Chapter Twenty Nine IV
There’s a body with a brain. After a feedback loop of information from the environment, internal and external, the brain tells the body what to do.
There’s no ‘you’ that does anything you aren’t told to do by your brain.
Sorry if it pops your self-inflated free will balloon, but that’s how it works.
Janah rings the bell, Kendra Jacobs buzzes her in. Janah is dressed in one of her long antique dresses, black wig, kerchief tied around her head. She looks like a gypsy. I’d darkened her brows, eyeliner, and added dark eye shadow. Beads, a cheap ring and gold bangle bracelets complete the look. She calls herself Vadoma, which means ‘knowing one.’ A point she’d made clearly when she had called Jacobs a week earlier.
It was a ridiculously simple matter to convince Kendra that she called Vadoma, not the other way round. Janah knows enough about Kendra’s habits, and her state of confusion that with a few dropped references to disordered days, misremembered conversations and a sense of being constantly watched, she was practically begging Vadoma to help.
Janah made her wait a week, and told her on the phone that under no circumstances should she leave the apartment, she sensed dark forces around her. Kendra was already certain of it.
Janah adopts a vaguely Slavic accent, not overdone, doesn’t want to come across as a third rate actress auditioning for a role in a vampy vampire movie.
“My grandmother had second sight, and knew many mysteries. My mother thought it was all an old woman’s foolishness, but my grandmother took me under her wing when she observed my aura. The abilities often skip a generation, for reasons unknown.”
Kendra, “I’m losing my mind. People are following me, I never see anyone, but I get e-mails, with videos of my activities, everything I do, I say things on them I don’t remember saying. I’m afraid I’ll blurt out….I mean say things that are inappropriate.”
Vadoma, “Your mind is poisoned by deep secrets, terrible secrets. You cannot hide them from me, I see the spirits of your dead men, in this very room.”
Kendra eyes widen, “You don’t, you didn’t even….”
“Did you think I need to read your palm? Or pull out some stupid crystal ball, my own senses and the cards tell all. All else is merely nonsense for the devious to fleece the ignorant. I am not here for money. I am here to spare your soul from eternal torture.”
Kendra, “I never believed in any hell, or heaven….”
“And you needn’t believe in them now. The evil possesses you is of your own making. You are starting to lose your mind, the consequence of your misdeeds. The taking of life has serious consequences. But there are spirits, and they can torture a mind. You are being dealt with from beyond the grave by men you have murdered, for no reason other than your own thrill seeking.”
Kendra, “I didn’t kill anyone. Nobody ever proved I did any killing.”
Vadoma waits, her gaze penetrates Kendra’s eyes. I have her in dark contact lenses, her eyes look as black as Nikko’s. It’s unnerving, to see no sign of sympathy or empathy, nothing but darkness.
She finally speaks, “The spirit on your left,” Kendra turns and shrinks back to her right, she stares at the emptiness next to her, “is the one drowned. Struck down by your hand and thrown into blue water. It is pointless to deny it. I am not here to reveal you, or bring you to justice. I am here to tell you how to make amends, and relieve your suffering.”
Kendra, ‘How can I trust you?’
“By my actions. Understand, I don’t need you to tell me what you did. I know. You need me, to tell you how to return from your emerging madness before it’s too late. The spirit on your right lay in a hospital healing a weak heart when you put the drug into his veins.”
Kendra gasps, “There is no way you can know these things.”
Vadoma, “Yet I do know them. Your men tell me like old friends. They tell me they are going to make your torment a thousand times worse, unless….”
“Unless what? Vadoma, what do they want, what do I need to do? Tell me!!”
Janah has her. It’s a matter of dropping a few additional details, to fix the idea in Kendra’s head that Vadoma knows all. She doesn’t, but Kendra, in her fear, does what people always do with fortune tellers, reveal more than enough to make it simple to fill in the blanks. Once they believe, turn their minds over to another, they are lost, children, completely malleable.
Vadoma, “First, you must pray daily for forgiveness. On your knees in a church. A full hour a day. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God, you are praying to the spirits of your dead husbands to forgive you. You have to pray to them all, if two forgive and one doesn’t, you remain tortured.”
Kendra, “How will I know when to stop?”
“You may never stop. If you comply, they will soon leave you alone. If you start with your old habits, your problems will begin afresh and they may not be so cooperative next time. You will pray every day for the rest of your life, wherever you are, in a church. They don’t care what kind of church, just that you go, kneel and pray. They see it as a form of penance, and sincerity.”
Kendra, “I’ll do it, I’ll do anything to make this insanity stop.”
“You have millions. Your former husbands generously don’t begrudge you the money. But you must give away one hundred thousand a year until you are dead. They don’t care who you give it to, just give it, no strings of any kind.”
Kendra, “I suppose I can do that.”
Vadoma, “You will do that. It is not a request. It is the demand of the husband you injected with heroin then burned the evidence.”
Kendra’s hand goes to her mouth, is there nothing hidden from this woman? She is visibly shaking.
Vadoma, “Finally, by decree of three dead souls, you must remain celibate for the rest of your life. Your days of men and marrying are over.”
Kendra starts to cry, she has tremors, feeling sorry for herself and feeling relieved that there is hope of escaping her nightmare.
“I’ll leave New York, I’ll….”
Vadoma laughs wickedly, “Woman, such stupid talk will make it far worse. I have intervened with the dead on your behalf. You are a murderess. The spirits can follow anywhere, there is no running away.”
Kendra realizes the futility of escape, her shoulders sag.
Vadoma, “You must see there is no alternative. Any violation will bring more torment. You have killed, not once, not in anger, not for money, not for self protection, but three times for your own gratification. That you may be forgiven at all is a miracle. I have seen evildoer’s suffer far worse for far less. You are receiving an undeserved gift. Best realize that every day on your knees, thank the men you murdered and beg them humbly to forgive. They will not forget, and they will watch your every action.”
Kendra is quiet, Janah sees nothing but resignation, tinged with hope of relief. She has one hook left to insert.
“Your mind has been badly damaged, as spirits are prone to do when they are angered. They will leave you alone, but they will watch. In the meantime, you may continue to have confusion, see things, say things, feel out of place. It won’t be the spirits, just the fragments left of their work. The regularity of your prayerful penance will help. Beyond appeasing your dead, it will help you gather the threads of you disintegrating mind.”
Kendra nods again, “If I need you, how do I find you?’
Vadoma, “If you need me, you are lost forever. There is no second chance, no step backward, Kendra. I’ve warned you, your mind will need time to heal. If you don’t slip into the old ways, it will. If you do, your soul will wander in emptiness, now, and for eternity.”
Vadoma stands, “You are incredibly fortunate. People like you inhabit mental institutions all over the world, doctors give them drugs, it doesn’t help, they live in a hell of their own creation. You are being afforded a unique opportunity, care for it,” she turns and leaves.
Later, Janah now Janah, not Vadoma, joins the family at the condo.
Susan, “What happens now?”
Janah, “You and Daphne create some minor havoc, milder stuff, let her think she’s still near the edge. Soften it every week, then let it slide for a couple, then something every two or three weeks, then drop it. We have enough material for that. The Society will send us footage of her every couple of days, keep the material fresh with your video magic. We’re monitoring her phone calls and e-mail for a while, just in case. But I’m going to wind that down over the next few weeks. If she does something stupid after this, gets a boyfriend, starts skipping her church visits, we’ll go back in, more directly. If she gets really stupid, she gets to see Nikko.”
Nikko says nothing, I read her eyes, they say nothing too. I smile, my student isn’t looking for a chance to do grievous bodily harm for once.
Yes, she’s discovered she doesn’t need to hope for an opportunity. She knows it will come along sooner or later. If not Kendra, something else.
Unlike you, she’s also not going to hope it never comes.
Neutral Nikko is good enough.
I settle in next to my bookend, brush back the thick black hair and kiss her, “Something more interesting than refocusing a stupid woman will turn up. In the meantime, let’s get little brother and beat ourselves up trying to beat him up.”
Nikko, “You always knows how to bring me joy.”
Nikko hadn’t changed expression, I mental, “I think she blinked faster than usual.”
Janah giggles, For Nishiko, a sure sign of unbound happiness.
We didn’t bring a murderess to justice, not in the legal sense. We don’t work for the legal system, we do it how we do it. The legal system doesn’t go for justice anyway, they go for convictions. There are tons of examples, plea bargains, witness protection to try and convict people further up the food chain. In San Francisco, three people a day are hit by cars. Drivers are almost never prosecuted.
Why not? The cases are hard to win, hard to prove some fool was texting while turning, or checked traffic coming from the left but didn’t check who was crossing from the right. The DA gets reelected by conviction rate, not by number of prosecutions. Cops quickly learn not to bother making an arrest, lots of paper to fill out with no tangible result.
Chapter Thirty IV
For a dream cometh through the multitude of business;
and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
Nikko and I are pounding Chan from each side with kicks to his torso and legs. It’s like kicking an oil drum filled with concrete. I grab him from behind, arm around his thick neck. Nikko comes in a front kick assault. Chan swipes Nikko’s feet, then seizes an ankle on her next kick and twists, Nikko flips sideways and tumbles to the mat. I’m hanging onto his back, but he apparently doesn’t notice. He sinks to one knee, reaches behind for a handful my gi, at the same time uses his other hand to stick his thumb into the soft tissue on the side of my elbow. My arm goes limp, I’m sailing over his head. I flip in the air and land on my feet, shoot my left foot back to his chest. It’s a good move, except the shock of the kick only rebounds up my leg. Chan doesn’t move. I leap in the air, spin facing him and smash the side of his head with a sharp crescent kick. It has all the impact of kicking a fireplug.
Nikko comes charging, leaves her feet and connects dead on with a flying side kick. She bounces off and smacks the mat with a thump. I hit him with a right cross and follow up with a left to his solar plexus, my wrist hurts.
Chan lays his hand on my sternum, nudges gently. I fly across the mat, up against the wall…..splat! Nikko wheels into a spinning kick, Chan raises his arm and she hits the palm of his hand. His hand moves an inch against her heel, Nikko is spinning in the opposite direction, like a figure skater doing a reverse camel. She uses her momentum to turn it into a flying roundhouse, Chan ducks. When she lands, he shoves her flying forward. She saves herself by diving into a front roll, and winds up facing me, still on the floor. We look at each other blankly.
Nikko, “Little brother throws beloved sisters around like Frisbees. I hope Janah has liniment and time.”
I’m massaging my foot with the hand that still has a functioning wrist, “She’s getting things together now, laughing at us.”
Chan rolls forward twice and ends up cross legged next to us.
“Sisters are quick. It is good practice for me to deal with your speed and accuracy. Nishiko has been well instructed.”
“Do you feel anything when we hit you? It doesn’t register if you do?”
Chan, “Of course. Not much weight, but your speed makes the most of it. I may get some bruises, a knot here or there. Wife will take care of it. Master J taught Ning how to use her heel to press out knots in back or legs. Very effective.”
“My chest feels like it was hit with a hammer.”
Chan, “Without your qi, perhaps a broken bone. But you are too skilled for Chan to break a bone with one small push.”
“Small push that sent me flying.”
Chan shrugs, “You are light, like Nishiko. Harder to move Black.”
“What about Janah, she’s not heavy?”
“Master J, too much qi. Chan cannot push.”
Nikko, “What happens if you both push each other?”
Chan, “Don’t know, maybe universe explodes.”
We laugh, Chan stands and pulls us up, we are soaked with sweat. Chan hadn’t moved enough to sweat. Nikko and I limp to the elevator.
“Could you at least fake a limp, or rub your jaw or something?”
Chan shrugs, “Maybe next time.”
Ten minutes and a second bottle of water later, I’m on the massage table, Nikko in liniment pre-soak. Janah softens us up for an hour and a half, then to the showers.
Three weeks pass, Jacobs has been a good girl. Attends early Mass every day, prays afterwards. A priest talked to her, just to meet his apparently devoted new parishioner. She didn’t say much, didn’t want to confess, just said she was asking for forgiveness. She didn’t say for what or from whom.
She’d gotten an e-mail twice in the three weeks, vague pieces of her life, shots of her entering the church, in stores, exiting her apartment building. There is a soft glow to the photos, a bit of haze, as if something otherworldly is standing next to her, or behind her, hovering over her head. It does its job, Kendra shudders when she sees it, eyes dart around her room, like she’s trying to catch a glimpse. She gives the priest a check for one hundred thousand dollars.
We let two weeks go by then send more photos. This time Susan makes the apparitions less substantial, as if they are leaving her, adds a glow around Kendra, as if she is attaining a special status. It only remains a few seconds. Don’t want her thinking she’s attained sainthood.
Janah, “Brilliant Sis. The priest has connected the dots. Not about us, but who she is, the arrest, the questionable deaths. He figures she’s trying to atone.”
Susan, “Think he’ll interfere, maybe she talks about the e-mails, the gypsy queen?”
Janah shakes her head, “Not a chance. He got a hundred grand from her. She’s in his church every day praying. If she skips confession, he’ll gladly overlook that. If she starts confessing, he can’t do anything with it anyway.”
Susan, “What now?”
Janah, “Something in three weeks, then a month or six weeks later. After that, once every two months, then three. If she lasts for a year and a half, we’ve got her broken and in the habit.”
“She may actually wind up in a habit. If she gives the same church another hundred thousand, they’ll make her the Mother Superior.”
Sis, “What’s up with that? Marry four times, kill three and wind up as a bride of Christ?”
Janah, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Chapter Thirty One IV
Make a chain: for the land is full of bloody crimes, and the city is full of violence.
(I kind of got on a bible roll lately. I’m not religious, but the quotes are fun.)
David and Ning are on the roof, David is sitting in the midst of two dozen pigeons. There is cooing, and wings flap from one, the rest mill around silently pecking at grain David spread for them. After ten minutes, he raises one arm and points to the sky. The birds fly off in a cloud, circle, then towards Chinatown.
David walks over to Ning, she takes his hand, he says, “Janah.”
Janah listens to David’s story, “Bad trouble in temple. Master Sung not well, old ones not well. Cannot call, cannot leave. Very bad.”
Janah kisses the boy, nearly four now. He doesn’t understand the message, the birds told him, so he told Janah, that’s what he knows to do. He runs to his father who lifts him high with one hand, then swings him back and forth. He lets go and David flips in the air like a trapeze artist, and lands on his feet. David is as close to a bird as a human can get. His body sailing through the air is second nature to him.
Janah, “Please call Black. Tell him I need him.”
Ning dials, Janah, mentals me, I need you.
Ning is disconnecting as Nikko and I appear, “I was logged off, class was just about over, I understand we have a problem.”
Ning, “I don’t understand. The birds told David something, he came in and told Janah there are problems, serious problems, at the temple. That’s all I know.”
Janah, “The Masters have all fallen ill. Of what and why is unclear. David sent the pigeons back to the temple. They will return when they know more, he has instructed them well.”
She strokes the small boy’s head, he smiles up at her, “Birds find out. Birds tell David.”
Janah, “Yes, they will. You have done well. You have learned, I am grateful for your diligence.”
David bows to her as he had seen his father do innumerable times. His father is like a god to him, if Chan bowed deeply to the white haired one, she is, next to his mother, the most revered thing in any world.
Janah calls Sung’s number, no answer, she calls the main line, no answer.
Nikko, “What can have gone so wrong at the temple? Is it just the Masters?”
“We don’t know. Get dressed, full gear.”
We disappear into the spare bedroom where we keep the clothes and other paraphernalia for refocusing trips. It might be pointless if it’s illness, a virus, food poisoning. I can’t see how it would involve fighting, it’s full of Shaolin monks. Still, better to be prepared.
Janah is on the phone to the Society, “I need an SUV, no equipment, just transportation, deliver to home. I have a driver, I don’t know how long I need it.”
She hangs up, “Car will be a half hour, Black is on the way from Brooklyn. I told him to come here. We may get more information and we’d waste a trip down there. Ning and Chan, let’s take David up to the roof. If the birds come, they will have something for us. Daphne and Nikko can stay here and answer the phone, wait on the car and Black.”
Nikko and I practice kata for kendo. The phone is silent. A half hour passes, the buzzer rings. It’s the car. I tell the driver to give the key to the security guard at the front door. We perform another two kata, the buzzer again, it’s Black. The guards know him, they still ring through to announce guests.
Black, “Any news?”
“Zip, there’s tea and coffee on the counter, just made.”
He gets coffee and watches us give a kendo demonstration.
“Man, it was worth the trip just to see the perfection of the art. Daphne, you have met your match, Nikko is kendo.”
“Tell me about it. Between Nishiko and Chan, I’m feeling massively inadequate. You haven’t seen Chan in a while. He’s unbreakable. Trust me, Nikko and I have tried. His Qi is at Janah’s level.”
Black, “Get out! What am I saying? It was obvious back in our temple days. Now, here with Master J all the time, must be a sight to behold. You two practice with him?”
Nikko, “We practice on him. He doesn’t do anything. A single small push, he sends us flying.”
Black laughs, “If we get a chance, I’ll have to go a round or two with him. I don’t have Janah to work with, but I haven’t been just chillin’ either. Be interesting.”
Janah and the others return from the roof, have tea and coffee. She’s clearly thinking something over.
“The birds returned, I sat with David, but they did not speak. One kept to one side, away from us. I went to the edge of the roof, next to the concrete wall surrounding the edge. The lone bird hopped up on the wall and the message that came was, ‘Fledgling not understand. Death in temple.’ He was telling me he didn’t tell David because he’s a child. I don’t know if it’s out of a sense of protecting him, or just that they think he wouldn't understand the message.”
Black, “Someone died?”
“I asked exactly that, he said only, ‘some, many hurt.’”
Black, “Well, what are we waiting for? We got to get down there.”
Janah, “I asked if he knew how the deaths happened. More like, ‘how died?’ in their language. All he said was, ‘much blood.’ I’m thinking it over to make sure we don’t rush in to a situation we don’t understand. For instance, is there an illness that is causing bleeding, some sort of virus. Or was there bloodshed, as in violence. Either way, I don’t see the advantage of bulldozing our way in. I wanted to decide how to approach it, if I should call the police, or EMS. What do I tell them? A pigeon told me a story? ”
“Just say you can’t reach anyone.”
Janah, “Yeah, I thought that, then it occurred to me that if it was illness, they would have called on their own.”
Black, “I see the problem. Okay. We go down, I’ll get in just like I used to, over the wall where Daphne used to practice. I went over it a dozen times retrieving her nunchucks.”
Janah, “And if it’s a virus, and you get ill, how does that help? The Shaolin may have closed the temple for that very reason. I’m guessing, that can’t be it. If there’s an internal problem that big, Sung would have called me. I called his cell, and the main number. No answer. I called the qi masters, no answer. Hue doesn’t have a phone.”
Black, “Janah we have to go do something, we can’t just sit here and guess.”
“We’re all going down there, but only Daphne is going in, at least at first. I can communicate with her every moment. I can see what she sees, hear what she hears.”
Ning, “What about a virus?’
“Daphne and I don’t get sick. At least we never have. I don’t presume we’re invulnerable, but neither of us has ever had so much as a head cold or a cavity. If someone has to go into an infected area, it ought to be one of us.”
I say, “One of me, you stay outside.”
Janah, Black, Chan, Nikko and I pile in the SUV, Nikko drives. We hit Chinatown in ten minutes, the temple in five more. Nikko parks directly in front of the main door.
Janah, “Chan, go to the entrance down the alley. Nikko, stay with me, Black, go with Daphne. You can boost her over the wall. If you need to, go in the same way, Nikko will come to the edge of the building and give you a thumbs up sign. You can scale the wall then.
Everyone goes to their jobs. I put my foot in Black’s cupped hands, he sails me up. He’s so pumped, I actually clear the wall and land catlike on the other side. The grounds here are secluded, tall bushes and bamboo surround the area where Black and I used to practice our mixed martial arts. The benches where we sat and talked so many times, still there, still pristinely neat.
The silence is deafening. I’m going to the meditation hall. If there’s nothing there, then the dining hall and kitchen. Is Chan by the back entrance?
Yes. If there’s difficulty, he’ll break in, otherwise, if it’s not a virus then let him in. I don't need him breaking down doors, too noisy.
I creep along the bushes, slip through tall bamboo, wait silently, as if I’m another bamboo stalk, motionless for five, then ten minutes. There is activity in the meditation hall, it doesn’t make sense, but I can only see shadows. The interior is lit by candles, and not as many as normal. The door is ajar, a man inside passes the entrance.
Did you see it?
“es, he’s carrying a rifle.
Not just. An assault rifle.
Let Chan in the kitchen entrance if you can get to it, then check out the rest of the place.
I make my way around the far wall, only another shadow and I either move so quickly or so slowly anyone watching wouldn’t know he’d seen anything. In another five minutes, I’m in the kitchen, a mess. Someone had been cooking, making tea and doing nothing about cleaning up.
I’m going to make someone pay just for this kitchen. This isn’t even the bad part if the pigeon has it right.
“The pigeon doesn’t know how to have it wrong. There is blood someplace, and a lot of it. They would have seen Hue’s gardens first. I’m not wanting to think what I’m thinking.
Then don’t think it. If it’s as bad as that, there’ll be enough time to think about it then. I’m letting Chan in.
I open the door, it squeaks softly; I stop and listen, nothing. Before I open it further, I find a bottle of cooking oil and pour it over the hinges. I ease the door open, Chan slips in.
“There are men with guns. Don’t know how many, don’t know where they all are. That’s what we’re going to find out. You go left, I’ll go right, meet at Tan’s hut. Nobody will be back there. Then we’ll figure out what next.”
Chan disappears, I take the opposite direction. We meet fifteen minutes later in front of Tan’s hut.
“Tell me what you saw, Janah already knows what I saw. She’ll hear it when you tell it.”
Chan, “Zhang dead. Chu, alive, severely injured. Hue I did not see. Master Sung is covered in blood, but appears to cling to life. They are all tied in Sung’s office. Three men, all armed, two in the room, one outside the door. All Chinese.”
“Four dead in Hue’s garden, everyone else is in the meditation hall, some are injured. Others are in meditation. There are six men in the hall, also Chinese, all armed.”
Janah, Got it. The good news is it isn’t a virus. That’s also the bad news. A virus might be easier to deal with. I have an idea. They can only want one thing. Or should I say one set of things. Either the artifacts, many of which are priceless, or the books of the secret teachings. Obviously, the masters have not told them what they want to know. They’re killing off hostages in the hopes someone will break. Sung would not sacrifice human life over artifacts, so they want the books.
How in hell did they get into and control of an entire Shaolin temple?
That’s a question for later. Right now, we need to remove the problem. I don’t want more monks to die. You and Chan stay put and try to think of something. I’ll meet with the troops out here and do the same. You can hear our conversation, I can hear yours. The five of us will get a plan in place and get this settled.
Chan and I discuss logistics. The intruders solved one problem for us. They are Chinese, so are many of the monks. But the monks would not touch guns, and the intruders are dressed in street clothes. Separating the good guys from the bad guys will be fairly simple. Separating the bad guys from their weapons won’t.
Janah, Nikko raised an interesting point. Suppose the intruders have allies sprinkled in with the monks? It would be a good strategy.
If they are armed, yes. If not it’s just hand to hand. It’s us and seventy or more monks.
We need to remove the armed ones, if there are others, we’ll have to deal with it when they reveal themselves.
Maybe they came as part of a visiting delegation?
Yes. They gained entrance as a visiting delegation from China. Sung would have verified them, but he could only take the word of whoever he contacted in China. Obviously, he or the Chinese were tricked.
Chan and I will take out the men holding Sung and the others. Shuriken will do the job. We need Nikko and Black to be outside the meditation hall. We’ll join them and deal with the other six.”
I’m coming too.
I hesitate, then, I can’t argue with myself. You know all the monks by sight, look for unknown infiltrators.
Wait for me to tell you we’re in position.
Black helps Nikko and Janah over the wall. Then he does what he’d done when he fetched my nunchucks years earlier, takes a running start, one foot on the wall and a leap upwards. He grabs the top and uses his huge hands and muscular shoulders to haul himself up and over, lands noiselessly on the other side.
I can see inside the meditation hall. The six are stationed around the perimeter, guns at the ready. We have to hit six men with shuriken instantly. I’ve numbered them one through six, clockwise around the hall. First to the left of the entrance is number one. Surprise is our best ally. They have to be hit in the face, everything else is covered. The shuriken may not penetrate their clothes deeply enough.
Chan and I are going to deal with the three in Sung’s office first. I’ll see you in a few minutes. If I get a chance, I want to make sure the masters understand what’s happening, so stay in my head.
Five minutes later, Chan and I join Janah, Nikko and Black.
“Three down. The masters got a quick sketch of the next steps. They are sealed in Sung’s office. Let’s get this done.”
A shuriken hits number one in the neck. Followed by a shower of stars across the hall. Five more gunmen with shuriken stuck in their faces. The painful distraction allows the monks to swarm them. Not a shot had been fired.
Janah flips on the hall lights, she speaks in English, loud and firm, “Monks of Shaolin, face me, now.”
Seventy plus monks turn to Janah. She instantly recognizes all but four adults.
“You are not of this temple!” Janah points to each directly.
The four flee the hall, out through the rear door that leads to the gardens.
Janah picks five disciples, “Go to Sung’s and tend to the masters. Stay inside with them, let no one in. Take fifteen disciples you know well and, surround the administration offices, particularly the library. Stand guard with your life, I'll join you shortly. We will find the rest.”
The books aren’t in the library.
Janah, No, that’s where I want them to think they are.
“Quickly now, every monk to the exterior walls, stay in sight of each other. Four of you remain here with the children. The intruders must not be permitted to get over the walls or out the doors, not permitted means exactly that. If you need to, kill them. They can only have gone to the garden. We will find them.”
It’s under a minute since they escaped out the back door, now monks line the walls.
Janah, “Daphne, I’ll going to the masters, perhaps I can help. Chan and Nikko take the long way around to the gardens. You and Black out the back door. They’ll be cornered soon enough.”
“I’m not letting them escape. If they don’t surrender…..”
“They killed Zhang and at least four monks, others shot and Sung is at death’s door. Do what you have to do.”
I look into Nikko’s unblinking blackness, “You heard her.”
Nikko turns and heads out the door, followed by Chan.
Chapter Thirty Two IV
You can’t fix stupid.
There are lights in the gardens, not used much. The Shaolin are frugal, and the people who live here know their way around in the dark. I figure it makes sense to leave them off. We know where we’re going, the others mostly don’t. On the other hand, it seems sensible to give them as few hiding places as possible. I could wait them out, but it’s possible more monks would die.
I flick on the lights, half a dozen switches. It doesn’t turn the night into day, but it makes sneaking around open areas impossible.
I speak into the silence, “There is no way out. We can sit here until morning if you wish. Suit yourselves.”
I repeat in Chinese.
There is silence, Janah, I need to get Sung and the others to the hospital. I’m going to call dad and have him meet us there. He’ll bring in the best of the docs. Wait these guys out if you can. If they do anything stupid…
It will be the last thing they do.
Chan goes quickly to the office, looks over the disciples standing guard, “Master J will help Master Sung as best she can, but she wants all the injured to go to the hospital where her father will see they are cared for," he points to Disciple Jin, "You and two monks go with Master J.”
Khan, “She is under my protection.”
Chan bows. He looks each disciple in the eye. His silent message is clear. Their death defending Janah and her patients would be far easier than facing him if they fail. He moves down the hallway, past the side of the meditation hall and into the garden behind.
I hear sirens. At the same moment, four figures emerge from the shadows at the other end of the garden. They are hooded, dressed entirely in black. Katana hang over their backs.
“Ninja, Chinese ninja at that, renegade renegades. Well, well, well. What do you think, Nikko?”
Nikko, “I think I’m glad I made the suggestion.”
She’s talking about the suggestion she made to take our own swords. We were in a private car, it wasn’t like we had to carry them down the street. I saw her logic, we had no idea what we were getting into. If it was overkill, good.
“I’m going to show my appreciation for your wisdom when this is over….and we’re alone.”
Nikko, “First, let’s see if we’ve learned anything.”
We step forward to face the four men. Chan and Black move to either side. The four unsheathe their weapons, stand back to back.
Nikko faces one, me another, Black and Chan the other two. We draw our swords so quickly the two men actually freeze momentarily. A Shaolin in front of one, a tall Japanese in front of another. One second we’re just standing there, the next millisecond crouched in fighting position, as if the movie jumped the frames where we unsheathed katana. The two men charge.
The third, Black’s man, comes at him slash and thrust. Black dodges left, just past the steel coming down to his shoulder. He has no weapon but his body. He uses his big fist to crush the intruder’s jaw, then slides backwards just in time to avoid most of the katana’s upswing. The tip of the blade slices his shirt, then catches the flesh of his chest, a cut diagonally under his breast to his sternum. The weapon swings around over his attacker’s head and is coming down again, this time in an attempt to remove Black’s head.
Chan’s foe is slicing down, then across, raises the blade high, swipes down, cuts only air. His target hardly moves, despite that, the sword finds no place to strike. It’s like practicing alone. He aims his cut to Chan’s shoulder, the blade flashes down, hits nothing. He slices at the man’s side, but the sword won’t obey. It sails harmlessly past the Shaolin’s abdomen. He is incredulous, breathing hard, the sword begins to feel heavy, his movement ponderous.
I have my man busy, and he is good. Yet, to him, I seem able to be in three places at once. We exchange blows, no matter where he aims his sword, my blade is there first. The sharp clang of steel on steel rings through the garden.
I cut him across the face, he’s in the middle of an upstroke, the tip slices my arm and leaves a gash along the triceps.
Nikko is in a different mode altogether. The man is good, the best of the four. Until he came across this Japanese, he had finished opponents in a few strikes. He recognized the Samurai immediately, that’s why he choose her to fight. Unfortunately, he also saw a woman, a young one. He could not fathom the idea that it would be anything other than a quick death. He has still not realized his error and he will not surrender. She barely moves, but when she does, her weapon moves as well. He’s cut everywhere, arms, chest, legs, across his forehead. She’s actually smiling, toying with him, humiliating him. Anger rises, without something drastic he will suffer the death of a thousand cuts.
He charges screaming, the blade slashes hard and fast. Nikko dances to the side, he turns, katana high, then a fearsome down stroke. His eyes widen, his blade hits only the dirt. As he turns to find her, his head separates from his neck, falls to the ground with a soft thud. His headless body remains upright a few seconds, then over backwards. Nikko stands over him, expressionless.
I parry my opponent’s thrust, the blade shoots past my side. I counter with a thrust of my own, Nikko watches my katana enter his abdomen, exit his back, I withdraw the blade. The ninja stares at me in disbelief, defeated by a Shaolin priest wielding a samurai sword. His eyes glaze, he falls forward, dead.
Black avoids losing his head by sidesplitting, the steel slices air, his massive fist shoots into the ninja’s groin, Black rolls backwards and stands. The man bent over, trying to get a breath, before he can right himself, Black’s foot snaps to his face, the man flips backwards, dead before he hits dirt, his neck broken.
Chan stands over his opponent. The ninja on his knees, he can’t lift the katana, it feels like a thousand pounds. He sinks back on his calves, confused and disoriented. He’d been defeated without delivering or receiving a single blow.