Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Season One, Episode Fifteen: The Second Elder

Markus and Charlo' had to press themselves against the parked motorcycles as a small blue van squirmed through the alley.
‘What is it with your father?’ Charlo' asked.
A loud bang went off above their heads, on the second floor of the place they were passing. Charlo' ducked, but Markus stayed composed.
‘What the hell was that?’
‘Someone changing a gas bottle,’ Markus said.
The black BMW closed in but did not pass them.
‘Your father?’ she asked again.
Markus looked behind them.
‘What is it?’
‘The new BMW 5. No, let's go, now.’
He grabbed hold of her right arm and pulled her along, running out of the alley. Behind them, the doors of the car opened and three men in black shirts and dyed hair stepped out and ran after them.
One of the men produced a Beretta.
At the end of the alley, Markus turned left, dragging Charlo' with him. They heard the men shout. When they rounded the corner, a shot went off and planted itself in the rear window of the SUV they were just running by.
‘We'll never keep this up,’ Charlo' hissed as they scrambled into the next side alley, past parked motorcycles and a stand selling smelly stuff.
‘We have to,’ Markus hissed back.
Another bullet whizzed past their heads to end up lost somewhere with a clang.
An elderly man on a motorcycle ran into them as they veered left and the cyclist went right. The three pursuers appeared again, and this time the bullet missed Markus Bentley's left arm by an inch.
The next crossroads was easy to take. A noisy bustling street market on the right. Stands selling exotic foods in the center of the road, shoes and T-shirts spread out on plastic sheets on the sides. Markus pulled Charlo' over and together they dived into the crowd, jostling some of the onlookers and sightseers, but that was alright, they didn't seem to mind.
‘Keep your head low,’ he told her.
They kept bumping into people, but there was a system to it. The Taiwanese saw these two crazed foreigners come at them, they just gave way. Once that happened too late, when Charlo’ crashed into a young woman eating a squid on a stick, but she mumbled an apology as Markus pulled her away.
Once he felt they had created some distance, Markus dove into a dark gap between two shoe stores and ran hunched toward a metal box at the end. He crouched behind the box and told Charlo' to do the same.
They watched as almost a minute later, one of the pursuers in black passed by without looking at them. The two others followed just seconds behind, each on a different side of the road, no gun in sight.
Markus waited another five seconds, tapped his companion's shoulder, and off they went, further into the darkness until they reached another non-descript alley, the same motorcycles parked everywhere. Markus made sure there was no dark BMW looming around before he chose the direction.
‘Who were they?’ Charlo' asked.
‘I don't know, but I sure didn't want to wait for them to introduce themselves.’
‘Do you think Lassiter sent them?’
‘It's not important what I think. All I know is, we cannot go back to the Brother Hotel.’
‘Where are we heading then?’
Markus signaled her to keep silent. They reached the main road and hailed a cab, a yellow one like all the others. The cabbie didn't understand English but Markus knew the address in Chinese, or that's what Charlo' assumed anyway.
‘Are we going to look up the second elder?’ she asked as the car passed the last subway station and went uphill out of the urban jungle and into the green.
‘We're going to visit an old friend of mine.’
‘Is he as trustworthy as the last one?’
‘Stop questioning me. You get a free trip to Taiwan and all you do is moan.’
‘I didn't ask for this trip, remember. If I stay away too long, my job will be gone.’
The car turned into a dark tree-lined alley, where the houses stood away from the road, hidden from view behind walls topped with shards of glass. Markus waited until the cab had vanished from their sight before moving away. They had alighted in front of the third doorway in the alley, but Markus now crossed the road and marched deeper away from the main road.
‘What if there's nobody home?’ Charlo' asked.
‘We'll either have to scale the wall or spend the night in the bushes.’
‘You must be kidding. Aren't you? Are you?’
Markus checked the number on the next door. A shiny metal door set in a long wall which had once been white but now only showed off the humidity of the environment in black streaks all over.
There was a bell, no name. Markus rang, counted to six, and rang again.
‘Nobody home,’ Charlo' said.
Just when even Markus began to believe that, a light went on above the doorway.
A buzz and a click, and a youngish Taiwanese man with a crew cut stood grinning at them.
‘Hi, Trick,’ Markus said.
They didn't shake hands, but the Taiwanese man signaled them inside. Markus introduced Charlo' as a friend, and Trick gave her the same grin and the same silent welcome.
The trio walked across a dark grass lawn to reach a house that looked like something out of a fifties movie.
Inside, Charlo' had expected to find Chinese furniture and antiques, but instead all she saw were shag carpets, leather couches and garish plastic chairs, black-and-white pictures of Paris and London on the walls.
Trick offered them hot bitter tea in small green enamel cups.
Markus was the first to speak.
‘I want to show you this,’ he said as he produced the three elders out of his bag.
‘So you still hold on to the past,’ Trick said. ‘The furniture in this house is fifties, sixties, and seventies, but I'm a 21st century man. You should try it sometime, it feels a lot better.’
That was the longest time Trick had been speaking since they entered the house, Charlo' thought.
‘What else can I do for you?’ Trick asked.
‘Our hotel reservation has been canceled,’ Markus said, without irony.
‘My house is your house.’
He filled up their tea cups. A phone rang in an adjacent room, with a loud metallic sound like a dial model from decades ago. Trick walked off.
When he returned, the smile had vanished.
‘Someone in the States named Riot wants to have a word with you about your sister,’ Trick said.

NEXT: Markus Bentley talks to Riot in Episode Sixteen before February 23.

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