The red light still shone dimly and Simpson stood for a moment to allow his eyes to become accustomed once again to the dark. Then he made his way carefully down the stairs to the street.
After she had closed the door and slid one heavy bolt across it, the girl returned to the room. The old man had risen from his seat and was peering idly through the slit in the curtains at the street below. He turned and asked the girl politely to bring fresh tea and to discard the cup that the Englishman had used.
He was always polite to the people he dealt with. He could afford to be. He had a power that very few people in the world possessed. And, confident in this power he had lived in peace, for a very long time. The girl returned with the tea and behind her, a young Chinese man in an immaculate business suit entered the room. He bowed respectfully and waited to be acknowledged and the old man returned his greeting.
“Ah Bor,” he said, using Allen Chan’s Chinese name. “Please sit down. You heard everything that was said?”
“Yes Sir, thank you,” he replied. “I cannot thank you enough for informing me of my employer’s intentions. I am forever in your debt.”
The old man waited for the girl to pour the tea and leave before speaking.
“It would be unthinkable, unforgivable for me to use my gifts against one of my own clan, my own family, especially if the service was paid for by a foreigner. That is why I warned you.”
Allen Chan bowed his head in gratitude. He had no illusions as to the extent of the old man’s power. He had not asked for payment of any kind, only the same items that had been requested of Simpson. Some hair, fingernail clippings, a personal item, and a photograph, items that Simpson’s wife had been only too pleased to provide.
The two men drink the tea in silence for a while. When he had finished his, Allen placed his cup on the table in front of him. He was sitting very erect, out of respect for a revered elder.
Once again he expressed his deep gratitude to the old man who inclined his head in acceptance and then rose from the table. Allen Chan followed suit, understanding that the interview was over. The girl appeared at the door of the room ready to show him out and the two men turned to each other to see their farewells. Allen bowed once again showing great reference to an elder. Then, with his heart beating wildly in his chest, dared to ask one final question.
“When will it begin?” He almost blurted it out and prayed that he had not been too presumptuous.
The old man placed his hand on the younger man’s shoulder, understanding the inpatience of youth, and as they continue to walk towards the front hall together he said, “It already has, my son. It already has.”
(c) Copyright John Stewart Sloan 2020 – Not for Distribution