Vincent was wearing Porsche wrap-around sunglasses, even in the gloom of the funeral parlour. He still wore the scars from the beating the three Sun Yee On blue lanterns had given him. Behind his sunglasses his eyes were still swollen, the bruises fading from purple to custard yellow. The stitches on his forehead and cheek were livid against his pale skin.
Ruby looked around. The Onion's horses from Wanchai stood in the lobby in their sharp black suits and western style haircuts.
Vincent handed her an armband. 'Come to cry for Ah Chau?' he said. He could barely talk. His jaw was still wired. Ruby took the proffered armband and an envelope of lucky money. 'Have cried a river of tears,' she said.
'Should put the armband where everyone can see it,' Vincent said to her. 'Your pussy maybe.'
Vincent nodded towards the office.
'Heard the boys who beat you were still at school,' she whispered. 'Not even toilet trained heya!' She pushed past him into the viewing room.
The room was thick with incense. The Onion lay in an open casket, illuminated by two spotlights on the walls above. A paper banner suspended on the wall read: 'May your next life be long and brave, like a lion!' in huge red characters. A framed photograph of him stood on an easel to one side, surrounded by wreaths. On a table in front of the casket there was a meal to sustain him on his journey to the afterlife; mangoes and ham shui kok and pieces of cut watermelon and sui lung bau.
The Onion's body was covered with scraps of paper covered with Chinese characters, letters from his Wo Sing Wo brothers, promising to avenge his death. These letters would go with him to his grave.
The embalmer had done a good job, Ruby decided. The Onion looked almost human, something he had failed to do in life. The family would not see the patchwork of stitches underneath the suit. From what Ruby had heard, it was only his shirt keeping all the bits together. They had stitched his right hand to one of the sleeves.
'You forgot his sunglasses,' Ruby said in a stage whisper to Vincent.
Eddie came out of the office and sat down in one of the pew right at the front. Ruby bowed three times to the body, then went and sat down next to him. Vincent sat in the row behind.
Eddie had his hands in his lap, staring straight ahead. He consulted the diamond studded Rolex on his wrist. 'Open the doors at eleven o'clock,' he said to Vincent.
Vincent knew he was being dismissed. He went out. The door clicked shut behind him, the sound echoing around the marble-tiled room.
'The Ox did this.'
'Because of what The Onion did to his blue lanterns.'
'Two of the men in the mah-jongg parlour recognise the leader. A Sun Yee On Red Pole.' Eddie tapped his foot tapped impatiently. 'See this photograph of Ah Chung?' he said at last, pointing to The Onion's framed photograph beside the casket. 'His family still lives in Swatow. I got this photograph from a friend in the police department. When I get it enlarged, they have to cut the numbers off the bottom.'
'What are you going to do, heya?'
'Ah Chung is chopped in my own mah jongg parlour. I lose face now, big face. I must pay back this insult, and revenge Ah Chung.' He got up and stood over the casket. 'Look at this.' Ruby obediently got up and stood beside him. His hand went around her shoulders. 'Look,' he repeated.
'What I look at, okay?'
'What a dead person looks like. You want to be a dead person, Ruby-ah?' He bunched a knot of her hair into his fist and yanked her head back. 'Peter Man comes to see me yesterday.'
'Peter Man is the gristle of a dead dog.'
'This gristle says you owe him money. Says you owe him seven hundred thousand dollars.'
'Six hundred thousand is last week, fucking your mother! This week it is seven.' His face was close to hers. 'How can you lose so much so fast? I warn you before!'
'It is the last time, I promise!'
He forced her head down, made her look into the casket. 'Have a good look, Ruby-ah! What do you see? I will tell you what you see! You see dead! Nothing after this, no ancestor to take you to a happy life, no children to clean your bones! Just dead, just your pretty bones mouldering in the ground!'
'If not for Eddie, this Peter Man will wash you, heya!'
'It is the last time,' Ruby pleaded. 'I don't gamble no more, Eddie, I promise!'
'You make promises like a pig shits!' He yanked her head back even further and she almost cried out.
'You help me?'
'Of course I help you. Don't I always help you, Ruby-ah?' He let go of her hair and pulled her towards him. 'You love me, Ruby?'
'Love you too much, baby.'
'Can never love me too much. What will you do if there is no Eddie to look after you, to be your big brother?' He hiked her short leather skirt over her hips.
"Careful of my stocking,' Ruby whispered. They were cashmere and had cost her eleven hundred Hong Kong dollars.
He put his hands on the casket on either side of her. She put her arms around his neck and checked the time. Three minutes to the hour. 'Open the doors at eleven o'clock,' he had told Vincent.
She imagined Vincent and all the horses filing in, followed by the professional mourners, finding them bent over the casket. It was enough. She came quickly, as he knew she would. He pulled out again, grinning. She did not remember the last time he had reached the clouds and rain with her.
She pulled up her underwear, breathing in the taint of embalming fluid.
'Sex and death,' Eddie whispered. 'Only two thing that ever matter.'
He's crazy, she thought. Crazy as me.
'This morning I transfer seven hundred to your account, Ruby-ah. Now you can pay Peter Man.'
'Will pay you back. Promise.'
He zipped himself up and took his place in the pew. He looked at his watch. 'Eleven o'clock,' he said.
Ruby turned away from the casket, hitching up her silk underwear and smoothing down her skirt. A moment later the doors opened and Vincent led in the mourners. She caught him staring. He knew what they had, Vincent never missed anything. One day, of course, he would try to kill her. But that was another gamble she was willing to take, and she thought the odds were good that he wouldn't succeed.
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