I’m just a junior detective. I don’t know much, but I know the area around Hollywood Road, the hilly Hong Kong street that runs down to Connaught Road. Strange things turn up in that half-kilometer area crammed with antiques stores, coffee shops and tourist dives.
Right now, I am looking at this hwa-chiao, a Chinese-American tourist at the station house who’s bitching at Inspector Chan. Mr. Wu claims he’s an important visitor, but I think he’s FOB — fresh off the boat Chinese. He’s shaking his finger and saying, “I report my wife Mei-Yuan has disappeared, then I came back to find an imposter in my hotel room, not even a good duplicate.” Of course, from his mouth it comes out like “fucking imposter” and “goddamn duplicate.” Most bad guys use bad language to show their sincerity. This guy Wu is the slickest bad boy I’ve seen and I have seen a lot of them, from Guangzhou to Macao. His missing tài tai was Shanghainese and one of the richest women around.
“Well, it’s simple,” I say. “If that woman in your hotel room is not your wife, then the one you want may be dead or run off to Shenzhen with a pretty boy or kidnapped by pirates….”
Inspector Chan didn’t like me calling the guy a killer and it showed on his little college-boy face. I told him before it was a simple thing to come here on homeland vacation and knock off his old lady. Her disappearance now puts this guy into the top five percent richest club. Wanting to inherit a pile of money is a good motive for murder. Simple as that.
Inspector Chan is insisting over the guy’s objections that the woman back at the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon really truly is his wife. “She was picked up wandering around Hollywood Road acting confused,” he says again. “Our Detective Huang — a good officer in spite of his impolite attitude — brought her back. May I suggest you may be suffering from delusions?”
Inspector Chan is one of the new breed of cop in China, college-educated and even one year studying at UCLA. Now he’s telling the Chinese-American, “Perhaps your problem is something called Capgras Syndrome and you should see a psychiatrist.” He’s smiling, proud of his analysis.
I light a cigarette and call over to the Inspector, “Crap gas?” He gives me a dirty look, like what do I know. I’m just the junior-grade detective who brought in the dame.
No, Inspector Chan tells us like an encyclopedia, Capgras, after the French psychiatrist who discovered it. “It’s when you think a close relative or spouse has been replaced by an imposter, an exact double. I have seen this in people with Alzheimer’s or bi-polar disorder,” he says. “Go look it up, Junior Detective Huang.”
The American shouts bullshit. Three times. He says, “I came back from dinner to find a counterfeit in my hotel room, not even a good look-alike of the person I love, my dear Mei-Yuan. Why can’t anyone see this isn’t my wife? You must find my real wife, Inspector.”
“Well, if you had her passport or some photos,” Inspector Chan offers.
“She took her passport. I don’t have any pictures or know anyone in Hong Kong! You think I bring a photo album on my vacation?”
Time to get a coffee, I think, but I turn to the guy. “How come her fingerprints match those on the glass where she brushed her teeth?” I ask. “Huh? How come her clothes fit? How come, Mr. Chinese-American Wiseguy? It’s your old lady and I found her.”
He turns three shades of red and purple and his mouth looks like he sucked a lemon, trying to choke back some words. Maybe he wants Chan to give him back his passport, too.
“Maybe you are worried you won’t inherit your old lady’s money, is that it?” I ask. “Yesterday, you say she disappeared. Tomorrow maybe you will admit your wife is at the bottom of the harbor.” I gave him my big two-dollar smile that I reserve for police commissioners and college-graduate inspectors. “If that is not your wife, then maybe we should book you for murder.”
He turns another shade of red, like a firecracker at New Year’s. “Maybe it is my wife,” he mutters and tries to get up. “I think it really is my wife and I should see that shrink.” He walks out the door.
Inspector Chan gets really annoyed and pokes me in the chest. “You pissed off the richest person I’ve ever interviewed,” he shouts. “You do not know how to treat people. You are just a country cop.”
“I knew how to treat this one,” I tell him. “I lied. Of course it is not his wife. Not her fingerprints either. Mei-Yuan Wu has probably been cut up for dumplings. That woman in his hotel room is Officer Lee, a policewoman I brought in from Wanchai. She’s doing me a favor for a few days till Officer Lee gets the guy to admit he killed his wife, or until maybe he really goes nuts. Killers are nuts to begin with. In any case, he won’t get his hands on his wife’s money.
“See, Inspector,” I say, poking him in the chest. “There’s educated people and there’s smart people.”
Then I walk out of the interrogation room, but not before turning around and saying real loud, “Crap gas.”
# # #