Vital signs dmb 2, p.30

Vital Signs dmb-2, page 30

 part  #2 of  Dr. Marissa Blumenthal Series

 

Vital Signs dmb-2
 



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Tristan eyed him warily.

  "You're not being very friendly," he said, trying to make light of the situation.

  "If you tell us how, we'll be happy to leave. Just say the word."

  "For a little squeeze we'll show you out," the youth said.

  "Squeeze?" Tristan questioned.

  "Money," the youth said.

  "The rest of your money. And your watches as well."

  "Then you will let us go?" Tristan asked.

  "You'll show us out of here?"

  "Yes," the Chinese youth said.

  "We will accept that your debt has been paid."

  The youths with the knives lowered their weapons slightly, as if to display their sincerity.

  Tristan reached for his wallet again. Pulling it out, he withdrew what money he had in it and put it on the nearest table. He then pulled off his watch and put that on top of the bills.

  "And the woman's," the muscular man said.

  "That's not very chivalrous," Tristan said.

  The man sneered.

  "On the table," he said.

  "Sorry, luv," Tristan said. He stuck out his hand. Marissa slipped off the watch that Robert had given her and handed it to Tristan. He added it to the small pile on the table.

  "There you go, mate," Tristan said.

  "Now let's have you live up to your side of the bargain."

  The man came forward and picked up the money and the watches. He hastily divided the money among the others. The watches he pocketed.

  "As long as we're now on good terms," Tristan said, "what about the Wing Sin? Are you fellows part of that illustrious organization?"

  "No," the leader growled, "We're the Wo Sing Wo. The Wing Sin are pigs." He spat on the ground.

  "Any idea where these pigs could be located?" Tristan asked.

  The man turned to confer with one of his companions. At length he said: "Tse Mau will show you out of the Walled City.

  Don't come back." One of the toughs stepped forward, glaring menacingly at Tristan.

  "After this type of welcome," Tristan said, "I can assure you that we will not be back."

  The Chinese youths parted, allowing Tristan and Marissa to pass. Tristan reached behind for Marissa's hand and led the way.

  "Ah!" Marissa yelled when one of the youths reached out and squeezed one of her breasts. Tristan whirled, but Marissa pushed him forward.

  They walked quickly through the maze, the young Chinese staying five or six paces ahead. They didn't talk. After taking a half dozen turns, Marissa began to fear that they were not being led out, but only farther within. But after another turn the passageway suddenly opened out into the cool night air. Across the street the well-lit dentist's office appeared like a beacon. Even the strident Chinese music coming from the radios sounded better to Marissa now that they were out.

  Tse started back into the corridor, but Tristan called him by name. The man turned.

  "Do you speak English?" Tristan asked.

  "Yes," he said haughtily. Marissa estimated that he was about twenty; he seemed to be one of the older members of the group.

  "That makes things easier," Tristan said.

  "I wanted to ask a favor. You see, we're low on cash at the moment. I know you were given some money back in that rat hole. Could you spot us a bit to get back to the hotel?"

  Tse responded by pulling out his knife. It was about eight inches long, with an upward curve at the tip like a miniature scimitar.

  Marissa winced. She couldn't believe that Tristan had risked the youth's wrath with such a request.

  But Tristan's move was calculated. He'd hoped the thug would brandish the knife again under these different circumstances. As soon as the knife appeared, Tristan struck with lightning speed.

  In an instant, the knife clattered to the ground. With a yell,

  Tristan treated Tse to a series of punches, followed by a spinning kick that knocked him down.

  Tse cowered against the wall as Tristan kicked the knife into a street sewer. Then he went over to the Chinese youth and yanked him to his feet by the front of his leather vest.

  "Now about that money you were so kindly offering… Tse hastily withdrew the bills he had in his pocket and handed them over. Tristan checked the man's wrist.

  "Too bad," he said.

  "No watch."

  "Tristan!" Marissa called.

  "Let's get out of here!"

  "Ta," Tristan said to Tse, then he calmly followed Marissa.

  "Did you have to do that?" Marissa demanded angrily when Tristan caught up with her.

  "Was that stunt some kind of masculine ego trip? We'd just gotten out of one mess and you were trying to get us into another."

  "That's not the way I see it." Tristan said.

  "Besides, we needed cab fare.

  "Hold it!" Tristan said, stopping abruptly.

  "What now?" Marissa cried.

  "We have to go back," Tristan said.

  "I lost my favorite hat."

  Marissa yanked her arm from Tristan's grasp and strode off.

  She didn't find his antics the least bit entertaining. She was beginning to tremble. The confrontation in the Walled City had unnerved her, and the initial shock was wearing off. It had been a mistake to go in there. She was angry at Tristan for having jeopardized them in the first place; she was even angrier with him for taking the risk of the final confrontation with Tse.

  Tristan again caught up with Marissa and fell in step without another word. Only a block away from the dark entrance to the Walled City, the normal hectic confusion of Kowloon began.

  They easily found a cab that carried them back toward the Peninsula

  Hotel.

  During the ride, Marissa brooded. She began to realize that she would have to come up with some idea of how to contact the Wing Sin Triad if that's what they hoped to do. If the venture to the Walled City was the best thing Tristan could come up with, she'd better not rely on him.

  Some years back she'd read a thriller where the hero needed information in a strange town. He got it by hiring a limousine.

  The idea was that a good limo driver knew his city inside and out, the legitimate side and the illegitimate.

  Turning to Tristan she said, "I've got an idea."

  "Wonderful," Tristan said. "let's hear it."

  Robert paced his study, swearing under his breath, occasionally punctuating his string of curses by stopping to pound a fist on his desk. Marissa had indeed caught him as he was about to leave for work. But the call had so irritated and disturbed him, he'd put down his briefcase to fume until he got some composure back.

  "What the hell is she doing in Hong Kongr' he said aloud.

  She's carrying this nonsense to ridiculous extremes, chasing around the world on a whim."

  Robert at down in front of his computer. He wondered if he 'should call their doctor. What if Marissa was having a nervous breakdown? Shouldn't he intercede?

  Robert sprang out of his chair and began pacing again. He just couldn't stay still. What should he do? Up until that moment, he'd thought the best thing was to let Marissa wear herself out with this wild-goose chase. Australia was one thing, but Hong Kong!

  "Why did I ever marry?" Robert asked himself, reverting back to a verbal dialogue with himself.

  "Oh, for those good old bachelor days when my worst worries were getting my shirts from the laundry." He stopped his pacing.

  "Hell," he snapped.

  "I still have to get my shirts from the laundry." He tried to think of what marriage had brought him, and at that moment he couldn't think of anything.

  "What am I going to do?" he wondered.

  "What should I do?

  What can I do?" he said aloud. Deep down, more than anything, Robert simply wanted his wife back. If she wouldn't come willingly, maybe it was time to go get her.

  Robert stopped his pacing and stared out the window. He had another thought. What if she wasn't in Hong Kong? What if she'd been lying or was being sarcastic? Th
en he remembered the call had been collect. Sitting down in his desk chair, Robert dialed the phone company. After a minor hassle, he got the calling number. It was a Hong Kong number. He dialed it, hoping to find out the name of the hotel or wherever it was she was staying. When the phone was picked up he had his answer: the Peninsula Hotel, the same hotel that he'd stayed in the two times he'd been to Hong Kong on business.

  Robert disconnected but kept the receiver in his hand. One thing was clear: he could not sit idly by forever and allow Marissa to chase around the world as she pleased. He had to put his foot down and stop this craziness, esptxially thinking how much it was undoubtedly costing.

  On an impulse Robert called the airlines to find out about direct service from Boston to Hong Kong.

  When he was finished with the airlines he called his office and had his call put through to Donna.

  "Donna, I might not come in today," Robert said.

  "All right," Donna said.

  "Anything special you want me to do?"

  "Just be sure to get those letters out that I dictated last night," Robert said.

  "And one other thing. I don't think I'll be able to make dinner tonight after all."

  "Now that's too bad. Why not?"

  Willy Tong knocked on the door of the two-story house on the corner of Eucalyptus and Jacaranda streets in Charleville. A dog barked inside the house, but Willy wasn't worried. He could tell it was one of those little lap dogs probably a Yorkie. From inside, someone flipped on a porch light. It was one of those big bowl fixtures like an opaque goldfish bowl. Finally the hardware clicked and the door swung inward.

  Instinctively Willy positioned himself for the worst-case possibilities.

  But the man he was facing was hardly a threat. He was built like a broomstick, with thick glasses.

  "Are you Dr. Marlowe?" Willy asked.

  "Righto," Dr. Marlowe said.

  "The Royal Flying Doctor Service gave me your name," Willy said.

  "I called to talk with Dr. Williams, but they said he was on holiday and you were available for his patients."

  "I am indeed," Dr. Marlowe said.

  "Is there some kind of problem?"

  "It's my wife," Willy said.

  "When will Dr. Williams be back?"

  "In about a week," Dr. Marlowe said.

  "He left this morning.

  His departure was unexpected so I'm afraid he was unable to inform his patients. What's the problem with your wife?"

  "She's been ill for years," Willy said.

  "It took me a long time to convince her to allow Dr. Williams to attend her. I know she won't see anyone else. She's not sure about Western medicine."

  "I understand completely," Dr. Marlowe said.

  "If it's not an emergency, you can wait for Dr. Williams to return."

  "Perhaps a phone call would do," Willy said.

  "Maybe if he just adjusted her medications. Would it be possible to ring him?"

  "If you don't mind ringing Hong Kong," Dr. Marlowe said.

  "He left word that he could be reached at the Peninsula Hotel. If you'll wait a moment, I have the phone number." Dr. Marlowe ducked back inside his house.

  Willy glanced through the screen door. A small, dark-brow nand tan long-haired dog snarled at him. He tried to think of a way to find out about the woman, but nothing came to mind.

  "Here you go," Dr. Marlowe said, coming back to the door and handing out a slip of paper.

  "Good luck. If you need me, just ring."

  Willy stalled for a moment, hoping to think of something. But his mind couldn't come up with anything that didn't sound suspicious.

  Instead, he merely thanked the doctor and walked back to his rented car.

  Once in the car, Willy sped back to the — Charleville airport.

  While he waited for his charter flight to be fueled, he called Charles Lester.

  "I found out something interesting," Willy said as soon as Lester had picked up the phone.

  "Tristan Williams left suddenly for Hong Kong this morning."

  "That doesn't sound good at all," Lester growled.

  "Was the Blumenthal woman with him?"

  "I don't know," Willy said.

  "If I stayed here I might be able to find out."

  "I want you in Hong Kong immediately," Lester said.

  "For the moment we'll assume she's with him. Fly through Sydney; there are more connections. Ned is checking with emigration about the woman; by tomorrow we'll probably know for sure.

  Any idea where he's staying in Hong Kone."

  "The Peninsula Hotel," Willy said.

  Good show," Lester said.

  "If she's there, kill her. And while you're at it, kill Williams too. With him out of the country his death will cause fewer questions."

  "You want it to appear like an accident?" Willy asked. Such an assignment would be difficult.

  "Whatever," Lester said.

  "Just get the job done. The Wing Sin will supply you with a weapon. And even if the woman's not around, kill Williams anyway. He's been a thorn in our sides ever since he wrote that damned paper."

  Willy rang off, pleased with his assignment. Knowing Hong Kong as well as he did, it would be an easy one.

  Walking over to the charter desk, Willy leaned over.

  "There's been a change," he said to the agent.

  "I'm going to Sydney, not Brisbane."

  16

  April 14, 1990 8:00 A.M.

  A faint knock on her door roused Marissa. She decided to ignore it. She rolled over and stuck her head under the pillow.

  Despite the pillow, she heard a second knock.

  Propping herself up on one elbow, she asked who was at the door. She heard a muffled voice. Throwing back the covers, she slipped into a hotel bathrobe and went to the door. She repeated her question.

  "Room service," a voice said.

  "I didn't order room service," Marissa said.

  "Room 604," the voice said through the door.

  "Breakfast for eight o'clock."

  Marissa unlocked the door and opened it. She barely had it open before the person waiting barreled in.

  "Surprise!" Tristan said, jumping ahead of the room service cart. He handed Marissa a bouquet of flowers.

  "You didn't order breakfast, but I did. Breakfast for two." Tristan directed the porter to set up the table by the window overlooking the harbor.

  Marissa shook her head. She never knew whether to be pleased or irritated by Tristan's pranks.

  "I've been out and about since sunrise," Tristan said.

  "It's a glorious day." He came back and snatched the flowers from Marissa's hand. She hadn't moved from the door. Returning to the table, he stuck the blossoms into a vase he had ready for them.

  "What are you standing around for?" Tristan asked, seeing that Marissa had not budged.

  "We've got a busy day. Get a move on!"

  Marissa headed for the bathroom. As she closed the door behind her she saw the porter back out of the door to the hall.

  Marissa looked at herself in the mirror over the sink. What she saw frightened her. Her skin was sallow. There were dark circles under her eyes. Her hair hung down limply with none of its usual luster. Then she glanced in the full-length mirror behind the door.

  That made her feel a bit better; at least she was losing some of the weight she'd gained on the hormones.

  "I'll be anxiously waiting in my room," Tristan called through the door.

  "Give a yell when you're ready for the tucker," Marissa smiled in spite of herself. Tristan's playful behavior, his good humor, and his Australian dialect were a balm for her troubled soul. Moment to moment she couldn't anticipate which bad thoughts would plague her: Wendy's violent death, her deteriorating relationship with Robert, her life that was generally in ruins, or her inability to conceive.

  Marissa's smile faded as she thought about her life. There didn't seem to be much more that could go wrong. On top of everything else she st
ill didn't feel physically or mentally normal, even though she'd been off the hormones for a week. She wondered when her old equilibrium would return.

  A shower, some makeup, and clean clothes helped improve Marissa's spirits. When she was ready, she rapped on the connecting door. Tristan instantly appeared. They breakfasted in front of the window with a view of Hong Kong Island in the distance. As they ate, the green mountains slowly emerged from their enveloping morning mist.

  "I already ordered a limo as you suggested," Tristan said as they sat back to enjoy their coffee.

  "I told the concierge we wanted an experienced driver. He said that all their drivers were experienced."

  "What's our schedule?" Marissa asked.

  "First we should go to the bank where I wired the money," Tristan said.

  "After the experience last night, I have a feeling that we'll be needing a lot of squeeze. Then I thought we'd follow through with your other suggestions and visit one of the hospitals.

  We can ask about Wing Sin there, as well as TB. If we still don't have any leads for the, triad, we'll ask the limo driver. What do you say?"

  "Sounds good to me," Marissa answered.

  When they got downstairs and walked outside the hotel, they found that the limo was already waiting. It was a black Mercedes sedan. The driver introduced himself as Freddie Lam.

  "To the Hong Kong National Bank, Freddie," Tristan said as he settled comfortably in the back of the Mercedes.

  It took almost half an hour to cover the quarter-mile of congested city traffic to the bank.

  "We could have walked here quicker," Marissa commented.

  The bank was an impressive marbled affair, and was extremely efficient. The impeccably dressed banking officer's expression did not alter when Tristan made his withdrawal.

  "That seems like a lot of money," Marissa said as they climbed back into their limo.

  "A lot of squeeze," Tristan corrected. Then, leaning over the seat, he told Freddie to take them to the New World shopping center.

  "Don't you think we should go directly to the hospital?" Marissa said. She couldn't believe Tristan had any interest in shopping "Patience, luv!" Tristan said.

  In a vast hall of waterfalls, escalators, and shops of every kind, Tristan pushed Marissa into one of the jewelry stores. There he insisted she pick out a watch to replace the one she'd lost the night before.

 
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