NOVELS

For the Love of Dog

PROLOGUE

It was headline news, at least in all the tabloids. Some homeless person wandering the streets of London had been rummaging through the bins of a prestigious Chinese restaurant, in the heart of Chinatown, when she discovered a large bone; thinking it might be a human femur, she mentioned it to a street warden, who called in the authorities.

In the event it turned out to be a large animal bone, but Trading Standards were intrigued to know what sort of animal was being prepared for public consumption, and instigated an enquiry. The premises were searched and some anomalies discovered; there were carcasses of dead dogs stowed in freezers and various pelts stashed about the premises; and two starving dogs were found chained up in the cellar. In the search copious packages were seized by forensics who analyzed them as pure opium, and three suspects were taken into custody and charged with numerous offences.

The case involved everyone: the health authorities; the local council; immigration; the Drug Squad; even the R.S.P.A. (Royal Society for the Protection of Animals).

Three Chinese immigrants were charged; two men and a woman. It transpired during the Bail hearing that all three had been reared in an orphanage in mainland China, and had entered the country illegally. The ringleader, one Ping Hey Mung, was suspected of running a drug cartel in Chinatown. He was a distinctive individual of huge build; not tall, but very stocky with massive crab-like arms and a huge head which seemed implanted onto his shoulders, as he appeared to have no noticeable neck. When he entered a room his bulk seemed to precede him, and he carried an aura of menace. Ping Hey was tough in the way many men like to think they are; he had no fear of man or beast. He was not short of money and had developed exotic tastes in fast cars and fast women. He owned a number of properties including the restaurant; a house in Chinatown, which he rented out to Chinese workers, and a bungalow by the sea on the south coast. He also possessed a formidable reputation, and many enemies.

The other man, Lee Fong Chew, a lifelong friend, was as different to him in demeanor, as chalk and cheese. He looked like life had mauled him with bad memories, etching them into the craggy confines of his wrinkled face, but he was a simple soul who never liked himself much after leaving the orphanage, in China. He still found it hard to live; with himself and with others and had never known true happiness in his entire life. His hobby was building large kites and flying them on his days off; any spare time he had was taken up with his pastime of match-building. He would spend many hours cutting the heads off matches and constructing them into small ornate boxes which he would sell in the restaurant, for pin money. On Chinese New Year he would cram loads of these match-heads together to make firecrackers. He realized years ago that he would never be rich like his friend, and was in no position to consider marriage, although the idea appealed immensely. His only friends were Ping Hey and La-Lu Wing.

La-Lu, on the other hand, loved Lee Fong, but kept her feelings to herself because she had acquired certain tastes in life, namely a drug habit and expensive tastes, which she hoped her opium smuggling would cater for. She was quite beautiful which had enabled her to escape certain precarious situations in her past, which had currently caught up with her, but she now accepted her guilt and was prepared to pay the price.

CHAPTER ONE

For the love of Dog

Chapter one:- by  Radical  Rooney

The scene was set. It was the main court of the Old Bailey, in London.

“All rise”, cried the court usher.  The courtroom, as a body stood, and the judge stalked in. resplendent in ermine, cloak and wig. He sensed these gave his persona a certain gravitas, which was sadly lacking by the rest of the court who were limited to more mundane attire.

As he took his seat, the usher announced, “Court in session,” enabling the ensemble of laymen and jurists to assure their presence by a flamboyant rustling of papers, and a clearing of throats. The Press, representing media from around the world, had spilled with vulturous intent, from the Press Box into the confines of the public gallery.

Then, in a more strident tone, the usher declared, “Silence in court,” causing a cacophony of chatter to cease, save for a few random coughs and a muffled buzz from the public gallery, which made him repeat his demand, whereupon silence, total silence, reigned.

This, reflected the judge, is a rather serious case with far–reaching and potentially political repercussions. He was not a man renowned for his sense of humour or ebullience. Even in private, residing at leisure in his country manor, his wife found his demeanor, at best, taciturn.

High Court Judges do acquire certain virtues as they escalate up the hierarchy of the Judiciary: infinite patience, unassailable temperament, and the discernment of a saint. Coupled with decades of experience and a regal resolve, he was a formidable foe to any adversary. In atmospheres of confusion and mendacity, his rulings were always resolute and crystal clear, even curbed with impartial advice, bordering on wisdom.

Three defendants were called to the dock to enter their pleas. This was the only time they would appear together, except when the verdicts were delivered. The dock surrounded a set of concrete steps which led down to the holding cells; it was chest high and a buttress of spiked rails prevented any escape.  The three defendants, all Chinese, now stood flanked by prison guards, who proceeded to remove their handcuffs.

They blinked in confusion as they suddenly found themselves in the middle of a massively orchestrated theatre and realized that they were the stars of the show. One by one they placed their right hands on a Bible and were sworn in.

This is a farce, thought the judge; all three have sworn oaths on the Bible and they’ve never heard of it before. He decided to explain to them that this act meant telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Any deviation from this would be considered perjury, and they could still go to prison, even if found innocent.

His profound gaze rested on the trio; a pair of middle-aged men, flanked by a tall elegantly dressed woman, in her mid-thirties. They were all, he learnt, illegal immigrants although one, Ping Hey, had been running a restaurant right in the heart of Chinatown.

If this lot is found guilty, I shall definitely recommend deportation after their incarceration. The judge thought one of the men, Lee Fong, had a broken-ness about his eye. The judge took a moment to study him.

With some people great sadness can be seen in their eyes, even at first glance. Lee Fong was such a person. The eyes mirror the soul, the judge mused, and looking at a blank squid-like stare, void of feeling or emotion, the judge concluded this reprobate doesn’t appear to have any soul. He seems too detached, he thought, and this usually means either the defendant is unaware of his predicament, or feels innocent.

The judge then studied Ping Hey; “This one looks devious and cunning, he thought, and I expect he’s the ringleader of the pack. The judge observed him, looking furtively round the court, trying not to move his head, searching for anyone who could possibly implicate him. As the judge expected, the two men pleaded “not guilty, to charges of possession and distribution of a class ‘A’ drug, namely opium, which had been smuggled into the country by the woman, La Lu. She also pleaded not guilty to these charges as well as numerous counts of illegal importation of the drug.

The judge noted that La Lu carried an air of confidence, which suggested she did not scare easily. Although Chinese, her eyes did not betray her ethnicity unless, considered the judge, she had indulged in some of that popular surgery so many of her people tried, to straighten their features. She seemed Westernized, with demure suit and long dark hair, coifed over impeccable makeup. He tried to catch her eye a few times but she never seemed able to look directly at him. A sign of guilt, he surmised. He noted she possessed the high cheek bones of classic beauty, and sported petite but firm breasts, which stood proud on her slender figure, enhanced by a slim waist and wide hips. She’s obviously never had kids, probably too selfish, he decided, but she’s certainly the most attractive woman in Court. He made a mental note not to let his judgment be clouded by her beauty.

She and Ping Hey both had their own barristers, who were Queens Councilors, and the judge sensed there was real money around for he knew the exorbitant expense of such a defense. He noted that Lee Fong could not afford even a lawyer and had been granted Legal Aid. The two men also faced further charges of theft, animal cruelty, and public health endangerment.

The judge was not amused by the animal cruelty charges, which involved the theft and killing of a number of dogs. His favorite pastime was “riding to hounds” and he loved dogs, especially his old Doberman, which he used to parade around his estate, but which had recently gone missing.

As the case progressed, the prosecution set out to prove Ping Hey’s “modus operandi,” in conducting a legitimate restaurant business, but also supplying packages of opium to clientele via take-away meals, which Lee Fong delivered on his moped. They told the jury that La Lu smuggled the opium, inside her, on frequent trips from China, using a variety of false passports. They laughed when it was revealed that she once used her frequent flyer points to purchase some electronic kitchen scales for weighing out the packets of opium. The jury then heard the prosecution claim that these were passed to Ping Heywho now swore that although he knew about the drugs, he thought she acquired them locally, and no smuggling was involved.

The judge doubted this, as the trio had known each other since childhood when they were all in the same orphanage in mainland China. It was unlikely she would have kept news of her trips back home a secret from her comrades. He listened when it was explained how the opium was “stepped on” by Ping Hey, who diluted it with Novocain, before getting his simple-minded cohort, Lee Fong, to distribute it around Chinatown.

Ping Hey claimed that Fong knew the meals held packets of opium, because it was all organized by him and La Lu, behind his back. He did suspect what they were up to, but was powerless to stop them for fear of alienating the clientele, who would then boycott his restaurant. He claimed they never shared their ill-gotten gains with him, and he then begged the Courts indulgence for having allowed his premises to be used for such deplorable practices, claiming he had never touched the stuff in his whole life; this statement drew a ripple of amusement from the public gallery.

Unfortunately for him, Customs and Excise were involved in the case, and were able to enlighten the Court as to the various assets held by Mr. Hey. Apparently he owned not only the restaurant, but also a house in Chinatown, which he rented out to Chinese workers, one of whom was Lee Fong; he had also purchased a bungalow, by the seaside, in Hastings, and paid cash for a new Mercedes Sports car, to complement his four-by-four, which was mainly used for transporting the dogs he stole.

The judge pondered these discrepancies until he remembered the cruelty charges. Can you clarify the other charges? he asked the prosecution.

Certainly, Your Worship, came the reply. It would appear that these two men would drive out of town, to some remote park, where they would kidnap a large dog, bundle it into their four by four and keep it in the cellar beneath the restaurant, until needed.”

Until needed? queried the judge, conjuring a tone of naive innocence.

“Well, Your Worship,” continued the prosecution “if the men could not seize a stray dog near to their place of work they would acquire one farther afield and store it in the cellar to fatten it up.

To what purpose? the judge asked. The prosecution is really labouring this point, he mused.

The prosecution then dropped their bombshell. “The dogs would be skinned alive, ensuring their flesh was full of adrenalin, and fed to the general public in the restaurant.” At this point a lady juror fainted. The judge decided to call a recess and Court was adjourned. The Press stormed out, grappling for their mobiles.

The judge retired to Chambers, where a snack of Pate de Foie Gras and biscuits were served to him, in private. He was well aware of oriental tastes and culinary expertise, but never imagined they would drop onto his doorstep, in this green and pleasant land. He had just indulged in a morsel of Stilton, when he suddenly remembered his wife had taken him some years ago to this very restaurant, to celebrate their anniversary. He became incensed, for he then realized he probably had been eating dogmeat. The fact his faithful old Doberman had gone missing did nothing to enhance his current disposition.

He now recalled how the Court learnt the dogs pelts were then sold to a local furrier: Chinese; of course, who fashioned them into muffs, collars and gloves. He made a mental note to check the labeling on his wife’s fur stole. He did so look forward to the imminent trial of this furrier.

Meanwhile, down in the holding cells, the three defendants had time to reflect on the days events, as others gave evidence. Ping Hey wondered about the sensibilities of an English Jury. He muttered to himself, “If they think the way we kill dogs here is bad, they should see how we kill them in China, beating them to death with clubs; or how we devour live monkeys at dinner parties.”

Lee Fong sensed the irony of a situation where they were all once again incarcerated together. This could be worse than the orphanage, he thought. He recalled his escape from there, with Ping Hey, so many years ago. He remembered all the years of hard work and sacrifice he went through, to buy his own little house, only to have it demolished for the Beijing Olympics. He had received some compensation for his loss and felt fortunate for many of his neighbours got nothing. He was resourceful enough to use this money to buy his way into Europe, eventually reaching his old friend in London, who was delighted to offer him a home and a job, for which he would always be grateful.

Then he thought of La Lu, whom he had secretly loved and desired for years. She had been confined in the orphanage until she became of age on her fifteenth birthday, but he had escaped with Ping Hey when they were only twelve. She was only nine at that time, and the boys had no interest in her. It was only when they met years later, in the meat market, that he became infatuated. She had been released into the care of some distant relatives, who were too overworked and poverty-stricken to be distracted by her, and because of her Western looks, she led a lonely life. Most of the villagers ostracized her, as it was common knowledge her father had come to China from the West as a missionary.

She was taller than most girls in the orphanage, with a subtle blend of fine features, which were not an asset in the orphanage, for she soon learnt her main role was to be subservient to all the custodians, men or women, in every way imaginable. Lee remembered how the girls would be dragged off in the middle of the night by the adults who were supposed to be guarding them. The boys slept in separate dormitories to the girls, but could hear their screams echo in the night.

The boys would interrogate the girls in the light of day, but none of the tear-stained victims ever offered any details. The boy’s imaginations took over where their knowledge ceased, and fevered horrors coursed through their minds, scarring them forever.

Lee remembered how the girls then behaved; they never spoke much, and never looked you in the eye when they did; and seemed to wash frequently. He remembered how these girls would walk round as though in a trance, never paying attention to their looks, and with scant regard for the heat of the sun.  They were easy to spot, for they quickly grew emaciated and seemed to be very careless, often cutting themselves for reasons he could never fathom. Within a few months most of them took their own lives, and then nobody mentioned them again. It was the way of the world, thought Lee; he was glad to be a boy.

La Lu, on the other hand, felt different. She was sad to be a girl. She never smiled much, but always managed to survive, for she knew and accepted that the male species ruled, and that many of her sex were put down at birth. Her one childish dream was to get away, marry someone rich, and have lots of kids, but realized on reaching puberty, she was not ovulating and probably infertile. She figured out the constant sexual abuse was to blame, and resolved to tell no one, although this preyed on her mind, constantly. Her grim past now gifted her with patience and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Lee Fong thought of her now, going to be locked up again at the mercy of others, probably to be abused again, and he wept. But at least she had lived in the world a while, and had traveled, and seen things of which he only dreamt. He had always wanted to marry La-Lu, but never had the courage to ask, for he sensed she saw him as poverty-stricken. Sometimes he felt she viewed him as some sort of inferior being; he certainly felt inferior; he had developed a limp as a result of a bad beating at the orphanage and suffered from a bad shoulder which frequently dislocated itself. His back was bad for he had started to get severe spasms, which were almost unendurably painful. I’m in a right state, he thought.

Ping Hey sat alone in his cell thinking of his old friend whom he first met in the orphanage when he was ten; Lee was only nine, and they had known each other since.

“Thirty years is a long time, he thought. He remembered meeting this simple kid who looked up to him and called him ‘cousin’. They would sometimes talk with La Lu, but she was younger, and never had much to say.

Ping was much stronger and smarter than Lee, and took him under his wing, protecting him from the bullies, who had beaten him, breaking his leg quite badly. He taught him how to steal food from the others and even get extra food, by pretending to be sick. They gave each other solace and secrets in a secluded hostile home. One day he decided he would never go hungry again; that he would escape and always have lots of food to eat, and enough to feed others, like Lee. He would like that and, perhaps someday, might even make a living from his generosity.

By the time he was ten, he had planned their great escape. He took Lee into his confidence but they swore secrecy to each other and told no one, not even La-Lu, of their plans and when they left, said goodbye to no one, not even La-Lu. Ping remembered the night he got them into a shed where the laundry was waiting to be collected. Some bags lay ready in the open back of a van, so they climbed in and found a couple with enough space to snuggle down inside the blankets, but were nearly suffocated when all the other bags were piled on top in the morning.

However, as soon as they sensed the van leaving the compound, he managed to free the knot on his bag and release Lee. Thinking back, he began to wish he had left him. Although the incident occurred nearly thirty years ago it stayed fresh in his mind. Like the time he smuggled himself, as a young man, across Europe, and hid in the Channel Tunnel terminus in France, running with scores of others to hop the night train bound for London. The Gendarmerie ignored them, as they scurried alongside the electric rails, because if they got on the train they were no longer France’s problem, and if they got run over or electrocuted they were no longer France’s problem. So without a penny, and speaking only Mandarin, he managed to find his way to Chinatown, where an enigmatic old man befriended him, after he begged for food from his takeaway restaurant.

Ping then thought of the old man, with the long white beard, who somehow always seemed a comforting sight, beetling about his business, bent almost double. Soon Ping was able to take over most of the chores, even shutting up shop at midnight, when he was then able to go to sleep in the cellar. When the old boy died not long afterwards he left the little business to Ping, who slowly built it up over the years.

In the adjacent cell Lee was thinking of his old friend, who so often saved his skin in the orphanage. He smiled as he recalled their friendship, remembering how Ping showed him how to dry out tea-leaves so they could be re-used, and how to roll cigarettes almost thinner than the matches they used to light them. He never realized, until now, how Ping had used him like a personal slave, getting him to do all the dirty work, while he hunted round for food. Ping hoarded everything, even old clothes that he grew out of, and would never throw anything away. He knew Ping was the meanest and greediest man he’d ever met, but he put this down to the deprivation they’d endured in the orphanage. Yet, I never behaved like that, he reflected.

When they escaped and got jobs in the meat markets, Lee would give any leftovers to the beggars he met on the way home from work; whereas Ping would try to sell his left-overs. Lee had seen so much suffering that he developed a compassion for the underdog, while Ping just grew indifferent. Lee had to admit this attitude seemed to pay off, until now. “What good are his fancy cars and houses now?” he thought. It looks like he might well lose everything, including his freedom. Lee felt sad, until he realized he himself had nothing to lose; not even his freedom. He knew what the verdict would be concerning himself, but not his friends. He had done a deal with the prosecutor, who bluntly informed him, “I know you’re innocent; you know you’re innocent, but if you want the jury to know, you’ll have to testify against your buddies! …you can walk today, or I’ll see you do ten years, Sunshine.” He also promised that all the serious charges would be dropped, with the rest considered as misdemeanors, if Lee came clean.

Through despair and panic, Lee agreed to turn ‘Queen’s Evidence’ against Ping, but not La Lu; he had no qualms about turning on Ping, who had tried to “stitch him up”, but couldn’t bear the idea of hurting La-Lu, whom he now realized he loved more than ever. The prosecutor continued, This is a package deal, all or nothing. You will get off with probation and a fine, and be free to sleep in your own bed tonight.” This suddenly seemed a very attractive option to Lee, who had spent the last six months on remand in Brixton Prison. When the prosecutor threw in the carrot of temporary asylum, Lee reluctantly accepted the deal.

The jury noted Lee’s obvious distress in testifying against La-Lu, even though he tried to be as “economical with the truth”, as he dared. Ping Hey’s barrister then interrogated Lee stating no one could be so naïve as to what they were doing, but Lee had to admit he had always been very naïve, even in the orphanage, and trusted no one: a statement verified by La-Lu; she told the court that Ping was the antithesis of Lee; for although they had known each other for decades, Ping always put Ping first. It now seemed he would sacrifice anyone for his own ends.

All three were now held in the cells, while the jury deliberated. Ping was furious at Lee for testifying against him, and was already considering methods of payback, when he was told a verdict had been reached, so with the others, was escorted back to the court which was pregnant with anticipation.

In his summing-up the judge agreed that Lee Fong had seen the error of his ways, and was truly repentant. Nevertheless, he was sentenced to eighteen months, which included a year’s suspended sentenceso, with time served, this meant he was now a free man, although he was bound over to keep the peace for two years, and banned from owning a dog for five years. He was at a loss to fathom how not keeping a dog was a form of punishment; he saw these creatures as noisy, dirty, smelly, flea-ridden vermin, that served only one purpose.

The judge also considered the prospect of a stiff fine, but decided against it, for he figured, rightly so, that Lee Fong didn’t have two pennies to rub together. However, he took delight in sentencing Ping Hey to twelve years for the drug offences, with three years for public health disorders and hygiene breaches, and two years for animal cruelty, with a recommendation that he serve at least fifteen years.

“Your Honor,” cried his barrister, “My client can’t do fifteen years.”

“Let him try his best,” responded the judge.

It was at this point everyone in court, including Ping, realized his life was virtually over; by the time he was freed he would be an old man, with no assets, or contacts. Ping felt his life was now on hold; as if he had just escaped the orphanage and was starting all over again, back in China. He realized he had now lost everything.

In a fit of rage he bit his lip and spat at the judge. He had Hepatitis and was HIV positive; he hoped to anoint the judge with these afflictions, but the judge, who had seen such reactions before, quickly ducked down behind the Bench. Ping was forced to make a quick exit down the concrete steps, with some able assistance from the guards.

La-Lu was sentenced to only five years, the jury viewing her as a pawn of the evil Ping, but on hearing the verdict both she and Lee openly wept. She was then dragged off to await transport to prison, while Lee heard the judge declare that he was now free to go. He was advised not to leave immediately, to avoid the swarm of media hovering outside.

While he waited he was told he could say goodbye to his old friends, in private, if he chose. He wanted to speak to Ping first, and was shown into a small room with a metal grill behind a partition. After a few minutes he heard ranting from behind the wall as Ping stomped into view; Lee was shocked by his appearance. His face was badly bruised where he had apparently tripped going down the concrete steps, and he was still shaking with rage. He was not a happy man.

“Judas,” he screamed at Lee, “all your fault, you weak, no balls,” he stormed. “You let me down, I get you for this.”

Lee objected, “You turned on me first,” he replied. “You tried to fit me up, to take the fall for you.” Ping was in no mood for discussion.

“You wait,” he shouted in Mandarin, “You die now. You both die, you and bitch La-Lu.” At this juncture Lee left the room; there was no point staying. As he waited to see La-Lu, Lee sat alone and thought how trusting he had always been to both Ping and her, and how his naivety had now caught up with him. His faith in his friends and conversely human nature, had just been shattered;. He could not believe how stupid he was, and it was not a good feeling.

He was then shown in to see La-Lu and heard she was going to Holloway, a high security women’s prison. He was relieved, in a way. It meant Ping could not reach her there, but he saw at once that she had been crying.

“Lee,” she said, “I’m so sorry, involving you in all this; it’s all my fault.

“No,” he objected, “it’s all Ping’s fault; he blackmailed you into smuggling the drugs for him.”

“Yes,” she replied, “but I wanted what he had; all the money, and power, and respect. And I wanted you, Lee,” she confessed.

“All I ever really wanted was to marry and have a family.” She reached for his hand, but all they could do was place their fingers against either side of the grill. She avoided his eyes as he then confessed he could never father children because of a severe attack of mumps in the orphanage, but only she sensed the true irony in his statement.

“Let’s not dwell on the past,” she said at last. “The fact is I am guilty, and I have to pay the price. Let’s not discuss the case, for we’ve only got a few minutes.

She then said, in a subdued voice. “I always wanted to tell you Lee …I loved you but you were so poor I needed to wait until I got money, but I was sure you would reject me, if you found out how I was doing that.”

Lee sighed with relief; he now understood; he could neither read nor write, and knew he would be poor for the rest of his life. Up to now he never understood this thing called love; was it need, or desire, or perhaps power! He now realized, too late, it was mostly sacrifice; the pure gentleness of being able to give freely, with no expectation of returns. He thought to himself, “It must be when the other person’s happiness is more important than your own.

Until now each of them had been mainly concerned with themselves but neither of them realized, as they sat together, that soon a dramatic series of events would radically alter all their futures.

La-Lu continued, Lee, I want you to visit me, in prison, and wait for me; will you do that?” she asked.

“Of course,” he said easily. He had never known a woman’s love, and that now he did, it was to be at a distance. The prison van arrived and they had just moments to pledge their devotion, before Lee had to leave. He began to feel a strange lump rise in his throat, which he had never felt before, so drank some water from a drinking fountain. It did not seem to help, for he kept trying to swallow and wondered if it was due to the dry central heating in the courtroom. He went down the steps and was let out, by a side door, into the street. It was raining.

Lee Fong arrived back to his little attic room in the house owned by Ping Hey and squeaked open the front door, trudging up three flights of stairs to his landing, where he was confronted by the sight of two bin-liner bags. “Must check those in a minute,” he thought, but just as he was trying the key to his room he heard High Fat, the landlord approaching.

“You no go,” he squealed; “me change lock; you no live here no more.

Fong persisted with the key, but was getting no-where. Got to get in for my stuff,” he persisted.

“All stuff here,” High Fat retorted, pointing to the two bags which contained Lee’s clothes which were all he possessed.

“Why you no in plison, where you belong?” He obviously thought Lee Fong was going to be locked up and had packed his gear.

“You find new room; you no live here no more,” he shouted. “You take money back; get new room,” he said, trusting money into Lee’s pocket.

“This your deposit: you keep; no spend; get room; you no live here no more.”

Lee turned, picked up his two bags and left, reflecting that soon High Fat would be in the same predicament when the court repossessed the house. Trudging down the stairs to the street, he smiled with irony, until he found it was still raining. He was now homeless; in London. Not a good situation for anyone, especially an illiterate Chinaman,” he thought.

At least it was still light, so he made his way to his old place of work, but was shocked to find the little restaurant boarded up. However, clambering over a side fence to the yard where the garbage bins were kept, he found a place to spend the night.

“I may be out in the open, but at least I’m sheltered from the worst of the weather, by the bins,” he thought.  Because it was summer, he was not cold. He had money in his pocket, and he was not in prison. Feeling exhausted he soon fell asleep, with a resolve that in the morning he would get as far away from this place as he could, having decided that big cities just destroy people.

Come morning Lee awoke to sunshine, and found his clothes had dried out. Having money in his pocket he now felt better than he had for months, strolling down the road to the nearest ‘greasy-spoon café’, where he tucked into a cheap all-day breakfast. As he ate he considered his situation; “I will head for Hastings on the coast and find a room there, for I know it’s much cheaper than Londonwhich is why Ping bought a bungalow there.”

He liked Hastings, especially the beaches and the huge Alexandra Park, where they often kidnapped dogs. He knew the area well. Sifting his belongings into one bag, keeping only essentials, he disposed of a thick anorak and a woolen jumper for it was summer, after all. He then took the tube to Charing Cross Station, where he bought a cup of so-called tea, from a dispensing machine and ambled over to the ticket office. There were a number of booths, and the rush hour had passed, so he got served quickly.

“One way?” queried the clerk.

You bet,” Lee responded.

“If you hurry, mate, you’ll catch the eleven forty, on platform eight,” he was told. Lee tossed his plastic cup into a nearby bin, shouldered his bag and ran for the train, just missing a startled pigeon.

Once aboard, he felt relaxed; “This is a fresh start, for sure,” he thought, wondering what sort of job he would find in Hastings. He loved train journeys, except on the Tube. He had fallen down a long escalator once and, as he lay stunned, everybody just walked over him: he was so glad to escape London; the restaurant, and Ping Hey. Then he thought of La-Lu, and his mood changed to sadness. He was at a loss what to do.

“I must get a decent job, a proper job, and save up for a nice home. In five years she will be free; if we got married she could stay here as my wife. Andshe would have a lovely home to live in, he hoped.

The Virgin Express was quiet and smooth, being one of the latest tilting trains, which angled over when taking a bend. Lee relaxed and reflected on his past; especially the times in the orphanage with Ping and La-Lu, recalling some happy memories like the yearly holiday outings on Chairman Mao’s birthday. Only the boys were allowed on these trips, and of course the girls would want all the news when they returned. He smiled as he remembered trying to explain to La-Lu what his visit to the seaside had been like, for she had never seen the sea. She had cornered him, when he got back and begged to be told all about the waves; she was so young and innocent then; so different. Lee felt happy as he tilted his seat back and day-dreamed about the happiest day of his life. He recalled how he tried to explain his vision of the sea to La-Lu. He thought back to their conversation.

“Have you really seen the sea?” she cried. “What’s it like? Tell me all about it?”

“We had to travel in a smelly old bus for hours, over the hills and mountain, he told her.

Go on,” she pleaded.

“Well, it starts as you drive down from the mountains to where the land levels out, and then you see it in the distance, stretching for a hundred miles, as it glints and sparkles in the sun. She looked aghast.

He continued. “The clouds and mist just disappear and the wind dies down. Then you see the waves, shining in the sun, moving all the time, back and forth.”

“Oh, what are they like, describe them for me?”

“Well, far off in the distance all you can see is a straight line of water: called the horizon; straight in front of you; miles away; and all this is the ocean; and it comes right up to the beach, he told her.

“What’s the beach,” she interrupted.

“It’s made of sand; fine white sand, miles and miles of it,he replied. The water swishes and surges, and makes foam that rolls onto the beach,” he continued.

“Why doesn’t the beach sink?” she queried. “Because it soaks the water up, until it drains back into the sea,” he replied.

“Ping and I tried to dig down to the bottom of the sand, but it goes on for ever,he said. “To the other side of the earth?” she puzzled.

“Don’t know,” he replied. “Maybe.”

“So what happens to all the foam?” she inquired. “Is that the wave?”

“It’s part of the wave; the waves make foam all the time, called surf, and it forms when the waves come crashing down on each other,” he explained.

“How many waves are there, where do they come from?”

“There are usually three of them, in a row, and they start far out on the ocean,he replied.

“And did you see all three of them?” she asked.

It’s not like that; they come and they go, and disappear, and new ones take their place,” he explained.

What do you mean?” she said, confused.

“Well, they start far out at sea, and steadily swell up, but they grow so high they collapse down on themselves, turning into surf. This is when they break, as it’s called. Then new waves start to form.”

“How big are they?” she asked. “Sometimes twenty or even thirty feet high, and that’s why people drown, he told her.

“Wow,” she exclaimed, “But why is the sand not washed away when these big waves break onto the beach?

“It’s difficult to explain,” he answered. “Only the little ones end up on the beach; they’re only inches high; the big ones break far out at sea.”

“So when you go for a swim, you start with the little waves?” she asked.

“Yes, the waves themselves are very long. The beach is only a hundred feet wide but stretches for miles.” He wanted to tell her about the little beach crabs, that scuttled back and forth with the foaming tide, but decided against it, remembering his failed attempts to explain the colour of the wind, when a blind boy asked him.

He continued. “It can be very dangerous; people drown by swallowing the waves…when they cannot get away.”

“I thought waves were beautiful,she cried. “Why don’t they simply close their mouth and walk back to the beach?”

“Because the waves can drag you under; they sweep you off your feet and carry you out to sea, and then you drown and your body gets washed back onto the beach.”

She had paused to reflect, and he gazed at her innocence. He felt sad that she had not been able to visit the sea.

He tried to explain to her; “Once you get past the big waves, the sea becomes calm and level, right to the horizon.” He wanted to convey the atmosphere to La-Lu. “The waves can move quickly, or slowly, depending on the wind and the tides”

“Tides!” she exclaimed.

“Like currents, in a river.” La-Lu had once paddled in a river; it was actually a sewer, but she didn’t know that.

The moon affects the size of the waves, like it affects people. Did you know some people go crazy, with a full moon, and of course it affects women all the time?

She didn’t, but answered, “Yes.”

He continued. “When the moon grows big, the seas grow also, and that’s usually when people drown. Sometimes when you see a big wave coming you turn your back, and it washes over you, but the wave after that might be even bigger, and catch you by surprise. If you’re off balance you will be pushed over and sucked under the water. It’s called ‘going out of you depth’!

“Why not hold your breath, until it gets calm again?” she queried.

“It’s not as simple as that, for you get confused, tumbling under the water; you don’t even know which way is up, to the surface. Besides you are choking and the sand and salt sting your eyes and blind you.” He paused for these implications to register.

“So you swallow too much water and drown!” she concluded.

“No, what happens is when you get a bit of water in your lungs your throat closes up, to stop you sucking in any more. It’s an automatic reflex; but then your brain gets starved of air and it goes to sleep.”

“And you drown,” La Lu surmised.

Usually, but sometimes people, who have been under water for half-an-hour, are washed up and given help to breathe again but, if they come round, they usually have damage to their brain and cannot talk properly,” Lee explained.

“So why do people go in the sea, if it can kill them?” she asked.

Because they love the feeling of water all around them; they can turn in any direction and the waves cool them down, in the hot sun. I love it,” Lee concluded.

“Love it!” cried La-Lu, in surprise.

“Yes, … just before they break they seem to balance for moment, as the wind whips a long crest of spray all along the top and then they collapse and you can see this misty spray floating in the air; there is so much beauty and power in a big wave,” he replied.

“Is it a challenge for you, then?” she asked.

“In a way,” he answered, “because it is very refreshing, as well as dangerous and noisy.”

“Noisy, as well,” she responded.

“Yes; I should have told you. Waves are always noisy.”

“What, even at night?” she queried.

“Yes,” he answered. “All the time, day and night; mostly at night and you can hear them a long way off, crashing down on each other.”

La-Lu was very quiet then, like when the judge passed sentence on her, this morning.

Lee was jarred out of his day-dream by the sound of the ticket collector.

“Tickets, please, all tickets please? Next stop Hastings....Hastings, next stop.”