The Scottish Banker of Surabaya - By Ian Hamilton


Revenge was not an emotion she was accustomed to managing.

In the course of business there were times when things came unstuck and she found herself on the wrong end of an outcome. But in her mind it was still business, and the people who were causing her grief were simply exercising their own right to do business as they saw fit.

This was different. He had made it personal, more personal than she could have imagined possible.

She lay in the dark, cold despite being wrapped in a thick duvet, and she thought about the day that was about to dawn.

She was going to get him. She was going to hurt him. The thought of it didn’t bring peace. It ran unchecked in her mind, bouncing from pain to pain.

She prayed she would be calmer and in control when the moment came. It might be revenge she sought, but she still wanted it to be quiet, and private.

( 1 )

It was the Friday before the Labour Day weekend, the last weekend of Canadian summer, and Ava Lee woke with the realization that her two months of relative seclusion were about to end.

She lay quietly for a moment, listening for the sounds of birds that greeted her every morning through her open bedroom window. She heard the leaves rustling and lake water lapping against the dock, and she knew the wind was up.

She moved her legs and felt a burning sensation in her right thigh. Two and a half months before, she had been shot there during a house invasion in Macau. Luckily the bullet hadn’t struck bone or cut through an artery. She had flown back to Canada two days later, using crutches that had evolved into a cane and then a limp. To her surprise she had been able to start a modest workout regime soon after getting to the cottage. Given that she was supremely fit and that the bullet hadn’t done any structural damage, it was all about pain management. Most mornings she felt nothing in the leg, only to have the pain reappear randomly, burning and throbbing; it seemed to twitch, to almost be alive.

Ava was a debt collector. It was a job often fraught with peril, and over the ten years she had worked with her Hong Kong partner, Uncle, she had been stabbed, kicked, punched, hit with a tire iron, and whipped with a belt. None of them had left a permanent mark; none of them revisited her like the muscle memory of that bullet.

She pulled down the sheets and glanced at her leg. The doctor in Macau had done a good job getting the bullet out of her thigh and treating the initial wound, but he was no cosmetic surgeon. Her girlfriend, Maria, had gasped when she first saw the raw red scar, which eventually turned into a less ugly long pink worm.

She slid from the bed, slipped on her Adidas training pants, and left the bedroom. She walked softly down the hallway so as not to disturb her mother and went into the kitchen. The hot water Thermos she had brought from her Toronto condo sat ready on the counter. She opened a sachet of Starbucks VIA instant coffee and made her first cup of the morning.

The sun was well over the horizon, but she could still see the last remnants of morning dew glistening on the wooden deck. She opened the kitchen door and felt a slight chill in the air. She put on her Adidas running jacket, slipped her cellphone into a pocket, grabbed a dish towel, tucked her laptop under one arm, and, balancing her coffee, walked across the wet grass to the dock.

Ava started every morning on the dock with her coffee and her electronic devices. She wiped the dew from the wooden Muskoka chair and eased herself into it. One broad arm held her coffee, the other comfortably accommodated the laptop. She turned on her computer and then her phone.

It was just past nine o’clock, and the emails from the part of her world that was beginning its day were first in line. Maria had emailed at eight. I have a seat on the Casino Rama bus leaving the city at 4 this afternoon. I should be at Rama by 5:30. Do you want me to take a cab to the cottage?

Ava started to reply and then reached for her phone. Maria would be at her desk at the Colombian Trade Commission office by now. She called her direct line.