A Novel Approach, Again
Thing is, all of these cops are corrupt, and soon the people paying them off begin to turn up dead as well. Could the Hong Kong triad gangs have something to do with it? Jim thinks so and he hunts them mercilessly, all while Tarot Card Killer victims continue to pile up. It all leads to a climactic finish on Victoria Harbour’s waterfront where everything is revealed.
Amazon Isn’t Interested
- Not Interested;
- Too Busy;
- Thinking the Story is Rubbish.
It very well could be that they think all 3 as well, I’m not sure. Needless to say, I’ve got to get this out there. I have to keep telling myself this because it’s a great story.
If you want to read about the plot and the history the book follows you can check that out in the post I wrote when writing this book for NaNo. Until then you can read this first chapter. I hope to have the book out next Tuesday, December 10. That’s of course if I don’t hear from Amazon, which I think unlikely.
Alright, Tarot Card Killer:
1 – A Call in the Night
Victoria Harbour was awash in lights, as usual for this time of the morning. Their colors and shapes from the tall buildings overlooking the harbour danced over the glassy surfaces, illuminating the water below. Other than that Hong Kong Island was still. Still, that is, except for the group of police cars and ambulances bunched around a small park in the heart of the island’s Central District. Their flashing lights even seemed to give the buildings’ lights a run for their money.
Jim Sharpe eased out of his 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass and slammed the door shut. He reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a pack of Kents, then began packing them as he started walking the two blocks toward the flashing lights, his bad luck with finding a parking spot during the day translating over to the early hours of the morning as well.
I’ve gotta quit this shit, Jim thought to himself as he tore the cellophane off his second pack of the day and put a cigarette to his lips. Damn things are $10 a pack now!
He lit the cigarette just before he got to the first few cars. A patrolman moved up to block his way.
“How long since the call came in?” Jim asked before the young officer could get a word in. He eased his left foot up on the bumper of the nearest ambulance and let his Inspector badge hang out.
“Right, sir,” the patrolman said, caught off guard by the badge, “it’s been about an hour now.”
“So that first call came in around 3 then?” Jim said more to himself than asked. He turned back to the young officer. “Who’s in charge?”
“That would be Chief Inspector Spence; he’s over there sir.”
The officer pointed off past the ambulances and Jim nodded as he left. Thick clouds of smoke followed him as he weaved through the various investigative people on site. Samples were being taken from the center of the square and tire tracks were being analyzed from a nearby parking spot. And then of course there was the corpse.
Jim walked up to where Gus Kline, the photographer, was still taking angled-shots. A man was scribbling in a notebook beside him.
“What’s the story?” Jim said as he glanced down at the body. He’d seen a lot in his years working the beat in Hong Kong, but even this gruesome sight was one that took him by surprise.
“Shit, that’s Jack Dawes!” Jim said as he got a better look. “He’s been in Transit for damn near thirty years!”
“Well he won’t be checking in tomorrow,” Gus said.
“No,” Jim agreed, shaking his head, “no he won’t.”
He stared down at the lifeless body of Jack, someone that’d come far and done so much over the years. The fact that he got there by accepting bribes, making bribes, and generally doing just about every shady thing there was had certainly rubbed people the wrong way, but then everyone did that, and Jack was really no different. Sure he’d made a few enemies over the years, (who hadn’t?), but he sure the hell had a lot more people he could count as friends.
“Say, Sharpe, what the hell you doing here anyway?” Gus turned and said to him. “I mean, aren’t you under suspension or something, and man,” Gus leaned in closer to Jim, “you look like shit and smell like you’ve been sleeping under a bar stool.”
Jim dropped his cigarette to the ground and rubbed at his eyes. “That bad, huh?”
“Shit, Jim, I know this might be your last week as a cop and all, but you’ve gotta pull it together.”
“Yeah, well, why the hell was I called down here if I’m not supposed to be working, huh? Answer me that?”
Gus put his hands up, his camera hanging from the strap around his neck.
“I’m just shooting photos, pal,” he said defensively, “it don’t matter a damn to me what you do.”
Jim nodded, pulled out and lit another cigarette, then turned back to the body. “So what the hell happened?”
“His throat was cut,” Gus said, moving closer to the body and crouching down beside it. “That’s what killed him, as far as we can tell right now. But whether his palms were sliced off before or after he was killed I’m not certain.”
“What?” Jim said, moving up closer to Gus.
“Yeah, pretty fucked up, huh?” Gus said, moving in with his gloved hand to pick up the body’s wrist. “The killer used some kind of knife and sliced the palms of his hands clean off.”
Gus held up the hand and Jim could see the bloody thing staring back at him, all the skin below the wrist and before the fingers and thumb a bloody pulp.
“And what makes the case all the stranger is what we found in his hand, his right hand to be particular,” Gus said.
“Oh,” Jim said. “Let me guess, the killer’s name and number.”
Gus shook his head. “Nope, not this time – this time all we got was a bloody card.”
“A card?” Jim asked. “What the hell was going on, a game of poker went bad or something?”
“That’s right,” a voice said behind them, and both men turned to see a tall man with blonde hair going grey walking up to them, “it went real bad.”
He gave a stern look at Jim and folded his arms in front of his chest.
“You’ve been taken off active duty and we both know it.”
“Don’t give me that, Spence!” Jim shouted, leveling his finger at the Chief Inspector. “Captain Fong never gave that order and you know it. Besides, I was called down here out of bed tonight for this.”
“That was a mistake,” Spence said, “and I’ll have that officer written up real quick.”
“Oh, please!” Jim said, waving his hand at Spence.
Spence stepped in a little closer to Jim then backed-off quickly.
“You’re drunk,” he said, waving his hand in front of his face. “What, did you finish off a pint of Jim Bean, pass out, and just happen to fall down by the phone or something?”
Jim’s eyes shot up to Spence as the older Inspector laughed, anger clearly showing. He took another deep drag on his cigarette and threw the butt toward the harbour.
“It was a fifth,” he said under his breath after a moment.
Spence threw up his arms and turned around.
“Exactly!” He sneered at Jim. “Christ, Sharpe, you’re coming off three days-off and from the smell of you I can tell it was in every hop-house and sailor’s bar along the waterfront. I haven’t made a mistake now, have I?”
Jim shook his head. “No, you haven’t. I was happy to spend my last Hong Kong weekend in grand fashion.”
“Well with that kind of attitude it’ll be your last week, regardless of what the Hearing decides,” Spence said, before shaking his head at Jim once again. “Not that it matters – you’re shit attitude ensures you’ll be done either way.”
He finished his tirade and then his face grew more serious.
“And what the hell makes you think you can handle this kind of investigation in your condition? This is a cop that’s been murdered here, one that’s been serving loyally on the Royal Police Force for more than two decades!”
He shook his head and looked at the ground before turning back to Jim.
“You’ve got too much shit on your shoulders right now, pal, what with the Hearing and the drinking and the whoring – you couldn’t focus on this even if you wanted to.”
“It’s just another dead body,” Jim said, “I can handle it and anything else that comes with it, and you know it. Sure, he’s cut up in quite the unusual way, but we’ve seen the triads doing strange stuff before. That’s not the reason I rushed down here, Spence.” He eyed the Inspector up and down, but the other man was giving away nothing. “The initial radio call said there was something about some cards on the body. What’s that all about?”
“I’m not getting into it with you, Sharpe.”
“Patrick, we go back a long way, I–”
“Oh, don’t pull any of that London bullshit on me, Jim,” Spence said angrily, getting up into Jim’s face. “This is a serious matter, much too serious for the shit you’re going to bring to the investigation. You’re not on this case as far as I’m concerned and I’ll make sure Fong knows that.”
“You won’t tell the Captain a damn thing!”
“The hell I won’t,” Spence shouted back at Jim.
“You son of a bitch,” Jim said. He reached into his coat and pulled out another cigarette. “First my workload’s cut in half because of this damn Hearing and then everything that is pushed my way is nothing more than papers across a desk. I was called down here in the middle of the night and I damn well mean to do something!”
Spence shook his head. “Sorry, Jim. You might’ve been able to do whatever the hell you please down here if you weren’t under review, but as it is I’m the ranking officer on duty right now and I’m telling you to turn around and get the hell out of here!”
Jim took another look at the body and then around the scene. There was nothing else there that gave anything away to him, at least not about who or what had killed Jack Dawes. It was that card he needed to see.
“Alright, Spence, I’ll go,” Jim said after a few moments. There was little point in pushing the matter further, not until he had a chance to talk with Captain Fong come morning.
“Hey, look at it like this, Sharpe,” Spence called back as he started to walk away, “you’ll be able to get a couple hours of sleep before that Hearing starts. Me? I’ve got to stand out here all damn night and then show up to it.”
He finished with a laugh and Jim rolled his eyes.
“Must be damn depressing,” he muttered under his breath.
He walked back to his car and got on the radio to his partner Andy Wong, who he knew to be at the station late on weekend nights.
“What’s happening?” Andy asked when Jim had been put through to him. “A little early to be calling in, huh? Forget the address to the Hearing or something, or did you just fall down drunk in some gutter again and can’t get up?”
“Ha, ha,” Jim laughed dryly, “very funny, but how the hell would I be able to call you if I was lying in the gutter, huh?”
There was a moment of silence and Jim smiled, knowing he’d gotten the better of Andy this time. Before Andy could try to get something else in he dove into what had happened and what he’d seen so far at the scene, describing the call that had woken him in the night, a call from some shit-head officer that didn’t know Jim was on the ‘inactive duty’ list.
“The bastard won’t let me in on it,” Jim said when he’d explained what had just happened with Chief Inspector Spence.
“We’ve already got word on it down here,” Andy replied.
Jim perked up right away. “What have you heard? Is it about the cards?”
“Those cards we first heard of aren’t cards at all,” Andy reported, “but card. You see, there was only one card, and it was left purposefully on the body.”
“What card was it?” Jim asked. “An ace, a king, what?”
“Are you ready for this, Jim?” There was a pause before Andy continued. “It wasn’t a regular card at all, but a Tarot card.”
“A Tarot card?” Jim said incredulously. “Those things the crazy mystic ladies use to tell your fortune?”
“Exactly,” Andy confirmed. “But it wasn’t just any Tarot card, from what I’m hearing.”
“No? What kind of card was it?”
“It was the Three of Swords.”
“And what does that mean?” Jim said incredulously.
“I’ve got it pulled up right here in front of me from the files,” Andy replied. “A Three of Swords is one of the ten minor cards in the swords suit. There are four suits in Tarot, the swords, cups–”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Jim said. “Get to the point; what does the Three of Swords mean?”
“Alright, the Three of Swords as you might, or probably don’t know, shows a heart with three swords piercing through it from above. There are dark, rainy clouds in the background, and, according to what I’ve got in front of me, its divinatory meaning is ‘removal, absence, delay, division, rupture, dispersion, and all that the design signifies naturally.’”
“What the hell does that all mean?” Jim asked after a moment and a long drag on his latest cigarette.
“I think it means we’ve got a sick bastard on our hands,” Andy replied after a few moments.
Jim nodded and hung up the receiver. “That’s what I thought it meant.”
~ ~ ~
“So what do you want to do?” Andy asked. “You’ve been pulled from bed and I’m working overtime.”
Both sat in the nearly-dead Wanchai Police Station. The clock on the wall said quarter to 4 and neither man had anything to do until Jim’s hearing got underway at 9.
Jim nodded. “Let’s grab a bite to eat and then just get the day started. With any luck we can end it early.”
“Ha!” Andy laughed. “That works in theory only.”
Jim chuckled along with him, knowing full-well the truth of that statement, and they got up to head to the car.
~ ~ ~
“Damn it, Andy, I’m just sick of being a cop!” Jim said between slurps of his noodles.
“That’s understandable,” Andy said, his own chopsticks halfway to his mouth with a long trail of noodles leading back to the bowl, “you’ve been doing it for more than twenty years and on three different continents.”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Jim said, throwing his chopsticks down on the table. “I’m sick of the fact that the people I’m working with are dirtier than the people I’m locking up.”
Andy laughed. “That’s something new?”
“It’s gotten worse,” Jim muttered, leaning forward but turning his head to look out the small restaurant window. “It’s gotten a lot worse.”
“It’s going to get a lot better now that they’ve got their scapegoat,” Andy said as he finished up the last of his noodles, placing his chopsticks neatly beside the bowl.
“Ha!” Jim laughed “Godber’s hardly the scapegoat. From what I hear he’s only got a few million socked away. If they want to get a real scapegoat they’ll have to take down someone who’s got a lot more than that.”
“Like?” Andy said, leaning forward with a smile.
“You know who I’m talking about,” Jim scoffed.
“Chief Inspector Spence again, is that it?”
“Spence just happens to be one of the dirtiest cops on the force – I can’t get angry at him?” Jim nearly shouted, throwing his arms up.
“It’d just be a lot easier to take in your sincerity if the Hearing wasn’t taking place,” Andy said.
“Christ! You just had to bring it up, didn’t you?”
“We haven’t talked about it since Friday, Jim, and then all you wanted to do was get to the nearest pub so you could forget about it.”
Jim shook his head and averted his eyes, not wanting to look Andy in the face. He hadn’t wanted to talk about the Hearing and he’d been glad Andy had respected that. He knew the subject would have to be broached eventually, but that didn’t make it any easier to accept.
“C’mon,” Jim said, rising from the table, “let’s get out of here.”
“Ah, avoidance,” Andy said as he too rose from the table.
Jim headed out onto the deserted Wanchai sidewalk, letting Andy take care of the check inside. He usually let his partner pay at the Chinese places while he’d take care of it at the western places. When Cantonese was your native language it just made things easier, after all.
There was a faint crackling sound like a transistor radio and Jim knew right away that it was their car receiver. He headed over to the unmarked, light red 1971 Oldsmobile Cutlass both men used to get around the city. Sure enough there was chatter coming over the box. Jim picked up the receiver.
“This is car A429 calling Dispatch, over.”
The radio crackled faintly and then came to life with the familiar female dispatch voice that Jim knew so well but had never seen the body go to with it.
“This is Dispatch, please be advised that there’s triad activity on Po Shan Road near Hatton, units have been dispatched and more are being called to the scene.”
“What is it?” Andy asked, coming up from behind Jim.
“Triads on Po Shan Road,” Jim said, turning to him. “Shit, that’s right at the end of the Mid-levels and close to The Peak.”
“Let’s go,” Andy said, rushing around to the driver’s side door.
“Car A429 is proceeding to the scene, over and out,” Jim said, then hung up the receiver.
“Ho Choy’s got a place up there on Po Shan, it’s got to be Wo Shing Wo or Sun Yee On fighting,” Andy said as he pulled the car out into traffic.
Jim nodded, thinking of the Wo Shing Wo leader and how much trouble the man had caused him over the years. The triad gang was one of the largest in the city and responsible for many of the murders that took place each year. Anytime a body showed up it was a good bet they were somehow involved.
“Could be 14K too,” he said as he slapped the red police headlight on top of the car. “And it sounds like whatever fun they were having last night turned ugly.”
Jim cocked his head. “Hit it and let’s find out.”