Hours later, Brig slowly regained consciousness. It was dark, and for a second Brig wondered if he was dead. A wet, cold rag draped his forehead, partially covering his eyes. He tried to roll over onto his side, but a bolt of pain seared his left shoulder, and he cried out. Although Brig’s mind conjured a scream, all that his body could muster was a muffled moan, and all but one of his roommates slept on.
“Thank the Buddha. You’re alive.” He heard Tommy whisper in his ear. “You had me worried. I thought I would have to rot in here on my own.” Brig wanted to strike him, or at least to go away, but he could not speak, or move, and was forced to lie and listen.
“They brought a doctor in and I told him about your situation. He gave you something to make you more comfortable, though, probably not as much as you need.” Tommy said as Brig felt the rag being arranged on his forehead. “You’ve made it clear that you don’t want me around, and in normal circumstances, I would be on my way, but these are not normal circumstances. Before you nod off again, let me try to explain some things to you.” It was dark, and Brig lay still, unwilling to acknowledge Tommy. “We need to be very quiet, but say something to let me know you’re listening.” Brig wanted to ignore Tommy out of spite, but he was scared, and Tommy’s familiar voice comforted him.
“Thuck off,” Brig managed through his swollen lips.
“That’ll do,” Tommy affirmed. “It wasn’t a coincidence you and I met in Lan Kwai Fong that night. A friend of mine told me about you, and I arranged to introduce myself at that restaurant. As you guessed earlier, I am in a triad. At least I was until my own addictions and actions caught up with me, and I was sent to prison for almost killing a man.”
Tommy grabbed a nearby cup of water, took a sip himself, and then tilted Brig’s head up so he could drink. Brig was thirsty, and drank as much as he could, but coughed when the water went down the wrong way. The coughing caused him pain as he tightened his bruised stomach muscles, and he moaned in anguish. The noise was loud enough to concern Tommy that Brig might wake their companions, but after several seconds, the snoring of the other men returned, and Tommy continued.
“I owe a lot of money to a powerful man who wants to kill me. He’s the one that has been hunting us. I sent a ransom text to your father, who apparently thought that you were trying to trick him into sending you money and has refused to pay.” Brig started to laugh, but the pain overcame his sense of humor.
“I know this is a lot to take in, so I’ll stop for now, but as you recuperate, consider this. I know you hate your father, and you have every right to. He has abandoned you. Think about revenge.”
Over the next few days, Brig wandered in and out of consciousness. Not only was his body trying to repair itself from the trauma it had gone through, but he was also suffering from the effects of withdrawal. There were times Brig would shake so violently that the other prisoners would move as far away from him as possible, afraid of catching what he had, or that the evil spirit would enter their body when it left Brig’s. Tommy did what he could to make Brig comfortable and regularly checked his breathing to make sure he was still alive.
Even the cell boss seemed concerned and was less demanding of Tommy, allowing him more time to take care of Brig. Tommy guessed that upper management had warned him about repercussions if the foreigner died.
On the sixth day of their incarceration, Brig awoke. Tommy was at work, separating plastic chess pieces from their molding when the cell boss yelled, “Your girlfriend’s calling you.” Tommy looked over at Brig, who was holding his hand up in the air for attention. He was thirsty. Tommy helped Brig to a sitting position and grabbed a cup of water he had set aside for Brig.
“How do you feel?” Tommy asked. Brig looked at Tommy with a vacant stare.
“How do you feel?” Tommy asked in Cantonese. Brig said nothing.
“Can you hear me? Do you remember me?” Tommy thought perhaps Brig had been brain damaged. The combination of drug abuse, withdrawal, and head trauma could very easily have scrambled his mind. “Can you tell me your name?”
“I know how we can hurt him,” Brig said in a voice surprisingly strong and assured for someone that had been fighting for his life the last five days.
“Hurt who?” Tommy asked optimistically. Could Brig possibly have heard and remembered the things he had said days ago? “My father. Hurt my father. I remembered that I have access to a bank account I’m sure he’s forgotten about. But first, you have to get me to Everest.”