Protect and Survive
The city had transformed itself over the previous two decades, as China had embraced capitalism in a way that, to them, did not compromise their basic principles. Looking from his window in the gleaming office block, the grey haired man could see the Birds Nest stadium, the symbol of the Olympics that had promoted the new, Modern People’s Republic to the world.
The knock on the door broke his deep thoughts, and as he barked out “Enter” he returned to sit behind his desk. The door opened and a young man, smartly dressed in suit and tie, walked in. Closing the door, he marched up to the desk and stood to attention as the man stood up.
“You sent for me, Sir?” he said as he stared straight ahead.
“At ease, Captain,” the man said, “This is my business office, not the parade ground.”
“Sir!” The man placed his hands behind his back and, although still standing tall and straight, allowed himself to relax slightly. In the presence of such an august person as this, he could never be truly relaxed.
“I need you to form a squad of seven men for an assignment in Kowloon,” the older man said as he walked back to the window. “I have received word that one of my business interests there is under threat, and I wish that threat to be neutralised.”
The younger man said nothing.
“You will receive your orders as you leave. Pick your men and do whatever is necessary.”
“Sir – permission to speak freely?”
“Why are you asking me to do this? We have contacts in Hong Kong, and it means we do not fall under suspicion if we use them.”
The older man nodded. “Agreed – but for various reasons this has to be undertaken by somebody in my chain of command. It is imperative that the residents at your target are not left under suspicion. Do you understand, Captain?”
“I do not fully understand, Sir, but you have given a direct order. I do still question why us, however.”
The older man sat down. “Captain, how much do you know of my history?”
“Only what has been revealed, sir.”
“Then know this – the woman in charge at your target is my wife.”
The younger man looked at him. “Forgive me, Sir, I had been led to believe...”
“For good reason, Captain. The full details are in your briefing pack, but if you doubt my word ask her this when you talk to her – what happened the last time we met. She will be annoyed, and tell you so herself, but if you mention my name she will listen to you.”
“I understand, Sir.”
“Good.” The older man sat down and looked at some papers on his desk. “Dismissed, Captain – we will talk again upon your return to the warehouse.”
“Sir,” the man said as he snapped to attention, turned and marched to the door. As the door closed, the older man slowly shook his head. This younger generation still had a lot to learn about honour, about protection- but there was still time for Captain Chan.
Kowloon, Chinese New Year
“Are you all clear on your orders?”
The seven men nodded as Captain Chan looked at them. The black SUV they were in was parked across the road from the target, the high white wall encircling the house.
“All right – move out.”
Two of the men, dressed in fatigues, nodded as they climbed out and walked round the compound wall. After a short time, they made their way to the rear of the house and looked up at the high stone wall, before taking a grapple attached to a length of strong rope and throwing it up. As it caught the edge, it held firmly enough for them to climb up and position themselves on the top. A few more moments, and they had retrieved the rope and jumped down onto the verdant lawn on the other side.
A short time was all they needed to make their way to the rear entrance to the home, and slowly open the door. They could hear music and conversation in one of the rooms – a language neither knew, but guessed was English – but ignored that as they swiftly made their way to the kitchen area.
There were two young, dark haired women in the room, dressed in short black dresses and with white aprons fixed to the front. Both were busy preparing trays of food, so neither heard the men enter until one said “Don’t move” and pointed a small firearm straight at them.
All the tow maids could see were two men in fatigues and balaclavas, pointing guns at them and telling them not to move – so naturally, they thought of screaming. The gun pointed at them, however, gave them pause for thought and they slowly raised their hands.
As one kept his gun pointed at them, the other intruder stuffed two white dishcloths into their mouths as they placed their hands behind their heads. Nodding, he left his companion to guard the women as he left the house and opened the main doors in the wall, allowing the SUV to enter with the lights out. Stopping just outside the garage, the remaining men climbed out, balaclavas over their heads and armed to the teeth with rucksacks on their backs.
“How long did your mother say she would be?”
Bobbi crossed her long legs as she sat down opposite her two charges. Ehuang and Nuying were excited about the celebration, and at the same time upset their mother had to be in the office until later.
“Not much longer, she should be....” Ehuang started, but as the door was thrown open and an armed masked intruder forced their maids into the room, she fell silent and slowly stood.
“What the...” was all that Bobbi got to say before the room was filled with seven other men, armed with guns and rifles and encircling the five women. Captain Chan stepped forward.
“You will all be silent, and you will all do exactly as we tell you. All of you, on your knees, hands behind your heads, and heads bowed, NOW!!”
Bobbi clenched her fists and started to come forward, only to be stopped by a rifle pointing at her face and a masked man looking at her in a way that said to stop right there. She slowly lowered herself to her knees, as Ehuang and Nuying were forced to kneel next to her.
“Secure the domestics,” Captain Chan ordered, and the three watched as long lengths of rope were draped over the shoulders of the maids and swiftly pulled around their arms, forcing them to go behind their backs as their wrists were secured together. It only took five minutes, but their arms were finally secured tightly to their sides by rope around their chest. Both were scared, wide eyed over the cloths that filled their mouths, as they were forced to their feet.
“You two – take them and make sure they cannot interfere,” Chan shouted, and the two maids were forced out of the room by two of the intruders. “You – disable the alarms and telephone systems. We will deal with these ladies.”
The four men that were left kept their guns trained on the three women kneeling on the floor, sweat starting to form on their brows, as Captain Chan looked at them.
“All right – we need to keep this room pure. Keep your heads down – give me the white rope.”
Bobbi went to raise her head, but was stopped as the muzzle of a rifle was placed against it. She glanced over to see the same been done to the other two girls, and realised she was not going to get a chance to help them. Captain Chan walked behind her with a length of rope in his hands.
“Place your hands behind your back and do not move a single muscle,” he snarled into Bobbi’s ear. Reluctantly, she moved her hands behind her back, and winced as the rope cut into the bare skin of her wrists, securing them tightly behind her back as the length was passed around and between them.
As he tied off the knot, the two intruders who had taken the maids out of the room came back. Captain Chan looked up at them.
“The domestic staff?”
“Secured in the cellar – what of these three?”
“Take the Westerner out of the room – we need to deal with these two personally.”
The man who had placed his rifle against Bobbi’s head took the young blonde haired woman by the arm and forced her to her feet, nodding to one of the arrivals as he did so. They frog marched Bobbi out of the room, as she took a last look at her two charges kneeling on the floor.
“What are you going to do with me?” she said as she was taken into the kitchen.
“You were told to be quiet,” the man next to her said as he spun her round to face him. “I see we will have to make sure you cannot call out.”
She saw him nod, and then gasped as he punched her in the stomach. Before she had a chance to recover, a thick white cloth was pulled into her mouth, stifling her cries as the ends were pulled tightly behind the back of her head and tied together. Fighting to catch her breath, she saw a long length of white rope unravelled and offered no resistance as it was passed around her arms and chest to bind the upper half of her body securely.
“We’ll finish this off in the transport,” she heard one of them say as she was forced to leave the house, and suddenly she had a realisation that perhaps this was not an ordinary robbery. She saw one of the masked men looking at her, and blanched as he said “You have interfered for the last time, agent – lie down in the back of the transport.”
Time passed, how long she wasn’t sure, until Bobbi heard a commotion outside, and the side of the van was opened to reveal the mother of her charges, surrounded by three armed men and looking at her. She looked up, pleading with her eyes as the older women shook free of the grasp the two men had on her and angrily confronted the leader, exchanging words in Chinese before she was led back into the house. She looked round, trying to find some give in her bindings, until the side of the van opened and one of the intruders climbed in, sitting down and watching her all the time.
Euhang looked up and saw her mother coming into the room, followed by the intruders. She noticed the man who had been guarding her stand up and wait as her mother and the leader of the gang talked, wondering what was going on. From earlier conversations, she had feared that she and her sister were destined for a ransom demand, or worse, but as she watched she realised that the man leading this gang was been deferential, respectful to her mother – a fact she found hard to reconcile.
When he mentioned The General, she was surprised to see the colour drain momentarily from her face, before she managed to regain her composure. She turned, reassuring Euhang that everything would be all right, and watched as her mother went with the leader to another room.
Nuying could also hear some snippets of the conversation from the room where she was lying, an armed guard posted at her door as well. Her arms were starting to ache from being held so tightly together, her forearms almost one with the tightness of the ropes, but she dared not move. Not even when she heard the smashing of glasses and raised voices in the room, and the sound of armed men running to some sort of emergency. The man at her door stood firm as she heard more raised voices. And she let a muffled groan out through her cloth filled mouth...
Captain Chan stared at Wei Xiu as she glared back, her scarf working loose from her shoulders as two of the gang held her firmly. “I will teach you some respect,” one of the men said as he let go and pointed his rifle at her, but the Captain raised his hand.
“There will be no need – she understands that if she tries anything like that again, it will be her daughters that are taken, and not just her valuables. Place her in that chair, secure her and silence her while we empty the safe.”
Wei Xiu was forced to sit back down in the chair she he been in earlier, and stayed still as rope was used to lash her arms behind the back of the chair, and her upper body securely to the woodwork. The silk of her dress constricted over her chest as the ropes were pulled tighter and tighter, threatening to give way at the fastenings, but they held firm. She offered no resistance as her legs were secured to the chair, but instead watched as the contents of her safe were stuffed into the bags the gang had carried in.
“Take the bags to the vehicle –we move in five,” the captain ordered as the two gang members grabbed the holdalls and made their way out. Kneeling beside the bound woman, Captain Chan said “Can I take any message to The General for you?”
“Tell him his daughters are well, and he should be proud,” she whispered as she saw two more gang members appear in the doorway. Chan stood up and nodded in salute, before turning and saying “Final check on captives and then move out. Forgive me, dear lady,” were his parting words as he removed the red scarf from Wei Xiu’s shoulders and stuffed it into her mouth, the edges sticking out as he turned off the light and took his leave.
Climbing into the SUV, he sat and looked at Bobbi as the vehicle slowly made its way back onto the main road. “So, my dear lady,” he said as the various men removed their balaclavas, “We have been asked to take you to meet a very important person. I hope you don’t mind – and even if you do, it will be too late. Men?”
The last thing Bobbi saw was the smile on the captain’s face before a black hood was pulled over her head, a cord secured around her neck to prevent her shaking it off.
The sounds of celebration in the street outside continued to come through to the quiet house, as Euhang tried to find some give in the ropes that held her in placer, the pain from the way it pulled on her pigtail steadily growing, She called out in frustration more than anything, hoping she could get someone to hear.
The real route of freedom, however, was becoming clearer in the cellar, as the two maids sat back to back, taking turns to work on the knots in hr small of their backs that held their arms and wrists in place. Ropes had been wound round their legs and ankles, but that was not their primary concern – their first objective was to get free, so that they could free their mistress and her daughters.
Eventually, they managed to free their arms and pulled the soaked cloths out of their mouths, before starting work on their legs and making their way back up to the house.
Several hours later, Wei Xiu was sat with her daughters, describing the attack to the Hong Kong police as their forensics team carefully looked for clues.
“From your description,” the detective said as he closed his notebook, “It sounds as if you have been targeted by a Triad gang. We’ll do what we can, and we’ll leave some protection with you for the time being.” He stood up and bowed to the three women before turning his attention to the other teams.
“Mother?” Euhang said quietly when no-one was looking, “Who is The General?”
“I will explain all later, girls,” she said as she saw the chauffer come in. “For now, we will go and rest elsewhere.”
“And Bobbi- what have they done with her?” Nuying asked with a shiver as she stood up.
“Honestly, child, I have no idea where they have taken her. Do not worry – I am sure she will be found soon.” Taking her daughters by the arm, she nodded to the police teams as they followed her chauffer to the waiting car.
The Outskirts of Beijing, two days later
Bobbi blinked as the hood was finally removed and she found herself in a barn, armed guards around the room and her captor standing there. He was now wearing a dark business suit, with a white shirt and tie, and looking at the strawberry blonde as her bonds were removed.
“Where am I?” she said as the white cloth was taken from her mouth and dropped on the floor. “You do realise kidnapping is an offence, even here?”
“Quiet, women,” Captain Chan said as two women in long dresses took Bobbi firmly by the arms. “My superior wishes to speak to you and you will answer his questions.”
“My name is....”
“We know who you are, Special Agent Rivers,” she hard an elderly voice say behind her, and she was forced to turn to face a grey haired man looking at her. Behind him was a tall, dark skinned man, broad shouldered but wearing a tailored suit that hid the muscle on him well. “We will talk later – please, make her uncomfortable.”
As she was dragged off, Bobbi turned and watched as the older man and his companion walked over to Chan. “Debrief time, Captain – please come with us.”
“General, may I ask?”
“Of course. Captain Chan, this is Mister George N’Galo, the chief executive of the European offices of Objects of Beauty.”
Captain Chan stood to attention and bowed at the visitor, who bowed in return. “Forgive me, Sir,” he said, “But I have never had the pleasure.”
“It is no problem,” George said as he took a seat in the room. “The General was courteous enough to make us aware of the situation, so my superiors asked me to stop off on a planned trip to ensure everything was taken care of.”
“So Captain - tell me what happened,” the General said as he took a seat. “Please, take a seat and begin.”
It took some time to give the full details, the General nodding until Captain Chan delivered the message from his wife.
“I am proud of them,” he said as he nodded and wiped a tear. “It broke my heart to leave them all those years ago, but it was necessary.”
“General – if I may ask, why the way you were brought back?”
“Necessary to maintain the secrecy of who was funding us at the time – let us just say certain highly placed people needed to be protected. Both Wei Xiu and I were agents of the state at the time, and those links had to be kept secret. You have done well Captain – you will be suitable rewarded.”
“Thank you, General – and the items we took?”
“Will be recovered by the Hong Kong police in due time.” The General stood up and walked round, offering his hand to Chan which was accepted in a firm grasp. “Thank you, Captain – you may retire to your quarters now.”
“General, Mister N’Galo,” Chan said with a bow to each of them before turning and marching out of the room.
“A good man, George,” The General said as the door closed, “I commend him to you when the time comes for me to retire.”
“I will bear that in mind,” George said with a smile, “Now, about this agent?”
“Ah yes – come with me,” was the reply as The General opened the door to his visitor. “I think you will find this most interesting. As you know, this facility was once a water mill owned by The People – well, we have retained some of the features of that operation, and put them to effective use. Observe.”
They made their way down to a door at the end of a corridor, which was opened for them by an armed guard. Inside was a large room, at side of which was a water wheel of the type used to drive the mill in olden days. Attached to the top of the wheel was Bobbi, who had been forced to strip to her bra and panties before she was made to lie on the wooden slats. Her wrists were pulled above her head, tied together and secured to a slat in the wheel, while her ankles had been crossed and secure din the opposite direction. Further lengths held her body against the slats in the wheel, while a white cloth had been stuffed into her mouth.
“Remove the gag,” The General ordered, and one of the exquisitely clad women who were standing guard removed the cloth from her mouth. “My agency will be looking for me,” she called out, “They will send more agents; you’ll never get away with this violation of US law.”
“Agent Rivers, please show me a little of your obvious intelligence – you will answer my questions and enjoy some pleasure, or else...”
“Or else what?”
“Or else you will suffer discomfort and then answer my questions. Which will it be? You can start by telling me what you know already.”
“Go to hell.”
“As you wish.” Nodding to the woman, The General watched as the cloth was stuffed back into Bobbi’s mouth, while the other woman touched a panel on a desk. Bobbi looked up in horror as a panel in the ceiling above and just in front of her slowly started to slide back, and a trickle of water started to fall through the gap onto the wheel.
“Do scream when you are ready to talk,” The General said as he and George left Bobbi with the two women and the steadily growing fall of water, which started to move the wheel slowly round.