HONG KONG TREASURE
Leyte Province in the Philippines. Her running steps echoed from the walls. Would he catch her? It meant white slavery if he did. Slamming open the kitchen door, she burst out of the hotel despite the typhoon ravaging the eastern coast. The destructive winds and rains were buffered in the alleyway behind the hotel, but she still had to fight for each step away from the man she knew was just behind her.
Without warning, massive walls of water rushed into the alley from both ends. The sixteen-foot wave scooped her up and battered her against the buildings. When the storm surge receded, she lay bruised and unconscious beneath a mass of water-logged debris.
“I’m told there are eleven buildings, besides this church, serving as shelters,” Father Donovan said. “I haven’t left here since the typhoon hit four days ago. Is the damage extensive?”
“Yes. Very. Many people with no homes, no food,” Deshi Han replied.
Father Donovan put his hand on Deshi’s shoulder. “You brought much-needed food and supplies. Your movies are loved but your charity work is well-known here in the Philippines. I thank you. You are truly doing God’s work, my son.”
Deshi watched as a volunteer passed out the blankets he had brought, which would help to cushion the pews they were using for beds. He shook his head. “I wish I do more.”
“Perhaps there is something …” Father Donovan began.
“What, Father?” He followed the priest to a courtyard. A young woman sat beside a storm-crushed rose bed. Deshi guessed her to be American, in her early twenties. “Who she, Father?”
“No one knows, not even her.” Father Donovan tilted his head to the side and sighed. “She has no memory of anything before the typhoon. One of the doctors informed me that she just needs rest to regain her memory.”
Deshi watched the girl slowly gather the broken branches from around the few unharmed plants. A child about five years old ran up and tapped her on the shoulder. The young woman’s solemn face broke into a smile as the child led her away toward another section of the church.
Father Donovan turned to Deshi. “But she won’t get that rest here. She has nightmares and cries for the orphaned and injured children. I’ve prayed for someone to claim her and take her away from here.”
“We delivered the supplies to the kitchen.” Jun Chew, Deshi’s assistant, spoke in Cantonese as she approached them.
Deshi turned away from the doorway, nodded at Jun then called to his business manager, “Where the next shelter, Paul?”
Paul Wu shook his head then responded in English. “We have distributed all the supplies we brought, Deshi. That is all we can do today.”
“Besides,” Jun continued in Cantonese, “we have to get back or you will be late for the senior citizen center opening.”
The supplies had gone so fast. They had only been to six of the eleven shelters and there were so many people still in need. “Maybe one more thing I can do today,” Deshi said with a sigh. “Father?”
The priest’s right hand clutched the large cross at his neck and he smiled. “Yes, my son?”
“I will take her.”
Riding quietly, the young woman searched out the window for a familiar sight, although the crushed buildings and flood water debris everywhere made it even more difficult.
When Deshi stopped the van, she noticed a small boat and several small trees blocking the road.
“You girls stay here,” Deshi said as he and Paul got out.
The people clearing the debris recognized Deshi and shouted to him, all reaching to shake his hand. The clogged roadway was temporarily forgotten.
“Father Donovan said Deshi is famous all over Asia,” she said.
Jun turned and merely nodded before returning her attention to the activity outside the window.
Deshi had pitched in with the others to clear the road. “I can’t believe how excited they are just to see him, when they’ve lost everything. A typhoon has destroyed their city.”
Jun sighed loudly. “Deshi Han…big famous.”
Dismissing Jun’s reluctance to talk as difficulty with the English language, she returned her attention once more to the spectacle in the road. When the way was cleared, Deshi and Paul climbed into the car and the smell of garbage and wetness drifted in with them. Her nose wrinkled and she grimaced. She felt relieved to be leaving all the death and destruction behind. Surely if she lived here, she’d feel something different. She didn’t. Maybe she had only been vacationing in the Philippines.
“Are you okay?” Paul asked.
“Yes. Thank you. I’m fine.” She met Deshi’s eyes in the rear view mirror and he smiled.
The airport was surprisingly in operation. Two small private planes were tangled together upside-down against a partially demolished hangar, larger planes were buried in debris and more than half the terminal’s windows were gone. The runway however had been cleared; a large military plane and a smaller charter plane sat nearby.
She followed the others onto the charter plane and soon they were off. It appeared that Deshi Han’s celebrity status extended to eliminating red tape at the airport, regardless of typhoon damage or extra passengers with amnesia.
She sat at a window seat beside her host and across a small table from Paul and Jun, who both tapped productively on laptops as the plane took off. She gazed out the window, observing devastation that was even more evident from the air. Large boats which had previously been docked along the coastline were now a mile inland. There were very few trees left standing and a thick layer of mud and sand covered the ground and the buildings.
“You see anything you know?” Deshi asked.
She sadly shook her head.
“No worries. Soon you remember.” He patted her hand. “You like Hong Kong. Very pretty city. Many…”
She half listened while studying him. He appeared to be in his early forties, muscular yet slender build with the black hair and almond-shaped eyes of his Asian heritage.
She glanced down at the borrowed sundress and sandals she wore. They were at least two sizes too large but it was the only thing Father Donovan could manage. She realized that she must look like a ragged scarecrow to the affluent people around her. Blushing, she met his kind gaze.
“I buy you clothes in Hong Kong, okay?”
An hour and a half later, they traded a Philippines summer for a Hong Kong winter. Stepping from the plane she shivered and clutched at the wind jacket Deshi had kindly loaned her. From there they drove straight through the colorful, busy city and to his house.
The residence was large with a curved driveway leading up to the front entrance where the intricately carved gable roof met in a dragon adorned peak. The front door was solid wood stained a beautiful mahogany, and when she gazed around she saw more dragons nestled in manicured hedges and flowering bushes.
Deshi led her through the front door into a traditional Western foyer complete with a crystal chandelier. Scents of ginger and garlic tantalized her nose. He called out and a thin Chinese woman approached.
“This Ah Lam. She not speak English. She help us many, many years. And she make best dim sum,” Deshi said with a smile.
Dim sum? She nodded at Ah Lam as a shorter, heavier Chinese woman appeared with a quick, friendly smile which resembled Deshi’s. This woman spoke quickly to Deshi who answered her in English.
“Mother, this girl, she lose her memory in typhoon. So I take her home. She do much better here.”
As Deshi went upstairs, Mrs. Han led her into a spacious but sparsely furnished dining room with a large table and an ebony china cabinet. On one wall hung a trio of Chinese scrolls while on another displayed a painting of a snow-capped mountain.
She sat across from Mrs. Han and picked up the pair of chopsticks, surprised to find she could manage the tools well enough to eat. The rice and sautéed vegetables were both delicious and comforting.
Mrs. Han poured her a cup of tea. “You hurt in typhoon?” she asked.
She finished chewing and swallowed. “I just had a headache and no memory. I didn’t even know there had been a typhoon until they told me.”
Mrs. Han served her more vegetables. “Good food. Good sleep,” she snapped her fingers. “You be good as new. You see.”
When Deshi appeared in the doorway, she thought he looked very handsome. The white of his Chinese silk suit complemented his dark hair and eyes so well. With a growing blush, she realized she was staring at him and quickly looked away.
“I come home in two hours. Maybe more,” he announced.
“Okay, son. We okay.” Mrs. Han said, smiling across the table at her.
Outside, Deshi climbed into the driver’s seat. “Jun, tomorrow you can take the girl to buy some clothes and whatever else she needs.”
“But I thought you wanted me to start gathering more supplies to send to the other shelters. Isn’t that a little more important than going shopping?” Jun asked.
After maneuvering onto the roadway, he glanced at his assistant in the backseat. “How would you feel if you lost everything, even your memory? She needs some clothes. I’ll get someone else to get the supplies.” When Jun grunted, he continued, “I thought all women loved shopping.”
Jun crossed her arms over her chest. “Some women have better things to do with their time.”
He turned to Paul and together they shook their heads.
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