As Mallard was climbing the stairs up to the CID offices he bumped into one of the Desk Sergeants from the reception area on his way back down to the ground floor.
"Ah, Sir. I've just been up to see you but Ruth Gentry told me you were with the guv'ner."
"Bloody marvelous. You can't fart in this place without word spreading round the building!" Mallard replied, not expecting any response.
"Quite. There's someone at the front desk asking to see you."
"Kuma Chang? Mean anything?"
"Chang does. I don't know a Kuma though. Go back up and ask Gentry to join me will you?"
Both men reversed directions and Mallard headed for the front desk where a very large, muscular Oriental man stood waiting for him.
"Mr. Chang? DCI Mallard. I understand you want to talk to me."
The Chinese man didn't accept the proffered right hand but instead told Mallard that Koyo Chang had asked to see him.
"Then why didn't he come himself? I'm not in the habit of chasing off all over London at somebody else's whim."
"Mister Chang prefers that he is able to extend his hospitality from where he feels most comfortable. He has sent me with a car to take you to him."
"Very well. We'll just wait for my colleague and we'll be underway."
"Sorry matey, it don't work that way."
"Maybe we should just step outside where I can explain in confidence?"
"Maybe we should wait right here." Mallard retorted. He was beginning to feel decidedly uncomfortable with this giant of a man who was now standing far too close. Mallard was suddenly aware of a point of pressure on the side of his body closest to Chang.
"There is currently a fire arm pointing at you and I am not afraid to use it." Chang warned him in a low voice. "Just turn around and come with me to the car. One sound and I will shoot you dead."
Without a word, Mallard complied with the demand. The Desk Sergeant shouted after him but he ignored him. Chang walked Mallard to the waiting car and opened the rear door. The DCI climbed in, slid along the seat and Chang sat along side him, closing the door behind him. Immediately the car pulled away. Mallard looked back just in time to see Ruth Gentry run out onto the steps in front of the building. She seemed fully aware of what had happened and stood watching the car until it was out of sight.
"Very foolish of Mister Chang if you ask me." said Mallard. "If you are taking me to where he operates from..."
"Mister Chang is far from foolish. We are going to Hounslow in South West London. Far enough away from our centre of operations to be of no threat." the big man offered.
"Even so; kidnapping an officer of the law is a serious offence."
"It could be worse Mister Mallard. And if things do not go according to Mister Chang's plans, it inevitably will."
"Used to getting his own way, your Mister Chang, is he?"
"I'm not an easy man to manipulate."
"Then that is your failing Mister Mallard."
"So, tell me: Are you related to Koyo Chang? Or is it that you Chinkies have a limited number of last names to choose from?"
"Your racism is wasted Mister Mallard. In my opinion it is a very cheap tactic which makes no impression whatsoever. You are in fact less of a man than I expected. I am Mister Chang's son."
"Just so long as I know. I like to put names to the ugly mugs I am likely to be arresting in the not too distant future." Mallard stared at Chang's face for a few seconds before turning away and facing the oncoming road again. "And you were certainly last in line when they were dishing out the looks!" he said.
After a while the driver turned the car off the dual carriage way they had been using. They passed a tube station on the left and Mallard noted that they had reached "Hounslow Central." They travelled for a few hundred yards more before once again turning left into a street filled with Victorian town houses. They came to a halt outside a house that had been turned into a mosque. Many Indians waited outside, each dressed in traditional costumes. Some were smoking cigarettes and others just chatted to their friends.
"Please open the door slowly and walk into the mosque. Attempt to escape or to alert anyone and I shall shoot you down. Chang said.
Mallard opened his door carefully and stepped out onto the pavement. He sniffed the air.
"Distinct smell of oriental garbage round here." he said before walking up to the front door of the converted house. Several of the Indian folk turned to look at him in disgust. One of the men grabbed his arm and mallard turned to look into his eyes.
"Whatever your opinion of us sir, we welcome you into our holy place without prejudice." Mallard simply sniffed and proceeded through the door.
"Up stairs." Chang instructed as he too entered the building. Mallard climbed the narrow stairs to the first floor, followed closely by his Chinese captor.
The top floor of the house was very different from the lower one which had been fully customized and elaborately decorated to form a place of worship. The first floor was dreadfully run-down and retained it's original Victorian lay-out. All the paintwork was peeling or chipped and wall paper was hanging off the plaster.
"Nice place!" Mallard quipped.
"The door next to the bathroom." Chang instructed. The bathroom door was wide open so it was not difficut to navigate his way. Mallard placed his hand on the door handle.
"Wait!" said Chang, but mallard threw the door wide open and walked in.
"Aah, Mister Mallard. What a pleasant surprise." It was Koyo Chang who was sitting at a large glass desk facing the door and flanked by the two stooges Mallard had met in Soho.
"I am sorry Father. He just barged in." Kuma Chang said as he too entered the room.
"Some people are simply ignorant of manners, Kuma. Pay it no heed. At last Mister mallard has decided to grace us with his presence. Close the door will you, Kuma?" Kuma Chang did as he was told and stood in front of it so that escape was not possible.
"Not that I had any choice in the matter with a bloody great gun stuck in my side!" said Mallard, his frustration playing out in his voice.
"Mister Mallard. I hope you are not accusing my son of anything illegal?"
Mallard turned to look at Kuma who waggled a four inch piece of dowling at him, smiling broadly.
"You see, Detective Chief Inspector; our minds perceive what they want to, and not all is the truth." said Chang the older, smugly.
"Games. Is that what you brought me here for? Or is there actually something important you wanted to discuss?
"Please Mister Mallard, be seated." Chang presented the chair before his desk with an open hand. Mallard sat. "I understand that you have charged the boy, James Threadgold with the murder of his father?"
"You hear correctly. But that news hasn't been released yet. How..."
"I have ears in many places, Detective Chief Inspector. It is a pity that the boy took such measures to check his father's perversions. Even more of a pity that he attempted to reflect his own failings onto my Family."
"My heart bleeds as we speak." Mallard quipped.
"Had you meant that sincerely I would have been deeply touched. Due to your actions, Mister Mallard I am in danger of losing a significant amount of money. An important line of business has been severed, and as you can imagine, I am not happy."
"What sort of business?"
"Foreign business. Shall we just say that Mister Threadgold and Mister Stefanovic ran regular errands for me?"
"Let me guess; drugs."
"Such a dirty word, Mister Mallard."
"So why tell me? You must realise that anything you tell me goes straight back to the station where it will be acted upon?"
Chang laughed heartily.
"You presume too much, Mister Mallard. You will not be returning to your old life. You will be making amends for my losses."
"Exactly. I need a courier. A go-between. Someone who can be reliable and who wouldn't look out of place in the best hotels Pristina has to offer."
"Where the bloody hell is Pristina?"
"Come, come Mister Mallard. Did you never study Geography at school? It is the Capital city of Kosovo."
Suddenly Pandora Box's real name made sense.
"George Stefanovic was Yugoslavian." Mallard thought aloud.
"Bravo Mister Mallard. Yes, he was indeed. And he spent an equal time in Kosovo as he did in this country. Entertaining the wealthy, you might say."
"A traveling drag act who took consignments of illegal substances into Yugoslavia to be sold in posh hotels."
"Very good. You see? I am always right in my choices of courier."
"So what makes you think I would give up a decent job with the Met to smuggle your dirty washing?
"The money. In one trip you can earn more than you do over twelve months in your current job. Your background is ideal Mister Mallard. You have spent many years working with the law, so you are best placed to know how to work it to my advantage."
"And if I refuse?"
"The choice is simple. You do as I ask and find yourself able to take an early retirement or within the next ten minutes an old age pension will be something that will no longer be of concern to you."
"Are you threatening me Mister Chang?"
Once again Chang gave a hearty chuckle.
"I never make threats, Mister Mallard." he leaned forward. "Only promises."
"You do realize my Detective Constable saw the car I was in pulling away from the station? She will have made a note of the registration number and by now every force in the Greater London area will be out looking for us?"
"The plates have already been changed, Mister Mallard. I have a very efficient staff. And if Ms. Gentry makes the mistake of successfully tracing our whereabouts, measures are already in place to ensure that her chances of surviving the day are sadly remote."
"You harm a hair on her head and I'll..."
"You'll what, exactly? It is very difficult for a dead man to have any effect other than causing grief when his corpse is discovered. And I can assure you Mister Mallard that it will be a very long time before what remains of your earthly existence is likely to be found. Now; I would think very carefully if I were you before you decide where your future lies."
"I'm not climbing into a ruddy frock for anyone!" Mallard protested.
Chang heartily laughed before replying.
"Excellent. A sense of humour. I take it then that I can extend a warm welcome to our latest Family member?"