Chapter 8 – No Money
Li Yiming and Qing Qiaoqiao looked at the Maserati parked in front of Hanzhou’s Golden Shine Nightclub. “There’s no mistake, he’s in there.”
The city’s sophisticated surveillance network finally proved its usefulness. After Li Yiming provided the license plate number, it took Eyeglasses less than five minutes to find the exact location of the vehicle.
“Oh yeah, did you bring any money?” As they were about to enter the building, Li Yiming suddenly asked. ‘She’s driving a Land Rover, I’d bet on her having at least some cash…’
“Y-, Yes…” Qing Qiaoqiao was not quite sure how to answer.
“Do you have enough?” Li Yiming asked once again to confirm.
“A few thousand yuan in cash…, And a few hundred thousand in my debit card… Why?”
“Nothing…” Li Yiming sighed. ‘As expected, she’s loaded.’
* * *
Following behind his butler, Guo Tai arrived into the living room in his pyjamas with a concerned look. “Mr. Guo.” Eyeglasses and Qing Linglong stood up from their seats.
“National Security?” Guo Tai was expressionless.
Eyeglasses did not bother with an introduction and directly gave Guo Tai his ID. The latter handed it to his butler without even looking at it. The butler, by now, had recovered his composure, and, after a slight bow, turned away and left to verify its authenticity.
“What are you here for?” Guo Tai sat down in the host’s seat with a condescending air.
“Mr. Guo, surely you have heard the news about the assassination of your subordinate, Mr. Wang Jianjun recently, have you not?” Qing Linglong spoke out instead of Eyeglasses. The latter sufficed for the task of silent intimidation, but his indigent temperament put him at a disadvantage in a face-to-face negotiation.
“I’ve heard about it. So what? Any progress?” Guo Tai’s impassivity remained unbroken.
“We’ve narrowed it down to a prime suspect.”
“The culprit is called Zhang Qiang. A man of Chinese descent with no nationality. He served in the U.S. Navy SEALs, and joined international mercenary organizations after his retirement. He’s a bloodthirsty person, both cruel and immoral. As long as he’s paid, he’ll do anything. We have enough evidence suggesting that he’s been part of many incidents, even civilian massacres. Our current estimates show that at least 152 people have fallen victim to him, including women and children…” Qing Linglong’s confidence dwindled as she regurgitated the information Eyeglasses had prepared.
“What does this have to do with me?” Guo Tai’s brows furrowed into a slight frown, and he asked with more doubt.
“There’s enough evidence to show that you will be his next target.”
“Ah?” Guo Tai’s countenance finally changed. “What evidence?”
“As of right now, there have been 132 victims related to the viaduct collapse. Zhang Qiang’s adopted daughter is one of them.”
Guo Tai kept silent with a frown. The butler returned just in time with four imposing-looking men behind him, most likely bodyguards. He gave the identity pieces back to Eyeglasses and nodded at his master.
* * *
Inside the corridors of the nightclub, Li Yiming stared back at Qing Qiaoqiao with a bizarre look. “So you asked, and he told you. Just like that?”
“How else?” Qing Qiaoqiao answered nonchalantly.
Just a moment ago Li Yiming considered the difficulty of finding Guo Xiang in a nightclub with several hundreds of private rooms and three big halls with dance floors a nearly impossible task. Then, he saw Qing Qiaoqiao approach a head waiter, smile at him and ask, “Can you tell me where Mr. Guo, Guo Xiang is?”
“Second table in the Windy Flowers and Snowy Moon Hall,” answered the waiter politely.
‘What? This is the Golden Shine! There’s no way a customer’s privacy can be breached just like that! How did this guy even get his job?’ Li Yiming was shocked.
“If he’s that rich, why would he want to stay in a hall?” Qing Qiaoqiao pushed on the button in the elevator and arranged her hair using the mirror on the walls of the compartment. ‘Things will get troublesome in such an open place…’
“He’s a rich second generation, and he wants to show it… How can a little private room satisfy his desire to flaunt?”
* * *
“Why did he kill Wang Jianjun?” Guo Tai’s question was clever. First, he avoided all mention of himself, thus lowering the risks of being dragged into the affair. At the same time, he would be able to get the information he wanted.
“The collapse of Highway 208 this afternoon resulted in 104 deaths and counting. Zhang Qiang’s only adopted daughter is one of them.”
“Highway 208 was indeed our project, but the results of the investigation from the governmental bodies aren’t out yet, are they?”
“If Zhang Qiang was someone who cared about obeying the law, his hands wouldn’t be stained with the blood of 152 civilians…” Qing Linglong looked at Guo Tai suggestively.
“And you are here for…”
“We are here to protect you, Mr. Guo. This is the superintending officer for this operation, vice-commissioner Wang, Ms. Wang Xue.” Qing Linglong pointed at Grandma Wang, who sat still like a monk in a deep meditative trance. The latter traded her shawl for a marine blue suit, which, when taken together with her air of coldness, made her appear just the way one would expect from the head of a secret agency.
“The protection of citizens can be carried out by the police…” Guo Tai was still wary of his visitors.
“Of course, you have the right to refuse to cooperate with us and invite the local police instead, in which case we will do all we can to assist them. However, I’d like to respectfully remind you that Zhang Qiang is one of the most dangerous assassins in the entire world.”
“Please allow me a moment to consider this. Butler, tea.” answered Guo Tai as he headed for his office.
* * *
The moment the two pushed open the door to the hall, an odor blending the smells of tobacco, alcohol, and sweat reached their nostrils. Qing Qiaoqiao frowned and said, “Paying to torture yourself.”
“A brief moment of respite from all worries…” Li Yiming was quite used to the scene, since he often worked part-time in such places when he was a student. However, he has never visited such a high-grade venue before.
It was 1:30 AM, and the dance floor was almost empty. The people typically out for fun were already home, and those who lingered sat down in their seats, either looking to spend the entire night in insobriety or for some other untold purpose. As soon as the two walked into the hall, they saw Guo Xiang right in its center. He was installed in the biggest compartment of the hall with a group of friends. Instead of going close, Li Yiming led Qing Qiaoqiao to a dark corner and sat down.
“Would you like something to drink?” A waitress wearing mini-shorts greeted them, threw a glance at Qing Qiaoqiao and then stared at Li Yiming rather suggestively. She thought his intentions to be quite evident with a female companion at this time.
“Tequila Pop.” Li Yiming was about to answer that he does not drink when he suddenly remembered the wise words once again, “A man who does not drink…” He read the name of the first item on the recommendation list.
‘Tequila Pop huh. A nice drink, but isn’t this just soft drink with tequila? Sure, it looks nice when you shake it and the bubbles come out, but the taste…’
“Martini.” Qing Qiaoqiao said without paying much attention.
The waitress noted down the order and, instead of leaving, she looked back at Li Yiming with a smile. Li Yiming himself looked at Qing Qiaoqiao with a smile of his own… The latter stared back at him with a polite smile as well…
“Wait, what?” Qing Qiaoqiao finally noticed the oddity of the situation after half a minute.
“You need to pay first in the hall…” Li Yiming uttered with some frustration.
“Why aren’t you paying?”
‘Oh, so that’s why he asked me earlier. But a guardian without money…?’ Qing Qiaoqiao found it very strange… The waitress looked at Li Yiming with disdain… While the man himself raised his head and admired the flashing lights… ‘Flash, flash, O how pretty you are…’
* * *
In his office, Guo Tai called his father’s assigned serviceman1. The confirmation came quickly. ‘Shit, that damned Wang Jiang Jun… Fortunately, my father is going to send a four-man squad of spec ops staff to protect me. Let’s just hope that they arrive on time tomorrow afternoon.
Guo Tai returned to the living room with a grave expression and ignored Eyeglasses and Qing Linglong. Instead, he went to Grandma Wang directly: he was used to talking to people of equal ranks. Based on the information he had received, she was the vice-commissioner of the secret service department in the Ministry of State Security, and she was the one who oversaw all counter-terrorist operations in the country… If someone like her was here, there had to be some kind of complication.
“Commissioner Wang2, I have some money, that’s correct, but I wouldn’t think that I’d deserve personal protection from someone like you, would I?”
Grandma Wang cursed Eyeglasses inwardly, ‘Why did you give me such a high rank? How am I supposed to answer him now?’
Eyeglasses took out his cellphone and pretended to be busy. Meanwhile, behind the lenses of Grandma Wang’s glasses, a line of text small enough so that only she could see appeared.
After a short while, Grandma Wang answered, “I wouldn’t want to lie to you, Mr. Guo. Zhang Qiang is a wanted fugitive internationally. I’m sure that you have just verified the veracity of this claim. But there’s also something particular about him: he doesn’t operate within the country. This time, it’s more of a personal grudge…” Grandma Wang paused and looked at Guo Tai, “Zhang Qiang has stolen valuable military intelligence from a certain country on the behalf of an unknown organization two months ago… I cannot say more, it’s classified.”
“You’re using me as bait?”
“Of course, and it’s also part of our duty to ensure your personal safety, Mr. Guo,” answered Grandma Wang with a rare smile. If she concocted a too well-intentioned pretext, Guo Tai, conversely, would have a hard time believing her.
“Just the three of you?”
Grandma Wang smiled back at him.
“I consent to your staying here. But I need to contact the police right away.”
“Of course, power comes in numbers.”
Guo Tai beckoned to his butler and whispered a few words into his ear. The latter nodded repeatedly and strode away.
Grandma Wang turned her head and signaled to Eyeglasses. The latter rose from his seat and said, “Can we get some help with the equipment?”
The two cocktails, whose names Li Yiming thought of as being very flashy, were quickly served. Li Yiming took a light sip and shuddered as the taste reminded him of the legendary Chinese Medicine drink Laoshan Snake Herb Water, and he resolved to not drink a single drop more tonight. 3
Qing Qiaoqiao gulped down a mouthful of her martini and said, “Most loved by Xing Ye.” 4
‘Pffft, the debaucheries of wealth.’ Li Yiming uttered. He turned his head towards the table where Guo Xiang sat, and, to his surprise, he saw Ji Xiaoqin there. She had on a simple vest, her coat nowhere to be seen, and leaned against a man she did not know with her eyes closed. Her skirt had been rolled up to her waist, but she seemed too intoxicated to be able to notice it. Guo Xiang sat nearby, with another luscious girl hanging against him, and looked at the scene coldly, without doing anything.
Li Yiming’s heart was stung by the scene. He forcefully repressed his urge to rush to Ji Xiaoqin and clenched his hands into shaking fists. His reaction surprised Qiaoqiao, she threw a glance at Guo Xiang, and back at Li Yiming. ‘Does he hate rich people? Is that why he’s not carrying any money with him?’