Perhaps the tape held the answer.
Carmellini scanned the crowd one more time, trying to fix the guests in his mind. The cream of Hong Kong society was here tonight.
"Tell me again," he said to Kerry Kent, "who these folks are.
She scanned the crowd, nodded toward a man in his sixties in the center of a small crowd. "That's Governor Sun Siu Ki, surrounded by his usual entourage--officials and bureaucrats and private industry suck-ups. The gentleman of distinction talking to him is Sir Robert MacDonald, the British consul general. The tall, blond Aussie semi-eavesdropping on those two is Rip Buckingham, managing editor of the China Post, the largest English-language daily in Hong Kong. Beside him is his wife, Sue Lin. Over in the far corner is the American consul general, Virgil Cole, talking to China Bob's sister, Amy Chan. Let's see, who else?"
"The fellow in the uniform with the highball, standing by the band."
"General Tang, commanding the division of People's Liberation Army troops stationed in Hong Kong. He's been in Hong Kong only a few weeks. The papers ran articles about him when he arrived."
"The man talking to him?"
"Albert Cheung. Educated at Oxford, the foremost attorney in Hong Kong. Smooth and silky and in the know, or so I've heard."
She continued, pointing out six industrialists, three shipping magnates, and two bank presidents. "These people are the scions of the merchant and shipping clans that grew filthy rich in Hong Kong," she said, and named names. "If ever a group mourned the departure of the British, there they are," she added. "Never saw so much of the upper crust chatting it up together."
Any person in the room could have gone upstairs and popped China Bob, Carmellini reflected. All of them had probably excused themselves and gone in search of the facilities once or twice during the evening. Or someone could have ridden the elevator from the basement or walked to the library from another area of the house. The field was wide open. Still, Tommy Carmellini took one more careful look at each of the people Kerry had pointed out, then said, "Perhaps we should leave now before the excitement begins.
"A marvelous suggestion. Let me say a few good-byes as we drift toward the door.
Five minutes later, as they stood waiting for the consulate's pool car to be brought around, Carmellini asked Kerry, "So what's on the agenda for the rest of the evening?"
"I don't know," she said lightly and turned toward him. He accepted the invitation and kissed her. She put her arms around him and kissed back.
"You are such a romantic," she said when her lips were free.
"And single, too."
"I haven't forgotten."
"I don't recall mentioning my marital status before."
"You didn't. Your reputation preceded you. Tommy Carmellini, unmarried burglar, thief, second-story man . . .
"And all-around good egg.
"James Bond without the dash and panache.
"Don't knock the recipe until you've tried it."
"You'll have to sell me."
"I'm willing to give it a go, as you Brits say."
"Tell me about the Internet pornography. Little details like that spice up action reports, make them interesting."
The consulate pool car pulled to a stop in front of them, and the valet got out. "I was saving that morsel for later," Carmellini said as he tipped the man and accepted the keys. "After all, the night is young."
Copyright 2000 © by Stephen Coonts. Published by the permission of the publisher, St Martins Press.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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