Having already used Australian newspaper reporter John Carpenter once in a CIA operation targeting Muslim terrorists in Sydney despite having established a sexual attachment that was soured because of his duplicity, American spy Paul Gentry finds he must try to use Carpenter again in China. Gentry’s principal source into an impending Chinese arms sale to Al Qaida in Hong Kong, Ping Xuanyu—Mysterious Black Jade—has fled or been taken to Guangzhou, China, not only before revealing the information Gentry needs to interdict the arms sale but also with inside information of Agency operations that the United States doesn’t want revealed to the Chinese, much less Al Qaida.
In a tale with more twists than a corkscrew and with deceptions and betrayals at every turn, Gentry convinces Carpenter to take him along into China on a film crew documenting Christian and Muslim religious communities in Guangzhou only to run up against master Chinese spy master Ma Ming. Gentry now faces the greatest dilemma of his life—how to fulfill his mission without sacrificing the man he has come to realize that he loves.
Once the taxi was on its way to Lower Albert Road, I settled back in my seat and turned my mind to wondering how I was going to relieve all of this sexual tension building inside me and get satisfactorily laid tonight. I considered myself off duty now.
Dinner at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club wasn’t the least bit helpful. All of the men at Bert’s Bar that evening were old farts—at least I thought so until I turned and saw a familiar face come into the bar, one that I hadn’t had any expectation of ever seeing here and one that brought back to me both an old arousal and a twinge of guilt. What I had seen, coming to the door of the bar but then almost immediately turning away, was John Carpenter, a journalist with the international desk at the Morning Herald in Sydney, Australia, and the man who I had used—and, according to him, sexually *bused—to gain contacts in the Muslim community in Australia on my last intelligence assignment. Standing behind him in the doorway was a handsome, well-built Norwegian I’d seen around the club, who I understood was a cameraman between assignments and who I invariably would have seen as stiff competition if I’d decided to fish seriously in the correspondents’ club pond. Seeing him with Carpenter now excited my sense of competition.
I had to admit to myself that Carpenter had affected me like no one else had in my work and that he was perhaps the one genuine regret I had in a long progression of casualties of the war on terrorism that I had created over the past decade of what passed as service to the United States.
I pushed off of the bar and moved to the door, catching Carpenter’s arm just outside the door to the bar, in the corridor. I pretended that the Norwegian wasn’t even there.
“John,” I murmured in a low voice. The moment I touched him, I could feel a shiver go through his body.
“Paul?” he replied in a surprised voice, as he turned to me. I also felt him shake my arm free, and I instantly felt the loss. I didn’t want him to react as if I repulsed him—not as intimately as we had been entwined—but his movement of sloughing me off told me that he had forgotten nothing about the circumstances of our parting.
“Hey, John. You’re looking good. I’m sorry, I . . .”
But that was as far as I got. He merely shook me off, and turned and strode off under the guidance of the Norwegian hunk, leaving me standing there alone in the hallway saying “sorry.”
None of this helped with the sexual tension I was under. I left the club, hailing a cab and giving the name of a massage parlor, Dragonese, on Causeway Bay to the driver. He turned and smiled at me over the seat, a *oung, almost feminine-looking *oung man with long black hair, and I could clearly see that he knew exactly what I’d get at Dragonese. What he also gave me at the moment was the nagging feeling that I’d seen him before. I didn’t usually focus on taxi drivers, but it occurred to me that he was strangely similar to the driver who had transported me from the trip I took to the Sheung Wan market.
As I intended, I did get off at Dragonese, as the well-muscled Japanese masseur followed up a tension-relieving professional sports massage that melted out into a slow hand job with a . . . . . . . . . job. It didn’t end in a ****, though, because he clearly wanted to top me, and I wasn’t having any of that—at least not tonight. He’d assumed he could top me, because I’d let him do that before. Sometimes that’s what I wanted. But it wasn’t what I wanted tonight.