I heard three more shots fire as I ran up the stairs. There were about half of the remaining men on my tail, and I didn’t want to give them any reason to think I was slowing down. I climbed two flights with ease, and heard another Triad member’s footsteps separating from the rest of the group, sounding louder as he began to gain on me.
I turned the corner and waited a few seconds for him to appear. When he turned the corner after me, I shot him at close range, and the force of the shot knocked him back down. I kept going. Killing one off was still a tradeoff because now the other three were closer. But maybe I would be able to pick them off one by one.
My brain was learning to work clockwise, as I turned and turned up each flight. When we were on the sixth floor, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold them off in time for the others to get here. Not if I ran my fastest. I hadn’t thought this through.
Three or four guys didn’t sound like a lot when Li was talking about the Wo Shing Wo being spread thin in Kowloon Walled City, but they felt like a lot when you were running from them. I found myself only flights away from the roof. It was coming up much sooner than I was expecting. I was huffing and puffing, so I stopped counting. I would get there when I got there, I decided.
The fog started to lift outside the windows. I was coming up to the end. I gasped in lungfuls of air as I saw the last set of stairs and prepared to push open the door to the roof. I tucked the gun under my arm and opened the door with both hands.
I didn’t have much time. I waited around the other side for the others to come out. It took a few seconds, but as soon as the door opened, I fired one bullet after the other. The three remaining men fell forward, but one was still alive. He turned over, pointing his gun at me, but I shot again, and what was once his jaw became a crooked bloody mess in less than a second. The man screamed. I winced, and then shot him one more time. He crumpled to the ground, and by then there was only silence on the roof.
I sighed and put the gun down. Then my feet gave way and I knelt down with the gun on my lap. A minute or so later, the door opened again. I braced myself to fire, not knowing how many bullets I had left.
Her arm was bleeding bad, and she had a rag tied around it. Two others followed her.
“You’re okay!” She said. “I thought we were too late.”
“I did too,” I said. “How–”
“Hold it!” She aimed her gun at me and I put my hands up. “Don’t move.”
“Lin, what are you–”
She fired her gun. I flinched. Then, behind me, I heard a thud. It was the man I had knocked out on the roof. He had woken up and was about an arm’s length away from me when she shot him. I looked up at Lin, relieved, and got to my feet again.
“Where’s everyone else?” I asked.
“Downstairs. Checking the offices. We’re rounding up the last few who are still here. What do you want us to do with them?”
“Let me look at them,” I said. I didn’t care about the others. I wanted Li. We made our way off the roof and down each flight of stairs. It was odd not having to rush around the building anymore.
“We lost two,” Lin said, apologetically.
“I don’t know their names.”
“I’ll be able to recognize them,” I said. “I should tell their families.”
On the ground floor were four more men. Unfortunately, Li was not one of them. My heart sank.
“Li,” I said. “Where’s Li?”
“Who?” One of the police force asked.
I turned to one of the unarmed Triad members. “Was Li here?”
“I don’t know,” he said, looking away.
I pistol whipped him with my gun. “Are you going to answer me correctly this time?”
“What are you doing?” Lin said, from behind me. I turned around to see her looking bewildered. “You don’t need to hurt him!”
“He’s a liar!”
“I don’t know!” the man insisted. “I swear, I don’t know!”
“I know,” the man sitting to his right said. “Li was in the hospital a week ago, but he got out early. He was supposed to be here tomorrow,” he chuckled to himself. “But he’s never coming back after today.”
“Why is that?” I wanted to wipe the smile off his smug face.
He shrugged. “Because he’ll know what happened.”
I was fuming. I should have known word would get back to Li from one of his loyal dogs. “Will he know what happened if I kill every last one of you?” I said, my voice harsh.
The four men didn’t say anything.
“You think about that.”
Lin piped up behind me. “Siu-Ling, can I talk to you?”
“What is it?”
Lin gestured toward an empty office down the hall, and I followed her in. She closed the door, and walked around the desk, placing her backpack on it. I sat down as she began unloading it, placing whatever was left from the arms storage onto the desk.
“What are you doing?”
Lin pulled out a square bit of folded cloth. It was blotchy brown and wrinkled, and she began to unfold it. As it began to take shape, I recognized what it was.
“Is this yours?” Lin asked.
It was my work shirt, the one I had used to bind Kai’s hand. I realized that I was silent for a beat too long.
“No,” I said anyway. “What is it?”
Lin frowned. “Don’t lie to me,” she said. “Or I’ll make you wear it.”
“I’m not the only one with a factory job. Or the only one with a job at Fujian Electronics.”
“But Kai came to your house last.” I opened my mouth to object, but Lin stopped me. “I’m not here for you to convince me,” she said. “I had a hard time believing it myself. But I know the truth now.”
We sat in silence for a moment.
“Why didn’t you bury it?” I asked finally.
“Because you wouldn’t let me investigate, and I spent days wondering why. I washed it, and this is what I saw.” She smoothed out the shirt’s creases as though it were still good to wear. “I had seen it a hundred times.” This time, she caressed a dark spot of old blood on the sleeve, as if remembering Kai through it. “When I wasn’t sure, I decided to join you,” she said. “To see what kind of person would be so cruel to him. When I saw what I saw, I had no choice but to believe it was you. You’re a cruel woman.”
“Cruel is untrue. Maybe ambitious.”
“Maybe scared,” Lin said.
I frowned, remembering my last conversation with Mars, how hysterical I was.
Lin stared down at the desk, refusing to look at me. There were tears in her eyes and she punched the desk angrily. “I was going to betray you, you know! I was going to either let you die by the Triads, or kill you myself! But when it came down to it, I couldn’t do it. I’m too weak.”
I didn’t know what to say. My shirt was laid out in front of me like a flag, showing my true loyalties.
“I don’t know what he did to deserve your punishing him like that,” Lin said. “But you didn’t just punish him, you punished me. I loved Kai.”
I stared at the desk when I recited what I had been telling myself ever since he came to my apartment, ever since I grabbed hold of that cleaver. “I did what I had to. It was him or me–”
“It should have been you!” Lin screamed over the desk. She swept the guns and my work shirt off the table and into my lap.
I flinched, feeling the guns fall over my knees and clatter on the ground.
She headed for the door. “I’m not staying here. I just had to tell you what I know. It’s all I can do. Goodbye, Siu-Ling.” She walked out, shutting the door behind her. Her footsteps faded down the hall and I was left alone in that office with guns on the floor and a bloody shirt draped over my knees.
I didn’t know how long I sat there, but I got up and noticed my palms were sweating. I stood up and let the shirt slide off my lap.
Out in the hall, the group of Triad members were still huddled together with the two women overseeing them. They held their guns lazily and without experience, but the Triad members didn’t seem to want to take a chance with them, being unarmed.
I walked down the hall, following the path Lin must have taken, and stopped at the group on the ground. I felt numb.
“Orders, Siu-Ling?” one of the women said. “What do you want us to do with them?”
“Let them go,” I said, my voice flat. “It’s fine. They can leave.”
The girl and her partner exchanged looks, and then turned to the four men sitting behind them. “We’ll escort you out.” one of them said.
I watched them all leave the same way Lin did. They were gone for a while, and in the end, only one of them returned, smelling vaguely of cigarette smoke.
“Mui says she has to lie down,” she said, reporting back.
We spent the rest of the evening transporting the bodies of the Wo Shing Wo out of the city to get them buried. We made arrangements for the two we lost, and I made plans to use the building for housing and police headquarters.
But I would spend the next five months wondering if the people who left me, or if the people I left, would ever return.