"I know about the Triad connection." Mallard shouted down the phone. "I've seen the results of their little games before. What actually killed this bloke?"
"What actually killed him, without having done a toxicology test yet, was the cheese wire through the wind pipe! They meant business too. The wound stopped short of the vertebrae. What bothers me is the Chinese Dragon. My assistant tells me that it was left as a warning to US!" Clive Ward was perspiring profusely at this point, soaking his surgical greens.
"Listen Ward, these people are scare mongers. They're always leaving warnings of some sort, particularly for the authorities. They think they are above the law and like all criminals, they don't want to get caught. Just calm down; you're in no danger. And tell the kid to stick to reading Paddington Bear in future." With that he replaced the receiver.
"The Pathologist?" enquired Ruth Gentry who was sat in a straight-backed chair opposite Mallard.
"Yes. In a panic as usual. What have we got on this boy...what's his name?" he picked up a sheet of paper from the desk. "Tony Tester?"
"Nothing much. He received a caution after a minor misdemeanor in Russell Square about three years ago and he nicked a Crunchie bar from Asda two years ago."
"We nicked him for swiping a bar of chocolate?"
"The Manager at the time wanted him prosecuted."
"I want you to go and talk to him. See if he can throw any light on what's going on in the club that may have got the Triads interested. Nicking a bar of chocolate? Are you sure there's nothing drug-related?"
"He's clean. He may have been dabbling but we've never done him for it."
The Golden Pagoda was easy to find, thanks to the plaster Chinese Dragon standing on the pavement just outside it's door. Ruth entered the restaurant and was immediately hit by the wonderous smells emanating from the kitchen at the back. It was also very warm compared to the damp cold street.
A tiny Chinese man in a white coat and black bow tie approached her, bowed and asked if she wanted a table for one. His wide smile was quite genuine. She delved into her handbag and produced her Police badge.
"DCI Ruth Gentry. I'd like to speak to Tony Tester please."
"Missa Testa? He not here. He won' be long if the lady like to wait?" The man swept his hand in the direction of a beautifully set table for two. Ruth seated herself.
"Can I get you anything while you wait? On tha house?"
"I could do with a bottle of water." Ruth replied.
"Anything to eat? You pay nothing."
"Not for me thanks. Food makes me tired and I'm here on business."
The little man bowed again and scurried away to fetch her water. When he reappeared, he was carrying both a wine glass and a plastic bottle of mineral water. The former he placed on the white table cloth before her then proceeded to pour most of the bottle's contents into it. There was still some left in the bottle when the glass had reached it's capacity so he placed that on the table too.
Suddenly the street door flew open and a trendily dressed young man entered, brushing the water off his jacket. Ruth took in his features, liking what she saw.
"Aah, missa Testa. This lady want see you. She been waiting." Tester looked at Ruth then approached the table. The little man was still hovering.
"That's okay Chin, you can go now!" the young man told him and he scurried back to the kitchen after giving another of his graceful little bows. "I hope he hasn't been too much of a pain." he said to Ruth. "He means well but he can be such an idiot sometimes!"
"On the contrary, he has been very accommodating." Ruth replied. She once again produced her badge. "DCI Ruth Gentry. Can we talk here or would you prefer somewhere more private?"
Tester pulled out the chair opposite Ruth and sat down.
"Here will be fine. It may be a restaurant but it's like a morgue on a week night."
"I'll get straight to the point Mister Tester; I understand that you were recently sacked..."
"Oh great! So that Daisy has reported me after all!" he interrupted.
"Did you know George Sefanovic, Mister Tester?"
Tony Tester laughed.
"Pandora? Yes of course. Great laugh."
"How well did you know him?"
"There was never anything between us. I knew he liked a drink and he was a bit 'hands-on', especially when he had sunk a few, but he was harmless."
"You know that he has been found murdered in the back of the club?"
"Yes. News travels fast in this area. Poor old so and so. He didn't deserve that. Nobody does."
"Were you aware of his involvement in anything illegal?"
"Drugs you mean? No. He wasn't like that. Okay, he drank like a fish, but then, most of the drag acts do. But he was very anti-drugs." Ruth scribbled some quick notes into her hand book. She then looked up and caught Tony's almond shaped eyes looking straight into hers. Her heart pounded in her chest and she cleared her throat to hide her embarrassment.
"Erm, I understand that you were selling drugs on the premises? What exactly were you distributing?
"I wasn't 'distributing' as you put it. I was getting a few friends what they needed for a night on the town."
"What were you getting them, exactly?"
"Just a handful of 'E's.' "
"Nothing more heavy-duty?"
"No way!" he sounded almost offended.
"Do you know if anything more serious was going around in there?"
"We were aware that sometimes the ladies toilets were being used, but we put a stop to that."
"Being used for what...apart from the obvious?"
"Each of the cubicles has a small window ledge of tiles. People were doing lines of Coke off them, but we coated the shelves in petroleum jelly on a regular basis so they couldn't be used like that."
"And this was just in the Ladies toilets?"
"So, it's just the women that have a drug addiction in your club? Is that what you're saying?"
"It's a gay venue. Boys and girls use the Ladies!" he explained. Ruth made more notes and looked back into Tony's deep brown eyes. He held her glare for a split second then diverted his gaze to the wall. She was obviously making him feel uncomfortable. She stole a look at the top of his chest which was clearly visible as the top few buttons of his shirt were undone. Tanned and completely smooth. He obviously visited a gymnasium regularly too as he was in pretty good shape. She felt a butterfly in the pit of her stomach.
"I er...I won't detain you for very much longer Mister Tester. You've been very helpful so-far. Is there...I mean...have you noticed anything unusual in the club lately? New people? Any gossip going round?"
"There's always gossip in a place like that. The club thrives on it. It's usually back-biting though. You know the thing? Who's sleeping with who, guys comparing notes on somebody else's boyfriend, the girls arguing about who cheated in a game of Pool. There's been a lot of talk about Pink though. That's quite unusual."
"Pink? As in the colour? Why would that strike you as unusual? As you said, it's a gay bar."
"No, Pink as in the designer drug aimed at the gay market. I didn't know about it at first, but I kept hearing people discussing it so I asked someone. It's a recent thing and so far, I haven't seen it for myself but it seems there are a few who have tried it."
"How recent is this?"
"Last couple of weeks before I left. Haven't heard much about it since. Mind-you, I haven't been to any gay bars since, so that's probably the reason."
Suddenly they were interrupted by a voice at the back of the restaurant, a female speaking very loudly.
"Oh god. You haven't met my Mother have you?" Tony said, rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands, elbows on the table's edge. A small dark haired Chinese lady approached them and she suddenly threw her arms round Tony's neck, despite his protestations.
"Tony, Tony, Tony." she cooed, punctuating each word with a kiss to his head. She looked up at Ruth, smiling. "Is my son, Tony. Where you been Tony? Mummy miss her boy."
Ruth smiled but felt uncomfortable for the young man in his embarrassment. She also wished she was as familiar with him.
"Mum, this is DCI Ruth Gentry. She's come to talk about the murder at the club."
"Terrible. Terrible! Bad business. Glad my boy not part of it anymore. You nice lady. You single?"
It was Ruth's turn to feel embarrassed.
"Yes." she replied.
"You like my son? He nice boy." The last two words were drawn-out with conviction and sincerity.
"Mum, for goodness sake!"
"He's a very nice boy." Ruth agreed.
"You stay, have meal. I arrange. On the house. Get to know my Tony. He nice boy. You like!"
Ruth glanced at Tony whose face was now completely hidden in his hands. She packed her pen and notebook into her handbag and stood.
"As much as I'd like to, Mrs. Tester, I really must get going."
"It rain outside. You much prefer the warm and good food. Good company?"
"I really must be off, but thank you."
"You call again? Free meal, good company? My son?" Mrs. Tester persisted.
"Why don't you ever treat Matthew like this? He's never sampled our food." Tony piped up to his mother.
"Who's Matthew?" Ruth enquired, not particularly interested but trying to offer her subtle support for this poor humiliated soul before her.
"He no good boy. He girly boy. Try take my son."
"He's my boyfriend." Tony interjected. Ruth's heart sank.
"It was nice meeting you both." she said. She nodded her farewell at them both and made her way out onto the rain soaked street. She stood for a moment to gather her thoughts and glanced at the bright red and gold painted dragon beside her, it's toothy grin almost mocking her.
"And I don't know why you're looking so pleased with yourself!" she told it. "Isn't anybody straight in London anymore?!"