Paid in Full
Lee had made his choice. Now he had to live with it.
The moment the police released him, Lee took a complicated route home, employing aggressive turns, sudden halts and choke points to flush would-be followers. He hadn’t seen any hatchet men in his wake, but in Shanghai, hatchet men were everywhere.
He circled around his apartment block, finding no Triad killers waiting in ambush. No gunmen lurked inside his home either. Grabbing a valise, he filled it with essentials. Clothing, money, documents, keys. Everything he needed, nothing he wanted.
He set his luggage on his living room table. It was such a small bag, and it wasn’t even filled to capacity. Inside was the sum of his life. What little there was left of it.
He’d had this apartment ever since he left the police. He’d miss it. But sentimentality meant nothing when the triads were out for your blood. He’d have to disappear, lie low until the eyes of Tang Shuisheng were no longer on him, until fresh blood flowed down the streets of Shanghai and buried his deeds.
The telephone rang.
The phone continued ringing. Lee blinked again, then remembered he had hands and feet, and answered the call.
“Hello,” he said warily.
“Mr Lee, we need your help,” Mrs Wong said.
“We can’t explain it over the phone, but Lihan says it’s urgent. Could you come by?”
The smart move would be to hang up, walk away, never come back. But debts had to be paid in full.
“Of course,” Lee said.
Lee caught a taxi to a coffee shop two blocks from Wong’s home. He covered the rest of the distance on foot, walking in ever-tightening circles, seeking signs of Triad presence. Finding none, he headed up to Wong’s doorstep.
Lee pounded the door. Wong answered, pistol in hand.
“What’s wrong?” Lee asked.
Ignoring Lee, Wong glanced both ways down the empty hall, and gestured Lee inside.
Mrs Wong was busy stuffing lingerie and dresses into a suitcase. A second one, already filled, lay next to the case.
“Tomas!” Mrs Wong cried. “I’m glad you came.”
“What’s the problem?” Lee asked.
Wong pointed at a notebook lying on the table. The notebook was open to a page filled with words.
Wu Ye and his bodyguards have been released on bail. Shen Jianhao is still in lockup, but I don’t expect this to last. The money, guns and bullets recovered from the arrest have disappeared from Evidence, and my informant told me that Wu Ye is mobilizing his killers.
Tang Shuisheng isn’t going to overlook what we did. I’ve directed my men to go underground. We’re going to stay with friends in the countryside for a while. You’re welcome to join us.
Lee held up his valise. “I appreciate your offer, but it’s harder for the triads to find us if we go separately. When this is over, I’ll come contact you.”
Wong nodded, picked up a pen, and wrote.
I thought you’d say that. When you’re ready, look for Old Gao at the coffee shop down the street. He’ll tell you where to find me.
Wong tore out the page, struck a match, and committed it to the flame.
“I’ve finished packing,” Mrs Wong declared.
“Do you need help with that?” Lee asked.
“Thanks,” she said.
Lee grabbed the suitcase.
The door crashed open.
Four screaming gunmen rushed into the apartment. The closest pointed his pistol at Lee and pulled the trigger.
Wong raised his Colt and blasted away. One gunman dropped. Another. A thick dust cloud bloomed. Blood spurted from the third man’s left arm. The last one flinched.
The shooting stopped.
Wong was out of ammo.
Rising, Lee flung the suitcase at the wounded gunman. It caught him in the temple and blew him down. Lee charged the remaining shooter, screaming at the top of his lungs. The gunman aimed and—
The gunman blinked, dumbfounded. He mashed the trigger again, but nothing happened.
Lee snatched the gun with both hands. Wrenched it from the hatchet man. Pistol-whipped him in the face. Once, twice, three times and the gunman went down.
The last gunman picked himself up with a guttural roar. Lee kicked him in the groin. The man ignored the blow and snapped his weapon arm up. Lee circled his left arm, trapping the arm against his armpit.
The gun fired.
Lee rammed the butt of hispistol into the man’s throat and speared his knee into his groin.
The man went limp, coughing and gagging, scrabbling at his crushed throat. Lee dumped him on the floor, kicked him in the head, and looked for more threats.
The first two gangsters were bleeding out silently on the floor. The other two had gone still. Mrs Wong was curled up in a ball, her face frozen in mute horror. Detective Sergeant Wong stood protectively over his wife, covering the bodies with his freshly-reloaded gun.
“Are you alright?” Lee asked.
Wong nodded. Striding to the door, he peeked out the hallway again, gun in hand.
“I… I…” Mrs Wong started.
“It’s fine now,” Lee said. “It’s all over.”
Her husband returned to her and wrapped her in a tight embrace, patting her back, humming softly into her ear. Lee recovered the suitcase, dented and bloody, but otherwise intact.
“Thank… thank you,” Mrs Wong said.
“No problem,” Lee said, taking his valise with his other hand.
The detectives escorted the civilian past the bodies. Lee scooped up the last man’s gun, the one that had fired, and stuck it in his waistband. On the way down the stairs, Mrs Wong spoke softly, her voice trembling.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “Why didn’t their guns fire?”
“They must have taken guns and bullets from Shen Jianhao, Lee said. The same guns and bullets we sabotaged.” He paused. “Well, some of them, anyway.”
“Heaven must be looking out for you.”
“I don’t doubt that.”
No more killers awaited outside. Lee escorted the Wongs to their car, parked down the street. The men loaded the luggage into the boot while Mrs Wong kept a lookout.
Detective Sergeant Wong Lihan held out his hand.
“Thanks,” Wong croaked.
“No problem,” Lee replied.
Sirens howled in the distance. The Wongs climbed into their car and drove off. Lee hefted his valise and headed the other way.
He had to find shelter. That was easy enough. There were plenty of places willing to offer temporary sanctuary to desperate men with hard cash. He had to hunker down, collect himself, plan his next step.
Staying in Shanghai was the last thing he should do. But all debts must be paid in full.
And there was a score he had to settle with Tang Shuisheng.
For more stories by yours truly, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.