The Darkness in the Tree – Part 5

Edwin Chan, from the office of the Secretary for Security, was not a happy man. He had fought long and hard to be transferred to the Department of the Secretary for Security and he had just been told that he would be responsible for clearing up the business in Tai Po and making sure that the fallout from the press coverage was kept to a minimum.

Murders in Tai Po, and for that matter, police officers that fall out of trees and get killed by low-flying birds were absolutely not the responsibility of Sec for Sec! He glared at his desk phones, one of which was a direct line to Sec for Sec, and reached into his jacket pocket for another Tylenol. He knew that extended use of these pills would sooner or later, probably sooner, meltdown what remained of his liver, but in order to get through the day, he had to deal with the blinding headaches that had become a daily event ever since this business started. He popped the pill, swallowed it dry, and leaned back in his chair, hoping for a few moments of peace to allow the medication to take effect.

He looked through the list of calls received that his secretary, Amy had handed him. Three were from a man named Huang, Huang Li Man to be precise. Obviously a Singaporean by the spelling of the name, why they couldn’t just use the pin yin spelling that Hong Kongers used was beyond him.

Not more than five seconds had gone by when one of the phones shrilled.

Chan grabbed for it, at least it wasn’t the direct link to Sec for Sec, but the news was just as bad.

“Ah Sir,” said Amy. “Ms. Lau called, the boss wants you to see you now”.

Ms. Lau was Sec for Sec’s Personal Assistant and therefore the next best thing to the Goddess of Hell. Her every command was to be obeyed implicitly and immediately!

Chan groaned something into the phone and stood up. He was not looking forward to the next fifteen minutes.

He knew it was going to be fifteen minutes and not more because Sec for Sec divided his day into 15-minute intervals. Some for him to be brought up to date on what was happening in Hong Kong, some for global events, and some to be enjoyed by berating his subordinates; a pastime he thoroughly enjoyed.

Alphonse Lo, (silly bloody name, thought Chan) was one of the few department heads that still held a western first name. Ever since the handover, it had become fashionable for department heads to do away with Christian first names and adopt the more traditional Chinese names. Lo was a career civil servant. During the British administration, he had sworn absolute loyalty to the Crown and then at the time of the handover, sworn the same absolute loyalty to Beijing.

Ms. Lau kept him waiting for the mandatory three minutes before allowing him into the hallowed halls that contained Alphonse Lo’s office. You could house three Kowloon City families in here, thought Chan, as he entered the door, which he did every time he entered the door.

Alphonse Lo always pretended to be busy, it was his way of ensuring respect from his underlings. He motioned to a chair in front of his desk, spent another two minutes pretending to pour over some papers, and then looked up at Chan.

“So, Chan. what news on this business in Tai Po?”

Actually, there was nothing new but Chan wasn’t going to admit that to his boss.

“Sir”, he began. “I’m working closely with the police to ensure that the culprit or culprits are brought to justice within the shortest possible time. As of this morning, I am still awaiting a call from DCI Wong”.

“I’m one step ahead of you Chan,” Smirked Lo. “There’s been an arrest”!

Lo enjoyed Chan’s look of consternation for a moment before explaining.

“They’ve arrested some bugger by the name of Huang Li Man at the scene of the murders. A Singaporean, by the ID he was carrying. They’ve taken him to Tai Po nick (Chan had to stop himself from grimacing, Lo enjoyed his command of English colloquialism and continually referred to police stations as ‘nicks’). Get there quick and find out who the bugger is”. Chan remembered the name from looking at his list of calls just moments ago and wondered what the connection was.

Chan was not sure whether to be pleased or annoyed but if it gave him an excuse to get out of Lo’s presence then it had to be good.

Amy had called ahead so the O.I.C. at the Tai Po Police Station had been expecting him. He was taken to the interview room where Mr. Huang was being held. There was an officer, a Police Constable, in the room with him, but they weren’t talking, the PC was there to keep an eye on him. Huang stood up as Chan entered the room and Chan immediately noticed that he was wearing a traditional Chinese robe. He offered his hand to Chan who ignored it and sat down opposite him at the table.

Unperturbed, Huang resumed his seat and introduced himself. Chan bought himself some time by going through the single sheet of paper in the file he had been given. There wasn’t much, his name, nationality, and profession – researcher into ancient eastern customs – all the makings of a nutter thought Chan whose a headache suddenly returned.

“Mr…Huang,” Chan took some time pronouncing the name, there was no need to be rude, at this point. “What were you doing in a closed crime scene?”

“I’m sorry,” said Huang. “May I ask your name and rank”. Chan realised he had forgotten to introduce himself. His first instinct was to offer his hand but he managed to suppress the gesture. He wanted this man to know he meant business. Chan introduced himself and mentioned that he was from the office of the Secretary for Security.

“Then you are the man I have been trying to contact”, said Huang, smiling broadly.

“Mr. Huang, I don’t think you realise the trouble you are in. You have been taken into custody for entering a closed crime scene and there are reasons to believe that you did so with ill intent”.

“I can assure you,” said Huang, “that this is not the case. In fact, I am here to offer you my assistance to halt the killer you are seeking”.

‘Halt the killer,’ Huang had said, why didn’t he say, ‘catch the killer’, thought Chan.

Chan couldn’t conceal his interest. “And what exactly do you know about ‘the killer’?” He asked the PC to get the OIC to join them right away. He turned back to Huang and asked him to wait. Any information he had regarding this case should be given in the company of a trained police officer.

Moments later, the OIC, Superintendent Lai, and a DCI from PHQ were in attendance. They sat quietly in the corner, present and listening, but not taking part in the questioning. When they were settled Chan asked Huang to continue.

“I think I should introduce myself first. My name is Huang Li Man, I am originally from Wu Han Province but I was taken to Singapore as a child by my parents. My profession is…..well, let’s go into that later…………”.

He continued, “I have been following this killer, for several years now. I first became aware of it in 2007 when there was a series of murders in Terengganu in Malaysia. It was there that I started my research. The next scene was Kluang, also in Malaysia. Then there were several in Singapore before it moved on to Sandakan in Sabah, East Malaysia. These killings all took place within a very short space of time, say 19 months. Then the trail went cold. The thing, it appears, had gone to ground”.

Huang had referred to the killer as ‘the killer’, ‘it’, and then ‘the thing’. However, before Chan could seek clarification Huang was continuing.

“About a year ago I heard about the murders in the Tai Po Park and came to Hong Kong. I’m sorry to tell you that my worst fears were realised. It is the same killer that was responsible for the deaths I mentioned earlier in Malaysia and Singapore”.

“What…”. Chan was just about to ask, what is it but managed to stop himself. “Who is it we are looking for, Mr. Huang?”

“No, you were correct the first time, Mr. Chan. It is indeed, not ‘who’ we are looking for, but ‘What'”.

“It is a demon, Mr. Chan. Nothing more, nothing less! A demon that has existed for over a thousand years”.

(c) Copyright John Stewart Sloan – 2017 – Not for Distribution

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