Chapter 56. Mr. Lee, I presume?
“I will make a request that you are on police bail, in the meantime the guards will escort you across the street back to your cell until I find how much the bail will be.”
This deflated Tom, he did not want to go back to the miserable place where odor of vomit and dead cockroaches were common decor.
Before Robert could pick up his phone to call for a guard to take Tom back to his cell, there came a knock at the door.
A young man with a camera stood at the door and two men stood on either side of him. The two men wore matched navy blue business suits with lavender ties.
If Tom was not so terrified of his current future, might have laughed. But the twenty-something man in the middle of the trio did not fit with the group.
The young man looked down, and introduced himself as Liem Han, then one of the men in a gentle motion, a hand on his shoulder.
With a grimace of terror Liem spoke an invitation.
‟Mister Lee would like for you to join him for tea.”
‟Thank you.” Robert said. ‟When.”
A squeeze on Liem’s shoulder made the young man moan in abject fear.
‟Now. A limousine is waits for us outside.”
The men that escorted them, only gave minute professional nods as the two men inside gathered up the papers from Robert’s desk and walked out the door.
‟Please remember to lock your door.” The taller one said to Robert. ‟You will be returned safe and it would be a shame if someone took what little you had left because of an open door.”
Tom actually felt better when Robert locked the door before he turned and walked out of the house to the stretched limousine.
The team lavender opened the limo’s door and invited the three escorted men to climb inside the plush transporter’s interior and they closed the door behind them. Inside, an Indian woman with a strong British accent, faced them as they sat.
‟Mister Lee wishes to meet you both. Mister Liem, you will sell all your pictures with rights to Mister Lee. Interviews may be granted, but only after Mr. Lee approves. In the event there is a paid interview, the payments divided evenly, agreed?”
‟Um.” Liem stammered. ‟Do I have a choice.”
‟Yes. But it would be in your best interests to accept the deal. The consequences would be unfortunate.”
‟Ma’am.” Tom pointed at Liem. ‟Why is he here?”
‟Mister Liem Han has taken pictures of you at the time of your arrest. He sold them to the highest bidder. Mr. Lee has purchased most of the images, but the first few went out to the internet before we were aware of your legal troubles.” She explained in precise langauge.
‟Excuse me, who are you?” Robert asked.
‟Mister Mitch, my name is Mumtaz Nayyar, former legal advisor to the British consul here in Singapore.” She said in an even voice.
‟Why former?” The lawyer asked.
‟Mr. Lee pays a great deal more.”
‟Simple and direct.” Tom tried to chuckle but it came out as little more than a squeak. That Lee Kong Kuen had precise knowledge of where he was, bothered him.
‟Now, Mr. Mitch. My employer wishes to help you along with this case of Mr. Harte here. We have arranged for dropping of the drug charges, but you need to press for the government substantiate the drug charge.”
‟I don’t understand.”
‟The police misplaced the plastic bag as I understand it.” She folded down her laptop lid. ”There are no drugs. The report on that just came through to me.”
‟That is…” Robert searched for a word opened up in a practiced smile and showed perfect, polished teeth. ‟Incredible intelligence young woman.”
‟Do not flirt with me, it does not work.”
‟Mister Harte, you have been in Liem’s pictures. As a result certain elements of politics and some family have contacted the US Embassy here. She claims to drive for your wife. But our sources indicate you are a widower.”
‟I don’t have a wife, and I have a lot of limo drivers.”
She opened her laptop lid and traced her finger over the screen.
‟Lettie?” She read the name on the screen invisible to the rest of the passengers.
‟Oh yes, she owns the company.”
‟Does the name Kaylee sound familiar?”
‟I’m sorry, until we are more confident on these recent events, I advise him to say no more.”
‟Of course.” She looked out the window. ‟Here we are. Your mystery will resolve in a moment. Your host is waits there at the front step.”
The elegant car pulled up and a tall, bald elderly man dressed in lavender robes stepped forward and waited while the limousine driver opened the door. The two men in the business suits flanked the newcomers men and remained silent, bowed low to their employer.
Mumtaz bowed, but not as low as the two suited men, introduced the three guests.
‟Mister Harte, Mister Mitch and Mister Liem, this is my employer Lee Kong Kuen.” Then she stepped off to the side and fell silent.
‟Mister Lee.” Robert held out a hand. ‟Pleased to meet you. I have heard much.”
He shook his head, then the old man held out a fist and bumped knuckles.
‟I do not shake hands with outsiders, I understand that this is acceptable among westerners. Please come with me, we have much to discuss, but first you will need a change of clothes.” Mr. Lee turned to the men in business suits. ‟Some comfortable robes for them.”
‟Follow us.” The taller of his soldiers said without humor.
In a half-hour they sat in a room and wore lavender colored robes when their host entered.
He sat on a padded stool near a work of art, a short truncated obelisk with a one-meter-diameter flawless, transparent-quartz stone that rotated on a shallow pool of water.
‟There are few large quartz crystals in this world that are flawless. This is one.” He said, his hairless head gleamed nearly as much as the polished stone.
‟Mister Liem Han. I will pay you one-million Singapore dollars for your pictures, also for your camera and your phone. You will not give interviews unless I say it is acceptable. All interviews will be here under my supervision with Mumtaz in attendance. You’ll be paid and I will get half. If you receive offers of interviews, you will refer whoever asks to Mumtaz for negotiations.”
‟Yes.” Liem said. ‟I was just lucky, I saw the American get detained and taken out of his plane.”
‟Thank you.” Mr. Lee nodded. “You were lucky, indeed, and you’ll be rewarded for your work. You have a job interview with the person on the paper that Mister Hom has handed you. You will need new clothes and, Mister Hom? Please escort Mister Liem and select for him some proper clothes for an interview.”
He watched the men leave, then the eyes became hard and looked at Tom.
‟Your cannabis is high quality from the Emerald Triangle. DNA analysis tells us it is from Oregon. Mr. Harte, you do not plan to import any of this material into or through this part of the world?” The brow on the old man became furrowed with concern.
‟No. I will repeat what I have said, I was not aware it was on my plane. I have no interest in transport or smuggle of any material.” Tom looked at his host with a steady gaze. “I have had a relationship with a woman and we have parted company, I think it was hers.”
‟So I have heard, you sought an annulment in Las Vegas.”
‟Yes.” Tom nodded.
‟Tell me, in truth, do they have an entire street covered in Las Vegas?” The old face was unreadable.
‟Why, yes.” Tom said, careful of his words. “It is animated at night with lights.”
‟I wish to go there and see that, but I will need a tour guide.” A slight smile escaped him. ‟You will need to set that up. A staff of all men, a full floor and skilled escorts to show me around. I don’t trust any place outside my walls. And have all escorts trained in protection. Not all of my bodyguards have passports.”
‟Okay, I can do that. Is this a payment for any help?” Tom asked. “For my freedom?”
‟No, that is a friend who helps another friend in need. I would not ask you to do any illegal activities on my behalf.” He shook his head. “Those needs I can take care of with my own devices.”
“For payments to satisfy the debt incurred of your current legal issues, we will speak of the market you wish to enter with your children’s books.” The lord of the manor nodded. ‟Initial letters of interest we have exchanged, will reflect an extra two-cents per sale in U.S. dollars to me for one year, I expect also to have two-cents per sale on tickets of the movie worldwide release. Not from sales in the US, the convoluted tax laws there are beyond reason.”
‟But, Mr. Lee, There is no movie for the children’s book series planned.” Tom pointed out.
‟Mr. Ritch.” The bald head turned and addressed the lawyer.
‟Mitch. Like Robert Mitchum the actor, but no ‘um’ at the end. Just Mitch.”
‟I beg your pardon, Mr. Mitch.” He gave a slight bow to his head. “You should represent Tom here to negotiate the fine details between our markets.”
‟I am not a contract lawyer.”
‟Then I suggest you find one that you can afford, this market will be worth millions to all of us, in my opinion. Tom, you are a gifted storyteller. I look forward to someone who will read your books read to me at bedtime.”
‟Who… oh.” Tom looked around at the staff. Everywhere, young, athletic men in loincloths of their hosts favorite color performed maintenance on the grounds with brooms and rakes.
‟Most these young men are heterosexual, they are all only my employees. This is not a sex camp, I have my own relationships, but I do like the sculpted male body at work, so they maintain my homes as if they are a haven for monks.”
Robert looked up from his personal digital assistant app with a nod.
‟I accept the offer for the job as Mr. Harte’s representative.”
‟Excellent, Mr. Mitch. We shall communicate by way of computer for business. If we need to meet in person, we can meet in Australia or across the bay, outside of Singapore. Any of my homes are open to meet and for general use.”
‟You have homes in Australia?” Robert asked.
‟Why yes, I have six homes there.” The bald head nodded.
Tom nodded and smiled. He had met Lee Kong Kuen at a dinner party at the old man’s mansion in Point Piper, Australia.
‟Back to business. I would like to meet again, soon. But first we need to get Mister Harte out of the country. For the moment, investigations have come to a halt. There is a judge that will give your passport back to you Mr. Harte. Leave the courthouse, go straight to the airport, file a flight plan and leave the country. Call now to have it fueled and ready.” One of the men in business suit leaned over, whispered into Mr. Lee’s ear and handed him a tablet computer with images on the screen.
He looked with concern at Mumtaz, she nodded. ‟Or buy a ticket to anywhere outside of the country.”
‟What is that Mr. Lee?” Robert asked.
‟I am not sure at this time that Mr. Harte would want his plane back after he sees this. The good news, they have found no further evidence or items but the safe. The safe they will ask you to open tomorrow. Drug dogs have not hit on the safe so there is no pressure to open it. The bad news,” He handed the tablet to Tom. ‟They have stripped it to the bulkheads, all that you had is in boxes now, your plane is as if it came from the builder. It is little more than a tube with wings.”
Tom went pale.
‟Bed, walls, cabinets. What did they do? Use saws?”
‟In my experience, that is the most probable method. You have the good fortune that the wings and engines are still in place.” The wise old eyes sparkled with irritation. “Investigations are required in such cases as this, but blatant destruction without due regard makes me unhappy. People don’t like life when I am unhappy.”
‟He is correct,” Robert agreed. “I have defended people who were in their cars, the government inspectors cut the cars apart. Even the engines, if there is no one to protect the possessions, the investigators do not stop.”
‟Damn.” Tom boggled.
‟I will take care of the issue and see out some recompense for the damages on your behalf. So we will be in touch Mr. Tom.” Lee Kong Kuen said in a soft voice. ‟You are free as of now, if they execute you or you are in prison for the next ten years and spend that time here, you will not make any money for yourself, Mr. Mitch or myself. We need to keep you honest and free.”
‟Miss Nayyar, call the justice house and have them hold Mr. Harte’s passport for pickup, he will arrive in my limousine. Mr. Chen, file a flight plan for our guest’s plane if he desires to fly it and get him to the airport with all haste.”
‟Mr. Mitch. Gather your team. I predict that your services will come to one-half of one cent per book sold of Mr. Tom Harte’s Sea Dragon books.”
‟Bloody good!” Robert said.
‟Make it so, we will meet again in a month.” He turned to Tom again. “One more item.”
‟Yes?” Tom said.
‟This woman that has caused you much grief. Did she want to stay with you? She had signed all the wrong areas in the papers.”
‟How did you know that?”
‟I have a copy of them.”
‟But you said the government could not open it.” Tom said. ‟How did you get a copy?”
‟My people are far more resourceful, it is why the engines and wings are still on your plane. I did not get involved quickly enough to save your interior.”
“I can have the interior rebuilt.” Tom nodded. “Thank you for all the help.”
‟Very good, at any rate. Mr. Tom.” He rose to his feet and motioned him to follow.
After they walked among the topiary for a few minutes, the old man spoke like a father to a favorite son.
‟Find her, I wish to meet the woman who could cause you such distress. One bit of observation? She left birth control in a drawer, she wants you to return.”
‟I…” Tom looked down. ‟I don’t think so. She went to her boyfriend.”
‟She did not. She looks for you.” The two men locked eyes. ‟Your secret marriage is out of the shadows. You will have paparazzi look for you once again.” The old man nodded. “At any rate leave Asia now or you will never be able to leave. The judge will not let this go if you are still here when the sun rises again.”
Tom nodded and bowed. Tom turned to walk with Mr. Hom as Liem had done, but this time to the car.
This was no limousine, instead an all-electric four-door Tesla with an engine that hummed like an electric transformer.
Tom was not just about to leave and be free, this was a story of speed.