“Remember to text me every ten minutes,” Rembrandt tells me as I pull up to Mr. Liang’s house. It’s an understated two-story Tudor, not at all in line with my idea of what a multimillionaire’s house should look like. There’s a silver Audi in the driveway, the only nod to luxury I can see.
“Will do,” I say, nodding at Rembrandt as I shut off the car. I’m pensive as I walk to the door because I don’t know what to expect. Mr. Liang had been quite imperious in his order for me to meet with him, and I don’t do well with autocrats.
“Ms. Liang. Come in.” Mr. Liang opens the door and gestures inside. He’s leaning on a solid metal cane, which indicates that he has some physical ailment. I step across the foyer and glance down. He’s wearing Chinese slippers, and there’s a rack of them to my right. I take off my shoes and put on a pair. He nods in approval as I do. I take a few seconds to study him as he turns to lead me down the hallway. He’s over six feet tall with a head of snowy white hair. Intense dark brown eyes and a large frame. He’s wearing a tailored gray suit, and I’m glad I chose to wear a black dress instead of jeans or even slacks.
“Mr. Liang. Nice to meet you,” I say to Mr. Liang’s back. He keeps it ramrod, and his gait is even, though it’s clearly costing him not to limp. I sense he’s a proud man who would not want to appear weak or hurt in front of a woman, and I wonder if he normally uses a wheelchair. He leads me into a living room that is sparse, to put it kindly. The ecru walls are bare except for one small portrait of a family. His, I presume, though he has black hair in the picture. There is a brown suede couch in the middle of the room, and there’s a matching recliner facing the couch. Mr. Liang gestures to the couch, and I gingerly lower myself onto it. Mr. Liang eases himself into the recliner and pushes it back so he can rest his legs. He rings a tiny bell on the side table by the recliner, and an older Taiwanese woman dressed in a drab gray uniform appears with a tray laden with a tea pot, cups, plates, cream cakes, and macaroons. She pours a cup of tea and hands it to Mr. Liang, and he nods his approval. She does the same to me, and I take a cautious sip. It’s oolong, black, which is just fine with me. She sets the tray on the coffee table before disappearing from whence she came.
“Go ahead. Have a cake. Mrs. Chang made them herself, and they’re marvelous.” Mr. Liang helps himself to several cakes and macaroons and tucks in. I do the same, and the cream cakes are light, fluffy, and simply melts in my mouth.
“These are fantastic. My compliments to Mrs. Chang,” I say, eating my third cake in a row.
“Ms. Liang. Why have you been inquiring about me?” Mr. Liang asks, his tone level. I can hear the anger behind the words, though, and I flinch inside. I don’t want to show fear, though, because I know a man like him will pounce on any perceived or real weakness. “I am a very private person, and I much dislike a stranger prying into my affairs.” Good Lord. This man should be part of a Victorian novel, not living in the 2000s. I keep that comment to myself, however, as I don’t want to get off on the wrong foot.
“It’s a long and strange story, but I need to give you some background so you understand my motives.” I wait until Mr. Liang nods before continuing. “A few days before Thanksgiving, a man showed up on my doorstep claiming to be my father.” I stop because I feel uncomfortable waving the family laundry in public. However, I sense that if I don’t tell him the truth, he’ll throw me out on my ear. “It turns out that he was lying. He wasn’t my father; he was someone else.”
“Why would a man claim to be your father?” Mr. Liang asks, sounding intrigued.
“My father left our family when I was three. That was over four decades ago. I haven’t seen him since.” My voice is even, but it still hurts to say, even this many years later.
“I’m sorry,” Mr. Liang says, looking directly in my eyes. I blink because I wasn’t expecting sympathy from him. “That has to have been hard on you.”
“Thank you, and, yes, it was.” I clear my throat and add, “The man who impersonated my father was George Tsai.” I keep an eye on Mr. Liang’s face, but it doesn’t change except for the slightest tic under his left eye.
“George Tsai. I haven’t heard that name in decades.” Mr. Liang’s voice hardened. “Until this week. The night he was killed—”