Monday, March 7, 2016

Spy Killer - Chapter 3 - A Scaly, Wrinkly Wang

Fast forward to one month later, where we find our hero pacing in a dismal cell.  For the first week Reid grew increasingly worried, since nobody came to talk about why he was arrested, or even ask him any questions.  In week two someone slipped a note from Ms. Carsten through his cell window, explaining that she tried to bribe Lin Wang to release him, but he refused on the ground that Reid was "an enemy of China."  This confused Reid, since if Wang wanted to get rid of him, the easiest way to do it would be to hand him over to the Shanghai authorities, not stick him in a dungeon.
On the upside, Carsten did promise that if she ever sees him again, "our next meeting will be far better than the last."  So there's something for Reid to look forward to, a meeting with a pretty lady that doesn't end with him getting beaten and dragged off by the local Death Squad.

At any rate, when the cell door suddenly opens and guards come for our hero, Reid is more curious than afraid, and walks with his shaggy, unshaven head held high as he's led into a hut and tied to a chair against the wall.  He's given an hour to stew, and then Lin Wang makes his entrance.

Reid doesn't know a whole lot about Wang, other than that he's a celebrated general who shouts about freedom and leads the Death Squad to persecute any traitors.  And he also "called down ancient curses upon the head of invading Japan."  We might be up against a wizard, folks.  Or perhaps a warlock, because when Wang shows up...

One glance at the man sent a shudder of repulsion

Your mean revulsion.  Reid's tied to a chair, he can't be "repulsed" in any direction without tipping over.

through Kurt.  Lin Wang was small, hunched to one side, with a twisted back.  He did not seem to have any neck muscles; his head sat rigidly on his shoulders, pulled to one side.  His face was deeply pocked, covered with yellowish scales which might come from some leprosy.  Several great wrinkles lay like old scars against the cruel visage like ravines in a relief map.

I'm pretty sure it's illegal to use two similes on the same subject in a single sentence.  At the very least it goes against the spirit of wartime rationing.

The wrinkles were filled with ancient poisonous dirt.

All this to say, Lin Wang might be evil, guys.  Just a hunch... oh wait, there's more?  Wow.  I hope this guy is a major recurring character, because other members of the cast are lucky if they get a full paragraph to describe them.

Ling Wang's hands were held up from his body as though he could not drop them.

That's... yeah, it is kind of hard to drop one's hands, you're absolutely right.

The fingers dangled limply, fleshless and thin, clattering nervelessly when Lin Wang moved.

But the eyes were the worst.  They were not black, they were an unhealthy, mud blue color,

I've seen some mud in my time, and can associate more than the color brown with the stuff, but "mud blue" is a first for me.

like bichloride of mercury.

I'm going to give Hubbard the benefit of a doubt and assume that at the time he wrote this, such an allusion wouldn't require the reader to put down the book and do some research to figure out what the hell he's talking about.  So, mercury(II) chloride is a poisonous substance that was also, back in the Dumb Ages, used as a medicine.  Hubbard is trying to say that Wang's eyes are blue like this poison, to evoke some extra symbolism and further establish the character's evilness, except as best I can tell, the substance he's referencing is actually a white crystalline solid.  On the other hand, a lot of the images of this stuff I find suggest that it was sold in distinct blue bottles, so maybe that's the reference that Hubbard is trying to make.

The lids were half lowered over the protruding pupils.

Yeah, yeah, evil with a capital E and red font and little black spikes growing out of each letter, got it.

Wang, in a rattling voice, asks his prisoner to confirm that he is Kurt Reid, but our hero is too busy recoiling from the leper lizard before him to answer.  Wang admits that no one likes to look at him, but also says that "for all my looks, women sometimes smile," so there you go, no matter how much you look like a poisonous raisin, you're someone's type  Then Wang asks if this "bucko mate" would smile at a headsman's sword, pops three opium pills, and muses that "it might give me pleasure to spoil those handsome features of yours."

If Reid feels any fear from the threat of facial mutilation the book doesn't tell us, and he demands to know what Wang wants with him.  Wang reveals that he knows all about what happened on the Rangoon, the crime Reid is accused of, and also of Reid's parentage - his father was a renowned soldier who also spoke several dialects of Japanese and Chinese, and since all skills are hereditary I guess this is important.  When Reid confirms this, Wang has our friend Captain Yang bring in another prisoner.

The newcomer is Bonner, a small-headed but beefy fellow who served aboard the Rangoon with Reid.  He's surprised to see Reid and asks what Lin Wang wants with him, which as you might have noticed is a recurring theme in this prison hut.

Lin Wang smiled and the chasms in his face opened.  A thin scale dropped from his face and he picked it up from the desk, breaking it with his finger nails.

Crossing the line from "evil" to just "gross" now.

Lin Wang declares that he thinks it was Bonner who murdered the Rangoon's captain and robbed the ship's safe, and if the sailor can give a written confession to that effect, he'll get to live.  Bonner expresses his hopes that, upon his death, Wang will be denied the blessings of heaven and instead subjugated to the torments of perdition.  Wang asks Yang for some pliers.

Yang spread the man's hand flat against the arm of the seat.  Lin Wang's smile broadened.  The muddy blue eyes lighted up.  A desire for cruelty, heightened by the fact that he was a crossbreed between some unknown race and Chinese, made Lin Wang chuckle.

Well... okay, this is kind of positive.  Like, Hubbard isn't saying that Lin Wang's cruel streak comes from his Chinese heritage, it's because of miscegenation.  So the author doesn't have a problem with Chinese people so much as he does with the notion of Chinese people breeding with non-Chinese.  Like someone not having any problem with black people so long as they stay in their own dedicated neighborhoods and seating areas.

The pliers swept down with a click and fastened upon Bonner's index fingernail.  The pliers jerked back, blood spouted.  Lin Wang dropped the nail to the floor.

Bonner writhed and turned white, moaning through set lips.  Ling Wang ripped out another fingernail.  Bonner screamed.

Oh, and Reid is just sitting there watching "with wide open eyes," kinda like the audience at a Saw movie or Game of Thrones episode.

It takes a total of three removed fingernails for Bonner to break and agree to sign a confession, and he's given a pencil and paper to write what Wang dictates, admitting to killing Captain Randolph and stealing his loot to be sent to a certain shop on Nanking Road.  Guess Wang is hitting too birds here, implicating some other place he wants to move against.  When Bonner finishes, Wang draws a pistol from his desk, asks if his prisoner has any prayers to say, and shoots him twice.

What?  He lied.  He's evil, it's what he does.

So now Wang has a confession that would exonerate Reid, buuut he isn't handing it over just yet.

"What's your game?" demanded Kurt.

"Game?  That suggests hunting, doesn't it?  Then, Kurt Reid you are going hunting."

"You're insane!"

"Of course," said Lin Wang.  "I find it most pleasant.

Yeah, I'm with Reid.

The reason for all this, for hauling Reid into prison, for torturing Bon- oh, excuse me, using enhanced interrogation techniques upon Bonner, was all to put Reid in a situation where he has to do a mission for Wang. See, there's a Japanese spy called Takeki ("the Courageous," italics necessary) who is causing the Chinese a lot of trouble. If Reid can make it to the town of Kalgan up near the Great Wall, kill Takeki, and bring back his scalp as proof of the deed, Wang will give him Bonner's confession and Reid can go free.  And we all know Wang can be trusted, right?

As for why Reid in particular has to be the one to do this instead of any member of Wang's death squad... well, Wang explains that "My own men could not approach him at all, but you, as a white man, speaking their language, should be able to do it and escape."  Yes, this is not a job for someone trained in subterfuge and wetwork who could blend in with the local population, this is a job for a towering, conspicuous, hot-headed foreigner who happens to speak the language.  This is a job for... a white guy.

The kicker is that Yang and some other members of the Death Squad will be accompanying Reid to Zhangjiakou to make sure he stays on his mission.  So they can go that far, but aren't able to finish the job and kill Takeki themselves.  Good grief.

Wang reminds Reid that "something of the fate of China rests on your shoulders," Reid grumbles that "You went far enough around to put it there" before agreeing, and Yang rumbles that "I think we will have a very enjoyable trip, bucko mate."  End chapter.

At least this answers the question of why the story has its particular title.

Back to Chapter 2

1 comment:

  1. So Lin Wang is a little guy who looks like a... well, that's Hubbard's subtlety.

    So Teenie Whopper ripped of Gris's fingernails with a pair of pliers. This really reeks of that torture porn thing in An Alien Affair, too. This is also a spy thriller where the protagonist gets duped and manipulated by everyone around him...

    Is that nail ripping scene the first official "Hubbard Action Sequence?" There's no exclamation marks, but those sentences are pretty short. Do Battlefield Earth and Mission Earth really have the only Hubbard Action Sequences?

    Lemme add some more to your "retreading mission earth" you forgot to mention: Buckskin Brigades had the whole enlightened alien with aristocratic genes coming to save the land from people stupidly destroying it for greed, and Fear had Gris's hallucinations in it and a "hypno-helmet" type plot twist. Ole doc methuselah... hmm... that had the fixation with ladies, a talking spaceship, and a lot of other random stuff.

    I guess there's gonna be a car race fic, isn't there?