The Traveler’s Tale by David Harris Lang – Great Summer Reads 2020




David Harris Lang writes adventure thrillers set in Asia. 



He has lived and worked most of his life in various countries throughout the Asian region, and his writing is informed by his love and knowledge of the different cultures, foods, thought, and architecture of the different regions of Asia.










 ~ Website ~

   



Four Irish Travelers from gypsy families journey to Western China to find the 3,000-year old mummified and bejewelled head of their Celtic ancestor. With a psychotic Japanese woman with Yakuza connections as their guide, their odyssey takes them to the Taklamakan Desert of Western China. 


When one of the Travelers is found dead of unknown causes in an obscure Hong Kong museum, finding the killer becomes one of the most challenging cases for Hong Kong homicide detectives Angela Cheung and Ian Hamilton as they match wits with the Russian mob, a Nigerian art smuggler, the Yakuza, and a murderous bare knuckle boxer.


~ Universal Amazon Link
     



Snippet:

“I contacted my brother. His Shenzhen business associate will meet us,” Murasaki said. She, Margaret, Jimmy, Clovis, and William were standing curbside in front of Terminal 3 at Shenzhen Airport.
“Business Associate? I would think that we got this under control on our own,” Jimmy said.
“You speak Chinese, Jimmy-san? No? You know you way around Shenzhen? No?” Murasaki said. “Maybe helpful to have someone that know that, nei?”
“I guess. Seems like it would be easy to find this Mr. Hsu, though, and slap the specky four-eyes around a bit,” Jimmy said.
As if talking to a slow child, Murasaki said, “Mr. Hsu is a major international criminal, Jimmy-san. Not so easy to slap, nei? Maybe you end up floating in Shenzhen Bay like a dead fish.”
A black Lexus pulled up to the curb. The driver got out and bowed deeply. Murasaki barely acknowledged him, just a short nod of her head. “Get in,” she said to her companions. The four Travelers squeezed into the back seat and Murasaki slipped into the front. “It forty-five-minute drive to hotel. Sorry so tight back there. You did good on flight, William-san. No problem. You getting used to flying, nei?”
“Yeah, I guess,” William said. “What kind of business is your brother in anyway? This is a pretty fancy ride.”
“My brother have many businesses. In China he in make- money business,” Murasaki said.
“All business are to make money, no?” Margaret asked.
“I mean he really in make-money business: fake money,” Murasaki said. “Counterfeit money.”
“Go way outta that!” Jimmy exclaimed. “Your brother’s a bit of a crook, is he?”
“Not just a bit, Jimmy-san. He is all the way a crook. He the oyabun of Akiyama-gumi Yakuza.”
“What kind of bun?” Clovis asked.
“An oyabun. It a boss in a yakuza organization,” Murasaki said. The Lexus hugged the curve of a circular off ramp and the car merged into the slow-flowing traffic of Shennan Boulevard, heading east towards Futian. In Futian it took a hard right, navigated a number of side streets, traveled east again, and pulled up under the porte cochere of the Shangri-la Hotel.
“Jaysus, this is five-star!” Wiliiam exclaimed.
“Not problem, my brother pay bill,” Murasaki said. They got their bags from the trunk and walked into a marbled lobby, huge chandeliers cascading from the ceiling. “We have a meeting with Watanabe-san in one hour in lobby lounge,” Murasaki said pointing to a grouping of khaki-colored couches on a podium at the rear of the lobby. “Go to your room then meet in lounge. No be late, nei. Japanese hate be late.”
“Who is Watanabe-san?” Margaret asked.
“He is my brother’s wakagashira, the regional boss. He is not right in head, very strange man. I not like him,” Murasaki said.  “Check in now, meet in lounge in one hour.”
***
Shiro Watanabe sat stiffly, back straight and knees together, on a couch in the lobby lounge, in contrast to the English Travelers, who draped their bodies over the furniture like boneless invertebrates. Murasaki, in her ever-present black neck-to-ankle garb, ordered tea for everyone. It came in delicate white bone China cups. Jimmy broke the silence. “So, Shiro, you are in the fake money printing business I hear. That is impressive.”
Murasaki’s cup slipped from her fingers and clanked on the plate beneath it, creating a mahogany pool in the saucer. “Jimmy-san! You address him as Watanabe-san, and no ask such impertinent questions!”
Daijobu, Murasaki-san. I am used to Westerners,” Watanabe said in English. “I used to be stationed in New York if you recall. I loved New York. So sad I made such big mistake and had to send my finger to your honored brother.” Watanabe held up his left hand, which was missing the end of the pinky finger. “Then your brother, so wise, sent me here to butthole China.”
“You chopped off your own finger? Jaysus!” William ex- claimed.
Ignoring William’s comment, Watanabe said, with a smile that looked like a grimace after a bite of a lemon wedge, “Yes, Jimmy- san, my business is making money. Someday you would like a tour of our workshop? Maybe you would like to meet The Artist?”
“The Artist?” William asked.
“Kenzo-san, The Artist. He is so skilled. He makes a one hundred yuan note template that is so good there is no way to tell that it is a fake.”
“Never mind about counterfeit business! Stay focused!” Murasaki scolded. “What can you tell us about Hsu-san?”
“Yes, I was briefed by your brother on your needs,” Watanabe said. “You know that Hsu-san is PLA, right?”
Saaa, did not know that,” Murasaki said frowning.
“PLA? What’s that?” Margaret asked.
“Peoples’ Liberation Army,” Watanabe said, taking a sip of tea.
“We are going after someone connected to the Chinese Army?” Clovis asked. “Jaysus, isn’t that a bit bold?”
“Yes, it will be very dangerous, Clovis-san,” Watanabe said. “However, because it is my job to impress our honored oyabun, and because helping his beloved sister would be very much appreciated by him, I am happy to help. I have already taken action.” The lemon-sucking smile reappeared.
“You took action? What that mean, ‘you took action’?” Murasaki asked. Her intuition and Watanabe’s smile told her that things had not gone well. “Did you make a big mistake again, Watanabe-san?”
Watanabe stood up, hands held tightly to his side, and bowed to his waist. “As you know, I will do anything for your honored brother. However, maybe I will need to send another finger. So sorry!”
Bakayaro! Sit down and tell us what happened!” Murasaki commanded.
Watanabe reseated himself and took a sip of tea. “I knew that it would be impossible to negotiate with Hsu-san without having big leverage because he is so powerful. Therefore, to get leverage I devised a brilliant plan.”
“If you plan was so brilliant why you now need to send another finger to my brother?” Murasaki asked.
“Plan was brilliant. However, a very bad thing happened.” Watanabe bowed his head until it rested on the coffee table. Minutes passed.
“Put yer feckin head up and tell us what happened, man!” Clovis blurted.
Watanabe slowly raised his head. “Hsu-san is a gay. I kidnapped his boyfriend: some kind of gaijin, French or something. Anyway, we hid him in our printing workshop. Fantastic leverage, right? Tell us who has the mummified head and we give you your boyfriend back unharmed. What could go wrong?”
“Stupid and dangerous,” Murasaki said. “So, what went wrong?”
“The idiotic Frenchman would not stop screaming. He made squeals like a piglet. So, we put duct tape over his mouth to shut him up.”
“And…?” Margaret asked.
“He suffocated. He’s dead.” Watanabe put his head back on the table.
“Does Hsu-san know that you were the one who kidnapped his boyfriend?” Murasaki asked.
“No,” Watanabe said.
“Good. Dispose of the body. We won’t mention it. Maybe he will think his boyfriend go back to France,” Murasaki said. “But we will need to figure out another leverage.”
“Watanabe, does Hsu speak English?” Margaret asked.
“Yes, he is an international art dealer. Speaks fluently,” Watanabe answered.
Margaret asked, “And did this French boyfriend you flat-lined have any distinctive jewelry on him? Something that Hsu would recognize? Like a ring or a necklace?”
“Every finger had a ring on it, even the thumb,” Watanabe said.
“Send the rings to my room, Watanabe, and also arrange a meeting with Hsu for me and Clo alone. Can you do that? I have an idea how to negotiate with Mr. Hsu and use his boyfriend’s death to our advantage,” Margaret said.
“Just you and Clovis?” Murasaki asked. “Very too dangerous, we should all go.”
“More dangerous if we bring a big group. If we bring a lot of testosterone into a meeting with Hsu things could get dicey fast, like two German Shepherds squaring off over a bitch in heat,” Margaret said.
“Well, should be you and me go then,” Murasaki said.
“No offense, Murasaki, but if things get nasty I would rather have Clo next to me than you,” Margaret said. “And please don’t ask me what my plan is.”
“Why not?” Murasaki asked.
“Because telling it would jinx it, Murasaki! We Travelers are very superstitious you know,” Margaret said raising a finger to her lips. “Watanabe, send the rings and arrange the meeting. OK?”
“This is very dangerous, Margaret-san! You walk into Hsu- san’s shop and you may never come out. His sign on his storefront says, ‘Mr. Hsu’s Route to Health’. It should read ‘Route to Death’!” Watanabe said. “Anyway, how can I get you a meeting? The PLA hate the Japanese! Not possible, Margaret- san. So sorry.”
Yowamushi! Weakling! You get meeting for them!” Murasaki exploded at Watanabe. “You tell Hsu-san that they are friends of Sunday’s. Then he will meet.”
Hai, Murasaki-san. Gomen nasai. I will arrange the meeting,” Watanabe whined.
As they left the lobby lounge Clovis bent down and whispered in Margaret’s ear, “Murasaki is not going to like your plan, right?”
“Not one bit, Clo,” she answered. “Not one fekkin’ bit. I will explain it to you when we get to the room.” 




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