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Authors: Mingmei Yip

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BOOK: Skeleton Women
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I stuffed a small stash of cash into the driver’s hand. “Can you get close to the place, so I can see what is going on?” He turned around and eyed me suspiciously. Then he shrugged and drove closer to the villa, where a gruff-voiced policeman asked what we wanted. Fortunately, since I wore large sunglasses and had tied a scarf around my head, I was unrecognizable as the Heavenly Songbird.
“Nothing’s happening here. Just move on.”
The driver shrugged at me again, as if to say, “What did you expect?” and I told him to take me back to Shanghai.
I wanted to ask him to drive me around a little longer so I could see for the last time the Bright Moon Nightclub, Madame Lewinsky’s home, and a few other places that had been important in my life, but I thought it would be too dangerous, so I asked him to drive me to the pier.
 
That evening I lounged on the deck of the luxury liner, sipping a whiskey and watching Shanghai recede in the twilight like a fading dream.
Or a nightmare.
Epilogue
A
s the ship glided over the South China Sea, questions clung to me like hungry ghosts. What had happened to Jinying? Would Gao be all right? What about Lung? He might have escaped, or he might be dead. Though I had shared his bed, I could not summon up any tender feelings for the gangster. Nor for Big Brother Wang, who had rescued me from the orphanage but was ready to dispose of me when it suited his convenience. As far as I could tell, he had not been at the shootout. Probably he had just let his men take all the risk. The big question of course was if either of the gangsters would send people after me, or if they were too preoccupied with their own rivalry. I studied the waves, but they had no answers for me.
As all these questions were swimming through my mind, I spotted the newspaper being read by the man in the next deck chair. When I read the headline, my heart beat like the surging waves.
Massacre at Luxury Villa, Gangsters Dead
As soon as the man had finished reading, I gathered up my best smile and politely asked if I could borrow his paper.
The article read:
Last night there was a shootout between rival gangs at a luxury villa rumored to belong to Master Lung, head of the Flying Dragons. Ten bodies were found. It is likely that some others were wounded but got away. Several of the dead were suspected members of Big Brother Wang’s Red Demons gang.
There is no news of Master Lung. He has disappeared, and so has his chief bodyguard, Gao. His right-hand man Zhu was found dead several miles away from the villa.
Lung Jinying, the master’s son, was also injured but will be released from hospital soon. Our reporter asked him about the shooting and whether he suspected that a traitor had tipped off the shooters, but he said he knew nothing about it.
Police Chief Li promised a full and complete investigation into this atrocity. However, with other suspected gang shootings in Shanghai, the perpetrators have never been arrested.
Last night, the police searched for Camilla, known as the Heavenly Songbird, to inquire about her patron’s whereabouts. But she also was nowhere to be found. Police Chief Li is investigating the possibility that she had something to do with this gangster war and expects that she will be found soon.
To my great relief, the buildings of Shanghai were now dots in the distance as the ship rose and fell on the swells of the open sea. If the police had guessed that I was on this ship, they would have come after it by now. Anyway, we would soon be in international waters. By the time they figured it out, if they ever did, I would be in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong.
I continued to flip the pages until my eyes landed on Rainbow Chang’s column:
The Disappeared Shadow
Since the disastrous Great Escape show, we haven’t heard from the magician Shadow. Rumors fly. Some say she took her own life out of humiliation; others say that she went back to where she came from, which is who knows where. Anyway, we miss her and hope one day she’ll reappear as dramatically as she disappeared.
As for Camilla, we haven’t heard from her, either. Maybe she’s also hiding out somewhere to restore her energy. But we think she may never show up in Shanghai again. Some doctors say that during her contortion show, when she couldn’t disentangle her body, she might have suffered from too little oxygen, her brain is a little fogged. Maybe that’s why she was willing to be Shadow’s assistant at the Great Escape show and let her rival be the star.
Will our beloved, legendary Heavenly Songbird ever fly back to her nest in Shanghai and massage our eardrums again?
I definitely hope so. For we all want to know the secrets behind that mysterious face.
 
More to follow... .
Rainbow Chang
So I was leaving with another sly dig from Rainbow, this time that my brain was damaged. But what did it matter? In a few days I would be in Hong Kong, no longer the Heavenly Songbird but also no longer Lung’s mistress or Big Brother Wang’s spy. And Rainbow could write whatever she wanted about me; I would never even read it.
Maybe someday I would travel to the Gold Mountain—America. Wherever I ended up, I would place an altar for my parents and make offerings to them to appease their souls. But I would not make offerings to my baby boy, Jinjin. Because he had come to me so often in my dreams, I hoped that he was alive somewhere. After all, Madame Lewinsky would not show me his little body, so I wondered if she was hiding him somewhere to raise as her own. I wanted to think so, because then he was being cared for, even though, like me, he would never know his own mother.
As I looked out over the sea stretching endlessly away from me, I felt a tremendous sadness. Yes, I’d soon have many things in life—except the man I loved and who loved me even more. But at least I had been loved, and by two men, not just one.
I also found myself wondering about my two skeleton sisters, Shadow and Rainbow. Would we cross paths again someday? If so, would we be friends or enemies or both?
But for me there would be no going back. Even if Lung was dead, whoever succeeded him as boss would need to regain face for the gang by finding the woman who had taken their treasure. And even if little Jinjin were living there, would I be able to recognize him?
But we do not decide these things; heaven does, never telling us her plans in advance.
A READING GROUP GUIDE
SKELETON WOMEN
Mingmei Yip
 
ABOUT THIS GUIDE
 
The questions and discussion topics that follow are intended to enhance your group’s reading of this book.
Discussion Questions
1.
How does Camilla’s training to have no emotion affect her life as a singer and as a spy?
2.
What strategies does Camilla employ to survive, despite being a pawn in the struggle between the two most powerful gangster heads in Shanghai?
3.
The biggest change in Camilla’s life is from an emotionless woman to someone who can finally love. Which of her experiences result in this change and how?
4.
What is the relationship between Camilla and Madame Lewinsky? What happens when Camilla goes into labor and turns to Lewinsky for help? What happens to Camilla’s baby and why? How does this experience affect Camilla?
5.
Why does Master Lung proclaim Camilla his lucky star? What do you think about being a lucky star in someone else’s life?
6.
What kind of person is Master Lung’s son, Jinying? How has being the son of a gangster affected his character?
7.
The feud between Camilla and the magician, Shadow, is both physical and mental. Why are they enemies, and who do you think emerges as the winner?
8.
What is the role of the gossip columnist Rainbow Chang in Shanghai’s gangster world, and what does she want from Camilla?
9.
Why does Camilla attempt suicide, and how does this change her?
10.
Camilla cares for both Gao and Jinying. How would you characterize her feelings for each of them?
11.
What meaning does the scene from the opera
Peony Pavilion
have for Camilla?
12.
What do you think about the ancient Chinese strategies in the
Art of War
and the
Thirty-Six Stratagems,
and how do they apply in real life?
13.
What is the outcome of Camilla’s plan to kill Master Lung?
KENSINGTON BOOKS are published by
 
Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street
New York, NY 10018
 
Copyright © 2012 by Mingmei Yip
 
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.
 
Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.
ISBN: 978-0-7582-8000-8
 
BOOK: Skeleton Women
5.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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