By now I imagine you have heard of our adventure in the "Country of the Blacks." Such history there, where once the Egyptians were afraid to adventure, where the war and peace of empire play like a tug of war over centuries. From this history we adapted our own program, graphically reminding at least one official of that lesson that tyranny is always visited on tyrants. It is a lesson that would be well-heeded by our neighbors to the south, but I digress.
My bullet wound heals, though I am often troubled by it and irritable. For days after deploying that horrible chemical scar to the decimated village I wandered, missing Cody. Medicine Man's trail had gone cold but on a satellite transmission I followed a hunch and made contact with our Asian Sector, it was Willoughby who responded.
"Yes," he said, "we might have something for you. I was hoping you weren't dead!"
"In Africa to be dead is to be too many things, it is a word like 'interesting,'" I responded. "What have you heard?"
"A man being called, well, in the dialect it makes sense, but, well," Willoughby hesitated, "you speak some Northern Wu don't you?"
"Enough in a pinch."
"Well, in a village in the Jinshan District of Shanghai, as a matter of fact, you'll know this," he said brightly, "on Fu Shan..."
I barely heard him as he continued, instead I remembered the burning cries of an overcrowded rowboat, the semi-automatic fire. Devenuelle's reputation made that night on the swells of that East China Sea. I remembered those screams little over a year ago too, when I heard Nwargo's yell of triumph as he stuck a knife deep into Devenuelle's neck, through arteries and veins that pumped the venomous blood of the man. His blood spilling onto the sand, falling all over his clothes, his face uncomprehending to the last. Strange that his death should be so silent. I remembered a woman who had died that night on the sea. Before Tallinn that was. I remembered the weeks of opium that followed, the heroin and the hookahs, waving the prostitutes away. It was you, wasn't it? Who dragged me out of that truck stop after I had cut the pimp up and left him dead outside the locked stall where I intended to fill myself with enough heroin to kill a mule? It was the one time Cpl., the one time the emptiness of my heart would not fill. The tide had gone out and never returned. How you knew where I was puzzles me to this day. I remember stealing three cars on my way...
I heard nothing of what Willoughby said after "Fu Shan."
"Copy, Willoughby," I said, "I think the satellite hit a sun spot, you want to repeat from 'Fu Shan,'" I stumbled over the word.
"Right Sarge, right, on Fu Shan animals and some children have disappeared. They're pestering the government about it, but it's being dismissed as runaways and perhaps a thieving ring, but it sounded odd based on your last few communiques and on a heads up we got from Ranger, so I sent Han Zhecun there, he's from Vancouver but his grandparents are from Da Jinshan. He said the villagers talked there of a 'Sugared Devil' or sometimes just 'Sugar Man,' who appears on their streets and buys excessively from their shops and sometimes talks to some of the children and presents them with gifts."
There was a pause.
"Han saw one of the kids who had a gift. It was a bone sculpture of a bird. Han thought it might be African, but he let the kid keep it. But he's been over there a few times for Ottawa, and he usually knows these things."
So it was Shanghai. I wasn't going there without the dog.
Of picking up Cody, I will have to relate some of that to you later. We are in Shanghai now, and the afternoon beckons with small errands. Han is a trustworthy and enjoyable companion, and Willoughby has been excellent company. We were recalling last night the time in school when you insisted to Professor MacAllen that a cover fire often proved more distraction than it was worth. You won that argument! We had a good laugh.
Cody loves Shanghai, the smells, the attention, but always there is the work. And I feel this is where I will confront Medicine Man. This is where the souls must be put to rest.
with warmest wishes of the season,