Taxi

When they returned to the square, a taxi was waiting for them, its engine ticking over. The driver sat ramrod straight in the front seat, staring straight forward.

They climbed in the back. “Wan Chai” said Lee, and without a word, he drove off. The darkness around Shek O swallowed them up as they sped away from the feeble streetlights. The headlights of the car seemed to do practically nothing, fading away into the black of the night.

“What are you going to do at the police station?”

“I need to pick up my gun.”

“You have a gun?”

“Yes.” He snorted. “In my desk drawer. I don’t spend every day chasing people through the streets of Hong Kong, shooting criminals, you know?”

“Is that meant to make me feel safer? That you’re out of practise?”

“Hmm. If you put it like that, maybe not.”

“So what else did your partner say?”

“Not much. It was hard to make out what he was saying. I think he’s been injured. But there was what he said about the water …”

“The water?”

“Yes, and that ties up with what your brother told us this morning. I dismissed it then, idiot ramblings from a drunk expat, but, well, I get this call from Lam, and he seems to agree …”

“Lam?”

“My partner. The one over in Tai O.”

“What’s in Tai O?”

“It’s an old fishing village, out on Lantau.”

“Near the airport?”

“Other side of the island. Not the sort of people who like modern things like aeroplanes and or civilisation, in my opinion. Anyway, Lam had to go to a murder scene there at the start of the week, and he thinks he missed something. The only other person on the scene … ”

“The only other person on the scene what?”

“He – he died. Lam thinks my boss was involved somehow.”

The taxi clipped a curb as it took a corner, carried on accelerating.

“Hey! Tell him to slow down, will you?”

“Not so fast” Lee said to the driver. He said nothing, ploughed on relentlessly, like every other taxi driver in Hong Kong who needed to get his passengers to their destination and pick up a new fare as soon as he could.

“And … ?”

“And Lam thinks my boss was involved. He died in a car crash, supposedly from drinking, when the man doesn’t touch a drop. Which I suppose is a bit ironic, eh?”

“How do you mean?”

“After all your brother has been saying and doing, when the safest thing to do is drink alcohol instead of water, and poor old Sammy’s dead and he never touched the stuff.”

“So now we’ll head up to the police station, then go rescue your partner, and … then what?”

“That part I haven’t figured out yet. I’m hoping when we find Lam he’ll have some idea. The trouble is, if my boss is involved in this, then really we don’t know who else is. There’s nobody else on the force who I would trust, that I would say for certain isn’t in on this.”

“Paranoid, much?”

“One thing I’ve learned in this is not to trust more people than you have to.”

The taxi screeched round the junction at the bottom of the mountain, and began to climb up the hill, another winding road replete with blind corners and steep drops at its edge.

“Look, I know we’re in a rush, but can you please ask him to slow down a bit?”

“Hey!” Lee leaned forward. “Are you trying to kill us? How about going a bit slower?”

The driver stamped on the accelerator and Lee was thrown back in the seat. As the car swerved round the next corner, he opened the left passenger door. Esther, who had been leaning against it, fell halfway out, screaming. The driver threw the car back and forth across the road, trying to fling her off.

“Help!” Esther yelled, trying to hold on to the door handle, her head and body hanging a few inches above the rushing tarmac.

“I’ve got you!” He grabbed hold of her thighs, trying to pull her back into the car. “What are you doing? Why are you doing this?” The driver remained silent, continuing to veer through the night. Lee heaved, pulled Esther back in, just before the door smacked against the stone wall at the side of the road and slammed shut again, just where her head would have been.

“We know about you” the driver said in a monotone.

“What?”

“We know all about you now. None of you will stop us. We have the control. We have waited long enough. I say these words so that the woman will understand too.” The driver reached out and switched off the headlights of the car.

“Who are you? What the hell are you doing?”

“You will die. You and all the useful idiots in your fishing village and your little town, pretending to be different. We’ve waited long enough for this. Retribution. All you traitors will die. He who glides and floats will return to embrace them all. You will submit.”

“What the hell? Stop this? Why are you talking like that?”

“He’s not talking” the monotone continued. “This is me. I wanted you to know who is killing you. I have the control. He is just a puppet, just like you’re a puppet.”

The car swerved into the right hand lane. A sportscar driving down the hill jerked out the way, horn blaring, crashed into the wall behind them.

“A puppet? What do you mean?”

“You’ve all been dancing to a different master. Not the true one of China. Not he who lurks in the watery places. You will submit.”

Esther, who had been holding onto the handle above the door with all her strength, lashed out at the driver.

“Stop! You’re going to kill us all!”

“This is just a vessel. I live on regardless. I cannot be stopped. You weaklings, servants of a lesser government, you will submit to my majesty.”

Behind them, orange flames illuminated the hill where the sportscar had crashed. In front of them, the red brakelights of a car ahead of them seemed to speed towards them. The driver, still rigid, fixed his arms straight, aiming directly at the car. Esther grabbed his shoulders and pulled him as hard as she could to the right. For a moment he was immobile, then as Lee added his weight to her, they pulled the driver over, and the car swerved to the other side of the road. The tyres lost grip and the taxi began to skid.

“You cannot stop us, you cannot stop us” the driver continued. “We will purge you, the weak will have to -”

As the car began to spin, the driver carried on speaking, but by then, with the world spinning around them and trying to not die, Lee was concentrating much more on holding onto Esther and anything else he could grip, praying that he wasn’t about to die in the dark up there in the mountains.

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