Four weeks later
Ben sat back at the breakfast table with a sigh. They had been waiting at the hotel in Beijing for weeks now, waiting for their contact to, well, make contact. So far, he had not been forthcoming. On reaching China they had found a message waiting for them from Dragon’s friend, telling them where to go and who to meet. They were to gather more information on the corruption links between the Chinese and British governments, and try to discover who had fed them the information from the Chinese side in the first place.
But here they were, still waiting. He could definitely think of things he’d rather be doing than occupying a cheap Chinese hotel on the run from a corrupt governmental network and travelling on a forged passport. Take, for example, anything else. Still, at least the company was good. Or tolerable, at least. Dragon had gone into a sort of sulk, retreating more and more as they waited and waited. He could have avoided her like this except for the fact that they were sharing a room to keep the cost down. So every night she would storm in to her bed, and he’d know that once again their contact had not shown up.
Ben took a bite out of the questionable croissant in front of him. To begin with he’d ordered the cooked breakfasts, but some of the things on the plate seemed to have extra limbs and pulsating masses in odd places, and he’d stuck with the continental after that. Though he was sure there was sawdust in the bread.
As he spread strawberry jam on the last of the croissant and polished it off, someone cleared their throat behind him. The waiter stood there, looking questioningly at him.
“There someone to see you Sir,” the man intoned in passable English, glancing over his shoulder towards reception. A man in a suit was standing there, staring up at the ceiling, apparently disinterested in his surroundings.
Ben wondered who it could be. Perhaps their contact? He dabbed at his mouth with the napkin, thanked the waiter, slipped him a tip, and made his way to the hotel lobby. As he approached the man turned and smiled warmly. He was unsurprisingly Chinese, a little shorter than Ben but not by much, but a lot older, maybe in his 40s. His features were creased in soft wrinkles, lining his face with laughter and joviality, mirrored in his bright eyes. When he spoke, his English was impeccable.
“You will need to come with me”
“Why? Who are you?” Ben was a little wary, he didn’t know what to make of this yet.
“I am the one who will take you to the person you are looking for. You’ve been waiting here for me for four weeks now,” he raised one eyebrow and gestured at the door, “Shall we be off?”
Ben thought about it for a moment. He seemed to know who he was, but he shouldn’t go without Dragon. He was about to explain, when he sensed someone behind him, and turned to see her standing there.
“Let’s go,” She said, heading for the door. He shrugged, and set off after her, along with their new acquaintance.
Three taxis and a bus later, they stood outside a dilapidated office building, and Ben still didn’t know the man’s name. As the information had not been offered, and Dragon had not seemed interested herself, he assumed that it was not to be forthcoming and decided to forget about it. It was a bit of trend with these people, he thought.
Once inside they made for the third floor. Damp crawled up the walls and dirt collected in every crack in the floor and hole in the plaster. The entire place had seen better days; as well as better weeks, months, years and probably centuries. It was the sort of place you just pulled down and started again. His foot landed in something that squelched, and he made the sensible decision to simply not look down.
The unknown man stopped by a door at the end of a landing, and opened it, graciously gesturing them inside. There was nothing but a bare room with a table and chairs in the centre, and a bed roll in the corner. On one of the chairs was a sick looking man. A thin and drooping moustache adorned his gaunt face, and his clothes were faded and all too big for him. He looked up as they entered the room and gave them a smile, unexpected from this unfortunate looking man. When he spoke it was with an accent somewhere between English and Chinese.
“I’m glad my Uncle could get you here safely,” he nodded at the man who had led them here, and the older man gave a smile and a shallow bow.
“Anything to help our important guests here.”
“Thank you. Now, I suppose the two of you will be wondering who we are?” The room’s occupant asked them. Dragon caught his eye and they nodded.
“We’re not entirely even sure why we’re in the country. Answers would be fantastic, thanks,” Dragon asked in return.
“My name is, for the sake of argument, Adrian. My Uncle here is…” He paused, looking thoughtful, “Well, you can call him Uncle B. Most of the information you released came from me. I used to be an assistant to the ambassador to the UK,” He gave a brief chuckle, “Not any more, obviously.
“However, I am not finished with disseminating the information, and that’s where you two come in. I cannot safely hope to finish my task, they know who I am, but you two could almost certainly get away with it. You’re an unknown quantity. For now, at least. Are you up to that?”
Ben wasn’t sure they were, but Dragon stepped forwards before he could open his mouth.
“Of course we are. We’re here, aren’t we? I highly doubt you’d have let us meet you if you weren’t sure,” she exclaimed with confidence.
“True enough. Well, in that case you can meet your next contact at the theatre listed on this paper,” Adrian pulled out a notepad and tore off the top page, handing it to Dragon. She folded it up and shoved it in her pocket.
“Is that all? Any information on how to recognise this contact?” She asked, hopeful.
“They will approach you. Just keep an eye out. I suggest waiting backstage. A small tip to the doorman will get you there. The current production is awful, I’m afraid. You will need to be there this evening, during the performance. Good luck,” Adrian explained, then smiled again, and got up, limping over to the bed roll.
This seemed to be the signal to leave, and again the man known as Uncle B gestured to the door for them to leave. Outside the building, Uncle B flagged down a rusty old bus, and they began the journey back to the hotel. He looked across at Dragon, seeing the excitement on her face, and she smiled at him. He smiled back, starting to feel the excitement himself after so long sitting around with nothing to do. This evening all these theatrics looked to be becoming just that, Ben thought, and he found he was looking forward to it.