‘Mr. Wang, I’m showing you respect, but cut to the chase.’
While Wang was pouring drinks into Styrofoam cups from a dispenser, we settled into leather loungers in what seemed a reception area — no carpet, though, just simple plain tiles. At the back of the room were a couple of computer terminals on work tables and a few metal filing cabinets lining the back wall. The remains of Fat’s latest meal — smelled like Chinese takeout — was strewn across the reception desk.
Wang gave it a blank stare, passed over our drinks, and stared directly at me. ‘Fate has determined that our paths have crossed. Do you believe in fate, Mr. Reeves?’ He waved a hand as though dismissing the thought. ‘I assume not, or you would have realized that’s why you’re still alive.’
Holy shit. What the hell is he talking about?
I kept quiet, but the big fella didn’t. He started to haul himself up from the lounger. ‘Mr. Wang. I’m losing patience.’
I reached out an arm, touched the big fella’s hand. ‘Still a few more rounds to go, brah. Let’s see what the man’s got.’
He gave me a look but slumped back down and picked up his coffee cup. ‘Damn mumbo jumbo,’ he spluttered as he took a gulp.
Wang seemed to reflect a while, taking his time before he explained. ‘We both have an interest in Mr. Lo. My ex-accomplice told me many things. I know you gathered data on Mr. Lo’s business enterprises, but I don’t know what you found. If you want me to help you, I want that information in return.’
He had lost me. How could he help me? What did he think I had? And even if it was what he wanted, I figured I’d land up with a bullet in my brain.
‘No way,’ I said.
For a moment, his eyes narrowed, but then his smile that wasn’t, returned. ‘Mr. Lo wants you kept alive to take the rap for the old woman’s death. That’s why I terminated my ex-accomplice. He had no self-control.’
I suppose I ought to have been thrilled with the news, flung myself prostate at his feet, and wept tears of everlasting joy.
But I wasn’t, and I didn’t.
I shrugged, instead. ‘So, I got lucky.’
Smokin’ Joe yawned. I glanced out of the window. Evening gloom, and the sound of rain pattering on a tin roof. It was 5:00 by my watch. I would need to give Janet a call back soon.
The big fella pointed a hairy black finger at Wang. ‘Cut the crap, mister. What’s the deal?’
Wang nodded. ‘I’ll get you a private meeting with Mr. Lo. The four of us together in a screened room, swept for bugs. Here would be just fine. You spill everything you know about his enterprises, and I’ll get the police off your back.’
I racked my brains, trying to think. Had Janet and I uncovered a secret that even we didn’t realize? Nothing made sense.
I shook my head. ‘Why would Lo change his mind? Odds are that I’ll end up dead.’
Smokin’ Joe butted in. ‘We’re going to make a tape of everything we got and leave it in the hands of my attorney. If anything happens to either of us ...’
Wang held up a hand. ‘Accepted,’ he said. ‘Do what you need to protect your interests.’
I was still puzzled. ‘I don’t have anything that could destroy Lo.’
He looked up at the ceiling as if seeking guidance, and then looked back at me. ‘Maybe you didn’t look hard enough.’
He seemed so sure.
I had one more question. ‘What’s in it for you?’
‘Fate,’ he replied.
The encounter with Wang kept me awake long into the early hours. He had my cell number. ‘Give me a couple of days,’ he had said.
Two days, maybe more, to confront my fate — me or Lo.
Too many questions entered my mind but no answers came out. Janet left me staring at her computer terminal with a fresh pot of Kona to keep me sharp, but instead, I felt like a punctured tire.
I couldn’t shake off my unease. I sensed that Wang had a hidden agenda — but what, I didn’t know. Or my mind was playing tricks. I was dog-tired, and I could have been wrong.
And another thing was bugging me. The Big Island police weren’t dumb. My mugshot on TV, and my description issued to each patrol cop. Yet I was riding the highways without being stopped, without being pulled over — without even running into a checkpoint.
I gave it another hour, and switched off the computer. Locked the office door and returned to my couch in the living room...
I must have drifted off. Images of Road Runner flashed past my eyes. Traps and escapes. Something at Kandoo that someone didn’t want me to see — something far worse than drugs? All I had to do was find the evidence.
I got up and brewed more coffee, then turned on the TV news channel, sound low. Top story headlines: tiger shark attacks surfer, five star hotel kitchen fire, woman poisons lover. My story didn’t even make the gossip pages.
Janet came with me to Kandoo, first thing before the morning rush. She parked next to the Chevy. My rental had a sticker on the windshield and one of the wheels was clamped.
Shit. A warning?
I tried to forget my previous visits — all of which had turned out bad. Instead, I focused on our game plan. Sanctioned by Van Grossman.