Mei Wu took one last long look in the mirror before leaving the bathroom. The mirror was ornate, with a fancy, gold-accented border snaking itself around the tall oval shape. The counter top was a cream color, somewhere between white and brown. The walls and floor tiles were the same color, giving her the feeling that she was floating among the clouds.
Attractive, yet younger looking than her 24 years, she was a striking picture in the looking glass. She wore a low cut bright red dress with her jet black hair pulled back to accentuate captivating hazel eyes and high cheekbones. She double checked her hair and makeup, stared at herself, and thought about what she was about to do. She felt a mix of emotions, everything from anxious to excited. But the one thing should she have been feeling was strangely absent — fear.
Once outside the bathroom, she strolled through the plain-looking bath house lobby to the elevator as confidently as she could. The lobby was small, and it only took her four or five steps to make her way from the bathroom to the elevator. The walls were covered with fading wallpaper covered by a strangely confusing red and yellow pattern. Once she was inside the elevator she took a deep breath and pushed the button for the fourth floor.
As the floors ticked by, her mind wandered to what might await her when she got there. After all, this was not the kind of place a girl like her had ever been before. This was the kind of place that little girls dream of avoiding when they grow up, and now she was somehow wandering into a world that she knew nothing about.
Despite her worries, when the elevator doors opened she was relieved to find that she would fit right in with all the other girls dressed in overly-seductive evening gowns, waiting to earn their nightly pay by pleasing the men that came up the very same elevator.
But for Mei it wasn't just any man that she wanted to please and it wasn't money she was after that night. It wasn't even love, or the arousing touch of a new man. No, it was secrets that she was after that night. What exactly those secrets where, she couldn't have known at the time, but years of allowing her imagination to run wild had driven her to the point where she was willing to willfully ignored the obvious danger she was putting herself into.
What she did know was that those secrets would come from one man in particular who frequented this house of pleasure every Friday night. A man who was fond of taking the girls he liked the most home with him. She also knew that this particular man held a high-ranking post in the Chinese government and had a bad habit of keeping plenty of sensitive government secrets on a private computer in the office of the apartment he kept just for these kinds of covert rendezvous.
Mei made her way nervously past the dangerous looking men standing guard by the elevator doors without drawing their attention. The last thing she needed was for them to start asking questions about who this new girl was. Soft, inviting music was playing on a sound system while she zig-zagged her way around the tables and couches adorned with attractive, welcoming looking women, who also paid her no special attention. She needed to stay out of sight, because if another man requested her services before her intended target arrived, those same dangerous men would make sure she didn't say no. So, after surveying her surroundings, she found a spot for herself in the back of the darkly lit room.
Watching from her spot in the back she studied the steady stream of men coming through the elevator doors and watched them look over the girls like they were choosing which steak to purchase in the meat isle of a their local market. After they made their choice they would approach one of the scary looking men running things on this floor and the transaction was made. The chosen girl would take the man into one of the rooms down the long hallway in the back, most of the time not to be seen again that night. For hours Mei patiently waited for her target to arrive. And like the good communist government man he was, he showed up right on time.
She knew Fa Chen from the second the elevator door opened. He marched his way past the men guarding the room as soon as the doors had barely parted enough to let his large body through. Despite the fact that he was dressed in civilian’s clothing, he still carried himself with the air of a man who was used to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. He wore dark trousers with a forest green shirt buttoned all the way up his massive chest until the very top button. Even though he was not in his official military uniform, his attire was still neatly pressed and his shirt meticulously tucked in.
The clothes matched the man in this case. Chen looked the part of the government official. He kept his dark hair cut short at all times and his aged face clearly shaven. The only part of him that was out of character was his large size. His position in the government allowed him access to the finer things in life, and the large amount of extra pounds that he carried on his midsection let it be known that he had spent many years enjoying the spoils of his labor.
Chen spent a lifetime climbing the ranks of the corrupt national government of his home country. He was a man who knew from a young age that the way to get what he wanted in his world was not to just recklessly take it when he wanted it. No, rather it was to slyly build up a career in the one aspect of his world that would give him control over all the others, the government.
“Whiskey, the best in the house, and don’t hold back on me,” Chen ordered the bartender without even the slightest attempt at any pleasantries.
The man behind the large, dark mahogany bar knew exactly who the man in front of him was, so he dared not argue. Instead, he pulled an unopened bottle of Pappy Van Winkle and pored a generous portion. Despite being a better drink than most men would ever have, it was still below Chen’s lofty standards, but it would have to do.
He sipped his drink and lit a large cigar and began to examine the room for just the right girl. Mei knew she only had one chance to get his attention, one chance to make sure she was the girl he chose that night. She quickly made her way to the front of the crowd, taking a seat directly in Chen’s line of sight. As his gaze crossed her path she made sure to cross her legs seductively, letting the hemline of her dress show off her long, lean legs.
That was the move that caught his eye, but it was the rest of her striking figure that made him stop and stare. The way her tone body filled out her dress, complimented by her sophisticated beauty, Mei was a girl who could hold even a discerning man’s attention. After studying her for a moment Chen felt like there was something different about her. She couldn't help but carry herself with an air of sophistication well beyond what most of the girls he had come across in these types of places possessed. Despite his cautions, Mei was too much of a good thing for him to pass up. If she was too good to be true, and her time in this line of work wouldn't last long, he was at least going to take advantage of her tonight.
The few moments that Chen took looking her over and deciding if she was the right girl for this night seemed like hours to her, but she kept herself composed and flashed a sly smile at her prey that she was convinced was what made up his mind.
"Yes, you’ll do just fine." Chen said not as much to her but at her, in the same tone of voice you would use to tell your waiter which lobster you want him to take out of the tank for your dinner.
Mei tried to think of something sexy or charming to say, something that would endear him to her, but she caught herself just before the words made their way out of her mouth. She reminded herself that men like Chen didn't come to places like this to pick up women for their conversational skills, they came for their other talents and expected the women to be seen and not heard. Instead of speaking, she let her body do the talking for her.
She rose to meet him and, making sure not to look him directly in the eyes for fear of making him feel disrespected, took him by the hand and led him down the hallway in the back. It was lined with doors, doors that led to rooms that housed little else but a bed and a single chair. Mei kept walking in front of him, mostly because she was the one who was supposed to choose the room for them, but also because she knew that the longer she let him take the sight of her walking away the easier it would be to convince him to take her home.
She found an open door near the end of the hallway and led Chen inside. As soon as he entered the room he closed the door behind him.
“Sit down,” he told her. Mei did as she was instructed and once again flashed her most seductive smile.
“You’re new here, but I’m going to assume you know how this works,” he began, “You will come with me, do as I ask, and leave when I tell you. For your services I will pay you 12,000 yaun. Most important, you will tell no one of what happens this evening, understood?”
Mei looked up at him, doing her best job of not allowing her eyes to show how disgusted she was. She just couldn't bring herself to understand how any woman would do this by choice. In her case she knew the ends would justify the means, so she continued to smile at him and simply purred, “As you wish.”
“Very well then, follow me,” he said as he turned his back on Mei and walked out the door. He led her further down the hallway to a door hidden in the far corner that she hadn't even noticed was there on their way in. The door led to a stair case that took them down to the ground floor. At the bottom of the stairs was another nondescript door, this one opening to an alley way behind the building.
In the alley a dark colored sedan waited for them. Chen opened the back door and motioned for Mei to get in, all without saying a single word to her. Once he was satisfied that she was secure in the back, he squeezed his massive body in the door and took the seat next to her. The driver immediately started the engine and began driving. Chen didn't need to instruct him where they were to be taken, the driver already knew. And even though she didn't let it on, Mei knew where they were going too.
The car passed through the streets of downtown Beijing, finally turning on E Chang’an St. and following it away from downtown as it turned into Jianguomen. Chen sat silently next to Mei in the backseat, looking not at her but out the window where the bright lights of China’s capital city flashed vibrant colors of red, orange and blue.
They passed the car ride in silence, Mei knowing better than to speak before she was spoken to when she was among men like this. After a few long, tense minutes, the sedan weaved its way through the streets surrounding the many embassies housed in Beijing, finally coming to a stop in front of a nondescript building on the south end of the Temple of Sun Park. The building was made of dark concrete and stood ten stories tall. It had no markings and one would have no idea what was on the inside from looking at it while on the street, not out of the ordinary for Beijing.
Seemingly before they were done turning the corner, the door next to Mei was opened by a stern looking man in a dark blue suit. He motioned for her to exit the vehicle. Not with his words but with a waiving of his hand and a serious look on his face. Mei did as she was shown, continuing to play the role of the obedient woman. She swung her long legs out first, but the sight of her flesh did not have the usual softening reaction on this man as it did on most.
On the other side of the car Chen did not need anyone to tell him what to do. He opened his own door and swung his hefty body out the opening, planting his size 12 shoes on the asphalt road beneath him with the ease of a man used to commanding a room with his actions. He marched directly towards a door on the side of the building that was not lit and could have easily been missed from just a few feet away, passing Mei without as much as a glance in her direction.
Mei followed her stoic guide inside the building and found herself alone with the expressionless man. Chen had apparently disappeared, and until her new companion finally spoke she experienced a few fleeting moments of fear that Chen knew who she was and had brought her to this place for other reasons than his personal pleasure.
“Take the elevator to the penthouse and stay in the hallway until told otherwise,” the man finally said without as much as looking in her direction.
This was it, the last moment that she could turn back. Instead, she walked to the elevator doors without any concrete thoughts in her head and hurtled herself headfirst into whatever would be waiting for her when they opened again.
"This extract remains the exclusive property of the author who retains all copyright and other intellectual property rights in the work. It may not be stored, displayed, published, reproduced or used by any person or entity for any purpose without the author's express permission and authority."