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***


Sifting once more through the faxes that Aston had brought, Chan wondered if Paddy was dead. Without that lock of hair identification might be difficult. Certainly he had no fingerprints or dental records and hed never recognize him after all these years. Among the papers Aston had included a confirmation slip from Rileys office in Arsenal Street: Chans application for assistance from Scotland Yard had been approved; the scrappings had been sent. Chan knew it could take a month, though, for the results to be available.

There was a fax from the New York Police Department hed overlooked first time round. Reference your fax of April 21, Captain Frank Delaney will arrive in Hong Kong on April 26 United Airlines flight U.A.204 with information of interest to you. Signed: Frank Delaney, Captain NYPD.

He showed it to Aston.

Oh, yeah. Sorry, Chief, I forgot to mention it. Tomorrow afternoon. Want me to meet him at the airport?

Lunchtime. Chan pushed his way through the crowds back to his flat. It had been a weekend full of people. Granted, one could have wished for less challenging company on a boating trip than an aging psychopath, a sex-hungry billionairess and a scheming diplomat; nontheless, when he found himself solitary once more, loneliness and squalor crept into his bones like the first aches of old age. At the same time his body was still glowing from the sun and the sea. And then Emily had left her own particular glow. He heard her voice, not so complacent, almost sorrowful: When you need another clue, you know where to come.

Well, that would require an erection. Another hurdle.

All his life hed been what the British called a tits man. Hed always taken it on faith that the pleasure he derived from fondling was in some way transmitted through the breasts and nipples to their owner. To squeeze a plastic bag filled with saline solution was to turn the seduction process Pavlovian. Maybe it was anyway, but Pavlovs dogs never saw the seam.

In his minds eye he saw again the two U-shaped scars, livid against Emilys olive skin. The billionairess who bought perfection, or tried to. But that had been his question: You wanted to be perfect? Suppose hed been bold enough to phrase it another way: Why did you mutilate yourself?

From there it was only a short hop to a more intriguing question: Why did one of the worlds most successful women want to discuss the murder of three people in Mongkok, but was afraid to?

At times of genuine uncertainty he consulted the oracle called the I Ching. It was not a process recommended in any police manual, but Chan had the greatest respect for the books wisdom. He was gratified that in the past thirty years quantum mechanics had been able to corroborate what Chinamen had known since ancient times: God was playing dice with the universe. Consequently the sages had been connoisseurs of chance, which in their view rewarded study more than science. As Chan put it, what would you rather know, that e = mc2 or that you will save your life if you leave the car at home tomorrow?

Consultation of the great book, though, was a subtle art. It was important to phrase the question in a precise and dignified manner. Thus, Is the human penis a legitimate organ of detection? He threw the coins and read the judgment: Removing corruption promises success. If one deliberates with great care, before and after the starting point, then great undertakings are favored.

Then the image:

As a wind, blowing low on a mountain,

Thus does the wise man remove corruption.

As a wind, he first stirs up the people.

As a mountain, he gives them nourishment.

Chan lit a cigarette. Sometimes he thought that the Chinese mind knew too much. Burdened with five thousand years of conflicting insights, it was like a computer with more data than its chip could handle. Meaning was the first casualty of overload. He closed the book.

In a four-table restaurant serving duck and rice he ate lunch, exchanged curses with the owner, smoked a cigarette, drank green Chinese tea a light amber brew with almost no taste and a way of settling the stomach. Who was he kidding? Why not admit that there existed another oracle of infinitely greater precision, though less wisdom: Cuthbert? From a wall telephone he called the commissioners office. Tsui was at home, but Chan had his home number.

What took you so long? Tsui said when Chan had explained what he had in mind. Come and see me tomorrow afternoon. Well talk about it.


| The Last Six Million Seconds | c