"a lotus for miss quon" by james hadley chase
A Lotus For Miss Quon
James Hadley Chase
HE had come upon the diamonds one hot Sunday afternoon in
It had happened in this way: he had had a solitary lunch prepared
by Dong Ham, his cook and served by Haum, his house-boy, and then
he had gone up to his bedroom for a siesta. In spite of the air-
conditioned coolness of the room, he had been unable to sleep. He had
listened with growing irritation to the high-pitched chatter of his
servants below, the discordant sound of someone’s distant radio
playing Vietnamese music and the nerve shattering racket of passing
Usually, he was able to sleep in the afternoon in spite of the noise,
but this afternoon he had found sleep impossible. He had reached for a
cigarette, lit it and then resigned himself to the depression of his
He had come to loathe Sundays in Saigon. When he had first
arrived, he had found the social round amusing, but now it bored him.
He was bored by the same faces, the same idiotic: small-talk, the same
dreary scandals, and he had gradually withdrawn from the set who ate,
drank, and danced together day in and night out.
During the week, he had his work to distract him. He worked for a
shipping company — not a particularly interesting job, but the pay was
good: a lot better than he could have hoped to have earned back home
in San Francisco. He needed money for he had extravagant tastes: he
drank more than was good for him, and also he was saddled with
monthly payments to his ex-wife who had divorced him a few months
before he had sailed to the Far East.
Now as he lay on the bed, feeling a trickle of sweat running down
his massive chest, he thought bleakly that in three days’ time, he would
have to send his wife yet another cheque. He had only 8,000 piastres in the bank. When she had been paid, he would have very little left to last
him to the end of the month which was quite some time ahead. Well, it
served him right, he thought. He had been reckless to have bought that
picture. It had been quite an unnecessary extravagance, but all the
same, he thought of it with great pleasure. He had come across it in a
dealer’s shop in Duong Tu-Do, and it had immediately arrested his
attention. It was an oil painting of a Vietnamese girl wearing the
national dress of white silk trousers, a pale-blue sheath tunic and a
conical straw hat. She was posed against a white wall over which
climbed a rose-coloured bougainvillea. It was a set piece, but well
painted, and the girl reminded him of Nhan. She had the same innocent
expression; the same childish way of standing, even the same doll-like
features. The girl in the painting could have been Nhan but for the fact
he knew Nhan had never posed for an artist.
It was then that he remembered the picture was still unpacked
and still had to be hung. He felt the urge to see how it looked on the
wall in the downstairs room. Eager for an excuse to do something other
than lying on his bed, he got up and walked barefooted down the stairs
into the living-room.
Haum, his house-boy, was leisurely polishing the dining-room
table. He looked up in startled surprise as Jaffe came into the room.
Haum was thirty-six years old. He was thin and small and his
brown-skinned face had a pointed, foxy look. Although small and
brittle-looking, he worked well and seemed able to undertake the
heaviest tasks without appearing to tire.