John Sinclair - Episode 10
John Sinclair - Episode 10
Wan Chai District, Hong Kong. 10:29 p.m.
Nicholas Croydon looked over his shoulder and saw that the man was still following him. The man's face was barely visible in the crowd. For a moment, Croydon couldn't see him, but then, suddenly, there he was again. Croydon felt his heart start beating faster. Who is he? Croydon wondered. What does he want?
Lockhart Road was lined with fast-food stalls and dance clubs. The neon lights were as bright as day. It all seemed like a fever dream to Croydon. He still couldn't get used to it. The constant humidity, the heat, even the stench of the city. The street was alive with people, with shouts, music, cars and sputtering motorcycles.
Why is he following me? Croydon wondered again. He picked up his pace, walking faster and faster, almost running now.
Croydon was a tall, heavy-set man in a bright blue business suit, dark stains showing under his armpits. He wasn't cut out for this, this city, this heat. For one thing, he was too tall. When he moved into his first apartment in Hong Kong, he couldn't even fit into the bedroom, his feet were sticking out into the hallway. Everything was too dense, too crowded. He missed the relative quiet of South London. He missed trees - there seemed to be not a speck of green in this skyscraper nightmare.
Most of all, he missed his Carol, his wife, and his daughter. Gillian was six years old, and he was on the phone with her every day, but he still felt alone without his family, so alone that it was like a physical pain.
He missed being with a woman.
The voice had come from his left. The man must have caught up with him. Croydon almost flinched, but then forced himself to keep walking, to keep pushing through the crowd.
"Ham-shui-mui? Salt water girl? You want?" said the voice.
This time, Croydon looked. Yes, it was the man who'd been following him. The man was smaller than him, and skinny. He wore baggy jeans and a torn Rambo III T-shirt that seemed too loose for him. He had black hair, and there was sweat on his forehead. He was almost jogging alongside Croydon, keeping up with his large strides.
"Salt water girl?" said the man. "Eh?" His eyes were gleaming.
So that's what it was. The man was just another street hustler. The city was full of them. Walking up to him, wanting something, sometimes even touching him. It should have been a relief, but it wasn't. What if he wants to rob me? Croydon thought? Drag me into a dark alley and knock me over the head?
Croydon, against his better instinct, stopped and looked around. There was no police officer nearby, only tourists. Surely the man wouldn't try anything in the middle of the crowd?
"Salt water girl?" said the man again.
Croydon ran his hand over his forehead. Salt water girl. That's what they used to call prostitutes in the old port of Hong Kong. Back then, sailors from all over the world came into the harbor, looking for a wife for one night.
Croydon gave a crooked, embarrassed smile. He was about to turn away and keep on moving, but the man grabbed hold of his arm. Alarm bells went off in his head.
"You want?" said the man.
Croydon stopped, suddenly conflicted. The answer was yes. Croydon wanted. He wanted a girl very badly. He was a businessman with Royal Crown Petroleum. He'd been with the Hong Kong office for two months now, a long time without his wife ... a long time without a woman.
"I'm not sure ..." Croydon stammered.
The man smiled, and there was something in his smile that made Croydon even more uneasy.
"Come in," said the man and nodded toward one of the dance clubs. "You choose ... You choose girl."
Croydon shook his head. He'd never been unfaithful to Carol. He couldn't. He'd seen the other men in the office, going out for drinks and meeting prostitu