Friday, March 13, 2009

Season One, Episode Eighteen: The Tile

Markus dropped the knife as his hands were shaking.
‘What’s the matter with you? You want me to continue?’ Charlo’ asked.
‘Just remain silent and watch out for any intruders.’
Charlo’ pursed her lips and turned her back to Bentley.
He doubled his effort, hacking and chipping away at the cement. The tile was coming loose. When Charlo’ heard him stop, she turned around again to watch him rip the tile off the wall. There was a narrow vertical empty space behind it. Or not so empty after all. A reddish, dusty pouch was stuffed inside.
Markus opened it and a key fell into his hands.
‘This is what you came all the way to Macau for?’ Charlo’ asked.
A door creaked below. He put the key in his pocket and pushed the pouch back into the hole in the wall, forcing the tile back in place. Nobody taking more than a cursory glance would be fooled.
‘Let’s go to the back,’ he said, pulling her by the arm.
‘Maybe it’s just the man in the white underwear returning home from the shop,’ she said.
‘Don’t count on it.’
Markus pulled her away, out of the hall, through the back window, on to a rusty emergency stairway stacked full with carton boxes and plastic kid bikes. When Markus found out his shoes made a loud clanging sound on the metal floor, he ditched them.
‘At least, I’ll be quicker through the airport security checks,’ he said.
Charlo’ wasn’t laughing. She was panting. They were just about to pass one window when they saw movement inside. Markus pressed her against the wall to keep her out of view. It worked. They ran and jumped all the way down to the street level.
‘Stick close to the wall,’ he whispered at her as they ran down the street.
A man shouted something short in Cantonese from one of the highest floors. Markus didn’t look back but pulled Charlo’ along with her.
Back on main street, they plunged into the crowds of tourists without apologizing for the bumps and elbows. On the nearest street, they jumped in front of a cab and prevented an old Chinese lady from taking it.
‘To the airport,’ Markus ordered.

Camry watched a news report on TV about a man found dead at a restaurant. He made sure the machine was recording the footage.
‘How much?’ he asked to the man sitting in the couch behind him. ‘A three or a four?’
‘Out of ten?’
‘If I get away with it, it’s a five.’
The cell phone on the coffee table buzzed.
‘So the question is not whether they’re coming back, but what are they bringing back with them?’ Camry asked.
He changed channels when the news about the dead man ended.
‘So they’re still on the wrong track.’
Camry grinned.
‘They don’t have a clue.’

Not wearing any shoes had not speeded up the airport checks. Instead, the Macau customs wanted to check passenger Markus Bentley’s breath for alcohol. They did, and he passed with flying colors.
‘It’s been nice flying out with you. I’ve never traveled around the world with a stranger before. So my mom was right,’ Charlo’ said.
‘About what?’
‘Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere.’
He ordered a glass of white wine.
‘So what’s the key for?’ she asked.
He first drank half the glass.
‘There is a place back home where I need to go to, and there I will find the next step.’
‘So you will again wait to tell me what’s going on until after we get there,’ she said.
She took the glass of wine out of his hands and emptied it.
‘I don’t know myself what I will find there. All I know is the location, not what I’ll find there.’
‘Shouldn’t that be ‘what we’ll find there’ or are you going to dump me as soon as we arrive?’
‘I thought you would want to take a rest after all the emotion of our trip.’
She surfed through the movie channels.
‘You saw for yourself that I’m working on a dangerous task,’ he said.
‘Even in Taiwan and in Macau, people are hunting you. Wouldn’t it be safer to stay away, travel to Europe or to some other place where they don’t know you? Retire to some Greek island like the woman in The Bourne Identity?’
‘They’ll find me anywhere.’
‘Because you killed the man by the pool?’
‘Because they killed my sister and now they want to kill me.’
Charlo’ settled on a movie showing a bunch of white men traveling through India by train.
‘I want to know where you came from,’ she said without her eyes leaving the screen. ‘What do you want?’
‘Marzipan and a good life, and right now I’m short of both.’
She grinned.
‘Don’t tell me stories, I’m not a kid waiting to sleep.’
‘You want to know what I want. It’s been pretty obvious from the start. I want to avenge my sister, because she was the only one I had left. My father died years ago in Taiwan, my mother is long gone, so I was raised by nannies.’
‘How far are you prepared to go?’
‘All the way. I still have to find the guy who gave me my sister’s objects, and the guy who brought me the laptop.’
‘What laptop?’
‘Before the Riot guy showed up, there was another one, who just dumped a laptop at my front door. It had a recording of my sister’s murder.’
‘Gross. Sound and pictures? What did he tell you?’
‘He just dumped the computer and left, never said a word, I never got a chance to talk to him.’
‘Are you sure you’re not being manipulated?’ Charlo’ asked.
‘Everything was real. My sister’s death. I tried to call her. The guard I interviewed.’
‘While you had me staying outside.’
‘Was rather convincing,’ Markus finished his sentence.
‘Can we have another one?’ Charlo’ pointed out the empty wine glass to a passing flight attendant.

Camry was overlooking a swimming pool. The professor was leaning over the water with a vial in his hand, while a naked man was standing in the pool with his back toward them, the water up to his shoulders.
‘How long is he staying in there before we see something happen?’ Camry asked the professor.
‘I would expect results within half an hour.’
‘Make him walk around in the pool,’ Camry told the professor, as if the man in the water couldn’t hear him.

NEXT: Markus Bentley is welcomed by an unpleasant surprise in Episode Nineteen before March 31.

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