RTA 18: Mr. Pang’s Package

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“Mr. Finster, my name is Ling Pang. Please join me in my office.”

Is it ever good when they know your name but introduce themselves? As the Chinese comes into view, I notice his military bearing and robust hair. I instinctively feel my skull to compare. Burke, Grandma, and Pang look at me, although in truth there is nowhere for me to run now. I’m trapped in the office here on the abandoned oil island.

I realize, in fact, no one knows I’m here.

“Sure, but what’s all this?” I ask breezily, waving my arm at the desks, the computers, the young men, and above all, the giant screens of information and channels.

“I’m sure we can arrange a tour of the facility another time.” The Chinese man’s expression had changed in a fifth of a heartbeat. He gestured in a manner beyond hurry. I was immediately seized by my arms and dragged forward.

“Just making conversation,” I mutter, not really expecting to be answered.

However, apparently Mr. Pang has the ears of an irritable owl as well as its plumage because he snaps his fingers at my escort, who stop me and stand me up.

“Mr. Finster, do you know how many hours have been wasted on your account this week? If you make anything, it had better not be conversation! But… follow me,” he urged, smiling again.

Burke pushes Grandma in her wheelchair behind Mr. Pang, who disappears behind an office door. I am half carried in.

The room is dark – I’m not sure what I expected but this was the worst possibility.

The door closes and the light from the busy workroom is almost all there is. Then, a click, and a few soft lamps appear in the corner. I see tables and the outlines of chairs. Enough to know that everything is new and smooth if not expensive.

“Mr. Finster, we have come to an arrangement. I expect you will fulfill your side, under the supervision of your… matriarch, Mrs. Finster.

“You trespassed on our interests when you stole from Soh Juh, our contact and game runner here. Now, I do not entirely care about the details, but that game needed to be kept clean for a time, while we arranged… other games.” Pang paused here, as if I was supposed to know what he was talking about.

“So, by stealing from Soh Juh, you stole from us. I have considered my options but your mother…”

“Grandmother,” she sounded almost disgusted at the idea, but what idea? That I could be her son?

“…your grandmother, who we have a business relationship with, made us an offer we could not reject. So, all is settled now. You will take care of the package and deliver it safely to the location, and we will forgive both the transgression and the money.”

“How are those different, the transgression and the…”

Mr. Pang snapped his fingers and the half-white escort slams his elbow into my stomach. I tumble forward and start to throw up – I can taste the donuts – but the escort keeps me on my feet.

“Your job, Mr. Finster is only to listen now. Well, your job is to drive, to be more precise. In any case, you will deliver the package to the University of Calgary contact in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. When you do, and I receive confirmation that the package is delivered, you will be free of obligations to us.”

“Do you hear that Ian, I’ve bailed you out. Again. For the last time, probably.” Grandma is so articulate now.

I can’t seem to say anything as I gasp and heave. They can take the money, I try to say, but only wheeze and spit and cough.

“I’m delighted that you see it my way.” Mr. Pang was all smiles again. “It’s been a long day, I am slightly irritable, forgive me.”

“And the package, L—“ Grandma stops herself, but is also speaking exquisitely politely as well, once again. “Mr. Pang, where is the package?”

I’m not sure I like this change of mood thing. Doesn’t seem like the sign of reliable people.

“Why right here, of course. We’re keeping the lights down for his sake. He seems averse to… well, everything, but including light.”

The package is a person? I don’t think I got those words out. Only coughs and spittle.

Who? I sputtered, or something.

Mr. Pang motioned to one of my escorts, the Chinese one, who promptly turns in front of me and strikes me across the face, releasing an emphatic grunt and then slowly withdrawing his opened fist.

My left eye fills with blood. I can feel it closing.

“Ling, I thought we had negotiated a lack of… violence.” Finally, Grandma sounds agitated; finally, she has something useful to say.

Pang says something in Chinese, but is it to Grandma? I hear him walking. Even in my pain I can smell his sour breath as he puts his face right in mine.

“We agreed Ian would say nothing but accept his part in the shipment and exchange.”

He breathers all over me. I can see a scar on his face and unexpected stubble. His eyes are chilling: two black marbles beneath all those brows and beatlings.

“Now, I am a great proponent of keeping my word, and always make sure others keep theirs. Mr. Finster, your… grandmother…”

He finally got it right.

“…will inform you of any details I am forgetting. It goes without saying that if you do not complete our deal then… we would have no deal. That would be bad for everyone! That would be bad for especially you, Mr. Finster.

Now, you’ll excuse me. I have other matters to attend to.”

“I didn’t agree to any- “ I start, but am struck in the stomach again. This time I slip downward, ready to collapse. I’m finished, my head pounding with pain and fear and resentment. However, the grasping hands of the young goons keep me propped up, their fingers in my arms and armpits, hurting and biting and stinging.

“Ian!” Grandma seems to be back on my side, anyway. It seems a bit late.

More Chinese. Out of one unbloodied eye I see the two more young goons emerge from the dark, pushing forth a far taller man. He’s beaten and tied up at the hands and feet. His lanky, pale skin is exposed by various rips and torn shreds of clothing. He has a short, indifferent half-haircut, a misshapen lump of hair, a sort of side Mohawk cruelly beaten, it almost seems, onto his thin pale skull. He seems to be groaning but silently, his mouth opening pointlessly and miserably.

I feel better that there are two of us in this condition.

The young sentries give this poor dude a final push. The “package” collapses in front of me, landing on his side, with one baggy yet languid eye turned up right at me, the other puffed over and absent. It’s those baggy eyes, I think, as I recognize one of the world’s most famous poker players, one who was thought to have disappeared, long ago, into the underworld of Pacific Rim gambling and far-East crime.

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