The sheltered smoking area seemed busier than the offices within the police station. Spotting a young, uniformed constable who had often been assigned to help CID with their various enquiries, Mallard extracted his penultimate Marlboro from the packet and without looking up, commented
"No wonder we can never find a bloody wooden-top when we want one!" He lit his cigarette with a silver plated lighter, drew the smoke deep into his lungs and exhaled looking at the dark sky.
"Evenin' DCI Mallard." the constable said, feeling uneasy at his superior's presence.
"Glad you didn't say 'good.'" Mallard replied. "It's wetter than a brass's knickers!"
There was a sniggering from a huddle of coppers fifteen yards to Mallard's right and he looked across to see who was responsible.
"Something amusing, Constable Lock?" he asked with a trace of frustration in his voice.
"Sorry DCI. Nothing."
"Nothing? Bloody nothing? If you ask my opinion, which I realise you didn't, but you're going to get anyway; someone who suddenly bursts out laughing over sweet F.A needs to be put away on a funny farm, not serving Her flaming Majesty in the area of Law Enforcement."
"Yes DCI, Sir."
"Bad day Sir?" Lock asked, a brief look of amusement passing between him and his mates. Mallard looked at the glowing end of his cigarette as he held it just above waist level between index finger and thumb, then dropping it to the concrete paving slab at his feet, trod on it as he turned to slowly walk over to the group. He strode right up to the group and centred on Kent, thrusting his face right up to that of the young man.
"Was that genuine concern for my well-being Kent, or was that your way of extracting the Michael? Because I'm telling you now; if it was the latter, there are people inside that station who are far better versed than you. And as it happens, the proverbial Michael has been extracted one too many times this fine, water logged day for my liking and the next person to do so is more than likely to have the smile on their face relocated to somewhere on their body that is unaccustomed to smiling! Now; let us re-evaluate the situation shall we? How did you intend your last comment to be received constable?"
"Genuine concern for your well-being Sir." Kent replied, dropping his own cigarette as he backed against a wall. Mallard held his stare into the boy's eyes for a moment longer.
"Good. Good." Mallard's tone had suddenly mellowed and he brushed invisible fluff from the constable's tunic. "As it happens it's been one hell of a day. Thank you for asking." As he turned to walk away from the young man, the glass door opened out into the smoking area and the Desk Sergeant put his head round it.
"DCI Mallard? There's someone at reception to see you." he said.
Mallard didn't acknowledge the man at all but followed him back into the building, down a long corridor and into the reception area. The Desk Sergeant nodded in the direction of an oriental gentleman seated on one of the plastic seats provided for those who were waiting to meet with someone from behind the scenes., He appeared to be in his late fifties and wore a brown two-piece suit with a bright yellow waist coat and rested his left hand on an ebony walking stick. The man was accompanied by two younger orientals, both wearing black suits and standing either side of his chair. Mallard pushed his way through what he considered to be Councilite Trailer Trash that seemed to fill the area to present himself to the gentleman.
"I'm DCI Mallard. What can I do for you?"
"It is more a question of what I can do for you." The man replied without rising from his seat.
"In what respect?" Mallard asked.
"In respect of two murders in a night club usually frequented by homosexuals." the man replied dryly.
"You'd better come with me." Mallard sad, turning on a sixpence. "Without Ying and Yang, if you don't mind!" he called back without looking round as he led the way down the corridor. The man nodded at his entourage to stay-put as he followed Mallard who was now peering through glass panels of various wooden doors.
Eventually he found what he was looking for; an empty interview room, and held open the door for the gentleman to enter first.
As the door slowly closed itself behind them, the two men sat on opposite sides of the loan table. Mallard leaned back in his chair and folded his arms.
"Right then. Perhaps you wouldn't mind introducing yourself and then telling me what you know about these murders. More to the point, how you know about the second one as nothing has been released to the press as yet."
"My name is Koyo Chang and I am a business man based in China Town." The man calmly replied, smiling. "And I make it my business to know what is going on in and around the streets which I own."
"You own?" Mallard feigned amusement at this. "That's a very interesting statement Mister Chang."
"Which happens to be true, Mister Mallard. I have a lot of money invested in Soho and many of the people who run it are in my employ."
"Aah, I see. You are Triad."
"A very distasteful term these days, Mister mallard. It has rather sinister undertones, don't you think? I prefer to think of myself as an investor."
"As you wish."
"It has come to my attention that there has been a connection between my business interests and your crime investigations, fabricated in order to cover the real truth of the matter. This displeases me, Mister Mallard, as you might well imagine."
"Oh, I imagine quite a lot Mister Chang. So what, in your opinion is the truth ot the matter?"
"I couldn't possibly say Mister Mallard. That is for your people to find out, is it not?"
"Then forgive me for seeming rude Mister Chang, but what the bloody hell are you doing here, wasting my time?"
"I have brought you a gift." Change extracted a small bottle from a side pocket in his jacket and placed it gently on the table.
"What's this?" Mallard asked.
"It is the next part of your investigation. A bottle of Pink. I understand that you have just sent your colleague out to find some for you, so I have saved you the waiting."
"How the bloody hell do you know she's gone looking for some? She's only just left."
"As I previously stated, Mister Mallard; I make it my business to know what is going on." Chang continued to smile as Mallard picked up the bottle to examine it.
"What is this stuff?" he asked.
"Mostly a strawberry flavoured cordial with a trace of vodka and an even smaller trace of a drug, the name on the street of which is GBH. Many of the bars that stock it are unaware of anything other than it being... I think the term is Alco-pop."
"This is bloody illegal!" Mallard exclaimed. "It's a sodding date-rape drug!"
"Which, apart from it's rather appealing colour, is exactly why the homosexual community have embraced it."
"Where did you get this? You do realise I could have you nicked for being in possession of this?"
"Where it came from is inconsequential Mister Mallard. But I warn you, despite it's colour, it is a distinct shade of red to those of us who see."
"A red herring, Mister Mallard. A red herring."
Mallard forcefully put the bottle down on the table before him and leaned forward to get a closer look at Koyo Chang.
"What exactly do you know about these crimes?" he asked.
"What little I do know, Mister mallard, is that you are walking in the wrong direction. What I can tell you is that these murders were made to look like something they are not. You have drawn a connection between this little bottle and the crimes laid out before you and have already pointed an accusing finger in a rather unfortunate direction."
Mallard stared into the smiling eyes and sensed a deep foreboding that belied the expression on the oriental's face.
"You wouldn't be threatening me, would you Mister Chang?"
"Think of me as a light house guiding your ship away from the rocks Mister Mallard. I come here this evening as your friend."
Mallard thought about this before speaking.
"You realise that I can't immediately dismiss any Triad connections to these crimes, don't you? I can't just take what you say at face value. My investigations have to include you and your people."
"Of course. As you too must realise that a guiding light is susceptible to failure on occasions? It is a matter of trust, Mister Mallard, on both our parts."