"Comfy?" he asked in a huff.
"Intensely," I responded as I put my hands behind my head and my feet up on a little table in front of the chairs.
"Lemme guess," Harrigan said, looking up at the sky, "a girl is missing? No, wait. We've done that bit before. A girl lost her memory? No, dammit, we've done that bit too! Trouble with mobsters? Son-of-a-bitch, Randolph, I think you've done it all! What could it be now?"
I looked up without a hint of amusement. "Prostitution and heroin."
He wasn't in a joking mood after that...
"Permission to come aboard, Captain?" I asked, saluting as I started up the gangplank.
"Permission denied!" he yelled out. "What the hell do I have to do to get away from you, Randolph?"
I shook my head, "I like that! The man hasn't seen me in almost two years and this is the welcome I get? Good grief! "
"Our conversation on the phone the other day will do me just fine for another couple of years, thank you very much."
I boarded the vessel, plopping down in a deck chair that looked like it was waiting just for me...
I pulled into the parking lot of the marina and made my way down the pier. The smell of the salt water and the sounds of the seagulls squawking inundated my senses. I spotted Harrigan polishing the big silver bell at the bow of the Silverbell. He poured all of his affection and spare time into that boat after he and his wife Sarah divorced. They never had any kids, so he sort of became the model of a lonely, crotchety old man, even before he was old.
He looked up and saw me and started shaking his head quickly...
I made it out of the Tong office and out of Chinatown itself completely unscathed. Did that surprise me? Only a little. I truly believed Mr. Li was telling the truth about the Tong office not being involved with the heroin. Which meant Jade Chen was acting alone. Which meant that I needed to pay another visit to my old friend, the Chief of Police.
It was Saturday morning, so I knew Jim Harrigan would be on his boat, the Silverbell, which was in a slip at the Seaside Marina in Redondo Beach.
I pointed Rebecca's car in that direction...
"Alright, Meester Landolph. The matter is yours to deal with. I will say a prayer for your departed fliend."
He rose up from the edge of the desk and stuck his hand out. I shook it and turned to go, but still kept the gun in my hand. I don't trust anyone 100 percent.
I walked past Mr. Li's goon, who sort of looked like he didn't know what had just happened. I wasn't too sure myself.
"Mr. Li? If I find out you've deceived me I'll be back....... Oh, and send the bill for the floor repair to me."
Mr. Li straightened out his jacket and tie and then sat on the edge of his desk.
"I will look into this matter. If Miss Chen is involved with dealing heroin, the Tong will deal with her."
I shook my head. "Mr. Li, will you do me a favor? Will you stay out of this and let me handle it? This is personal and I want to take care of it myself."
He thought for a moment and then nodded once. I had a strong sense that I could trust his word.
I really hoped my senses weren't short-circuiting...
"Things have gotten out of hand here," Mr. Li said with a serious tone. "Meester Landolph, neither I nor my office has anything to do with the heroin tlade in Chinatown. It is a fact that we deal in plostitution, but if Jade Chen is dealing heroin now I can assure you that she is doing so without the support of this Tong office. On my word of honor."
I turned him around to face me and looked into his eyes. He stared back into mine without even blinking.
"I don't know why I believe you, Li. But I do."
When the shot rang out Li's henchman stopped cold. He had his eyes squeezed shut. He opened one of them and looked to see if he was bleeding anywhere. When he saw he wasn't he looked down and spotted the slug buried in the hardwood floor, a mere inch from his feet. He looked back up at me.
"You take one more step, you mute bastard, and I'm going to blow a hole in you big enough to read the newspaper through. Nod if you understand me."
He stared into my eyes a moment and then slowly nodded his head...
"Killing me won't bling back your fliend, Meester Landolph," Li said in a calm but worried tone.
"No, but it'll sure as hell make me feel better," I said, only half-joking.
Mr. Li's henchman flinched like he was going to move toward us. I pulled the gun from Li's temple, pointing it at his goon. It wasn't the one I beaned with Buddha at Jade Chen's place. I hadn't seen this one since the first time I came to the Tong office.
He thought I was bluffing because he moved forward.
What he didn't know is I don't bluff...
I turned Mr. Li until he was facing his big thug as I stood behind him, the barrel of my gun pressed against his temple. The henchman froze in his tracks like a deer caught in the headlights. I couldn't see Mr. Li's face but I could imagine the expression.
"Okay, Mr. Li. I'm done playing games. How are you distributing the heroin?"
"I know nothing of that which you speak, Meester Landolph."
"A young girl who was a friend of mine died because of that crap. Maybe I should take your life, Mr. Li, to balance out the karma."
"Then you really know nothing, Meester Landolph."
I quickly moved around behind the desk.
"Then I guess I'm going to have to beat you until you enlighten me," I said sharply.
As I went around the desk he tried to reach in the top drawer, and I doubted he was going for stationary to dictate a letter of apology to me. I slammed the drawer shut on his hand and he let out a scream that must've alerted everyone in the building. I snatched him up from his seat just as one of his behemoth henchmen kicked the door open...
I chuckled, "I believe it. If Jade Chen had her way I would've been turned into fortune cookies by now."
Mr. Li shook his head, "Fortune cookies are an American invention, Meester Landolph. Not Chinese."
"Well, thanks for the lesson in cuisine. Now, let me teach you a lesson. About sticking needles in eighteen-year-old girls' arms!"
He looked puzzled. "I'm aflaid I'm not forrowing you. What is this about a girl and a needle?"
"Cut the bullshit, Li. I know you're smuggling heroin in from mainland China and Jade Chen is distributing it. I just don't know how."
Mr. Li said something in Chinese that I took to mean "Come in," so I pulled my pistol from my shoulder holster and opened the door.
My translation skills must've been improving because Mr. Li had his head hunched over a stack of papers on his desk and quickly said a string of Chinese words that I knew meant something like, "What do you want? I'm a busy man."
"Hello, Mr. Li," I said calmly.
He slowly raised his head up, looked at me, then the gun, then me.
"Meester Landolph. I didn't expect to see you again so soon."
My only other shot was paying a visit to Mr. Li at the Tong office on Gin Ling Way. I parked Rebecca's car behind the building and took the back way in. I had to dust off my lock picking skills, but in a matter of moments I had the locked door open and was making my way through a back storeroom. I had to wait for someone as they were walking down the hall, but when they went into one of the rooms I quickly traversed the hall and was at Mr. Li's office door.
I knocked very gently...
I eased my way back into Chinatown, cutting through alleys and staying hidden behind cover. I knew Jade Chen and her house of ill repute would be at a new location by then, but I was following the private detective handbook. Actually, there was no such book, but I didn't know what else to do.
The building where I found Blaze was totally empty. The garage door that I broke through to get away was still damaged, so I slipped in and found nothing. Not one scrap of paper that would give me a slim lead.
Even Buddha was gone...
"Did you get a look at her face?" I asked with hope.
"No, I didn't. She had dark hair, though. I remember that much."
"Brown or black hair?"
She searched her memory, "Black, I think."
I knew I was grilling her like a hamburger but it couldn't be helped.
"What was she wearing?"
She thought for a moment. "A trench coat. You know, the kind like those private detectives in the movies wear?"
I nodded. "Thank you, Miss Lewis. You've been a great help."
She smiled and went back to her work.
That description seemed to match Jade Chen perfectly...
"Yes, I remember now," she said looking down toward Blaze's room. "There was a woman down there. It was right after the girl's father went to the cafeteria. I remember because I gave him directions to it. When I looked down there shortly after he left I remember seeing a woman there. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but no one is in the other room down there, so the only purpose for someone being at that end of the hall would be to go to the girl's room."
I prayed she could give me a description...
"Then you were on duty when it happened? The girl overdosing, I mean."
She nodded. "Yes, I don't understand that. It seems like when they removed her clothes and put her in the gown that they would have spotted the heroin and the needle."
"Did anyone come in asking for her room number?" I was grasping at straws, but I had to start somewhere.
"No, and I've been here all morning. I can even see her room from this desk. It's just down the hall."
She got a funny look. "Wait a minute. I do remember something a little odd."
I went to the nurse at the front desk. Her name tag said "Betty Lewis, R.N." She was a middle-aged woman with light brown hair and horn-rimmed glasses hanging from a chain around her neck.
"Excuse me, ma'am. I'm a friend of Susan Miller's and her father."
She pulled her glasses up and looked at me through them, but didn't put them on.
"Ah, what a tragedy."
I nodded, "Yes it was. I brought her in last night. I didn't see you on duty, though."
"No, I'm morning shift."
That was the first thing I needed to know...
"Yes, I understand," he said.
I continued, "You go back to your hotel, make the arrangements you need to make, and then have another cry. You need to grieve. You let me handle the retribution. And there will be retribution, Jeffrey. I promise you that."
He took my hand in his and squeezed it and then stood up, rather shakily.
I went to the pay phone, called him a cab, and waited until it arrived and he got in and drove off.
Then I went to question the hospital staff and see if anyone could shed light on this mystery...