PETER MAY: OVER 3 MILLION COPIES SOLD 'A TRUE PLEASURE TO READ' GUARDIAN 'A TERRIFIC WRITER' MARK BILLINGHAM 'A WRITER I'D FOLLOW TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH' NEW YORK TIMES The Noble Path is Peter May's explosive standalone thriller set in Cambodia and Thailand amid the bloody reign of the Khmer Rouge THE EVIL WRATH Cambodia, 1978. Amid the Khmer Rouge's crazed genocide, soldier-of-fortune Jack Elliott is given the impossible task of rescuing a family from the regime. THE PAINFUL TRUTH Eighteen-year-old orphan and budding journalist Lisa Robinson has received the impossible news that her father is, in fact, alive. His name - Jack Elliott. THE NOBLE PATH As Jack tracks the hostages and Lisa traces her heritage, each is intent on reuniting a family. Yet to succeed, so must run a dangerous gauntlet of bullets and betrayal. LOVED THE NOBLE PATH? Read Peter May's prescient standalone thriller, THE MAN WITH NO FACE LOVE PETER MAY? Order his new thriller, A SILENT DEATH
Release date: August 30, 2019
Print pages: 426
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The Noble Path
I first had the idea for The Noble Path in the mid nineteen-eighties. I had wanted to explore the idea that in certain circumstances innocence can be a more corrupting influence than evil – simply because it knows not what it does.
The story itself was a departure from my usual crime/thriller genre, though I suppose it might loosely be described as a thriller. But I see it more as a very human adventure set against the brutal canvas of south-east Asia in the 1970s.
It takes place in the aftermath of the war in Vietnam, when the murderous and anarchic regime established by the Khmer Rouge in neighbouring Cambodia systematically annihilated three million people. This was not so much ethnic cleansing, as the eradication of thinking and educated people. The Khmer Rouge saw intelligence, and the expression of ideas, as the biggest threat to their existence.
Rereading the book nearly thirty years later, I note with some sadness that one of its primary themes – a refugee crisis caused by the mass migration of people trying to escape war and poverty – is with us every bit as much now as it was then. Replace the ‘boat people’ of Vietnam with the sub-Saharan Africans dying in their thousands today, as they try to escape war and poverty by crossing the Mediterranean Sea in dangerously flimsy boats.
To facilitate the writing of my story I made a trip to Thailand, but was unable to journey into Cambodia, which was still an unstable and dangerous place. And so most of the research that followed was achieved by tracking down and reading copious numbers of books dealing with the recent history of the region. No internet then, or easy access to video footage.
I was at the time working as a script editor on the Scottish TV soap opera Take The High Road. To write the book I took a two-month sabbatical from the show, bought an old manual typewriter, and drove down to south-west France in my Suzuki Jeep, where I rented a gîte. Every morning I drove into the town of Saint-Céré and established myself in a corner of the Café des Voyageurs, where I wrote around 1,600 words a day using the Pitman’s shorthand I had learned as a journalist. At night I sat alone in my gîte typing up my shorthand, and fighting off the large numbers of brown bugs that somehow managed to crawl in under the door.
At weekends I generally found myself invited to dinner parties hosted by expat Brits and Americans. It was at one of these that I had the great good fortune to meet a lady called Maud Taillard, then in her sixties. Seated next to her at the dinner table, I soon discovered that she had spent several years living in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. There her late husband had been physician to the King, and she told me of their many adventures, including nightly visits to an opium den in the city.
I went on to call on her at her impressive home in the thirteenth-century medieval village of Carennac, where she showed me mementos and photographs of her time in Cambodia.
The daughter of a French father and English mother, Maude became the model for one of the book’s characters, La Mère Grace, the madam of a Bangkok brothel. I was concerned when she read the book that she might take offence. I needn’t have worried, as she proudly told anyone who would listen, ‘That’s me, darling!’
I didn’t finish the book during that time in France, and it wasn’t until I had quit Take The High Road a little over a year later that I had the time to do so.
I have edited the original manuscript very lightly. The biggest change involved cutting much of the sex that I was told at the time was a prerequisite for a bestseller. Reading it all these years later, I revisited the embarrassment I had felt writing those graphic scenes. Times and tastes change, and I think the book is much the better without them.
I am proud and happy to republish it now, nearly thirty years on.
Ang Serey was a handsome woman, though you would scarcely have guessed it. Her face was blackened by smoke, and you could not tell if it was sweat or tears that made tracks through the filth. Her eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, and afraid to stray to one side or the other lest they betray an emotion. Her feet shuffled in open sandals among all the others. Ahead of her she pushed a cart bearing a few meagre belongings. On either side were the children she dared not look at. ‘Hold on to me so that I can feel you are there,’ she had whispered to them. ‘If anyone speaks to you, say nothing. Let me speak.’
For days she had worked her hands until they blistered and bled. Digging in the soft earth among the suburban bougainvillea, rubbing the dirt into the sores and blisters till her hands were red raw. She had made her children do it, too. The boy had cried at first, waving his stinging hands in the air. Why did his own mother make him do this? She had struck him when he refused to go on. And when his tears dried they were replaced by a sullen stare of hatred. The girl was older, yet it seemed she understood even less.
Ang Serey was an intelligent woman. She knew she must use that intelligence to hide itself; the black, peasant pyjamas, the hands of one who worked the land. Somehow she had to make the children understand. For if she couldn’t, their betrayal of the truth meant certain death.
There had been so little time. Just five days since Yuon had flown out on one of the last helicopters with the American evacuation. Ten days since he had told her, tears streaming down his cheeks, that he had been unable to get a place for her and the children. He had cried most of that night. Her eyes had been dry. She wondered if he expected her sympathy. It would break his heart to leave them, he had said. But still he left. Perhaps they could mend broken hearts in the West.
She lifted her head slightly towards the clear blue sky and felt the heat of the sun on her skin. They had passed by the smoking cathedral and the railway station, all those shuffling feet.
South Armagh, Northern Ireland, October 1978
McAlliskey sat on a bench in a darkened corner of the pub, nursing the last of the Guinness in his pint glass, pulling distractedly on a hand-rolled cigarette held loosely between nicotine-stained fingers. The pub was quiet. A small, old-fashioned country pub, its wooden bar worn smooth by years of use. A group of farmers stood in a knot sinking pints and shorts, talking in low voices that rose occasionally in muted laughter. Big men, grimy caps pulled down over leathery faces.
‘Jaisus! If the beasts’s going to die anyway, youse are as well pumping the stuff into it yourself and saving the vet’s bill!’
An old woman behind the bar polished glasses, listening idly to the conversation. From time to time she glanced across at the stranger in the corner. She didn’t know him. She didn’t want to know him. This was bandit country and it was dangerous to know too much, dangerous to ask questions. Curiosity killed.
McAlliskey had crossed the border from the Republic three days earlier and spent two nights in different safe-houses. He stirred uneasily and flicked a look at the clock behind the bar. O’Neil was late, and he was aware of the woman’s attempts to avoid taking an interest in him. Which meant she would remember him. Where in God’s name had O’Neil got to? If something had gone wrong McAlliskey would be vulnerable here. He had the taste of fear in his mouth – a taste he knew well, had lived with these ten years past. But he could sink a dozen pints and not achieve the high he got from the adrenalin that was pumping through his veins right now.
A tiny stab of fear pricked his heart as the door opened and a man stepped into the pub, bringing the damp night air with him. O’Neil. Dark eyes set deep in a pale thin face. There was mud on his boots, rain on his collar, death in his eyes. He paused only momentarily, his gaze flickering past McAlliskey to the men at the bar. They seemed not to notice him.
He nodded to the woman. ‘Twenty Players plain.’
She reached for a packet from the shelf behind her and put it on the bar. ‘A wee whiskey, sir, to warm you on a cold night?’
He shook his head and dropped a note and some coins on the counter and glanced again at the little group of farmers. Still they showed no interest. He slipped the cigarettes in his pocket, nodded to the old woman and went out.
McAlliskey sat on for several minutes before draining his glass and taking a final draw on the remains of his cigarette. He rose from the bench, turning up his collar, and left, aware of the old woman watching him go. Outside, the cold caressed him like the icy fingers of a deceitful lover. A fine drizzle drifted down the main street, making haloes around the feeble yellow of the street lamps. The car was parked fifty yards away. He walked briskly to it, hands in pockets, and slipped into the back seat.
‘What the hell kept you!’
O’Neil looked at him in the driving mirror. ‘Another dud bloody detonator. Where in Christ’s name do you get the stuff?’
‘Come the day you need to know, I’ll tell you.’ McAlliskey took a battered tobacco tin from his pocket and started to roll another cigarette. ‘It’s set?’ O’Neil nodded. ‘Let’s go, then.’
They parked the car at a road end where a dirt track led up through a gate towards the woods above. Below them, the road ran steeply downwards between high hedgerows. To their left, a narrow lane led away around the side of the hill, hugging its contours before dropping down again to feed into the network of roads that fanned out through rolling farmland, south towards the Republic. O’Neil switched off the engine and killed the lights. He took a map from the glove compartment and shone a flashlight for McAlliskey to see. There were three routes traced in red, each an alternative escape to the south. They had been lettered A, B and C with a red marker. ‘To keep our options open,’ he said. ‘If anything goes wrong.’
McAlliskey nodded. He didn’t much like O’Neil, but he was thorough. And good with explosives.
They left the car and O’Neil led the way down the hill about two hundred metres. Then he stopped and whistled softly. A faint whistle answered his, somewhere away to their left, and the two men followed the sound, finding a deep-rutted tractor track that led them down to a drystone dyke at the corner of the field. A figure was crouched there, with a holdall tucked in under the wall to keep it dry. He flashed a light briefly in their faces.
‘Turn that fucking thing off!’ McAlliskey spoke softly, but his voice carried the authority of rank. The third man doused his light without a word.
‘Flaherty,’ O’Neil said.
McAlliskey crouched down beside him and saw that he was no more than a boy of sixteen or seventeen with fear in his eyes. ‘You should know better, son.’
‘I’m sorry, Mr McAlliskey.’ And there was awe in the boy’s voice. McAlliskey was almost a legend in the organization. The boy wasn’t sure what scared him more – McAlliskey or the bloody business they were about on this dark Irish night.
‘How long?’ McAlliskey asked.
‘’Bout fifteen minutes, sir.’
O’Neil opened the holdall and took out a small, hand-held radio transmitter. He extended the aerial and flicked a switch. A red light came on. He glanced at McAlliskey. ‘You sure they’ll be?’
And they settled back against the wall in silence, listening for the first distinctive sound of the army APC rolling up the lane towards them. From here, they had a perfect line of sight, and would see its lights early – the same lights that would illuminate the white marker O’Neil had planted at the roadside, in line with the twenty pounds of plastic explosive skilfully secreted just below the tarmac. O’Neil wondered how McAlliskey got his information. But he knew better than to ask.
McAlliskey took out his tobacco tin, leaning forward to keep it safe from the rain, and rolled another cigarette. He struck a match to light it, hands cupped around the box.
A hundred and fifty metres above them, a man lay still against a slight rise in the ground, below the shelter of the treeline. He had a livid white scar running back across one cheek where a bullet had grazed the flesh and taken off the lobe of his left ear. His dark hair was cropped short, greying at the temples. His eyes were blue and cold as steel. He saw the brief flare of the match light up the smoker’s face.
He had already picked out McAlliskey as he and O’Neil made their way across the field. Amateurs, he thought. He tucked the butt of his US M21 rifle into his shoulder. The weapon had been modified to his own specifications. He put his eye to the lens of the long, telescopic, infrared sight mounted above the butt end of the barrel, centring it on McAlliskey’s head, and he too prepared to wait.
They saw the lights of the APC before they heard the distant whine of its engine. Headlights raked the sodden green of the fallow winter fields, swinging one way then the other as the vehicle wound up the road towards them.
McAlliskey and the others crept further along the wall to a clearer vantage where a white gate opened into the lane. The man in the woods kept them in his sights and adjusted his position.
The engine of the armoured personnel carrier had become a roar now as it approached the marker on the road below. The muscles tightened across O’Neil’s chest and his finger hovered over the button on his handset. McAlliskey watched, impassive. Twenty metres, fifteen, ten. The APC lumbered inexorably towards the marker. A fine, cold sweat beaded across O’Neil’s forehead, his hands clammy. The boy glanced at him anxiously, his heart in his throat, almost choking him. The marksman in the woods focused on McAlliskey’s right temple. Gently he squeezed the trigger. The rifle sounded, like the crack of a dry branch underfoot. McAlliskey slumped forward, a neat round hole in his temple, blood gouting from the back where the bullet had passed through, taking half his head with it. O’Neil pressed the button involuntarily, and the explosion below ripped up the road, the APC still five metres short. But O’Neil barely heard it as he stared in horror at McAlliskey. He had hardly a chance to turn before the second bullet struck him full in the face, and his head cracked back against the wall.
Flaherty froze in a moment of panic, two men dead beside him, the shouts of the soldiers below as they fanned out from the APC, a searchlight sweeping the hillside. He looked up instinctively towards the woods and saw, for a second, a face caught in the searchlight glare. Then he took off, running hard in the direction he knew O’Neil had left the car.
The young captain shone his flashlight on the faces of the two bodies. The first was unrecognizable, but he held the beam on the second. His sergeant arrived breathless at his side.
‘Somebody just saved our lives, Sergeant.’
The sergeant spat. ‘A lot of lives. And a lot of bloody trouble.’
Elliot walked briskly up the ramp towards the Shuttle desk and presented his ticket. He had already passed through the stringent security at this airport on the hill, above the besieged city of Belfast. No problems. He wore a neatly pressed grey suit, white shirt and dark tie. With his slim black attaché case, a raincoat over his arm, he looked like any businessman on a return flight to London. He was thirty-nine but appeared older, his face unusually tanned for the time of year. The girl who handed him his boarding card assumed he was recently returned from a winter sunshine holiday. But Africa had been no holiday. Her eyes were drawn to the scar on his cheek, which stood out white against his tan, and she noticed that his left ear lobe was missing. He returned her stare, and her eyes flickered away self-consciously. He took a seat in the departure lounge.
He would collect the second half of his fee in London. This had been a departure for him. A one-off. Although, he considered, it wasn’t really so different from what he had been doing for the last twenty years. Just better paid. And he needed the money. He hadn’t been told who his paymasters were, but had a shrewd idea. The English establishment embraced hypocrisy with a greater ease than it did democracy.
He had not been told to take out O’Neil. Only McAlliskey. But he had judged it dangerous not to take O’Neil at the same time. He had no idea why he had left the boy, nor would he ever know just how great a mistake that had been.
He had not seen the two men standing idly by a newsstand in the terminal building. One of them, little more than a boy, pale and drawn and still shaking from the horror of the night before, had nodded in his direction.
The other had glanced at the boy appraisingly. ‘You sure, kid?’
‘Sure, I’m sure.’ The boy had watched Elliot with hate in his heart. It was a face he would never forget.
London, December 1978
It was raining. Cold. The clutch of black umbrellas around the grave shone wet, dripping on the feet of the mourners. One of them – death was his business – held an umbrella over the vicar as he read from his prayer book. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes . . . meaningless words reeled off for countless dead. The vicar hurried through it. He was cold, and the umbrella was dripping on the back of his neck. He hadn’t known the woman. Another faceless soul dispatched for judgement. He wondered, wearily, what had happened to the faith he had known in his youth. Perhaps, like listening to the same piece of music over and over, faith, like the melody, palled. He glanced at the daughter and felt a stab of guilt as she stooped to throw a handful of wet soil over the coffin. The young man beside her offered his handkerchief. She waved it away.
She too felt guilty, and was glad of the black veil that hid her face. No one could see that there were no tears. Her eyes were so dry they burned. She looked around the sad little gathering: a woman who’d worked with her mother, a couple of neighbours, the vicar, the professional mourner – and David. And David was only there because of her. These were all the friends her mother had to show for thirty-seven years. A strange, shy, introverted woman, her mother had not made friends easily. Lisa reconsidered. No, her mother had not made friends at all. Perhaps if Lisa’s father had lived . . . But her mother had never even spoken of him. A young soldier killed in Aden in the Sixties. Lisa had only been fifteen months old. She had no memory of him at all. Not even second-hand. Her mother had locked away all the photographs. ‘No point in living in the past,’ she’d said. And Lisa had never thought to question it.
Thirty-seven! To Lisa’s eighteen years it seemed old. But she supposed it was quite young really. Too young to die. Cancer of the breast. Her mother had been aware of the lump for over a year and been too frightened to see a doctor. It was Lisa, finally, who had made her go. But too late. I didn’t love her, Lisa thought. I can’t even cry. She knew she was depressed only for herself, for her future – alone.
David took her arm to lead her away from the graveside. David. Yes, she had forgotten about him. He wanted to marry her, he said. But she was too young and he was too keen. And, anyway, there had to be more to life, hadn’t there? Yet still she felt safe with him, like now, as he put a comforting arm around her shoulder. She glanced back as the gravediggers moved in to shovel earth carelessly over the coffin, burying her mother, her past.
‘Come on, love.’ David urged her gently away. She turned back towards the future with a heart like lead, and saw a man standing under the trees at the far side of the churchyard. A tall man in a dark coat, hands pushed deep into his pockets. He had no umbrella, no hat, and his short-cropped hair glistened in the rain. Lisa paused and David followed her eyes. ‘Who’s that?’ he said.
Lisa drew back her veil to see more clearly. ‘I don’t know.’
‘Well, I don’t like the way he’s looking at you.’ And David hurried her away. But the vision of the man remained with her. Something about his eyes.
‘That was an ugly scar on his cheek,’ she said.
At first she just wandered around the house touching things. Her things. The chair by the window where she sat nights reading her cheap romances, as though she might discover in them what she had failed to find in life. In the bedroom a brush lay on the dresser, her hair still tangled among the bristles. Lisa teased some out and ran it between her fingers. Soft, shiny. In the wardrobe her coats and dresses hung in neat rows. Lisa ran a hand along them. She picked out a jacket, held it against her face. Smelled it. Her mother’s smell. It is hard to believe, she thought, that someone is dead, when you can run their hair between your fingers, breathe in the smell of them from their clothes.
This was still her mother’s house. Always would be. A neat little semi in a neat little south London suburb. A place for everything and everything in its place. She had been ordered, fastidious to the point of obsession, Lisa just one more possession with a place in the order of things. Cared for, but without love, without warmth. Lisa had always known it, but never rebelled. Been unhappy but safe. Now anger welled inside her and she grabbed an armful of clothes from the wardrobe, throwing them across the room. She swept her arm across the dresser, sending make-up, perfume, brushes, ornaments clattering on to the floor. She stood for a moment, breathing hard, exulting in the violence of her rebellion. A rebellion that had come too late, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing – a remembered scrap of schooldays Shakespeare came back to mock her. Self-pity fuelled her anger as she ripped the sheets from her mother’s bed, lifting a pillow and slamming it repeatedly against the wall until it burst and filled the air with feathers, like snowflakes on a still winter’s day. And something inside her broke, releasing all the tears that had refused to come earlier. She fell on the bed sobbing wretchedly. Her mother had no right to die! How could she have done this to her?
It was almost dark when she rolled over and realized that she had slept. The bed was still damp where she had spilled her tears. She looked around at the chaos and felt numb. Why had she been so insistent that David did not come back after the funeral? They had almost fallen out over it. But he had conceded, finally, hiding his hurt, and said he would call tomorrow. She wished he was there now. Someone to hold her, to keep her safe and warm. She shivered, realizing how cold she was, and went downstairs to turn on the fire and make herself a mug of coffee.
She tried to think dispassionately about David. He was twenty-four, good-looking with his green eyes and mane of fine red hair. A night-shift reporter on one of the London papers. She had met him a few months earlier when he had guest-lectured as an ex-student on the journalist course she was taking at college. He still lived with his parents. Steady, middle-class people. Very pleasant, very dull. Her mother had liked David, the first boyfriend she had allowed her. He was safe and sensible. ‘That boy’s got his head screwed on,’ she used to say. But Lisa kept seeing him thirty years on, a clone of his father. Safe, sensible, dull.
She cupped her hands round the mug. There had to be something else. Nice! It was the word her mother used to describe everyone and everything that offered no risk. What she meant was safe. Lisa reflected that there must be a lot of her mother in her. It was what drew her, too, like a moth to a light. Safety. Only, she knew it was an illusion.
She wandered through to the living room. On the mantelpiece stood a framed photograph of herself aged twelve. A child with a pleated pony tail and a neatly pressed school uniform. Where was that little girl now? Time. It all seemed to slip away, like a shadow at the end of the day. She felt more like eighty than eighteen. As though her life was already over.
She gazed for some time at the photograph before she remembered the trunk in the attic. Years ago, as a child, she had found and opened it. She could have been no more than five or six. But she remembered the photographs, dozens of them in albums and a shoebox, faded black and white prints. There had been all manner of papers and documents in it, and an old jewellery box. Her mother had found her there with the trunk open and screamed at her and slapped her face. Never was she to go near that trunk again. She was confined to her room for the rest of the day. Some weeks later, while her mother was in the garden, she had crept back to the attic to discover that the trunk had been made secure with a heavy padlock.
The trunk was still there, behind a pile of cardboard boxes, thick with dust, untouched for years – perhaps since the time her mother had first padlocked it. The bulb in the attic had blown, and Lisa had to manoeuvre carefully by torchlight. She tugged at the padlock ineffectually and wondered where her mother might have kept the key.
She turned the house upside down but could find nothing that resembled the key she was looking for. The phone started to ring, loud and insistent in the empty house. It stopped Lisa in her tracks, her heart thumping. It could only be David. She stood uncertainly for a moment, then decided to let it ring out. Finally, she took a hammer and chisel from the toolbox under the sink and carried them up to the attic. Balancing the torch on a nearby box, she directed the beam on to the padlock and set about trying to break the lock. She quickly realized that wasn’t going to work, and turned to the clasp on the trunk itself, gouging with the chisel at the wood behind it. It took ten minutes of hacking and splintering before finally it broke free. Then she paused, breathless, almost afraid now to open it. With trembling hands she took the torch and lifted the lid on the past she thought had been buried with her mother.
A couple of layers of dry brown paper covered the contents. She tore them away, revealing again those things she had seen as a child. The pile of old photo albums, the jewellery box, an old rusted deed box, a shoebox filled with loose photographs – her mother as a child on holiday with her parents somewhere. A beach, an old-fashioned guest house, faces Lisa had never seen. Faces of people long dead. A fox terrier being cuddled lovingly by a small girl with hair tied back in ribbons. She put the box down, and lifted out a bundle of old, faded newspapers, which she laid aside without a second glance.
Then she took out the first of the albums, her mouth dry as she opened it. A confusion of more strange faces looked back at her. People standing in awkward groups grinning at the camera. Men in ill-fitting morning suits hired for the day. Her mother in white, smiling, almost beautiful. Lisa hardly dared look at the face of the man standing proudly beside her. A young, shy face, smiling nervously. A tall man with short dark hair, leaning slightly to one side, awkwardly holding the hand of his bride. Lisa’s father.
She suffered a feeling of anticlimax. And, yet, what had she expected? He was in army dress uniform, a very ordinary-looking man. She noticed several more uniforms among the guests as she flicked through the pages. Bride and groom cutting the cake. Then a full-sized close-up of the happy couple, arms linked, each with a glass of champagne. She examined her father more closely. He looked no more than twenty or twenty-one. There was something, she thought now, familiar about the face. Something about the eyes. Piercing, looking straight into hers. Then, quite suddenly, she felt every hair on the back of her neck stand up, her scalp tightening, the shock of it bringing the sting of tears to her eyes. Staring back at her, in the yellow light of the torch, was the face of the man she’d seen standing under the trees in the churchyard. A tear splashed on to the page. Her whisper filled the dark. ‘He’s alive!’
Four hundred miles away in a small, darkened room on the top floor of a building off the Falls Road in Belfast, Elliot’s face was drawn from a large beige envelope. The face was older than in the wedding photographs, and had by now acquired its distinctive scar. The photograph was placed in the centre of a bare wooden table. There were three men seated around it. The man who had taken the print from the envelope turned it through ninety degrees in order that the others could see it clearly.
‘John Alexander Elliot.’ He spoke with a thick Belfast brogue. ‘Ex-British army. Now freelancing. He killed McAlliskey. And O’Neil.’ He paused. ‘We want him dead.’
Elliot pulled up his collar against the cold London night and turned into Dean Street. He found the Korean restaurant halfway up on the right. A pretty oriental girl in a long black skirt approached as he entered. ‘A table for one?’
‘I’m meeting someone. Mr Ang Yuon. He booked the table.’
‘Thank you very much. He is waiting for you.’ She took his coat. ‘You follow me, please.’ She led him through the bamboo and ricepaper partitions to a black, lacquered table in a discreet corner at the rear of the restaurant.
Ang Yuon rose to greet him. He was a small dapper man, black hair streaked with grey. His face was pale, cheeks peppered by ugly pockmarks, but remarka
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