Serial Saturday #17: What They Serve At 7-11 in Taipei
Wei-Ting looked around as they got out of the car. He hadn't been in Taipei for years- so he wasn't sure where they were. There was a gas station tucked under the elevated road across the way, but Mei-Shan and Shan were walking towards an entrance along the side of the 7-11 that led to a set of stairs.
The apartment was on the second floor and Mei-Shan knocked three times before the door opened a crack and Wei-Ting saw the face of the young man in the picture. He was older now, of course and exhaustion was etched on his face. He opened the door the rest of the way and sighed. "I must be getting sloppy in my old age," he said. He turned and made his way back into the apartment. "Come on in."
They entered the apartment with Shan coming last and checking the hallway before closing the door. The apartment was small, with a kitchenette, a bed shoved under the window and a couch, coffee table and television and not much else. The young man was moving around the space, gathering his belongings and throwing them on the couch next to his bag.
"What does the NSB want with me?"
"How do you know we're NSB?" Mei-Shan asked.
"The MSS wouldn't have knocked," he chuckled. "And while the PSIA and the KCIA would probably offer me jobs, they wouldn't do it in a studio apartment above a 7-11."
"Fair point," Mei-Shan replied.
"So, what do you want with me?"
Pei-Shan handed him a copy of the phone that Wei-Ting had found in Old amoy. "We have some questions we'd like to ask you. About this woman."
He took it from her and then looked back up at all of them and in that moment, Wei-Ting realized that he knew. He had probably guessed as soon as he had opened the door.
"Yes," Wei-Ting replied. He stepped forward and pulled the letter out of his coat and held it out to him. "You're R."
"Ricky," he replied, taking the letter from Wei-ting. He opened it and smiled. "Oh, Jiezhi," he said. "You always were the sentimental one."
"Jiezhi?" Wei-Ting asked.
"Temperance," Ricky replied. "She anglicized her name when she was in college and sinicized it back when she graduated." He turned and walked to the window. They watched in silence as he placed a hand against it and his shoulder shook for a moment, wrestling with a spasm of grief before he turned back to them, his eyes full and jaw tight.
"Murder," Pei-Shan said. "She was stabbed."
"We found her on a beach in Kinmen," Pei-Shan said. "When was the last time you heard from her?"
"I got a text from her while I was still in northern France," Ricky said. "She said she had initiated Phase One, whatever that meant and was getting out, but after her old man got arrested and taken to Beijing she wasn't sure she could use the dissident network and had made other plans."
"What kind of plans?" Shan demanded.
"She didn't tell me," Ricky said. He began grabbing clothes fromm off the back of the couch and shoving them into the duffel bag.
"Going somewhere?" Mei-Shan asked.
"Unfortunately, yes," Ricky kept putting things into his bag. "When I got her text, I went off grid as fast as I could and my timing was less than great. We were about to close a merger back home and if I'm not there, it might scupper the whole thing. So, they'll be looking for me."
"What makes you think they'll find you?" Shan asked.
"I'm a creature of habit," he replied. "Every time I'm in Taiwan I always like to grab some tea eggs and the easiest place to get them-"
"-is at 7-11," finished Shan.
"Do you know anything that can help us?" Wei-Ting asked.
"Well," Ricky said. He pulled out his phone and began scrolling through it. "At the end of her last text, she sent some alphanumerics that I couldn't make heads or tails of. ZXY734."
"It's not a license plate," Pei-Shan said, her eyes widening in realization. "It's a boat registration."
Mei-Shan glanced at Shan who pulled out her phone and stepped into the hallway. "Give me a minute."
"Are you going to find whoever did this?" Ricky asked.
"Yes," Wei-Ting said.
Shan stepped back into the apartment. "We got lucky," she said. "It got impounded this morning."
"Where?" Pei-Shan demanded.