Lin Page 21
an orange windbreaker, either the leader or low on the totem pole, stands near the entrance to the dance hall, his eyes scanning the scene, ensuring everyone is staying in place. The nearest policemen to them are three tables away and getting closer. The silence of the process gives it an unreal aspect, as if it is occurring underwater.

I have to leave, she says. She is pulling her oversize coat around herself.

Are you under age?

Her left hand is jammed in her coat pocket. Not just that --

She appeals to him with those inattentive eyes once again and he comprehends. The policemen are now two tables away, bent over and focused on their work. It is as if they

will only acknowledge the existence of those directly in
front of them -- everyone else are mass assembly line items, ready to be scanned and checked off only at the exact instant they need to be, and then forgotten.

His mind is already rushing ahead. His civilian ID passes casual inspection, but it will not hold up to any kind of official check. Not to mention the porn VCDs plastered by sweat to his back.

Okay, he says. Take it easy. We have to get out through the back.

But they're watching …She hunches over the table, and with that movement she appears to age by a few decades, as if seized by arthritis. Drops of perspiration are working down her cheek.