Detective inspector Zhang of the Singapore Police Force is called to investigate the death of an American businessman in a hotel suite. Follow Zhang as he uses his skills of deduction to unravel the clues and solve the crime. From the pen of Stephen Leather, one of the UKs best thriller books writers.
Inspector Zhang walked out of the elevator and looked left and right. 'Which way, Sergeant?' he asked. He took out his handkerchief and polished his thick-lensed spectacles, which had clouded over when he had walked from the cloying Singapore night into the blistering air-conditioning of the hotel.
Sergeant Lee was in her mid twenties, with her hair tied up in a bun that made her look older than her twenty-four years. She had only been working with Inspector Zhang for two months and was still anxious to please. She frowned at her notebook, then looked at the two signs on the wall facing them.
'Room Six Three Four,' she said, and pointed to the left. 'This way, Sir.'
Inspector Zhang put his spectacles back on and walked slowly down the corridor. He was wearing his second-best grey suit and pale yellow silk tie with light blue squares on it that his wife had given him the previous Christmas and his well-polished shoes glistened under the hallway nights. He had been at home when he had received the call and he had dressed quickly, wanting to be first on the scene. It wasn't every day that a detective got to deal with a murder case in squeaky-clean Singapore.
They reached room Six Three Four and Inspector Zhang knocked on the door. It was opened by a blonde woman in her mid-thirties who glared at him as if he was about to try to sell her life insurance. Inspector Zhang flashed his warrant card. 'I am Inspector Zhang of the Singapore Police Force,' he said. 'I am with the CID at New Bridge Road.' He nodded at his companion. 'This is Detective Sergeant Lee.'
The sergeant took out her warrant card and showed it to the woman who nodded and opened the door wider. 'Please come in, we're trying not to alarm our guests,' she said.
Inspector Zhang and Sergeant Lee slipped into the room and the woman closed the door. There were four other people in the room - a tall Westerner and a stocky Indian wearing black suits, a pretty young Chinese girl also in a black suit and a white-jacketed waiter.
The waiter was standing next to a trolley covered with a white cloth.
The woman who had opened the door offered her hand to the inspector. 'I am Geraldine Berghuis,' she said, 'I am the manager.' She was in her thirties with eyebrows plucked so finely that they were just thin lines above her piercing blue eyes. She was wearing an elegant green suit that looked as if it had been made to measure and there was a string of large pearls around her neck. She had several diamond rings on her fingers but her wedding finger was bare. Inspector Zhang shook her hand.
Miss Berghuis gestured at a tall, bald man in an expensive suit.
'This is Mr Christopher Mercier, our head of security.'
Mr Mercier did not offer his hand but nodded curtly.
The manager waved her hand at the Indian man and the Chinese woman. 'Mr Ramanan and Miss Xue were on the desk tonight,' she said. 'They are both assistant managers.'
They both nodded at Inspector Zhang and smiled nervously.
Ramanan was a in his early forties and the girl appeared to be half his age. They both wore silver name badges and had matching neatly-folded handkerchiefs in their top pockets. Inspector Zhang nodded back and then looked at the waiter. 'And you are?' Inspector Zhang asked.
'Mr CK Chau,' answered Miss Berghuis.
'He delivered Mr Wilkinson's room service order and discovered the body.'
The waiter nodded in agreement.
Inspector Zhang looked around the room. 'I see no body,' he said. Miss Berghuis pointed at a side door. 'Through there,' she said. 'This is one of our suites, we have a sitting room and a separate bedroom.'
'Please be so good as to show me the deceased,' said Inspector Zhang. The manager took the two detectives through to a large bedroom. The curtains were drawn and the lights were on. Lying on the king's size bed with his feet hanging over the edge was a naked man. It was a Westerner, Inspector Zhang realised immediately, a big man with a mountainous stomach and a pool of blood
that had soaked into the sheet around his head.
'Peter Wilkinson,' said Miss Berghuis. 'He is an American, and one of our VIP guests. He stays at our hotel once a month. He owns a company which distributes plastic products in the United States and stays in Singapore en route to his factories in China.'
Inspector Zhang leant over the bed and peered at the body, nodding thoughtfully. He could see a puncture wound just under the chin and the chest was covered with blood. 'One wound,' he said. 'It appears to have ruptured a vein but not the carotid artery or there would have been much more blood spurting.' He looked across at the sergeant. 'Carotid blood spray is very distinctive,' he said.
"I think in this case we have venous bleeding. He would have taken a minute or so to bleed to death, whereas if the artery had been severed death would have been almost instantaneous.'
The sergeant nodded and scribbled in her notebook.
'Note the blood over the chest,' continued the inspector. 'That could have only happened if he was upright so we can therefore deduce that he was standing up when he was stabbed and that he then fell or was pushed back onto the bed.'
He walked around to look at the bedside table. On it was a wallet and a gold Rolex watch. Inspector Zhang took a ballpoint pen from his inside pocket and used it to flip open the wallet. Inside was a thick wad of notes and half a dozen credit cards, all gold or platinum.
'I think we can safely rule out robbery as a motive,' he said.
Sergeant Lee scribbled in her notebook. Inspector Zhang walked back into the sitting room. Miss Berghuis and Sergeant Lee followed him.
'So, what time did you discover the body?' Inspector Zhang asked the waiter.
'About ten o'clock,' said the manager, before the waiter could answer. 'Mr Chau called down to reception and we came straight up.'
'By we, you mean the front desk staff?'
'Myself, Mr Mercier, and Mr Ramanan and Miss Xue.'
Ramanan and Xue nodded at the inspector but said nothing.
Miss Xue looked over at the bedroom door fearfully, as if she expected the dead man to appear at any moment.
Inspector Zhang nodded thoughtfully. 'The corridor is covered by CCTV, of course?'
'Of course,' said the manager.
'Then I would first like to review the recording,' said the inspector.
'Mr Mercier can take you down to our security room,' said Miss Berghuis.
'Excellent,' said Inspector Zhang. He looked across at his sergeant. 'Sergeant Lee, if you would stay here and take the details of everyone in the room, I will be back shortly. Make sure that nobody leaves and that the crime scene is not disturbed.'
'Shall I call in Forensics, Inspector Zhang?' asked the sergeant.
'Later, Sergeant Lee. First things first.' Inspector Zhang and Mercier left the suite and went down in the elevator to the ground floor. Mercier took the inspector behind the front desk and into a small windowless room where there was a desk with a large computer monitor.
On the wall behind the desk were another three large monitors each showing the views from twenty different cameras around the hotel.
Mercier sat down and his expensively-manicured fingers played over the keyboard. A view of the corridor on the sixth floor filled the main screen. 'What time do you want to look at?' asked Mercier.
'Do we know what time Mr Wilkinson went to his room?' asked the inspector.
'About half past eight, I think,' said Mercier.
'Start at eight twenty and run it on fast forward if that's possible,' said Inspector Zhang.
Mercier tapped on the keyboard. The time code at the bottom of the screen showed 8.20 and then the seconds flicked by quickly. The elevator doors opened and a big man and a small Asian woman came out.
'That's him,' said Mercier. He pressed a button and the video slowed to its proper speed.
Wilkinson was wearing a dark suit with a Mao collar. His companion was a pretty Asian girl in her twenties with waist-length black hair wearing a tight white mini dress cut low to reveal large breasts. She was holding Wilkinson's hand and laughing at something he had said.
'Freeze that please,' said Inspector Zhang as Wilkinson and the girl reached the door to the suite.
Mercier did as he was told and Inspector Zhang peered at the screen. He recognised the woman.
'Ah, the lovely Ms Lulu,' said Inspector Zhang.
'You know her?'
'She is an escort for one of the city's more expensive agencies and when she isn't escorting she can be found in one of the bars in Orchard Towers looking for customers.' The woman was wearing impossibly high heels but she barely reached Wilkinson's shoulder.