A plane lands in China. Burt Allen, a wealthy industrialist, goes to the US consulate and meets his guide, a Caucasian woman. Rose is not fluent in Chinese but she can get along.
Allen had told the Consulate that he is in China to look at grain production but, in truth he is there to find his son's grave. His son left Berkeley in 1965 and came to China. He got a job in Canton, teaching English. Father and son never really approved of each other. Daniel stopped writing in 1967 job during the cultural Revolution and, until 1974, it was not possible to come to look for him. Daniel's mother passed away recently, having not heard from their son in 16 years. He originally came from Minneapolis.
Allen learns that his son taught English through the spring of 1966 and then nothing more. He raises his voice when no one will give him the answers he seeks and is told to wait outside to speak to one of the Professors. This Professor was arrested during a revolution, along with others, and tortured for teaching western theology, but he does not believe that Daniel was arrested. He thinks Daniel escaped to Hong Kong, 16 years ago. He believes Daniel may be dead, as many escapees died during the revolution while trying to cross the border into the British colony.
He recalls that there was a young lady called Li Ling, a former student who came from a wealthy family, who was very close to Daniel.
Allen and Rose go to Hong Kong by hydrofoil. They go to the US consulate but Allen asks Rose to go in and ask the questions as, otherwise, it would become a cocktail party due to his wealth and influence within the United States. Allen does not want this. He wants to keep a relatively low profile while he searches for Daniel's grave.
Rose speaks to a member of the Consulate but there is no record of Daniel Allen ever having been in Hong Kong. She returns to the Peninsular Hotel where Daniel's father is staying. She contacts Li ling's family by phone and makes arrangements to visit with her.
Li Ling states that she saw Daniel in 1968 at the Regent hospital. She tells Allen that this is where Daniel died from wounds inflicted by the Red Guards near the border of china and Hong Kong. She cannot say for certain where he is buried but believes the hospital will know. Rose suspects she is lying but she is not sure about what.
Rose decides that if Li Ling had watched over Daniel every day at the hospital until his death then she would recall where they buried him. However, she does locate an entry in the hospital records for June 2, 1968 at 10:40 AM stating Daniel died and that his body was sent to a private cemetery.
Allen and Rose take a water taxi to a restaurant to eat. There, he meets up with one of his company attorneys and the attorney's wife. We discover that Daniel's mother has been dead for two months and that they had been married for 32 years.
After the meal, Allen and Rose go to the cemetery and are shown the grave. It has a small cross with the US flag but, otherwise, no identification.
"Where does it say his name?" Allen asks.
Rose requests the cemetery attendant's book and shows Allen his son's name written in Chinese. Daniel's father tells Rose that he wants to make arrangements to take the body home. She relays this to the attendant, who is aghast and, responding in Chinese, tells Allen that it is impossible, a violation. However, he does agree to a new headstone with Daniel's name written upon it. After he leaves, Rose says that this is too strange. Although the attendant had worked there for 25 years, surely he could not remember every single one of the thousands of graves and be able to taken them to eactly where his son had been buried. Allen questions how many Americans can be in this cemetary, making his grave more memorable. However, Rose mentions that the man took them straight to the sector and the grave without refering to the book. Either Daniel had lots of visitors, which was unlikely, or the attendant had been expecting them.
When they leave, a little blue car follows. It has been following them since they left the hospital. Despite Rose's questions, Allen decides to return to the States tomorrow, but Rose believes he would be making a mistake. She thinks he should have the body exhumed but Allen is adamant that the job is over. She asked if he has any doubts at all about his son.
"I've always had doubts about my son."
He drives off and she walks off towards the ferry, but she is followed.
Back in his hotel room, Allen finds a letter under the pillow; it is written in Chinese. The note is an address followed by the words, your son. Allen goes to the address and tells the driver to wait for him. Another car pulls up behind and one man gets out, leaving another man smoking in the rear of the car but Allen does not see this. He goes upstairs, following the music and knocks, but a man comes out from behind the house. Allen gives chase but when he reaches the street below, he discoveres that his driver has gone.
Allen goes to find Rose, who is leaving on a jet. He asks for her help again as he does not want to go back to the address on the note without soemone who can speak Chinese. Rose agrees and, once they get there a young woman answers the door. She says that she does not know Daniel but it is clear that she is scared. Even though Allen has a gun, she will not answer his questions, not even say if Daniel is alive or dead.
Allen goes to the police and speaks to Superintendent George but he does not get much information even after showing the police detective a photograph of his son. They leave and are watched as they go through the marketplace. It appears that Superintendent George is the head of the Police Triad Bureau, looking to bring down the Chinese equivalent of the Mafia.
Allen and Rose decide to see Li Ling again as she wonders if the others are looking for Daniel too. The meeting is set for early morning in the teahouse but Li Ling does not show. Instead, a man puts a birdcage on their table and sits with them. He tells them that Daniel is alive but that the police after him. Daniel needs help. The man will say nothing more and he walks away.
Allen decides to see George again. George says the man with the birdcage was the leader of one of the Triads specialising in child prostitution, gun smuggling, and opium -- which becomes heroin. The white man the Police are looking for runs the underground factory for Mr Ling, refining opium into heroin for export to places such as the United States. Allen denies that this white man could be his son.
Superintendent George asks why Allen has not heard from Daniel, if his son is still alive, and Allen has no answer.
Rose goes back to the address but, although she managed to shake her tail earlier, he is waiting there for her. However, the Consulate arrives suddenly and Rose uses him to get away from the tail. Back at the hotel several hours later, Allen gets a phone call. He is told to go to the Fishbowl at 19 Ferry St.
Allen pays the $10 entrance fee. It is dark inside. A woman approaches him and gives her name as Ho Chin. She tells Allen that she lives with Daniel and that he will meet with his father tomorrow at the main temple. Allen is told to sit as still as a statue and to leave when Daniel tells him to. Someone else enters the Fishbowl club and Allen has to leave quickly through the men's washroom window.
Next day at 9 a.m.
Allen goes to the temple and he finds the palmreader with the red rose and takes a seat just as Ho Chin requested. As he is sitting there, he hears his son talking to him. Daniel is hiding behind a curtain at the back of the stall.
"They're using you, dad. You're bait to catch me." Daniel tells his father to stop looking for him and to go home.
"Danny, your mother is dead. She kept waiting for you."
Allen gets up and pulls back the curtain to find Daniel standing there. Daniel looks in a terrible state but, before Allen can say anythign more, a man races in. Allen delays them long enough for Daniel to escape. Daniel races out onto the street and onto a bus while his father fights the man, getting injured int eh process. However, Daniel gets away.
George visits Allen and tells him to give his son up to them at the least for they both want Daniel alive.
Consulate Kornfeld arrives and Allen asks if he can bring Daniel to him and gain US consulate protection for his son. The US Consulate says they would try to protect Daniel for a short time, while a legal solution is worked out between the Consulate and the Hong Kong Police.
Allen is released from the hospital and goes back to the hotel. He opens the door and finds a Chinese woman waiting for him -- Li LIng.
"Your son is in Aberdeen Harbour on a junk."
Li Ling's father has the mother of Daniel's girlfriend - Ho Chin - so he knows that he will have the information he seeks shortly. Li Ling tells Allen to hurry, and to take the launch.
"My father could not accept that I loved your son, even though he brought me at China. He was badly wounded at the border, his arm. My father saved his life but my father's doctors addicted him to the morphine. it was very useful to have a white man working for him, especially dead white man."
Until he fell in love with Ho Chin, Daniel did not have the strength to fight the addiction, and was forced to work for Li Ling's father. However, Daniel is trying to kick the drugs. If the police get to Daniel first then Li Ling's father will have many problems as Daniel knows too many secrets, therefore, they need him dead.
Allen goes on board the junk and he finds Daniel.
"Come on, son. I want to take you home." He supports Daniel and gets him to his feet. However, a speedboat comes up alongside the junk. They kill the driver of the launch so Daniel's girlfriend takes the tiller. When they reach the dock, Allen picks up Daniel in the semblance of a fireman's lift. A shot rings out; Daniel is shot in the back. He dies on the dock in his father's arms.
Allen is waiting at the airport ready to fly back home with the body of his son. H is talking to Rose saying that he could not believe that, after all this time, he was five minutes too late to save his son.
The coffin is loaded on board the airplane. Allen makes plans with Rose for her to follow in two months, once she has completed her obligations in China.