It did not seem right to the detective Z. Zhuang that he should be dying in such a clean and sterile room on such a bright January day. He had lived his life in the malarial heat of the narrow Hong Kong streets among the human fauna. He yearned for the smell and the feel of it all again: the resinous, mossy head notes, that solid wave of damp air that crashed into you when you stepped outside; the ardent, polluted heart notes, black particles of exhaust spiraling into the atmosphere endlessly from engines; and the final, swarming, oppressive base notes, of congestion and people and industry.
The closest he had been to death before, that time when he had utterly been convinced that every blood-stained breath he was drawing would be his last, had been thirty-five years ago, when he had deciphered the designs of a triad lieutenant, unveiled treachery, and in the end, been shot in the heart as all the interminable mechanisms clicked into place, hammer drawn back then sprung forward, and a .38 revolver fired. That would have been a good death—this, not so much.