Hong Kong, China

Ralph Arnote

Forge Books

Hong Kong China
Davy Wong crouched low in the reeds. It was daybreak on the Sham Chun River, the natural boundary separating New Territories, the northernmost district of Hong Kong, from the People's Republic of China. During the night he had spent in the swamp, he had heard four distinct shots fired nearby, and once he had heard voices he estimated to be only a few hundred feet away. The past few hours he had heard nothing. He was shivering. His arm ached from a gash he had given himself while crawling under the razor wire fence near Man Kam To.
Davy strained to see the gash on his upper arm in the morning light and decided that it was superficial. It had bled freely the night before, but the blood was now congealed. He dared to peek out at the rise of land perhaps a quarter mile away, on the other side of the river in the People's Republic. At least three soldiers were scanning the broad marsh from a rocky crag bordering the river. He ducked down again, prepared to spend the day in the shallow muck if he had to. Freedom for him was still a mile away, near Sha Ling where the closed-area buffer zone between the People's Republic and New Territories came to an end.
Davy Wong lay on his back, staring up at the brightening sky, head propped on crushed reeds to keep his ears and mouth above water. Getting this far had been a miracle. He didn't want to blow it now.
Walking away from the detention camp near Hengyang had been easy, but he had been lucky. The truck that had taken him all the way to Guangzhou was loaded with cabbage and broccoli, so there was food. But luckiest of all, the driver had asked no questions. Several times he had cursed the regime and stared at him, probably trying to evoke a response. Once Davy dared to smile, his eyes meeting the driver's afteranother string of invectives about the regime in Beijing. From then on, the slender young man said nothing.
Now, lying in the swamp, Davy realized that the driver had probably seen the Wanted posters. After all, Davy Wong, a notable activist at Tiananmen Square back in 1989, had been the subject of a major search throughout South China since his escape. Sympathy for the students was well known to be rife throughout Guangdong Province.
His mute driver had dropped him off on the busy highway leading from Guangzhou to the east toward Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Now he was less than a mile from a safe haven. He again lifted his head ever so slightly. The soldiers were still surveying the vast swamp from their high perch. Davy glanced to the southeast. Clouds were pushing his way across the morning sky. Could he be so lucky to be blessed with rain or, better yet, fog?
He slapped at a pesky mosquito. He was shivering and hungry, but the day would bring warmth. He decided that he would endure anything until the soldiers broke their vigil. Freedom was only as far away as the first telephone he could reach beyond Sha Ling.
About an hour later he was jarred to attention by a volley of rifle shots in the distance. Though distinct, they sounded far away. Davy lifted his head to peek again through the reeds. The soldiers had vanished from the high ground, perhaps distracted by some movement farther to the west from where the gunfire came. Furthermore, the rocky crag on which they had stood was now barely visible in the thickening mist.
It began to rain. Davy rose and began to slog his way southward toward Sha Ling. Quicker than he expected he came upon another barbed wire fence. He walked slowly along the fence for a hundred yards or so and came to a place where it had already been breached by someone. He flattened himself to the ground and squeezed under the menacing barbs. Davy walked due south, trying to put as much distance between himself and the fence as possible.
If he had things figured correctly, he was now in Hong Kong. The second fence had marked the southern extremity of the closed area, the now porous buffer zone between the People's Republic and Hong Kong. The farther he walked in the rain, the easier he breathed. Therewas a spring in his step. He forgot his hunger and discomfort. He was free again!
Still, he would have to be careful. Sometimes the People's Army was not deterred by boundaries. He came upon a farm road that led directly south and began following it. Then he froze. Back though the haze, he saw the outline of a truck rapidly approaching him. If they were looking for him, there was nothing he could do. He flagged his arm at the vehicle as it approached.
Thinking quickly, he yelled, "I am late for work. I need a ride to Taipo." He knew Taipo to be a couple of miles down the road. He had friends there.
The driver stared at him, eyeing the tattered shirt and the big blot of blood on the shoulder. The driver hesitated, probably realizing he had come from beyond the border as many did. Then, without expression, he jerked his thumb back toward the flatbed of the truck. Davy climbed aboard, joining four field workers. He nodded at them, but none responded, staring instead at the bloodstained shoulder.
The old truck jostled them southward until they joined a main road where the going was easier. The driver slowed down as he neared Taipo, peered through the glassless rear window, and jerked his thumb emphatically toward Taipo. Davy leapt from the truck and walked a quarter of a mile or so until he was in front of a small bake shop.
He grinned broadly as he went inside. The shopkeeper turned from his oven, beamed in quick recognition, put aside his baker's paddle and came forward to greet Davy Wong with enthusiasm.
"I think I see a miracle," the old man said as he scanned his strapping broad-shouldered visitor.
"I think that is a fact." Davy laughed, exhilarated by the lack of tension for the first time in days. "I need to call Hong Kong Central." The man led him into the living quarters behind the bakery and produced a telephone.
Davy Wong dialed the number of Brandon Poole Ltd. It was a private line that he hoped would find the industrialist at his desk.
"Poole here," a voice snapped.
"Brandon, you conniving capitalist! It is I, Davy Wong."
"Davy! I must be dreaming. Where are you?"
"I'm in Taipo. At Ling's bake shop. I've had a hairy hike down from Shenzhen. But I'm okay. They might be nosing around, so I am going to stay with Ling awhile."
"I'll have a driver there within an hour. Cecil Lo will pick you up. He'll take you directly to the Peak."
"Mr. Poole, is that wise for you?"
Brandon Poole laughed in his deep baritone. "We'll have a discussion about wisdom when I see you on the Peak. You'll be safe there. Cecil won't tell a soul you're in town."
"Thank you, Brandon. We have much to talk about." Davy hung up and turned to face the slender Ling.
"I may have another shirt around here that will fit. Let me look." Ling held a cup of tea in one hand and a plate of sweet pastries in the other. "Here, help yourself. When is the last time you ate?"
"I feasted on broccoli and cabbage just two days ago. Up north."
Ling frowned at his wounded shoulder as Wong doffed his shirt. "Barbed wire?"
"I don't see anything, do you?"
Ling shook his head. "No. As a matter of fact, I don't even know that you are here."
"Mmm ... These are very good, Ling." Davy smiled as he began ravaging the tray of sweet goods.
Back on the rocky crag, General Liu Wing of the People's Liberation Army scanned the vast swamp, visibility now narrowed greatly by the steadily falling rain. Three soldiers stood nearby, rifles at the ready, peering off into the general direction of Hong Kong.
The soldiers were all uneasy and never once dared to suggest that pursuing the escapee had become a hopeless task. No doubt they wondered why the usually routine search for an escapee was commanded by a general. Their prey must have been someone very important.
The general spoke. "We will return to Guangzhou. If he made it across the swamp alive, he has succeeded only in getting himself bottledup in the steel trap of Hong Kong. He will be easier to find there than in China."
General Liu smiled confidently into the growing mist. The soldiers relaxed somewhat. They had fully expected a temper tantrum from the general at best. Each of them cautiously nodded his agreement with the general's assessment of the situation. Their quarry had obviously disappeared. Their general was quite wise.
Copyright © 1996 by Ralph Arnote