THE KING OF MACAU (The Jack Shepherd International Crime Novels) (5 page)

BOOK: THE KING OF MACAU (The Jack Shepherd International Crime Novels)
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“Can’t meet me at the MGM? Why not?

“He’s concerned about security.”

“Security? Who are we talking about here? The Premier of China?”

“Something like that.”

I took a close look at Raymond’s face, but he wasn’t smiling. Obviously, smile or not, he had to be kidding, but now I was becoming intrigued in spite of myself.

“I appreciate this, Jack. I really do.” Raymond stood up and pointed to my empty dinner plate. “You want something else to eat?”

I shook my head.

“Okay, I’ll set something up and call you first thing in the morning,” he said, and with a wave he wandered off to talk to the guests at another table.

I finished my wine wondering what I was getting myself into. When I was done, I stood up and dropped some Hong Kong dollars on the table for the waiter. No reason he should lose his tip because of Raymond’s unaccustomed fit of generosity.

I gave Raymond a wave across the room and headed out into the night.

SIX

I CROSSED THE ROAD
to wait for a taxi going in the direction of the MGM. The fog had thickened while I was inside Henri’s, and the bright lights of the Macau Tower were now an indistinct glow in the grey mist shrouding the city.

“I thought you were never going to stop eating.”

I looked around to see who it was who had spoken, and if they were speaking to me, but all I saw in the darkness and the fog was a silhouette of someone sitting about thirty feet away on the low brick wall that separated the roadway from the harbor.

“I’m out here waiting for you,” the voice went on, “and I’ve had no goddamned dinner, and what do I have to do for an hour? I have to sit here and watch you through that window while you fucking eat.”

That was when I realized it was somebody talking to me, and in the next moment I also realized exactly who it was.

“You could have come inside and joined me, Pete,” I said. “There was plenty.”

“Nah…” Pete drew the word out like he was thinking about what he had missed. “That would have been a really lousy idea.”

I took my time about it, but I walked over and sat down on the wall next to Pete Logan. He had short, dark hair, small eyes, and thin, narrow lips. He couldn’t have looked more like a cop if he had been wearing a baseball cap that said COP on it.

“I suppose there’s absolutely no point in asking how you knew I was having dinner at Henri’s,” I said.

“None at all.”

“Then should I get straight to asking you why you’re sitting out here waiting for me?”

“Wouldn’t get you anywhere either. I’ll tell you when I’m good and ready.”

Pete Logan was a cantankerous son of a bitch who had been the legal attaché in the American Embassy in Bangkok for a couple of years. I had always thought legal attaché was a terrific title. It sounded sort of old world to me and invoked visions of cutaway coats, red sashes covered with medals, and formal parties in enormous, gold-trimmed ballrooms. Sadly, as with a lot of titles, the reality of it is far less than what it sounds like. Legal attaché is simply the State Department’s designation for the resident FBI man posted in an American embassy.

And that’s what Pete was: a special agent of the FBI posted in Bangkok. At least, that’s what Pete said he was. Sometimes I wondered a little. Pete had a habit of turning up right in the middle of all kinds of strange stuff and offering lame explanations as to what he was doing there. Was he really a CIA guy operating under FBI cover? Frankly, it wouldn’t have surprised me one bit.

Pete and I had some history together. A lot of history, actually. We had been on the same side a few times, and we had been on opposite sides a few times, but through it all we had remained friends, although it admittedly had been touch and go there once or twice. Like the time a few months ago when Pete arrested me for a murder that he knew full well wasn’t actually a murder. He even did it right in my hospital room, when I was lying in bed nursing two bullet wounds.

“So, Pete, you want to go into Henri’s, grab a couple of beers, and talk?”

“Yeah, I do, Jack, but there’s a problem with us going in there together.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t want anyone to connect you to me.”

And that was when I figured out who it was who had given my name to Pansy Ho.

PETE DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING
else for a while. Then he glanced sideways at me and grinned. “I guess I really ought to tell you—”

“That you were the one who set me up with Pansy Ho? Yeah, I got that, but why didn’t you want her to tell me it was you who had recommended me?”

“I’m not involved in this. Can’t be. I’m not even here talking to you tonight.”

“You look to me like you’re here.”

“But I’m not. Nowhere near here. You must be mistaken.”

“Huh,” I said, “imagine that.”

“So…you going to thank me for fixing you up with Pansy or what?”

“I’m supposed to be grateful to you for getting me into this?”

“You don’t think she’s good looking?”

“Yeah, I think she’s good looking.”

“And she’s a billionaire.”

“I know she’s a millionaire.”

“No, man. I said billionaire. That’s with a B and nine zeros.”

I realized Pansy had some serious coin, but it hadn’t occurred to me it might rise to quite that level of seriousness. Still, I didn’t want to admit to Pete that I was impressed so I didn’t say anything.

“I introduce you to a beautiful woman who’s a billionairess and you sit here looking like you want to piss all over me, Jack. What’s up with that?”

“I don’t think billionairess is an actual word.”

“Who cares? Don’t be a pedant.”

“Okay then, let’s get this over with. Thank you, Pete. You have my everlasting gratitude. Happy now?”

“No, actually I’m not. Why didn’t you take the job?”

“How do you know I didn’t take the job?”

Pete just looked at me.

I shrugged. “Pansy wants me to find out if the triads are laundering money through her casino.”

“Yeah. So?”

“Look, Pete, I was standing outside the Wynn last night minding my own business and some guys cruised by on a bike and plinked six or eight shots in my direction. I don’t think they were even shooting at me. I’m told they were just some wild and wacky triad guys having a little fun.”

“And your point is…”

“I’m a white boy in a Chinese city. I’m already too damned visible to those guys for my own good. I’m sure as hell not going to do anything to make myself even more visible.”

“What makes you think the shooters were triad?”

“You figure it might have been a couple of Swedish tourists out celebrating a birthday?”

“I never thought of you as a pussy, Jack.”

“Learn something new every single day, don’t you, Pete?”

Pete Logan sighed heavily and pushed himself off the wall. He stood looking at me for a minute with a tired sort of expression on his face, and then he jerked his head in the direction of Government House.

“Let’s take a walk,” he said.

“I thought you were hungry.”

Pete gave me a baleful stare, pointed into the fog, and said, “Walk, pussy.”

AVENIDA DA REPUBLICA
WAS
deserted. By the time Pete and I had walked fifty feet away from Henri’s, we were completely enveloped in fog. I was almost inspired to trot out my best Humphrey Bogart imitation, but Pete didn’t seem to be in the mood for jokes so instead I fished around in my pockets until I came up with a Montecristo No. 3 and my cutter.

“Do you have to smoke one of those things right now?” Pete asked. “You look like you’re sucking on a turd.”

“This from a man who eats at Mexican restaurants.”

I cut my Montecristo, found a box of wooden matches in another pocket, and lit it. Puffing the cigar into life, I rolled the first mouthful of sweet, pungent smoke around in my mouth for a moment before I let it go. It was always the first mouthful of a fine cigar that tasted the best, although the other mouthfuls weren’t bad either.

We walked along together for while without saying anything. Me enjoying my Montecristo, and Pete…well, I had no idea what Pete was doing there other than walking. Then he cleared his throat and I figured I was about to find out.

“I want you to take the job,” he said.

“I’m not going to take the job.”

“Take the job.”

“What’s going on here, Pete? What are you trying to get me involved in?”

“Take the job. You owe me.”

“I owe you?”

“Sure. I got you out of jail a few months back, didn’t I?”

“Pete, it was you who put me in jail in the first place. And for something you knew damn well I didn’t do.”

Pete shrugged, but he didn’t say anything.

“Why is the FBI interested in Pansy Ho anyway?” I asked.

“We’re not interested in her.”

“So it must be her father you’re interested in.”

“Are you crazy, man?” Pete chuckled. “I’m not going to fuck with Stanley Ho. It would take bigger balls than I have to go after Stan.”

Pete stopped and pointed across the harbor to where the brightly lit shape of the Macau Tower loomed through a break in the fog. The tower was a slim concrete spear shooting over a thousand feet into the night sky.

“Did you know people bungee jump off that thing?” Pete asked. “They say it’s the highest bungee jump in the world. I saw a clip on YouTube once of a guy doing it on a bicycle. Now why do you suppose anyone would want to bungee jump off a thousand-foot tower on a bicycle?”

I had no idea why anyone would want to bungee jump off anything, let alone off a thousand-foot tall tower while riding a bicycle, so I said nothing.

“You ever hear what the locals call that thing?” Pete asked, pointing to the Macau Tower.

I shook my head.

“They call it ‘Stan’s Boner.’”

The tower had a bulbous looking observation deck on top that I had to admit did give it a certain resemblance to male anatomy in full flight. It was unfortunate, but utterly unmistakable.

“Stanley Ho is about ninety and in a wheelchair,” I said. “He’s probably forgotten what a boner is.”

“Doesn’t matter. I still ain’t fucking with Stan. He’s the king of Macau, man.”

“I never figured you for a pussy, Pete.”

“Learn something new every single day, don’t you, Jack?”

I let the silence hang between us after that and gave my full attention to my Montecristo. The only sound was the muffled impact of our feet on the concrete walkway alongside the harbor.

It wasn’t long before Pete started talking again, exactly as I knew he would.

“WE’VE BEEN WATCHING THE
money flows in Macau, Jack. This place is a fucking mountain of cash.” Pete waved an arm in the general directions of where the bright lights of the casinos were lost in the fog. “Do you have any idea how much money passes over those tables out there?”

“More than in Las Vegas.”

“A lot more. Six or seven times more. More than in the whole fucking state of Nevada, my friend.”

“What’s your point, Pete?”

“My point is that we live in a world in which cash has become a problem. Some of it’s just cash, of course, a few bills that Mom and Dad have put aside to have a little fun, but more and more of it is something else altogether. It’s the proceeds of government corruption, or drug sales, or arms dealing, or smuggling, or plain old thefts and swindles. Some of it finances bombings and killings and people who are trying to blow up airplanes.”

Pete glanced at me to make sure I was listening. I was, but barely. Mostly, I was hoping Pete would get to the point before I fell asleep.

“Cash is a problem for people who have it because they usually don’t want to admit they have it. So they try to put it into the banking system in a way that makes it difficult to tell where it came from. A casino is the perfect way to do that.”

“You don’t have to explain money laundering to me, Pete.”

“I like to do introductions. They appeal to my sense of symmetry.”

I puffed on my cigar and made a rolling motion with my right hand.

“Okay, here’s the thing. A lot of money is laundered through the casinos in Macau. We understand that. There are thirty-five casinos already with more being built every year. And remember, Macau is a place with a population of less than half a million people. It’s a river of cash with very few people sitting on the bank watching it. It’s inevitable that a lot of dirty water is going to get mixed up with the river.”

“That’s a remarkable image for a cop to come up with, Pete.”

“Yeah, I thought it was pretty cool myself.”

“I’m going to try this one more time before I give up. What’s your point?”

“About a month ago there was a spike in the amount of money moving over the table in Macau.”

“Pansy’s already told me that.”

“Yeah, but it was a major spike, and it wasn’t a one time thing. It’s still happening. That worries us.”

“How major?”

“So far…” Pete seemed to be adding something up in his head. “Ten, maybe twelve million dollars a month.”

“Hong Kong dollars?” I asked, since Hong Kong dollars were the usual currency of Macau’s gambling tables.

“Nope,” Pete said. “US dollars.”

I whistled slightly, impressed in spite of myself.

“If we don’t do something to find the source and stop it,” he went on, “we could be looking at a hundred and fifty million dollars of dirty money funneled into the international banking system over the course of a year. I need you to help me here, Jack. I need you to trace the money. I need to know where it’s coming from, and where it’s going.”

We came to a corner and turned north alongside a wide boulevard. I took a last puff on my Montecristo, flipped the butt into the gutter, and glanced up at the blue street sign to find out the name of the street we were on now.

Avenida Doutor Stanley Ho
, the sign said.

Of course it did.

SEVEN

“I ALREADY TOLD YOU,
Pete. I’m not dealing with the triads. If I won’t do it for Pansy Ho, the beautiful billionairess, I’m sure as hell not doing it for you. You’re ugly and you’re poor. Forget it.”

“I thought you said billionairess isn’t a real word.”

BOOK: THE KING OF MACAU (The Jack Shepherd International Crime Novels)
8.67Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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