Did Gaye like classical music? He wondered. He imagined Locatelli or Puccini would give a Texan a migraine. What did those people listen to? Country and western, cowboy music and polkas, no doubt. Songs played by musicians named Chet or Clint. Who knew. Smiling, he imagined that bedroom scene, waking up to find the sun streaming into their room, the strains of a Bach concerto in the air. Could Gaye tolerate it? He began to imagine the paintings she had in her house. Giant cowboy pictures and heavy frames, or thick bronze steers dashing about. He could tolerate an oil entitled "How the West was Won" as long as he could choose the music.
He shook the brown vial of Elurex. The oily liquid inside swirled and frothed. It looked evil. It looked like freedom. He went to his locked cabinet and removed a box of syringes. He grabbed a handful of assorted sizes, and slipped them into his jacket pocket. He left his building and briskly walked down the main path. A jaguar in an antique cage grunted as he strolled by, a Japanese macaque squealed and an unseen peacock boomed from the aviary. Trevor stopped in front of an ornate Victorian concrete and iron cage housing a pair of Himalayan lesser pandas. The raccoon-like creatures, about a yard long and covered with red and gold fur, watched him with beady eyes. Trevor dipped under the visitors’ rail and reached into the cage. The male climbed over to have his head scratched. "Got a gift for you, mate." He reached into his pocket, touched the syringes and vial, and withdrew quickly. "Not those, mate." His other pocket had the dried apricots and he fed the pair.
Trevor went back to his office. Sally came in early, and was just settling into her desk with a cup of tea. "Morning, Trevor," she said brightly.
"I find you annoying, Miss Chan.”
She cocked her lovely head to one side. "Why?"
"Because you're so awake, clear and terrific at this lousy hour."
"Too early for you, doctor?"
"Quite. And the moon, too." Seeing that she did not follow, he continued. "Just look out the window. Nearly nine and the moon never set. And I heard some rot on the radio that it's like an equinox. Highly irregular."
Sally looked out the window. "It is quite full, but it doesn't bother me."
"It's giving me a headache."
"I saw the ginger ale and figured." She held up her cup with delicate fingers. "Would you like a nice cup?"
"No, thanks. I'll stick to soda this morning." He stared into her large dark eyes. "Sally, I look at you and can't help wondering... Why such a beautiful girl is wasting her life in the office of a bloody zoo?"
"I love the animals."
"You don't work with the animals. This job offers nothing that you couldn't get in any other office anywhere. I dare say you'd make more money elsewhere."
"Sounds like you want to give me a raise," she laughed.
"If only I could. No, I look at you each day. You're young, beautiful, you've got everything going for you."
"I don't know if I should thank you graciously or tell you that you sound wet."
"When is that cop boyfriend of yours going to marry you?"
"That's what you're getting at. You shouldn't ask me that."
"I know, but my life is so empty that I've developed a kink thinking about yours."
"I may be bonkers, but I'm not chi-sin. You should be with someone as marvelous as you, instead of typing stool sample reports. You go with one of Hong Kong's finest, yet the skinny lout hasn't got the lychees to make you his wife. What the hell’s he waiting for?"
"His mother is sick, and he's afraid of upsetting her."
"We are together. And when the time is right, and his mother can accept the thought of her baby being married, it will happen." Sally paused. "Sometimes I think we’re waiting for her to die."
"Nothing is longer than waiting for someone to die. Of course, you'd be avoiding a mother-in-law."
They laughed together, and Trevor moved over to Sally's desk. He sat on the edge. "What are you up to?" she sighed.
Trevor's fingers delicately lifted her chin. Sally’s soft skin and firm jaw-line pleased him, and his eyes blazed as he touched her. He loved firm chins; both Petrina and Sally had them. But Sally was an adventure sitting inches away from him, and Petrina, great lines or not, had turned into a harpy eagle.
"Trevor, you are the strangest thing," she said.
He kissed her, right on that smooth firm jaw-line. "Don't call the cops."
As she turned her head toward him, her jet hair glinted in many color flashes. "I had a dream the other night. I think you’d be interested in it."
His eyes widened.
"I was in this office typing a personal letter on the computer, but then, I may have been writing it with pen and ink.”
"A quill pen, perhaps?"
"No, but I'm writing this letter for you. I think it was to Dr Medford. I was telling her what you wanted to say, and then she walked into this office, looking for you. She was going to be your... what's the word she used... ‘ partner’.”
"She actually said that?"
"Oh, yes ! What she meant by it, …well, you can interpret ‘ partner’ in many ways."
He leaned in close. "What did Dr Medford look like?"
Sally covered her mouth with her fingers to block a chuckle. "That's where my dream went pear-shaped."
"That's right. When she talked, she was human."
"I'd hope so." Trevor shrugged.
"Being human, she had to be Chinese. When she was quiet she was like that tall blond Barbie doll. Isn't that weird?"
"Oh, yes. Gaye Medford is definitely more than a Barbie doll. And she came to this office, looking for me."
"In my dream."
"In mine, too." He stood up, reverting to his professional persona. "Pass a message to Ah-Kwok. Tell him to put the clouded leopard back on a regular diet."
"And have him change Flower’s dressing at least thrice daily.”
"Thrice?” She repeated.
"As in three times."
"Got it. But which Flower do you mean ? The rabbit, the parrot –“
"Trevor, I don't think Ah-Kwok is going to be too thrilled about that. He says he's not qualified to deal with large animals."
"It's a bloody dressing I'm asking that tosser to change. Tell him he's lucky I don't order him to give the elephant an enema."
"He'll threaten to quit."
"Sally, if he does, then give him an enema. "
Trevor left this office, and drove from Central to the London Veterinary Clinic of Sheung Wan. This silly, pretentious name reflected Carter's sensibilities; he wanted the practice to have a classy sounding name to impress the locals, and since the senior partner was a genuine Brit, it would have been a shame not to take advantage of the opportunity. Trevor protested that he came from Manchester anyway, but Carter insisted on the name and the ridiculous logo of a lion wearing a crown. As a person, Carter could be a prat, but he was a damn fine vet, and painfully ethical. Lo, one of the assistants, said Dr Wang was in the operating room and he would be joining him.
After Lo grabbed and slipped on his greens, Trevor went into the holding area. Not too many patients, so he quickly spotted the cute Jack Russell pup tumbling around in its cage, enthralled with a piece of newspaper. Best use for the South China Morning Post, he thought as he prepared the syringe. "As for you, little lass, sometimes bad things happen to nice dogs."
The brown and white puppy yipped when it got the shot, wavered and buckled. Within ten seconds, it shut its eyes. Trevor put it back in the cage, then eyed a fox terrier. She almost looked like a Jack Russell, but she just wasn't the same. A mangy cat hissed at Trevor, breaking his spell. "Don't push it, strawberry face. I got plenty of medicine for you."
As he walked into the lobby of the building where he lived, he startled Ganung. "Dr McTeer, back so soon." Ganung sprang up from his chair, and straightened the sky blue beret on his head.
"What you said this morning made me think. That little terrier in trouble, remember?"
"Yes, belongs to the Wu’s. You want to examine it?”
"I feel that I should. Give me the phone number, will you?"
Trevor slipped the number into his pocket, went up to his flat, and called. He spoke to a local man, and practically forced Mr. Wu to invite him up. As he stepped out of the lift, he saw a tall thin Chinese gentleman standing next to a dour Filipina amah in a doorway, the iron grillwork outer door already pushed aside. Stiff and unfamiliar, they almost seemed at formal attention as Trevor stepped up to them. Trevor smiled, suddenly unsure of why he came up to their flat.
Surprisingly, the man held out his hand. "I'm Dr B. K. Wu."
"Trevor McTeer." He shook Wu’s hand, noting the bony limp fingers.
"How may I help you?" Wu asked, as he gestured for Trevor to enter the apartment.
"No, sir, I'm here to possibly help you." Trevor stepped into the flat, and the chaos struck him. The place was nicely decorated in sunny yellow, blue and gray, with heavy lacquered furniture. The living room was strewn with toys, and with a sudden pang, Trevor remembered those arguments. Entering into the flat, he narrowly avoided stepping on a small red altar box by the side of the doorway, a gweilo cliché.
"You must take care." Wu smiled, showing tobacco-stained, uneven teeth. "Please excuse my messy home, but I have several young children."
Trevor looked around, and noticed a large jack-in-the-box, an impossibly small tricycle and a board game already set up on the floor. He did not hear children nor dogs, and he could not smell dogs or animals around the place. "I've heard something, Mr. Wu, from the security guard downstairs. You have Jack Russell terriers. I'm a vet, and I'm quite interested in the breed."
"They are very interesting dogs, Dr McTeer. I have had four, two females and two males. I considered breeding them, but then changed my mind. You have one, I’m guessing."
"No, but I'm about to get one."
"Think before you buy one. They can be quite clever and naughty. At the moment, we have only one."
"He's not very active. The usual terrier would be jumping around any visitor to the house."
"Not Tiger," Wu shrugged. "Well, not anymore. My children saw the first one at a pet shop in Central. She was very expensive, more than $3000 Hong Kong."
"That is pricey."
"Yes. But then my children did not pay attention to her. They should have been playing with her, instead of letting her run around the carpark with this maid of ours.” Wu snickered weakly. "I ran over the dog with my car. Aye-yah, the children were so upset. They made me get them another pup almost immediately. That's when I bought two, a boy and girl, imported from Australia. Very attractive. I tried to teach them tricks, like one could roll and the other would crawl. They both rolled, but they did it badly. I found it frustrating. Then I had another accident in the carpark, so the female was gone."
Trevor raised his eyebrows. "Accidents happen."
"They do. Shortly after, my daughter threw the mate out the window." Wu saw that Trevor was aghast. "My little Annie likes to experiment with gravity. Perhaps she'll be a physicist someday."
"But you have another one now?"
"Yes, Dr McTeer, the best one of all. I'll get him."
Wu disappeared for a moment, which seemed like a very long moment under the unblinking gaze of the maid. Wu returned carrying a stuffed Jack Russell terrier, mounted on polished wood. The small brown and white dog looked stiff and oddly angled, and the glass eyes stared in shock. A plastic tongue stuck out between sharp teeth, the jaws permanently gaped.
Trevor reached out to touch the little horror.
"Tiger’s our best dog. But he wasn't always this good. He bit me when I tried to train him. Now he knows what ‘stay’ means. And no barking, either. Sometimes you have to take control of your dog, or even your own life. Good luck and goodbye, Dr McTeer."
Wu reached out and shook hands. Trevor left the flat.
His mind reeled, but he knew that a migraine was not rising. He watched some television, looked at his fish, and paid no attention to Petrina’s babbling throughout the evening. He almost laughed aloud when he realized that when Petrina talked, it was like the air pump on his aquarium. Noise, bubbles and hot air. His fingers reached for the vial in his pocket. He shook the vial, and studied the tiny bubbles that formed on the surface of the oily liquid.
"Trev, which would you prefer?" Petrina's voice in the kitchen. He put the vial away as she walked up to him. "Would you like Cointreau or Amaretto with your coffee ?"
"Whichever you prefer, love."
He watched her walk away, and he slowly moved over to his balcony window. He opened the glass doors, and stepped out on the balcony. He loved the balmy air, the smoky black sky, and the dazzling jewels of Hong Kong harbor. His mind slid into a new level of reverie, and he barely felt the large Persian rub his leg. He stooped to pick up the heavy cat. The cat purred as Trevor ran his fingers through the luxurious jet black fur. Trevor looked down into the cat's huge gold eyes. "You like that, Voodoo? Voodoo the Baby Panther. Do you know what Dr Wu says? He says you've got to take control of the animals in your life."
His lips parted in a grin as he carried the Persian to the edge of the balcony.
[Page 1 | Page 2]
QLRS Vol. 3 No. 3 Apr 2004