The woman agent in the Golden Lotus Travel Service tapped into the keyboard, scrolled through electronic data on the color computer monitor.
“We had someone come in last week,” she said to Jack in Cantonese, “a woman who fits the description.”
“Last week?” Jack kept his cool, stared over her shoulder at the digital waves.
“Might have been Thursday or Friday. I had the weekend off and only saw your fax message this morning.”
“What did she look like?”
“She wore black, short hair. Never took her sunglasses off.”
Her eyes flickered. “Here it is.”
Jack breathed through his nose, measured his breaths.
“It wasn’t Mexico. Or Canada. She booked one seat one way to Los Angeles. Greyhound Bus. The Holiday Inn near Chinatown.”
“Under what name?”
“J. Wong,” she answered.
“When?”Jack asked as she tore off the printout and gave it to him.
“Should have arrived today.”
Jack smiled, thanked her.
“The Department will be in touch with you regarding the reward,” he said. She appeared happy as he left her little office.
When he got back to the 0-Five, the phone on Jack’s desk was ringing, a call the switchboard patched through from the Translation Project downstairs. The voice was Cantonese, a woman speaking with a Hong Kong accent.
“The man you are looking for was the Big Uncle’s driver. Jun Yee ‘wongjai,’ kid Wong. Wong,” she repeated.
Jack tried to stall her for a trace but she repeated the name once more and hung up. funYee Wong, he realized, the missing radio driver from Brooklyn. The circle was shrinking.
Downstairs, they got a partial area code off the call. 303. Best guess was somewhere in Colorado. Colorado?
A crank call? The mistress. Then who was enroute to Los Angeles?
Jack decided to install a caller ID device, his head piecing together scattered impressions of a missing woman. His eyes ate up the travel agent’s printout before he made the call.
The long-distance male voice was brusque, efficient, no-nonsense. He said, “Like, this is LA, buddy. We’re five minutes outside of Chinatown so, yes, we’ve got lots of Chinese men, and women, in lots of our rooms. I can’t give you that kind of information over the telephone.”
Jack identified himself for the second time.
“Yes,” the voice continued, “NYPD. So you say, but on this end I don’t know you from Joe Blow citizen. You get my point of view?”
“Can’t you even confirm if it’s a Chinese man, or woman, in that room?”
“Can’t do it. Suppose I tell you and someone gets killed?”
“Suppose you don’t tell me and someone gets killed?” Jack growled.
“Not my problem.”
“Thanks for nothing.” Jack slammed the phone down. He considered reaching out to LAPD, but worried about spooking the fugitives, losing his shaky leads to the mistress and the driver.
Then he heard the transmission coming over the static on the squadroom radio, crackling something about Major Case coming in on the Uncle Four killing. Bringing in the Big Dicks, sliding him into the background.
He knew that was how it worked. It’s not that the Fifth Squad can’t be trusted. Operations wanted more experience, older dicks from Manhattan South.
Jack tuned out the thought, unofficial as it was, and started considering the time difference versus the flight time to Los Angeles. Then the squadroom door swung open.