Jiayi Fu, a professional gambler, walks away from a high-stakes game with a great haul of winnings. In the gambling circuit, you win some, and you lose some.
Jiayi Fu strode out of the game hall with a skip in his stride, a heavy wallet and a Cheshire-cat grin on his face. Oh boy, he chuckled to himself, I’ve scored big this time! In his twelve years of professional gambling in Macau’s gaming circuit, he had never won such a considerable amount. As he ran the maths in his mind, something he learned to do very quickly, his joy grew as exponentially as a Ponzi scheme: Approximately two hundred million yen, five percent of stocks in a very profitable browser company, a top-of-the-line Jaguar, and a peculiar USB Drive. That ào fū! Jiayi muttered as he jogged down the marble stairs and into the reception of Macau’s premier casino-hotel, how stupid is one man to put so much on the table!?
In Macau, gambling was a serious business: Bigger than Las Vegas, bigger than almost anywhere. It was common for businessmen from mainland China to come here and squander their assets in large stakes in games, although they lost it as fast as they made it. But, then again, Fu had more experience. He always wondered if it was inherited from his father, who himself was a gambler. But a foolish one. Fu’s father was a ‘problem one’ who ultimately punted his entire family’s life away, bringing the attention of debt collectors and the Chinese Police alike. Although Fu never noticed, the traces of his poverty-stricken childhood was a brand etched into his very being, despite attempts to imitate the cock-sure gaits of self-entitled millionaires. He shook his head as if to shake the painful memories from his mind, like expelling dandruff from his comb-over.
For a few weeks now Jiayi Fu had called this hotel both home and his office. He vaguely remembered being told that this beachside resort was built when Macau was still a Portuguese colony, when gambling was fully legal. Fu always desired that, if time-travelling ever existed, he would go to this period and revel in the liberal atmosphere, seeing people everywhere playing games of Fan-Tan, happily whisking money away without worrying about the Chinese Police carving the doors open. Such glory had aged and turned to dust, something that he noticed the hotel showed in abundance. The décor in the sizable reception hadn’t moved out of the eighties, with dirty white walls containing out-of-date chairs arrayed around wooden tables that seemed to be straight from The A-Team set. Feeling that he was surrounded by an eighties sitcom, Fu walked towards the much-favoured beach that was outside of the hotel’s veranda and outdoor seating area.
Fu walked through the reception and out of its colonial shutter-doors to greet the sun-soaked beach and Macau’s pearly-blue water. His smile only got bigger with the soothing sound of gently moving sea in his ears, the smell of martini. And money. Nodding to a few regulars huddled around plastic tables and playing cheap poker, he proceeded to his favourite spot: a lounger partially under a palm tree that just meets the soft sand. For the many in Macau, this place was a luxury indulged roughly once every year. For Fu, this was his life twenty-four seven, and he had zero desire to give it up. Content in himself, Fu stretched back on the lounger and watched paradise go by.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary to Fu as he bathed in the unclouded sun’s radiance. Gently rocking on the water was a luxury yacht, perhaps owned by one of the clienteles, creating ripples of seawater that edged closer to the beach. Out of the way of watchful eyes and in a good mood, Fu decided to play with the Jaguar car keys and the USB drive he had just netted. Both were sleek little trinkets, designed with a similar aerodynamic theme in mind. Unassuming and seemingly ordinary. And yet, as Fu thought more, questions about the USB Drive started to build up in his mind. As he gazed at it in his hand, Fu couldn’t help but be mystified by it. Why did his opponent stake it on the table? What does it contain to be of any worth to bet with in the first place? Was he attempting to get rid of it?
His body began to tingle. He thought it was the USB’s allure, something that grabbed so much of his attention that it blinded him to the figures slowly gliding to the beach. These men were predators, whose barely visible backs acted like shark fins. A sign that these wolves were closing amongst the sheep. It was only when they crawled onto the beach like creatures from the black lagoon that Fu noticed them in the corner of his eye. Water fell like capes around these four figures, all dressed in military BDU’s and armed to the teeth with modern-looking guns, faces either painted in black and green stripes or hidden behind diving equipment. When these soldiers shouted in a familiar tongue, Fu realised with fright who they were: Chinese Police.
Their shouts for everyone to get down on the floor in Chinese startled many of the guests. Fu quickly knew, as did probably most of the guests, what the State did to people connected with illegal gambling. He wasn’t willing to get in that position. Fu did what a few of the guests were doing, diving out of the way and scrambling towards any semblance of safety. But it was too late. His gamble didn’t pay off, and Fu was met with sharp pricks in his back that got more painful every millisecond.
Fu stumbled on a grass verge, causing the Jaguar keys and USB drive to fly under a nearby palm tree. For what felt like an eternity Fu lay there, hearing the wet thumps of more shots and helplessly unable to stop his blood trickling down and ruining his chinos and shirt. He was barely able to notice the crunch of parted grass and a shadow getting closer and closer.
He was agonisingly turned upwards and was greeted by a dazzling barrel and an unemotional face of a soldier. The man’s face was burned into Fu’s mind, taking in every detail of this killer. Under a boonie hat and tear streak shaped camouflage was a face moulded into muscular gauntness by military training. Eyes like daggers remained on Fu, even when the soldier reached with his free hand to the radio on his shoulder.
“méi yǒu qiú fàn?”
The grainy response made Fu turn into a bubbling wreck.
“méi yǒu qiú fàn.”
As the soldier breathed in and slid the weapon’s butt onto his shoulder, Fu tried in all ways to convince the soldier with half-intelligible English into sparing his life.
“P-please, sp-pare me. I’ll give you w-what you want! M-money-”
Fu gambled his last. A single 5.8×21mm round fired from a QCW-05 submachine gun, freezing Fu in the middle of an unknown syllable.
Sergeant Aiguo Guozhi stood over the body without any sense of sorrow, coldly walking away like he had done nothing unordinary. Guozhi re-joined the rest of his men, fanning out to ruthlessly cover the buildings perimeter and eliminate any evidence in their immovable desire to locate the object which they so desperately wanted. Retrieve the USB device, return to the boat, that simple command from The Boss circulated around his head as he entered through the hotel’s reception. People were running. This was going to be a busy day, he wondered.
© Thomas Gallimore Barker, 2021