Mist had rolled in to smother the island by the time The Patron arrived in Wan Chai. It dropped a dirty veil around the city, bright lights just glowing multicoloured through the fog. Lasers tried to pierce the top, thrown back by the thick tropical slush that rolled around the air above Hong Kong. He pulled down an alleyway off Hennesy, careful to avoid his paintwork on the cluttered bins which thrust out of the murk to spill out onto the street.
When he opened the door the stench rolled in on the fog. It forced its way into his nose and down his throat, a gagging smell of bins left out in the heat mixed with the unknown industry of nearby slaughterhouses. He’d have to watch for the knives himself on a night like this. He popped the top inch off his cane sheath and let the blade stand bare. That should deter any fool who thought he was an easy mark. Anyone who might be after him personally would see what a sharp blade and angry liver bird could do. He clicked his fingers of his left hand twice, a seconds pause between. The car locked with a beep, indicators flashing once.
Strolling down the alley, he kept one hand on top of the cane, his thumb ready to flick off the rest of the sheath in a second. It was a casual walk, like he was looking for something but wasn’t sure what. There was a break in the mist just briefly ahead, showing a view out towards the water and the expo promenade. He’d get there soon enough. Then the wind pushed the thick, once white soup back over to swallow it up once more. A glance briefly touched on a little restaurant on the lane. Two ducks hung in the window, an empty hook between them. That sign meant Jin would be in.
The Patron pushed the door open and entered. A tinkle of noise like glass breaking and something lashed at his face. He twirled around, his blade half out of the sheath before he realised it was just a set of wind chimes. Chuckling to himself he pulled up a hard plastic seat, propping his cane against the table. His back was to the wall, able to see towards the kitchen at one side and the door at the same time.
“Amateur,” he muttered. This whole deal had him more on edge than he wanted to admit.
He waited while shuffling went on through the back. Metal scraped against metal. He hoped it was just pans being moved around. The place smelled of roast duck and spices, a wall of delicious flavour that held back the stink of the fog at the door. A head popped out of from the kitchen then disappeared again. Probably the chef wondering why the strange guilo was back for Uncle Jin. Before running that well kept secret of some of the best food in Hong Kong, Jin was a man with an ear to the ground. He still had that ear, well most of it, he just knew the right people to ask now. Before he just knew the right people to threaten. The Patron had done him a favour once, not cutting him open when he tried to shake him down, later helping him out on a tricky deal gone sour. Hard to call anyone a friend in this kind of business, but Jin was close.
He stumbled in bleary eyed from the back. Sleeping above the shop watching television he guessed. Funny how some of us just fade away and others burn up like dollar notes thrown into an open fire. The Patron hoped tonight wasn’t his turn to burn.
“Néih hóu, Jin,” he said, rising to offer a hand.
“Néih hóu,” Jin said, reaching out to grasp it with his own.
They shook a moment before Jin pulled up a seat and they sat down over a stale, garish yellow PVC tablecloth to talk.
“What’s the word?” The Patron asked, nodding towards the harbour he couldn’t see on the other side of the door. Not that you could see much in the murk that waited thick and cloying outside.
“You were right,” Jin replied, “It’s today. Big delivery, small escort, five or six guys.” He paused a moment while a five honkey coin rolled over his knuckles and back into his right hand. The Patron knew it sported an indent on one side from the bullet it had taken. Tight spot indeed, Jin was lucky he had it to keep him safe before The Patron could turn up. The same night gave him the slashed scar up the right side of his face and missing chunk of ear. Sometimes keeping an ear to the ground can be dangerous. Lucky Jin had two, well one and a half now in truth.
The Patron stared him in the eye, unflinching. Jin twitched once, then blinked, tried to get up to move away. The Patron reached over and rested a firm hand on his arm.
“What else Jin? I know you well enough to see there’s something more,” he said.
Jin fell back in his chair with a sigh. “You gotta know when to quit gov’,” he said. Jin had a flare for the old Sherlock Holmes movies, like maybe we were some 19th century thief-takers and not a couple of fellas with some talent who had to ride the wave of cyber crime and guns which ran the streets at night.
“What is it,” The Patron said, forcing some steel into his voice and glancing at the cane very pointedly. Jin was a close to a friend as it got maybe, but sometimes you just got to get things done.
“He’s going to be there,” Jin said, slumping back in his seat. “He’s going to be there to check the shipment.”
The Patrons hands clenched on the top of his cane. Pale anger flashed over each knuckle, pressed white and bitter with memories.
“What time?” The Patron asked. He waited a second for an answer. “I said what-bloody-time Jin,” he repeated louder.
Jin glanced at the greasy clock that stood over the hatch to the kitchen. You could barely make out the hands beneath the layer of grime that represented every meal cooked here for the last ten years.
“Now,” he whispered, “but..”
The Patron cut him off with a loud bang as he smashed his fist against the table.
“I’ve no time for ‘but’ Jin, what if he’s early?” The patron made to stand before turning back and addressing Jin. “Thanks for the heads up. But don’t ever try and keep something like that from me again.” His eyes locked on Jin’s a moment more, showing him the promise there.
“Whatever you say gov,” Jin replied. He considered The Patron a moment. More an old enemy who earned respect than a friend he supposed. Still he owed the man. “Take it easy though, he ain’t no thug throwing his weight around. He’s serious heat. I know what you owe him. I know what he did. You could kill him five times over for what he done to you. But you can’t get revenge in a body bag, you hear me?”
The Patron was about to answer when his phone buzzed. He cursed at whoever was calling when it buzzed again, a quick pattern of three sharp vibrations.
“Shit,” he said as he jumped to his feet and made for the door. Bursting out into the stinking mist that hung over the alley with the glass tinkle of those chimes suddenly cut off in the night behind him. Further up he could make out the sound of an alarm smothered in the fog and the faint outline of two flashing orange glows. Some fool was trying to break into his car. He drew out his cane with his right hand, holding the sheath in the left. Then he charged out into the darkness with the blade in front of him, to be swallowed by a swirl of mist in the night.