"Can I get you anything else, Mr. Simon?"
"Actually, yes there is something. I have some errands to run in the city. Could you please have the Mercedes brought around? The gray one."
The young man winced slightly. Simon picked up the spoon from the tray and sighed.
"I'm sorry, Shiowshu. I shouldn't have said that. This has been a difficult week."
"Yes sir. I'm... I'm sorry, Mr. Simon."
"I'll tell you what I would like. I'd like something other than soup and sandwiches for my meals.This captivity is humiliating enough without Meng-Shiu enforcing prison kitchen standards on me."
"I can ask, Mr. Simon, but Mr. Tong spoke to the kitchen staff directly."
"Why? What is it about a steak that he finds objectionable? Would an omelet or some lasagna be less threatening?"
An odd look of amusement and respect came over Shiowshu's face. "After you were, uh, brought up here, Mr. Tong spent some time reading some of the old family records, learned some things about you. They made him think it was best if you didn't have access to a knife, or even a fork."
Simon's eyebrows lifted in surprise, then his eyes grew distant as he thought back over long, long years. Knifework had been a specialty of his when he was out in the field, it was true, but....
Ah. Seattle. His wrinkled face smoothed into a smile as he remembered Seattle. That fight had broken his left collarbone and the little finger on his right hand, but he'd finished the job. He smiled at the mental image of Ricardo Argento flailing, hopping around the room, trying to remove the fork from the back of his neck as the blood sprayed across the walls. Simon refocused on the present.
"That was a long time ago, son. Does he really think I'm that dangerous now?"
Shiowshu shook his head. "He thinks... that is, I don't know what Mr. Tong thinks. He doesn't confide in me." His expression had returned to the careful neutrality of someone playing a game. Simon had noticed it almost instantly when Shiowshu had brought the lunch tray in. What was he playing at? Where was this going? Shiowshu continued, "He just said, no kinves, no forks, no chopsticks, nothing edged or pointed."
Simon held up the spoon. "Isn't he afraid I'll sharpen the edge of this, and slash my way to freedom?"
"He thought about making us give you plastic spoons, but..."
The moment stretched out in silence. Shiowshu looked at the spoon, his own shoes and books on the wall before answering.
"He thought it would make him look afraid." His gaze met Simon's. "That's why he let you have a metal spoon. To show you that he's not afraid of you."
Shiowshu's face was thin, with a flat forehead and a narrow chin. Although he looked like a Talent, with the sunken cheeks and bony hands that came with calorie-hungry psionic organelles, Simon knew it was just an act. He'd read Shiowshu's file, understood that he had the skeletal face of a Talent because he forced himself to stay on a restrictive diet. Looking like a Talent was sometimes as good as actually being a Talent when it came to enforcement work. It was hard to deliberately starve yourself just to get an edge. It required will and self-possession. Strength of character. Drive. Ambition. Simon saw these traits written in the blue veins on the young man's neck.
"Enjoy your sandwich, Mr. Simon." Shiowshu turned and walked out of the room. The gunman in the hall closed and locked the door after him.
Simon looked at the tray. Coffee, potato chips, beef barley soup, a turkey wrap and a chocolate bar. He picked up the wrap and unrolled it. Folded in the lettuce was a small cell phone.
He pocketed the phone without turning it on and re-rolled the wrap around the lettuce and meat. Sipping his coffee, Simon considered the odds. Shiowshu Chen could be trying to help me, he thought, because he's dissatisfied with Meng-Shiu and wants to see me take over. Or he wants to use me, then kill me and take over himself. Or he's working for Meng-Shiu and is hoping to curry some favor by tricking me into calling Lonnigan in. Or he's just a messenger puppet for one of the other people in the Organization, in which case he could be turned if I play him carefully enough. Or...
With thoughts swirling, Simon thought and planned as he ate his lunch.
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