Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lunch during an intelligence gathering mission

Many readers of Ian Fleming's Bond stories were seduced by the rich life of the jet-setting spy. Monte Carlo, chemin de fer, caviar, champagne. In my forthcoming book, The Ninja and the Diplomat, there is a light scene in an eatery in a shopping mall (for the parking). The following graphic is not of Manila as the street scenes would not look different from similar scenes anywhere else. But the rice terraces of Banaue are something special even though they do resemble rice terraces elsewhere. (Image found by searching the internet for the "rices terraces of Banaue.")

“Wow, that was easy,” declared Mariam. “The rest of your trip should be so blessed.” Chen shrugged and Emilio merely smiled as he declared,
“I missed breakfast this morning.”

They walked into the warm sunshine as a light breeze brought smells from the harbor. Chen looked gratefully at his companions and declared,
“I must tell you that what you are doing to help us is very much appreciated. The weapons that had been stolen included some very dangerous devices. I need to be sure that none of those arrived here. If at any point it gets uncomfortable for either of you, however, please let me know.”

“All right,” remarked Emilio. “Just keep in mind Hashim is not just a very good friend, he is like our brother.”
In the food court of a shopping center nearby, where there was parking and a selection of international eateries, the three made their way to a Korean barbecue stall. Mariam turned the radio on her smart-phone and placed it on the table. Chen recognized it as a good way to thwart electronic eavesdropping and that the music was the light pop that he remembered from his previous visits to the Philippines.

“I’ll have the bulgogi,” announced Emilio. “I just love the charbroiled, sweetish soy sauce flavor. I understand what we taste includes what we smell so the sizzle must help. Are you going to stick with those cold noodles as usual, Mariam?”
“Yes, Naengmyeon. They don’t have the best buckwheat noodles here but they do the beef broth, cucumbers, beef and kimchi−all perfectly done, and something cold right now sounds good.”
“I noticed a stall where they make halo-halo next door,” remarked Chen, “that would be my choice for a cold treat after lunch.”
“Oh, you like that?” cried Mariam delightedly.
“Everybody likes halo-halo, even Hashim,” Emilio retorted.
“Why doesn’t he like halo-halo?” inquired Mariam.
“He does. But he keeps talking about the dates and chopped nutmeg treats from his youth; I think he is just hanging on on to his memories,” explained Emilio.
For his lunch, Chen ordered bibimbab with extra seaweed and mushrooms and without the egg even when assured that it would be cooked first. “Do they put chopped up preserved radishes in this?”
Mariam nodded and declared, “My mother always included it in her fried rice, with left over pork or duck sausage if we had that.”
“Well, I think of bibimbab as a variety of fried rice and a good test of a Korean restaurant. Besides, I like the crunch of the radishes; it reminds me of home cooking.”

“So what do you do in your day job?” inquired Emilio, abruptly changing the subject.
“I’m a policeman,” replied Chen to an explosion of hysterical laughter from his companions. “What’s so funny?”
It took a while before either Emilio or Miriam stopped their raucous braying and for the restaurant crowd to turn their attention to each other and their food. Emilio still chuckled as he explained,
“That was precious. You are so straightforward. I guess we thought you would have a whole story made up. I mean we do know why you are here, but for you to simply announce what you do is … just … amazing.”

“Well, I’m new at this,” admitted Chen, which sent his companions into more hysterics. The other people in the restaurant simply shook their heads thinking their table must be having a good time.
“Well, could you try to be more sneaky?” advised Emilio before he dissolved into hysterical giggles.

After lunch, the three made their dessert stop, where they had extravagant versions of mixed fruit, beans, shaved ice, rose syrup, sarsaparilla flavoring, and a choice of evaporated milk or coconut milk. Mariam oohed over the glistening macapuno and suggested Chen add jackfruit to his order. Emilio ordered extra red beans, prompting Chen to ask for the same and then he asked for more “grass jelly” because it was “healthy.” As they left, Chen excused himself and returned with a small paper bag.

“New phones,” he explained. “They are my present to you and Hashim, although you don’t have to tell him who bought them. You should dismantle and throw away the ones you are currently using soon.”
“We know about this tactic,” protested Emilio. “We don’t need to do this now.”
“No,” agreed Chen. “But you will soon.”
“How will we know when?” asked Mariam.

“You will know,” declared Chen.   

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Testing a New Cover

And introducing the ninja of The Ninja and the Diplomat (release date July 1).

Wong went back down the stairs to see what he could find and to determine if it would be necessary to send in the crime scene specialists. He sensed the presence of a man just as the latter detached himself from the shadows of the large cargo space.
As Wong prepared for a fight he sized up his adversary. They were probably the same age and about as tall as each other, around five feet eight inches. He thought he was probably ten pounds heavier than the stranger, and both of them around thirty years old. The policeman had worked undercover for over ten years, four for the vice squad and the rest for drug enforcement. His opponent seemed only a little older but exuded confidence such as trumpeted a lifetime of practice. Here was someone who had without a doubt driven himself relentlessly. Wong had won more than his share of fights in ten years but now a sense of foreboding sped like a virus through his veins as he reflected upon his own neglect of the sparring mats. He knew he had been cruising with one or two hours a day instead of the four or five he should have spent drilling himself. Would his luck run out today, he wondered.
The two men approached each other warily. Wong lashed out with a jab at the intruder’s face and his heart sank as his opponent simply swatted the blow away. He dropped reflexively to avoid a counter attack but none came. He performed a vigorous leg sweep and was stunned when his adversary remained unmoved and unmoving. Wong rolled away quickly. As his life flashed before his eyes, however, he felt a sense of clarity. He would do whatever he needed to and, if that was not enough, he determined that no amount of fear or trembling would tip the scales. The professional in him accepted life as it was dealt to him and he grew calm.
The gap between the two men closed and the undercover detective felt as if his blows bounced off wooden beams tightly wrapped with thick ropes while his opponent seemed to explode into action, hitting him four or five times for each time that he himself connected. He rolled, jerked or dodged whenever he could but the battle was fast slipping from him. In desperation he threw a punch with all the force he could muster knowing that he had done so with perfect form. His opponent dodged it with laughing ease and encased Wong’s outstretched arm in an arm lock, enabling him to pitch the detective across the room.
All the undercover agent could do was to protect his head as he hit the wall. He was utterly spent while he sensed that his opponent had barely broken a sweat. With relief, he heard the wail of sirens. Police cars approached and the door to the warehouse rattled open. His attacker reached into a pocket and swung his arm with a throwing star that he launched at the throat of Wong’s back up who rushed in with his firearm blazing. He managed to get off three shots that hit nothing in particular before collapsing. Wong now recognized the style of fighting against which he had fought to no avail.
The ninja turned and hissed, “Train!” Then he disappeared.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Hook -- Surprise in Macau

Following is the opening scene of volume 2 of The Chinese Spymaster, tentatively titled The Ninja and the Diplomat. What I want to know is HOW DOES IT GRAB YOU? (The following image is of a casino interior downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.)

“Room service.”
Kim, the North Korean arms dealer, looked across the ample rosewood and silk chairs and sofa in the living room of his suite to his bodyguard and motioned with his head to send him to the door.
“We did not order anything.”
“Compliments of Viktor.”
The arms dealer hesitated then nodded. His bodyguard opened the door cautiously and waved a metal detecting wand over the man as he wheeled in a polished wooden cart laden with a basket of fresh lychees, a plate of tempting desserts, and the customary bottle of champagne in an ice bucket.
The man from room service was a local, so they could assume he was not from Viktor’s “inner circle” but Viktor notoriously used gangs of local organized crime.
He snatched a knife from the cart and attacked the bodyguard. Even though there was a crazed look in his eyes, suggesting that he was under the influence of some drug, he wielded the knife with skill. It was, however, as if a lucky beginner was fighting a hardened professional. The guard had to dodge three or four times before blocking a knife thrust with the metal detector and striking the attacker’s throat. The attacker arched backwards while slashing at the outstretched arm; the guard spun to avoid the knife and caught the attacker by the wrist. He swung the man effortlessly into a wall against which he crashed and lay crumpled
As the attacker slumped to the floor, another man moved silently into the doorway. “Was that too easy?” he asked as he raised his silenced Glock 19 and shot at the bodyguard who sprang at the same instant to relative safety behind the furniture in the living room
The arms dealer wasted no time in firing his 9 mm Beretta. He did not miss, not even when a second gunman rushed into the room.
“You really should try the egg tarts. They are better than what you get in Hong Kong,” purred a heavily accented voice from outside the door. “By the way, your marksmanship has improved greatly but there are three more of us and we have something—”
There was a short pause as guns clattered and curses were muttered. A door had opened by the staircase.
A shrill whistle blew.
“Stop! Police. Drop your weapons.”
The arrival of the police surprised everyone inside and outside the suite of rooms at the quietly stylish hotel that had served as Kim’s base of operations. Even so he maintained his usual calm facade as Viktor and his crew cursed. The police brought with them the odor of officious authority that blended well with the whiff of sulfur.

In a few minutes, all the attackers and those attacked were taken, separately, into custody.

Simplicity and children's books

This book is addressed to children aged five to ten. It is beautifully produced with illustrations by the author herself. The story is u...