Delicate Touch

Chapter 5

"Siu-ma?"

"Over here."

Hung joined him by the far wall, her eyes adjusting to the dim light of the warehouse.

Siu-ma told her Peng's story, then pointed out what he'd found. "It looks like four of the girls scratched their names into the wall. They're at approximately five foot intervals."

Hung looked, and sure enough, spaced evenly along the wall, almost impossible to make out, were crude scratches in the brickwork. But they definitely spelled out the names of four of the missing girls. Under three of the names were brief messages asking for help. Two of the girls had scratched the date along with their names. The two dates were the same: three days previously.

The front door was pushed open wide and Feng entered, followed by a forensic team. Through the door, Hung could see policemen setting up crime scene tape.

"Very, very well done, Siu-ma," Hung said warmly. "You followed your hunch and it was right, and it took very sharp eyes to spot these scratches. When we get these bastards, it will be mostly because of you."

Siu-ma blushed. "I have a good teacher. And it's not about me, it's about rescuing them."

Feng joined them. "Excellent work, Siu-ma," he said.

"Thank you, sir."

"What do we think happened here?" Feng asked.

Hung said, "Based on what the crack dealer told us, I can only theorize that the girls were being held here, but the kidnappers were worried that the drug selling would bring the police to their doorstep, so they moved the girls to another hideout two nights ago."

"What makes you think they didn't load them on a ship and they're halfway around the world by now, or in a Chinese brothel?" Feng asked.

"Nothing," Hung said. "That would be my second theory. But we've got the docks on high alert, with two customs agents attending every loading point day and night; every single crate loaded onto any ship is opened and inspected; and the patrol boats are working around the clock. It would be almost impossible to get six captives through that net. My gut tells me they're still in Hong Kong."

"There aren't that many places they could hold six captives," Feng said. "What are the chances they actually didn't move them very far?"

Hung shrugged.

"All right," Feng said. "I'm bringing in dogs to see if they can sniff any trails, and we'll canvass the area with every available man to see if there were any other witnesses."

Siu-ma motioned through the doors. "News crew is here."

"Shit!" Feng exploded, and ran outside to make sure his crime scene wasn't violated.

Hung gave a whimsical smile after her supervisor, but Siu-ma looked thoughtful.

"What's on your mind?" she asked.

"What you said about the docks being watched so carefully. The kidnappers know they can't get the girls out that way. There's no way they would risk selling them here in Hong Kong. There's no way they can keep them for an extended period of time without getting caught. So what's left?"

They looked at each other for a moment.

"They have another way out of Hong Kong," Hung whispered.

"A fishing boat?"

"Fishermen live very social lives, in tight-knit communities, and they wouldn't have anywhere to hide six captives the whole island is looking for."

"Maybe someone's private yacht, or even their own private plane?"

"Anyone who's already that rich wouldn't commit a crime this risky just to make a little more money. But we're definitely missing something obvious."

Hung paced slowly, thinking furiously.

"Let's put ourselves in the kidnappers' shoes," she said. "We have a bunch of girls, but we move them. We've committed a heinous crime, everyone's talking about it, and everyone's looking for us, so we're completely screwed if we get caught. We have to be extra careful. We don't know what the police know-"

Hung stopped in her tracks, then slowly turned to Siu-ma.

"Or do we?" she asked.

"You think they have a mole inside the department?" Siu-ma asked quietly.

Hung thought for a moment. "I wouldn't put it past them. These people are highly organized and their lives are at stake. They're desperate to know how close the police are to catching them, so..."

The thought struck her like a lightning bolt.

"They're watching this warehouse!"

"Are you sure?" Siu-ma asked.

"They've got to be! They moved because they thought the police might show up. If I were in their position, I would be dying to know whether the police ever actually did turn up, so I would leave a spotter to report back!"

"There's a hooker and her pimp up the street!" Siu-ma said. "I saw them on the way in!"

"I saw her, too," Hung said. "But what's a prostitute doing in a section of town which is deserted?"

They looked at each other.

Hung headed for the door. "Let's approach them casually," she said. "If we start running at them from the beginning, they'll have too much of a head start."

"They're probably already gone," Siu-ma said. "Whether she's a spotter or a real prostitute, either way, she's gonna bolt the moment she sees a police car park next door."

He was right. There was no sign of them.

"They might be on foot," Hung said. "Come on!"

She ran to a police cruiser which was sitting idle with its door open. She flashed her badge at the confused-looking policeman standing next to it and snapped, "We need your car!" She and Siu-ma piled in, Siu-ma at the wheel, and they took off.

When they reached the corner, they looked around. Down the cross street, Siu-ma spotted two people disappearing around another corner about a hundred meters away. He wasn't sure if it was them, but there was no one else around, so he sped in that direction.

They reached the corner and saw them. It was indeed the man and woman who had been hanging around outside the warehouse. They were walking so fast that they were already about fifty meters further along. Despite the heat, the woman now wore a jacket. They were still in a largely deserted section of the city, although getting closer to a shopping district with every step.

"Drive casually," Hung said. "If we floor it, they'll know something's up."

Siu-ma did as she said. Hung rolled down the window. She drew her pistol but kept it out of sight. The man and woman were on her side of the street.

When they were thirty meters away, the woman glanced over her shoulder, saw the police car, and said something to the man. They whipped out pistols, spun, and opened fire.

As fast as lightning, Hung returned the favor. She winged the man on his upper right arm, and her swift reaction clearly surprised them. They hadn't been prepared for an officer whose gun was already drawn. They ducked into the doorway of a derelict building, protected somewhat by an alcove.

Siu-ma floored it and drove straight at them. Completely taken by surprise again, the man and woman leaped out of the alcove just before the car slammed into it. Airbags burst from the dashboard and steering wheel. Hung's airbag kicked the gun out of her hand; Siu-ma's airbag knocked his head back. Bricks flew everywhere. The man and woman sprawled on the sidewalk, on Siu-ma's side of the car. The woman's pistol skidded away from her and disappeared beneath the car.

The man hauled himself to his feet. Hung was out of the car in a flash, leaping onto the hood and aiming a kick at his head, but he dodged so quickly that it was only a partial blow. He went down, slightly dazed. But his reaction had been so fast that in that moment Hung realized he knew how to fight.

The woman did, too. She had no time to get her gun, so she rolled to her feet and executed a sweeping kick designed to take Hung's legs out from under her. Hung hopped onto the car's roof and the woman's kick went through empty air; Hung used the car's roof as a springboard to leap over the woman, flipping around as she did. The woman spun to meet her and the fight was on.

Siu-ma had been dazed by the air bag. He dimly saw Hung and the woman fighting, but he had trouble telling his body to do anything. He fought to clear his head.

Hung and her combatant spun, dodged, traded kicks and punches. The mysterious woman was good, there was no doubt about it. The fight slowly moved down the sidewalk, away from the car.

The man slowly climbed to his feet, regained his senses, and raised his gun, trying to get a clear shot at Hung.

Behind him, Siu-ma kicked open the car door. It slammed into the man and sent him back to the ground. His gun bounced into the street.

The man looked over his shoulder and saw Siu-ma sitting in the driver's seat aiming his gun at him. "Lie flat on the ground, arms spread wide," Siu-ma said.

The man could tell that Siu-ma was a little woozy, but he couldn't take a chance with a gun pointing at him at such short range. He did as Siu-ma instructed.

Siu-ma's head was still ringing and he knew he wouldn't be able to stand. Keeping his eyes on the man and holding the gun with one hand, he reached back with his other hand to grab the radio.

He couldn't find it. The hook which usually held the handset was empty. He figured the impact must have knocked it out.

It was already difficult enough to maneuver his hand blindly around the deflated air bag, and the world was still spinning a little, so Siu-ma had no choice but to give up on the radio for the moment. He clutched the gun with both hands. All he could do was contain the man and have faith that Hung would deal with the woman.

Hung was caught in the fight of her life. Neither opponent could get the upper hand.

The woman caught Hung's punch and swung her toward the building, but Hung put her feet up, walked along the building's wall, swung around behind the woman and put her in a headlock. They struggled like that for a few seconds. They were facing the car, so Hung could see Siu-ma holding the man prisoner.

At the sound of an engine roaring, Hung whipped her head around. A car sped up the street. With the way the driver seemed to be aiming straight for them, Hung realized that this must be the man and woman's ride come to pick them up.

Hung grit her teeth, now determined more than ever to keep ahold of the woman. She swung her around to face the car and use her as a shield, just as the driver thrust a gun out the window. Hung could see that the driver, a man, was alone. He didn't fire, and the car stopped a meter short of where they stood. Hung struggled to hold the woman while reaching into her own pocket.

Siu-ma started to call out to Hung, but because he was watching the car's arrival he had taken his eyes off the man. Still flat on the ground, the man lashed up and back with his right leg and kicked the gun from Siu-ma's hand, then took off.

"Behind you!" Siu-ma croaked.

Hung didn't even bother looking. Siu-ma's warning was all she needed. She struggled with the woman for a second more, then shoved her to one side. Before the driver could react, Hung jumped onto the car's hood, then onto its roof.

The driver, not expecting her to do that, fired wildly through the windscreen and then through the roof, but missed. Hung ran the length of the car and jumped off, still running, angled slightly away to be in the driver's blind spot as much as possible. She made it to a low brick wall adjoining the building and leaped over it. Bullets thudded into the wall as the driver blew out his own back windscreen.

The man and woman dove into the car. The driver pulled a tight U-turn and sped off.

Hung found herself lying on top of a homeless man.

"Get your own spot!" Peng complained.

Chapter 4 Chapter 6

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