SO UNJUST. EXCRUCIATING PAIN, DEATH FROM A CAVED-IN SKULL distilled into three simple words — blunt force trauma. Not that a dead man feels such things but I felt it at the time and I can tell you it hurt like hell, and then some. And then came the worst part. What could be worse than a bashed-in head, you ask? You just know it’s the end when you draw in lungfuls of muddy river water until it all goes black. Doesn’t go dark all at once though. Drowning is slow. And survival instinct isn’t all what it’s cracked up to be. It prolongs the inevitable — extends the suffering until you just want it to end and let go.
“Yep, that’s Ping Pong all right.” Chief Porcini is gazing down at me over his immense gut. “Face all swolled up, but that’s the Chinaman for sure.”
Even in death he mocks me, calling me Ping Pong as he did to my face. Each time I just smiled and nodded, inwardly burning with rage. Well, he doesn’t know that everyone, his so-called pals included, called him Chief Pork Chop. I want to laugh out loud, scare the pants off those ham hocks. Can ghosts laugh? I guess that’s what I am now.
“If not for the river floodin’ and putting him onto the riverbank, we might’a never found him. Figure he musta got drunk and felled in upstream. Bashed his head on the rocks is what I reckon. Bag him up and send him to Morty at the morgue.”
Nobody will think to check Pork Chop’s truncheon for DNA evidence, the weapon he used to brain me, hangs off his belt. This town owes me but this is all the thanks I get. I helped build Unpleasantville over the past twenty five years. Opened up the gaming room behind the Poisonwood Pub. It took off right away. The new games I brought in were an instant hit. I learned them growing up in Macau as a kid. Lined many pockets, including Pork Chop’s from the profits of my gambling establishment. Used my own money to clear the woods and put a road through for the new development north of town. But this, doing me in, was Porky’s plan all along, well, his and the others who could actually make a plan. Yes, those chummy folk from the golf club that were glad to take my money but would never think of letting me join their exclusive community. Now they’ll try to take over the pub and the gaming room. Well, I have a surprise in store for them. Being alive to witness the shock wave hitting city hall, the courthouse and best of all, the police station would have been pure bliss, but knowing I’ll have my revenge from what will surely happen is almost as good. As they say ‘the house always wins’, and that’s a fact.
You see, it wasn’t just the gambling that brought all those country-club-types to my place. And running a gambling room wasn’t all I learned in Macau. I provided other entertainment to take even more cash off my fine patrons. I had the finest ladies transported all the way from China via Caracas and then Havana, and through the Gulf by fishing boat. Worth every penny. Didn’t matter that they couldn’t speak English. And, you see, as they expertly plied their very particular trade upstairs, my madam, my very own Lillywhite made sure that the hidden cameras were catching every move, every grunt. Lillywhite has instructions to make those images public the moment she learns of my fate.
The body bag is being zipped closed over my face and yet I can still see through it. I think I like being a ghost. Maybe I’ll hang around for a while to watch the fun.
Marco Lobo is a Tokyo-based business consultant. With a background in international business, Marco helps European and North American multinationals establish their commercial footprint in Japan and the wider Asia region. Extensive travel and exposure to myriad cultures has allowed him to take note of the ways different peoples interact, whether it is in harmony or conflict. Raised in British Hong Kong, he witnessed the former colony’s transition from Britain to China, and now its ongoing transformation into a Chinese city. Likewise, of Portuguese heritage, Marco is deeply committed to observing and writing about the Portuguese diaspora and the changes it has gone through. The author of five books, his work has been published in English, Portuguese and Chinese.