Macau, June 1945
Every night the streets of Macau teem with shadows, walking and stirring under the cold light of the moon. Families of refugees sleep with no shelter and no food. Trembling children grab their parents, scared by tales of men feeding on human flesh. The corpses of those who will not make it through the night will be picked up in the morning and buried in common pits on Coloane Island. Victor Li and Giovanni walked through the Rua de Palha under the Fortaleza de Saõ Tiago and then turned onto the Travessa de Sé, entering the Lou Kau. It had been the grand house of a dynasty of bankers before the war, but had been seized by Wong Kongkit and his wife, both feared gangsters working for the Japanese army. That house had been built with black volcanic stone that kept people cool and dry during the sweltering Macanese summers. Light was provided by large red lanterns with the characters of longevity painted in black brush strokes. Victor and Giovanni entered and went to the upper floor where a blind girl, wearing a cheongsam, was playing a quqing, a Chinese stringed instrument. At the end of the room was a table with a dozen people sitting for dinner, like in the Last Supper of Leonardo.
A waitress came to escort them into the dimly lit room and she noisily farted.
‘Oh, she lighted off her ass’ uttered Victor.
‘And what is that?’
‘Book of Joshua, King James Bible, you are Italian, you don’t know…’
‘There is our Fascist comrade!’ shouted a pale Chinese man in Portuguese.
A Japanese colonel stood up. He was Sawa, the feared commander of the Japanese garrison. He had a samurai’s sword at his side but he was too drunk from saké to stand up straight. He waved his hand trying a Fascist salute. Giovanni returned the salute and they sat down.
‘My boss suggests you taste this special fish’ said Victor.
‘Tubarāo we call it. It is a carnivorous fish; the Pearl River is full of dead bodies floating down from Canton. It is delicious. Some saké?’
‘So, captain, tell me, how is Mussolini?’ demanded, blurring his words, the Japanese colonel, oblivious of the fact that Mussolini was killed two months earlier and the war in Europe was over.
‘He is fine, hiding in the mountains of North Italy, preparing to poke the Allies into their eyes.’
‘Their propaganda says he is dead, but we Japanese know better…’ he grinned.
Giovanni’s plan for his mission was to get to Hong Kong by boat and meet Franklin Gimson, the former first secretary in the British Colony and Colonel Charles Boxer. They were prisoners of the Japanese but a short meeting could be arranged at the military hospital on Bowen Road. To distract the enemy, the East River Chinese guerrillas would blow up a bridge in Argyle Street and distribute leaflets in the Central Market. Secret information had to be verbally communicated before the liberation of Hong Kong, just a few months away, according to the War Ministry. Americans wanted Hong Kong returned to China, but the British and the Chinese communists had other plans.
‘Now, some fun!’ shouted Wong Kongkit.
A man opened two baskets. A king cobra and a small mongoose crawled onto the floor. The reptile and the mammal stared at each other and were soon locked in a deadly fight. The cobra stoop up, hissing; the mongoose begun a light dance under the snake’s head. The guests were excitedly placing bets. This went on for five minutes until the cobra finally sprang forth; the mammal ducked and then sunk his sharp teeth into the cobra’s neck. People were booing the snake and threw chopsticks at the mongoose. She was not distracted in her determination until a gush of blood spilled out of the reptile’s neck. It was soon over and banknotes were thrown across the table.
‘A last drink with our comrade!’ said Sawa, he wanted to retire for the night with two young Chinese girls to keep him company, ‘Let’s have some vodka taken from the commies.’
Sawa had his eyes crossed but a waiter understood and poured the liquid in a porcelain bowl and mixed it with a pair of chopsticks. At that point the Colonel was just too drunk to wait. He pissed himself in his left leg, bowed and then left, leaving a wet trail on the wooden floor that mixed with the cobra’s blood.
‘Please, don’t shake it, just stir it!’ calmly said Giovanni to the waiter, then he looked out of the window in the direction of Hong Kong. He’ll have to get there tomorrow for another dangerous mission. His real name was Bond, James Bond and he was getting weary, perhaps because he had become wiser: the foolishness of his youth had somehow evaporated.
‘Great danger ahead but be killed at war’s end is dyeing twice. Can I stop the moon in the sky?’ he thought shivering ‘but fear not, neither be thou dismayed…aye…for He will smite our enemies and put their chariots on fire! And that’s also Joshua.’
From: Angelo Paratico BEN, Mursia, Milan, 2010.