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楼主: 海外逸士

Kungfu Masters

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 楼主| 发表于 3/12/2017 08:54:43 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 20

Lois went with Martha Fox to Menlo Park mall. She really hated shopping unless absolutely necessary. But Martha importuned her so hard that she felt a flat rejection would hurt her feelings. So reluctantly she went with Martha to the mall.  Martha deliberately took time to choose her things, which was actually trying Lois's patience. After two hours, Martha finished her buying task.  Perhaps, she felt Lois‘s impatience and abbreviated her commitment. Martha was carrying all her shopping bags, walking through the exit door of the mall. Lois didn't feel like helping her with the bags. Though there were many bags, they were not heavy and Martha was a big strong woman.
Now Martha was putting all the bags into the trunk of her car, a cream-colored Mercedes. She left her purse on the top of her car. All of a sudden, a young guy came, snatched up her purse and ran away with it. Martha cried, “Thief!” Lois gave a big leap and overtook him. She blocked his escape.  Another guy sneaked out from behind a parked car and stabbed at her back with a knife. Lois sensed the movement behind her back and crouched down, stooping a little forward and kicking her right foot backward at the guy's knee, sending him tumbling a few meters away and bumping against a car.  The guy before her brought the purse down on her head. Lois had already pulled back her foot. She ducked the purse and threw out her right arm, grabbing the purse fast in her hand and wrenching it out of the guy's grasp with the help of a kick at the guy's belly. He had to release his grip on the purse and leaped backwards. Two more guys appeared from between the parked cars. The guy who had been kicked down by Lois had already gotten up. The four goons surrounded her, each holding a knife, the blade reflecting a blue flicker in the setting sunbeams. Lois knew it should not touch her, so she used the purse as a weapon, holding its strap. Martha Fox hid herself in her car. Lois got a glimpse and eased a little. She had been afraid that one of the guys would have taken her as a hostage, but when she saw the poisonous knives, she was aware that they came for her; the thieving action was a false move.
The knife had a long chain attached on the handle end. The thugs now wielded the chains like lassos and the knives became much longer. They put their chi through the chains onto the knives.  The attack force was stronger. Lois had to fill the purse with her chi to parry off the flying knives.  Her chi protected the purse, so the knives could not cut through it any time they clashed.  Though the kungfu of the four guys was on a much lower level, Lois had a disadvantage. She could not use her left hand. In the attacking process, the guys jumped onto and down from the hoods, tops or trunks of the parked cars. Sometimes, the knives clanked on the car bodies, making dent marks or erasing the paint on the car surfaces. Some windshields, some windowpanes, some rear windows and even side mirrors were broken. They slung their knives on the chains at Lois at the same time from different directions and different distances, one at her face, one at her right shoulder, one at her back and one at her left thigh. Lois whipped up the purse to fend off the closest one aiming at her face, then she pivoted on her left foot, bringing the purse down slantingly in a curve to knock away the knives coming at her shoulder and back and at the same time, kicked off the knife flying at her thigh with her right foot. The rascals jerked back their knives and flung them at Lois once more. Lois jumped high and kicked at the three knives in midair with both her feet while the fourth one just reached beneath her right foot as she descended. She landed on the ground unharmed with the fourth knife still under her foot. She trod on it hard so that the rogue who was holding it could not tug it back. The other three knives came again, one at her butt, one at her left leg and the last one at her right knee. She had to make moves and jumped up again. The fourth knife was released and jerked back. The other knives hit the empty air and were pulled back, too.
Five minutes slipped by. Lois grew a little impatient. As the guys pulled back the knives, she suddenly leaped forward, following one of the knives, and shot out her chi from her left hand striking one hoodlum on his abdomen. He was knocked out of his wind, badly injured inside. He rolled down from the hood of a car and fell on the ground, groaning. The other three knaves were distracted and another was hit on the chest by the purse full of her chi as Lois jumped up to swoop down at him. The three rogues had to flee. The one whose chest was wounded, coughed and spat blood. Two ribs were broken and his lungs were injured. Lois gave up chasing the three. She got the fourth under her foot. Lois recognized the four villains who were among the seven people Lois had fought in New York. The police came and took the guy in custody after Martha and Lois signed their statements.  Someone must have called the police.
Lois felt the suppressed poison in her lower left arm threading upward. The barely discernible bluish color restrained on her fingertips now spreading to her knuckles. She went quickly to Martha's car and gave the purse back to her undamaged. Martha had looked frightened, but seeing Lois was safe, she relaxed and thanked Lois opulently. Lois got into the passenger seat and told Martha to drop her at home as soon as possible. Martha quickly pulled out of the parking lot.
Half an hour later, Lois was at home. She sat down on the den floor, exercising her chi as self-treatment aided first by her mother, then by her father, who was summoned back from the video store. But this time the remaining poison could not so easily be oppressed.
When Tricia and Sally came home in the evening, they were worried, too. After two hours, the poison was temporarily under control. Lois finished her self-treatment and came to sit on the sofa in the living room. She told them about what occurred and wanted Tricia to contact Sam to interrogate the guy under police custody.
 
***
 
She went with Sam to the prison infirmary where the injured rascal was being taken care of. He was lying in bed, but looked all right. He had been exercising his chi in self-treatment in addition to the medical care. Kungfu people have some advantage over ordinary individuals when injured or taken ill.  They can use chi, which really has a healing effect.
“Do you remember we met once in New York the other night and had a fight?” Tricia asked.
“Yeah,” he replied as succinct as possible.  Then he demanded to call his lawyer to be present at the cross-examination, or he wouldn't answer a single question. That was his lawful right, could not be denied. So they let him make the call. While waiting for the lawyer to come, everyone in the infirmary room kept silent.
At long last the lawyer arrived, a middle-aged man, about five foot six with a meager build. The lawyer sat down on a chair closest to the thug. Now the interrogation began, but the lawyer interrupted Tricia almost at every question she asked, which was truly annoying. Tricia sat next to the lawyer. She raised the index finger of her right hand imperceptibly and pricked the lawyer's Sleep Xue with the invisible chi. The lawyer started to nod, then hung his head before his chest and lightly snored away just like a baby after being fed milk. Such things never, ever happened before. Whose fault was it but his? Maybe, he hadn't got a wink of sleep for three days, for some reason or other, unknown to the prisoner and the detectives. Sam was greatly astounded, but said nothing. The thug knew that something was wrong, very wrong. The bitch detective must have done something to the lawyer.  It was known to all those in his circle that the three bitch detectives were on a very high level of kungfu, close to the master level. He couldn't complain about the foul play of the bitch detective if it was really her who had made the lawyer fall asleep. No one would believe him even if he complained. And he could not refuse to answer questions because of his lawyer falling asleep. He was frustrated. He had seen his boss torturing some disobedient followers with kungfu. The worst was that after the torment, no one could detect any torment even done. No trace left. Only the tormentee could feel it within, more unbearable than those inflicted from outside, which left telltale traces all over for anybody to see later, for a long time. He didn't want to recall it.  He shook his head to toss away the bad memory.  Who said that a computer's like a brain, or a brain's like a computer?  You can't delete a memory if you want to, like some data on the computer.
“Why did you want to snatch the lady's purse?” Tricia started to question him again, with her raised forefinger in the air making small circles.  The goon looked at her moving finger, feeling a little nervous.  But he could at least….
“I need money.” A good pretext for the bad deed, Tricia thought.
“Who are the other three guys?”
“Just friends.” An ordinary reply would lead nowhere. He was sure as slippery as an eel.
“What are their names?”
“Do you want any nicknames? We know each other only by nicknames.” Tricia knew he would give phony names if she insisted.
“Where do they live?”
“Don't know. We just meet in some public places.” This was a dead end answer.
“Why did you come to New Jersey?  I thought New York was the place you always met.”
“We meet anywhere we want to.” Sure, this is a free country. You can go anywhere you want.
“Where are you working?”
“Out of a job right now.” This must have been the truth.
“Where did you get this knife?”  She showed him the knife in a plastic evidence bag.
“Bought it from someone.” Hmmmmm?
“From whom?”
“We never ask each other's names.  The deal closed, we went our separate ways.” Good answer.
“Where did you buy it?”
“On a street in New York.” Imaginable.
“Which street?”
“Forty-second.” A famous street in New York City indeed.
“Describe the whole dealing process.”
“We met someone on that street after midnight. That was a night last winter. That guy wore dark sunglasses, his baseball cap pulled low, and his lower face hidden in a scarf. He came up to ask us if we wanted to buy these knives from him. So we took the knives and paid the money.” That was a typical scenario in a movie.
His answers were recorded. All his answers seemed to have been through repeated rehearsal.  Though Tricia and Sam knew he didn't speak a bit of truth, they could not find a better way to get the truth out of him.  Tricia was fully aware that she could not really torture him in the jail infirmary. They needed time to think of some other means.
Two days later, Sam called. “Hi, Tricia. I have some bad news for you. The guy was charged with robbery, fighting in public places, possession of a lethal weapon and attempted murder. The lawyer came yesterday to bail him out, but was refused accordingly. He had an interview with the guy, but last night the guy died from poison.”
“Is it the same poison as on the knife?” Tricia asked.
“Yes.”
“How did the poison get into him?”
“He had a prick on his right hand. The possibility is that the lawyer did it.”
“I remember world history had an example. A king was murdered through a handshake with his enemy, who wore a ring that could bite unconsciously and release the poison into the king's blood system. Did the lawyer shake hands with him before he left?”
“Probably. No one would notice such things. It's too common and happens everyday--handshake between two men.”
Tricia filled others in on the information in the evening when she got home. “That Black Panther sure has long paws,” said Lois. “Another string of the yarn of clues was broken.”
 
***
 
Martha Fox came to see Lois when she heard on the phone that Lois didn't feel well, but when she saw that Lois seemed okay, she relaxed.
“I'm lucky to have a friend like you, or my purse would be gone.”
Lois suddenly remembered her fortune told by Mr. Chen that she would have a misfortune owing to a female. That's it. Mr. Chen was right.  Martha was a female. She caused it without any knowledge of it and she didn't even guess it. The bluish color, which looked a shade deeper, had spread all over her left hand now. Martha suddenly noticed it and asked in astonishment, “Why do you paint your skin blue? You want to start a new fashion? The blue mascara should be applied around your eyes, not on the hand.” Lois smiled wryly to her friend who looked so innocent with her Mona Lisa smile. Lois offered her a cup of coffee, but she said she was busy, would soon leave, but she actually didn’t leave until one hour later. She prattled and prattled about her idea of fashion, her fellow clerks in the office, how to do her makeup, her likes and dislikes and her favorite movie stars, about almost everything on the good Earth. Lois had to listen politely till she felt her head swimming and aching.
After Martha had actually and physically gone, Mr. and Mrs. Chang came to see Lois when they heard of the situation. Louise offered them two cups of tea and sat down to talk with them.
“It seems we can do nothing at present,” said Mr. Chang. “It would be best to cut off the affected arm as soon as possible lest the poison spreads to the heart. I have a kungfu pupil who's a doctor, working in a general hospital. Can I call him from here?” But without waiting to get the answer, he lifted the receiver and dialed the number.
“May I speak to Doctor Jeffrey Woo?” He was put on hold as the operator transferred his call to the doctor's extension. Someone else answered and put him on hold again.  Almost five minutes elapsed before Jeffrey came on the line. “Hello, Jeff, this is Richard Chang.”
“Hi, Master Chang, how are you?”
Mr. Chang was not in a mood for small talk. He went directly to the point. “You know we have a Dry Daughter, Lois Lin. Her lower left arm's been poisoned and should be cut off or it's haphazard to her life. Can you help there?”  He sounded urgent.
“No problem, Master Chang.  Maybe, I can do more than that.”
“What do you mean by more than that?”
“A girl just died in a car accident. Maybe we can use her left arm to replace that of your daughter if they are about the same size. But of course, we must get agreement from her family first.”
“Is she married or--?”
“We know nothing about her yet. I'll go find out and call you back later.”
Mr. Chang gave him the phone number of the Lins.  Then he passed on the good news.
Mrs. Chang said, “If the girl's family doesn't agree, I can give her my arm. I am old and she's still young.” Then she turned to her husband. “I can still cook for you with one hand.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Chang,” Mrs. Lin said. “But we can not accept that. If anyone gives her arm to Lois, it should be me, her own mother.”  Then the two ladies argued as to who should donate her arm. And the argument really got hot since Mrs. Chang was so obstinate.
Tricia and Sally came home just in time to hear the debate between their mother and Mrs. Chang, which was so touching.
“My skin color's so different than Lois's, but if she doesn't mind, I can give her my arm,” Sally said, her mouth moving busily with a wad of gum inside.  She couldn't blow bubbles before the guests.
“If considering the skin color, mine is better,” Tricia offered.
“You two don't even think about it. You are too young. You need arms to work with,” their mother interrupted them.
Mr. Lin came out from the den. Mrs. Lin told him about the news of the transplant.
“Let's wait for Doctor Woo to call back first. Then we'll see what we can do,” said Mr. Lin.
One hour later, Doctor Woo called and asked to speak with Master Chang. “The police tracked down the girl's mother, Mrs. Nancy Gallagher. I talked to her. Though she grieves and weeps over her daughter's tragic early death, she is really a compassionate woman. She sympathizes with your daughter's situation and doesn't want another girl to die young. So she has agreed to our plan. You can take your daughter to the hospital right now.”
Mr. Chang thanked him and hung up, then gave the others the information. Everyone was hopeful.  Now the two old couples took Lois to the hospital, leaving the young ones at home. No need for everyone to go to the hospital. They could do nothing there. Lois would be left to the skillful hands of the doctors, namely, the surgeons.
When they arrived, Doctor Woo was waiting at the double doors of the hospital entrance. Master Chang introduced Doctor Woo to Mr. and Mrs. Lin and Lois, who could walk by herself.
After all the preparations were made, both girls were put on gurneys, one dead and one wounded, and pushed into the operating room. The two old couples met Mrs. Gallagher in the hallway and expressed their hearty condolences and gratitude, too.
“As a mother, I know what a mother feels if her daughter dies young,” said Mrs. Lin to Mrs. Nancy Gallagher. “Mothers take many pains to bring their children up and when they are grown up and independent, they suddenly die. It's so grievous and mournful.”
“I feel just like that, so I don't want your daughter to die young. Only with my daughter gone, I am feeling so lonely,” Mrs. Gallagher sighed, fresh tears trickling down her cheeks.
Mrs. Lin took out a tissue from her purse and offered it to her, asking, “How many children do you have, Mrs. Gallagher?”
“My son lives in Ohio with his own family. Only my daughter lived with me. For many years we were attached and endeared to each other. And now--” She shook her head and sobbed again.
“Since my daughter's saved through your kindness and understanding, I can give up my daughter to be your daughter. I don't always like the modern American conception. It's like the bird. When the young saplings grow up and can be independent, they fly away, far away. But we are humans, not birds. Why must an old parent be exiled to the nursing homes? Why can't we live with an old parent and let him or her enjoy the remaining years among his or her own flesh and blood? Don’t the young people know that their old parent living among strangers, like nurses, though they are nice and kind and look after the old people attentively, will not feel the same? Some old lady lived alone and was dead for several months before she was accidentally discovered. That's terrible. I don't want anything like that to happen to you just as you don't want my daughter to die young like your own daughter. From now on, you can live with my daughter--no, I mean, your new daughter.  Her name is Lois.”
“I know that generally parents love children much deeper than children love parents,” said Mrs. Gallagher. “You must love your daughter. How can I take her away from you?”
“That's all right. I have three daughters, though the other two are adopted.”
“Maybe, I can adopt one of your adopted daughters, if she herself agrees.”
“We can talk this over later.” Mrs. Lin hugged Mrs. Gallagher.
“I always have a suggestion that when one celebrates his or her birthday, the first thing he or she should do is buy a gift for the mother and thank the mother for their birth,” Mrs. Chang broke in.  “But now it seems the other way around.  Mothers give gifts to children for the birthday, on which they themselves labored so hard, even risked their lives. That's really unfair and not the way we should do it.” She shook her head in disapprobation.
Doctor Woo was not a surgeon; so he was not in the operating room, but he could get constant information of the operation process and convey it to the old couples and Mrs. Gallagher. The operation was supposed to be long. Doctor Woo advised them to wait in the hospital cafeteria so that they could have something to drink and eat when they felt like it. The operation lasted deep into the night and was finished successfully in the end, because both girls had the same stature and the same length and thickness of the arm. Mrs. Chang and Mrs. Gallagher had fallen asleep at the table when the good news came, but the other three had stayed awake. Then they left for their respective homes while Lois was kept in the hospital for further observation.
Next day during visiting hours, the two old couples came to see Lois. Everything looked the same on her. If people didn't look close enough, they couldn't tell if anything was different, but when scrutinizing, they would be able to distinguish the difference in the shades of the skin color on Lois's left arm, the newly-transplanted part showed a slightly whiter shade than the original skin color, and there was a thin red line barely perceptible round the arm bordering the two different shades of the white color. Later a plastic surgery would mend it.
“How do you feel about it?” her mother asked concernedly.
“It's okay. The doctor said it would feel like my own when it grew together if nothing happened, that is, no rejection in the transplant of the limb coming from a different body,” Lois informed wearily. “At least I'm safe now.”
Mr. Lin put down some containers on the night table beside the bed. “Your mother cooked something for you,” he said. “The hospital food is always terrible everywhere.”
Mrs. Chang laid a container on the table, too. The contents showed through the transparent sides of the container--cubes of watermelon and cantaloupe mixed together. At the end of visiting hours, the two couples left, promising to come the next day. Lois persisted that Mr. and Mrs. Chang shouldn't come every day since they knew she was well now. She would be back home in a few days. Mr. and Mrs. Lin helped to dissuade them from coming again to the hospital.
“Come to our house when she's back,” Mrs. Lin said to them.  At last Mr. and Mrs. Chang had to yield to their obstinacy.
 
***
 
After a few days, Lois was back home and her left arm felt like her own. For now she could not use it much, certainly not to lift heavy things with it.  She must let it grow into one sturdy piece. Then she needed plastic surgery for the stitched line round the arm and a little suntan on the transplanted part to make the different color shades as less perceivable as possible. Before these were accomplished, she would wear something with long sleeves.
It was Sunday. They would hold a small dinner party at home to celebrate the successful operation on Lois's arm. Mr. and Mrs. Chang were invited. So was Mrs. Nancy Gallagher. Doctor Woo was also invited, but he was on duty and could not come. Before the party, they’d had a family meeting to discuss Mrs. Gallagher's problem of loneliness. Though her daughter didn't die for any member of the family, at least she acceded to donating her daughter's limb to save Lois. So they decided unanimously that a compensation of some kind should be made to her. Now what she needed most was to have someone to keep her company. If they hired some girl to be her companion and paid for it, which they could afford, it would be so unsentimental, because the relationship between Mrs. Gallagher and the girl was based on money, not on love and friendship.
According to common sense, it should be Lois who went to live with Mrs. Gallagher, to whom she owed a big favor, but Mrs. Gallagher insisted that she should not take her away from her own parents.  It was not like taking a pet kitten from its mother. But she would not refuse if one of the adopted girls was willing to live with her as her adopted daughter. But the two girls, Tricia and Sally, hesitated. Generally, people adopt small children, not adults. The idea to adopt the adopted adult is really like transferring the adoption, which is never heard of. Besides, they knew almost nothing about Mrs. Nancy Gallagher; namely, her character, her disposition, her temper. They wanted to be able to live with her peacefully, without any brawl, like in this family. But no one could foretell anything of the future, or guarantee anything. One could learn consequences only through experience, but by then it was too late.
Finally, Sally said, “We can see that her late daughter had such fair skin. Look at my skin. She may not like it.” A big bubble appeared in front of her face.
“Are you discriminating yourself or just making a lame pretense?” Tricia eyed her questioningly.
“I just tell the truth and a possibility,” Sally pleaded for herself after the bubble was sucked in.
“She needs company for her emotional sake since she lost her daughter so abruptly and so young, and she wasn't prepared for it.  It really has nothing to do with the color of the skin,” retorted Tricia.
“It sounds like she should go to see a psychiatrist,” said Sally.  “She has an emotional problem.”
“I think you should go to see a psychiatrist, not her,” Tricia said to Sally.
“Me?” Sally looked befuddled and stopped chewing for the moment. “If we go out together, people won't think we look like mother and daughter.”
“Adopted,” Tricia corrected her.  “You need that epithet.”
“Fine. I will print that word on every T-shirt and sweatshirt that I put on when I go out with her.” Another bubble floated out of her nicely shaped mouth.
“It really doesn't concern other people. It only concerns her and you. If you feel like mother and daughter, that's okay,” retorted Tricia.
“That's enough. Stop here,” Lois cut in. “I'll persuade Mrs. Gallagher to take me to live with her.  We can come to visit as often as possible.  We'll make it like an extension of the family.”
 
***
 
The small party went on happily. Everyone showed concern for Mrs. Gallagher and Lois. Even Alida said something that made Mrs. Gallagher laugh.
“You can adopt me, Mrs. Gallagher,” said Alida, “since my parents are both dead.  Only I'll make trouble for you, if you don't mind.” Alida sat right on one side of Mrs. Gallagher.
“You are a nice girl.” Mrs. Gallagher patted her on the back. “If I could earn enough to pay for a babysitter, I would adopt you.”
“Then, you have two more years to wait. I'm ten now.”  It sounded like it was all settled.
Towards the end of the party, Lois said to Mrs. Gallagher, “I think it's me who owes you a big favor and I'm willing to live with you as your daughter. You can adopt me, or whatever you call it.”
Mrs. Gallagher shook her head. “I can't harden my heart to tear you away from your own parents.” Mrs. Gallagher guessed something was different from what she suggested, seeing that Mr. and Mrs. Lin didn't speak and the other two girls didn't speak, either, and she added, “I'm not that desperate.  When my daughter was alive, she had a boyfriend once and lived out with him after she graduated from college and found a job, but she often came to visit me. So I had a feeling that I had a daughter who cared for me though not living with me anymore. That made me happy. Before she died, she and her boyfriend separated and she moved back to live with me again, but I felt sorry for her. Since she's gone, I have a feeling of vacancy, of emptiness, like I lost everything in the world, things most precious to me, her endearment, her caring, her filial love. That's why I want to adopt a daughter, which will give me a feeling that I still have a daughter.  I don't really care if she lives with me or not,” she sighed, wiping off a few drops of tears with her hand that she could not hold back.
Unexpectedly, Tricia moved to Mrs. Gallagher and hugged her tightly. Words were futile before actions. Mrs. Gallagher hugged back, the water gate opened and tears gushed down her cheeks. They were not tears of woe and despair, but tears of joy and hope. Everyone in the room clapped their hands to make the touching atmosphere lively. Mrs. Gallagher wiped off her jovial tears with a tissue Mrs. Lin handed to her.
“I'll get a room ready for you in my condo. You can live wherever you want.” They didn't go to any lawyer, or to some government department. They didn't need any paperwork. They got what they needed, the understanding, the love and the concern. Mrs. Gallagher dwelled in a small two-bedroom condo in East Brunswick, New Jersey, twenty minutes drive from the Lins' house.
Mrs. Gallagher invited everyone at the party to go to her condo next Sunday evening. “We need a celebration in my place and Tricia can stay for the night if she wants to see how she feels.”
 楼主| 发表于 3/16/2017 08:14:16 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 21

Around lunchtime on Monday, Sam came to their office with a tape. When he saw Lois sitting behind her desk, he inquired after her arm. Lois showed it to him, saying, “It feels better everyday, but if it's dragged with great force, it may sever.”
“Do you mean that the donated arm can never be the same as your own?” asked Sam.
“I mean NOW. It needs time.” Lois smiled at him. “By the way, I remembered that one of the four guys that attacked me is Michael Dong. We got him once in New York, you remember, Sam?”
“Yeah. I can still see his frightened face in my mind's eye.”
“He lives near Master Pu's house.  I have the address. Can you put someone on watch over him?”
“I'll take care of it.” Then he and Tricia left the office for lunch somewhere.
Lois put the tape into the player and learned the following conversation.
“Tim died in the fucking jail infirmary. Fucking him,” said a new voice.
“Why didn't we get fucking him out?  He's our fucking brethren. Buddha-dammit,” said a familiar voice belonging to the big guy.
“It's not so fucking easy as you think. Shit. The fucking big boss is afraid he'll spill out fucking beans before we can get him out since the fucking bail’s denied.”
“How did we get fucking attorney into our brethrenhood? He dun’t look like a fucking tough guy.”
“He's our fucking brethren already when he was sent to study fucking law. We need our own lawyer.”
Tricia came back from lunch. She told Lois that she had let Sam know her new relationship with Mrs. Gallagher.
“What did he say?” Lois asked, squinting at Tricia.
“He said that's good. He asked me if he should be introduced to Mrs. Gallagher as my boyfriend.”
Lois just looked at her for further information.
“I said I would talk to Mrs. Gallagher first.”
 
***
 
Week in, week out. Counting by the week, time flies away really fast, but it is only a feeling. Time goes at a steady, measured pace, at the same speed, second by second, minute by minute, to eternity.
The day broke bright and gay that Sunday. Thanks to Mr. El Nino, the weather grew warmer now than before his visit. The whole winter last year, Central New Jersey didn't see much snow to the exhilaration of drivers and the disappointment of children.
Mrs. Gallagher stood before the window in the living-area of her condo. Besides two bedrooms and two baths, there was a big room the owner could divide into living-area and dining-area by putting the furniture where she thought fit. Beyond a counter was the kitchen area already furnished and the owner could do nothing to easily change it. She gazed out at the stretches of lawns dotted here and there with some small trees. Around every unit, especially under the windows, some shrubs and flowers were planted. The environment and the outside ornamentation made the unit owners and tenants feel like they were living in some sort of a garden with a swimming pool behind and a tennis court beside a clubhouse in which the dwellers could use the exercise equipment, play pool, ping-pong or cards, or watch a big-screened TV.  On special occasions such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, parties were thrown there and all the residents could take part and dance on the dance floor.
Mrs. Gallagher stood before her window, lost in contemplation. Her smile never faded these days, contrary to her sad expression last week and the week before last. The vacuum and void in her feelings was filled, but there was still a space left for the memory of her own daughter. When she had been caressing the part of the arm on Lois's body that once had been on her own daughter, she could not tell what feeling she had been experiencing then: the lamentable loss of her daughter, the satisfactory donation to save a young girl, or the realization and solace that a very small part of her own daughter was still alive on the body of another girl. Or mixed feelings. Let bygones be bygones, she told herself.
She made some changes in the arrangement of the furniture and decoration in her own daughter's bedroom in the hope that it would suit the taste of her new daughter. But as a matter of fact, she didn't know much about the taste of young girls. Even her own taste underwent a little change now from when she had been young herself. She had called her son in Ohio and told him the news. Her son and his wife had congratulated her and silently congratulated themselves, too, because they could have a clear consciousness now if they didn't come often to see their mother, since there was a new daughter to look after her and relieve them of the filial duties.
Mrs. Gallagher went shopping on Saturday. If she’d had enough money, she would have emptied the supermarket. She had literally filled her refrigerator to its capacity, leaving no space even for a cockroach to squeeze in. She had cleaned every corner of her small condo, leaving no dust in sight. She got up earlier than the sun on that day, making every desirable preparation for the party and from noon she began to cook. The food she got ready for dinner was enough to feed a small army. She thought that people with kungfu, just like athletes, would eat more than ordinary people, but she was wrong there. In the Chinese conventional conception, people who exercised chi could eat less food than those who didn't, because when exercising chi the metabolism was slow like in hibernation and therefore, these people needed a less supply of energy and calories.
Three cars pulled into the parking spaces near Mrs. Gallagher's condo. The invitees had arrived. Mrs. Gallagher stood outside the only door to the condo to welcome her guests, or relatives of some sort, not by blood. When all the guests were inside, she brought up the rear and closed the door behind her.
Now that Tricia had two adopted mothers, how could she differentiate when she wanted to call each of them?  That was a little problem.
“Just like I say Auntie Louise, you can say Mom Louise and Mom Nancy. What do you think, Cousin Tricia?” Alida made the suggestion that solved her problem.
“Good.” Tricia patted her on the shoulder. “You really have some wisdom in that pretty little head of yours.” Alida smiled at the praise, bouncing a little on the balls of her feet, tilting her head.
“Mom Nancy,” Tricia said, “this is my boyfriend Sam Dawson, but we won’t live together until we get married.”
The furniture in the living-area in Mrs. Gallagher's condo was simple. Two sofas were put opposite along the walls with end tables on both sides and coffee tables before each one. A glass cabinet stood against the wall facing the windows, with a set of fine china plates, dishes, cups and saucers on display. A big pot with an evergreen stood at the corner beside the window and a few small pots with roses in them under the window. In the dining-area there was a long dining table with six chairs around it, but today, since there were ten people, the table had been made longer by pulling two ends apart and putting a spare plank in the middle on the metal supporter. Four folding chairs were produced from the closet just beside the door. Sam and Tricia were the main helpers to do this. Mrs. Lin and Mrs. Chang offered to help in the kitchen area, but Mrs. Gallagher said that everything was ready and that if they really wanted to assist, they could put all the things on the table, which was now covered with a long white and ruddy checkered tablecloth. Lois, Sally and Alida sat on a long sofa, the latter two girls helping themselves to some candy on the coffee table before them. Mr. Lin and Mr. Chang were seated on another sofa, chattering about kungfu. When the dining table was laid and food appeared on it, the guests were invited to sit down at the table. Everyone got chopsticks as well as a fork. They could use whichever they were used to.
Sally took the chopsticks in her right hand and the fork in her left. “I am used to practicing weapons with both hands,” she said self-righteously. So she used both eating weapons to send food into her mouth, but only alternately, unable to do it simultaneously since she had only one mouth.
What Mrs. Gallagher cooked, or what her guests partook of, was something raw, something boiled, something baked, something stewed, something scrambled, something fried and something roasted.
“Do you want to stay here tonight?” Mrs. Gallagher asked after she took Tricia to have a look at her bedroom.  “It's up to you.”  But she looked at Tricia expectantly, and a bit nervously, though she said nothing more.
Tricia was satisfied with the room.  She was not a pernickety person. “I'd like to,” she replied, “but how can I leave here for work tomorrow morning since I came here in Sam's car and he's not supposed to stay here for the night.” She smiled at him archly. Sam was with her in the bedroom and offered to pick her tomorrow morning.
“That's very kind of you,” Tricia thanked him, “but I doubt you can keep your promise if your police duty calls.”
“Hope against the hopes that no duty calls. Keep your fingers crossed,” he joked.
“I can drop you,” said Mrs. Gallagher, “if you think it's okay.”  So that was settled.
When they came back into the living-area, Sally said jestingly with a smile, “You are a lucky dog, Tricia. You have two places to live and two mothers to love you.” According to Chinese tradition, Tricia was born in the year of Dog. Tricia glowered at her in a vain attempt to show a furious and ferocious look on her face.  Then she whispered into Sally's right ear, “It's because I happen to have my skin in the same color as her daughter.”
 
***
 
Martha Fox came to see Lois after she was back home from the hospital. She just dropped in at the office. “What's your illness? I didn't know that you were so sick and must be sent to the hospital, or I'd have gone there to visit you. Anything connected with the attack the other day?” she asked and apologized for not showing her concern earlier.
“Don't worry. I am fine, but thank you anyway,” said Lois with a polite smile. Seeing they were busy, Martha left soon without even making the seat on her buttocks warm.
“My instinct tells me that I don't like this woman,” said Tricia. “Everything about her looks like acting, phony.”
“I always trust people unless something turns up to denote that they are untrustworthy.” That was Lois, born like that. No one could blame her for it.
A few days later, Martha called to ask Lois a favor.  “Hi, Lois, can you come to my rescue?”
“Anything serious happen to you?”  Lois wanted to know before she would say yes or no.
“Not serious,” Martha breezed out.
“What is it?”  Lois asked doubtfully.
“I'm stranded in Brunswick Square, East Brunswick, right on Rt. 18 South.”
“What happened to your car?”
“It was stolen. When I came out from the mall after shopping, I could not find my car. Can you just pick me up and drop me at home?  Oh, please.” She sounded desperate.
“Okay, but wait for me outside the mall.”
“Thank you very much.” She clicked off her cell phone.
“Can there be another ambush trap set up for you?” Tricia voiced her suspicion.
“That was coincidence last time, I think,” said Lois. “I'll be okay, now that the poisoned part was removed from me.”
Half an hour later, Lois arrived at the mall parking lot and saw Martha roving impatiently before Macy's, carrying two shopping bags in her hand. Lois stopped her car alongside the curb before her and pushed down the emergency lights’ button for temporary standing. Martha opened the rear door and put her bags on the backseat, then she got into the passenger seat in front. Lois turned off the emergence lights and pulled away from the curb.
Martha directed Lois on how to get to South River. On the way, Martha thanked Lois over and over again for her time and the extra trip. While she was talking, she forgot to give directions so that Lois drove past a side street they were supposed to turn into. “Stop, you passed it already,” Martha cried from the next seat.  Lois had to slow down to turn into a side street two blocks away, almost getting hit by another car from behind owing to her abrupt slow-down. Martha could not tell where to go now. “I haven't lived here long, not familiar with this area yet,” she confessed, looking sorry. Lois had to stop at the curb and take a map from the glove compartment and check the address on it.
At last they arrived at where Martha lived. Lois parked her car in front of the house behind a big brown Oldsmobile. Martha pressed Lois to come in for a drink, saying, “You've never come to my house, ever since we began to strike up our friendship. Just step in to have a look to see how I live.” She dragged Lois inside with one hand and carried two bags in the other. Lois reluctantly followed her inside. “Will you come upstairs to see my bedroom?” She didn't even release Lois's hand yet.
Out of politeness, Lois stayed there for ten minutes, then took her leave, apologizing, “Next time, Martha. I'm really busy today.” Martha saw her to the front door.  When Lois got out, to her great surprise, she found that all four tires on her car were flat. Who could do this to me? she wondered. It seemed that she was always being followed, but she didn't see any suspicious car all the way here.
“You can use this Olds a friend of mine left here yesterday. She's traveling now and won't be back until next week,” Martha offered. “I'm not going anywhere today. I'll call you tomorrow to arrange how you'll return it to me. I may need it till I retrieve my Cadillac or buy a new one.”
Lois didn't want to stay here any longer, so she accepted Martha's offer and got into the big brown Oldsmobile. She would take care of her own car later.
She drove along Rt. 18 northbound. She was in the middle lane. When she wanted to change lanes to the left side, she noticed from her rearview mirror that two police cars were behind her, top lights flashing. She knew that she was not violating any traffic regulations. Anyway, she pulled to the right lane and stopped at the curb. The police cars stopped, too, one before her, the other behind her. Four policemen got out with drawn guns, slowly approaching her as if she were an armed robber just escaped from a bank.
They shouted, “Stay where you are and don't move. Put your hands on the steering wheel where we can see them.” She rolled down the window and waited in her seat. One police officer opened the door for her, ordering her to step out slowly. The other three policemen leveled their guns at her. The traffic was stopped. Lois was puzzled, but she did as she was ordered. Once out of the car, she put her hands behind her head automatically, without even receiving any order from the policemen, to show her cooperation.  She was led away to the police car in front under the muzzles of the guns and put into the backseat with her hands cuffed behind her. Then the policemen searched her car. They took out a package from the trunk and opened it a little. There was a pound of white powder. They took it over and showed it to Lois. She was really stunned and gaped at the package. She never felt so stunned in her life. The package contained cocaine. The policemen dispersed the curious spectators and drove all three cars to the station.
 
***
 
Lois was led into an interrogation room and her handcuffs were removed. She sat at a long table waiting for someone to come to cross-question her. It was a new experience in her life. She was used to questioning other people. But everything has its first time. That was what just happened, though she could not believe it: she was being framed. Now she could imagine that when she had been in Martha's house, someone, an accomplice, had punctured all the tires of her car, and Martha had purposefully offered to lend her the Olds with the package of cocaine already in the truck. Then as she had left her house, Martha had called the police anonymously, or the police would not have overtaken her so quickly and wouldn't have even known that a drug package was in the car. Now it dawned on her that Martha had planned the ambush in the Menlo Park mall parking too. She did have a doubt at that time how these hoodlums could know that she was shopping--no, suspiciously forced to be a shopping companion--in that mall. Too much coincidence should have some reason in it.  How could all four tires of her car become flat at the same time? It should be a premeditated step to put her in a position to have to drive the drug-laden Oldsmobile. She traced their acquaintance back to when she had traveled in China, which seemed to have been conspired, too, or the woman would not have stuck at her side like chewed gum on the sole of a shoe.
A detective came in. The routine began. She told him her name and occupation.
“Hmmm, a private eye.” He said it with some irony in his voice. “How did you get this package in the trunk of your car?”  He squinted at her with a smile looking like something went wrong with the tense muscles around his mouth and the smile could never go up to his eyes.
“That's not my car,” Lois told him truthfully.
“I know, it's a stolen car,” he said sarcastically. She told him everything about how she had got acquainted with the woman who called herself Martha Fox and how today she had needed a ride home and her own car had had suspicious flat tires and Martha had lent her this Oldsmobile she had claimed belonged to a friend of hers who had gone traveling. What a coincidence, she realized now, but not at that time.
The detective listened silently, but still looked dubious about what she was telling him.  Then she asked, “Can I make a phone call?”
“Sure. To your lawyer.” He led her to a pay phone. She kept silent till she reached the phone and called Tricia, who called Sam immediately after she hung up on Lois.
Sam answered on his cell phone. “Hi, Tricia, I'm on my way to north New Jersey.  What's up?”
“Lois was framed for drug possession and detained at the station.”
“What happened?” Sam asked. He wanted to make sure that he had heard correct the first time. Tricia filled him in briefly.
“Okay. I'm on my way back.  Meet me at the station.”
Then Tricia called her Mom Louise, who called Mr. Lin and passed on the bad news.
 
***
 
Tricia reached the station first, pretending to be a lawyer and met Lois in the room. Lois told her the whole story in detail, and when Sam arrived she had to tell it once more. Then Sam went to find the detective. Sam belonged to the county police department and he knew that detective, who told him he sent a patrol car to that address Lois claimed a Martha Fox lived at, but the house was empty, though a car did sit there with all tires flat. They contacted the owner of the house and he said that he had rented it to a woman call Ellen Lee. Then the detective said that first he must make a picture of that Martha Fox woman to show to the owner to see if Martha Fox and Ellen Lee were the same person or not; then he must write a report to his superiors for them to make any further decision.  That was all he could do.
The police sketched a picture of Martha Fox with the help of Lois. The detective went to see the owner himself and the owner confirmed that this was the woman who had rented the house from him.  Lois's story seemed now believable, but the evidence was still against her. Since the juridical authorities knew the girls' reputation and also suspected a framing, Lois was released on a bail of one hundred thousand dollars.
“How can we get so much money?” exclaimed Mrs. Lin.
“We have to borrow money first, and then sell our house or the video store to repay it,” said Mr. Lin calmly. Mr. Lin called Mr. Chen to see if he could borrow some money from him. Mr. Chen said, “No problem. I almost owe you my life. Come get it. I'll get the money ready for you.” So Mr. Lin drove to Mr. Chen's house.
Mrs. Lin called Mrs. Chang and told her about Lois being framed and needing money for the bail.  Mrs. Chang said, “I'll talk to Richard, then call back. Don't worry. We'll get her out.” Mr. Chang didn't have much money; so he called Mr. Li for the loan of some money to bail Lois out. Mr. Li was worried, too, and promised to get money ready, adding, “I'll get some more from a close friend of mine.  We were playmates from childhood.”
 
***
 
“My wife's family was rich and left a large legacy to her and her sister. Her sister married John Zi. We are brothers-in-law, but--” he trailed off. “It's a long story. We'll talk about it later. Here's fifty thousand dollars.” He handed Mr. Lin a bank check, adding, “If you need more, I'll try.” Mr. Lin thanked him and promised to return it as soon as possible.
“Don't worry about the money. We have enough to live on.  How's your daughter's arm?”
“It's fine,” said Mr. Lin and then bade Mr. and Mrs. Chen goodbye and hurried back.
When Mr. Lin got home, Mr. Chang and Mr. Li were visiting. Mr. Li said, “I know it's important to bail Lois out so that she can solve all these cases. I can lend you ten thousand dollars, but I borrowed another twenty thousand dollars from Eric Hsu.” Mr. and Mrs. Lin stared at Mr. Li in surprise, even forgetting to thank him. They knew that Mr. Hsu was the first on Lois’s suspect list. Seeing their surprised expression, Mr. Li explained, “He and I have known each other since we were still wearing diapers. Some customer had implied that Eric Hsu killed David. That's absolutely impossible and ridiculous. He looked upon David like his own son. Only David disappointed both him and me.” He sighed deeply, holding his eyes wide so that tears wouldn't escape. He produced two checks amounting to thirty thousand dollars.
“Lois is my Dry Daughter. So I must do something for her. Here's ten thousand dollars we had saved in the bank.” Mr. Chang took out a check from his pocket. Mr. and Mrs. Lin thanked both of them abundantly and promised to pay them back as soon as possible. Mr. Chang and Mr. Li left soon, knowing that Mr. Lin would go to bail Lois out from the police station. Mr. Lin had saved ten thousand dollars in the bank; so he had all the money for the bail now.
 
***
 
Lois came home. The first thing she did was to take her car to the garage for repair. Then she was told where all the money came from. She was also surprised to become aware that Mr. Hsu and Mr. Li had so close a relationship.  Now she felt that she had no master suspects on her list anymore.  This was even more ridiculous than being framed. She felt that she were sailing on the vast expanse of the waters of the Atlantic with no land in view all around and had no notion in which direction she should steer her steamer.  She was more than frustrated.
The three sisters had a meeting. Lois began, “How're things going in your company?” she asked Sally, who was invariably chewing a cud of gum, never letting her mouth have a moment's rest.
“Everything's normal,” was the reply.
“If Mr. Hsu's no longer on our list of suspects, I think there's no need for Sally to keep on working in that company. What do you two think?” Lois looked from Tricia to Sally, leaning back in her swivel chair and resting her arms on the arms of the chair.
“I have the same opinion,” said Tricia, glancing at Sally, with a grin playing about her beautifully arched mouth. Her lips had a reddish gloss.
“I have no objection, though I really earned some money for myself,” Sally said indifferently, tossing her head backward, her eyes on the ceiling as if searching for any sign of a spider's web.  Then a bubble bobbed at the tip of her nose.
“Good. You have your dowry money ready now,” Tricia seemed a little envious.
“No. That's the wedding gift money for you and Sam,” Sally shot back, the bubble bursting around her lips; she collected it into her mouth again, her head resuming the normal position, her eyes leveling at Tricia's with an arch smirk on her face.
“By the by, I asked Sam to distribute the pictures of Martha Fox among the police,” Tricia informed, balancing a pencil on the index finger of her right hand.
“I have checked both names with the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Service,” said Lois. “There are some such names, but none fit her. I think both are phony names. I'll fax her picture to all the states.  Maybe she came from outside New Jersey.”
“Probably, our suspects are not in New Jersey like the master brothers. We must widen our investigation,” Tricia suggested, tapping the eraser end of the pencil on her desk.
“You are right. We should go to Chicago,” Lois agreed.
 
***
 
It was Sunday. Tricia had a date with Sam in the evening. Sam was busy, but he found himself a reason to be with Tricia. We'll discuss the cases. Perhaps, they would. They might spend ten minutes out of the three hours they were together, talking about the life and death business. Yes, police and detectives needed a love life as well as others.  That was fair and normal.  No one could blame them.
Henry Wong went to Taiwan to attend his grandfather's funeral. So Sally had nothing special to indulge herself in that day. Lois was going to visit Mr. Chen to express her gratitude for his loan.  Sally went with her and offered to drive her Taurus. They planned to arrive late in the afternoon when the old couple finished their nap, then stay there for half an hour and came back for dinner at home. However, God has planned everything for everyone just like we humans design the programming for a computer. And human plans can often go amiss. They were stuck in highway traffic for two hours and arrived at Mr. Chen's house just at dinnertime. So they were invited to share the potluck and talked and stayed a bit late.
Mr. Chen said to Lois, “Your misfortunes are over now, but you must still be careful.” Sally asked Mr. Chen to tell her fortune, too, but since she could not provide the hour she had been born at, her fortune could not be told.  Anyway, Mr. Chen read her face and palms.
“You are destined to have no parents… I mean, biological. Troubles of some kind often dog your steps like shadows follow you everywhere when there's light, either you make them or someone causes them. They are not misfortunes; so don't worry. You'll be content with your marriage and married life. You will be the head of your family. Your family members will always listen to you. You'll have two children. Look at that line.” Mr. Chen pointed out a line on her palm. “And it's the life line.  It's so long.  So you can live to a very old age.”
Sally thanked Mr. Chen, then whispered mysteriously, “Can you tell when Lois will get married?” She looked furtively at her sister. Lois pretended she didn't catch the words concerning her marriage.
“She's fated to marry late. If she marries early, her husband will die and she will remarry late,” Mr. Chen advised sincerely.
“But you cannot say to marry at twenty-five years old is early,” Sally retorted.
“She'll marry after thirty,” Mr. Chen said definitely.
“If she won't marry, but live with a boyfriend like a married couple, is that okay?” asked Sally.
“No,” answered Mr. Chen. “In the Chinese concept of marriage, from the viewpoint of fortune telling, if two persons of opposite sex live an adult life that means 'married'. Doesn't really need any ceremony. If two beggars live together and have children, and they don't have money for any kind of ritual, they are still deemed as married.”
When they departed, it was very late. Sally drove along a side street. Suddenly a girl burst out from the door of a house and ran toward their car, waving both her hands frantically and crying, “Help!” Two guys emerged from the same house, chasing her. Sally stopped her car at the curb. The girl opened the rear door and threw herself inside onto the backseat. The guys had reached the car now. Lois opened her front door to knock at the guy ahead. The guy was knocked over and brought the guy behind him down on the ground too. Sally pulled away from the curb with the rear door still open. The first guy lurched at the car, intending to clutch the open door, but Sally accelerated and the guy missed it. Lois held out her right arm from her open window and reached the rear door and pushed it shut, but the door wasn't closed tight. The light on the dashboard showing the door sign was still on. Sally made swift turns at every corner, one right, one left, till she felt safe. The girl sat up and pulled the door shut tight. By the time Sally slowed down, she realized that she was lost. Then she stopped altogether at the curb and turned to look at the girl with the roof light on.
“Laura, it's you!  What were you doing there?” Sally was so surprised. Lois knew her by name and looked at her, too. Laura began to weep. Lois took out some tissues and handed them to her. Laura wept and wept as if she would weep till doomsday. Sally waited, chewing her gum, until she thought the vent was long enough. She said gently, “Tell me what happened to you. I know you were kidnapped, but we couldn't find you.” Gradually Laura stammered out what had happened to her between her sobs.
 楼主| 发表于 3/19/2017 08:06:16 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 22

Laura left her company at the usual time. She stopped at a plaza on her way home with a long shopping list from her mother.  She spent two hours in that supermarket. It was only on weekdays.  How long would she be shopping on weekends, maybe six hours? It seemed one-sixth of a woman's life was whiled away in shopping or window-shopping. What else could she do if she was an ordinary woman with no ambitions? Malls are really open for ladies. How many males can be seen there unless in female company?  However, if males could spend their time on these duties--duties for mothers, sisters, daughters, particularly for girlfriends and wives--there would be less rapists, robbers, and the kind in the whole world. Thank God for the fond hope.
When Laura came out of the supermarket and opened her car door, someone grabbed her from behind, pressing a wet cloth over her nose. She took in a bizarre smell and blacked out. Her shopping bags fell from her hand onto the ground.  The items in them scattered all over, some rolling under the parked cars.  None of the other shoppers were in the parking lot at that time.  And it was dark already.
When she came to, she found herself confined in a small empty space with clothes hanging all around her. She was gagged and bound hand and foot. Approximately an hour passed. Then the door opened and a guy stood in the doorway. She was in a walk-in closet. Seeing her awake, he gave her a lewd smirk, saying, “I can take out your gag and untie you if you don't cry.” Laura nodded vehemently. The guy let her out into the room, and even let her go to the bathroom. When he escorted Laura back to the room, he shut the door behind him. Laura looked around. It was a room without any windows, a bare twenty-five watt bulb gleamed on the ceiling and the door was made of thick wood. There was no way for her to escape. There were two bunks at the far end. Two girls around her age sat on the lower bunk, staring at her. They said nothing. The guy came again and brought her some food. He put up a cot at the corner near the door for her. After she finished eating, the guy said, “If you'll do what's told, you're safe here. If not, you'll regret you've ever come into this world.” He gave a fierce simper, baring his teeth like a wolf. Laura had no idea what they would want her to do till the evening of the next day. She was taken to another room better furnished and adorned. There was a stranger there. A man of middle age. The guy who brought her here told her to entertain the stranger and pushed her into the room, then shut the door. She stood there, not knowing what to do. The stranger came to drag her to the bed, starting to strip off her clothes. She understood now what the entertainment meant. She gave the stranger a heavy slap on the face and rushed to the door and opened it, only to come face-to-face with the guy who was standing outside the door with his arms crossed in front of him. Seeing her dashing out, he said, “Hmmm. You need some lessons.” He grabbed her hair and dragged her into that windowless room, then beat her. Three other girls seemed frightened, recoiling to the farthest ends of the bunks, with agonized eyes fixed on Laura as if their memory of torment was jogged. Sure, they’d had the same experience before. After that, Laura was starved for two days. Besides her, there were four other girls under their control. In the evenings they would be called away to entertain guests. Gradually they began to speak to her, advising her to obey the guys while waiting for any chance to flee. Laura only wept till no more bitter tears came out of her swollen eyes. She thought of suicide, but loathe ending her life so young. Silently she prayed. Silently she called to her parents to come to her rescue. But fond hope could not change the cruel reality.
The guy came to ask her whether she was willing to entertain their customers. She had no choice but to give in if she wanted to live and flee when there was a chance. People in distress always live in hope. It is the hope that gives them the spiritual support to live on. Once she attempted to escape, but was caught before she could run very far. Then she was confined in the room and only let out when they wanted her to entertain a customer. Generally, there were four guys to keep watch over the girls by turns. “Today, only two guys were in the house.  When a customer finished with me and was paying money to a guy, I stepped out of the room. Seeing the other guy was not hanging around, I dashed out.  If I didn't meet you, I'd sure be dragged in again.”
“We'll get you home now,” Sally consoled her, then grinding her teeth on the gum, added, “We'll get back to them later.”
“No,” Laura almost shrieked. “Some girl escaped and returned to her home, but a few days later, was brought back again. They want us to know that wherever we escape to, they can get us back.” She looked like a frightened rabbit.
“Okay. We'll find a place for you to hide,” said Sally. Lois was looking at a map now. Sally moved to the end of the street to check the sign to see which street they were on. Once they got their bearing, they found their way to where they were familiar with. On the way home, Sally and Lois discussed where the safest place for Laura to hide was, but could not come up with a satisfactory one. “I think it's best she stays with us,” Sally concluded.
“Okay, we'll talk to Dad and Mom,” Lois agreed.
 
***
 
It was well after midnight when they got home. There were still lights on in the living room. Their parents and Tricia were up and waiting for them. They had called home on the way, using the cell phone. Mr. and Mrs. Lin consented to have Laura stay with them. She had to sleep on the other sofa in the family room where she would least possibly be seen. They had to play it safe since they suspected that the Black Panther was behind the kidnapping. Mrs. Lin apologized for Laura having to sleep on a sofa and having no room assigned to her. Laura was satisfied as long as she was safe. She didn't care where she slept as long as no nightmares haunted her dreams.
“You are so nice to me, and so are all your family,” said Laura to Sally gratefully. “We were not even friends when we worked together.”
After a midnight meal, Sally took Laura downstairs to the family room. Alida was already asleep. Sally gave Laura her clothes and other things she would need. “I'll buy you clothes and women's things tomorrow,” said Sally and then bade Laura good night. When Sally was upstairs, Laura went into the bathroom to clean herself and then lay down on the sofa in her borrowed pajamas. Suddenly, Alida jumped up from her sofa and cried, “Burglar!” She turned on the light and gazed at Laura who was still lying awake. Alida said sternly to Laura with her hands on her hips, “Who are you? Don't move.” Sally rushed downstairs when she heard Alida crying.
“She's my guest, Alida,” Sally said. “Go back to sleep. You'll know everything tomorrow.” Alida kneaded her eyelids with the back of her right hand and fell back on her sofa, mumbling, “Sorry.”
 
***
 
Next morning at breakfast, Sally told Alida something about Laura, skipping the part of the secret brothel. Mrs. Lin brought food down for Laura. She was not supposed to leave the family room and be seen by anyone outside the family. Sally promised to go to her home and tell her parents that she was found now. When Alida left for school, the sisters discussed the matter a little longer. They wanted to tip the police in that area, but they really did not know the exact location, not even the street name. Laura was ignorant, too, since she had been taken there unconsciously.
“You should not even call your parents. Your home phone line may be tapped,” Sally warned Laura before she went out. Laura knew the seriousness of the situation and would not try anything foolish. Sally went shopping first, humming a favorite song and chewing gum. When it turned dark, she glided smoothly to a halt before the house where Laura's parents lived. When Laura's mother was told the good news, she began to cry with happy tears, then smiled at Sally in embarrassment. She told Sally that when the police had found Laura's car in some plaza they had notified them. “We knew something seriously wrong happened to her,” her mother informed, “but we had no notion that she was kidnapped and forced to do such things.” Tears rolled down her cheeks again. She begged to come to see her daughter or at least call her, but Sally was firm and explained the situation to her parents. At last they accepted the reality. At least their daughter was safe and sound.
      When Sally came and left, she surveyed the surroundings to see if there was any suspicious car. None. Maybe, they didn't find her home address yet. Sally put on a little disguise herself. She went a roundabout way before she returned home. She brought in a few shopping bags from her trunk and went to the family room, blowing bubbles all the way down. All day long, Laura had nothing to do except watch TV and talk to Mrs. Lin when she brought her meals. She talked to Alida, too, when she finished her homework. She was glad to see Sally with a bubble hanging from her mouth and peered at the contents in the bags. Besides clothes and other things she needed, she found some of her favorite magazines, which Sally had noticed when Laura had been reading in the cafeteria and bought for her. Most of the day Laura had to keep to herself, as everyone else had things to attend to.
      “Good,” Laura brooded. “I came out of one confinement just to get into another confinement. I hope the danger will soon be over.”
 
***
 
“Do you remember how the four guys looked? Can you describe them?” Sally asked Laura two days later when she came downstairs to see her in the evening.  She kept on chewing the gum.
“I'm afraid I can't do that. They were so fierce that I hardly dared to look at their faces,” Laura replied, feeling sorry that she couldn't help there.
“That's all right. I just asked,” said Sally nonchalantly, then added, “You can write a letter to your parents.  No return address.  Give it to me.  I'll mail it for you.” She blew out a big bubble.
“Thank you very much. I'm really glad that I can write to my parents. But I don’t know the address here. You never told me before. You just dragged me inside that night when we arrived. So you can be at rest,” Laura assured Sally, pricking at the bubble before Sally's mouth with the tip of her forefinger playfully.  The bubble burst.
“No mention of anything here, nor our names,” Sally told her seriously, gathering the gum into her mouth and chewing vigorously. “We are dealing with a powerful group of people.” Then she handed her a letter-size pad, a pen and an envelope.
“How can they write back to me?” Laura asked hopefully, wishing that she could keep a regular correspondence with her parents.
“Tell them not to write back till we can think of a safe way,” said Sally.
“Hi, Laura.” Alida came downstairs to the family room. “Here's some cake for you. Auntie Louise baked it herself.” She put down a plateful of cake on the coffee table.
“Thank you, Alida.” Then she turned to Sally and said, “Alida offered to teach me some karate moves. She said I can defend myself next time if anyone wants to kidnap me.”
“It's good for you if you want to learn,” Sally encouraged her, a bubble getting bigger and bigger like a pink balloon. She kept at a safe distance from Laura.
“But--” Her voice trailed off slowly into thin air as though she suddenly forgot what she had in mind to share with Sally, but now wanted to retrieve it.  The bubble exploded at last.
“But what?” Sally prompted her. Laura did not answer, but sat down on the thick fuzzy carpet behind the coffee table and began to write the letter while eating the cake.  Alida went upstairs.
“But what?” Sally prodded her again. She could not take any kind of suspense.
“But can Alida--is Alida a bit too young--I mean, if I want to learn, I must learn it well, not like a Jack-of-All-Trades,” she stammered in a subdued voice, casting her sheepish glimpse at the stairs, afraid that Alida would overhear what she was saying.
Sally cackled, knowing that Laura had no faith in Alida when she offered to teach her karate.
“Alida was born in a karate family. She's practiced it for more than five years now. If the four guys in that house were under fifth kungfu level, Alida could fight them alone. And you are just a beginner.  She's qualified to teach you and she knows how to teach, or she wouldn't offer.”
Laura blushed a little for not trusting Alida.  “Please, don't tell Alida.”
“No. I won't.” Sally went upstairs, leaving Laura to go on with her letter writing.
***
Next day after completing her homework, Alida began to teach Laura. She taught her only karate moves, skimming the practice of chi. In a conventional way to learn Chinese kungfu, one must learn how to exercise chi, and learn the martial arts, both at the same time. As Laura was not supposed to be a kungfu person, Alida, instructed by Louise, only taught her karate moves as in most karate classes.
 
***
 
“Salute to my life-thread spinners,” said Sam in the doorway when he came to their office and really saluted to the three sisters. The sisters couldn't help laughing. Sam entered the room, closing the door behind him. He sat down on the sofa so heavily that it yielded a moan of protest. Then he began seriously, “I have some news for you.” He produced two tapes from his pocket and laid them on Sally's desk, which was the nearest to him. “Listen to the tapes later. Late Sunday night, or I should say early Monday morning, according to the policeman stationed there--it was almost three o'clock in the morning--a van came and stopped before the house under surveillance. Four guys and four girls climbed out of the van and went into the house. Though he took pictures with an infrared camera, all showed just backs or profiles. Not much help. You can listen to the tapes later and get some idea of what happened inside.” He paused for a deep inhalation. “A security guard was found dead outside the warehouses in Piscataway the same night. He was lying face down in a lane between two warehouses when another guard came to relieve him. He was supposed to relieve him at twelve, but his car broke down on the way and a man coming from his office gave him a ride there.  It was already two o'clock in the morning. According to the autopsy report, his death was caused by a poisonous needle to the head.”
“What's the address of that warehouse?” asked Lois eagerly. She sat upright in her leather-upholstered swivel chair, eyes opened wide. The other two girls looked at each other knowingly, as if they shared the same brain wavelength and could communicate by it. Sally's mouth was half open, a gum wad on the tip of her tongue.
Sam told Lois the address. “It's the same warehouse Uncle Charles worked at,” Lois exclaimed. “So the cause of Uncle's death is connected with the warehouses.  I never thought of it before.”
“We sent more police cars to patrol in that area, I mean, to patrol more often,” said Sam.
“In that way, you'll only scare away the killer. You'll never find him there again,” commented Sally, reaching out her hand for the tapes, resuming the chewing of the gum.
“Then, what's your advice?” Sam probed. He passed on the information to the sisters, though it was against the rules, because he knew they were authorities on such things as poisonous needles.
“After a few days, stop patrolling in that area as before,” suggested Lois. “The patrol police really can do nothing to those kungfu guys. After stopping patrol for a while, we'll go there to check.”
Sam agreed. It was a better strategy. “Only if the killer is not scared away for good and will return to the place,” said Tricia, looking at Sam's handsome face all the time.
Sam left. He was very busy. Another murder case landed itself on his lap.
 
***
 
“Though Uncle Charles and the guard were killed in the same way, probably by the same person, there was still a difference. Why was Uncle killed at home, not like the other guard on the scene?” Sally spilled out her skepticism.
“Maybe the killer tried on the spot, but didn't succeed, because Uncle was not an ordinary guard.  Then the killer followed him home. It would be easy since Uncle walked all the way home. The killer got up in the tree, waiting for a chance. Then the stranger came and he got the chance and the cover as well,” Tricia made her deduction, entwining a strand of her golden hair between her two fingers as if they were curling iron.
“Do you think the killer had a fight with Uncle in the warehouse area?” Sally asked.
“It's a possibility, but no one can tell now since Uncle is dead. In my opinion, they didn't have a fight, because the killer, using such a weapon, is not in all probabilities a master. He's only some hitman working under a master. If they had a fight, the killer would have had no chance to follow Uncle home,” Lois voiced her conjecture.
“What's important now is to find out what's going on there and why they want to kill,” said Tricia.
The other two sisters nodded their agreement.  Then they played the tapes one after the other.
 
***
 
At the beginning of the tape there was only TV sound, like commercials. Then girls’ shrill voices and men’s angry ones could be heard.
“Girls, go to the bedroom.” It was a new voice. After a while, the girls’ voices died.
“What brings you fucking here?” said a familiar voice. The guy was called Jack, who must be the one driving Frank's car, originally living in that house.
“A bitch girl's escaped. Fucking her. We've to desert that fucking place if we dun’t wanna go to fucking cage,” said the first voice. He must be one of the four guys, maybe, their ringleader.
“What's her fucking name?” Jack's voice asked.
“Laura. She came with fucking David once to our damned club,” answered another guy.
“We really dun't need fucking kidnap her. She came to damned club only once. Girls like fucking fun. She really knew fucking nothing 'bout damned club and us,” said the Jack's voice.
“Fucking Joseph's afraid she might know fucking something 'bout David’s death. Dogshit.”
“Did the fucking big boss know the kidnapping?”
“Maybe not. Big boss too fucking busy.  Joseph's in charge of such fucking things. Fucking him.”
“Now we lost another fucking secret place.  First, damned club; then, that fucking whorehouse.”
“Dun't worry. We can find another fucking house. You know the new club, better than fucking old one.”
“Now no sonofabitch's allowed to bring any fucking outsiders.”  It seemed the ringleader's voice.
“What about that escaped bitch girl? Fucking her.”
“We sent someone to check her fucking home.  She's not returned. Dogshit.”
“So she's hiding some-fucking-where.”
“We still looking for her? Fucking her mom.”
“Joseph's taking fucking care of it.  I dun't think we need the bitch so badly. Dogshit.”
After a while….
“You want turn this fucking house into your fucking business place?” Jack's voice sounded eager.
“No. We'll find another fucking house, better still in fucking New York.  Convenient.”
“I'll suggest to Sam to tail them when they move to some new place,” said Tricia between the conversations on the tape.
“Can we use the fucking girls?” Jack's voice asked.
“No. Boss never fucking permit. But I dun't fucking care if bitch girls wun't tell Joseph.”
“Why fucking boss not permit?  Everyone need that.  Even fucking girls themselves.”
“Fucking girls already have too much of that. Boss said that would affect our fucking kungfu. That's why we are still on fucking low levels, boss said. Even Don Quicksat, fucking him, is better than us, boss said.”
“Who's that fucking Don guy?  Never heard of fucking name before.”
“He's some fucking Spanish guy, in the fucking old time, boss said.  He fought bravely with fucking windmill, using his lance, boss said.”
“If we dun't work fucking harder, boss said, to enhance our damned kungfu, we can join that fucking Spanish guy, like his follower Sancho.  Boss said,” another added.
“What do fucking boss mean?  Join the fucking guy in the old time?  He want us all dead?”  Jack sounded in panic.
“I dunno. Anyway, boss needs as fucking many high-leveled kungfu people as possible. You know the bitch trio. Ten of us are no fucking match for one of them.”
“Fifty, I would say.” Sally leaned back on her chair, looking down her nose at a swelling bubble.
 
***
 
Three days later, Sam called, saying that those people moved at midnight and the new location was in Flushing.
“We're making a plan,” Tricia told Sam on the phone. “We'll discuss it if you have time to come over.”
“I hope to be free this evening. Where shall we meet?  At same place?” asked Sam wistfully.
“At our home this time. Four heads are better than two,” Tricia said with a sly smile, as if he could have seen it.
“Fine. See you then, sweetie.” He blew over a kiss through the line.
“Have it on my lips now. Hmmmmm,” Tricia giggled with a catching gesture of her right hand at the mouthpiece and then touching her lips with her fingers.
The sisters came home just as Sam stopped his car along the curb. They went in together. Mrs. Lin was cooking dinner. Mr. Lin would be back late. Alida was teaching Laura karate downstairs. The foursome sat in the living room. “What drink do you want, Sam?” Tricia asked from the kitchen.
“Coke, please.” Tricia took a Coke and three Sprites from the refrigerator and returned to the living room, giving each a can. Sam took the can, pulled the tab and popped it open. He gave a big swill as if he had just returned from the Sahara, thirsty for two days. He sighed with satisfaction. Tricia smiled at his eagerness and contented expression; then she began to tell him their plan.
“Since we can't get any information from that whorehouse, which means that it’s useless to us, we want to make it disappear, not the house, but the people in it.”
“How?” queried Sam doubtfully, putting the empty can down on the coffee table in front of him.
“We'll disguise ourselves as their patrons and arrest the guys secretly and keep them in a secret place.  Then, get information from them. Even their boss won't know where they are,” Tricia confided.
“That's against the law,” said Sam, sounding as if taken by surprise.
“Okay. If you let the local police arrest them by legal procedures and put them into the local jail, you will probably see corpses next day,” said Tricia.
“It can't be that bad,” Sam said incredulously.
“For a master, all the iron bars can be bent easily and as for the guards, or jailers, they can be as easily conquered with chi strokes from a distance, even before they can get a glimpse of the master,” Lois supplied.
“I never knew that. But I still can't join in your plan since it's against the law. Sorry. Not until I quit the police job,” Sam apologized.
“Who said there're no good cops?” Sally sniggered at Sam ironically.
“So, what's your plan to solve these cases?”  Tricia eyed Sam.
“I don't have any plan yet.” Sam's candor sounded so innocent.
“Dinner's ready,” Louise called from the kitchen. The sisters went to help set the table. Alida came up from the family room. Louise gave her a tray with dishes on it, which Alida carried downstairs for Laura and herself. She began to eat with Laura. They became friends now in spite of the age difference. Louise and the four young people sat down to dinner. Sam looked at the four dishes and a big soup bowl. One contained fried bean curd, cut thin, cooked with black mushrooms and canned baby corn. One was sweet and sour pork chops. The third was scrambled eggs with green peas. The last plate had a fish on it cooked in soy sauce. In the soup bowl Sam saw beef slices and vegetables like carrot, celery, cabbage, potato and tomato.
“Everything's delicious,” said Sam, “but the sweet and sour taste on the chops is different from the taste of the sweet and sour chicken in the restaurant.”
“This is home-style. We use white vinegar while the restaurant uses cranberry sauce,” said Mrs. Lin. Then Sam took another piece of sweet and sour chop.  He liked the sweet and sour flavor lingering on his taste buds.
Dinner finished. Sam patted his stomach, saying, “Are you satisfied tonight, boy?” This made the girls and Mrs. Lin laugh.
“You can come to share our meals whenever you like, Sam.”
 
***
 
Sally had a date with Henry Wong in a Chinese restaurant newly opened on Rt. 35. They ordered sweet and sour shrimps, fried chicken with rice, barbecue ribs and a soup called Eight Delicacies, which included abalone, sea cucumber and shark's fins. He told her about his grandfather's funeral. His grandfather died at the age of ninety-one. “It's really bliss,” he said. “If I can live to that age, I will think God is especially kind to me.” He stroked his chin with his hand. His chin was a bit longer than ordinary, which denoted longevity according to Chinese face reading. His grandfather had such a chin. He inherited the genes. He was always proud of it.  He was not handsome. Who could say a guy with a long chin was handsome? But he looked manly and sexy.  And he was a nice guy. That's more important. And he really loved Sally with all his heart and soul. That's most important.
“My grandfather always said that if you wanted to live long, you should be content with whatever life bestowed on you and take everything easy. That's his tact for longevity,” Sally quoted for him. He nodded his agreement. When the dishes were served, he let Sally touch every dish first. It was a Chinese etiquette to a guest and men used it toward ladies nowadays, particularly boys to their girlfriends.
When their eating process went only halfway, a beeper sounded. Henry took out his beeper and looked at the number. “My company beeped me. Maybe something's wrong with the equipment.  Sorry, I have to leave early. I'll call you later.” He finished the food on his plate and left in a hurry.  Henry paid for the dinner on his way out. So when Sally finished, she just left a tip on the table.
Sally went outside where two guys were waiting for her. They didn't come near to assail her directly. They were holding some kind of cylinders and sprayed some misty liquid in her direction. When she took in the quaint smell and held her breath, it was too late. She went limp and sank to the ground in a stupor.
As she came to her senses, she felt herself tied tightly and her Stop-Motion Xue was jabbed. She was confined in a small dark space, maybe a closet. She found that she couldn't speak either. It meant that they struck at her Mute Xue, too, afraid that she would cry out when she came to.  What would these guys do to her next? Would they rape her? Would they torment her? It was really hard to forebode. How could she notify her family? Did they know by now that she was missing? Could they find her? Supposing she was on her own, she must think of some way to escape all by herself. She calmed down and maneuvered her chi, trying to break through the stricken xues first.
 
***
 
Next morning when the family gathered in the dining room for breakfast, Sally didn't come down. “She must have returned late from her date last night,” Tricia assumed. It happened sometimes.  She would come down later. So after breakfast, Alida went to school accompanied by Louise, Mr. Lin to the video store, and Lois and Tricia to their office. When she was back at home from school, Louise brought Laura breakfast and then went shopping. It was not until eleven that Louise came back from her shopping mission. After she stored away all the things, she went to every room to clean and put things in order. Sally was not in her room. Louise thought that Sally already left for the office.  She just went about her housework.
When it was twelve and Sally still did not show up in the office, Lois called home. Louise answered the phone. “She's not in her room. I thought she was in the office. I have no idea what became of her. Did she come back last night?” Anxiety was evident in her voice.
“Is her car outside?” Lois asked her mother. Tricia looked at Lois, trying to read from her face what happened to Sally.
“Her car's not here,” Louise peeped out from the living room window.
“Don't worry, Mom. I'll take care of it,” Lois comforted her mother. After letting the receiver slip into the cradle, Lois told Tricia that Sally seemed missing.
“Do you know Henry's phone number?”  Tricia asked.
“No. I never asked Sally for it,” replied Lois. They had no clue where Sally could be. They had to wait for something to turn up before they could take any steps.
 楼主| 发表于 3/23/2017 09:08:49 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 23

Sally could not be sure what time it was, whether it was day or night, since the room was dark and had no windows. But it did not matter. She just kept maneuvering her chi. Those who hit her xues were on lower levels; so it was not hard for Sally to break through the xues.  She only needed time.
“What will we do to her?” A voice came from outside the small room.
“Joseph will come here to take care of her.  Maybe, Boss wants her as a hostage.”
The door opened. Sally kept her eyes shut as if she were still unconscious.
“Shall we feed her?”
“Better not. Starve her for two days. Then she wun't have much strength to resist when Joseph comes to take her.”
“They'll remove her from here?”
“Yes. To a safer place.” They closed the door and left. Sally could sense it was daytime, though her eyes were shut. Probably, the Joseph guy would come to take her after midnight. She still had time to break through her xues.
 
***
 
“I can't imagine how she could be kidnapped,” said Tricia when they were back home in the evening. Their father came home early, but none knew what to do or where to search for her. Tricia had called Sam with the bad news. Sam had sent out the missing girl's information to all the patrol cars in New Jersey, but nothing turned up. It was twenty-four hours since Sally had left for her date yesterday. All of a sudden the phone rang in the living room. Everyone jumped. Ransom notice? Not likely. After the third ring, Tricia grabbed the receiver.
“May I speak to Sally?  This is Henry.”
Tricia let out her long held breath in nervousness. “Hi, Henry. This is her sister, Tricia. Sally never came home since last night. What happened to her when she was with you yesterday?” She scratched at the nape of her neck. Others fixed their gaze on her, hoping to detect something from the expression on her face, which was expressionless.
“Everything was all right when we were in the restaurant, but I got an emergency beep from my company; so I left early. She was still there when I left. What could have happened to her?” His anxiety was apparent and genuine. So he could not be an accomplice, her instinct told her.
“Where did you have dinner?” asked Tricia.  Henry gave her the name and address of the restaurant they’d had dinner last night.
Lois and Tricia drove to the restaurant. As soon as they pulled into the parking lot, they noticed that Sally's car still sat there in a space. They went into the restaurant to make inquiries. The woman behind the register counter said that nothing unusual took place yesterday in the restaurant.
“Anything happen outside, like fighting?” asked Lois.
The woman shook her head. “No. If there was a fight in the parking lot, we'd surely know it. Even I would go out to have a look.”
Nevertheless, Sally was missing from the parking lot. That was obvious since her car was still there. They came out. Tricia would drive Sally's car back. When she neared the car, she detected a faint trace of the smell of chloroform left on the hood of Sally's car. “Lois, they used chloroform,” Tricia told Lois who was going to her own car.
“Let's go home first,” said Lois, getting into her car. Since Tricia had no key for Sally's car, she had to pick open the door and put the wires together to start the car. A good detective is a good thief and a good thief can be a good detective if he wants to.
 
***
 
By evening Sally had undone the Stop-Motion Xue and the Mute Xue as well. The last problem was the bondage. The rope was thick, not easy to break. There was nothing in the dark room to cut the rope with, but if there was one, her hands were tied to her sides. She could not use her hands. She writhed the fingers of her right hand, wanting to loosen her fingers out of the bonds first. She shrank her thigh muscle a little. Her fingers moved sideways then slipped out between the loops. She worked out her right hand the same way. She could use her hand to do something now, but at that critical moment. footsteps were heard outside the small room. She kept her eyes shut. Those people only knew kungfu. They did not know anything about chloroform: how long the effect could last. If they had acquired some chemical knowledge, they would have known that the girl in their capture had long been past the comatose stage.
“Get her into the trunk of my car,” someone shouted out the order. Sally opened her eyes just a slit and saw this was the tall man they had fought with in New York. He must be the Joseph guy. Two guys picked her up, one holding her arms right under her shoulders, the other her ankles. They carried her out of the dark room, out of the bright big room, down the staircase, through a side door into the garage; a Lincoln Towncar was standing there with an open trunk. They let her down into the trunk and closed it. They didn't even notice that one of her hands was outside the bonds. Sally began to fumble in the trunk. Someone got into the car and started the engines. The car was moving now and after a while, accelerating.
Sally had two choices. One was to free herself. The other was to be taken as a captive to their secret lair so she could know where it was, but if there was someone whose kungfu level was higher than hers, she would be at a great disadvantage and her family would be at a great disadvantage, too, since they would use her to threaten them. She could never escape then and have no way to notify her family. She would be like a poor lamb on the altar waiting at the mercy of her captors, so better to escape first.  She fumbled and fumbled and suddenly came across a screwdriver. She wriggled her body so that her freed hand could grasp the screwdriver. She used the sharp end to pry at the rope, filling it with her chi to strengthen its prying force. With one loop of the rope broken, she worked the bonds loose by degrees. She could feel the car at high speed. She estimated that it might be half an hour or so before the car slowed down and stopped at last. Then a garage door creaked open. The car moved in and the engine was killed. She could hear Joseph get out and slam the car door shut. The rope was off her now, lying aside like a dead snake, or more like the skin of a snake cast away. She was ready to spring out. Though she was starved for two days, thanks to the dinner in that restaurant, she had eaten more than enough there and now she still had enough strength to fight. Joseph seemed to go into the house. Two guys came into the garage, talking.  They came to fetch her into the house, she thought. When the trunk was opened, she leaped out head first, and hit the two guys on their Mute Xues to make them unable to give any vocal noises, then on their Stop-Motion Xues. The two guys fell on the ground, couldn't even moan. Sally grabbed both of them with both hands and thrust them into the trunk and shut it.
Since she did not know how many people were in the house, she better play safe and escape first. She opened the garage door and slipped out. She memorized the house number and the surroundings, then ran to the corner of the crossroads to look at the sign to commit the name of the street in her mind. At that time, she heard a commotion coming from the house.
Joseph waited in the living room for the two guys to bring Sally in. A long while later, he got suspicious and came to the garage to check. There was no one in the garage. Where were the two guys? They must be disciplined, he thought. Then he opened the trunk and saw the two guys inside, staring at him, unable to speak. He pulled them out one by one and undid their xues. He sent out all six men in the house to chase Sally with guns in hand. His order was to kill her if they could not catch her alive. Sally jumped onto a fire escape on the side of an apartment house, hiding in the shadows and watching them rush by underneath her in different directions. She deliberately took out a gum from her pocket, and stripping it of its paper clothes, shoved it into her mouth. She climbed up on the steps, humming a tune to herself, until she reached the fourth floor. She saw a window opened a little and lifting it a bit wider, she slipped inside, kicking at something under the window. It was an empty Coke can, which rolled down the room on the bare floor, making some noise. Sally tried to mew, but she was not sure if the tenant in the room kept a cat or not.
“Who's there?” a man's voice asked groggily. Sally crouched down and mewed, just to try to fool the man. “Susan, you can't keep sneaking into my room.” Susan was the cat kept by the next door neighbor. “You made a mess in my room last time. You remember?” He dared not offend the cat because it belonged to the girl next door and he wanted to court her. “If I take her stray cat to her, she'll thank me at least, maybe smile at me.” Thus thinking, he turned on the lamp on the nightstand beside the bed.  He was still half-asleep.
It was a bedroom. A man in his thirties opened his eyes wide to look at Sally. Beholding a pretty young girl, the man became fully awake. “Oh, God bless me,” he exclaimed. “My wife just eloped with some guy. God sent you to me.” He tapped the empty half of the bed. “Come and lie down here. I'll treat you nicely, so you won't desert me.” Sally stood up and walked to the bed. She poked at his Sleep Xue so that he fell asleep again. He would wake up after two hours. Sally used the phone on the nightstand and made a call home. It was four o'clock in the morning. After two rings, the phone was picked up.  “Hello?” It was Mrs. Lin's voice.
“Hi, Mom. It's me, Sally,” she talked in an undertone.
“Where are you? What happened to you?  Are you okay?” Concerned questions bombarded Sally.
“I'm fine now. It's a long story. Can I talk to Lois?” Sally responded with three short sentences.
“Hi, Sally. What do you want?” Lois was already on another line in her bedroom.
“I'm in China Town, Manhattan.” She recognized the street. “Can you and Tricia come? We may have a fight ahead.” She gave Lois the location where they would meet. A pop sound came through the line.
 
***
 
Lois and Tricia arrived at the location forty-five minutes later. Sally stepped out from a shaded porch of some building, her face hidden behind a big gum bubble. She got into the backseat and changed into the black catsuit they brought for her. There were three oxygen masks on the backseat, too. They drove to that street and parked their car a block away. The three girls got out, each carrying a mask. Led by Sally, they ran to the house from which Sally had escaped. They put on the masks. Sally and Lois went in by the front door and Tricia went round the house to the back door. All silence and quietude inside, though they could see lights somewhere. The front door wasn't locked. They pushed in. Tricia came in by the back door. No one appeared to accuse them of intrusion. They went through every room and the basement, even searched all the closets. The house must have been abandoned. “That's their old tactic,” Sally said, blowing a bubble again, then sucking it in. “It seems that they are always prepared to move, so they can move quickly without leaving behind any trace. A sly hare has three dens, as a Chinese saying goes.”  The girls had learned Chinese since their childhood, taught by their mother at home.  In high school, Lois had learned French, Tricia, German, and Sally, Spanish.  They were trilingual.
When they got home, it was six thirty in the morning. Mr. and Mrs. Lin were already up. Mrs. Lin was preparing breakfast in the kitchen. Mr. Lin was reading a local newspaper. As the girls came in through the front door, Mrs. Lin stepped out from the kitchen into the living room where they all sat and listened to Sally's adventure last night.
“Next time, if you see a cylinder, prepare for anything and everything. Anything can come from a cylinder. The poisonous needles must have been sprung out from some kind of a cylinder, too,” Mr. Lin warned.
“How could they know that you had dinner in that restaurant?” asked Tricia.
“They must have followed me. From what I heard, it was schemed beforehand to take me as their prisoner and use me as a threat to our family,” said Sally. She spat out the gum into a napkin, ready for some breakfast.
“All of you must be extra careful,” said Mrs. Lin. “And--” A burning smell drifted into the living room from the kitchen. “Oh, my breakfast!” Mrs. Lin rushed back into the kitchen.
 
***
 
At nightfall, the three girls took every precaution and made every preparation before they left home. They drove to the warehouse area in Piscataway and parked their car a few blocks away. It was cloudy, but as the banks of the clouds sailed forth, driven by the wind, the nicely curved crescent moon would sometimes peep out from between the clouds, or figuratively speaking, through the cloud windows. It looked like a well-pruned eyebrow of a fashion model. To keep her company and comfort her loneliness, some stars roamed around her high in the sky, twinkling like the eyes of Augus. All was quiet except for the occasional chirping of the crickets somewhere in the grass and bushes. The three girls walked to the warehouse in question. Sally jumped into a thick-leaved tree, facing the overhead doors of the warehouse. She didn't forget to put a gum in her mouth and chewed it in silence. Tricia sprang up onto the roof of the warehouse that Uncle Charles had worked in. Lois soared up onto the roof of the deserted warehouse. Both hid in the shadows. They wore tiny communications equipment like spies would use.
Hour after hour slipped by. Nothing happened. Not even the supposed regular patrols of the security guards. Either no guards were willing to work here, or they refused to patrol and just stayed inside, the girls conjectured. They came down to meet in the street just before daybreak, went to their car and drove back home in crestfallen, downhearted frustration. Sally spat out the gum into the trunk of a tree and it stuck there. They got some sleep in the daytime and went there again at night.
For three nights at a stretch, they waited there in vain, a waste of time and energy, but they didn't want to give up. Success always results from perseverance--and sometimes patience.
It was Sunday night and raining lightly. They stationed themselves at the accustomed posts. The hour hand moved to one o'clock in the morning. Not even a ghost was seen. It seemed a failing night again. Just as disappointment befell them, two black cars with headlights off glided to a halt before the big overhead door of the forlorn warehouse. A guy got out from the backseat of the first car and went to the door. He pushed some button and the door rose noiselessly. He walked in first. The cars followed. The lights inside were on all night and all day. The warehouse had windows as high as the second floor level at the sides. There were catwalks on that level. Someone thrust his head out from a window and looked down at the lane between the warehouses. Not a soul. Tricia watched from the opposite roof with a pair of binoculars. She could see the inside through the windows. Fifteen minutes later, another dark car came and drove into the warehouse since the bay door still hung high up. Two men jumped out from the third car, carrying a black briefcase. Four people stood opposite them. One lifted a briefcase of the same size and color. He opened it to show the new arrivals. Tricia could see the contents in the briefcase, small plastic bags of a white substance. One of the newcomers lifted his briefcase and opened it to show all the cash inside. They exchanged the briefcases. One party checked the merchandise and the other the paper money to see if they were genuine. Then they nodded to each other, a sign of gratification. Why don't they kill each other like in some movies, Tricia thought.
During the trade process, Lois slipped down and stole inside and hid herself behind a stack of plastic crates. She flung out a coin, which landed in the right rear tire of the third car. The tire went flat. But these people were busy with their own dealings. No one noticed it. When they finished their business, the two men got into the third car. As they started to back out, they found something was wrong. They heard police sirens when they got out to change the tire. Sally had called Sam. The other two cars were blocked by the third one; so the other party could not escape, either. A guy rushed to the door and closed it. All the lights inside went out. The police came, surrounded the warehouse and shouted at the men inside with a megaphone. All was quiet and silent inside as if no one was there. The police were wondering if this was a false alarm, a juvenile prank. Sam arrived. Tricia and Sally got down from their hiding positions. The reinforcement came and the police began the attack. Lois leaped out from her hiding place to the door and pushed the open button and then rolled back into the hiding place. Since she wore a black catsuit, no one inside had noticed her movement. These drug dealers were surprised to see the door opening automatically. They crouched behind the cars and fired at the doorway to prevent the police from coming in. The police fired back, but were in no hurry to enter the warehouse. The police were waiting for their ammunition to run out. When the men inside ceased firing, the police began shouting as if they would dart in. The men inside fired again.
All of a sudden, Tricia saw a guy leap out from the warehouse window towards the warehouse across the lane, carrying a black briefcase. He wanted to escape with the money or the merchandise. Tricia ran after him. The guy broke through a window into the other warehouse. Tricia jumped up and followed him through the broken window.
In the deserted warehouse, as lights filtered in from the open door, Lois could see shadows moving from her hiding place. She glided on the ground towards the third car. Two men hid behind the third car, near the nose.  In the gliding process, Lois slung out two coins, which hit both men on their Stop-Motion Xues. Lois knew precisely where the xues were when she could discern the shape of a body.  She had practiced this skill in the dark first at lit incenses. The lit incenses stood in some container and Lois was fifty feet away.  She should hit the red end of the lit incenses without fail. Then she should move farther, say, a hundred feet away. Then she had practiced at a plastic body marked with all the xues. She had thrown tiny pebble fragments at it from different angles and different distance. When a xue was hit, a chime like “Ding” flowed out from its mouth.  It was a specially made equipment model for that purpose.
When she saw the two men sink to the ground, she slid to the second car. The front door was open on this side. A man hid behind it, firing at the open bay door. Lois cast a coin towards him with the same result. She jumped into the air to the first car.  The trunk was open.  A man was lying on top of the car, using the trunk lid as a shield.  Lois hit him on his xue and he rolled from the top to the ground with a thud. Someone fired at her, but she wore the bulletproof catsuit. She landed on the other side of the cars and rolled into a dark corner. She reckoned there were still two men that needed to be disarmed. She looked from her hiding place, but no shadows could be seen. She instructed Sally, whispering into her minuscule mouthpiece, to fire into the warehouse. Then she heard a gun firing back from inside the first car. She rolled towards the first car and could distinguish a shadow in the backseat since the door was open. She lunged at him, striking his xue with her chi. Then she heard a gun firing above her. A guy hid on the catwalk. Lois was now in the car. She rolled out to the wall and stayed there in the dark. She took out her infrared binoculars and surveyed the catwalk and found a man perched there with a gun in hand, facing the doorway. She put away the binoculars and soared to the catwalk to some footholds behind the man's back. When her feet touched some iron bars, she made a little noise on the old frames. The man turned to look. As he saw a shadow behind him, he hesitated. He was not sure if it was his comrade or not. Lois already struck his xue and he crumbled on the catwalk. She jumped down and found the switchboard and turned the lights on.
The police knew from Sally through her communications with Lois that all the bad eggs were subdued inside the warehouse. They dashed in to handcuff them and put them in custody.
Lois learned from Sally between chewing her gum that Tricia chased a guy into the next warehouse.  She ran to the lane and flew in through the broken window.
Tricia got inside and fell on her feet on the ground. The guy was nowhere to be seen. This warehouse was lit up, but there were so many stacks of wooden boxes, Tricia could not check all the aisles between the stacks. She rushed to the front side. There was an Exit door and a guardroom. When she reached there, she saw the rogue holding the guard as hostage. The door of the guardroom was closed. She could see them through the window. The thug was talking on the phone so loudly that she could hear some broken words through the closed door and window. “--a car full of gas--no tailing--” He was speaking to the police. He put down the phone and pointed his gun at the guard's head, glaring at Tricia through the windowpanes.
“Where are you, Tricia?” She suddenly heard Lois on the earplug.
“I'm before the guardroom in the front. Don't let the guy see you.”
The phone rang inside the guardroom. “Good. Everyone beyond one hundred feet of the car,” he barked into the phone and slammed down the receiver. He waved the guard to go ahead. The guard opened the door and stepped out. The thug waved Tricia to go before the guard. Tricia obeyed and walked to the exit door, followed by the guard, then by the thug. Before Tricia could push open the exit door, she heard a thud and clatters behind her. She knew the inevitable had happened. She turned around and saw the guy collapsed on the ground, the gun and the briefcase lying by his side. The guard turned around to look, too, surprise on his face. He must be thinking that the guy had a sudden serious heart attack. Lois appeared from behind a stack of wooden boxes.  She had used her chi to hit the thug on his xues from a distance. They opened the exit door to let in the police.  The man was taken away together with his gun and his briefcase.
 
***
 
Next day at breakfast, Lois filled in her father and mother--the latter just returned from the chaperon trip to the school--about the warehouse, the guard killed near it and her suspicion of the connection between Charles's death and the illegal trade in the deserted warehouse.
“I really cannot see why they wanted to kill Uncle Charles at home when they had dealings in that warehouse,” said Sally. At the mention of the Charles’s death, the barely healed wound in their hearts seemed reopened and the long-suppressed sorrow revived. They lost their appetite in deep sighs and red eyes. The girls wiped away some tears in the recollection of a vacation together.
It was more than ten years ago and Alida had not been born yet. The two families rented a yacht and cruised on the sea off the coast of Florida. Mr. Lin was operating the yacht while others were sitting on the front deck for a picnic. It was a shiny day with a halcyon sea. Uncle Charles was playing a guitar and Mrs. Pan, his wife, was singing an Italian song, “Santa Lucia”. The girls clapped their hands to the music. Mrs. Lin was taking the food out of a basket. There were a few yachts sailing on the sea. The gulls were hovering about the sails. The girls threw crumbs into the air and the gulls swooped down and caught them in their beaks. Suddenly a faint cry of “Help!” came from a yacht fifty yards away, but kungfu people have unusual sharp hearing. Uncle Charles put down his guitar and stood up. He flung a can of Coke towards the yacht and leaped high following it. Almost halfway before he would fall into the sea, he reached the can he had slung away before and caught it under his foot. He inhaled deeply like a balloon filled with helium and used the can in midair as a foot supporter and jumped higher, swooping down to the yacht in question. The can touched by his foot lost its kinetic energy and fell directly into the water. The kinetic energy in the can turned into the supporting force for his foot. Charles landed on the railing of the other yacht and jumped down on the deck. The crying came from the cabin below, so he rushed down the companionway into the cabin. He saw a man looking like an Arab beating a girl with a whip.
“Stop!” Charles roared. The man turned to face him. “Who are you? You are trespassing.” He spoke English with a strange accent.
“Why are you beating her? That's against law here,” said Charles.
“I am on the open sea. American law can't reach my yacht. This is my slave. I bought her. So I can do whatever I want with her.” He seemed to have every reason for his behavior.
“A slave? In the late twentieth century?” Charles wondered. “I'm not a representative of American law, but I'll act as a representative of justice. Justice has no boundary and territory.” Then Charles turned to the girl. “Who are you? Are you really his slave?” Charles knew such things still existed in Arab countries.
“I was kidnapped and sold in the slave market and he bought me. But I'm not a born slave. I want to go back to my family,” the girl wept. Charles turned to the man. “Although you are not the one who kidnapped her, kidnapping is a crime everywhere. Will you send her back to her family?” The man looked at Charles, fully aware that he was no match for Charles if he wanted to fight him. So he promised to send the girl home when they were back in their country, but he really had no intention of keeping the promise, he just wanted to get rid of Charles for the moment. Charles knew that such a man who could beat a poor girl was not a trustworthy man; so he jabbed a special xue on him. The man suddenly felt weak and had no strength left even to lift a whip.
“What did you to me?” he cried. “I'm sick now.”
“You are not sick. You will be normal again after a year when you send the girl to her family. Remember that, but if you don't send her home, you'll be always weak,” Charles warned.
“You did some magic on me?” The man looked frightened.
“You could say so.” Charles wanted to keep the man in fear so that he would not break his promise. Then the girl, having stopped weeping, begged Charles not to leave her here with the Arab, but to take her with him. She could call her parents to come to take her home. Charles thought it a better idea and turned to leave the cabin followed by the girl. When he got on the deck he saw that Mr. Lin had pulled their rented yacht alongside the one he was on, so he just jumped over, taking the girl under his arm by her middle. Mr. Lin steered their boat away. When Charles told everyone the story, they were sympathetic to the girl and satisfied with what Charles had done.
 
***
 
Lois and Sam were in the interrogation room. The two men in the third car were members of another drug-dealing group. They confessed everything and the other members were arrested. The five men belonged to the Black Panther, which dealt in drugs, too. For safety’s sake, the five men were kept in a secret place still under police custody, but not in the local prison. That's where Lois and Sam went.  They set up an interrogation room there. The man who had tried to flee with a briefcase of money was called Tom, the ringleader of the group. The other four men only knew that they were engaged in drug dealings, and no more. So they would question Tom alone. Lois had poked the Null-Kungfu Xue of all the five guys so that they had no more chi inside, that meant they could no longer fight with chi. They lost their kungfu. They were just like ordinary people. If they could still use some karate moves, they were weak, had no more strength than common people.
Before Lois and Sam came here, they had gone to see all the evidence gathered by the police. There was a small cylinder the police got when they searched Tom. At one end it was pointed. When a button on the side was pushed, a poisonous needle spat out. That was the murder weapon for Charles and the other guard. So Tom was the real murderer, but in the whole big Black Panther case, Tom was only a pawn, a hitman. The whole case wouldn't be deemed solved yet with the arrest of Tom. Only two small, attached cases could be deemed as solved. There were still loose ends and a big one to be tied up.
Tom had first wanted to ask their attorney to be present when he was questioned, but he had heard of the story of the lawyer asleep, so he didn't make that demand. What's the use of a sleeping attorney present when he could not defend him?
“Why did you kill people?” asked Lois.
“We didn't want them to report to the police,” Tom answered candidly.
“Were you sure when you killed them that they knew something illegal was going on in that warehouse, so that you must kill them to keep your secret?”
“I'm not sure, but we must play safe.  If the killing can assure us of safety, we just do it.”
“Why didn't you kill the first guard on the spot?”
“I tried. I issued several needles, but none worked.”  He shook his head, still looking baffled.
“So you followed him home?”
“No. The first time I failed, I just reported to my contact--”
“Who's your contact?”  Lois cut in.
Tom hesitated. Lois knew what he was thinking and fearing.
“You are in the same situation with your people whether you tell it to me or not. They will kill you as well, if we don't keep you in a safe place.  But if you tell me all you know, you'll be in a position to negotiate with the court.”
Tom thought for a few minutes, then said, “Okay. I tell you. My contact is Joseph. I only report to and accept orders from him.”
“We know him. He'll soon be hauled in,” said Lois.
“Then he told me that I should go to such an address, at such a time, on such a date, and kill the guard.  He's really a potential threat to our business, Joseph said.”
Lois fully understood now that they had arranged to have David instigate Master Chang to challenge Uncle Charles to a fight on that night, using Master Chang as a distraction and cover since they also knew his habit. Tom didn't follow Uncle Charles home that night. He simply got there before Uncle Charles came back and hid in that tree, waiting for the right time to issue his lethal needle.
“Where did you get the cylinder with the poisonous needles?”
“Joseph mailed it to me. We never met. I reported to him on the phone, using some jargon.”
“What's his phone number?”
“He called me. I never called him.  So dun’t have his number.”
Lois believed that he had told the truth. On their way out, Sam asked that if the first time they hadn't killed Uncle Charles on the spot, how they could have killed him at home.
“Because Uncle Charles was very much afraid to be bitten by mosquitoes. So when he stayed, or walked, outside at night in the mosquito season, he would ooze out his chi all over his body, almost half an inch thick, to protect him from mosquito bites and also from the attack of so tiny a weapon as the needle. That’s why the needle could not penetrate the chi surrounding his body. Only a first-class master can do that. And if a kungfu person can do that, he is a first-class master. But when he fought with another master, he had to use his chi to fight and couldn't ooze it out like that to protect himself at the same time.  So the needle could get into his head unawares.”
 
***
 
“Bravo, Laura!” Sally applauded as she saw Laura practicing boxing on the hanging sandbag in the basement, which was partitioned into two sections: family room and family gym. Since their grandfather died, they’d had to sell that big house and move here into a much smaller one, but that was fine with everybody.  The goal of their lives was not to live in a big house.
“I'm tired, fatigued, exhausted.” Seeing Sally, Laura complained like a spoilt child before its mother. “Alida insists that I should exercise boxing and weight-lifting.”
“That's for the purpose of enhancing your strength. If you've learned all the karate moves, but don't have enough strength, how can you bring a guy down when you hit him? It's real life, not like in a movie in which a person being hit just falls by himself.  That's acting.”
“Do you mean that the more sweat I'm letting out now, the less blood I'll shed later when I really fight a bad guy?” She wiped her face, then her neck with a dry towel.
“You are right, absolutely right.  By the by, any letter to your parents?”
“Not yet. I didn’t have time to write recently. After practice, I simply have no strength left to stir my fingers, let alone to hold a pen,” she grimaced.
“That's all right. They know you are safe with us,” Sally comforted her.
“You see, here comes my dear little coach.” She faked a nervously frightened expression. “Hi, Alida. Can I drink some water before the exercises? If I don't, I'll have no more sweat coming from the pores to lubricate my skin.”
“Hello, Laura. I must go to school right now for some activities.  Sorry, I can't teach you today.”
“I don't know if I should feel sad or glad.  Anyway, enjoy yourself, Alida.”
Sally could not help but laugh and patted Laura on the shoulder. Laura pretended to be wounded and collapsed on the floor, adding, “Stop chewing your gum, please, Sally. I am so exhausted that I can't see any muscle movement, not even your cheek muscle.”
 楼主| 发表于 3/26/2017 07:56:24 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 24

The girls were planning their next move.
“Sam said that the FBI is closing in on the Black Panther. So the five men we caught in the warehouse were transferred to them,” Tricia said.  She was tapping the eraser end of a pencil on her desktop, a habit of hers when she was at a business meeting that required serious thinking.
“Now our main task is to find out who the big boss of the Black Panther is,” said Lois. “He should be a master.” She didn't look at her sisters, but turned her swivel chair to the cabinet behind her, seeking some files. She pulled one out, opened it for a brief scan and shoved it back, then pulled out another and pushed it back again after a glance at its contents. She repeated this several times, unable to find the one she wanted.
“Do we need to go to Chicago to check on the master brothers?” asked Sally, who was chewing gum and blowing a bubble alternately while blurting out some words at intervals.
“That's my plan,” said Lois. “What do you think, Tricia? You stay here. Sally and I go. No need for all of us to go there.” She closed the cabinet door and turned round to face her sisters, her eyes on each of them by turns.
“That's fine with me. I always listen to my big sister,” Tricia said archly and obediently, shoveling a bang of her golden hair back into place.  Lois said nothing, just smiled.
“That's fine with Sam, too,” said Sally, chuckling and stealing a glimpse at Tricia, then blowing a big bubble to hide her face behind it.
“What about Henry?  He'll be heartbroken,” Tricia counterattacked with a straight face.
“He's away for his brother's wedding.  So no heart will be broken,” Sally grimaced, the bubble having shrunk into her nicely shaped glossy-lipped mouth.
 
***
 
On their arrival, Lois and Sally went to police headquarters in Chicago. They explained the reason why they were there. A lieutenant received them and said, “We got their pictures on a hidden security tape. They robbed a jewelry store two nights ago. We just got the warrant and are going to their place for the arrest and search.”
“Can we go with you?” asked Lois. The lieutenant knew their fame and said, “Glad to have you to help me. I was informed that these two brothers are kungfu people. It's hard to catch them alive. Either they are shot dead or they escape. Before they moved to Chicago, they were in San Francisco. The police there wanted to bring them in for questioning, but they escaped. Chicago is such a big city. Only recently, we found their whereabouts.  Now let's go.”
Lois and Sally rode with the lieutenant in a car without any police sign. In fact, all the cars and vans that joined in the action had no sign at all. They wanted to take the brothers by surprise. It seemed that the brothers lived in an apartment building. It was harder to block their escape, but easier for them to flee. Plainclothes policemen dispersed to every corner around the apartment to be best able to block their escape. Lois and Sally rode the elevator to the eighth floor with the lieutenant and four detectives. When they knocked at the door of Apartment 802, they heard rustling noises inside, but no one came to answer the door. A detective picked open the door and rushed in with the drawn gun. Others followed him in, but they found no one inside. The place looked a mess, like someone left in a hurry. The windows facing the street were open. Lois ran to the windows and looked out. She saw two figures jumping and leaping from roof to roof. They were so swift and nimble that in a few minutes they were out of sight. Lois noticed the lieutenant and Sally standing by the windows, too. The detectives searched the rooms and didn't find anything worthwhile. The plainclothes policemen surrounding the building only paid attention to all the exits, never raised their heads to look at the windows.  “Where will they go now?”  The question whirled in everyone's mind.
 
***
 
“From the direction they ran off, I can conclude that their next stop is the Big Apple,” said Lois when they were back at home from Chicago.  “And I can see that they love big cities, easy to hide.”
The three sisters sat in the living room, watching the news on the small TV. Their mother was in the kitchen cooking dinner. Alida was tormenting Laura in the basement with her karate teaching, as Laura put it. Suddenly an anchor's voice attracted their attention. “A body was found in Central Park this morning. Some joggers reported it to the police. According to the ID found on the body, the man's name is Joseph Hsu.”
Nothing involving the Black Panther surprised them now. “He's wanted by FBI,” observed Tricia.
“That's why he should die,” remarked Sally, with a wad of gum on the tip of her tongue, about to be filled with air. The next piece of news was virtually shocking to them.
“A man was arrested this afternoon under suspicion of drug dealing. He said he didn't know he was transporting cocaine. His name is Frank Perez.”
An invisible bomb exploded among the girls, who were stunned and agape. Tricia was about to hold up a can of Sprite to her lips, but froze in midair, spellbound at the news. After a while she recovered. She called Monica, who was not in her apartment. Tricia tried her parents' house and got her there.
“Hi, Monica. This is Tricia. Have you watched the news?”
“No. What's on?” asked Monica in a curious voice.
“It's about Frank,” Tricia quipped.
“What is it? Did he turn up dead?” she asked anxiously in a whisper. She doesn’t want her parents to hear the bad news, Tricia thought.
“Not that bad. He's arrested,” Tricia revealed a little more. A sigh of relief came through the line.  “What for?”  Still eager.
“Suspicion of drug dealing.” Tricia gave out the last detail she knew so far.
“How could that be?” The voice sounded exasperated, a little louder.
“No idea. Will you go with me to see him tomorrow?  It's in Morristown.”
“I'll meet you in the parking lot of the police station there.”
 
***
 
On the morrow they met in the parking lot. Monica came early and sat in her car waiting for her former roommate. She watched the entrance to the parking lot without even daring to blink her eyes.  Tricia arrived a little later. Monica got out of her car as she saw Tricia pulling into an empty space.
“Sorry, Monica.” Tricia climbed out and as Monica approached she said to her, “I'm really busy on some murder cases, so didn't have much time recently for Frank’s case. At least we know now he's fine physically.”
They went into the building. Tricia knew a sergeant there and had called him beforehand. He arranged for them to meet Frank. When Frank came into the room where they were waiting, he looked fine, even gained a bit of weight.
“I didn't do anything wrong,” he said to his sister when he was brought into the room.
“Calm down, Frank,” Monica appeased him. “This is Tricia, my roommate in college. She's a detective now. Tell her everything since you disappeared.”
“I didn't disappear. I just didn't contact my parents.” He buried his face in his hands. His fingers slowly slipped into his hair as his head sank lower. “ How's Mom and dad?”
“They are worried about you.”
“I am sorry. I didn't do it on purpose.” He shut his eyes, reliving the nightmare from which he wanted desperately now to wake up. Who would wish to rot in the jail so young?
“What happened to you, then?” his sister prodded.
Frank often went to some bars in the evenings and on weekends. A guy of the same age befriended him.
“What's his name?” asked Tricia.
“Everyone calls him Jack.”
Tricia knew whom he meant. As they became intimate, they drank together and sought pleasures together. Sometimes he came to the garage Frank had worked at before and took him to some expensive restaurant after work. He spent money generously. Frank envied him.
“You want to earn more money?” he once asked Frank, seeing the envious sparks in his eyes.
“Sure. Why not?” said Frank matter-of-factly. Yes. Everyone wants to earn more money. That's the first rule in life.  But some people often forget an important epithet before the word “money”: honest.
“Some big boss I'm working for needs drivers, not chauffeurs, just drivers.” He looked at Frank attentively.
“What would the drivers do?” Frank asked, showing more interest than he really had.
“They just drop some goods off for customers,” Jack told him casually, like it was an ordinary job.
“That's easy work.” Frank wanted Jack to know that he could do things more difficult than that.
“You'll get more money than now, but on some conditions.” He looked at Frank tentatively.
“What's the conditions?” Frank was curious, but not suspicious.
“First, you should not contact any other people, including your parents and relatives.” He bent one finger in counting.
“Why?” Frank grew a little doubtful, but the wish to earn more money was stronger.
“They will distract you from work. The big boss dun't like it.” He looked away from Frank.
“That's no problem.” Frank imagined that he was driving in an expensive convertible.
“Second, you can't go anywhere by yourself when you ain't working.” He bent his second finger.
“What do you mean?” Frank was really not smart for such brain games.
“You'll make friends among us. We'll go everywhere together,” Jack promised.
“Deal.” They struck hands. Frank never gave a second thought to anything. A lot of money, all hundred-dollar bills, floated across his mind's eye. The bills fell all over him as he was lying on a king-sized soft bed. A girl was lying beside him on the bed. He gave her half the money. But he could not recognize her face, because he didn't know who she should be, an imaginary girlfriend. He tried to put on the face of a famous movie star, but it didn't work. All the female movie stars had more money than he did. He wanted to put on the face of some pretty models on the commercials, but that didn't work, either. He could never get in contact with any of them. Finally his sister's face floated before his inward eye. “Oh, no,” he groaned. This was the face he was most familiar with. He had seen it almost everyday since he grew up.
“I'll let you know when you'll begin to work.” Then they parted.
On that Friday, Jack came to the garage and waited outside. When Frank finished work, they rode away in Frank's car. Jack gave Frank directions while he was driving. He was so high-spirited that he sang along with the song drifting out from the car radio. He didn't even memorize the route they were going. He just drove where Jack pointed till they reached a wooded area after almost an hour. They went on a narrow muddy path between the trees, then came in sight of a bungalow. They parked the car before it and went inside. It was made of wood, small, but cozy. “You'll live here,” Jack told him. “I'll come to see you from time to time.” Jack drove away in Frank's car. Frank could go nowhere now since he was deprived of any means of transportation and had to stay here till these people thought of him. Left alone, Frank checked the new dwelling. He found that he had almost everything he needed: food in the refrigerator, utensils, bathroom stuffs, clean clothes, washing machine and drier, TV and VCR, a small cabinet full of video tapes, mostly movies, except one thing--a telephone. He would be a hermit now, a modern hermit.
The first contact he got from the outside world came three days after he was confined in this comfortable free-to-go jail. Two cars screeched to a stop before the bungalow. A man jumped out of a new Buick, the newest model, and came to the door. “Frank?” he asked when he opened the door for him. “You have work now.” He handed Frank a big fat envelope. “You are paid monthly. This is your pay for the first month.” Frank took it, peeping into the envelope and estimating that it might amount to three thousand dollars.  Not bad.  He put the money away under the mattress of his bed.
“What must I do?” he asked the man.
“Here's the car. You must deliver it to the customer and leave it there.”
“How do I get back?”
“You follow us. We'll give you a ride back.” He got into another car, an old Chevy.
 
***
 
Jack never showed up again. He got the delivery once or twice a month. For rest of the time, he enjoyed himself as best as he could in this secluded place. Whenever the assignment came, people would bring him all the necessities and his monthly pay. His job was always to drive a car to the customer--always the same make and model, the same color. He was not an inquisitive person. As long as he was paid, and paid handsomely, he didn't care if he delivered the same car a thousand times over and over. When Frank got familiar with the delivery routes, the men dropped the car to him and drove away first. They would wait there for him or pick him up there later, then drop him at his nest.
Yesterday when Frank went through Morristown, he suddenly got a flat tire just before a garage. He thought to himself, “I'd better fix it here.” So he went into the garage to talk to the mechanic. He helped to take down the wheel when he felt something inside the tire. He rolled the tire into the garage and asked the mechanic to get the tire off the ring to see if there was anything wrong inside. When the tire was ripped off the ring, both he and the mechanic were stunned. They found small white plastic packages inside the tire. The mechanic knew instantly what this stuff meant and called the police. Frank had no idea what all these packages were. He just waited for the mechanic to fix his tire so that he could continue on his way. When police came, they discovered more packages in the other three tires and the spare tire. Frank was thus under arrest. When he was questioned, he said he didn't know what they really wanted him to deliver. He was told to deliver the car. “If I knew what I was really delivering, I wouldn't fix the tire in the garage and ask the mechanic to take the tire off the ring.” The mechanic made a statement to verify his confession. So the police believed him and went easy on him.
Tricia talked to the sergeant and vouched for Frank's innocence. Later Frank was allowed bail. “It is not safe for you to go home,” Tricia told Frank. Monica agreed. “Come with me. I'll put you in a safe place,” Tricia said to him.
 
***
 
Lois rented a single house in a secluded place for her forthcoming plan. They kept Frank in there, warning him not to show his face for anyone to see, for his dear life. Frank knew the seriousness of the situation by now. He was not stupid.  He had seen sufficient killings, involving drug dealings on TV and in movies. He wouldn't let these guys kill him.
Now it was time to put their plan into action. Lois rented a van and drove to Flushing that night together with Tricia and Sally. They were disguised as men. It took them an hour and a half to reach there and find the address. It was a single house on a side street just off Main Street. Convenient location for them, too. They parked the van in front of the house and leaped out. The door chime was heard when Lois pushed the button. After a while, a man opened the door. “Well, gentlemen?” He looked at them inquiringly. It was supposed to be an underground brothel. The men who came were either old patrons or recommended by some of the old patrons.  Now, these three men were new.  He never set his eyes on their faces before. He waited for them to say the code name of some old patron. From the look in his eyes, Lois knew that there must be some secret sign or password or something that they should respond with. Forget it! She thrust the forefinger of her right hand at the man's Sleep Xue. As the man fell, she caught him and slowly let him down on the floor of the hallway. Sally was the last to come in and shut the door behind her. She stayed where she was, just inside the front door, beside the sleeping villain.  She never forgot to put a gum in her mouth.  Lois and Tricia went ahead to search for other guys. Tricia looked into every room downstairs while Lois went upstairs.  “Who's that?” a guy yelled out the question from the upstairs hallway and came forward.
“A patron,” Lois replied. She made her voice sound hoarse and masculine-like, but it was still a bit shrill. The guy stepped closer smelling a rat, just as Lois came up and poked her finger at his Sleep Xue. She found no one on the second floor. No patrons that night. Tricia came up as she finished checking the first floor and the basement and found no one else, either.
Then, they went to the third floor. It was an attic.  They pushed the door open.  Four girls were inside, some lying on the lower bunks and some sitting on the floor, smoking cigarettes. They didn't even look their way and seemed indifferent to the two strangers.
“Where are the two other guys?” Lois asked. Now all four girls sat up and focused their eyes on them: woman's voice coming from man's clothes. That was something demanding their attention.
“Who are you?” one of the girls asked.
“We came to rescue you,” replied Lois.
“Rescue us?” another girl doubted. It seemed unbelievable to them. Good things never happened to them before.  They dared not hope for any.  They all stared with incredulity.
“Don't tell me you are here doing such things of your own free will,” said Lois. Tears began to travel down the cheeks of some girls.
“Will you leave here with us?” Lois asked gently. The girls got to their feet. “Gather your things and come to the first floor,” Lois told them. “Where are the two other guys?”
“They are off duty today and gone out for merrymaking,” one of the girls answered. Lois and Tricia turned to descend. Passing the second floor hallway, Tricia picked up the other sleeping villain by the collar and dragged him downstairs, his shoes making a tad-tad noise on the carpeted staircase steps. Lois opened the inside door to the garage and pushed the button to open the overhead garage door.  She went out, started the van and backed it into the garage. Tricia and Sally each dragged a sleeping thug into the garage. They opened the back door of the van and threw the thugs inside onto the van's floor. The girls came down now. Tricia waved them to climb into the back of the van and sit along the sides. Sally got into the back, too, so she could be ready to react if anything went amiss. Tricia shut the van's back door. Lois pulled the van out, halting in the driveway. Tricia pushed the close button of the overhead door of the garage and as the door was sliding downward, she ducked and leaped out. When she got into the front seat, Lois moved onto the street and the van roared off.
On the way Sally made it clear to the girls that they were still in danger of being caught and taken back by the other two thugs, so they must hide in a secret place till the danger was over. The girls agreed to that. When they reached the secret house, Frank was already asleep. It was three in the morning. Tricia went inside to open the garage door. Lois backed the van in. Tricia closed the garage door and opened the back door of the van, letting the girls out first. Lois got out of the van and led the girls into the living room. She cautioned them to keep absolutely quiet when they lived here. No noise to rouse any suspicion among the neighbors. This house had three bedrooms. Frank occupied a small one. The girls had to share two big ones, but better than four squeezed in the attic. The two thugs were put into the basement, still in profound slumber. Lois left the girls to shift for themselves for a while before they went to bed. She and her two sisters returned to their own home, saying they would come tomorrow.
 
***
 
Tricia and Lois went to the secret house after they returned the van to the car rental office. They brought a lot of food and other stuffs. The girls would put the things away. Lois and Tricia went down to the basement. They slapped the rogues awake and poked at their Null-Kungfu Xue so that they didn't have any kungfu to perform. Frank was assigned the task of taking care of the two thugs. After they cleaned themselves and ate some food, Lois began to interrogate them.
“Who's the big boss?” she asked.
“We dun't know. We never see him.” one of the thugs answered. The thugs knew that they fell into the hands of some kungfu people, not police or the FBI. If they refused to answer questions, they would certainly suffer from tortures, the kungfu tortures, different from any torments in any other places one could imagine. If one's Pain Xue was pricked, he would feel enormous unendurable pain from within, worse than being whipped or any outside torments. If one's Itch Xue was jabbed, he would feel unbearable itching all over inside that he could not scratch. A story went back to the olden time in China. A magistrate, when he was interrogating a culprit, never beat him, but had his subordinates brush the sole of the culprit’s foot very lightly till he felt the itching on his sole unbearable and he would confess to everything the magistrate wanted him to confess. This torture was better than beating and more humane. So the thugs offered information to please her. “We only know Joseph.  He's the one we must obey.”
“Joseph's dead.”  Lois wanted to sound stern and menacing.
“A guy call hisself Billy Jiang's coming to take his place.  We listen to him now.”
Lois remembered him. He had played the role of a phony customer that reminded Lois later of the Wizard of Oz and lured Lois to his office, where she had got a cut on the arm with a poisonous knife. How could she forget him? Thanks to him, she got another girl's arm, the color of the skin looking a shade whiter than her own. More beautiful? She had to wear long-sleeves now. “Do you know where Billy Jiang is?”
“No. He come to us. We dun't even have him phone or beeper number.”
She could foretell that, Lois mused. For safety sake, Lois pricked their Sleep Xues again. Let them sleep the clock round when she was not here. Frank and the girls already introduced themselves to each other to save Lois the procedure. There was a TV in the living room and a VCR. Lois got some tapes from her father's video store for them to kill the time. She didn't want them to get bored and make some stupid fatal blunders.  She warned them, too.
 
***
 
“Can I tell Sam about it?” Tricia asked. They were in their office now.
“No. Better keep it from him for the time being,” said Lois. Just then, there was a knock at the door.  “Come in, please.”
The door was pushed open. Sam filled the doorway with his six foot three stature and one hundred and fifty-eight pounds of muscle. “Hi, girls.” He grinned his toothy grin with the greeting.
“Hi, boy.” Tricia smiled her artful smile with her breezy words. Sam laid two tapes on Tricia's desk on his way to the sofa, on which he sank, causing a pathetic groan from its bottom.  “Any news?” he asked casually.
“Nothing except on TV,” Tricia cooed.
“Any progress on the cases?” Lois asked Sam. She didn't want Sam to ask more questions.
“Only more death, if you think that's progress,” Sam sighed, pressing his finger and thumb on his temples and leaning back, only causing another groan from the old sofa.
“Are the five men still in one piece?” asked Sally. “It's not easy to catch them. So guard them like treasures.” Her mouth was set in chewing movement.
“Yeah, in one living piece. You can be at ease,” said Sam, winking at Tricia.
“Fine. And Joseph's in one piece, too, only in one dead piece,” said Sally scoffingly.
“How was he killed?” Tricia asked Sam curiously.
“The coroner couldn't give any definite conclusion. My guess is something called Death Xue as you will put it.” He had increased his knowledge about kungfu now.
“So, Central Park is not the murder scene?”
“No. It seemed the body had traveled on a long journey and was dumped there.”
“Anything found that can be traced to the original murder place?”
“Nothing. The Black Panther is as sly as a fox. You can’t even hope to find a murder weapon for people who die in this way.”
“No,” Tricia agreed. “The murder weapon is the finger plus chi.”
It was lunchtime. Tricia and Sam left for lunch. “Let's listen to the tapes,” said Sally, her cheek muscles twitched busily.
“Good.” Lois went to Tricia's desk to pick up the tapes, then back to her own desk. She put a tape into the player.  She could not fast-forward it when it was all gossip. Maybe, there was some important information between the gossips like some lucky garbage picker finding jewelry in the rubbish.
“You two supposed to be in your whorehouse. Why fucking you come here?” It was Jack's voice.
“When we back there in morning, no fucking one's in there, not even the fucking girls, like all vanishing in magic or taken by fucking vampires. Now we out of job. We dun't have any girls.”
“You report to fucking Billy yet?”
“How we can do that? We even dun't know where find fucking him.”
“He laid fucking ambush for the bitch girl, but one of his fucking men blinded by the girl's hair, a long ponytail, it was said, whipped across his face.  It's unbelievable.”
“What become of the man? He's blind and no more fucking use for big boss.”
“Never seen or heard of him since then.”
“It was rumored bastard's killed and buried in the fucking back garden of boss's place.”
“I feel we going downhill. So many brethren killed by hands of our own fucking brethren.”
“How's Frank?”
“He's fucking lucky. Bailed out and disappeared.”
“He really know fucking nothing 'bout us.  We just use him to deliver our goods.”
“But boss's rule is: better kill a thousand wrong bastards than let one slip by.”
“I's afraid our future fate, either killed by police or by big boss.”
“Or the second boss, or the third boss.”
“You mean we have more fucking bosses over us?”
“Yeah, you right. And the fourth boss a woman. You like killed by a fucking woman?”
“How come we have so many new bosses overnight?”
“You stupid asshole. You got mosquito's IQ. They ain't new. They are old fucking brethren. Only come here recently.”
 
***
 
“Hello, may I speak to Lois?”
“This is Lois.  Who's calling?”
“I am Craig Pu, you remember? You came to my house once about my neighbor Michael Dong.”
Lois remembered the master living in Queens.  “Oh, yeah, Master Pu.  How can I help you?”
“It's about Michael. He's hiding in my house now.”
“Why does he want to hide?  From whom?”
“From his big boss, he said. He joined some kind of organization when he was much younger. Now he wants out and afraid they will kill him.”
“Okay. I'll come to talk to him.” Lois hung up. Can this be a trap? A trap set up in Master Pu's house? Not unless he's their brethren, too. But I can't be sure. Lois went there with Tricia and Sally as backups. When they arrived there, it was already dark.  Lois just used her cell phone to call Mr. Pu from her Mitsubishi. She didn't want to go in, maybe right into some snare, if there would be a snare. “Hello, Master Pu. It's Lois. I'm now just in front of your house in my car. Tell Michael to come out to my car. It's dark. No one will see him. I'll get him to a safe place.” She clicked off after Mr. Pu acknowledged that he got the message. Just one long minute later, a man ran out of Mr. Pu's house towards their car. Sally opened the rear door and let him in. Then Sally retired to the far corner of the backseat and turned halfway to him with alert eyes fixed on him. She even forgot chewing the gum in her mouth.  The car shot forth noiselessly.
Lois had rented an apartment for him in a quiet back street of New Brunswick. Now she went to drop him there. Once they were in the apartment, Lois told him to stay here without letting anybody notice him. She would bring him everything he needed from time to time till it was safe for him to leave. Then she asked, “Do you know who your big boss is?”
“I really don't know, but once Joseph told me to drop an important package to a magnificent mansion in Long Island.  I think it may be the boss's residence, but I'm not sure.”
“Did you see anyone inside?”
“I just went as far as the guardhouse. Some guard took it and sent me away.”
“Why do you want out?”
“If I'm no longer of any use to them, or if they suspect I'll let the cat out, they'll kill me even though I won't do that. But they trust no one. It seems as if you live with a cruel king or a tiger. You always fear to lose your life. When I joined, I had no idea what their doings were. And now--I'm really afraid. They kill people like mowing the grass, even their own people.”
“What are their doings?”
“They have different groups. Each group has different business, like one would be in charge of the drug trade, another in robbery and burglary, still another the secret whorehouses.”
“Which group are you in?”
“The one in whorehouses. It's the house I live in, just near Master Pu's.”
“How can you get out?”
“We are allowed to go out. The girls are not. Today's my day off. They won't begin to look for me till tomorrow when I don't show up.”
“What if Master Pu can’t keep you safe?”
“I have to go back tomorrow.”
“How many girls there?”
“Three. And only two guys. Me and the other one.”
 楼主| 发表于 4/2/2017 07:45:38 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 25

Lois and Sally left soon. Tricia stayed with Michael, asking him more questions. Lois and Sally drove back to Queens again. As they reached the house Michael mentioned, it was after midnight. They parked the car in front of the house and got out. Sally walked ahead to the door with Lois right behind her. At her knock, the door opened immediately as if someone knew they would come and was waiting for them. A man appeared in the doorway. Before he could open his mouth, Sally hit his Sleep Xue. Then she picked him up, putting him on her shoulder. She went to their car after checking that no one was on the street. She opened the trunk, put him in and shut it. Both girls went into the house. They searched every room. In one room there was a patron. Sally pushed the door open without any warning and saw two bodies on the bed in active nudity. She blushed imperceptibly owing to her dark skin. “Put on your clothes and stay in the room,” she cried to them and closed the door. Lois found two girls in their room and told them what she had told the girls in the other whorehouse. The girls gathered their things and followed her out of the house and got into the backseat of the car. Sally stood outside the door for a good while, chewing gum, then opened the door again. The couple already had their clothes on. They stood, each on either side of the bed, staring at the door when it opened slowly. A gum bubble appeared first, followed by Sally.
“I'm a detective,” she told the patron after sucking in the bubble. That was correct. She was a detective, only she omitted the word ‘Private’.  “Someone reported that unlawful business is going on here.” She looked at the patron. “I'll let you go this time.” The patron murmured something like thanks and fled as fast as he could as if a devil was after him. Sally told the girl to gather her things and come with her. The girl thought that she was under arrest, but could not resist. Sally took a blanket from the room. The girl went to her room to get her things and followed Sally downstairs.
When they were back in New Brunswick, it was four o'clock in the morning. Lois led the girls into the apartment, followed by Sally, who wrapped the guy in the car trunk in the blanket and shouldered him in. As the three girls from the whorehouse entered the apartment and saw Michael, they stopped short, gazing from Michael to Tricia to Lois and Sally. Lois pushed them in and said, “Sit down. I'll explain later.” After everything was made clear to the girls, Lois added, “Now you are in the same boat. You must get along well. Don't do anything stupid.”
Lois undid the guy of his Sleep Xue, but hit his Mute Xue and Null-Kungfu Xue and told Michael to watch him and bind him hand and foot when she was not around. Then she left with Tricia and Sally and went home for a few hours’ sleep.
 
***
 
It was Saturday night. So Mr. Lin stayed late in his video store. After midnight he left the store and went home. When he turned into Sixth Avenue, he heard the blasts of guns. He drew near and saw three goons in black firing at his house. The front door and windows had been shattered. Then a guy threw something like a grenade onto the porch. It exploded and brought the whole porch down, together with part of the front wall. Mr. Lin was concerned about the safety of his family and infuriated at the rogues.  He cast a handful of coins towards them like a shower of metal, which hit all three people here and there on the body, some on their xues and some penetrating into the flesh. They fell on the ground and their guns dropped. They couldn't move, couldn't cry, lying still like the dead. Mr. Lin stopped his car and leaped out. The house was on fire. Police cars and fire engines arrived soon. The firefighters were struggling with their hoses and then torrents of water were thrown out into the fire. Mr. Lin ran round to the backyard and found his family safely gathering there on the far side, looking helplessly at their house in flames.
When the first gun report was heard, Mrs. Lin and the three girls jumped out of their beds, and grabbing their clothes, cell phones and a few important things, ran downstairs to the family room, which was more than half under ground level. Alida and Laura also woke up at the sound. They crouched on the floor and changed their nightgowns into their daily clothes in dark. They went through the basement door to the backyard where no gun firing came from. Lois called 911. Then the three girls went to the neighbor’s backyard and around the neighbor’s house to the front street just in time to see their father coming and performing the marvelous deeds. As the firefighters were working, neighbors came out to watch and policemen were busy controlling the situation, Lois suddenly saw a shadow slip down from a tree across the street. She started to chase it, followed by Tricia and Sally. They were familiar with this area, so in no time they gained on the shadow, surrounding it on three sides. The shadow turned about and pointed something at Lois. Lois issued her chi and hit the shadow, which tumbled onto the ground. The three girls closed on the shadow, which laid there immobile. They found a man in black. Lois took off his face disguise and recognized him as Billy Jiang. His skin looked blue now. Who would poison him? Then Lois noticed something in his right hand. It was a cylinder.  Lois could account for his death now. This guy sent out his poisonous needles at Lois, who issued her chi, which sent all needles back into him. His own needles poisoned him. The girls went back to the fire scene. The fire was now gradually under control. They went to check the three thugs, who had attacked their house, and found all three were dead, dead by the poisonous needles, too. Billy Jiang had followed them here and hidden himself in the tree. If after the attack, they could escape, excellent. In case they couldn't escape, Billy Jiang was instructed to kill them so that they wouldn't fall into the hands of the police alive.  He reckoned that he could escape later, but “Justice has long arms.” The idiot didn't know the idiom.
 
***
 
The fire engines left. The corpses were removed. The police took statements from them about how they were attacked and acted in self-defense. Then the police set up the yellow tapes round the front and kept the media that arrived later at a distance. Some neighbors came up to express their concerns and asked how they could help. Mrs. Lin thanked them and said that they would soon leave here to find a safe place. The neighbors went back to their respective homes.
Most things in the house, if not ruined by the fire, were damaged by the water. They could not fix the house until they collected the insurance money. Two cars parked in front of the house were damaged, too. Tricia's Mazda was parked that night at the curb across the street; so nothing happened to it. Mr. Lin's car was good. Two cars were still in a ready-to-move state. But where could they stay till the house was fixed? They gathered in the backyard to discuss it. “Before we can capture the Black Panther, our family is in jeopardy,” said Lois. “The greatest disadvantage we have is that our foe is in darkness while we are exposed in broad daylight as if always ready to be attacked. So that's why they know where to strike and we don't.”
“So what shall we do now?” asked Sally, who was still in such a bad mood that she was this once out of the habit to enjoy a gum.
“We must go underground,” suggested Lois.
“What do you mean by that?” Tricia queried.
“For now, the whole family must split. Mom and Dad take Alida to live somewhere else, to keep out of the way of the Black Panther. We will find another place to live. We can contact one another by cellular phones, use cell phones only.”
“Sounds good, but exactly where will they go and where will we go?” Sally looked at Lois inquisitively.
“Do you think, Tricia, that Mom, Dad and Alida can stay in Mrs. Gallagher's place for a while?”
“I don't know. You'd better ask her, but it's not the best time to call people at home. We have to wait at least till after dawn.”
“Okay. Since we can do nothing right now, let's go into the house to see what we can save,” said Mr. Lin. So they all went into the house through the back door into the kitchen. The basement was flooded now. As the kitchen was in the back, not much damage was done to it. They opened the refrigerator and took out some food. Sleep was out of the question now. After eating, everyone got a clean garbage bag to put personal things in, like clothes still in a state to wear and jewelry not marred. The three sisters took all the detective equipment that could yet be utilized. Lois called the AAA tow-trucks to get the damaged cars to the garage.
Laura felt sorry for what had happened, but Sally told her that it was not her fault.
After daybreak, Tricia called Mrs. Gallagher. She explained the situation first, then asked her Mom Nancy whether her parents and Alida could come to stay in her place for the time being till their house was fixed.
“Sure,” she replied. “My place is secluded enough that those bad guys can never find it. Only they must squeeze into my small condo, if they don't mind.”
“Thank you, Mom Nancy.  No one will care for anything else before the life and death crisis.”
Therefore, Mr. and Mrs. Lin took Alida to Mrs. Gallagher's place in Mr. Lin's car.
“Don't worry about us. We have two secret places to hide,” Lois consoled her parents. After Mr. Lin's car rolled away, the four girls got into Tricia's Mazda. “Now where do we go?” Tricia asked.
“Drop Sally at the apartment.  We'll stay in the secret house,” decided Lois.
 
***
 
Tricia called Sam and told him what had happened last night. Sam wanted to come to their secret house, but Tricia said no. “We must keep a low profile for a while. You can call me on my cell phone.”
By Lois's strategy, their three cars changed colors and plates, and every time they went out, they put on a disguise. So the Dauntless Trio disappeared except to a few people. When Lois called Mr. and Mrs. Chang and told them the situation, Mrs. Chang invited the girls to stay with them, but Lois declined, saying, “The Black Panther knows your house. If we stay with you, we'll bring you disaster. We are safe in a secret place. Don't worry.  We will contact you when everything is all right.”
 
***
 
The FBI was tipped that a small bank in New York City was involved in money laundering. So the FBI made inquiries into that bank. They found that the owner of the bank in question was Mr. John Zi. When Mr. Zi was queried about the money laundering, he said that he knew nothing about it.  Although he was the owner, he said, he never went there to check the accounting records or any other documents. He consigned all the banking business to the manager, Mr. Yang, who, in his opinion, should be an honest person. When FBI agents went to question Mr. Yang, they were surprised to find that the manager had committed suicide overnight. He made a statement typed from the computer and left on his desktop, saying that he alone was responsible for the accusation and he did it without the owner's knowledge of it. On the statement he imprinted his fingerprint from the thumb of his right hand instead of signing it. His swivel chair behind his desk was tipped over. He was lying on the floor with a hole in his right temple. A pistol lay at his side with his fingerprints all over it, not just on the handle, but even on the barrel. No other injuries were on the body.
When Sam learned the news from a friend working with the FBI, he told it to Tricia. “Hmmm. It's really skeptical. We never actually suspected John Zi as he has such a good reputation. Now we'll work in his direction to see what we can discover,” said Tricia.
While Tricia talked to Sam on the phone, Lois waited eagerly to hear the news, which was finally imparted to her after Tricia folded up her cell phone.
“Before Michael told me that he had delivered some package to a mansion in Long Island, I have never connected Mr. Zi with all our cases,” sighed Lois. “Now we have at least two facts to suspect him. First, he is a master. Second, he resides in a mansion in Long Island. I don't know how many mansions are in Long Island, but I do know only one known master lives there. A master plus a mansion, that's enough to make us suspicious of him, and now the bank scandal.”
When Lois had pretended to write the biography for Mr. Zi, she had got a list of all his businesses from his personal secretary, Helen. She still kept it in their office. Since that night when they were attacked, they had put up a notice on the office door, saying that they were indefinitely on vacation abroad. Occasionally one of the sisters would go there after midnight to check if everything was all right in the office. Around one o'clock antemeridian, Lois drove there and parked her car in the parking lot of Foodtown, a supermarket across the street from their office, which was open twenty-four hours. She stealthily went into their office like a burglar. The only difference was that she had a legal key to open the door. She used a penlight to shine her way to her desk and took the list from the drawer. She pocketed it and left the office furtively. She did not want anyone to see her go into and out of the office.
Next day, Lois picked up Sally from the apartment and drove her back to the secret house. They would stay together for a while. Lois planned to spend several nights checking one by one all the business locations that belonged to Mr. Zi. They hoped to find some hard evidence in one of them.
It was very easy to pick the lock on the back door of the restaurant. They went into the kitchen and flicked on the flashlights. They looked into every possible corner, including the storage room and the walk-in freezer. They couldn't find anything illegal. Nor could they in either the gift shops or the laundromats, or in the bakeries where Sally helped herself to some of the cakes. One of the employees was suspected of the theft, a scapegoat. They even went to the theater after everyone left, but found nothing worthy of the trip. It seemed that if Mr. Zi was engaged in anything unlawful, he did not mix up the legal businesses with the illegal ones, that is to say, he kept normal businesses on one track and underground businesses on another track, with the exception of the small bank.
 楼主| 发表于 4/9/2017 08:01:29 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 26

When Lois and Tricia went to stay in the secret house, they made some adjustments in the arrangement of where each of the occupants would sleep. Frank moved out from the small room and slept in the den on the couch. Lois and Tricia used the small room for themselves, putting up a cot. Laura slept in one of the big bedrooms, which the other two girls occupied. They knew each other already and soon became good friends.  Then Sally came to stay in the house. So Sally slept in the den while Frank had to transfer to the living room to sleep on the sofa.
It was also illegal to have so many people sleeping in that house, but it was more important to keep it that way while they were taking care of things more seriously illegal to law and order, and more destructive to the communities.
One day, Lois was still asleep after the all night sleuthing work when her cell phone rang. Lois was alert even in sleep.  She woke up to answer the call.  It was from Mr. Chen.
“I called your home. It seemed that the phone was disconnected. I could never get through. I had to call your father at the video store to get your cell phone number,” he said.
“That's all right,” said Lois. Then she told him about the occurrence at her house and at last asked if anything happened that he desired her knowledge.
“Yes,” he said. “My wife had a twin sister who married John Zi, which you were already aware of, I think. Before her sister died, she gave my wife her diary for safekeeping. She wished that my wife would read it after her death, but my wife didn't want to pry into other people's secrets, though they concerned her own twin sister. She has kept it for so many years without even touching it. Recently she told me that her sister often appeared in her dreams, as if she had something to tell her, but couldn't do it in the dreams. So my wife took out the diary from the safekeeping place and started to read it.  All her sister wrote about was John Zi.  We think you'll be interested in reading it.”
“Can you tell me on the phone what it’s all about?”
“It's really a long story. You'd better read it for yourself.”
“Okay. I'll come tomorrow.” She lay down again for some more sleep. Tricia was in a profound sleep and never disturbed by any noise, though she turned more than once.
In the evening after dinner, Lois nudged Sally to follow her to her room and told the other two girls about the phone call from Mr. Chen and about the diary.
“The diary can't contain anything about the serial killing and the drug trade,” said Sally.
“But it may provide us with some kind of useful background about Mr. Zi and may lead us to find out something concrete against him, or Mr. Chen wouldn't demand our attention,” said Lois.
 
***
 
The three girls arrived at Mr. Chen's house in the morning. They directly indulged themselves in the perusal of the diary without standing much on social ceremony. It was virtually the excerpts from the diary. The deceased sister, before her death, had torn all the important pages from her diary and put them into a folder. That was what Mrs. Chen got and kept all these years. The first page dated back about twenty years ago.
 
March 15
 
Fortune often goes together with misfortune. The misfortune is that my parents died so unexpectedly in a car accident. I would mentally be prepared if they died of old age, though I would still bewail their death, but now it has torn my heart into pieces. Then I got half of their bequeathal, if that can be deemed as fortune, though it's really a fortune given to me. I gave half of the half of my legacy to my husband, John Zi, who opened a Chinese restaurant. He works so hard and the business flourishes.
 
July 8
 
It is late, so late. John never comes back so late. It's not like him. I'm worried.
He's back at last at three in the morning, said he met a friend on the way back and they went to a bar to have a drink. Weird. John never goes to bars, never drinks or smokes, never even has close friends in Brasilia. We arrived here only a year ago.
When he wants to lie down on the bed, he doesn't even change into his sleeping gown as usual until I remind him. What's wrong with him? Is he my dear John?
He even has a little more muscle than before. Does drink cause muscles to bulge a bit?  I don't know.  Drink is men's stuff.
 
July 9
 
How can he change his manners, his habits overnight? The only things that haven't transformed about him are his face and his voice, or I will definitely think he's not my John. John was never rude to me, but after I remind him, he seems to improve.
 
July 12
 
Today I brought him to my sister's house. He seemed surprised to see my twin sister, didn’t even recognize her husband. They are such good friends in addition to the relationship of brothers-in-law.
 
August 8
 
He changed our family room into his study and put a new lock on the door. He bought a safe to furnish his study. Now he does whatever he likes and never consults me like he usually did. He seems to have more strength and can lift a heavy square rosewood table alone. I always helped him before to move this table.
 
August 17
 
He often comes home late. When I ask him for the reason, he just tells me to go on sleeping. He seems to have a lot of money recently and bought me a diamond ring for our anniversary, of which I also reminded him a month ago lest he forget it like so many things. He forgets my birthday. He forgets so many things we shared before.  He even forgets where we keep things.
 
November 5
 
We moved to America. We bought a house in Brooklyn, New York. We opened a restaurant here; the one in Brazil was sold. My sister and her husband moved with us to Brooklyn, too. They bought a house a few blocks away. My beloved sister just wants to keep close to me.
 
February 24
 
I begin to develop heart troubles, though not serious. I have to take medication regularly. John has opened another restaurant in the three months since we moved here. He never tells me where or how he gets the capital.
 
June 11
 
My heart disease develops quicker than I can imagine. Even the doctors are puzzled. John often gives me the medication himself and watches me swallow it, though he often says that he is busy and can't keep me constant company. Sometimes I wonder if he gives me wrong medication, which makes my heart disease worse, but he's my husband.  Shouldn't I trust in him?
 
October 21
 
Recently I had heart attacks and was sent to hospital twice. John seems very busy with his business. He hires a nurse to look after me, but whenever he's around, he gives me medication himself as if he's really concerned for my health.
 
There were more of the excerpts from the diary, but the sisters didn't have time to read to the end. What they had already read was enough for them to have a general idea of what had happened twenty years before.
“Once your dad asked me why I wouldn't accept a favor from this man,” Mr. Chen stated after the three girls finished the perusal. “It's because after his wife died, whenever he came to my house, he flirted with my wife. My wife was furious and drove him away. Since I knew John never exercised kungfu, I wanted to give him a lesson one day, and we began to fight. I didn't use my chi, but to my total surprise, I found that his kungfu was better than mine. Though he left soon, I was still in great wrath and ire so that when I was practicing, the chi jammed at my waist and as a result I was paralyzed.” He heaved a deep sigh.
“What happened to him later?” Lois asked.
“He suddenly moved away from Brooklyn and later I was told that he bought a mansion in Long Island.  I haven't had anything to do with him ever since.”
Lois thanked both Mr. and Mrs. Chen for confiding their family secrets with her, and the three girls bade them adieu.
 
***
 
From Michael, Lois learned the address of their new secret club, which was in the Bronx now. It had originally been a club. They just bought it and used it as a private club. The three sisters arrived there around midnight in a rental van. They were wearing catsuits. They parked their van right in front of the double doors. They crept out of it and Sally went ahead to push the door open, but it would not budge. So Sally had to knock at it. When the door was opened, Sally recognized the doorkeeper, his bulky build towering over her. The doorkeeper recognized the two girls, too, who had come to their old clubhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and had been the sole reason for their club moving to the present location, though it was much better than the old one. Generally, big guys had more strength and less agility. So before he could react, he was jabbed by Sally at his Sleep Xue and fell on the floor with a heavy thud. The girls walked to the spacious hallway where a staircase curved up to the second floor. A guy on the second floor landing saw them and made a shrill whistle, a warning to his comrades. Then two guys rushed out from the right wing, wearing oxygen masks and holding two big cylinders. Seeing the cylinders, the girls quickly took out their oxygen masks from a large pocket in front of their chest and put them on their faces just as the misty sprays descended on them. When the two guys saw that their cylinders did not work this time, they threw the cylinders aside, tore off the masks and drew out their swords, which were carried on their backs. The girls put away their masks, too.  Sally stepped up to them, loosening her long whip that was entwined round her waist. Lois jumped onto the second floor landing to fight the guy above. Seeing a girl jumping up at him, the guy flung daggers at her, two at a time.  He had many daggers on a belt in front of his stomach. Although soaring in midair, Lois caught the hilts of the daggers and using them, she warded off the other daggers flying towards her in quick succession.  Then she threw them back at the next pair of daggers coming her way.  The two daggers clanked against the another two daggers the guy had slung. The four daggers met in midair and fell down on the floor. The guy wanted to get more daggers, but Lois already landed on the second floor. Another guy came out from a nearby room, holding an ax in his right hand. The guy who whistled whipped out another two daggers from behind his hips.  Now Lois and Sally each fought against two guys.
Tricia went to the left wing of the club. She did not see anyone till she came to the cafeteria where three guys sat around a table, eating and drinking, talking and laughing. They did not hear the whistled warning. But when they saw Tricia coming in, they knew it was an intruder. They slung cans, bottles, whatever was on the table, at Tricia, who leaped onto a table two meters away, dodging all the ejections. One of the three guys took a folding knife from his pocket. He unfolded it and flung it at Tricia. Tricia kicked the knife, sending it back to pierce the guy in the shoulder before he had time to shirk. He pulled out the knife and blood followed. Another guy hit two xues on his shoulder to stop the bleeding and tore off one of his shirtsleeves and wrapped it on the wound. Since the wound was not serious, the guy could still fight. The three guys were closing in on Tricia. They used their chi to attack. Tricia sprang onto another table three meters away. Their chi hit the table and the chairs around it and shattered them to pieces. Standing on another table, Tricia clapped her hands as if in appreciation of the feat they had just performed. The guys flared up in censure and indignation and ejected their collective chi towards Tricia again. And again Tricia leaped onto still another table and the table she had stood on a while ago became the victim, together with the chairs surrounding it. The guys used their chi continually and Tricia played the same game with them, like a cat playing with some mice, till almost all the tables and chairs in the cafeteria were broken. The guys wasted much of their chi. Then Tricia counterattacked. She used both her hands to issue her chi. When her chi conflicted with their collective chi, the three guys were sent flying backward and falling supinely on the floor. Before they could get on their feet again, Tricia sprang up and glided in the air, emitting her chi through her fingers and thumbs. Ten whiffs of her chi hit the three guys on their Nonfunction Xues and Mute Xues. She landed on her feet and leaving them lying on the floor, she went to explore the rest of the club, smoothing her hair backwards with her right palm.
With a long whip in her hand, Sally got the upper hand. She fought with the two guys deliberately, chewing her habitual gum. She cracked her whip and entangled it round the left ankle of a guy, then jerked up and threw the guy to a distance of four meters away. The other guy wanted to cut her whip in two, but could not succeed because the whip was so tenacious and pliable that it would not take the cutting force. Sally circled his waist with the thin end of her whip and also jerked him up, hurling him to the side of his comrade. Sally waited there for the two guys to get up. When they approached and attacked again, Sally locked her whip with their swords and pulled with such force, aided by her chi filling the whip, that the two guys could no longer hold the swords and had to let go. She jerked her whip loose and sent the two swords flying upstairs towards the two guys fighting with Lois. These two guys, though disarmed, stood facing Sally and stretched out their hands to use their chi against her. Their chi was so weak, just like beginners. Sally churned her whip into circles against their chi, which was scattered into thin air when it met the whirls of the whip.  Sally lashed out her whip and struck the Nonfunction Xues of the two guys with the tip of her whip. They became motionless where they stood, like two modern statues by an unknown artist.  Sally had almost a whimsical urge to inscribe her name on their foreheads, claiming the art work as hers, but thinking better of it, she severed the pad of gum in half and stuck one half on each guy's forehead.
The two guys fighting against Lois upstairs were brandishing the ax and daggers wildly at her. It was not easy to deal with, because they were not playing by the rules. Lois had to use her chi to keep them at a distance. When they advanced to attack, she shot out her chi with both her hands at them. Her chi was so strong that it sent them a few yards backwards. Then the guys advanced again and Lois did the same thing. The process repeated several times before the two swords came flying at these two guys. They used their weapons to fend off the flying swords and made the swords turn in Lois's direction. Lois ducked her head to let the blades of the swords pass and snatched upward at the handles, catching them each in one hand. The two guys changed their strategy. They lay down on the floor and rolled up to Lois, wielding the ax and daggers to cut at her shins and ankles. If Lois jumped up, they would also jump up and cut at her shins and ankles. Since Lois was off the floor, it was difficult for her to change her position in midair and the guys were at an advantage and very possibly they could cut her shins or ankles.  But Lois didn't react as they had expected.  She just thrust the two swords, tips down, straight into the floor, then gripping the handles, threw her feet upward, literally heels over head. She was standing upside down, holding onto the swords for support. Clang. Clang. Clang. The weapons of the guys hit the swords. The guys jumped to their feet, striking their ax and daggers at Lois's head. But Lois had already put her feet down on the floor at the same time the guys had jumped up. She lifted the swords and parried off their ax and daggers. Now Lois was at an advantage over the guys, because the swords were longer. The guys knew that they could not win and turned to flee. Lois cast the swords at them. The sharp ends of the swords went into their shoulders with such force that they fell face down.  Lois went to them to prick at their Nonfunction Xues.
The girls searched the whole club and found no more people inside. They didn't know when they were fighting that one guy did not appear, escaping instead through the back exit; and that other normal employees, like the cook and his assistants, had fled, too. In a wine cellar, they found some boxes in which they discovered bags of cocaine.  So they called the local police precinct.
Before the police came, they undid the Nonfunction Xues, the Mute Xues and the Sleep Xues on the eight guys, but Lois jabbed at the Null-Kungfu Xue of each of them, so they were no longer kungfu people and could not easily escape from the local jail. Tricia and Sally stood aside to watch Lois delete kungfu from the thugs. They could not help with this. To achieve this, one must have enough force and skill on the fingertip.  Only a master or one on a half-master level like Lois could do this.
When the police came, the girls showed them their ID's and explained everything. Then the police took over and the girls left.
 
***
 
“We don't really need to rent a van,” Sally said when they were on their way back. Now Sally had time to put a gum into her mouth again. In the excitement of fighting she didn't even think of it.
“Since we couldn't find anything illegal for the police, we must take all the guys we got on our hands and store them in our secret house. That's why we need a van,” explained Lois. “Okay. I got an idea. It's only two o'clock now. We can go to another place to make the best use of the van and its rental cost. What about that?”
“Good idea!” exclaimed Sally, putting up her thumb at Lois.
“Where will we go next?” asked Tricia, combing back her hair with her fingers.
“All places that belong to the Black Panther are of no more use to us. We are going to the Jack's lair to retrieve Frank's car,” said Lois.
Tricia okayed it and Sally was simply excited at the prospect that she had another fight to undergo.
They parked the van a few houses away. They found the unmarked police car that Sam sent there to watch over the house. They went past the car without disturbing the plainclothes cop inside who was drinking coffee and listening to the pop music on the car radio.
The girls approached the house, Lois and Sally from the front and Tricia from around the back. They noticed that Frank's car was still in the driveway. Sally stood before the front door and listened for a while. There was absolute silence within. She picked the lock and opened the door. She slipped inside and crouched beside the wall. Lois still stayed outside. Sally took out a flashlight and flicked it on. No one in the living room. When nothing happened, Lois came in. Tricia entered by the back door. The girls searched the first floor and the basement and no one was seen. They went upstairs. It seemed that there were three bedrooms upstairs. Each of the girls tiptoed to one of the three rooms. Everyone listened before the door, then pushed it open and rolled into it to shun possible attack. One room was empty. The other two rooms each had a guy sleeping there, both dead drunk. Tricia recognized Jack as one of the guys. The other guy was the big one fighting with them in New York, using the long whip, which now became Sally's trophy. Though they were drunk, Lois still poked on their Null-Kungfu Xues. Sometimes kungfu will make over-ambitious persons go astray on the life path. Tricia and Sally each grabbed a guy and dragged him downstairs to the living room. Lois went to get the van. Tricia looked for the key to Frank's car. Sally said loudly, “Hello, Sam. We need no more cops to watch over this house. The guys are our captives now.  See you later, alligator.”
“Are you crazy, Sally?” Tricia whispered. She found the key tossed on the coffee table and then retrieved the bug she had planted from somewhere above the window frame. Lois stopped the van in front of the house. Tricia and Sally each picked up a guy and carried him to the van. They opened the van's back door and threw the guys in, then closed it. Sally went to sit in the front seat. Tricia drove Frank's car. They headed for their secret house in New Jersey.
 楼主| 发表于 4/15/2017 07:25:43 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 27

Next day, Sam called on Tricia's cell phone. “What's going on in that house? I heard Sally's voice on the recording.” Tricia told him that all the guys in that house disappeared and would probably never return, so there was no need for a stakeout there any longer.
“All right. But tell that wild naughty girl, Sally, don't mess in police work,” Sam jested.
“She's just kidding.  Any news?”
“Nothing. It seems you're very busy recently.  You got a lot of troubles on your hands.”
“The big trouble's still ahead. We'll soon know the answer.”
“Want any help?”
“Not now. The big sister's planning everything.” When Tricia cut dead the line, she asked Lois if they needed any help from Sam.
“My principle is that if we get any evidence, we turn it over to the police together with the guys. If not, we'll keep the whole thing to ourselves. The police can do nothing to help without proof,” said Lois. The two guys they caught yesterday were kept in the basement with the other two guys. They did not even know one another, being in different groups, but they really did not have any chance to talk yet, as they were kept asleep all the time except when eating and going to the bathroom. Their Mute Xues were never undone in the fear that they would cry out and cause troubles.
 
***
 
There is a frequently used phrase in the Chinese language when people are writing novels, which is “No coincidences, no novels”.
It was Sunday. The sisters were shopping for Christmas in a mall. They wanted to buy some presents for their parents, Alida, Mrs. Gallagher, Mr. and Mrs. Chang, Mr. and Mrs. Chen, Mr. and Mrs. Li and Mr. and Mrs. Hsu; the last four couples had helped Lois financially for the bail money, which she'd yet to repay. They would purchase something for all the girls and guys staying with them. So they had a long shopping list. They walked in the mall, selecting the things on their list. All at once, Sally recognized two men in their fifties as the master brothers. She whispered the information to Lois and Tricia. “I guess they came here having something special in their mind to buy without any need to pay for it,” said Sally, pushing the gum under her tongue.
“Probably, they are choosing free gifts for Christmas,” consented Tricia, tucking away a wisp of her sunstreaked hair from her right eye.
“Let's follow them and see what they do,” suggested Lois.  The three girls were in disguise.
“They are wanted by the police and are still bold enough to show up in public,” said Sally, the wad of gum was transferred between the teeth and her right cheek after a few chewings.
“It's because they are confident in believing that they can escape in any circumstances,” said Lois.
“Shall we call the police and help to catch them?” asked Sally, moving her mouth a little.
“Let's follow them for a while first,” said Lois. During such a big shopping time before Christmas, security guards increased in the mall. One of the guards recognized the brothers, too, from the pictures they received. So they notified the police. In a short period of time, all the available police force in the county was stationed in the parking lot outside the mall. They did not want to come in for the arrest. More people would be hurt if the resistance happened within.
The brothers did not buy anything, did not steal anything and did not rob anything, as if they came for sightseeing or spying, in Sally's opinion, to come back at night for burglary. Nonetheless, when they stepped out of the mall exit, followed by the three sisters, they found that something was not normal.  It was as clear as day to experienced culprits like the brothers that the police were waiting to arrest somebody and that somebody was not easy to put under custody. Therefore, it looked like all the police force poured out here just like all the bees swarmed to siege when somebody had smashed their hive. They knew that no one but themselves were worthy of all such efforts from the police department. They were just about to soar onto the roof of the mall when they felt three blasts of chi coming from behind. They turned round swiftly and saw three girls assailing them. They emitted their chi, and when the gusts met, the girls were sent backwards and hit their backs on the wall. The brothers held their ground firmly. Police could not fire their guns because of the girls behind the brothers. The girls sprang forward and attacked again. The brothers used their chi to resist, but the girls eluded their chi, which hit the exit door and the wall. The door was damaged and the plaster fell from the wall. The girls were more nimble and agile. They leaped here and there and ran in circles around the brothers, seeking chances to strike. The brothers stood in the middle, back to back, and just threw out their chi in defense. After ten rounds, Sally spat out her gum at one of the brothers to distract him, who just used his chi to hit the gum and send it flying to stick on the cap of a policeman who stood behind a car to watch. The hitting force was so great that the cap fell off the policeman's head onto the ground. The policeman crouched to retrieve the cap and put it on his head, not daring to peep again.  After spitting the gum as a distraction, Sally jumped rapidly forward to attack from the side. The elder brother suddenly turned to face Sally and issued his chi from his right forefinger, striking at Sally's Numb Xue. Sally did not have time to react and went limp. The elder brother grabbed Sally as a hostage. They jumped up high, hovering through the air over the police Maginot Line, and landed on the roofs of some parked cars. Lois and Tricia jumped up after them, landing on the top of the cars beside them, leaving the police behind. The brothers were quicker than the girls. They got to their car parked at the furthest side of the parking lot for easy and fast getaway. Lois and Tricia got into their car, too, and moved to the other side of the parking lot, trying to stop the brothers' car. The brothers reached their car, opened the doors, put Sally on the backseat and got in themselves. They moved their car out and sped toward the exit, barely missing a collision. Lois and Tricia followed them after a few cars; the police cars brought up the rear. They raced on Rt. 1 northbound.
Since the police cars sounded their sirens, many other cars pulled aside to let them pass. Although the cars yielded, the escaping and chasing cars still had to zigzag their way forth and could not go very fast like in movies. Lois knew that two of them were not capable of saving Sally from the brothers. Therefore, they just followed them to see where their destination was, and so did the police since the brothers had a hostage.
The brothers turned onto Rt. 440. After a long while, they exited and turned into a side street in Brooklyn. Then they deserted their car there, which was picked up by the police later. When police checked the name and address on the registration card, they found that both were shams. No such house number on that street, and of course, no one could live at a non-existing address.
After abandoning the car, the brothers ran among the crowds, carrying Sally. Soon the police lost track of them. But Lois still followed them as best as she could in their car. The three sisters had each planted a minuscule tracer in their hair in the shape of a barrette since Sally was missing last time. So Lois could still keep track of the brothers, though she could not see them. The brothers stopped for a while and then sped away as if in a car. Lois kept her car at a distance in the pursuit. How could they get another car--unless they flagged down a taxi? Now it seemed that they were going in the direction of Long Island. At length they stopped, but Lois kept going. They came to the mansion where Mr. Zi dwelled. A yellow cab went in the gate. Sally's tracer indicated that Sally was inside.  Another proof added to Lois's suspicion of Mr. Zi, a hard proof. Lois drove past the mansion, to avoid any skepticism. After half a mile, she turned and headed home.
 
***
 
Neither the FBI nor the police could find any hard evidence against Mr. Zi. They could do nothing within the perimeter of the law, except to continue the collection of any possible evidence. However, the kungfu circle had its own law. They used kungfu to maintain justice within their circle. They did not need hard evidence to take action. Any circumstantial proof was enough for vengeance. Once the two girls got back, Lois called their father, then called Mr. Chang and told him everything she knew, including the contents of the diary. She called Mr. Li, telling him that all the conditions added up were pointing to Mr. Zi as the big boss of the Black Panther and the killer of David. Lois told him that they were plannng a surprise raid tomorrow at Mr. Zi's residence and asked Mr. Li if he would like to join in the action.
“Definitely,” he said. “I want to avenge my son.”
Then Lois called Mr. Chen and told him what she had learned when she had visited Shaolin Temple and her suspicion of John Zi, and finally asked if he wanted to join them in the raid.
“Certainly,” said Mr. Chen. “When justice calls, it's my responsibility even if my wife's relatives are not involved.”
Late in the evening, Lois received a call from Mr. Li on her cell phone. He said that Mr. Hsu would like to join in the revenge for David, whom he looked upon as his own son and that he would ask the members in Hunter Corps to volunteer in the fight. So all the necessary arrangements were made overnight.
 楼主| 发表于 4/23/2017 08:18:33 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 28

Next day, a procession of trucks, vans and cars started for Long Island. An old shabby, but strong, truck led the way. Lois sat in the front seat to give directions. Mr. Chang and Mr. Li rode in Mr. Hsu's limo. Tricia drove her car with her father in the passenger seat to pick Mr. Chen. She would join the procession later. Thirty-two members of the Hunter Corps formed a small army, riding in trucks, vans and cars. All kinds of weapons were ready at hand for immediate use. They did not go in a line like in a funeral procession with headlights on. They drove randomly, but kept in contact with car phones and cell phones. No one would suspect anything. When near the destination, Tricia caught up with them and brought up the rear. They reached the massive splendid gate with embossed gold decorations, so beautiful that any beholders could not harden their hearts to destroy it, but if evil hid behind it, the surface beauty had to be destroyed to get at its rotten core.
The shabby truck accelerated and broke through the gate. People riding in the back of the truck cast sticks of dynamite at the guardhouse, which was blown up with two guards inside. According to the strategy, all the trucks, vans and cars scattered to surround the mansion. The members jumped out and sheltered themselves behind bushes, trees, vehicles, the arbor, and whatever they could use as shelters, their guns all aiming at the mansion. Lois leaped out of the truck, rushed in by the front double doors, and encountered Helen, the personal secretary of Mr. Zi.
“Where's the girl they kidnapped yesterday?” Lois demanded.
“Killed already,” Helen smirked.
Lois flared up and entered combat with Helen in the vast foyer before the semicircular staircase. The limo and Tricia's car drove around to the back on the wide path and careened over the lawn, stopping in the back garden. The masters and Tricia got out.
Mr. Zi, the brothers and a woman were sitting on armchairs on the lawn, watching the disciples practice kungfu. When they heard noise like an explosion coming from the direction of the front gate, Mr. Zi was about to send someone to check when he saw cars appear and the masters get out. They stood up. Mr. Zi stepped forward and greeted them.
“Where's my daughter, Sally, that the brothers took captive yesterday?” asked Mr. Lin.
“Your daughter is my guest now. It's all a misunderstanding,” smiled Mr. Zi. “I'll have her brought out.”  He gestured to one of his men, who started to go to the back entrance.
“I'm here, no need to fetch me from your dungeon,” a voice floated down from the second floor balcony. Everyone looked up. Sally was standing beside Mrs. Zi with a knife in her hand, looking as if she held Mrs. Zi as her hostage.  Mr. Zi's plot failed.  He had in mind to bring Sally out to threaten the masters with her life, but now his wife's life was in danger. Not that he would care so much about her life. He could find another wife easily, but that woman had conceived his son. That was what he cared about, a Chinese conventional idea--to have posterity to inherit and hand down the name and estate so as to satisfy the spirits of the ancestors in Heaven, or he was an unfilial son, or grandson, or great grandson.
“Okay. What do you want?” Mr. Zi inquired.
“What do we want, Mr. Lungming Hua?” Mr. Chang stepped forward. “Do you still remember me?”
“I don't know what you're talking about. Who are you?” He got a little distracted when he heard that name, but recovered his composure soon.
“I'm your brother-in-kungfu from Shaolin Temple. I can still remember you stealing food from the kitchen there, but that's really not the crime we came for. First, you killed your twin brother and assumed his identity, which you are using now.”
“That's none of your business,” replied Lungming Hua, alias John Zi.
Mr. Chen walked ahead, standing beside Mr. Chang. “My wife's sister left behind a diary, which denotes that you killed my brother-in-law, your twin brother, and you killed his wife, the twin sister of my wife. Do you think it's my business or not to demand justice for them from you?”
Lungming Hua was silent. Mr. Li took a few paces forward. “You killed my son David. Do I have the right to avenge his death?”
Lungming Hua avoided eye contact with Mr. Li.  However, he turned to Mr. Lin. “We are supposed to be friends. You promised that.”
“Yes, but within the law, I said that. You remember? You sent your man to kill my brother-in-kungfu, Charles Pan. What will you plead for this?” Mr. Lin paced forward.
“What do I owe you, Mr.--?” he addressed Mr. Hsu.
“I'm Erik Hsu. I have everything to do with you. First, as a citizen, I have a responsibility to fight you for the crimes of murder and drug trade, not to mention the minor crimes like filthy salacious business. Second, I belong to the kungfu circle. I must squeeze out the pustule to make our circle healthy and clean.  Besides, I looked upon David as my own son.”
“So we have to fight to decide on whose side justice is, like cutting the Gordian knot, huh?” said Lungming Hua.
“We'll do it on one-to-one basis,” said Mr. Chang.
Mr. Li turned to Mr. Chang and observed, “I must fight that devil first. You promised me.”
Mr. Chang nodded and stepped back. Then Mr. Li said to Mr. Chen, “This devil killed my son. A son is closer in relationship than in-laws. Don’t you think so?” Mr. Chen just managed a wry smile at him. Mr. Li continued, “Do you mind if I fight him first?” Mr. Chen stepped back and so did Mr. Lin and Mr. Hsu. All Lungming Hua's men had gone to stand behind their boss since the other party arrived. Now Mr. Li and Lungming Hua began the fight without any further decorum.
 
***
 
Lois held up her right hand to issue her chi. Helen did the same, but when the two gusts met, Helen was knocked down on the floor. She was only on the fifth level, more than halfway below the level of Lois. Before she could get up, Lois leaped over and poked at her Null-Kungfu Xue, deleting her kungfu entirely. Lying on the floor, Helen wept, “You ruined my life, you daughter of a bitch!”
“I just give you an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. Without kungfu you can still work and live comfortably. Now tell me where the girl is they brought in yesterday.”
“In a cell in the basement,” she replied, though still sobbing. When they reached the cell, the door was open. No one was inside the cell.  But a few feet down the corridor, they could see a guy sprawling face down, an iron bar lying at his side. It must be the man who watched over the cell, but what happened? Lois shepherded Helen everywhere in the basement in a hastening search. Then they went up to the ground floor, then to the second floor. At last Lois saw Sally with Mrs. Zi on the balcony. Sally was holding a knife aimed at her throat.
“Sally, how are you?” Lois asked eagerly. Sally turned and said, “I'm fine, thanks to Mrs. Zi. Can you undo the Nonfunction Xue for me?” Lois tried, but it did not work. She could not undo it because the brothers were masters. One cannot undo a xue hit by another with a higher kungfu level.
Lois looked down from above and saw a woman standing aside. She recognized her as Martha Fox. She pricked the Sleep Xue on Helen for safety and said to Sally, “Wait here. I'll ask Dad to undo it.” She jumped down from the balcony, gliding over toward the woman. Lois touched the ground before her. “Hi, Martha. We haven't met for a long time. How are you?”
Martha Fox got nervous. She managed a grin. “Hi, Lois. Nice to meet you here.”
“Can you come with me to explain to the police how you stole a car and lent it to me with cocaine in the trunk?” asked Lois.
“I'd better not, if you don't mind,” she said with a killer smile.
Lucky. I'm not a man, Lois thought. “Yes. Maybe, we should practice a few rounds before you'll agree to do that.” With these words, Lois assailed Martha. Martha was the girlfriend of the elder brother. Her kungfu was just above tenth level, equivalent to Sally's, but a bit inferior to Lois's. The brothers participated in the fight, the elder with Mr. Chen, the younger with Mr. Hsu. Mr. Chang and Mr. Lin stood aside, watching. Mr. Lin made a gesture to Sally, motioning her to jump down, but Sally spread her hands, palms up, which meant that she could not do that. Mr. Lin jumped up effortlessly as high as twenty meters, hovering through the air like a bird onto the balcony. He undid Sally's xue. He grabbed Helen under his left arm and held Sally's hand in his right hand. Then he jumped up and flew away from the balcony, landing beside Mr. Chang and Tricia, who had come up to stand with her father since there was no one she could fight with. He handed Helen to Sally, who put her into the limo. When Mr. Lin jumped so high effortlessly, Mr. Chang felt an admiration.  He thought, “I can't do that so effortlessly.”
Mr. Li was a third-class master while Lungming Hua was in the second class, so gradually Mr. Li felt he was no match for his antagonist. He began to show his tardiness in defense and inability in counterattack. Mr. Lin walked forward and used his chi to separate them. Mr. Li stepped back. Lungming Hua stood there.
“No hurry. You can sit down to adjust your chi before you fight with me,” Mr. Lin said to Lungming Hua, who asked, “So, you eat your words to be my friend and want to fight me?”
“Sorry. It's for justice, which is above friendship. But I promise you that I will look after your wife and your future son as a true friend will do.”
Lungming Hua sat down in a yoga position to adjust his chi. When he felt ready, he stood up and sent out his chi toward Mr. Lin, who followed suit. This time when the two blasts of chi collided with a hollow bang, Lungming Hua fell backward three steps. For two reasons: One, he’d had a fight with Mr. Li already. Two, Mr. Lin belonged to the super-rank. Lungming Hua began to use Shaolin kungfu, the Arhan Style of fist moves, with some changes of finger thrusts and kicking up of the feet at intervals. Mr. Lin deliberately either ducked and shunned, or fended off his attack and at every chance he moved in to dart out his chi, which Lungming Hua had to elude. Lungming Hua aimed his right fist at the chest of Mr. Lin. This move was called “Black Tiger To Steal The Heart”. (In fact, every move in this famous style always has a name for it.) Mr. Lin raised his left hand, let Lungming Hua's fist touch his palm and then pushed hard, sending him back a few steps. Lungming Hua took a stance and used both his fists to strike at both of Mr. Lin's temples. This move was called “Two Wasps To Enter The Ears”. Mr. Lin spread out both his hands to fend off Lungming Hua's fists. This move was named “White Stork To Spread His Wings”. Lungming Hua withdrew a step and took another stance to thrust forth two fingers, the forefinger and middle finger of his right hand apart like a fork at the eyes of Mr. Lin. This move was named “Two Dragons To Pick Pearls”. If the fingers pierced into the eye-sockets and pulled out the eyeballs, Mr. Lin would go blind, but Mr. Lin used the same two fingers held together, pointing at Lungming Hua's wrist. If the xue on the wrist was hit, Lungming Hua's arm would be paralyzed. He recoiled and changed his moves. Their movements became faster and faster like the last time they had been practicing, but not as long. Mr. Lin jumped up five meters high and sent out his chi with both hands, aided by gravity, down on top of Lungming Hua's head. Lungming Hua had to emit his chi upward in resistance. His position put him at a disadvantage. So when the two gusts hit against each other, Lungming Hua was knocked down on the lawn. Mr. Lin descended on him like a vulture and poked at his Null-Kungfu Xue, ruling him out of the kungfu world, much less a master. Lungming Hua sighed and closed his eyes, acknowledging the defeat.
 
***
 
Lois mostly used her fingers and hands to assault; now the forefinger, now forefinger and middle finger together, all movements aimed at Martha's xues. Sometimes she gave a slap with her hand; her chi was so strong that Martha only had time to shirk, never got any chance to strike back. Lois’s finger moves were so complicated and deft, like playing a swift piece of music on the invisible harp with both thumbs and all the fingers, that Martha had difficulty following the moves with her eyes and could hardly defend herself against them. The set of Lois's finger movements was named “Flying Snowflake Style”. Just imagine the snowflakes flying down so thick and quick, blown by the wind here and there, sometimes in whirlpools. Think of the complex pattern it forms. How can one shovel the down-flying snowflakes? It was now over fifty rounds. Lois was ready for the final blow. She crouched to sweep out her left foot at Martha's shins. Martha jumped up instinctively, without thinking, to dodge being hit. This was a false move from Lois, who now stood up to strike out her hands, left at Martha's chest and right at her belly. Martha's feet were already off the ground and it was very hard for her to make any further movement change in the air. She could only suck in her belly a little bit, but her chest was hit. She felt something salty coming up as she fell back on the ground. She spat out some blood. Lois poked at her Null-Kungfu Xue, then taking a phial out of her pocket and pouring out a pill from it, she fed the pill into Martha's mouth—a cure for inside injuries. Martha felt the pain in her chest subside and spat no more blood. Sally picked her up and put her inside the back of a van, having jabbed at her Sleep Xue.
The elder brother fought with Mr. Chen, who had recovered from his paralysis not long ago and so was really no match for the elder brother. At the twentieth round, he was struck on the shoulder by the elder brother and fell on the lawn. Just as the elder brother was about to strike again, Mr. Chang moved forward to issue his chi. The elder brother had to defend himself and could not deal another blow to Mr. Chen. Tricia rushed forth to help Mr. Chen to his feet and they both retreated to the side.
Mr. Chang learned a set of Damo Style sword moves in Shaolin Temple. Damo was a monk who came from India to China to spread Buddhism. Then he became the head monk of Shaolin Temple and invented a style of swordplay called Damo Sword Style. Since nowadays, people seldom combated with swords, Mr. Chang used his fingers and hands to imitate the intricate combinations of the sword movements. He thrust two fingers--forefinger and middle finger--as the tip of the sword at the elder brother, who used his hand to parry it off. Mr. Chang chopped the edge of his hand like a sword at the shoulder of the elder brother, who sprang away to dodge it. The chi from the chopping hand of Mr. Chang made a deep cut on the lawn. Mr. Lin stood aside, watching them fight. He recognized the style Mr. Chang was using. He went to a tree, broke a bough from it and tore off all the leaves and small branches. It looked like a rapier, but it could be used as a sword, anyway. Mr. Lin threw the bough to Mr. Chang, who caught it between rounds. Mr. Chang filled it with chi and wielded it like a sword in his attack. The elder brother whipped out two steel sticks from his sides, each as long as one and a half feet, resembling huge pencils. He brandished the steel pencils and moved in to assail Mr. Chang, who lashed his bough upward to fend off the pencils. The bough was much longer and the elder brother could not snap it with his steel pencils because it was filled with chi. Mr. Chang was a level above the brothers. Just like the chess players, the better one always wins. After a hundred rounds, Mr. Chang lifted his bough high in the air and brought it down on the head of the elder brother, who used his left pencil to ward off the bough and thrust his right pencil at Mr. Chang's chest. Mr. Chang drew his bough backward a little and brought it down on the pencil in the right hand of the elder brother with such force that the elder brother could no longer hold it. The steel pencil swooped to pierce into the soil of the lawn a few feet away. The elder brother knew that he would lose the battle eventually. He wanted to adopt the first and best strategy: runaway. He made a sharp whistle as a signal to his brother to escape, then throwing the pencil in his left hand towards Mr. Chang, he jumped up backwards, intending to land a distance away so that he could turn and flee.  Mr. Chang used his bough to slash at the flying steel pencil, sending it downward into the lawn. Then he jumped up after the elder brother, casting out his bough still filled with his chi at him, causing him to make a backward somersault. When his feet were in midair, he kicked back the bough, which Mr. Chang caught in the air. The elder brother completed his somersault and landed on the ground on his feet. As forward movement was often quicker than a backward one, Mr. Chang already stood before the elder brother, who waved both arms to strike alternately and desperately like a madman. This was not a normal karate move. So Mr. Chang had to whirl his bough before him to keep the elder brother at a distance. The elder brother suddenly turned and jumped high into the air again.  Mr. Chang jumped up, too, slinging out his bough afresh. This time the elder brother did not see it because he had his back towards Mr. Chang. As the bough came nearer and caused air movement, the elder brother began to feel it, but before he could change his course in the air, the bough filled with chi hit him on the back with such force that he fell to the ground.  He just rolled away, then jumped up on his feet and ran away as fast as he could through the trees. Mr. Chang chased, but soon lost him, because he was not familiar with the grounds.
Mr. Hsu and the younger brother had more than one hundred rounds by now. Their kungfu was on the same level. If left to continue fighting, they might spend another one or two hours without a result. Mr. Li leaped forward to attack the younger brother from behind. It was so unexpected that the younger brother was not prepared to cope with both combatants at once. Mr. Li's fist hit him on the back. He sprawled on the lawn. Mr. Hsu poked his finger at the Null-Kungfu Xue of the younger brother, who shouted, “It's not fair play.”
“Do you think it's fair when you kill people even without any kungfu?” asked Mr. Li coldly.
When all the bad masters were either conquered or escaped, Lungming Hua's disciples, who had been watching on the side when the masters were fighting, suddenly, at a signal from one of them, took out cylinders and spewed out needles at the victorious masters. The needles came like a shower. The five masters all issued their chi and sent all the needles back into most of the disciples. Only three of them standing behind the others escaped the sting of the needles. The three guys turned to run away. The members of Hunter Corps gunned them down. They were only wounded, not dead, being hit only on the legs.  Now all the members came out from their sheltered positions and began to apply first aid to the wounded and at the same time, secure them by tying their wrists and ankles.
Lungming Hua and the younger brother were herded into the mansion to their own living room. The conquerors began to question them. What they answered would be recorded.
“How did you kill your own twin brother?” Mr. Chen asked Lungming Hua.
“I didn't even know that I had a twin brother,” he said.
“How could you not know it? You shared the womb for almost ten months,” said Mr. Li ironically. “But it really doesn't matter whether you knew it or not. If you had never killed people, you wouldn't have killed your own brother. It sounds like you have all the rights to kill other people.”
 楼主| 发表于 4/30/2017 08:46:37 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 29

Lungming Hua was a lazybones by nature. He hated hard work, but wanted to enjoy life like the rich people. How could he get easy money? It made it easy for him to steal, to burglarize and to rob since he had master-level kungfu. Easy come, easy go. The easier he got money, the freer he spent it to enjoy himself, and the oftener he needed more easy money. When two governments had wanted him for the sale of the valuable stolen painting, he had escaped from America and stolen across the border into Mexico. He traveled south, burglarizing and robbing all the way down. It almost became his pleasure to do so. He felt that it was a real challenge to his kungfu.  He liked the challenge.  It showed how powerful he was with the master-level kungfu.  He could do whatever he wanted and no one could stop him.  One day he came into the capital of Brazil. He stayed in a luxury hotel and enjoyed himself. He sold his loot one by one till the last piece. Then he started his old business anew. One day he had dinner in the Chinese restaurant owned by John Zi. When he finished his dinner and went to pay at the register counter, he was so surprised to see the man standing opposite him. The man was really a counterpart of him. He looked at him like looking at himself in a mirror. Though the resemblance was one in a nonillion except for identical twins, he got lucky here. A wonderful, wicked idea struck him. He made necessary preparations.
The restaurant always closed at midnight. All the employees left first. John was always the last to depart. After he checked once more that everything was all right, he went out the back door and locked it. There was a parking lot behind the restaurant. He was about to climb into the car when a shadow jumped down from a nearby tree and hit his Death Xue. The shadow was none other than Lungming Hua. He put John in the trunk of the car and drove to the outskirts of the city. He found a secluded corner and burned the body to ashes. He gathered all the ID's and drove to his new home, the late John Zi's former home, which he already knew by following John in a rental car twice. When he got inside the house, he guessed the wife would be asleep since it was three in the morning. He explored the first floor, memorized what was where, then went to the second floor for further exploration. At last, he went into the bedroom. He pretended he knew where everything was in the house, but sometimes when the wife wanted him to fetch something for her, he had to ask, feigning that being busy made him forgetful. At the restaurant, he appeared as the owner, but he knew nothing about the business. The employees, though they wondered, dared not say anything about it. He soon hired someone as manager to handle the business for him. When the wife advised him to be frugal, he told her that he should not waste his time in one restaurant and that he had more important things to take care of.  Formerly John Zi would never say such things to his wife.  He often went out at night to resume his old job--a business without investment.  He wanted to accumulate his wealth as fast as possible. He kept his loot in the newly purchased safe in his newly refurbished study.
 
***
 
One night, he met the brothers. They were burglarizing the same jewelry store. So they had a fight over the plunders. When the brothers detected from the style he was using that he had learned kungfu from Shaolin Temple, they admired him and the three became friends. They divided the pillages among them.
Once when they met, the ambitious Lungming Hua suggested, “Why don't we organize something like a party?” So they named their organization the Black Panther. Lungming Hua appointed himself as the big boss, the elder brother the second boss, the younger brother the third. Later the elder brother had a steady girlfriend, Martha Fox, half-American and half-Chinese. She had learned kungfu from her mother, a Chinese woman, daughter of a kungfu family, who married a Mr. Fox. His girlfriend was the fourth boss. Since the police here urgently wanted them, they decided to move to America. Because the girlfriend often held different opinions from Lungming Hua, she insisted on going to separate places for development. The difference of opinions between Martha Fox and Lungming Hua never developed into a brawl because the brothers were always mediating. So it would be better if they lived in different places. Then the brothers moved to San Francisco and Lungming Hua to New York. The brothers only desired the accumulation of wealth like medieval outlaws. Lungming Hua secretly collected quite a few followers and taught them kungfu. His faithful followers found some indecent people as their followers and taught them kungfu secondhand. Lungming Hua wanted to establish a private kungfu army of his own, so he asked the younger brother to come to New York as a kungfu instructor. After five years of training, he went back to the west coast, leaving a group of hitmen with Lungming Hua.
Meanwhile, Lungming Hua found that John's wife was suspicious of him. He began to meditate a way to get rid of her. To his delight he came to know that she was suffering from heart disease. So he gave her medication that had the worst side effect to heart disease to expedite her death. He had enough money to buy the mansion in Long Island after the wife died. He moved there with his loyal followers as his disciples as well as his servants. He opened many small businesses to cover the fact that his money mostly came from the illegal dealings. He now had so many thugs under him that he commenced the drug trade and opened a small bank for the purpose of money laundering.
After his second marriage with an Italian woman--his first wife was really not his wife, but legally on the document to his usurped name, hence his wife in name--he found that his second wife was really sent by another drug-dealing party to spy on him, so he had to secretly kill her and bury the body in the back garden. Then he married the third wife, Melissa, who seemed never to ask questions about his business and only basked in his wealth and favors.
Mrs. Zi, (or should it be Mrs. Hua?) was an American woman with shoulder-length hair of a brown color, five foot seven inches in height, a hundred twenty pound figure, and tanned skin like a girl from the California coast. When she married Lungming Hua, she only knew he ran quite a few small businesses and had a colossal mansion. He only demanded to live in every possible comfort, never in luxury, which suited her. She herself was not a woman aspiring after the newest fashion, the fantasy jewelry or a showcase lifestyle. She felt proud of her husband, though he was much older than she, but she never had the slightest notion that this make-her-proud husband had a dark side until one or two years after the repentant marriage. He hired a maid for her and maintained the thought that the maid should be on his side since he paid her and that the maid should report to him if his wife had any misdemeanor. Melissa was kind by nature and treated everybody nicely, especially the maid, like a relative of hers. She took the maid into confidentiality and the maid was so touched she confessed that the husband wanted her to report to him any misdeed of Melissa. Why should a husband do such a thing to a wife? She was put on the alert. The maid slept in the servant quarters and had the chance to hear the gossip. She told Melissa every tidbit she gathered from the gossips. Melissa commenced her doubt of the non-misdeed of her husband, but she knew “curiosity killed the cat”. She pretended to know nothing about his illegal doings. She learned from the maid, the day before the fiasco with her husband, that late in the afternoon a girl had been brought in and shut up in a cell of the basement. The girl was in disguise, which she was stripped of soon. She was the same girl who had been captured and stayed in the guestroom. The girl was the sister of Lois, whom she had once met. She developed the conception over the years that any opponents of her husband's were people of integrity. She should help the girl. Next day, as soon as the masters came, she knew the girl was in immediate danger. She and the maid went to the cell to the flabbergastedness of the watchman. “I heard a beautiful girl was kept here. I want to have a look,” she said to the watchman. “Does Mr. Zi want her to be his concubine?”
Before the watchman could answer, the maid hit him on the head from behind with an iron bar. The maid took the key from the watchman and opened the cell door. Melissa told Sally to follow her to her bedroom. She explained to Sally on the way there. Then she took out an ornamental knife from the drawer of her vanity dresser and handed to Sally, who looked at her doubtfully. “I hate hypocrites and I know John killed his second wife. I don't want to be the next victim. Men always think that they can override women because they are physically stronger. They despise women. They think they are superior to women, so women are their playthings, but they ignore the fact that they come into this world through the lower torso of women. Why don't they come out from the woman's mouth since they are so superior?” She directed her dissatisfaction of her husband toward general masculine tyranny. Sally relaxed and came to know that Melissa wanted to fake the hostage role and they stepped onto the balcony with Sally holding the knife pointing at Melissa.  When Sally got down with her father, Melissa went back to her bedroom and lay down on the bed.  She did not want to know the consequences of the combat.
 
***
 
Lois went into the limo to slap Helen awake. “Now you are facing the fork of your life path. One branch will take you to the endless days behind bars while the other will lead you to a new life. You must make the decision in five minutes,” Lois told her solemnly.
“Just tell me what you want me to do. I'll consider,” Helen said a bit nervously.
“Provide us with every evidence you know about anything illegal they did.”
Helen assented to cooperate. So Lois called in the FBI. When the FBI agents arrived, at Helen's guidance, they found enough evidence in a secret safe in Lungming Hua's study to put him in jail for life. They also dug up several bodies in the back garden in different rotten stages. One skeleton was proved to be his second wife.
After signing all the necessary statements, the masters, the three sisters and all the members of the Hunter Corps left before the media got wind and swarmed up there.
 
***
 
There was no more need to keep the two places secret. The rogues were given to the FBI. The kidnapped girls went to their respective homes. The return of the prodigal put Laura's parents in such a gleeful state of mind that they persisted in inviting Sally’s whole family to their house in celebration of the hilarious occasion. The only pity for Laura was that she could not continue to learn karate after so much hard work.
“You can still practice all the karate you've learned so far by yourself,” Sally advised her. “You don't have to give up.” The joyous news was that she was allowed to go back to the computer company to resume her former position. The fellow employees held a party for her, too, on the first day she was back at work. The partying spirit really gets in the blood of American people. They can find every reason to have a party.
The return of Frank was received in a somewhat different way. His father criticized him for his laziness and dreams of easy money. His mother wept joyful tears and embraced him so tightly that he felt almost smothered. His sister, Monica, advised him to learn the lesson. After the first wave of mirth was over, his mother fixed a special plentiful dinner for him. He was stuffed to the throat like the Beijing ducks. Another day, the three sisters were invited to their house for a celebration to show their unforgettable gratitude. Frank got a mechanic’s job in another garage.
Michael Dong went to Los Angeles. His mother and stepfather lived there. His biological father died early when he was a child.
 
***
 
Lois kept the house into which the whole family moved and stayed till their burnt house was rebuilt. Mrs. Gallagher felt sorry that she would be left alone again after so many days of happy get-togethers. Tricia promised to sleep over as often as possible.
Christmas was around the corner. The three sisters and Alida were decorating the living room of their rental house. “Hope we'll have Christmas next year in our own house,” said Sally while putting the angel figure on the top of the fir tree. She kept on chewing gum and blowing bubbles, bigger and bigger each time.
“Probably, you'll have Christmas next year in your own house with Henry,” said Tricia.
“What's wrong with that? You'll spend it with Sam.” Sally would never let others have the last word even if she was busy with her mouth constantly performing the tricks to produce balloons.
“Who'll spend it with me?” asked Alida innocently. She was hanging little golden bells on the tree.
“I'll be with you,” said Lois, bending to hug her.
“You want to be a spinster?” Sally had the ability of quick connections between things that other people had difficulties to put together.  She stopped performing for a split second to squeeze out words, almost swallowing the choking wad of gum.
“Don't worry about me. Someone will turn up in due time,” Lois said grinning.
Sally was hanging some mistletoe, which Henry had bought yesterday somewhere, along the walls where no one would stand under it.  She had seen through Henry's ruse, but didn't want to be so impolite as to throw them away.
“Why not make a wreath of mistletoe and put it on your head so that every man can give you a passionate kiss?” Tricia advised Sally.
“I'll make a wreath of mistletoe around my waist so that every man can kiss my ass,” replied Sally seriously, as a bubble burst around her mouth.
“It won't be a white Christmas this year, either,” sighed Alida. “I hope Santa Claus will come as well.  I can't wait to open the presents.”
“Speaking of Mr. Santa Claus--shall I call him Santa Claus, Esquire?--I dreamed about him last night.  So in the morning when I woke up, I wrote a poem about him,” said Sally, keeping the gum under her tongue now.
“Did Mom pluck your ears in the dream?” asked Tricia.
“Nope. I did it of my own accord.  Here it is:
 
Christmas Eve again!
My annual duties call.
As my reindeer are sick,
How can I go round?
 
Who got a snowmobile for me?
I never tried that before.
Can a couple of dogs pull that thing?
It looks so heavy, really so heavy.
 
How stupid are the modern architects:
The houses don't have chimneys.
How can people keep warm inside
Without being choked by the smoke?
 
No worry about that,
They will survive anyway.
But how can I get in
To distribute the gifts?
 
Every year I shoulder a heavy bag.
It feels heavier and heavier,
Since I grow older and older--
I really need a revolution.
 
Okay, from this year on,
I'll get gift certificates
And slip them under the doors.
That'll make my work easy.”
 
The End
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