He could hardly contain his excitement as he waited for Pai-mei in his small compound on an alley off Jen Ai Road. The place appeared nondescript from the outside, surrounded by a gray brick wall topped with shards of shattered glass to discourage acrobatic thieves. The roof was kept in a careful state of disrepair as well, to reduce the attention he might draw from criminals or taxmen.
Within was another matter entirely. The place was most pleasantly luxurious, a combination of the best of American technology and Chinese ingenuity. He'd even managed some Persian rugs, and the humidor in the parlor was almost always stocked with Cuban cigars brought over from Hong Kong. Real Cuban, not "Cuban" fakes from Guangzhou.
The contrast between appearance and reality was fine with him. Precisely according to plan, in fact. It kept curious neighbors away and gave him a safe, comfortable place to work.
|Originally published at jlake.com.|