Lin Page 19
Hello, he says.

She nods at him without really looking at him.

I need to ask you something, he continues.

This time her eyes latch on him for a full four seconds as she flips through internal memory -- No, I don't know this man. She breathes a cloud of cigarette smoke in his general direction, and yet the gesture is endearing, a cloaked nervousness behind it. Her cigarettes are native Taiwanese, authoritative and thick, the kind that stick to your clothes for days afterwards.

He plants the man's cigarette lighter upright on the table. Who owns this? he says.

Her fingers play around the rim of her glass as she stares

at the lighter, dazed, mute. Ever since he landed in this city he has seen this vacant look: on the faces of passersby in the street, on the faces of those too stubborn or indifferent to offer help, on Allen's face when he posits one of those rhetorical questions that cannot be answered correctly, most of all on his own face whenever he catches fugitive sight of it in his scooter's rear view mirror.

Start talking or you'll be talking to someone less polite than me, he snaps. You just met this man outside. Who is he? Your father?

Who are you?

I'm an investigator
. Is that true? He realizes it is, for the first time. Yes and no. Takes a criminal to catch a criminal.

Investigator? Her eyes are inhuman in their wideness,