But not for long. Smokin’ Joe overtook us both and headed off to the rendezvous.
Simple plan. We needed a quiet place — but not too quiet.
We chose Kandoo — plenty of ground cover.
I drove into the lot, parked next to the Ford, got out, and leaned on the trunk, trying to act cool — although my body was trembling with a mixture of adrenalin and fear. I wiped sweat off my face. I took deep breaths. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted nothing to do with Lo — or his assassins.
I heard a loud whisper behind me. ‘Hang in there, brah.’
I suffered a lifetime of regrets before the red sedan rolled slowly into the parking lot and stopped several feet away. The driver’s door opened, and an Asian seemed to flow out. Although wearing a long leather coat, he could have been a ballet dancer; graceful and light on his feet, which had me sweating how we were going to nail him.
His voice had a metallic edge. ‘I wouldn’t bother,’ he said.
‘I … what…?’ I was lost for words.
He stared at me, showed me his manicured hands. They were empty.
No gun, no knife.
A faint smile on his lips. ‘Change of plan. You can tell your colleague to come out into the open.’
The air became still, gulls stopped screeching, a cloud slid over the sun. Shadows lengthened.
He waited for a few more seconds, and sighed. ‘My name is Wang. But it’s immaterial. I’m an enforcer, and also a negotiator.’
He didn’t make sense. ‘What do you want?’
‘Information,’ he said.
I really didn’t know how to take this. I was standing in Kandoo parking lot talking to an assassin who didn’t want me dead — or so it appeared. I figured it was too good to be true; possibly the injured dude in the sedan had a gun trained on me.
I pointed to it. ‘Your accomplice tried to kill me.’
A momentary frown crossed Wang’s face but was quickly replaced by a smile that wasn’t a smile. ‘Accomplice, you say? Not anymore.’ He crooked a finger beckoning me to the sedan. ‘Come and see.’
Trick or treat?
The bushes rustled, and Smokin’ Joe appeared. ‘Hold it,’ he said.
Wang bowed. ‘Ah, the cavalry. Trust me … I’m not going to scalp you.’
We stood looking at one another before the big fella shrugged. ‘I’ll go take a look.’
Which he did.
‘Guy’s dead,’ he said, looking back at me. I hadn’t moved, but then I gulped back bile as the big fella told me. ‘Neck’s been snapped.’
I must have been crazy to think we could nail one of Lo’s men. Two unarmed amateurs against a trained killer. Not that it would have stopped the big fella, but this was my mess, not his.
I moved up to Smokin’ Joe and put a hand on his arm, nodded to Wang. ‘Okay, I’m listening.’
‘Not here,’ he said.
I saw why. A Kandoo guard patrolling the grounds, and a few people clustered around the entrance, lighting up cigarettes. Luckily, no one had hit upon the parking lot. I looked at my watch. Maybe a coffee break?
We took the big fella’s Ford and followed Wang. The bugged Chevy could stay put until later. Wang took us to a warehouse facility near Kona Bay and parked next to three trucks with “Hong Kong cargo freight” painted on them. The place seemed deserted; no activity.
Before we stopped, I called Janet — told her what happened and where we were, but not that we could be walking into Mr. Lo’s cage. I steered clear of that.
She wasn’t fooled, or fooling around. ‘You want me to call the marines, or are you two boys on a suicide mission?’
As if I had a choice.
I wasn’t going to explain. Twenty years in the pen for a murder I didn’t commit would be a slower form of suicide — but just as deadly. Might as well bite the bullet and pray. Anyway, I had a better idea.
‘Give me a couple of hours. If I don’t phone back by 6:00, call the fire department…’ Janet was asking and I answered, ‘… Yeah, Mr. Muscles is punching his weight.’
The big fella tapped me on the knee. I winced and rubbed the tender spot. He grinned, and I told Janet not to worry. Whether she believed me or not, I wasn’t sure, but after a few moments silence she said the strangest thing.
‘Shayne … we should go out to lunch again.’
‘Yeah,’ I said, before ending the call.
I turned to the big fella. ‘Janet’s not convinced this is a good idea.’
By then, he had parked the Ford and was opening his door. ‘Only one way to find out,’ he said.
The wind blew around my ankles, black clouds raced across the sky, and I could feel rain in the air. I shivered; not only from the cold, but also from a feeling of unease. Wang led us over to a small rectangular building next to one of the warehouses — stone-clad gray walls. It seemed functional, maybe an office inside.
A fat Asian was standing outside the entrance, smoking a cigarette and looking bored. Wearing a grimy white vest with his stomach hanging over his pants, he seemed not to notice the chilly weather. Wang had a brief conversation with him — sounded Chinese. I half-expected trouble, but the man shook his head and waved his arms like he was indicating that no one was there. Wang nodded, apparently satisfied, and reached into his coat pocket — a glint of metal — and tossed over the car keys.
I breathed out.
Wang beckoned to us. ‘While Fat is disposing of my ex-associate, we can talk. Tea or coffee?’ he said.