Chapter Seventeen V
The poor want to be rich
The rich want to be happy
The single want to be married
The married want to be dead.
Daphne, “So you’ve decided to do nothing about the other three?”
“I think not. The Society is tracking them, the birds are good for local things, the Society can keep an eye on them anywhere. They’ve heard about Fourth, none of them is anything but a novice at qi skills. I think we’ll monitor them for a while, then let it go. I was in error with Fourth, the others are incapable of going further without a master. They’ve split up and nothing in their activities suggests they are pursuing qi training. Surveillance is leaving reminders that the Shaolin know who and where they are.”
“Good, that’s settled. I need to get back into full time training and instruction or I’ll be a student again. Plus, Nikko and I need to get back to our sessions with Master Murakami.
Janah, “Shall you and I take a rest break, I’m feeling a need for private time.”
“What a marvelous idea.”
We disappear into our room at the temple. Janah turns my brain to mush, after a cuddling recovery, I reciprocate and Janah gasps her way through her own exquisite orgasm. Nikko knocks, I pull her in and attack her lean smooth body. There are two women working her over, then she sees only one, then two then one again. She shudders, moans, a vision of erotic exotic beauty.
Nikko, “Two as one take advantage of innocent Japanese girl. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Time to sleep.”
Nikko and I surround Janah, who snuggles peacefully into a quilt of long legs and arms.
When Janah and I get up for morning meditation, Nikko sleeps a while longer, then showers and heads off to her office. I’m training monks when Nikko returns.
“Geez, where’d the morning go? It seems like we just finished breakfast.”
Nikko, “Property is fine, no changes of any consequence, a few maintenance details. Mrs. Fong said she better see you and Janah soon, according to her she has only moments left to live.”
I laugh, “It’s a semantics issue, a moment in Fong time is several years.”
Nikko goes off to visit Manolo, I return to training.
A half hour later, Janah comes along, “Mrs. Epstein says there is work, I need you and Nikko to get it sorted out. Black is still recovering, I promise to stay in the temple, or if I absolutely need to go home for some reason, Chan will go with me or I’ll call C-mom and Sis.”
“Good. Don’t even mental, I see you have a very full day. We’ll discuss it later.”
I find Nikko practicing English with Manolo and he is teaching her a bit of Spanish. David Li is working with Master David. Chan is glad to have his old friend back, although their paths have diverged widely. David is a contemplative monk. He studied Chinese medicine while in Asia, as well as Tibetan and Japanese herbal treatment, acupuncture and acupressure. He keeps up with his weapons skills, but spends most of his time either pottering around the garden or studying the ancient texts.
“Nishiko, we need to visit a friend in midtown.”
She asks Manolo to join David Li, help clean up the garden and remix the compost. Manolo is learning gung fu, but he is not allowed to do flips, headstands or to be thrown. He may intensify in a year or two, if Dr. Parsons feels he is completely healed. David Li explained to him that there is no time in Shaolin. There is no goal to be completed by any date. His job for now is to train mentally, learn fluent English, retain his Spanish, pick up what Chinese he could. Other than strenuous gung fu, he is treated like any student. He cleans, he works in the garden, learns forms, has his academic studies. Being alive is his favorite part of the day.
Nikko and I are seated in Dr. Epstein’s office, watching the computer screen, scrolling though Surveillance notes and photos. The target is what they call flinty in appearance, craggy, pinched, appears angry. Lives in Tacoma Washington, amuses himself by regularly getting wired up on methamphetamine and abusing his wife. Thankfully, they have no children. He’s wealthy, and derives perverse enjoyment from annoying people with lawsuits. It is a strategy to keep people away; fearing some frivolous costly litigation, they avoid him. The houses on both sides of his built the biggest fences allowed, he lives on a cul de sac, there is only a strip of land behind his house, a board fence runs down the edge, a road behind that.
Apparently, the Mrs. likes showing off her, um, accomplishments. Tanned, toned and proud of it, she doesn’t wear much around the house, frequently nude in the backyard.
A neighbor who, through the fence, enjoyed her strolling around began to wonder why he never saw her anymore, not in the yard, not leaving for the store, never. Her car was there, if she’d left her husband, she didn’t drive away. He could hardly confront the man, he had no good explanation as to why he was interested.
He did tell the story, skipping his voyeurism, to a friend at work, who mentioned it to another friend, a social services caseworker. Since no one made a complaint, there was nothing to do. The story found its way to the Society. While there was no evidence of anything wrong, it was a good exercise in Surveillance. The house was monitored, listening devices picked up more than enough, the sounds of abuse, pleading to be unlocked, crying and attempts to placate the abuser. She could plead and beg all she liked, he enjoyed it. If she raised her voice, he chained her and stuck a ball gag in her mouth. Without the sensitive listening devices, no one would have even suspected.
Chapter Eighteen V
Everything seems to deteriorate, yet nothing is lost. Deterioration is frequently called entropy. But entropy is not deterioration, it’s moving from one kind of order to another.
A week later, we’re in Tacoma. It’s a direct flight from JFK to the Seattle-Tacoma airport, then a twenty-five mile drive.
Nikko and I pick up Mr. Herbert Johansen on his way to his car from his office parking lot. I cold cock him and we pitch him into the back of our rented panel van. We drive the van to a wooded area, the Society efficient in finding a suitable location. I pull up to an unused logging road off a two lane blacktop thirty miles out of town. The dirt road has a chain across it, Nikko uses a bolt cutter to snap the lock. I drive in, stop, Nikko replaces the chain with a new lock.
Johansen is out cold, and I further insure his calm by injecting him with a sedative that will keep him out at least six hours. We hog tie him, use picture wire around his wrists, duct tape his mouth and cover the van with a camouflage tarpaulin. He isn’t going anywhere, nobody is going to find him in the few hours we need.
We get into a sedan that appears mysteriously on the side of the blacktop road, drive to Johansen’s house, use his keys and walk in the front door. Ariel Johansen is chained to her toilet, sitting on the floor, gag in her mouth, petrified. Nikko uses the bolt cutter a second time and Ariel is free.
Ariel, “Who are you? The police? God, I don’t care who you are, I’m chained here, a prisoner in my own home. Are you from him, are you going to hurt me, is this some new game of his?”
Ariel is shifting her eyes back and forth, she’s rambling. We look Asian, but she really can’t tell if it’s makeup. Both of us wear watch caps, dressed in refocusing gear, hair braided down the back, tucked underneath our shirts. Nikko has purple eyes shadow and a tattoo down the side of her face, it looks like a snake wound around her neck.
The woman is shaking, I let her babble for a while. She’s confused and afraid, let her burn off nervous energy. Nikko standing expressionless with a bolt cuter in her hand doesn’t help.
“Check the rest of the house, I’ll handle this.”
I touch her shoulder, Ariel shrinks back, but only for a second, then she suddenly feels calm, at least calmer, she quits shaking. And she quits asking questions.
“Take a deep breath, let it out slowly, then again,” I let the woman breathe, holding her shoulder, then put my hand on her neck softly. There is warmth, her heart slows.
“We’ve been monitoring what’s going on. If you’ve had enough of this, we can get you gone, and I guarantee you will be out of state tonight, and divorced in a week. You’ll get a property settlement, we estimate it at five million, your end.”
Ariel Johansen, “Who are you?….I’m…. I don’t know what…”
“Of course you don’t. It’s okay. Take a minute to breathe, if we were here to hurt you, or because your husband sent us, do you think we’d be chatting in the bathroom?”
I have bright lavender eyes, thanks to color contacts, am darkly tanned and wear black lipstick. My forehead has a scar than runs from upper left temple to the spot between my eyes.
Ariel, “That’s quite a scar.”
“We work in a rough business. It’s old news. The new news is that we need to know if you’re game for this, or do you prefer being chained up and beaten whenever Herb gets a notion?”
Ariel, “You’ve been monitoring the house. For how long? Why didn’t you just call the police. I mean…isn’t that the normal thing to do?”
“We use a different legal system than the one you’re familiar with. First, we had no legal authority to monitor anything. We could have called it in anonymously. The cops might have found you chained up, but who’s to say it isn’t a game between you and your husband? If we testify, we don’t count. Our evidence is not acceptable. And you’re stuck with a long legal battle to get anything out of it.”
“What if he finds me?”
“He won’t want to see you again, I guarantee it. And I guarantee you’ll get both a substantial settlement, and a new identity. He won’t find you because you won’t be you, there will be no record of the current you, and a completely legitimate record of the new you will be created, has been created if you choose to use it. Your marriage will disappear as if it never happened. You have to leave now, this minute. Do not take anything, no photos, no clothes except a few nondescript things, jeans, t-shirts, common shoes, underwear. Take all your makeup, hairbrushes, that kind of thing. Someone will be in when you’re gone and remove all traces of you. You have ten minutes. In or out?”
Ariel, “In. Death is better than this.”
“A relocation team will show up when we leave,” I describe them in general, “an elderly couple who won’t talk to you, or answer any questions. They don’t know your name, they don’t want to know it. You will travel with them for a few days. They will switch cars, at night, you’ll stay in your own room. You aren’t a prisoner. You can skip anytime you want. But then, you may have to deal with Herby again. He has no clue who we are, but he has resources, he may look for you. He can’t find you if you stick to the plan, you want to try on your own, then good luck.”
Ariel, “Why are you doing this?’
“Fair question. Some people you will never know wondered about your situation. We deal with spousal abuse, child abuse, or just plain assholes who can’t get a grip on the fact that they need to leave people alone. Our resources are deep. We don’t need or want the police or other agencies involved. They take too long, and the abused are frequently so scared they don’t press charges. We remove the problem.”
Ariel, “You mean you’ll kill the bastard? Good.”
“It doesn’t work that way. But I promise you, follow instructions and you will never see or hear from him again. He’ll have no choice but to keep his end of the deal. He’s going to make certain promises to my friend out there. He will clearly understand the consequences of breaking them. You’ll have to trust me on that. We’re here, you’re being offered freedom.”
Ariel wants to ask more questions, I end the discussion, “In or out Ariel? No questions, there is nothing I can say reassuring enough. You will only believe me when you have your money and live someplace else. In a few months, he’ll be a bad dream. If you’re stupid enough to contact him, to rub it in his face for instance, then you’re on your own. We won’t do this again. You get one shot. Take it or leave it.”
Ariel takes a breath, “I’m scared, what if this is his bullshit, what if you are simply kidnapping me?”
“If we wanted to kidnap you, I wouldn’t be talking to you, you would just be in the car and we’d be gone. Look, either come, or I leave you here. You can take your chances on your own, you’re unchained, you have a car, good luck.”
Ariel thinks it over, she knows she can’t disappear on her own, she has limited resources, her husband controls everything.
“No, it’s no good by myself. I might get the divorce, but it won’t get me any money, I have almost nothing, how can it get worse? Let’s go.”
“The relocation team will be here two minutes after we leave. Again, they don’t know anything. Questions are useless. They are paid to take you to a location that will be revealed to them only in pieces. They will be told where to drive to at random times during the day. Where you stay at night will be known to them at the last minute. That means asking where you’re going is pointless. We don’t care how you amuse yourself when we drop you off at your new location. Keep your clothes on while you travel, don’t do your exhibitionist thing or they will leave you. They don’t care about your need for self expression. Their instructions are simple, if you give them any trouble, they will evaporate. Do you understand?’
Ariel, “I’ll do my part. I shut up and go for a long ride. May I ask one thing?’
“You can ask anything, I may or may not answer.”
Ariel, “When I get to wherever I’m going, what are my obligations?”
“You’ll have five million in cash. A completely new identity, real driver’s license and valid passport. Along the way to your new destination, you’ll get a makeover, you won’t look like you, different hairstyle and color. That will be the new license and passport look. You will have a different name and social security number. You will not be you. You can fly to Thailand for all we care. You won’t be followed or monitored. Once there’s a new you, we’re gone. You don’t owe us anything, you will never hear from us again. I’ve explained why we do this, no more questions honey, we don’t have the time.”
An hour later, Nikko and I are back in the woods with Johansen. He’s still out of it. We rest, take turns napping until he begins to stir.
Dawn is breaking, I inject him with a mild stimulant and stick a couple of ammonia caps under his nose.
Herbert Johansen is a tall man, brawny in that beer barrel chest sort of way, face like a hatchet. Nikko uses her blade to cut through the ropes, rips the tape off his mouth. It takes a bit of skin off his lips, a trickle of blood.
We drag him out of the van, “When you get you legs under you, take a pee. This is a taser. If you move from the side of the tree, fifty thousand volts will discourage further stupidity. Then my friend here will be really aggravated. You don’t want that, she has a rather short fuse.”
Johansen s quiet, I can see the wheels turning. The woods might provide him with cover from the taser.
Nikko puts the blade to his eyeball, I say, “Don’t even think about it, now piss, get back here and sit. We might let you live.”
Johansen walks stiff legged to a tree. It would be stupid to run. He can barely walk, his legs rubbery. He has to lean on the tree just to stand. He walks stiffly back to the rear of the van and sits on the edge of the floor, massaging feeling into his legs
“You’ll never get away with this. Kidnapping me is pointless. My wife is indisposed, she can’t even make a phone call, besides, she has no idea of how much money I have, or where it is.”
I look at Nikko, who shrugs, knowing what I’m thinking. Johansen still has his pugnacious game face on.
I laugh, disconcerting him, “People have an idiotic tendency to tell us we can’t do what we’ve already done. You’re in denial. Let me help clear your head, Herby.”
Nikko gives him a serious nosebleed.
While he whines, I stick another ammonia cap under his nose, “Pay attention, or I’ll let her do what she’s dying to do, watch you die.”
Johansen glances at Nikko, his brain tells him it is a very good idea to be afraid. He blinks, sweats, looks back at me.
I tell him how much money he has and what accounts it’s in, what the account numbers are and what the passwords are to move the money.
Johansen is getting scared, which makes him angry, and stupid, “You are common hackers, kidnappers and criminals. When my lawyers are finished with you, you won’t see the sun for a long time.”
I say calmly, softly, “And you will find us……how? We’ve taken five million, sold your stocks for cash this morning. You will receive documents, all perfectly legal. Take them to your lawyers. They will show that you filed for divorce some months ago, and that as part of the property settlement, you agreed to give your wife half of your assets. All the signatures are real. All the paperwork is legal and duly filed in the records of the State Of Washington.”
Johansen, “Bullshit. It can’t be done. You’re bluffing, that paper, if it exists, is crap.”
I point at Nikko, “This is my friend, Madonna. Madonna, would you get Herby’s attention please.”
Nikko punches him hard in the nose again, the titanium reinforced gloves do their job. He swears and stands, like he is going to go for her. Her foot cracks his shin, literally. He sinks to the floor of the van. His nose is crushed and bleeding. He now officially can’t run, or walk.
“Herby, we already have your money. It’s being bounced around the world so many places in the next few days, it won’t recognize itself when it winds up in your ex-wife’s account. Ariel has been released and is being relocated as we speak.”
Johansen looks up, this is not going well, he gives it another shot, “The paperwork won’t hold up, I’ve done lots of litigation. Whoever filed it can’t know me, I didn’t sign anything. I can probably prove I was someplace else when it was signed or filed. I’m sure my people will think up lots of other ways to discredit this crap.”
“Well, you have a couple of problems. First, we have five million of your ex-money floating around the world, untraceable, but give it a shot if you insist. Second, we have the recordings of the beatings, we have video of her chained up in your home, and, this is the good part, we have video of you chaining her up! Isn’t technology amazing? And, the stuff we used is so gone, there’s not even a hole in the wall where it was installed.”
Johansen, “I have security, you couldn’t get in the house.”
“Geez, do you think we’re as stupid as you are? First, you have a sign in the window, not an actual security company. You can’t have a security company because if anything went wrong while you were gone, they would show up and find Ariel chained to the toilet. She was zonked from the drugs you give her. We could have held a rave and she wouldn’t have known.”
Johansen shrugs, he’s running out of ideas, “Suppose I pay you, that’s really what you want isn’t it?”
“Herby, you’re not getting it, I’ll go slow,…you’ve… already… paid…we …have… your… muh-ney. What I want is to see you neutered like a dog. Which I’m still considering letting my pal do,” I nod towards Nikko, who waves the serrated blade under his nose, then takes a small slice off the end.
Johansen screeches. “You’re fucking crazy, my goddamned nose!”
“Shut up Herby, or I’ll let her cut something else, lower than your abdomen.”
Johansen reflexively looks at his crotch, then back at Nikko. She’s twirling the blade lightly between her fingers. He shudders involuntarily, despite peeing minutes ago, a dark stain appears on his pants.
“Maybe you need some of that Flomax stuff, talk to your doctor, like they say on TV, ‘You should not use Flomax if you are allergic to tamsulosin. Do not take Flomax with other similar medicines such as alfuzosin, doxazosin, prazosin , silodosin, or terazosin.’ I guess that means any drug ending in ‘osin.’ Flomax may cause dizziness or fainting, especially when you first start taking it or when you start taking it again. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be alert. Avoid standing for long periods of time or becoming overheated during exercise and in hot weather. Avoid getting up too fast from a sitting or lying position, or you may feel dizzy.’ Sounds like it’s easier to pee more often. That’s drug companies for you.”
Herb looks dazed and confused by the woman on a rant about a drug.
I continue, “Back to business, Herby. Contact your lawyers or do anything obnoxious, I’ll send them copies of our audio and video. I can imagine the fun conversations they’ll have.”
Johansen, “I don’t believe a word of any of this,” but there is no conviction in his voice, or his manner.
“I don’t care what you believe, Herb. Here’s how this will go. You get to stay in your million dollar house, we included that in your net worth, you don’t have it mortgaged, so you have about four million in cash and securities left. Not bad. You take a look at the video and listen to the audio. Then, as they say at football games, ‘after further review,’ you may decide it’s really quite in your interest to drop everything and move on.”
Nikko gives him a shot to the jaw, she really doesn’t like this guy, and would have gladly left miscellaneous body parts for the animals.
Blood runs from Johansen’s mouth, “Is she crazy? She’s fucking crazy!”
“Well, Helloooo! Of course she’s crazy. Why do you think I bring her?”
Nikko jobs four stiff fingers under his sternum, then reaches back to give him another hard shot, I smile, “Not now, honey. Let’s recap the situation for Herb here.”
Herb is doubled over, the pain seems to run clean through his gut and up his spine.
“Herb, you’ve got an empty gun. Here’s the new Herby. No more lawsuits against anyone for any reason. Even if you’re actually in the right. Particularly if you’re in the right. We will be watching. If you file anything with any court, or hire a lawyer to wipe your ass, we send the video to the media. The video is very clearly you, and very clearly your ex-wife. The audio is very clearly your voice and her screams. Try all you like to prove it’s a digital scam. You will have a shredded reputation and have spent a substantial amount of you own cash suing whoever. If that’s not enough, if I ever have to visit you again,” I cock my thumb to Nikko, “I give you to Madonna.”
He grimaces, I continue, “You won’t survive an hour, or if she’s really pissed, you will survive a lots of hours, begging her for death. So, here’s the plan. We’re driving out of here. You get to find your way home. The door is open, we gave your home stash cash to Ariel, I have your driver’s license and your credit cards. We aren’t going to use them, it’s just to inconvenience you, I’m going to toss them in a drain someplace.”
Johansen, “I can barely hop, much less walk.”
“Would you like me to ask my friend to make it impossible for you to even hop? Or to ever pee standing up? Or to ever be able to talk coherently again? Best offer is on the table, stud.”
Johansen’s shoulders sink, he’s not admitting it, but he’s surrendered, “I’ll find my way.”
Nikko grabs him by the shirtfront, yanks him up and off the floor of the van, then throws him to his face. She sticks her hard heel into the small of his back and presses.
“She could snap you spine, and surely wants to. You wouldn’t be able to crawl to the road, slug. Now stay there until you don’t hear us, and you may get a chance to go home.”
I shoot him in the butt with a mild tranquilizer, he’ll be out for an hour or so.
We get in the van, drive it out of the woods and onto the dirt road up to the highway, unlock the chain, drive through and lock it back up again. The sedan’s disappeared. Nikko takes us to a mall in Tacoma. From there a cab to a hotel in town, have lunch and another cab to the airport. We fly to San Francisco, Janah arrives from New York two hours later. We spend a week, visiting Chinatown, the local Shaolin Temple and having sex in a suite at the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco.
Chapter Nineteen V
We keep waiting for something Shakespearean to happen, when most of the world is just an annex to the Jerry Springer show. Squalid. Cheap. Mean-spirited.
R. Scott Bakker, Disciple of the Dog
Janah, for once, is up before Nikko and I, we are catching up from a long stretch of dealing with the Johansens. Janah has tea and enjoys the view from the Lotus suite, at a mere $1,200 per night. She has to admit, the view is splendid, she can see the bay from one set of windows and the city from another, right now she’s enjoying the bay. Anything she wants, at least food or service-wise, is available at the touch of a button. She decides to touch the button, and by the time Nikko and I are up and showered, we are appreciating a splendid array of fruits, pastries, soft scrambled eggs and waffles. The hotel manages to deliver the food, hot, without the bread being mushy, the waffles crispy and warm, the soft scrambled eggs are soft, not dried out sponge yellow clumps, the butter is creamy, the maple syrup warm, the tea and coffee hot. You get what you pay for.
Janah, “Shall we visit Chinatown, or would you ladies prefer something else in our downtime?’
Nikko, “Start with Chinatown for a visit and a late lunch.”
“There is also a Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate park, it’s touristy, but I’d still like to go.”
“Let’s see, what to wear?”
“Dress comfortably. I don’t know where we’ll wind up. There are two temples here, one in San Francisco and one in Fremont. I should introduce myself out of respect. The one in San Francisco is on Geary Avenue, not in Chinatown itself. It is more commercial than ours, anyone can sign up for gung fu or qigong classes. Still, we can visit and see what’s what.”
“Be nice to just relax and be tourists.”
During our tour of Chinatown. Janah and I rattle off Chinese to shop owners, Janah talks herbs in the herb shops. In each, it’s only a minute or two until the owner appears, after the clerk out front realizes she’s in over her head. Janah sniffs and sorts, most of it grossly overpriced. We visit the tea garden, and enjoy elegant tea preparation and the stillness for an hour or more. We skip lunch entirely, around four, we catch a cab to the temple on Geary.
“Maybe they’ll just see us as curious tourists. Then we can get the flavor of the place and go to our fancy suite and indulge ourselves in sensual activities.”
Nikko, “Up for that.”
Janah, “Me, too. Let’s have a look around and slip out the door.”
The Abbott is on the premises, and as a Master he recognizes one of his own instantly.
Master Yongxin, “Excuse me for interrupting. I welcome a sister Shaolin to our humble temple. Where are you from?”
I bow, “The Abbott is most perceptive. My name is Daphne, this is my friend Nikko, and may I introduce the Abbess of my temple, Master Janah,”
He explodes in laughter, then bows deeply, “Master J!! The white haired Abbess is a mystery to the rest of us outside of New York. I am deeply honored by your visit. This, then is Master Sylk. And this is of course Nishiko, daughter of Master Murakami and herself a master of kendo. I am overwhelmed. Please, come, have tea. Please, this way, what else can I offer you?”
Janah, “Your gracious company is more than adequate. It is our pleasure to meet you, sir. We came without robes in order not to disturb your monks.”
“Disturb! They are already in awe of the legend of Master Sylk. Three of her calligraphies hang in our entrance hall.”
Janah, “Ah, so this is where Master Sung sent them to be examined. Who is the master of calligraphy here?”
Yongxin, “He has gone beyond. But his students marvel at Master Sylk’s work to this day, and try to replicate a small portion of her skill.”
“You honor me, I am most humbled.”
“Nonsense, you have a gift, enhanced by many hours of practice. You share it with us, it is we who are grateful. However, I have a small request, if you would be so kind.”
“What can I do, sir?”
“May I gather a few monks and let them watch you perform a kuen or two? We have heard of the flying priest, but have not witnessed. Is it too much to ask? You are on a vacation, or relaxing after business, I am being presumptive.”
“To be asked to demonstrate for your monks is an honor I did not expect. Is there a simple garment I may borrow?”
Preparations are made, I change and walk out of the small room thinking there might be a dozen monks to watch me do a couple of kuen. There are over fifty, seated cross legged in a circle. I bow to the Master, then to Janah, do two forms, Praying Mantis and Snake Style.
It is my natural habitat. At their request, I offer a demonstration of nunchucks, and long staff, rewarded with applause and mystified nods. How can a human being defy gravity in this way? How is such speed possible? Master Yongxin is smiling, I demonstrated my skill, but more important, I demonstrated possibility.
There are questions, my history, how do we practice, the schedule at our temple. Since ours is not a public gung fu school, the hours we put in, from early meditation, breakfast and lunch, no dinner, the required academics, two gung fu sessions a day are different from a temple open to the public.
A student asks, “The schedule sounds rigorous, how is there time for all of that?”
“We have a luxury, from the time a student is admitted, until they are sent to live out in the world, they live in our monastery. It is our school, our job and our training. We don’t have to go out and earn a living elsewhere, then find time for practice. Most of you have busy schedules, you go to school, you work, come here to train. We do it all in one spot. In a way, we have it easier, you have to make an effort to get to practice, we are already there.”
I want them to understand that we don’t see ourselves as doing it ‘better.’ We have a way, they have a way, that’s all. Grins and smiles let me know I’d pulled it off.
Then, out of the crowd of monks, a voice they are all too familiar with.
It is, I find out later, a smart-mouth called Matt Franklin, “Pretty demonstrations are not fighting. This master is graceful and knows her art. But can she perform as a warrior? She looks more like a skilled dancer to me. I challenge her to demonstrate her fighting skills.”
Master Yongxin, “Impudent fool! Our guest has kindly agreed to a demonstration. You have seen speed, accuracy and grace. Is this not enough?”
Franklin, “If it doesn’t translate into performance under pressure, what’s the point? If she is truly a priest. Let her prove it.”
“Please sir, step to the front.”
A tall man emerges from the back of the circled monks, taller than I am, maybe six two, and it’s clear, even in his loose fitting gi, that he’s muscular.
He asks, “How do I know you are even a priest?”
I shrug, shoot both arms in the air and turn my arms palm up, revealing the tiger and dragon. There is a collective gasp. Besides ours, no temples anywhere brand, don’t even have a gauntlet test. There is no documentation that branding was ever a part of Shaolin; it is, however, at our temple. Theirs is mostly a gung fu school with some meditation and various demonstration ‘events.’ They accept anyone who shows up and pays. We turn away most applicants, do not perform public demonstrations for any reason.
Franklin says nothing, I can see he’s surprised. He’s made a mistake. He assumed I am like some in his temple, Shaolin dilettantes, good at forms and Buddha babble, not much good at actual fighting. To his dismay, I’d been though the gauntlet and branded. He had never even seen one with the brands. I am truly a priest, not merely a talented gung fu student.
“We don’t have to do this.”
He smiles, it’s fake, I see his bravado, smell his fear. He’s caught himself in a trap of his own making, the human dilemma.
“This is my companion, Nishiko. She is not Shaolin, and she does not train in gung fu. If you can stay with her for three minutes, I will bow to your skill.”
Franklin looks over at the Japanese. She’s not even paying attention to the conversation. She appears to be looking in Janah’s direction, otherwise completely distanced from everything around her.
“You would let your student suffer to save yourself pain?”
“Her suffering is not your concern.”
The crowd of monks is silent, waiting for Franklin to decide. The tall priest looking at him as if he’s transparent. He feels the intensity of my gaze, his heart races, “Maybe you should at least give her some pads.”
“She won’t need them, would you like some? Do you wish to proceed?”
Franklin, “Sure, if you agree to fight me after I put her down.”
“We can decide that in two minutes.”
Franklin, “You said three, you afraid she won’t last that long?”
Nikko magically appears between me and Franklin. He hadn’t seen her get up. He puts his hands up into the typical Gung Fu open hand guard, bends his knees into a half crouch. His hands circle slowly. He tries a fast knife hand to her neck. Nikko doesn’t step, she leans back, his hand goes by uselessly.
She spins and sinks her heel hard into his abdomen. He’s tough, he folds forward though, he felt it. He tries to side kick her, she moves towards him, not away, he thinks he has her.
Thinking and fighting don’t mix, Franklin is thinking consciously, Nikko is letting her body do the thinking. She shifts ever so slightly and his leg shoots past her, she breaks his nose with a back fist. His thigh has a most unpleasant encounter with her knee, then she stomps his instep with her heel. Before he has a chance to react, her elbow comes up hard against his chin. His head snaps back. She leaps straight up, coming down she cracks his collarbone with the same elbow. She could have broken it, but is hesitant to mangle him just for a big mouth.
Franklin falls to his knees. His mouth has earned him a broken nose, bruised thigh, a cracked foot and a fractured collarbone. Nikko hadn’t broken a sweat. She bows to me, resumes her seat. Matt didn’t make the two minutes.
Franklin is a loudmouth and a bully. Seeing him so easily handled, particularly by a female a hundred pounds lighter, inspires the students that they, too, could deal with a bigger opponent with a bad attitude.
Master Yongxin stands over Franklin, “You have dishonored yourself, not for the first time. For this final insult, you are banned forever from our Order and all Shaolin.”
He turns to the nearest four monks, “Take him to the emergency room and leave him. Make no explanation. We can leave it up to him if he wishes to make a further fool of himself by explaining his injuries.”
Franklin would say nothing. He could hardly claim he had been attacked by anyone in the temple. Over fifty monks watched him demand a fight, then pulverized by a hundred and twenty pound woman.
Master Yongxin, “A thousand apologies and a thousand thank yous. This one, Franklin, I hoped would learn humility with his power. I could never get him to grasp that a quiet mind would make him even stronger.”
Janah, “I regret his ignorance. Master Sylk’s student is, as you have seen, uniquely talented. Perhaps the universe brought her to your school to rid you of a nuisance.”
Yongxin laughs, “And so it did. Let’s have tea, would you say a few words to our students?”
Janah, “Tea, then perhaps a short talk.”
Master Yongxin, “Our visiting Abbess has agreed to speak after we enjoy refreshing tea. Then we will gather in the hall.”
This is a treat, to hear from, first, an Abbess, many had never even heard of such a thing, and one from a temple that followed the ancient ways.
While enjoying the hot oolong, Yongxin asks, “Master J, I have followed the story of your temple for many years. Old Hue is still there? I regret the passing of Zhang, Master Sung remains incapacitated. I only heard rumors of the hermit monk, is he alive still?”
Janah, “Tan has gone beyond.”
“I knew of only one with his rumored qi skills. He died years ago. He trained one other, I do not know where he is, or even who he is. That was in China, long ago. My youthful inattention cost me an opportunity to learn.”
“Tan had three students at the end of his days. They remain in our temple. We are bound not to discuss who they are or what they learned. I trust you understand.”
“Of course, we will not discuss it. I do have one question, if I may put it, you need not answer.”
Janah cocks her head, waiting.
“Is the transmission as painful as they say?”
Janah smiles, the Abbott had given over to the commercial aspects of Shaolin, that is his decision to make, not hers to criticize. He had not, however, lost the skill of recognizing one who had abilities far beyond his own.
“The opportunity to relieve suffering in another is worth the pain of receiving the skill to do it.”
Yongxin nods. This woman had undergone the transmission, from a legend in Shaolin.
“I am doubly honored. Blessings flow to us as a consequence of your presence, and that of Master Sylk. The other, she is not Shaolin.”
It wasn’t a question, he is merely curious about Nikko.
Janah, “Nishiko is our dear friend and companion. She is a kendo master and soon to be a taekwondo master. She practices kendo, judo and hapkido with Master Sylk. Master Sylk is a taekwondo grandmaster, hapkido and kendo master. Nikko’s father is, as you have discerned, Master Murakami, highly respected in that community. He learned in Kyoto, in the old fashioned way, which is how he teaches his only two students.
“Ah, now it falls together. Master Sylk is one of the tiny few martial artists that learns instantly. Of course, it is obvious now. And you are a qi master, beyond that even, who would be sought out by the devious and greedy. So, you need someone dispassionate to look out for you. Having no sense of separateness, you would wind up in all sorts of trouble without your guardians.”
Janah, “The three of us live together in Greenwich Village when I am not occupied with temple duties. I have several disciples who are charged with daily operations. Since our way is to keep everything inside the temple, and we accept only a few students every other year, I do not have the level of complication you have here. You have decided that introducing gung fu, harmony of mind and body, is more important than the self enclosure we enjoy. That is good. We have different approaches, but the same end in mind, relief of suffering.”
Yongxin smiles slyly, “Do not reveal my little secret please.”
Janah cocks her head, as if such a thing is out of the question.
“I should know better. May I ask, can you talk tonight about qi?”
The monks are gathered in the main hall, Janah in front facing them.
Master Yongxin, “This glorious evening, we are honored to have the Abbess of the New York Chinatown Temple, and a qi master, say a few words to us on the subject. Please, Master J.”
Janah, “Thank you for such kind words Master Yongxin. And for the hospitality of you and your monks, well, most of them anyway.”
The monks laugh. This is not some stuffy old man who would pontificate endlessly all night.
“We do not do qi demonstrations, even to Shaolin in other temples, it is our way. So, I apologize, but you will have to take me at my word and trust. Which brings me to the first point, you must trust that there is more to the universe than you can imagine. Then trust that there is more to you than you can imagine. Your mind and body have more resilience and power than you know. The universe is full of untapped energy. We block it with our beliefs and mental limitations. Give up beliefs, desires and fears, and those powers will make themselves available. They surround you this very moment, waiting until you shed your idea of a self who acts. If you can release yourself to it, blindly, step into the abyss alone, you will find that the universe provides everything you need. If there is a shadow of a doubt, effort is of little consequence. I learned this lesson from the relentless training and trust of my master in the art. I learned it from my companion, Master Sylk. I learned it from kendo master Nishiko. If you step into the emptiness, on the word of your own heart, or absolute trust in your teacher, you will find unlimited power to relieve suffering. If you seek to gain power for its own sake, to control others for your self interest, you will pay dearly with your own misery. This is the Way. Thank you for your patient attention.”
Janah asks, “Master Yongxin, shall we take an hour for silent meditation? I do not know your practices here?”
Yongxin tells his students, “You are blessed to spend an hour in silent meditation with our new friends. Sit in silence, perhaps you will be allowed to learn.”
The students, first the most sensitive of them, then all of them, feel an energy flowing throughout the hall. The white haired Abbess emanates light, then the entire room is lit by energy they do not fully understand. It is dusk outside, lights dimmed, but the hall is bright as the midday sun.
Janah stands, bows to Master Yongxin, we leave. The monks sit in silent wonder for another full hour. The light fades slowly, they discover that there are beings tapped into an energy source they have never experienced. What they learn is that that the energy is there, and for some of them, it will change their entire approach to life.
Yongxin thinks, ‘If even one is changed, the entire universe is changed. Tonight, many have been changed. This temple will never be the same.’
He feels a deep sense of gratitude. He will not forget.
Chapter Twenty V
Geez, everybody’s a mind reader.
We’re on the couch in the suite, Janah replies to my unspoken question, “You were put in an untenable position. If you don’t fight him, he stays all swelled up within himself and continues to be a nuisance. If you defeat him, he was beaten by a true Shaolin priest, not just a better than average gung fu student from New York. Calling on Nikko was a stroke of genius.”
“Well, I cheated a little. She’s hardly a student. I am her student in kendo.”
Nikko, “You couldn’t fight him, although, it would have been easier on him if you had.”
Janah, “It’s true, Daphne would have left more of his bones intact. It still would have left him with the excuse that she is a priest, in the ancient meaning of that word. Besides, he’ll get pasted back together, you didn’t kill anything but his ego.”
“Might make him meaner than ever, he’s going to resent his humiliation.”
Janah, “We didn’t ask for this. He was mean anyway, a bully and punk. He might resent it, but he’s going to be a lot more careful who he picks on. And his confidence is shot. He’ll never be a nice guy, but he won’t be nearly the pain he was.”
“Works for me. Can somebody attend to my sexual needs now? Or do I have to take care of it myself?”
Janah and Nikko take turns attending, I’m easy to attend to. After I collapse into a languorous stupor, Nikko and Janah go at it with each other in an orgasm giving contest. Nikko got the most orgasms, but Janah won on a technicality, since she’d been in perpetual orgasm since starting in on me.
Nikko lays back exhausted on the pillow, “Ange Blanc is the nastiest, most sensual woman on the planet.”
I blink, half asleep, “You don’t know all the women on the planet, give me a kiss, I need sleep.”
Janah snuggles in between her exotic erotic blankets and we are unconscious for the next eight hours. Well, Nikko and I, Janah stayed in bed another two hours while we shared tea, meditated and worked on Qi skills. There is progress, Nikko can keep tea hot. I can make water boil on my own. We sit cross legged facing each other and hold our palms up, about six inches apart. We’d learned to push each others’ hand back, and to draw it forward, without touching.
Nikko feels a flash in her mind, she stares, I’d changed to Janah.
She hears a voice, mine, “Are you ready to learn?
“It must go very slowly. It will hurt even then. Do not be greedy, it will take time, and much practice. It will be like static, a bad connection.”
Nikko, “I am your …dent. Instruct me as… will.”
Nikko lies silent, just from this short mentaling, she’s mind foggy, tired. At least she gets to lay on the floor of the expensive Mandarin Oriental suite.
Janah, “She’s a tough thing. It took both of us to communicate. Must have hurt like hell.”
“Five minutes a day for a month, then maybe ten.”
Nikko stirs, Janah has her cold hands on the sides of Nikko’s head to ease the pain, then slowly warms them over the next half hour.
Tears fall from Nikko’s eyes, “I never believed it possible.”
“You don’t need to believe, except to believe infinite possibility and trust. You have been with us long enough to be open to the possibility, your trust in us is always evident, that’s enough.”
“Why don’t the moms…..?”
“They are happy, having beautiful lives, why complicate things with parlor tricks.”
Nikko mulls it over, “You teach me because of the work. The moms don’t have to do the things we do. To involve them is not helping them.”
“Smart girl. Mentaling is not all blessing. First, it’s hard on the brain, second, there has to be a unique bond, third, there are others out there who know we exist. We have avoided them for years, but they are always looking. They aren’t very good, or they would have spotted us by now, but some are getting better. They have already co-opted many with just limited qi skills. There are others who don’t know of us, yet.”
“So, like qi, if the skills fall into the wrong hands, all hell breaks loose.”
“To put it mildly. There is no government, no organization that can be trusted. Even within Shaolin, one breaks, leaves the order and creates havoc.”“It’s painful, why do people do it?”
“The pain is during the learning. Once adapted in a healthy mind, it is a joy. Capability in anything arises from the ability to face repetition, tedium and pain. It is this way with everything, but people want an easy way out.”
“Many hours of training for Nikko.”
“You’ve had a taste. You can also merge, which may take years. In the meantime, you can learn to mental with us. But perhaps you prefer your independence. It is not for us to say.”
“To turn away from such a loving gift is to deny love. I will take instruction, and you will decide.”
We fly home the next morning, call the moms and Nikko’s family, have dinner with Chan, Ning and the children. For a while anyway, the world is not calling us for another challenge.