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Elevator Line At The Chungking Mansions

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Excerpts from Nine Dragons (Photo by Steven Vascik) He lowered his eyes to the building's entrance. The first two levels of the building were retail and commercial use. A band of signage, including two large digital screens, wrapped the entire building. Above this the building's name was affixed to the façade in gold letters and symbols: Chungking Mansions The main entrance was as wide as a double-car garage door. Through the opening Bosch saw a short set of stairs leading to what looked like a crowded shopping bazaar. "This is Chungking Mansions," Eleanor said, recognition in her voice. "You know it?" Bosch asked. "I've never been here but everybody knows about Chungking Mansions." "What is it?" "It's the melting pot. It's the cheapest place in the city to stay and it's the first stop for every third and fourth world immigrant who comes here. Every couple of months you read about somebody being arrested or shot or stabbed and this is their address. It's like a postmodern Casablanca – all in one building."

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The first thing that hit Bosch as he stepped up into the first level of the Chungking Mansions was the smell. Intense odors of spices and fried food invaded his nostrils as his eyes became accustomed to the dimly lit third world farmers market that spread before him in narrow aisles and warrens. The place was just opening for the day but was already crowded with shopkeepers and customers. Six-foot-wide shop stalls offered everything from watches and cell phones to newspapers of every language and foods of any taste. There was an edgy, gritty feel to the place that left Bosch casually checking his wake every few steps. He wanted to know who was behind him. He moved to the center where he came to an elevator alcove. There was a line fifteen people deep waiting for two elevators, except Bosch noticed that one elevator was open, dark inside and obviously out of commission. There were two security guards at the front of the line checking to make sure everybody going up had a room key or was with somebody who had a key. Above the door of the one functioning elevator was a video screen that showed its interior. It was crowded to maximum capacity, sardines in a can.