Warren Murphy: Chinese Puzzle

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    Chinese Puzzle
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A Chinese diplomat is decidedly deceased and the communist chairman's advisor is shanghaied while burrowing in the Bronx. The State Department is seeing red and a sour situation gets spicy. Now Remo Williams and his Korean mentor, Master Chiun, must save the abducted adviser and compromise the conspiracy before the kung fu hits the fan. As the US and China prepare for nuclear battle and an assassin's bullet has The Destroyer's name on it, the fate of the world is as complicated to solve as a Chinese Puzzle.

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* Title : #003 : CHINESE PUZZLE *

* Series : The Destroyer *

* Author(s) : Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir *

* Location : Gillian Archives *



He did not want coffee, tea or milk. He did not even want a pillow for his head, although the BOAC stewardess could see he was obviously dozing.

When she attempted to slip the white pillow behind his barrel neck, two younger men slapped it away and motioned her to the rear of the jet, then to the front. Any direction, so long as it was away from the man with closed eyes, and hands folded on top of a brown leather briefcase handcuffed to his right wrist. She did not feel comfortable around this particular group of Orientals. Not with their dour faces, their cement lips obviously set in childhood never to smile.

She judged them to be Chinese. Usually Chinese were most pleasant, often charming, always intelligent. These men were stone.

She went forward to the captain's cabin, past the forward galley, where she snitched an end of a cinnamon bun and gobbled it down. She had bypassed lunch on her slimming diet and then did what she always did when she missed lunch. She ate something fattening to quell the rising hunger. Still, dieting and breaking the diet in small ways, while not really trimming pounds kept her lissom enough to hold her job.

The bun was good, somehow extra sweet. No wonder the Chinese gentleman had asked for more. Perhaps they were his favourite. Today was the first time they had served cinnamon buns. They were not even on the regular lading for the menu.

But he had liked them. She could see his eyes light when they were served. And the two men who had slapped the pillow away had been ordered to give him their buns.

She opened the front cabin door with her key and leaned into the cabin.

"Lunch, gentlemen," she said to the pilot and co-pilot. "No," they both answered. The captain said: "We'll be over Orly soon. What kept you?"

"I don't know. It must be that time of year. Most everyone is dozing back there. I had a pickle of a bother fetching pillows. It's awfully hot here, isn't it?"

"No, it's cool," said the co-pilot. "Are you all right?"

"Yes. Yes. Just feels a bit warm. You know." She turned away, but the co-pilot did not hear her close the door. There was a good reason she did not close the door. She was suddenly sleeping, face down on the cabin floor, her skirt angling up to the pinnacle of her rump. And in those strange patterns that greet the unexpected, the co-pilot's first thought was silly. He wondered if she was exposing herself to the passengers.

He need not have worried. Of the 58 passengers, 30 had passed all cares of the world, and most of the rest were in panic.

The co-pilot heard a woman's scream. "Oh, no. Oh, no, Lord. No. No. No."

Men were yelling now also, and the co-pilot unstrapped himself and hopped over the body of the stewardess, dashing into the seat-lined body of the plane where a young woman slapped a young boy's face and kept slapping it, demanding he wake up; where a young man walked the aisle dazed; where a girl desperately pressed her ear to a middle-aged man's chest; and where two young Chinese men stood over the body of an elderly Chinese gentleman. They had drawn guns.

Where the hell were the other stews? Dammit. There was one in the back. Asleep.

He could feel the plane pitch and dive. They were going in for an emergency.

Unable to think of anything else, he yelled to the passengers that they were making an emergency landing and that they should fasten their seat belts. But his voice scarcely made an impression. He dashed back to the front, pushing the dazed, wandering man down into a seat. An elderly couple nearby did not even look up. They were apparently dozing through it also.

He snatched the stewardess' microphone from its cradle hook in the small compartment near the front seat, and announced they were making an emergency landing at Orly airport and that everyone should fasten his seat belts.

"Fasten your seat belts now," he said firmly. And he saw a woman first buckle in a sleeping boy whose face she had been slapping, then resume her slapping in an effort to rouse him.

The plane moved down through the foggy night, locked in on the right path by a homing beacon that the pilot followed unerringly. Upon landing, the airplane was not allowed to taxi to the main terminal but was ordered to a hangar where ambulances and nurses and doctors were waiting. As soon as he opened the door for the platform steps, the co-pilot was pushed aside by two men in gray suits, with revolvers drawn. They went storming into the plane pushing aside two passengers. When they reached the Chinese gentleman, they returned their revolvers to their holsters, and one of them nodded to one of the young Chinese, and the two of them ran back up the aisle again, slamming into a nurse and a doctor, knocking them over, and continuing down the ground platform.

Only the people taken to the morgue or the hospital that night left the airport. It was not until midnight on the following day that the survivors were allowed to depart. They had not been allowed to see a newspaper or listen to a radio. They answered questions upon questions until all the questions and answers seemed to blend in a continuous flow of words. They talked to white men, to yellow men, to black men. And very few of the questions made sense.

Nor did the newspaper headline they were finally allowed to see:


Nowhere, noticed the co-pilot, did the paper mention the Chinese gentleman or his two aides, not even in the roster of passengers.

"You know, honey," he said to his wife, after reading the newspaper reports three times, "these people couldn't have died of botulism. There were no convulsions. I told you what they looked like. And besides, all our food is fresh." He said this in his small London flat.

"Well then, you should go to Scotland Yard and tell them."

"That's a good idea. Something's not on the up and up here."

Scotland Yard was very interested in his story. So were two American blokes. Everyone was so interested that they wanted to hear the story again and again. And just so the co-pilot would not forget, they gave him a room to himself that stayed locked all the time. And did not let him leave. Or call his wife.

The President of the United States sat in the large soft chair in the corner of his main office, his shoeless feet resting on a green hassock before him, his eyes riveted on predawn Washington-for him, the floodlights on the White House lawn. His pencil tapped on the sheaf of papers resting between his knees and his stomach.

His closest advisor was summing up in his professorial manner. The room smelled of the lingering cigar smoke of the CIA director who had left one hour before. The advisor spoke in the gutturals of German childhood, droning on about possibilities and probabilities of international repercussions and just why this was not as bad as it looked.

"It would not do to minimize what has happened. The dead man was, after all, a personal emissary from the Premier. But the important thing is that the Premier's visit to this country is still on. For one thing, the emissary was not poisoned over American territory. He boarded the plane in Europe and was to transfer at Montreal, for this country. Because of this, it is apparent that the Premier does not believe that any of our people were involved. That is evident, because he has indicated a willingness to send another man to finalize the arrangements for his visit to this country."

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