposite a white three-seater leather sofa. Chan picked up the remote control, pressed a button. A Cantopop number with exaggerated bass and treble bounced from the walls. He turned it off.


Wait till you see the bridge. Of course I dont know anything about it, but everyone says what a great bridge it is.

Chan saw that Jenny and Jonathan had taken the cabin two doors away from the stateroom. The cabin next to it was therefore empty. Chan chose another, on the other side of Jenny and Jonathan, three doors away from the stateroom. It was a third the size, but there was a tiny en suite toilet and shower, a white bathrobe and an oil painting of a sampan above the bed. Looking through the porthole, he judged the water to be only two feet below.

Jenny led the way. He marveled at how easily she had adapted to wealth; the multimillion-dollar vessel could have been her boat.

On the bridge chrome beading two inches up the walls trapped a thick red carpet. Two stainless steel swivel chairs with black leather upholstery rose on deep chrome pedestals to preside over an arcade of computer screens.

My God, theres even a fish finder, Chan said.

Sometimes Emily has guests who like game fishing.

Really? Like who?

Jenny glanced at him. Who dyou think? Nobody loves ostentatious wealth like Communist cadres. But lets not get into that. Jonathan and I have patched things up. I promised not to offend his friends so long as we saw less of them. She wagged a finger. So dont you start asking questions and making everyone nervous.

Chan sat in the masters chair. Not if Im allowed to play in here. Just one question, First Sister. Why was I invited?

Standing close to him, Jenny frowned, pushed the throttle up and down like a toy. First, I wanted to invite you. Apart from ten minutes at the party I havent seen you for ages, and when I have the baby, I expect therell be no time for anything else-thats what everyone says. And Emily specifically asked Jonathan to bring a guest who has nothing to do with his work. She remembers you from the party.

Im the one who investigates grotesque murders. I bet shes delighted with your choice.

Actually she wanted you to come. Maybe youll get lucky.

You mean laid?

Chan dodged but not quickly enough to avoid her jabbing elbow. In fights shed always been quicker than he was. Dont set your sights so low, you crude cop. Shes single.

Chan grinned. One night with me and shell probably want to stay that way. In a sudden movement he grabbed her hand. Theres something else, isnt there?

She looked him in the eye. Lets leave it till later, shall we? I dont really understand, but they promised me it was in your interests to come this weekend. Chan stared until she lowered her head. I would die rather than let anyone hurt you. You know that.

Jenny checked her watch. I have this checklist of items I have to get ready-things the crew arent so good at, like choosing wine and champagne. We can get it all from the club if you want to help.

Back on the walkway he helped his sister step down from the boat. They walked together along the floating dock: two Eurasians. People turned as always to look at Jenny. Her long black hair was tied up in a bun; her dark eyes were large and only faintly tilted. With Chans high cheekbones and fine lips in a smaller, female mold, her apparent fragility was terrifying, like a Chinese vase.

No one would guess that you can fight like a cat. I still have scars where you scratched me down to the bone, Chan whispered in her ear.

You were all I had, and I was jealous. She looked at him and smiled. Im glad youve come. I know how you hate social groups, but you can talk to me. And you can dive. Emily likes to dive too; underwater you wont have to talk to her.

He waited in the clubs enormous lobby while she chose the wine and champagne. As they were about to return to the boat, Jenny murmured, Theres Emily now.

A white Rolls-Royce with blue interior slid into the forecourt to stop in front of the entrance. A chauffeur in whites stepped out to open the rear door.

Chan winced.

Sorry, Jenny said. She uses it only when shes entertaining someone important.

A Chinese man in his seventies got out of the car. He wore a white jacket and blue slacks, both ill-fitting. The open-neck shirt under the white jacket was black. On his feet, old sneakers had molded around his bony feet. Chan noticed the hands, heavy and gnarled like ginseng roots. Emily followed in white shorts, a blue silk blouse, red shoes with flat heels. The old man walked in front of her, then seemed to remember a local custom and stood aside to let her pass while the doorman opened the door. Chan thought that people stopped because of the Rolls and because Emilys face was often in the newspapers, but some of the Chinese looked at the old man as if they knew him too. Chan had never seen him before, although he fitted a specific category.

Jenny was watching Chan. He caught her eye. His twitch was working. She put a hand on his arm.

I told you, Ill explain later. Stay-for me.


For me. For you. I promised them youd stay.

Chan glanced quickly at her, then nodded. Okay. For you. Chan picked up the plastic bag with bottles of champagne and claret, followed Jenny across the marble lobby. Emily gave a big wave. Jenny smiled. Out of the corner of his eye Chan saw a white Toyota draw up behind the Rolls-Royce. Two men got out: Chinese but not Cantonese. They were each over six feet tall with the powerful build of the far north. The two bodyguards took up positions about ten feet away from the old man and never took their eyes off him.

My God, I hate you, Emily said to Jenny. She turned to Chan. Every time I see her shes more stunning than ever. Doesnt it make you mad that this former Miss Hong Kong is your sister?

I believe you two have met, Jenny said.

All my life, Chan said.

This is Mr. Xian, a very close business associate of mine from the PRC, Emily said.

She spoke to the old man in Mandarin. Chan followed one or two words that were the same in Cantonese. He caught the word for detective.

The old man held out a horny hand to Jenny, gave a sharks yellow smile. He spoke in Mandarin. Jenny shook his hand. He turned to Chan. Chan took the hand, pressed it instead of shaking it.

He spoke softly in Cantonese. You killed my mother.

What did he say?

Emily blinked. He said, pleased to meet you. Her Mandarin was perfect.

On the way back to the boat Chan felt Emilys eyes on him while she conversed with Mr. Xian. He recognized the word for dollars in Mandarin. She used it a lot. The old man had a way of replying with a high-pitched laugh and a forward shake of the head like a horse neighing. Whatever she was saying it was pleasing Mr. Xian. Chan noticed the old mans Shanghainese accent; he pronounced x sounds with the middle of his tongue. Through the wooden boards Chan could feel the heavy tread of the bodyguards ten feet behind.

I guess you had to do that. Jenny said.

Yes, Chan said.

She shook her head. You never change. Youre all balls and no brains. But she said it with affection and let him see how her eyes were shining. Bravo anyway.

Jenny turned to speak to Emily. Jonathan phone you?

Emily switched from Mandarin to English. Hes going to be about twenty minutes late. A client.

Anyone else coming?

I invited Milton Cuthbert, the political adviser. Dyou know him?

No, Jenny said.

Slightly, Chan said.

Oh, Emily said.

With a cigarette Chan attempted to calm the jumping nerves, the increased heartbeat, the cold sweat. He knew that he ought to feign serious illness, disappear until he had time to work out what kind of trap it was, but there was Jenny.

| The Last Six Million Seconds | c