Wang propelled me shivering — not only from the cold — to a seat opposite. ‘Mr. Lo,’ he said, indicating my new companion. Then he walked over to the door and closed it behind him.
I had an image of Mr. Lo in my head — Chinese robes, wispy white hair tied back in a bun, and long fingernails. Not so. This evil pervert looked like a captain of industry — razor-sharp suit, immaculate grooming, and highly polished shoes. He opened the briefcase and took out a laptop. He placed it on the table, facing me.
His voice commanded respect. ‘Mr. Swain’s,’ he said, opening the lid. ‘Tell me what you found.’
‘Go to hell,’ I said. My nose throbbed and felt sore, and I wasn’t about to sit there like a turkey waiting for Thanksgiving.
He sat studying me, his manicured hands clasped together. ‘Mr. Reeves, you are in good shape … apart from your latest misadventure with your nose. Healthy tan, the outdoor type, I would hazard a guess. Are water sports your hobby? Fishing, deep sea diving ... or is it surfing?’
I felt a cheek muscle twitch at the duct tape, but I didn’t answer. Scowled instead.
He laughed — it sounded false. ‘A word of advice Mr. Reeves. Don’t play poker. If you think I’m going to drive sharpened bamboo sticks under your toenails to make you talk, think again.’ His face contorted as if in pain, then he hissed at me, ‘It’s simpler to shoot off your fucking kneecaps.’
I jerked sideways — motherfucker had hit upon my weakest link. I pictured myself with shattered legs, unable to surf my board again — that was if I was still alive.
If I was still alive.
Sweat hit me then. My initial outburst was phony. I wasn’t a movie hero caught between a rock and a hard place, but Shayne Reeves, a beach bum loser, with no way out. On my own, no one to dig me out of a hole.
No one? Janet? Smokin’ Joe.
My mind raced. I had to protect Janet from this monster, I just prayed that she would be smart enough to realize I was in deep shit. Missing from the hotel, not answering my cell might be enough. Maybe she’d called Smokin’ Joe. Maybe a rescue team was on its way — maybe...
Lo coughed. He was pointing a gun at me — it looked big enough to blow off my balls.
But not about Janet.
I told him I knew he peddled drugs, and that Paula Swain was a co-owner of Kandoo and other companies. ‘Now, I know you’re trafficking young girls … you didn’t want me to see them at Kandoo.’
He nodded his head. ‘You have good detective skills, Mr. Reeves, but you chose the wrong time to visit. Most fortuitous for me, though.’
Keep him talking.
‘Not for Paula Swain, though?’
He glared. ‘It was personal. You have to understand Chinese ways, Mr. Reeves. Paula … a woman … wanted to control our Triad activities. I couldn’t allow that without losing face, so I resorted to traditional methods.’
I felt bad vibes prickling my skin — I was in over my head. Chinese gangsters, organized crime, I was of little consequence.
He slammed the gun butt on the table, which made me jump. His voice rose. ‘I executed the bitch.’
We sat staring at each other. Both thinking similar thoughts, I was convinced. Outside it was raining — I heard it hitting the roof and splattering on the ground. I wondered if I would ever go surfing again — ever see Janet or Smokin’ Joe. Lo seemed to read my thoughts. He placed the gun on the table.
‘You know too much, Mr. Reeves, but I’m a charitable man.’
Lo picked up his cell and called Wang back in.
‘Update me,’ he said.
Wang was holding my cell. ‘One call from a woman. Janet. Seems Mr. Reeves didn’t turn up for a meeting. She cut him off … told him they were through.’
I closed my eyes, tried to appear angry — banged my cuffs on the table, disappointed — and held my hands up to my face.
Not that my reactions impressed Lo. He watched me like a hovering hawk. Then he swooped.
‘Mr. Reeves can swim with sharks. Use the girl as bait.’
I heard noises outside. A scream. A woman.
‘No,’ I shouted.