He was drunk. But how drunk? On that plateau where he functioned, or over the edge? A manic shine to his dark eyes.

“Where did it all come from, Jimmy?” I said.

“All over. Junk shops, Chinamen shops, sailors,” he said, nodded as if agreeing with himself. A sudden cunning grin. “I get from dumb soldiers back from Korea, Vietnam. I make them think we all friends, buy the souvenirs, and inside I’m cheerin’ for China, Viet Cong-the ‘gooks’!”

“You’ve lived in America all your life, Jimmy.”

He spat on the floor. “Lousy Chinaman! Chink!” He hunched where he still kneeled. “We are great people, great culture. In time of the Khans we ruled the world. Great teachers, wise men.”

“You should have gone back, Jimmy.”

“No way. I dream, but no way. Only here, spit on.”

I watched him drink the vodka. He dreamed of China, but somewhere inside him he knew it was an insane dream. America was the only real world he knew. China would be an alien place. In his small, rational core, he didn’t really want to go back. But alone in an America that ignored him, he had to dream. He had to believe in his hidden dream, and now he was tortured, confused. Three days tortured in this dream room because Li Marais had immolated herself to reach him.

“My flame will light the truth,” I said. “Li Marais knew her suicide wouldn’t touch the police. That wasn’t why she did it. She did it to make you tell the truth. A Buddhist way to force another Buddhist. She knew that you killed Eugene Marais and Charlie Burgos.”

Jimmy Sung thrashed at an invisible stake, tried to deny it even to himself. “Crazy woman! Liar.”

“She told me the day they arrested Claude Marais the second time,” I said, “but I didn’t understand her. She didn’t want me to understand. Not then. She said she had seen the hat badge on Claude’s bureau, had seen the knife in his suitcase. She meant that she remembered that she had seen both the badge and the knife in the suite on that day the police first arrested Claude. They had been there in sight. The hat badge had not been in the register with the package. That evening when you were so brave against Gerd Exner.”

“Chinese are brave,” Jimmy Sung said. “Strong. Yeh.”

“You had put that package of diamonds into the register, you went to the suite to talk to Li Marais a lot. After the detective found the package, while we all looked at the diamonds, you just walked into the bedroom, got the hat badge, and said you’d found it in the register. Who thought of doubting that you had? How could Claude Marais have denied it, even if he had remembered where he’d last seen his badge? You took the knife then, too. No one was going to search you. No reason to. You’d been cleared of any robbery, and what other motive did you have to kill Eugene Marais or anyone?”

“My friend, Mr. Marais,” Jimmy Sung said, nodded to himself.

“But when Claude was arrested for killing Charlie Burgos, Li Marais began to think. She was sure Claude was innocent. She knew Manet couldn’t have killed Burgos. So who was framing Claude? Why? That was when she realized it had to be you, Jimmy. She realized what the motive was, and killed herself to make you tell the truth and save Claude.”

I talked, but in that hot room I felt unreal. A room that was a museum to an illusion. An illusion that battled with the real world where Jimmy Sung had lived his bleak life. A battle that had gone on inside him now for three days. A struggle, started by Li Marais in her death, that moved Jimmy Sung between the real world of America, and the illusion world of China.

“Li knew,” I said, “because she realized that, in part, you had killed for her. It wasn’t Eugene Marais you wanted dead, it was Claude Marais. Eugene was an accident. It was Claude you wanted to kill.”

“That Claude!” Jimmy Sung drank, drank again. “Medals. French hero. Steal women, steal everything. Steal countries, murder babies, kill my people, get medals.”

I had heard almost the same words before, but I hadn’t been listening. I had been thinking of other things that day in the bar when Jimmy Sung had been released from jail.

“Claude Marais,” I said. “The enemy. In the pawn shop in full uniform. The enemy who stole a child bride.”

Jimmy Sung shook where he kneeled in the room of his secret world. More than half drunk. Scared in one world, proud in the other. Hate for Claude Marais and his uniform, and more than a little in love with Li Marais. A dream of Li Marais, too. That had to be part of it. An illusion of China, and of a woman, and of Buddha. Of a religion that demanded the truth now.

“All lies,” Jimmy said. “That Claude. Steal a kid.”

He was balanced on a hair. Half of him lived in America, and a man did not convict himself of murder because a woman burned herself to death in a yellow robe. But the other half lived in the illusion of China, of Buddha, where he was better, stronger and prouder than the white men who looked at him but never saw him. Balanced on the edge between.

“Lies,” he said. “No one knows. Who will know?”

He talked to himself, his shadow inside. Ripped up between his empty real world of America, and his glorious illusion world of China. Aware of the danger to him in the real world if he acted by his illusion, but aware, deep inside him, that if he did not act according to his illusion he would lose his dream forever. If he denied the reality of China and Buddha now, he could never believe in it again. A drunken zero with no name in a world that ignored him. All he needed was a push.

“I’ll know, Jimmy,” I said. “And Claude Marais will know. Claude Marais will know the truth about you. No Buddhist, no believer, no man of China. Claude will know, and Li.”

“That Claude!” Jimmy glared his hate.

“A man of China would have to tell the truth,” I said.

Silent, he kneeled there. In his padded blue uniform, under his flags, and maps, and guns. He shook, but a little less now. He stared at the small, jade Buddha in front of him.

“Truth?” he said. “I have to tell the truth. To Buddha.”

“Yes,” I said. “The only way. For Li Marais.”

“Yes,” he said.

He said it, and he shook, and after a time I saw that he was crying. A crying jag. Self pity? Or maybe he cried for something else.

I found his telephone, called Lieutenant Marx.

No matter how it begins, or why, it ends in a windowless room with the pencil scrape of a stenographer. Marx nodded in the interrogation room. Jimmy began to talk:

“That Claude! Colonial bastard. I know about the French. I am Chinese, a great people. In the time of the Khans, we rule the world. We do it again. We finish all you white men never see no one. Real free, you know? For everyone. Not laugh at no one. We don’t put someone in a crazy house just ’cause he don’t talk English, is scared, got no friends. We don’t tell lies, spit on people!

“A long time I hear soldiers tell about what they do in Korea, in Vietnam. White soldiers kill yellow men- gooks! All the time I cheer inside for China, for Vietnam. The stupid white soldiers never know. They get killed over there. Good!

“That Claude! He comes to the shop in that uniform. Enemy killer of my people. Slave wife, child he steal. Big, French hero got to steal kid-bride. His money, his lies. Then he hurts her, makes her suffer. Makes her unhappy, I sec. We talk, I know. I hate that Claude, long time. I want to kill him, help her. She can go home, be happy. Only it ain’t easy.

“That night I play chess with Mr. Marais. I’m drunk, not too bad. He tell me Claude will come for that package. Then he gets telephone call, says I better go home. I figure it got to be Claude coming, and I see my chance. Only Mr. Marais and Claude gonna be in the shop. Mr. Marais he’ll say later I left before Claude got there. My chance, you know?

“I unbolt the back door, go out the front, circle ’round to the alley and in the back way. Mr. Marais’s got that package on the table, he don’t hear me. I grab the iron bar to tap him a little. He hears me, starts to turn. So I jump and hit him fast. I hit too hard! He goes down. I put him in the chair, start to tie him. I see he looks funny. He’s dead! I killed Mr. Marais. That Claude, it’s his fault! I wait for him, but he don’t come. I hear that Manet coming in the front, so I run out the back. I take the package, maybe it’ll look like robbery.

“In the alley I hide. No one comes out. I hear a lot of noise inside, then the front door closes. I go to the back

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