White Ghost

White Ghost by Steven Gore Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: White Ghost by Steven Gore Read Free Book Online
Authors: Steven Gore
until he’d fulfilled his obligation to Burch. After that, it would be up to Burch what he did with Sheridan. Gage guessed that soon enough the balance would shift and the money Burch’s firm was making from Sheridan wouldn’t be worth the annoyance.

    A h Ming glanced down at the beeping cell phone lying on his desk displaying a text message from Ah Tien.
    Father died. Must come home.
    Ah Ming texted back:
    Too risky. Stay where you are.
    Standing in his New York hotel room overlooking Chinatown’s Hester Street, Ah Tien felt his body turn molten in horror and anger as he read the words. A principle at the heart of his life was at stake:
    Eldest sons bury their fathers.
    I am the eldest son.
    I will bury my father.
    From the moment his grandfather died almost a generation earlier, he’d understood this obligation, and it wasn’t one he could shake off.
    Although his eyes stared at the cell-phone screen, his mindsaw his grieving mother and younger brother sitting at the kitchen table in their little bungalow in San Francisco, surrounded by the blue-gray smoke of incense, waiting for him to return and fulfill his duty.
    Even Ah Ming, once a fugitive hiding in Thailand in the mid-1980s, had bragged that he’d snuck back home to Taiwan to bury his father.
    He hadn’t left his mother to weep alone.
    And wasn’t that the point—the whole point—of Ah Ming telling me the story? That duty always trumps risk?
    But, Ah Tien now realized, Ah Ming had only meant duties owed to him.
    The question Ah Tien asked himself as he turned off his phone was simple.
    Am I my father’s son or not?
    Three hours later, Ah Tien answered that question by boarding a flight from Kennedy International Airport back to SFO.
    A S A H T IEN STEPPED OUT OF THE TAXI in front of his mother’s house that night, he glanced over at the two young Vietnamese men down the block with their heads shadowed by the raised hood of a white two-door Acura. The scene gave him a feeling of familiarity and predictability, of normalcy. Modifying cars was so much a rite of passage in the neighborhood that the driveway of nearly every house and the pavement in front had been blackened by oil and transmission fluid.
    Ah Tien paid the driver, then retrieved his carry-on and briefcase from the trunk and climbed the concrete stairs, the heaviness of his step, weary and grieving, bearing the weight of his duty.
    T HE V IETNAMESE MEN ALERTED TO A H T IEN as he emerged into the bright funnel of the streetlight. They watched himglance their way as he ascended the concrete steps to the front door. After he disappeared inside, Minh Duc Le slid into the passenger seat of the Acura and made a call. Moments later, a black cargo van crept up the street and stopped in front of the house. The driver signaled to Le and his partner, who then approached the front door.
    When Ah Tien responded to his knock, Le pointed a 9mm at his stomach and said, “Someone wants to talk to you.”
    Ah Tien knew who and he knew why, and he’d practiced what he’d say during his flight back from New York.
    When he glanced down at the gun, he saw that the porch light illuminated a familiar tattoo on Le’s wrist: Tien . Money. He didn’t doubt that Le’s sleeve hid four others: Tinh, Toi, Thu, and Tu . Love, Crime, Revenge, and Prison.
    Le and his partner bracketed Ah Tien as they urged him down the stairs toward the van’s open side door. Just after Ah Tien climbed in, they pushed him to the floor, then bound and blindfolded him.
    Whatever fear Ah Tien felt was muted by grief and by the confidence that the loyalty he’d shown over the years would serve as a bulwark against Ah Ming’s anger.
    As they drove, Ah Tien heard the silence broken only by the bump and rush of the tire tread on the pavement, the whoosh and rumble of passing cars, and Le’s voice directing the driver’s turns.
    Thirty minutes after they

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