Authors: Don Easton
Tags: #FIC022000, FIC022020
Angel in the Full Moon
To those with the courage to do what is right ...
A Jack taggart Mystery
A Castle Street Mystery
Copyright Â© Don Easton, 2008
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise (except for brief passages for purposes of review) without the prior permission of Dundurn Press. Permission to photocopy should be requested from Access Copyright.
Editor: Barry Jowett
Copy-editor: Shannon Whibbs
Design: April Duffy
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Â Â Â Â Â Angel in the full moon / Don Easton.
(A Jack Taggart mystery)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â I. Title. II. Series: Easton, Don. Jack Taggart mystery.
PS8609.A78A66 2008Â Â Â Â Â C813'.6Â Â Â Â Â C2008-900678-X
1Â Â Â Â 2Â Â Â Â 3Â Â Â Â 4Â Â Â Â 5Â Â Â Â 11Â Â Â Â 10Â Â Â Â 09Â Â Â Â 08Â Â Â Â 07
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Ontario Arts Council
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Government of Canada
Book Publishing Industry Development Program
The Association for the Export of Canadian Books
, and the
Government of Ontario
Ontario Book Publishers Tax Credit program
, and the
Ontario Media Development Corporation
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Thank you, Thuy, for the help you have given me in completing this novel.
It was ten o'clock at night in Hanoi as Bien stood at the back of the cargo van with his twelve-year-old daughter. The incessant January rain, coupled with a light breeze, made the fifteen-degree Celsius temperature seem colder. Bien had no idea that his dream for the future was about to become a permanent nightmareâor that the rear doors on the van opening in front of him were the gates to hell.
The driver turned in his seat and gave Bien an impatient nod. Bien grimaced and shoved the plastic bag containing Hang's belongings into the van. Saying goodbye was difficult and it was more than the rain that made his cheeks wet.
Hang was the older of Bien's two children. When Bien was given the opportunity for both his children to go to America he could hardly believe his good fortune. There was little future for them in Vietnam. He bent over to give Hang another final hug.
A swarm of motor scooters zoomed past like angry, wet
hornets and disappeared into the night. Hanoi was like a hive when it came to scooters. Few people could afford cars.
Bien ignored the scooters and forced himself to smile at Hang. She smiled back, but the corners of her mouth twitched, revealing her nervousness. On impulse, she checked the pocket of her new coat again. Yes, the gift was still there. Wrapped in a small piece of tissue paper and tied with a pink ribbon.
The silver necklace with the pearl from Halong Bay had cost Bien the equivalent of sixteen American dollars.
An exorbitant amount of money,
But the American lady will be grateful.
Bien's mind turned to Hang's new coat.
She will need it. It can be very cold in the United States.
A long blast from the van's horn interrupted his thoughts and he watched as Hang quickly climbed in to join a handful of young women who sat on the floor of the van. Bien had opted to leave his other daughter, nine-year-old Linh, back at their apartment with her grandmother. It wasn't simply that he didn't own a car. He often pedalled with both children on his bicycle. The real reason was he was afraid he might cry. He didn't want Linh to see him cry. Especially when she was scheduled to leave next.
The children's mother died of cancer when Linh was six months old. Bien's own mother lived with them, but time had been hard on both her body and her mind. Hang, despite being only three years older than Linh, had taken on more of a role of a parent than that of a sister.
Bien started to close the doors but Hang looked at him and quickly blurted,
“Con thu Ã³ng cha thot nhiÃªu.
Bien replied, “English now, Hang. You speak English.” He paused and said, “And I love you a lot as well ... but now it is time for you to be strong.”
“I am strong,” she replied, trying to make her face look stern.
Bien hid his smile and said, “I know you are. I will be anxious to talk with you.”
“I telephone in United States,” said Hang. “Six months.”
Bien shook his head and replied, “No. The word is weeks. Say weeks.”
“Yes. Weeeks,” replied Hang. She frowned at her mistake.
“Good. That is good. You call. Linh and I will be waiting.
You be sure it is good before I send Linh.”
“Con cÃ³ the hy sinh tÃ¢t ca vÃ¬ cha.”
“English ... please.”
Hang sighed and said, “I will do ...” she hesitated, searching for the word she was looking for, “
... you ask.”
Bien smiled and said, “Good. Very good. I know you will do
I ask. I ask that you do
for Linh, too.”
Hang nodded seriously as Bien closed the doors.
Minutes later, Bien held his bicycle and stood silently in the rain staring at the empty street. His heart and stomach felt like they were being wrenched from his body. The image of Hang waving at him through the back window of the van would forever be etched in his memory.
Bien climbed on his bicycle and pedalled toward his apartment. He brooded about his last-minute decision not to send Linh to America on the same boat as Hang. People were angry with him, but eventually he was told that the American family understood.
The American family had lost two daughters in an unfortunate accident. The Americans wanted to fill the emptiness they felt and were willing to take his daughters into their home. They would pay for them to go to school in America.
Perhaps, some day, Bien would be allowed to go to America, too. For now, they agreed that Hang would travel
first. Another boat was scheduled to leave when it was known that the first boat arrived safely.
Not that there was any real danger, Bien had been told. The passengers would be smuggled into the United States from Canada. Even if the authorities caught them, the worse that would happen is that they would be returned to Vietnam.
If that happened, Bien knew, he would face some criticism from his own government. The opportunity for a prosperous and happy future for his children was well worth that risk. He was told that if all went well, eventually the right people in America would be paid and both his daughters would become American citizens.
Bien heard that there were many other passengers being smuggled. All young women who were being given jobs in the hotel industry. They would have to work to pay for the cost of being brought to America. That would not take long. There was a tremendous amount of money to be made. They would have no problem paying off their debt, even while sending money home to their families.
Bien knew that for many of the young women, their fate would no be so. He had heard rumours that some of the young women lacked morals and became greedy, opting instead to make more money by selling their bodies. Some sent money home to Vietnam for their parents, who became rich, but when asked about their daughters, the shame was evident. They said their daughters worked in hotels or restaurants, but few believed it. Maids in hotels were not paid that much.
Bien had talked at length about this to both his daughters. He had also spoken to the smugglers. If there was even a suggestion that they engage in any impropriety, he would go to the authorities. He was assured otherwise. This family was decent, heartbroken over the loss of their own daughters. He was told that he was foolish to worry. Still, these were his
daughters. What father would not worry?
Bien's daughters were fortunate. They would not have to work at all to pay for their voyage. His was a special situation. Bien's contact had taken a picture of Hang and Linh standing in front of the
One Pillar Pagoda
close to where Bien worked. The picture was sent to America and Bien heard that the family instantly loved his daughters. He was told that if his daughters were truly unhappy, then the American family would pay to return them to Vietnam.
Bien thought about the Westerners' use of the word
. He decided that it was a word they used as if they were saying hello. From Westerners, it sounded about as genuine as the fake Rolexes sold at the market. The Vietnamese expressed love more often through action, by doing something nice for the person. It had more meaning.
It was the same with Western names, Bien mused. They never stood for anything. His own name, Bien, meant
. Western names did not usually have meaning. Bien was told the name of the American family was Pops and it meant
. Believing the name to be real, he felt reassured. Had he known it was a nickname with a secretive, twisted, and perverse meaning, he would have been aghast.
Bien reflected upon the picture of his two daughters. His contact had graciously provided him with a black and white photocopy. In the picture, Hang held Linh's hand.
Not that she was afraid Linh would run out into traffic. She knew better. She held Linh's hand because she loved her. Their spirits entwined like one. Anyone looking at the picture could see their true beauty. Perhaps the American family were sincere when they said they loved my children? It would be impossible not to ....