Ghost Shadow: Unfinished Sins

By Bob MacKenzie

Thriller, Crime & mystery, Action & adventure

Paperback, eBook

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1998
13 mins

Chapter One (excerpt)

The woman who came to the door had achieved exactly the look of a successful professor's wife. The earth tones of her expensive woollen skirt and pullover complemented her beauty in a quiet sort of way. Her shoulder length hair, which must once have been deep red, now was softened by streaks of grey. Payge touched her own red hair; lately she had been finding a lot of grey hairs in her comb.

Mrs. Markham asked Payge to please come in. She led Payge down the hall to the sitting room, where she offered her a seat and a cup of tea. Payge accepted.

While Mrs. Markham was in the kitchen Payge checked the room with her practiced eye. The exterior hadn't prepared her for what she would see inside. An old monument of hardwood and stone near Riverside Drive, the house was about usual for university faculty. What she had seen in the hall and in this room was not. There was money here, she thought, more probably than a professor–even a full professor–could afford. She wondered if Dr. Markham had some family money. That would certainly explain the paintings and the antique oriental furnishings and art.

One piece especially stood out among the rest. It was not elaborate or elegant in the way many were in that room, but had an unadorned elegance about it. At first, she had not even noticed it, tucked away as it was between the fireplace and a great oriental chest. The statue of a man riding a horse had looked to be carved of some dark wood. Only when she walked across the room and knelt down to see it closer did Payge realise it was bronze which had gone unpolished for many years.

"It's a beautiful piece, isn't it?"

Payge turned with a start. Mrs. Markham was standing in the doorway holding a lacquer tray with a small teapot and two cups on it.

"Yes," said Payge as she stood up.

As Payge walked back to her chair, Mrs. Markham entered the room and set the tray on a table.

"Frank brought it back from the dig in Tibet. It's not really worth much, but I find it comforting to have around, like my own personal knight. My own protector." She poured the tea, something green and Chinese, and handed Payge a cup. "Please have a seat."

They both sat.

"It does look like a knight," Payge observed. "Is it from those times? You know, medieval."

"Probably twelfth century, but we can't be sure. We've never shown it to a real expert. Frank calls it his puzzle, says he likes it that way. Personally, I don't know why he likes to hide it away in that corner. Polished up, it would be a beautiful piece."

Mrs. Markham bit her lower lip slightly. While making small talk, she was clearly agitated, fidgeting in her chair, as she worked up the nerve to broach a subject that terrified her. Payge decided to help her out.

"About your daughter?"

"Susan," the mother said, seeming to speak from somewhere far away. "Yes, we must talk about Susan."

"Do you have the note?"

Payge watched Mrs. Markham force herself back to the here and now. This woman is strong, she thought.

"No. Frank took it. I think he may have destroyed it. Do you need it? I know what it said."

"We might have been able to find out something from the type of paper and ink, from the handwriting. Can't be helped now. What did it say?"

"Not much. It was all very vague, mysterious. It said, 'You know what we want. Take care for Susan. Your actions can ensure her long life.' That was all."

"Not much of a threat. How do you know it's serious? Maybe it's some disgruntled student playing a very bad joke on your husband."

"I don't think so. When Frank opened it he looked like he'd seen a ghost. I've only seen him look that way once before–when he had his stroke. It was like that. Like he was about to die. And he stuck it in his pocket, wouldn't show me. He would have shown me a joke, however bad. I had to steal the note later, and when he found out he was furious. I've never seen Frank so angry. Or so scared."

Chapter Two (excerpt)

This early in the afternoon, the pub in the basement of the Student Centre was almost empty. Here and there, a few students sat in small groups eating sandwiches and studying. It wasn't like the cafeteria upstairs, by now packed with students between classes. For privacy, Teddy preferred the pub.

Teddy sat alone at a table far from the door, far from the bar, far from any of the groups of students, warily watching the door. The ice in the Coke he was not drinking had already melted.

When he saw Bernard Cheung walk in, he just waited, still watching the door. Bernard walked most of the way across the pub before Teddy was satisfied nobody had followed him in. Only then did Teddy raise his hand and call out.

"Bernard! Over here!"

"Bernard walked to the table and sat opposite Teddy.

"Hi. What's up?"

"No English." Teddy's voice betrayed his lack of ease if not his growing fear. Bernard nodded. It must be serious if Teddy was that worried about being overheard.

"What's up?" he repeated in Cantonese.

"Ghost Shadow. They're here, and they've contacted Frank."

"How...?"

"I don't know. Some Vietnamese set them up here. You know how it is with that bunch; bunch of thugs who'll work for anyone. I never knew."

"Not that. How did they know about Frank?"

"I don't know."

"And us. Do they know about us yet?"

"I don't know. Probably."

"For sure," the voice said in English. While they had been talking three men had come into the pub and circled around behind their table. Now, a man stood with his hand on Teddy's shoulder. His coat sleeve hid from view the small knife now pricking at Teddy's throat. Bernard felt something pressing into his back. It might be a gun; it might not. He was sure the man behind him wouldn't hesitate to use whatever it was.

"What do you want?" asked Teddy in English.

The third man walked around to where both Teddy and Bernard could see him. He was a well dressed Chinese of about fifty. He might have passed for a prominent businessman if not for the ragged scar across his left cheek and the presence of his two associates. This time he chose to speak in Cantonese.

"You know what we want."

"What makes you think we have anything you would want?"

"Mr. Leung, do I look a fool? I know who you are and what you are. I know of your association with Dr. Markham. I am aware of Mr. Cheung here and some of your other friends. Don't try to con me."

Bernard sat very still and very quiet. Teddy tried again.

"I... I don't know what you're talking about." He felt the knife press deeper and winced with the pain. The man behind him pulled back slightly on the blade, just enough to draw blood, not kill.

"I know what you've got. You or Markham. Get it for me. You've got three days."

"I don't know where it is."

"Get it. This is a matter of life or death. Yours."

Teddy said nothing.

"We'll be in touch."

The three men moved like shadows, out of the pub but not out of the minds of the two they had left behind. Teddy touched his fingers to his neck. When he pulled them away they were covered in blood. He folded a paper napkin and held it to his neck.

Chapter Five (excerpt)

Marge walked quietly down the stairs without turning the light on. No sense rousing Frank's anger if he was in one of those moods. If he was, she'd just slip as quietly back up the stairs and back to bed. If he had settled down, maybe they could talk. Maybe this time she could fix it.

The light from the kitchen down the hall gave the sitting room an eerie effect, with the shadows seeming almost to come alive. Marge shivered. At the bottom of the stairs, she turned and walked toward the kitchen. She stopped at the end of the hall, uncertain whether to go on. There was a lot of crashing and banging in the kitchen. Maybe she would be wiser to go back to bed.

She decided to take a chance. As she stepped into the kitchen doorway, she stopped dead, unsure what to do next. A man all in black was dumping all her drawers and cupboards as though he were looking for something.

The arm around her neck was a complete surprise. From somewhere farther back in the house, someone had come up behind her and now held her tightly. She could feel something prod her side, a knife perhaps.

"Move," said the man who held her as he pushed her forward into the kitchen.

The man said something in Chinese, too fast for her to understand, and the other man placed a kitchen chair in the middle of the room.

"Sit," said the man who held her, and he let go his grip. "Sit there, and put your hands behind the chair."

Marge just stood there, unable to believe it wasn't all a bad dream. Thirty years with Frank had been enough to warn her when she was in jeopardy. She knew now she was in danger, but it wasn't the same as with Frank. Frank's anger was irrational and it passed. She sensed no anger here, only a terrible sense of purpose.

"Sit now, Mrs. Markham. I don't want to have to hurt you."

She sat. Meanwhile, the other man had been ripping cords from electric appliances. Now he tied her arms and legs then tied her to the chair as well.

She looked around her. The kitchen was all torn apart. A third man had come in while she was being tied up. The three wore black like a uniform: shoes, slacks, pullover sweaters, gloves and ski masks. They moved efficiently too, catlike, with no waste motion–like the Red Chinese military Frank told her he had seen in Tibet. Yet something in their manner told her these men drew their discipline not from love of country but from fear. That fear was in her.

"Where are they?" The one who had held her moved in close and asked her again. "Where are they, Mrs. Markham?"

"Where are what? Tell me what you want."

"The jewels. The collection of jewels your husband stole. Where, Mrs. Markham?"

"I don't know what you're talking about. Frank never stole any jewels. He's a professor, an anthropologist."

"Try harder, Mrs. Markham. Remember where it is and tell me. It will be better for everybody that way."

"I don't know."

"Then think about this. By not telling us, you may die. First, though, Susan will die in great pain. Then, if you still refuse to tell us, you will die the same way." He paused as though for dramatic emphasis and the other two moved in closer to her. "Now tell us where it is."

He said something in Chinese and the man she had first seen in the kitchen moved close in front of her. He had a knife, her own sharp utility knife. He slid it up along her jawbone then sliced down and out, hard.

"Tell us."

The doors were slamming shut, one after another. Marge could feel herself shutting out the pain, shutting out the terror, just as she always had with her father, just as she had with Frank for all these years. She didn't know what they wanted or where it was, but even if she did they would never get it from her now.

"Tell us."

Chapter Seven (excerpt)

Teddy wasn't at the apartment. He had gone out early in the morning and hadn't come back. Frank's fists clenched and unclenched rapidly as he walked away from the apartment. The tic which always became more agitated when he was in a violent mood flashed across his cheek like a neon sign.

The three men who had been watching Teddy's apartment from a car parked across the street apparently did not see those outward warning signs of the violent anger seething inside Frank Markham. All they saw was opportunity. They hadn't caught Teddy Leung at home, but his partner would do as well.

One man got out and followed on foot. The car drove slowly past the two men walking. It turned into the shopping plaza at the end of the block and parked. The other two men got out and walked back around the corner to meet their prey. By that time, Frank was almost up to the narrow service alley that ran behind the plaza. When he noticed the two Chinese in dark business suits walking toward him, it was too late to do anything but see what they wanted.

"Dr. Markham?" The older one–a man about fifty, with a nasty scar across his cheek–spoke. The other, who looked to be in his mid-twenties, stood back with a sharp eye for the street. They wanted no witnesses. Frank drew a deep breath and decided to play along for now.

"Yes?" He half turned and glanced behind him. Another young Chinese was walking down the street behind him. No escape in that direction, he thought.

"We would like to talk to you."

"About?"

"I think you know."

"Probably not. Who the hell are you guys?"

"You can call me Jimmy Lee. You do know who we are and what we want."

"Go to hell."

Jimmy Lee hardly nodded, but the men with him understood and moved to grab Frank's arms. The anger inside him had reached full boil and he swung around violently. His knee smashed into the groin of the man who had followed him. It was not enough. As Frank swung around, Jimmy Lee had hit him hard enough to stagger him. Jimmy and the other man grabbed his arms and steered him into the alley.

"Get up," Jimmy Lee snapped in disgust to the man still rolling on the ground in pain. The man stumbled to his feet and staggered into the alley behind them.

The closed end of the alley was ideal for Jimmy Lee's purpose. Neither the shopping plaza nor the apartment building behind it had windows facing the alley. A large garbage bin halfway down the alley blocked most of the view from the street.

Jimmy Lee slammed Frank's back against the brick wall then smashed him hard in the solar plexus. Frank doubled over in pain just in time for the other man to plough his fist into Frank's face. The third man, still obviously in great pain, hobbled up and hit Frank in the side, just below the rib cage. Frank slid down the bricks until he was in a half crouching, half sitting position looking up at his tormentors.

Jimmy Lee smiled. He said something in Cantonese that Frank was in too much pain to understand. The man Frank had hurt hobbled back to the garbage bin, where he could keep an eye on the street. The other man stepped back a bit and warily watched the exit doors to the stores.

"Now," said Jimmy Lee, "maybe we should talk."

"Fuck you!"

"You do not want to live long," said Jimmy Lee, and kicked Frank hard enough in the chest to loudly smash his head into the brick wall. Frank slumped to the ground.

"Wake him!" Jimmy snapped the words out in Cantonese. This white man was making him angry. Jimmy Lee did not like to be angry. The man nearest him knelt and brought Frank around.

Jimmy Lee crouched in front of Frank.

"You do not know who you are dealing with," he hissed angrily.

As much as he could under the circumstances, Frank smiled, the muscles near the corner of his mouth twitching frantically.

"Ghost Shadow," he whispered in Cantonese–then, in English, "Fuck you, bastard!"

The two younger men moved toward them, but Jimmy Lee motioned them back. His teeth were clenched and the anger filled him so he knew it must show in his eyes. All his training had been for discipline, for self-control. Anger was a lack of control. There was no winning in a situation one could not control.

The white devil, beaten and brought down, was still glaring at him defiantly. The wife had seemed to draw her strength from fear. Markham's strength came from something much more terrible. There was no fear in those eyes, only anger–deep, intense anger born of some inner hatred. He would get nothing from Frank Markham today. He leaned in close to the man's face.

"You will tell us. You have two days."

Frank spit in his face. Jimmy Lee stood up. He smiled, then kicked Frank as hard as he could in the chest. He took out a handkerchief and wiped off his face.

"Two days," he hissed as he turned and walked toward the street end of the alley. He motioned and the other two followed him to the car.

Chapter Nine (excerpt)

When Teddy called, it was from a public booth, and he sounded afraid. Bernard had always thought Teddy and Markham to be two of a kind–unshakeable and impossible to scare. Now he could see he had been mistaken about at least one of them.

"Something's happened, Teddy. What is it?" He said in Cantonese.

"I'll tell you after. We have to meet."

"When?"

"Tonight. Soon as possible."

"It's almost nine. Can't it wait until tomorrow?"

"No. I've already called Li Huang and Jay Lee. We have to meet right away."

"Your place?"

"Not there. I just picked up some stuff and left. I think the place is being watched."

"Is that what this is all about? Where do we meet then? Not here."

"No. Go to Eddy Wan's place, the China House. We can talk there."

"What's this about, Teddy?"

"I'll tell you when we meet."

"Ghost Shadow. That's it, isn't it?"

It was too late. Teddy had already hung up, but Bernard knew the answer to his question. He hung up the telephone and went to the broom closet. He found what he wanted in the back behind a tangle of mops and pulled it out.

Bernard took the compact rifle out of the plastic he had wrapped it in. The gun was legally a semi-automatic, but the conversion to fully automatic had taken him only a few minutes. He carried the gun into the living room and leaned it against the chesterfield.

He got his overcoat from the closet. Taking his knife from its sheath on his ankle, he cut out the right hand pocket of the coat. Then he replaced the knife and put on the coat.

Before he walked out the door, he slipped the rifle under his coat where his right hand could grip it through the hole where his pocket had been.

•••

The China House was near the airport, on a stretch of Walker Road dominated by small factories and service garages. It took Bernard almost twenty minutes to drive there from his place near the university.

He drove slowly into the parking lot and looked around before getting out of the car. It looked okay. He walked to the restaurant and went in. The other car pulled into the parking lot just as the door closed behind Bernard.

His eyes scanned the restaurant carefully. The room was almost empty. He had expected as much at nine-thirty on a mid-week evening. Li Huang and Jay Lee were seated at a back table, where they had a clear view of all windows and doors. Smart, he thought. Teddy Leung was not there yet.

He walked back to join the others.

Bernard was just about to sit when the three men walked in the front door. As he turned toward the sound Bernard recognized the men who had threatened Teddy and him at the university yesterday. And he saw the guns.

Bernard swung his rifle up and pulled the trigger just as the three men in the doorway opened fire. Bernard slumped back against the wall then slipped to the floor, a track of growing red spots across his chest.

The older man in the doorway looked at the bodies strewn around the room and smiled. The man on his right knelt and checked the one who had fallen.

"Dead," he said in Cantonese.

"Get his identification and take the gun. We must leave now." Jimmy Lee looked at the blood now soaking the sleeve of his coat near the shoulder. "You drive. Go to the home of the old physician."

•••

Teddy Leung had often cursed Windsor drivers and their erratic ways. Now, he thought, he should be thankful. If he had not been held up by traffic, things would be different. He stood in the doorway to Wan's China House. He glanced at the man dead in the doorway, then looked around the room.

Three white diners were dead at their table near him, another two halfway across the room with a waitress in a pool of blood on the floor beside their table. The kitchen doors had swung halfway shut on the body of Eddy Wan.

Teddy walked across the room to the three bodies at the back. He lifted the heads of the two face-down on the table and recognized them. He had already recognized Bernard Cheung, sitting against the wall, still holding his gun.

Teddy eased the gun out of Bernard's hand. The way things were going, he might need it more than Bernard ever would now. He checked Bernard's pockets for an extra clip. There was none. He would look for some at Bernard's apartment later. He checked the other two. Fools! They had come unarmed.

As he was about to walk out, he turned and looked at the room once more. For a second, he thought he saw a face in the crack of the kitchen door. Then it was gone.

He started in that direction but heard the sirens–a lot of sirens, and coming his way. If someone had been in the kitchen, they had called the police. He walked out quickly and drove down Walker Road toward home.

Chapter Twenty-Two (excerpt)

In a hospital, Saturday is no different than any other day. The work still has to be done and the patients cared for. The early morning halls still bustle with nurses and lab techs, orderlies and dietary staff, and dozens of others, including a few early-rising doctors doing their rounds.

Among this hurly-burly of uniforms and lab coats one person more or less will usually not be noticed. When the blond man in the lab coat got in the elevator, he blended with the uniforms already on board. An oriental pushing a cart followed him into the elevator. On the next floor, along with several other people, another oriental man in a lab coat joined the group.

To anyone observing, the blond man might have been an intern or male nurse; the other two could have been nurses or lab techs. Only supervisory staff might have commented that their I.D. badges were all turned so the photographs would not show. So many staff wore their badges this way out of a sense of privacy–to keep their names from casual viewers–that these three were not exceptional.

Most of the other passengers had already gotten off the elevator by the time it reached the eighth floor. The blond man and the two orientals turned down the hall toward the psychiatric ward. They walked slowly, deliberately, as if they belonged there. None of the other people along the hall paid them any notice.

As he reached in his lab coat pocket and caressed the hard form of the gun underneath, Beau Geste smiled. This was going to be a lot of fun. And, who knows, he thought, maybe when they were done he'd keep the girl. When this was over, and Susan Markham was no longer needed by Ghost Shadow, he and this girl would celebrate. ...

Pete Maloney looked grim as he handed the phone back to the duty nurse. He walked quickly to Dr. Markham's room.

"Call Inspector Laforet, now," he said to one of the two policemen at the door to the room. "Tell her a technologist was found half dead downstairs. His lab coat and identification are missing. I'm going upstairs to check on Markham's wife and daughter. You keep an eye out for trouble until some backup comes."

He eased the door open. All quiet. Dr. Markham was asleep.

Maloney turned his attention to the female constable approaching from down the hall. Young Sharon Simpson was attractive even in uniform. One day, if he could, he'd see her out of it. A nice little piece, he thought, very nice indeed. If he just spent some time alone with her, that would do the trick. Now was as good a time as any to get acquainted. If there was trouble, he thought, it would probably be down here anyway.

"Come on," he said as he walked by her.

Constable Simpson turned and followed the Staff Sergeant down the hall toward the elevators.

•••

Clinging to each other like two frightened little girls who had suddenly discovered they were both trapped down the same dark hole, the women never noticed the three men putting on ski masks as they walked across the common area toward them.

"Come with us," said Beau as he nuzzled the nose of his machine pistol tightly against Susan's ribs. She looked up, not understanding at first, and clung more tightly to her mother.

The other two had pulled their guns from the lower shelf of the laboratory cart. Now they walked over and pulled the two women away from each other. The women seemed to be in shock; they were easily steered out of the common area and down the hall toward the elevator.

Doug and Lin walked to each side of the women. Beau walked behind Susan, his gun still tucked into her side. He smiled. It had all gone so quickly nobody had even noticed. They would be long gone before anyone figured out what had happened.

Ahead of them, the elevator door was already sliding open. Beau moved around to walk in front of the women, never taking his eyes off the elevator door. Whoever came out, he would be ready.

The two cops never had a chance. Beau fired two short bursts as Maloney stepped into the hallway. The elevator door thump, thump, thumped rhythmically as it tried to close against Maloney's boot. It was like jazz to Beau, music to carry him into the action. It was a high. He slipped along the wall toward the elevator.

At the first shot, Sharon Simpson had stepped back and dropped to one knee as she unholstered her service revolver. Now, she kneeled just back of the doorway, her revolver aimed at whoever might walk in.

With more experience, Sharon might have moved her gaze more often from the centre of the doorway to the edges. She had no time to swing her pistol around when Beau appeared suddenly to her right and pumped a quick burst of lead into her.

Lin put his hand against the door while Beau pulled the unconscious Maloney into the hall. With luck, Beau thought, he might even live. He stepped over to the slumped form of Sharon Simpson and checked her. Still alive, he thought, too bad there wasn't more time. He shrugged, then dragged her out of the elevator.

"Okay," he said.

Doug and Lin escorted the women into the elevator. Beau stepped back in and pressed a button. The doors closed.



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