Tommy observed Brig’s detainment from a distance and smiled. Brig was clearly frightened and hopefully humbled. Tommy’s plan was to continue to break Brig down and make him entirely beholden to him.
After parting with Brig, Tommy had made his way through immigration quickly. Upon reaching the Chinese side, he looked for the highest ranking immigration officer. Fortunately, he wasn’t hard to find. All people seeking entry into China had to have their passports stamped and pass through one of the many immigration counters. All immigrants were then funneled through a single hall before the main exit where larger bags were x-rayed for contraband. This was where Tommy found Officer Zhang holding court and scanning the crowd for those with evil intent. He was a typical Chinese mid-level manager, with underlings that paid deference to his ego. He had the stern look of a righteous man looking for sinners.
“Brother, may I have a moment of your time?” Tommy asked, tipping his head as a show of respect. His Mandarin was flawless, but Officer Zhang recognized a slight Hong Kong accent. One of his underlings intercepted Tommy before he could get too close to his boss and warned him to move along.
“I wasn’t talking to you boy,” Tommy replied menacingly as he pulled up the coat sleeve of his right arm, revealing the mark of the 14K. Triad members were intensely protective of their brand and only a fool with a death wish would dare fake a triad tattoo, especially one like Tommy’s which identified him as a high-ranking officer in one of Hong Kong’s most notorious triads.
The young man knew what he was looking at and abruptly changed his attitude. He looked over at his boss for direction. Upon hearing the surprisingly confrontational tone, Zhang looked over to see who it was who had the confidence, or stupidity, to speak with such impertinence. Officer Zhang’s demeanor also changed from anger to servility upon realizing that he may be speaking with triad nobility.
“Big Brother. My stupid apprentice meant no disrespect. He clearly did not realize who he was speaking with. How may I be of assistance to you?” Officer Zhang knew he was either in trouble or being asked a favor. Most likely the latter as the Hong Kong triads rarely carried their grievances and territorial battles into China, fearing the wrath of the biggest triad of them all, the Chinese military.
“My friend. Just a few minutes of your valuable time.”
The seasoned officer, realizing that the situation called for discretion, placed his left hand on Tommy’s shoulder and with his right hand motioned Tommy to walk with him, away from the other officers. “Please. This way.”
Chinese immigration officers, particularly those in Shenzhen, were known for their willingness to accept a bribe. They didn’t consider bribes corruption as much as one of the benefits of their job. Half of Zhang’s take-home pay came from “under the table.” Depending on their rank, an immigration officer made between five-thousand and thirty-thousand renminbi per month. Those in charge, like Zhang, could double their wage by accepting kickbacks from “mules” that carried illegal and untaxed product into China. Nowhere was the contraband traffic more intense, and the payola as free-flowing, as it was at the border that separated the cities of Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
As they walked, Tommy introduced himself. Officer Zhang opened the door to a small interrogation room and waved Tommy to step inside. They exchanged pleasantries, as was customary, but Tommy was up against the clock and got directly to the business at hand.
“I have a gift for you, from my family to yours,” Tommy began and handed the officer an envelope containing ten-thousand renminbi.
Zhang took the envelope, thanked Tommy profusely, and slid the envelope into one of the inner pockets of his jacket without looking, but appreciated its heft. “That is very kind of your family. Is there anything I might do for you?” Officer Zhang inquired.
“I would like to ask you a personal favor.” Tommy retrieved the second envelope and placed it on a table that separated the two men.
Officer Zhang looked at the second envelope, and seeing it was twice the size of the previous envelope, gathered it in quickly.
“Brother, you have given me much face. Whatever you ask, I will do what I can to make it so.”
“Thank you. My request is simple. An American is making his way through immigration as we speak. I would like you to detain and interrogate him. Scare him, but don’t hurt him. Look through his bags. He has a large green backpack. In it, you will find a shirt with blood on it.”
Officer Zhang raised his head in concern, but Tommy continued, “It’s only pig’s blood, but he thinks he may have killed someone, and I would like him to keep thinking that. Speak very little English with him. Yell at him. Make him think that he’s being arrested. After a few minutes, I’ll knock on the door, and you’ll let me in. Let me calm you down, and after a short chat, some laughing, stamp his passport and let us be on our way.”
“Is he a criminal? Is he your enemy, or your friend?
“None of the above,” Tommy responded. “Just a short-term investment.”