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Last Song Sung

Last Song Sung

A Cullen and Cobb Mystery
also available: Paperback
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The Imam of Tawi-Tawi

“What is this potential problem?” Ava said.

Chang hesitated. She thought she heard ice clinking in a glass and wondered if he was drinking. “Ava, I would like that explanation to take place in Manila,” he said. “I know this will sound vague and maybe even conspiratorial, but I’m not comfortable explaining it to you over the phone. First, it’s very complicated, and I’m not as well informed as some other people I’d like you to talk to. Second, this isn’t something that can be explained in half an hour, or even several hours. I believe you should meet and take the measure of the people who’ve related at least part of their suspicions to us.”

“And you have no one in the Philippines you can turn to?”

“Absolutely not. As I said, this is about trust, and the number of people who Tommy and I truly trust we can count on one hand. Of those, only one lives in Manila, and he’s the first person we want you to talk to.”

“Uncle, I really don’t know what to say. I have other responsibilities now.”

“Give us one day,” he said quickly. “Get on a plane tomorrow and come to Manila for one meeting. If you decide to go back to Toronto or Hong Kong or wherever after that, the issue will never be mentioned again and we’ll still be grateful for your time.”

“I’m expected in Shanghai tomorrow for a business review that’s scheduled to last several days.”

“Postpone it,” Chang said. “Please, Ava.”

The word please startled her. It wasn’t something she could remember Chang or Tommy Ordonez ever uttering. Not only was it out of character, in her mind it was an acknowledgement that she was their equal.

“I can’t give you an answer this minute,” she said. “I have to think about it, and I also want to talk to my partners and the people expecting me in Shanghai.”

“Of course, do that,” he said. “But there is urgency to this matter. Waiting four days to talk to you wasn’t easy — more than once I reached for the phone. Can you possibly speak to them tonight?”

“Yes, I can, and I’ll call you when I have.”

“I’ll stay up until I hear from you,” he said.

“Uncle, you do understand this doesn’t mean I’m leaning towards saying yes?”

“Please, give us that one day, Ava,” Chang said. “My belief is that if you do, you’ll commit to helping us get to the bottom of this problem.”

He’s dangling bait, she thought. She admired how skillfully he had handled his end of the conversation: He had started it by invoking their connection through Uncle. Then he’d complimented her while insisting that he thought she was above flattery. Finally, he had framed his request as a personal favour. She didn’t know why he thought he had the right to ask for one, since he and Ava were hardly friends, but he had anyway and it had been exactly the right approach. Indeed, it was probably the only approach that had a chance of succeeding with her.

“Let me make some calls,” she said.

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