Chapter LI: An interlude and renewed friendship
Wandering aimlessly through Chinatown as I considered the Fu Syndicate, an elderly man reading fortunes looked up at me, eyes narrowing.
'Hey, you!', he cried, raising a hand.
'Me?', I called back, looking around to see if he had called anyone else.
'Yeah, you, idiot, you!' Puzzled, I walked over to the old man.
'I don't believe in fortune telling', I deadpanned. 'I do believe in cash though.'
'Oh. You want someone dead.'
The man made a hissing noise, looking at me in annoyance.
'Forget it. I don't kill in cold blood like that.'
'Fair enough. Why does an old man want someone dead anyway?'
'So, you want to kill an old friend over some money you both earned?'
I can't kill an old man, just to make another old man rich...
'I'll talk to him', I said noncommittally.
'Red Dragon. Got it.'
I turned from the man, heading down the brightly lit street towards the still-open restaurant. There had to be a way to bring the two men around. This didn't need to end in blood. Not like everything else did I ever did since my reawakening. I pushed open the door to the Dragon, looking around for an old man. Leaning over the bar, I asked the barman if he'd seen Lu Fang around anywhere. The man snorted.
'Old fool's locked himself in the bathroom again. Seems to think someone's after him. If he doesn't pay his goddamned tab, that someone's gonna be me.'
Chuckling, I nodded to the bartender and walked towards the bathroom. The door was most definitely locked, and from the feel of it, the old man was leaning against it. I banged twice on the door.
'Oh really? What makes you say that?' I engaged the old man in conversation through the door, biding my time until I could think of a way to bring the conversation around to an old friend.
'You mean the Tong?'
'Let me guess. It was all better in your day, right?'
'Oh yeah? How do you know?'
'You must be very proud that you kill people for a living.'
I glanced at the bartender who was watching the disjointed conversation with amusement.
'Secret's safe with me, Lu. But why haven't you got any money if you were so good?'
Is a criminal syndicate ever good? Will today's remnants of the Tong talk about the good old days in fifty years time? 'Oh sure', they'll say. 'Sure, we used to kill people for the hell of it. But we didn't torture 'em, not like these bastards today'. Idly I thought of my own immortality, being unchanged by time. Physically at least. Would I be less human then, bored by life? Killing for entertainment? I could call it a public service, and sporadically wipe out the criminal gangs lurking, and maybe I'd be thanked for it...but would it make me any better than them? Meanwhile, Lu continued to talk.
'Did you try talking to him about it?'
The old man sighed mournfully.
'You know', I said thoughtfully. 'It's never too late to rekindle a friendship. You used to work together.You could learn to trust each other again.'
My mind raced. How to change the minds of men, to make them see the futility of their hatred and mistrust...
'People do change, that's the whole point. Maybe now the desire to have an old friend back will change his mind, make him realise having all the money isn't as important as having a friend.'
'So what then? More death? You try to kill him, and he tries to kill you? No matter who lives, the blood of his friend stains his hands. Aren't you tired of death?'
'So make amends', I implored him, as though perhaps redeeming their friendship would somehow redeem me of some of the blood staining my hands. Perhaps I too was tiring of death. Perhaps I yearned for a friend, someone I knew I could trust, in this unending, lonely existence.
'Good.' I smiled, feeling genuinely happy, if just for that one moment. Perhaps if there was hope for two old men to end their enmity after all these years, maybe there was hope for the Kindred too. Wishful thinking, that ever-present voice snarled at me. Still, I could hope.
I turned from the door, calling out over my shoulder as I left the Red Dragon.
'Maybe then you'll pay your goddamned tab!'