Opium Warfare (An Asian Noir)

By Justin Bienvenue (@JustinBienvenue)

Thriller, Historical fiction, Crime & mystery, True crime

Paperback, eBook

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1214
2 mins

Chapter 1 - Reminiscence

As a boy, I remember my father telling me a bedtime story about the day my grandfather was decapitated. Sure, it seems like an odd tale to tell a young boy, but I was strong and my father knew I could handle it. He told me because he wanted me to know about our family, where we came from, the struggles we overcame and that started with my grandfather, who was in the fur trade like his father. Business boomed, but only because he made a deal with another man to help him with the money. When business got bad, the money decreased and when my grandfather couldn’t pay his debt, he couldn’t pay the man back, and it was in that moment that things changed forever. My father always said he knew not of the details of what happened entirely, but knew my grandfather got his head taken off because he could not pay the man back. He also told me there was a myth behind the cruel act, but swore to tell me when I got older. He never did after all. I always suspected it being due to something along the lines of my grandfather’s head rolling down the top of a hill of the opium fields where he was killed…I always liked to mix my imagination together with the rumours.

Of course, I’d like to tell you that it was a different time and some things should stay in the past, but sometimes you can’t control what may carry over into the present. It was 1885 when my grandfather was killed, that was thirty-five years ago. My father is now the same age my grandfather was when he was killed. I mention this because, well, I can’t help it. I know he doesn’t have a target on his head, nor does he carry my grandfather’s blood money, but I cannot shake that feeling of dread. I guess in some ways my childhood memories have finally caught up to me and how I should have been scared back then, I am now. One memory I have as a child was an incident where I fell into the Huangpu River after climbing a tree in the park. When I came out, I had a fish in my pants. My father and Liu thought it was hilarious, but I didn’t and I still don’t. Sometimes they still tell that story to people and burst out laughing every time, but I still don’t find it funny. I mean, I was just a kid and that fish was creepy looking…and in my pants! Anyways, the city of Shanghai had come a long way since its dark days, but in a lot of ways, it was no different than it was then. It still had its crime right out in the open as any city does, but this also meant that if you were a kid scampering through the streets to run an errand for your dear mother, you’d better take the back streets wherever possible. I have been fortunate in both cases; for I grew up when it was safe to walk the streets and I have no child to fear for not making it back home. For the time being, the Tsang family tree ended with me.

Lately, things seemed strange within the community. Something just seemed off about the general public. There was no efficiency when it came to coming together or exchanging friendly greetings and gestures. Always in a hurry, or keeping to themselves in such a way that you thought maybe they all had deaths in their families and wished not to speak with anyone because of shock. Obviously, this wasn’t the case, but I just couldn’t understand it; me being a vibrant young man who kept to himself, I was curious and knew all too well how things could change out of nowhere. There has been small talk of something going on within the community as the cause of for its silent shake up, but I, for the life of me, could not figure out what that was or whether or not it was true. I first became suspicious of the town’s activity after a day at the local market. Two men in business suits outside the market on a Wednesday just seemed a bit off. I would have looked the other way and carried on if it weren’t for their suspicious demeanor. One guy seemed skittish. He stood about 5'10'' with a slender frame, slicked back black hair in a ponytail. On his side, he carried what appeared to be a weapon of some sort. I assumed it to be a gun at first, though, it may have been a small knife, I wasn’t really sure. He was constantly whispering to his friend while he kept looking around. I remember grabbing an apple and just glancing over at their direction only to notice the other man’s odd behavior. The other just stood there with his arms folded as if he was guarding something, yet there was nothing to guard.



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