Delicate Touch

Chapter 9

Sue carefully arranged the flowers until they were perfect, then laid a small blanket on the grass and sat down. She set the video camera on the polished marble, beside the flowers, and pressed "Record." It was a beautiful sunny day, and the grave marker was warm. She had the entire cemetery to herself.

"Yen's in America for a week, meeting with his editors," she said, and took a swig from a bottle of water. "So I've been helping Lynn look for a house. Of course, I already found one for them, but they said it was too old. I said it has character. Lynn said it was a crumbling piece of crap. They want something modern, so I told her to just get our old house fixed up. But she says she has too many bad memories there." She pulled an apple from her purse. "I guess I can't blame her."

Sue munched on the apple for a few moments. She often imagined her parents smiling in response, even replying to her. She liked to think she knew what they would say.

Lynn didn't visit their graves very often; she felt there was nothing there but physical remains and a stone with names, nothing with any real meaning. But Sue always felt comfortable here. She could tell her parents anything, like a free therapy session.

"Today's the one-month anniversary of moving in with Hung," she said. "It's mostly been pretty smooth. I've got Hung on these special herbal cigarettes to help her kick the habit. We haven't had a real argument about that yet, but it's coming. Except for the cigarettes, I think we're okay. It's just...I don't know...Hung isn't a very emotional person. Or maybe she is, but she thinks showing it is a weakness. There's a side of her that's afraid of letting emotion show, or she's embarrassed by it. It definitely makes her feel uncomfortable. And because of that, I'm so afraid to show my own emotions around her. I don't want to say or do anything sweet or sentimental, because I'm scared she'll feel contempt for me and push me away." She sighed. "I guess when you become so close to someone who's that scared of emotion, you have to hold them with a delicate touch." Sue paused for a moment, then said quietly, "She hasn't actually said, 'I love you,' yet. I think she's afraid to. I really wish she would."

The gun barrel touched the back of her neck.

A woman's voice. "If you don't want to join your parents, honey, you'll stand up slowly and do exactly as I say."

Two men stepped into view about 10 meters away, both holding pistols.

Sue carefully set down the half-eaten apple and slowly stood up. "Mugging people in a cemetery," she said. "That's new."

"We're not mugging you, sweetheart," the woman said. "You're coming with-"

Sue pushed with her right foot and jumped left. The woman fired, but Sue had moved like lightning. Sue felt the heat of the gun blast, and knew she'd been faster by the tiniest fraction of a second.

Sue ran, weaving an erratic path among the headstones.

The men hadn't actually expected her to do anything but comply, so they were caught a little off guard.

"Get her!" the woman roared.

Sue ran along a row of headstones, trying to balance the need for speed with the need to keep her head down. One of the men chasing her blundered across her path, almost running into her. Sue and the man were equally surprised.

Sue kicked, but the man parried and kicked back. Sue went flying, rolled with the landing and sprang up instantly to meet the man again, who had closed with her. They spun and traded punches. Sue knew she had only seconds, for the other two wouldn't be far away.

Sue was between two headstones when the man went low and tried to kick her legs out from under her. She leaped straight up while doing the splits, planted one foot on each headstone to hold her in position, and punched the man squarely in the face, for his own maneuver had left him vulnerable. He stumbled backwards.

Something struck Sue hard on the back of the head. She fell to the ground, out cold.

Mu Jing stood over Sue, breathing hard, glaring at Chang. "That was sloppy!" she barked at him.

"Yeah?" he shot back. "And whose fault is that?"

Alex joined them.

"Get her into the van!" Mu Jing said. "We've already been here too long."

The men picked Sue up. Mu Jing ran to collect Sue's belongings, looking around to double- and triple-check that there were no witnesses. Satisfied, she joined the others.

They piled into the van and drove away.


Hung looked at all the computer equipment and sighed. For the hundredth time, she wondered if there was an easier configuration, or somewhere more convenient to put it, and for the hundredth time, she knew there wasn't. As the days went by, it was becoming increasingly apparent that her apartment was too small for the two of them.

Hung didn't want to move. Her relationship with Sue was great, but she also liked her apartment, and its view over the park.

There was a knock at the door. Hung opened it to find a little boy holding Sue's video camera with a note attached to it with a rubber band.

"A lady gave me ten dollars to come up here and give this to you," the boy said.

Hung smiled. This was obviously one of Sue's fun ideas. She was always doing quirky things like this. The camera would no doubt have a message which was the first step in a small, romantic scavenger hunt, or perhaps a video of Sue wearing that lingerie they had picked out last week.

Hung thanked the boy and he left.

The note contained only an address. Hung turned the camera on and played the latest message.

Mu Jing stared at her from the screen.

"Hey, police bitch," Mu Jing said conversationally. The view swiveled around to show Sue sitting on a chair, tied up, looking miserable. "You wanna see your girlfriend again?" The view spun back to show Mu Jing. "Huh? If you do, show up at the attached address at nine tonight. Be on time, be alone, be unarmed. If you're even a second late, or if I see even the tiniest sign of treachery, I'll gut your girlfriend. And if you think I won't, just remember you pigs killed my brother, and I got nothing to live for except his memory. I am not afraid to die, and I will take her with me if you don't do exactly as I say!"

The video ended.

Hung stood completely still, stunned for one of the few times in her life. She had faced bad situations before, but never with the threat of death for someone so close to her.

She believed Mu Jing completely. She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that if she didn't keep the rendezvous, alone, Sue would die.

Hung walked back to her desk, picked up her phone, and dialed.

Chapter 8 Chapter 10

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