Chapter 20 – Mr. Xang’s Notebook
Mr. Xang rapped his chubby fingers on the desk in front of him. It was the subconscious action of a man brimming with excitement, yet full of frustration. His eyes left the blank page in front of him and studied his hands. They gave off an unnatural red hue that seemed to be becoming more vibrant by the day. To their owner, this change evoked fascination rather than alarm. Though, he was also conscious that others may not react to this development with the same levels of calm and composure. It was with this in mind that Mr.Xang had purchased a special pair of gloves as to hide his newfound peculiarity during the more important of his meetings. Now he was alone, he could finally study them properly. He turned them back and forth, exploring every contour, slowly rotating them and making a mental note of all he found. Once satisfied with what he saw, Mr. Xang then trialled their response to various tests. Their reactions to pressure and touch were minimal, indicating that there may in fact be a permanence to their new state. Mr. Xang’s intrigue persisted and he considered the potential that there may well be a non-medical reason for this change. They were hands that had once possessed great skill, though their actions through history were ethically questionable. Mr. Xang used to find excuses and would reason that the deeds carried out by these hands were for the greater good, though this notion of ‘the greater good’ had become warped and retarded over time and the true meaning of the phrase had become nothing more than a triviality. In recent years, the excuses had long disappeared and these hands now had a singular very well-defined purpose. To keep himself entertained. Whether that was at the expense of others was no longer a relevance that needed to be considered.
The room he occupied, to most, would have felt suffocating. Barely big enough for his numerous items of electronic equipment and without a window, it offered little-to-no ventilation and the smell reflected this. The primary purpose of the room was to be inconspicuous and it performed this task perfectly. An inconspicuous room located in an anonymous building that was neither too close to his commercial properties nor his private residence. It was far from hygienic and comfort was lacking but Mr. Xang found a certain amount of solace in what he thought of as his ‘men cave’. Countless boxes of instant noodles overflowed from the bin and empty bottles of baiju doubled as emergency urine containers when needed. There was a bathroom within walking distance, but Mr. Xang’s regularity meant that, from time to time, he preferred the convenience of the bottle. Shame had become a distant memory. This room was his room and therefore he could do with it what he liked. His wife’s lack of care or interest meant she rarely questioned his whereabouts, though she often suspected that his ‘office’ was perhaps not quite the epicentre of professionalism that he painted it to be. To her, if he was out of the house that could only be a good thing. His whereabouts weren’t her concern, at least, not any more.
Mr.Xang contemplated the irony as he continued to study his hands. A knowing smirk formed on his face as he became convinced that the emerging colour could very well be a metaphorical representation of his past actions. He raised his eyes and took in the room that enclosed him, admiring the work that these skilled hands had created. The time for pondering was over. Work had to be done. The cameras were currently showing no signs of activity, and he was behind in the usual meticulous logging in his notebook, so it was the perfect time for him to catch up. The pen found its home between his calloused red fingers and Mr.Xang checked his notes to ensure that no detail would be omitted. He wrote as he always did; freely and without any deep thought or hesitation.
I couldn’t believe it. She missed the bus! She actually missed the bus! There I am, thinking that she was perfection itself, and then she goes and does a thing like this! I helped her to buy the tickets and everything. I’d call her an idiot if I didn’t know better. What a truly shitty start to the day! I can’t stay angry at her, but the woman, my Emily, is certainly a tricky one. First, she covers over nearly all of the cameras, and then she leaves late and ruins all my prospects of entertainment! I’m worried her and the boy will never meet now. I will continue to persist though. Persistence is paramount and The Puppetmaster never gives up! There’s no denying that she’s clever. Perhaps too clever… The apartment has been turned into an absolute mess. There are ridiculous colourful rags everywhere and she’s transformed it into something that looks like a Bangkok brothel. I can’t do anything now or she’ll know of my intrusion, but as soon as she’s out, I will change it back to ‘Mr.Xang’s Signature Style”! Simple, clean and, most importantly, very camera-friendly!
Despite her peculiarities and annoyances, it’s undeniable that there’s something special about her. Something different. Something that draws me to her. When she’s in the apartment, my eyes follow her whether I want them to or not. I’ve been spending too much time in my cave recently and I place the blame solely with her. I feel like I’m becoming an addict. Luckily for my addiction, she hasn’t found all the cameras. At least not yet anyway. I need to make sure my eyes can continue to follow her; otherwise I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m beginning to feel that this whole experiment has just been for the purpose of meeting her, and now I must make sure not to waste this opportunity. She is the culmination of everything I’ve done. She is the one. The energy of the woman is magnificent. She moves around the apartment so elegantly. It’s like she’s purposely dancing just for me. A Mr. Xang love dance! She may be independent, but with the right techniques I’m sure she could be tamed. Luckily, I am a master. A master of seduction. A master of control. I just need the correct tools of course! There is the same little problem as always though. I saw the way she looked at me. She smiled, but it wasn’t a proper smile. No, not a real one. She wanted to escape from me as soon as she laid eyes on me. Have I become that disgusting? She’s not like the others though. She can see beyond appearances. I’m sure of it. Once she gets to know me better, things will change, I know it. And if not, well, I always have my ways…
After she left this morning, late of course, I had to quickly get to work. Of course I had to get that thief Mr. Dai around. I’m seeing far too much of that snake lately. He knows what he’s doing with the cameras, but the prices he charges for his services continues to rise. I trust him, but there is a limit to the money I’ll continue to pay for that trust. He hasn’t let me down so far but maybe I need to keep an eye on him. I saw my Emily with his wife and daughter. I’m sure it was them. They have the same stupid look on their faces as he does. It must run in the family. I need to know more of what’s going on there. Either it could put me in danger, or it could offer a lot of potential. If they know about the cameras, I’m done for. But, Mr. Dai wouldn’t tell them. He has too much to lose. Maybe the family could put in a good word for me? They could convince her that I’m not the vile creature she believes I am. I will talk to Mr. Dai soon and give him instructions. For the price I’m paying him, he owes me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so hard on him today. I need to think this through properly. A mistake could be costly, but the right actions could lead to everything I’ve ever wanted. One of Mr. Xang’s Special Baijiu’s for Mr. Dai? That’s it. I’ve heard he’s almost an alcoholic, so surely he won’t say no to my premium product. I need to get him on my side and find out more information immediately. The Puppetmaster’s strings know no boundaries! Then they can tell Emily what a wonderful and influential business man I am. That I need to be respected. That I should be revered. That she should admire me. That everyone should admire me.
The new cameras he installed are almost completely undetectable. She may be British, but she’s not Sherlock. Mr. Dai wouldn’t shut up about how these new ones are a step above the others. Clearer picture, more sensitive microphones, completely silent etc etc etc. Anything to get me to empty my wallet! Now all I need is her to meet the British man and the fireworks can commence. All in front of my ever-watching gaze! Now I’ve seen her, I almost feel guilty though. But, entertainment must always come first! There’s no doubt that the boy has no idea of her presence. If he did, he’d avoid her at all costs. If they do meet it’s likely that he will ultimately only drive her closer to me. If their visit to Huangshan is unfruitful, I will need to act quickly though. Who knows how long the weird man will stay? He truly is a strange one. I have to make sure he doesn’t spot her before she spots him though. That’s the tricky part! He’s clearly here to avoid her and if she’s seen, he’ll run for it. It’s got to be handled delicately. I know I’ll find a way as always! Do not lose hope!
After the thief Mr Dai left me, I hurried to my usual spots for ‘commission’. They always think they can trick Mr.Xang, especially those Uyghur bastards at the restaurant. They forget that I know everything. I know she’s been there and I also know how many times she’s visited. Yet, they still debate my cut. I threatened them with going elsewhere again, and this time they actually tried to put up a fight. The arrogance of those bastards! I need to remind them of the consequences of their actions. Without me, they’d be back out in the middle of nowhere in Xinjiang. Have they forgotten what they owe me? I’ll make sure they know their place. And the shopkeeper! Who does he think he is?! He’s turning into the biggest problem of them all! It will cost me a bit, but it might be time to hire some help to remind them all of what their vanity and pride will get them It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. A costly solution, but an effective one. A reminder of what happens when Mr. Xang is disrespected! Perhaps Mr. Dang’s front teeth would make a nice little decoration for the cave!
Mr. Xang filled the large bottle in one go and panicked as it threatened to spill over. By now he had energised himself to a ridiculous, almost delirious, level and was writing at such a pace that most of the text would be illegible to any prospective readers. Though he pictured himself as an all-powerful tycoon, the reality wasn’t quite as glorious. However, that didn’t stop his name from being known by all in the area. It was a name that had become synonymous with anything negative or unexplainable that occurred. However, most saw him as a figure to be ridiculed rather than one to be feared. Even Mr. Xang’s ego wasn’t totally immune to this ongoing mockery, and his alienation only increased his bitterness towards the local community. As he eased himself back into his seat, his thoughts turned from his ‘business partners’ to the ‘strange man’ he knew as Chris, which only heightened his growing discontent. The bottle was hidden from view and Mr. Xang wiped his hands on his already dirtied jeans, ready to continue.
It’s lucky the woman is getting me commission as the idiot man has barely left the apartment. It feels like he’s barely left his own head! Something is really wrong with him. All he does is write and walk around the complex. He spends hours doing absolutely nothing. I don’t even think I’ve seen him eat? Once, he spent so long not moving that I thought the camera was broken! I almost had to call that snake Mr. Dai to check! The only excuse I can think of is that maybe he’s a proper writer like me? We are deep thinkers after all. I need to go and see what he’s been writing. I need proof of whether he’s an intellectual or a maniac. Maybe I’ve been too busy with the woman… Though, who could blame me? The more I think about him, the more unnerved I feel. He’ll still be wandering around the mountain tomorrow, so I’ll go and explore his apartment then. There could be something in there that gives me an idea of what’s wrong with him, or what he might be up to? There’s something about him I just don’t trust. He’s trying to avoid my Emily after all. What human could want to avoid such a magical creature?
As I write, it’s impossible to stop my mind wandering back to the woman. She is the special one. I know it. I hope that she destroys the strange man when they meet. He’s clearly done something to her that deserves a proper punishment. Then I’ll have her all to myself. I think even my ‘darling’ wife has realised my mind is even more pre-occupied than usual. Lunch with the family was as miserable as always. Perhaps it was a bad idea, but I couldn’t stop myself talking about her. At one point, I told them how she dances around the apartment like an angel! What was I thinking? Luckily, I’m pretty sure Lu wasn’t listening. Lu stopped listening years ago. And the kids…. The kids! They are getting worse by the day, I swear! They are glued to their fucking electronic games. Don’t they understand what an exciting life their dad leads? Don’t they realise that all he has could one day be theirs? Maybe I shouldn’t give it to them at all. Yes, what a punishment that would be! Maybe, I should give it to the woman! To my Emily! I could offer her wealth and a lifetime of entertainment! How could she refuse that? That would teach Lu and the kids. They could go out on the streets for all I care. Finally, I’d get the respect I deserve. And they’d get what they deserve too. They’d get nothing.
Next time I write in here, I promise that I’ll have some more interesting developments. Once they return from the mountain, I’ll reassess and plan my next course of action. Anyway, that’s enough of that. This evening I have other matters to attend to. I have two Koreans arriving. A couple of course. Koreans are not why I got into this business. They are too nice. Too well behaved. Too boring. Where’s a feisty Brazilian when you need one? Money is money though. But, it doesn’t guarantee entertainment, does it? Who knows, maybe they’ll surprise me. I’m going to separate them from the English ones though. There’s no need to complicate matters further between my subjects.
Glancing at the clock, Mr. Xang realised that time was running out before his new guests were to arrive, so his update would have to come to an abrupt end. The book was slammed shut and hidden where he was sure no one could ever find it. As an extra precaution, it was also locked away and Mr.Xang added the key to his enormous chain, so that no one would ever suspect that there was anything special about it. It was now just another key on a never-ending spiral of others. The anonymous room in the inconspicuous building was exited and Mr. Xang left with his mind racing, full of plans for the next day. Mr. Dai needed to be contacted and Chris’ apartment had to be searched vigorously. Hired help would also need to be considered to deal with his troublesome business partners. Though what truly interested him was the fate of his English ‘subjects’ visit to the mountain. Soon enough, he’d know if they met and the consequences of this meeting. All of this would expand his knowledge and influence, and maybe, just maybe, draw ‘his Emily’ closer to him.