Saturday, December 24, 2011

Errand in Hong Kong

The author in Hong Kong in the nineties

The narrator, Emma,  must pick up some tapes from a scary man in Hong Kong.  The year is 1989.

Hong Kong,

What a hassle! My flight arrived late and I barely had time to check into my hotel and change before my appointment.
I kept trying to remember Franz’s last minute instructions.  Keep the calling cards pristine.  Don’t use them as book marks or tooth picks.  Arrive on time.  Present the cards with both hands after the handshake.
My taxi stopped at a soaring skyscraper of steel and smoked glass on Connaught Road in Victoria. He’ll be expecting you between three and four, Franz had said.  I walked through the elegant rosewood lobby, and took the swift, silent elevator to Suite Eight on the Eightieth floor.  Eight is a lucky number in Chinese cultures.  My appointment was with Mr. Ocho Lee of South China Software. I had to keep wiping my damp hands on a handkerchief lest I soil the business cards, and I scrutinized my suit for spots or smudges. 
Suite Eight had thick red carpeting, white walls, and sleek lacquered black furniture. Feng Shui to the max. A petite receptionist in a red dress ushered me into a private office. 
A man in a black pinstriped suit, a white shirt, and a yellow paisley tie sat at a teak table, empty except for a jade chess set. He had the softest hand I ever shook. Just as Franz had coached, I presented three calling cards: Franz’s, Dr. Mittelstadt's and mine.  Mr. Lee placed them in a neat arrangement in front of him.
“Miss Emma Lee Davis representing Dr. Franz Nemecek, Dr. Mittelstadt’s delegate?”  The voice was so muted that I strained to hear.
 He gestured toward a chair.  I had to pull my eyes away from the hypnotic view over Hong Kong, north to the Kowloon hills, and beyond to the New Territories and China.  Below us, ferries, wooden junks and freighters from every port of call criss-crossed the busy harbor while jets took off and landed over the water in the east.
 At first I wondered if Mr. Lee was albino, but he was just pale: white skin, alabaster hair, chalky brows, and lashes.  Milky blue eyes smiled at me without geniality or mirth.  He wasn’t Asian, and his accent was an absence, neither English nor American. His unlined face could be thirty or forty or even fifty.
Abstract oils lined the walls, but their stiff twisted forms repelled me.  In the bloody reds and the angry daubs of orange, I imagined executions and disemboweling, torture and mutilation, even more appalling for being subliminal.
"Do you admire my art collection?"  The soft unaccented voice had asked, breaking the silence. 
"Interesting.  Very intense."  I tried to be noncommittal.
Ocho Lee’s pale eyes forged a smile.
Not bothering to conceal his interest, he cast an auctioneer's glance over my suit, my shoes, my handbag, even my wristwatch.  He looked absolutely sure of his knowledge, as if he could pronounce a value for each piece separately, or for the total package.
“May I please have the tape?” I asked, making an effort to sound polite.
“Won’t you join me for tea?”
Remembering how adamant Franz was about avoiding conflict and causing Mr. Lee to lose face, I said, “I’m so sorry, but I’m meeting my husband’s five o’clock flight.” 
Bleached blue eyes met mine, quietly, patiently, attempting to gauge character and personality. 
"Your husband is also associated with computers?"
"Oh, no.” 
"Will you be staying on as tourists?" he asked with polite disinterest?
I didn’t want to tell him any details about myself or Roger or our plans.  I just wanted to leave.  My diction began to borrow the formality of his speech.
"I do regret that I am pressed for time. May I have the tape, please?"
A suggestion of petulance played about his soft grayish lips.
 "Pity.  Americans hurry so.  Stress is dangerous for the body.  And the mind."  His silky hand gestured toward the chess set.  "You in the West should practice...avoidance," he said, and I heard the soft warning in his voice.
When he handed me the tape, I felt the velvety hand again, and suppressed a shudder.
  "The present difficulties can be remedied. ”He paused for emphasis, and I must have looked dim, for he continued, “South China Software is anxious to obtain more development projects in the West."  His voice both insinuating and ingratiating.  “We are aggressively… competitive.” 
I popped the tape into my handbag, muttered some polite inanities and made my escape.  Riding down in the elevator, I noticed my once crisp white linen suit was limp and wrinkled.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Weihnachten ins Göttingen

Christmas Eve, some years ago
The uncooked goose
My heroine, Emma, lived and worked in Göttingen in the summer, but she would have loved the Fussganger Zone in the holiday season with the great lights and a dusting of snow.  We spent one Christmas there, and a memorable one it was, too, with real candles on the tree, a Christmas goose and  even some snow.  Fireworks and church bells completed the ambiance.  It was wonderful. Above is my mother-in-law holding the goose.

I never visited Göttingen without at least one visit to Kron & Lanz, which was in a scene in The Shadow Warriors.  Indeed the whole town from the wild pigs (wildschwein) to the train station and everything in between in is the novel.  Another photo from that lovely Christmas below.

Göttingen at night - - Christmas

The Shadow Warriors is now available on devices other than the Kindle:  The novel can be found on the Nook, Diesel, Apple's reader--just about everything but Sony and that's coming soon.  It wasn't much fun to do the Smashwords formatting, but an techie like me can usually figure it out. 

Merry Christmas!  Frohe Weihnachten, Gutes Neues Jahr and forgive my bad German.  I need Frau Eisenach to advice me.  She is one of my favorite characters from the novel.  I mean, how many novels do YOU know that are set in Göttingen?  Probably not that many.  And available on 


Emma's creator