by Larry Brody
Our first week in China ended with another Hong Kong party.
A little ole outdoor barbecue for 100.
Thrown by The Lovely Hong Kong Oscar-Winning Actress, the affair was about as far from a Paradise shindig as you could get. Hong Kong’s glitterati gathered at her mountaintop home to eat, sing, dance, chatter, and toast each other till they dropped, one by one, to the floor.
Hollywood Far East, no doubt about that.
And still we weren’t done with the social aspect of working on a Chinese film. We spent the next two days in Macau with The Boss and his Assistant.
“You’ll love it,” The Boss assured us. “Macau is China’s Las Vegas.”
This didn’t mean much to me. When I enter a casino I don’t so much see the place as the people inside it. Tense. Unhappy. Desperate.
The casinos in Macau were more of the same. “I haven’t spotted one smiling face since we got here,” Gwen said.
The second day wasn’t exactly filled with smiles either. “You must see my wife’s flat,” The Boss said.
“Will we be seeing your wife too?” I asked.
“Sadly, no. I hardly ever see her either. She is working in Hanoi.”
“Shouldn’t we start working too? Macau is part of the film, right?”
“What? Oh no, not at all. Come. You’ll love my wife’s flat.”
We took a taxi to a The Boss’s Wife’s place. Made our way up the stairs to her sixth story walk-up. The Boss opened the thick, steel security door, then the wooden inner door, and we entered a small, high-ceilinged, immaculate space.
“See how perfect it is?” said The Boss. “She is so immaculate. I, not so much. As a result, we do not keep each other company all that often.”
As The Boss spoke, his Assistant reached back to close both doors behind us. Immediately, my body stiffened. Something was wrong here.
“Wait—!” I started to say. But it was too late. The security door thudded shut. The Boss whirled and strode back to the doorway. He twisted the doorknob, but the door didn’t open.
“This door is locked,” said The Boss. “It must have locked automatically when it closed.”
“Can’t you unlock it?” said the puzzled Assistant.
“No. There is no mechanism.”
“What about the key you used to open it from outside?” Gwen said.
“There is no keyhole on the inside. My wife closes only the wooden door when she is home.”
“Are you telling me we’re stuck here?” I said.
The Boss and The Assistant pulled and pushed and prodded. They pounded and kicked. The door didn’t budge.
“We are stuck,” The Boss said.
We were trapped by a security door that somehow managed to open only from the outside—which didn’t seem like such a secure idea to me. The Assistant’s body shifted uncomfortably. Sighing, The Boss used his cell to call his Wife In Hanoi and tell her what had happened.
He left the speaker on and spoke in English. We heard a woman’s mocking laughter from across the room, followed by what sounded like a command. “Speak to me in Chinese,” the Wife In Hanoi said.
He started to talk again, and she cut him off, her voice cold. “Not Cantonese,” she said. “That is as beneath us as English. In Mandarin.”
Instead, The Boss glared at his phone and broke the connection. He looked at his phone as though expecting his wife to call back. It stayed silent. The Boss looked thoughtful. Suddenly he smiled. “Ah,” he said. “The crisis is at hand. Now we shall see what we’re all made of!”
The flat had seemed stuffy and hot to me from the beginning. Now that I knew we couldn’t leave, it became stuffier and hotter. I felt my throat tightening. The four of us went to the large, barred window and called out to passersby on the street below. No one responded. Gwen pointed across the street to a multi-language sign for a property management company that included a phone number.
“I have an idea,” Gwen said, and The Boss nodded. “I understand,” he said to her. He brought his phone back to his face and made a call, explaining to the person who answered that we were trapped in the flat.
After exchanging a few words, The Boss got off the line, then wrapped his keys in paper he tore from a newspaper that had been left perfectly squared on a coffee table. He presented the package to his Assistant as at street level a man emerged from the management company building and dodged his way through traffic to our side of the street.
At a nod from The Boss, The Assistant tossed the keys out the window, the man scooped them up, and a few minutes afterward the security door opened from the outside.
“We are saved!” The Boss announced proudly, taking back his keys with one hand while handing over a handful of currency with the other, after which he auto-dialed his phone and started talking to his wife again. Soon they were shouting at each other in a variety of languages.
Gwen put her face close to mine. “You don’t suppose this is why he brought us here, do you?”
“To test us with a crisis? Why would anyone do that?”
“Not us,” Gwen said.
Gwen nodded at The Boss. His wife had gone silent, but he was still yelling furiously – everything about him proclaiming some kind of victory.
A man in his element, fulfilling what could only have been his fondest dream.
“He’s been testing himself,” Gwen said.