Chapter Forty Nine III
A bad attitude gets you in trouble.
Nikko has no attitude, she is trouble.
We are walking into the wonderful world of Heath. I would say it was the whacky world of Heath, but every time I see the word whacky it’s associated with a bad comedy movie. I’m not impressed by most comedy, it’s simplistic and juvenile. Good comedy is intricate, not slapstick, nor does it mean making weird faces like the ancient Jerry Lewis or his imitator Jim Carey, but I digress.
Heathworld is a little fiefdom of racist, self worshiping creeps, who are strong, trained and have a better than working knowledge of martial arts. By the time the Society got wind of these guys they are all twenty three or four, Heath pushing forty. The assaults now even less just for money, the drug sideline took care of that. Now, it’s for the pleasure, the meanness, just because they can.
This could be a bit more challenging than whipping up on a loser with no real friends in a pool hall.
Janah, "You both okay with this?"
“We can’t decide it’s too dangerous, J. If we’re only going to refocus people we know we can handle, then we’re in this for the wrong reason, we’d be the same as these dorks. I think I know how to make it more manageable.”
Janah asks Nikko, “What do you think?”
Nikko shrugs, “Five to three is not worth losing sleep over. Ground fighters, on television, have a weakness, no eye gouge, no groin kick, no weapons. Nikko doesn’t have rules. Can I have the big one?”
That settles that, Janah sighs, I hear her thought, These girls. Next they’ll be wanting to refocus ISIS.
“Janah says next we’re going to refocus ISIS.”
Nikko doesn’t look up from buffing her nails, “Can I have the big one?”
My idea is simple, “They go out in pairs. Heath doesn’t go at all. Let’s follow along on one of their outings and dissuade their evil intent. It will give us a workout and reduce the risk. Then we deal with the other three.”
Nikko likes it, “It’s safer. I’d like to do the whole crew, take them out right in front of each other. Daphne’s way is a chance to screw with them more than once. Two pieces of cake, not just one. Fair tradeoff.”
“Surveillance says they only prowl at night, we don’t have to follow them around all day. It’s only a matter of time.”
When we leave the room we’re completely different women. Nikko’s hair is streaked red, mine braided and beaded. Janah’s reddish brown, pulled in a ponytail. Her eyes almost black with dark eyeliner, black lipstick and the top of a tattoo on her neck like the tail of a snake.
Janah, “We could just sedate them, wake them up, then refocus them.”
Nikko, "That's no fun."
“Better to take them down with no tricks, give them nothing to fall back on, no ‘If we hadn’t been knocked out we woulda blah, blah.’ They spend a lot of time training, go in presuming they’ve learned something and don’t forget they’re full of steroids. A bloody nose isn’t going to mean anything to them. If you hit something, break it, don’t screw around like Montana.”
It takes three nights of hanging around, we watch the apartments, the freaks all live in one complex. One night the four went to a bar, Heath doesn’t hang with them on the outside. Two nights they stay at home, a pizza delivery shows up around eight thirty, by midnight the lights are out. The fourth evening Timmons and Watson leave in the black nondescript panel truck they use for their I’m bigot-er than you excursions. The truck had been rebuilt from a junkyard and is in nobody’s name. On the nights they use it, they go to the mall, swap license plates from somebody’s truck. Every job they attach freshly stolen plates. By the time the owner of the car figures out his plates have been switched, the job is over, the truck backed against a wall, license plate removed and stored for the next swap.
Janah is riding, Nikko driving, me in a compact behind them. We alternate positions every so often, mental changeovers, keep our distance.
Finally the charmers pull off the highway into a residential area. I briefly wonder if this might be a drug deal. They seem to know where they’re going, not driving aimlessly looking for a house to break into. Maybe it’s just a sale.
It turns out they do know where they’re going, and it isn’t to sell drugs. There is an alley behind each block of houses, where cars can pull into a garage behind the house. They block the entrance to one garage, get out and open the hood of the truck. It’s dark now, they have flashlights and are busy looking busy under hood. We park at either end of the alley, the house not quite midway in the block. There is no simple way to just stroll down the alley, lights to make it hard to stay concealed. We decide to go to the front street and cut through the side yard. We slip down the side of the house, Janah is at the end of the alley in one car, ready to drive in, block escape on that side or take us away. The plan is to deal with the punks and split, Nikko to Janah’s car, me to the other. We wait a couple of minutes, no dogs, it’s quiet. A white BMW pulls down the alley to the rear of the panel truck.
A short, well dressed male gets out, “Trouble fellas?”
Timmons, “For you, Jew.”
The man sighs, says calmly, “Okay, now were clear, what’s the problem? A robbery? Take the cash, here.”
He throws his wallet on the ground, pulls some bills from his pocket and tries to hand them to Timmons, who smacks the money, it spills out of the man’s hand, “Money, it’s all money to Jews isn’t it? Think you can buy this, buy that, buy any damn thing you want. Hope you bought health insurance Jew, you’re gonna need it.”
The man backs up, Watson grabs him from behind. Timmons pulls back his fist. His hand won’t go forward, he turns and four fingers jam his solar plexus. He doubles over. To give him his due, he doesn’t freak, fall to his knees or puke.
He is doubled over, he looks up at Nikko, “Well, a new development. Who are you, missy?”
Nikko, “Jewish American Princess from hell.”
She's made up in her geisha white and a watch cap, Timmons can’t tell what she is.
Timmons, “We got another Jew to fix buddy, you deal with the Heb, I’m gonna deal with this kike cunt.”
I’m behind Watson, silent, like I’d materialized from the mist. I stick a titanium covered knee hard into his tailbone. It hurts, likely fractured, he howls, releases the man. Watson is trying to figure out if he can stand, another knee to the upper thigh, catch the pressure point. He tries to turn, his leg won’t obey his brain, he collapses.
While Watson is occupied trying to get feeling in his leg, I say quietly to the small man, “Go inside, take your stuff. You can call the cops, but don’t be in any hurry. We’re going to prepare these two for delivery.”
He looks bemused, my calm confidence wins out, he smiles, “I’ll make a drink first.”
“Perfect. And don’t get creative, just tell them what happened. If your memory of us is vague, well, it’s dark, there was a lot of excitement. But don’t make it look like you’re covering. They won’t find us, just these two.”
He picks up his wallet, leaves the bills and walks to his house. Watson is just beginning to stand, his back hurts, his leg still wobbly, but he’s getting up.
I say softly, “He’ll call the cops. We should have enough time to play before they show; I mean, if you have the balls. Let’s see, shall we?”
I kick him between the legs so fast he isn’t quite sure I’d done it until the white streak of pain hits his brain, he gags. He doesn’t go down. He turns and comes full force, punching, trying for the fast knockout.
He might as well try to catch a hummingbird blindfolded. Every couple of steps, he gets the toe of steel boot either to his ribs or his nose, then his cheek. He punches again, I step back, kick the back of his fist, crush the bones in his hand. He tries a ground attack, I’m not there when he tries to wrap his arms around my legs. I jump through his hands as they try to close on my knees, land in a horse riding stance with an elbow to his spine, right between his shoulder blades. He goes down hard and is still.
I look over to Nikko leaning against the truck, “Fun huh?”
Timmons was the tougher of the two, Nikko found that out when he handled her rigid fingers in his solar plexus. She decided, with the police on the way, it would be best to take him out quickly rather than fiddle around, so when he tried to grab her arm, she let him, trapped his left hand with her right, twisted sideways and snapped his elbow with the heel of her palm. Before the actual pain seared through his elbow, in that moment between the injury and feeling the injury, he turned and back kicked her stomach. She just managed to twist, make the brunt of it a glancing blow, got a nasty scrape for her trouble. He turned, his good arm reaching for her when she punched him in the throat with the middle knuckles of her fingers. Handling a rigid hand to the solar plexus was one thing, he wasn’t recovering from a throat strike. His good hand went reflexively to his neck, the solid steel toe of her boot turned his nuts to penis butter and Timmons was on his knees. This time he lost his cookies. Nikko kicked his head, relieving his pain by letting him join his unconscious friend on the concrete.
“Take their phones, just in case, we don’t want them calling Heath.”
I get in one car, Nikko joins Janah in the other, we pull away as the lights of a patrol car come flashing up one street over.
Later, in the hotel room, Janah is treating Nikko’s abdomen, red scrape, slightly bruised, not bleeding. She fingers, pushes around, can’t find any serious damage, tells Nikko to check her urine for any signs of blood just in case. She covers the area with antiseptic liniment and lays a plastic bag of ice on it. Nikko lies quietly, letting the cold do its work.
Timmons and Watson will be dealing with the cops for a while, likely deny trying to hurt or rob anyone, or they would say nothing at all. The intended victim will tell a story of being robbed, an attempted assault and two people appearing out of nowhere. The truck obviously isn’t broken, it is registered to no one, with stolen plates, drugs inside and their fingerprints all over it. Figuring it out will take a while, and Heath would likely want to think things over before simply posting bail. We have at least a day, maybe two, before they’re back on the street.
The problem is obvious. Heath, Polk and Jackson will be on guard when Watson and Timmons don’t show up. Janah points it out.
Nikko, “Then let’s finish this.”
Janah has already come to that conclusion, she wants to make sure Nikko is up to it. She goes to the restroom, her urine is clear, Janah pokes and prods. She can’t find anything internal.
“We need to do this and blow town. We have two gone. They won’t get the refocusing lecture. Doesn’t matter, the others will give them the message. If we wait and the police connect them to Heath and the others, then we have another problem.”
Janah, “The other two will be at Health’s place waiting to celebrate the misery of another citizen. We can get to them all before they hear anything. Alright, let’s pack up, we’re not coming back here. It’s going to be a long night, one way or the other.”
Chapter Fifty III
Much talk, much worry
And you’re less than ever able to face things
Be done with talk, be done with worry
And there’s no place you cannot pass through.
Sheng-ts`an,600ce, 3rd Chinese patriarch of Ch’an
Heath opens the door, “Who are you? It’s late, what’s the deal, honey?”
Janah, “I’m selling girl scout internet porn cookies, so we can track perverts on the web.”
Heath, “What the...?”
I hit him in the face with the waist chain wrapped around my fist. He staggers back, face bloody, still upright.
Geez, these guys are frustrating.
Janah, Then don’t play around.
Polk rounds the corner, trying to figure out what’s happening, behind him is Jackson.
Heath, “Bitch cold cocked me.”
I kick Heath’s knee, I hear it give, not snap, he’d jerked his foot up like a well trained martial artist should. So I kick the other one, harder, catch him just below the kneecap, that one sends him down. Nikko is already in front of Polk, she’s waving her fingers in his face, like Moe used to do to Curly, first side to side, then up and down. Polk apparently isn’t a fan. He dumbly watches her hands with his mouth open, then she does for real what Moe used to fake, pokes his eyeballs, blinding him. He’s done, down screaming on the carpet. She kicks him in the temple, act of mercy, he’s unconscious. Jackson is on her, his arms around her torso, pulling her off the ground for a body slam, drive his shoulder into her chest when she hits the floor. When he picks her up, Nikko slaps his ears with the palms of her hands. She catches one side cleanly and the pressure breaks his eardrum. She has her fingers on his eyeballs, the white faced insanity in front of him would have been the last thing he’d ever see. He releases her, hands slap at her fingers. Nikko front kicks him in the chest staggering him back to the wall. The kid is tough. The ear must have hurt like hell. He’s gathering himself to come at her again.
Meanwhile, Heath recovers enough to stand. He grabs at Janah, she takes his wrist, he smiles for a moment, then grimaces, then screams as she crushes it. He tries to get her with the good hand, my chain comes down on his outstretched forearm. Now he has a broken left arm and a broken right wrist. He kicks at my abdomen, I fold into it, snatch his foot with one hand and heel with the other and twist. Now he has a broken ankle. I slam the other ankle with my steel toe, it breaks too. I feel better with him evened up, even if he can no longer stand up. With his wrecked arms, he can’t even crawl. Basically, he’s a jellyfish.
Nikko lets Jackson dive for her, she thinks, ‘Dope thinks we’re going to ground fight,’ he lands on the carpet where she’s supposed to be, except she’s over him, in the air. She lands with a hard boot on his back, his spine will be an ongoing problem, his ribs cracked. She steps off him, foot back to kick his jaw, sees it will be pointless. There’s no fight left, his eyes glaze, he passes out from the pain.
Out comes wire and duct tape. Heath and Polk are lined up against the wall. We leave Jackson on the floor. His back and ribs are in bad shape, he may be paralyzed already, but if not, we don’t want to paralyze him by moving him around.
I locate Heath’s computer and post all his pictures, which now includes all five of them, to a gay dating site; add names, address and name of his dojo, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. I e-mail the photos to the editor of the local newspaper, along with digital pictures I snap of the boxes of steroids and other drugs laid out alongside the men. I copy the files to a thumb drive, later I’ll e-mail them to the Society. They’ll forward them from an encrypted no-name address to the state police office in Knoxville and the DEA. Nude photos aren’t illegal, just embarrassing, particularly to a karate instructor teaching kids. The bottles and boxes of pills and injectibles are another matter.
Janah has Heath and Polk awake, both in pain, Poke would surely lose vision in one eye Janah thought, the other badly damaged. While I work on the files, Janah gives them a double dose of their own oxycontin. She injects Lidocaine into the broken parts. Jackson is still unconscious. So they can pay attention over the pain, I let the drugs kick in, then start.
“Here’s the drill, master race. Your two pals are in jail for trying to wail on a Jewish doctor at his home. I’m sure you know nothing about that since you were here together, doing whatever pretty boys do. The doctor’s fine. Your girlfriends will recover, more or less. Unfortunately, the county cops there aren’t pals of yours, so Hansel and Gretel could be in the oven for a while. They’ll also have to explain the steroids and other drugs in the panel truck, I doubt they have a prescription.”
Heath mumbles, “Don’t know shit about that.”
“Shut up, Heath. We aren’t the police. Geez, did the roids already eat your brain? There are boxes of contraband right here from the local law enforcement dimwits. With the evidence numbers still on them. Christ, you really are stupid, aren’t you? I’ll talk slowly, try to pay attention. Here’s the message. You guys are all done terrorizing people. You can suck each other off all day, if the closet queers around town still want to pay to play, we don’t care. You can get juiced up and work out until you get bitch tits and your liver explodes. What you can’t do is sell steroids to kids, you can’t do your fascist bullshit brutalizing anyone you don’t like. Tomorrow, you’ll be in the hospital, then jail. The newspaper, the state cops and the DEA will have the story. Your friends on the local force are useless to you now. I’ve helpfully sent your photos to a particularly popular gay dating service, you’ll be meeting lots of new friends soon, workout buddies in prison. They’re going to love you and your twinks, Heath. See how technology brings people together? You’re history in his town, the horny soccer moms won’t want to play anymore. When you’re done with jail, if you get out, someone is going to follow you around for a long time. Any more fascist crap, here we come again. If that happens, if I have to drag ass to Tennessee or any other rat hole in the universe to chat with you, we do an anesthesia-free castration. You’ll be the eunuchs of your toga parties, neutered sexless turds in the gym’s punchbowl. You’ll need to explain this to Timmons and Watson, and Jackson here. See, here’s how it works. If any of you screws up we see it as all of you screwing up. We come back for everybody. Do your jail time and cut the crap. Then you never have to deal with us again. If I have to come for you, the next weight you lift will be your colostomy bag.”
Jackson comes to. Janah tells him to be still, she doesn’t know how bad his back is. The blinded one, Polk, is almost out of it, Heath stares at the floor.
“We’re calling 911 when we leave. Soon there’ll be cops, paramedics and firemen here to see the show. I’ve got Heath’s screensaver on, also lots of photos printing. Sorry, you’ll need more toner to print your boner. A fair number of people will get an eyeful of your magnificence. Wish we could hang to see their reaction, but, busy, busy, got to go.”
We are 300 miles away by the time the people in town start moving in the morning. The paper runs the story the following day, we’re in our apartment planning a trip to Chinatown and the workout schedule for the next few days.
Chapter Fifty One III
I didn't leave my heart in San Francisco….
it was someone else’s heart.
The phone rings, Janah gets it, she’s designated phone answerer since she gets the most calls. Nikko and I are busy causing each other grievous bodily harm. We’d spent the morning at Master Murakami’s practicing Kendo, then came home in warrior mode, so Janah watched while we twisted and flipped each other around the room, thumping down hard on the mat.
“Quiet, ladies,” Janah is trying to hear Dr. Epstein.
We fold ourselves cross-legged onto the mat and silently sweat. I pass the bottle of water to Nikko, she finishes it and gets up to get another.
Janah hangs up, “Get cleaned up little sweaty piggies, we’re going to the Epsteins.”
We strip, Janah takes the doboks to the washer, “Don’t get all hoochied up, we’re going for business, just jeans and t-shirts.”
We gear up, sunglasses, waist chains, Nikko’s rings, my stainless necklace. I add my ankle bracelet, which says “janahsgirl” in tiny letters. The waist chains are weapons, the necklace is long enough to slip over my head without needing to unclasp. Despite how delicate it looks, it’s strands of steel, tightly interwoven. If I zing it at an unprotected body part, it’s going to leave a nasty slice.
Nikko wears another similar design just beneath her left bicep over her elbow, wound around her arm several times. Suited up, Nikko flags a taxi to Mrs. E’s. In twenty we’re having refreshments in Dr. Epstein’s office, listening to recent developments in San Francisco.
Dr. Epstein, “The criminal import business was dormant after you talked Chong into early retirement. Then it got messy, a couple of factions battling to get the business, usual turf war muddle. The Chinese finally called a halt, publicity defeated the whole point. With no supply of criminals, the whole thing dried up. Now the Chinese have started over. Again, they centralized delivery of the, uh, product, to one exclusive vendor, who is also in the San Francisco area. Chong is gone, forgotten.”
Janah, “Who’s the new kid on the block?”
“That’s where it gets dicey. Our new trafficker makes Chong look like the Rotary Club president. If you’re going to do this, it may take more than a couple of days.”
“I defer to a great New York philosopher, Rosanne Roseanna Danna, ‘It’s always something.’”
Janah laughs, “Daphne’s explaining that perhaps it’s time to get to the matter at hand.”
“So we shall. The new kid on the block is, as I mentioned, unlike Lin Chong. No family, no ties to the community, no name to protect. Apparently, the Chinese learned something from the experience with Chong. He was somewhat protected by a veneer of respectability. Perhaps that same respectability kept him from being too ruthlessly efficient. Our newest friend doesn’t use a Chinese name, was born in America, orphaned, ganged up early on, then appeared to get straight, went to college. His name is James T. Lingman, an Americanization of Ling. He has an undergraduate degree in math and an MBA.
Janah, “Got pictures?”
“Naturally.” He enters a password, up pops the target.
She spends the next quarter hour studying the surveillance photos of Lingman. He is young, 40ish, slim and handsome, like an Asian-American film star. Clear video of him with his two associates, Chinese or Chinese American, who appear more like friends from the casual interaction. They don’t look like bodyguards, neither is more than average size, no six-four muscle heads or four hundred pound sumo types. They don’t keep Lingman surrounded, they talk back and forth like any three guys on the street.
Janah, “Nikko, what about the associates?’
Nikko, “They look military, more like gun types. My guess is typical hand to hand training, not a formal martial arts style. Lingman doesn’t want to appear guarded, not trying to establish a pose, no extra attention. It says they’re licensed to carry firearms, California lists them as principals in a private investigator business. I presume their company has only one client.”
Janah, “Li Jiang and Jeffery Quan, both born in the States, both with undergraduate degrees and military service, imagine that.”
Dr. Epstein, “Special Forces service you will note, good call Nikko. These guys have serious training, walk around armed. This could be dicey and the Society considered dumping it entirely. We may still, depending on your thoughts.”
Janah, “I want to study all the surveillance material, the chain of command, where things happen from collecting the immigrants to distributing them. Who does all that? Is there a way to get in through them? I don’t want to have to refocus twenty gangs.”
Nikko, “Why not? Bring katana, like a good Japanese ninja movie.”
Janah, “Spoken like a true samurai. Sorry my warrior, we don’t have the time to do a Kill Bill. We have to make it too costly to continue, expose the whole operation. Why can’t we just release the information we have to the press and let them create a mess with it?”
I look perplexed, “Where’s the fun in that?”
Dr. Epstein, “There’s more to the story. They are more than criminal importers. They’ve got a patina of respectability, education, military service. Lingman owns a couple of chains of dry cleaners, of all things. He got them by bullying out the original owners, one old woman was killed, we think the mother of one owner. The business is a good place to park illegals until they’re placed. He also owns a plumbing company, a commercial cleaning operation and an electrical supply company, all small, all profitable.”
“The psychos just press shirts unit Ling finds them a gang?”
Dr. Epstein, “Not all of them. A few of his imports just disappear, we think the less controllable ones just walk away and go rogue.”
Janah, “I guess the fact that some break away once here and go it alone, kind of a rogue, rogue, is bound to happen. So we’re losing track of the imports, either swallowed up in structured criminal activity or they create their own unstructured criminal activity?”
“Yes. We suspect that most of those get caught. They don’t know the country, they have no identification, basically, they’re the stupid ones. In a perverse way, it would be better if they all went rogue, makes them more likely to get busted.”
Janah, “I’m betting there are the occasional illegal psychopath success stories. They join a gang, learn enough English, and their way around, then leave and set up shop for themselves.”
“We’ve looked into that. Actually there is ongoing surveillance right now. We aren’t ready to do anything just yet, but I’m thinking it likely there’s another job coming in a few months. First things first. We plan to expose the whole mess this time, we want Lingman and his two buddies out of all the games for good. He has to return the businesses to the people he ran out, and compensate them. No more Chinese-American Godfather, which is how he sees himself, even though he lacks even the false veneer of “family” to give it a dusting of nobility.”
Janah, “We put him out of the Godfather Jr. business, not just the criminal import business. That’s good, we only have to refocus Jimmy and the two bodyguards, the Society will handle the rest.”
Dr. Epstein, “That’s right. Although I don’t think refocusing these three is likely to be very simple. We can go public through our sources with details about the import business, we can even supply evidence of Lingman’s involvement, just not evidence that will hold up in court. He’d be out of the criminal import end from the publicity, which is fine. That would, however, still leave him the other thing.”
“And when the dust settles, he’ll be doing it more aggressively.”
“He’s not the type to run a quiet legal business. He’ll simply revert to extortion or worse, take over more businesses. He and his pals like the action. It must be some carryover from their military days. Their records are, at best, incomplete.”
“Which means they were CIA or military intelligence.”
“I can’t think of any other reason.”
“Please ask Surveillance to keep working on Lingman’s movements and any additional information about the guards, any possible weaknesses, family ties, associations. Maybe they have a blind spot someplace.”
Chapter Fifty Two III
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof:
and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
Back at the apartment, Nikko calls her parents, lets them know we are going out of town and will miss a week of kendo, I make arrangements with Chris to cover Chapmans. Janah calls Master Sung and asks him if Chan could be on loan for a week. She doesn’t tell, he doesn’t ask. Chan shows up that evening like Scotty beamed him over from the Starship Shaolin.
Janah, “My brother, it’s good to see you.”
She hugs him a long time, then hugs from Nikko and me. Chan has made it to five-nine, thicker than ever, a granite block of muscle and qi.
He’d come in street clothes with a small duffle of a few things, including a simple robe should it make sense to disguise himself as nothing more than a monk in the heavily Asian north of California. It feels better having Chan, something warning Janah this refocusing would neither be simple nor safe. Over dinner she tells him what she knows. Chan makes Nikko look positively giddy, between the two of them there isn’t one flicker of emotion. It’s how they are, emotion remains within.
Nikko is on the couch next to Chan, she is examining his hand, “His entire hand is like an iron sheet,” she pokes his chest, “entire body is a block of iron. We don’t leave for a couple of days. Can I practice with new brother tomorrow?”
“If Chan wants to and if it’s basic. You know the rule.”
Nikko says to Chan, “Daphne tells me about the times you worked together in free sparring, judo, ground fighting. When we travel, we practice only gently to avoid injury before the work. I would be honored if you would train with me.”
Chan looks to Janah.
Janah smiles, “She won’t be too rough.”
Chan bows agreement to Nikko, then, “It’s time for evening meditation, is there a place?”
Nikko, “May I be allowed to sit with you?”
They head up the staircase to the meditation area. I clean up the kitchen while Janah turns down the lights in the rest of the apartment and lights candles. While Chan and Nikko get deep inside themselves, I meditate on my other under a long warm shower.
After dinner, Janah talks quietly with Chan, Nikko and I watch TV, then it’s time for rest. We’d just gotten into bed when Janah comes in.
“Chan skipped the bed, he says he’s going to get spoiled on the big mattress, so we moved one of the tatami mats into the bedroom for him. God, he’s gotten huge.”
Nikko, “Little big brother is the most solid human being I’ve ever seen. But he moves like he’s weightless, I’m looking forward to practice.”
“Maybe Janah should loosen you up, you know, so you’re not too tense and all.”
Janah, You’ve read our mind.
While I occupy Nikko’s tongue with mine, Janah gets Nikko very loose indeed, more than once, loosening herself in the process. Janah loves doing girls, she’s so….enthusiastic. We surround her and a quarter hour later, not a creature is….you know.
Chan is up in the meditation loft when I wake at six, make tea, Nikko shows up a few minutes later. After a cup, we bring Janah tea with a light breakfast, sit on the bed for a bit while Janah eats.
“I’m taking a walk with Nikko to the condo, Chan’s up so I don’t mind leaving you for a bit.”
Janah, “It would be okay even if Chan wasn’t here. I’m not going to leave the apartment and nobody can get in this place without an army.”
“I know, I know. It ain’t gonna happen anyway. If Chan weren’t here, Nikko would go alone and that’s that.”
“You’re the security chief. Besides, I’m selfish, having you here with me is much better. I can get my hands on you in an emergency lust attack.”
“There’s that. We’ll be back in under two. I want us to take Nikko and Chan to the dojang, they can practice and Chan can take a look at my Dim Mak toys. I made him fruit, yogurt, oatmeal is in bowls, just nuke it for a bit to heat and there’s wheat bread if he wants toast. Mental me if you need anything while I’m out.”
Janah, “It’s a plan.”
Nikko and I leave, Janah showers, then dresses in a monk’s robe. Chan is sitting in his room, on the tatami mat. She gets him fed and watered, they talk over temple activities. She likes hearing about the temple from his perspective.
Chan, “Master Tan is well, not as spry as he used to be. He’s glad he got to share his qi with you and my sister Daphne. He asked after her, I didn’t say much, nothing about refocusing. He knows though.”
Janah, “Those men are, I started to say not human. Actually, they are fully human, not a piece of this idea and a snippet of another, a quilt of frayed hand me down beliefs. ”
Chan, “One who is nothing is everything.”
Janah discussed refocusing with Chan over a year earlier. She kept him informed about what we were doing for a simple reason. If, like now, she needed him, she wanted him to be free to choose not to participate. In Shaolin, one monk may decide one course of action, or inaction, is right from their point of view, their understanding. It is not for them to judge the actions of another, only to decide for themselves what road they should take. In this is an essential difference between the rigid laws of a religious system, with endless corollaries by an hierarchy of interpreters, and the ways of the Shaolin Buddhist, which is not religion. If Chan decided not to come, there would be no disappointment, no feeling of somehow being letdown, he is under no obligation even to explain his decision.
That’s the philosophy. The reality is, if the Seals hadn't dealt with Osama, Janah could have asked Chan to find him and bring her his head. Then Osama would have been found headless and Janah would have a gruesome souvenir. She, of course, knows this and takes her responsibility towards Chan seriously.
Chan, “Tell me about my Japanese sister. I met her only briefly in the temple. She is not Shaolin. She must be unique or you would not have her with you. She is Daphne’s student, yes?”
Janah, “Not so much a student any longer, although she remains completely loyal to Daphne.”
“So is loyal to two as one.”
“Little brother is observant. Nikko is like you, silent in the world. She has other similar characteristics, loyalty, integrity, real integrity, of a kind not caught in the net of social constraint, no front to get along in the world, self restraint in order to get something. Nikko would be a perfect assassin, well, not perfect. It wouldn’t happen because she wouldn’t work for anyone. She wouldn’t kill for money or the state, or a religion. She would kill because the person needed killing, a decision she would make, not some third party. She could do it without so much as an eye blink. The long and short if it is that she found herself in precisely the right place, under the tutelage of Daphne, to whom she gives her absolute trust, as student to master in the matter of training. Her mistress keeps her from doing too much damage to anyone that annoys her.”
Chan, “She is not subservient, even though she calls my sister mistress.”
Janah, “Nikko is playful with us. She is much more than she shows to the world. She is obedient in matters of training and our work. That aside, she is an equal here. She is well aware of that.”
They are quiet for a time.
Janah, “So, old Tan, what’s he concluded on his own?”
“I went to see him to tell him I’d be out of the temple for a while. He looked at me for a time, I bowed to go. He said to tell Master J and the priest hello.”
“He also said to be watchful over the White Angel, San Francisco is full of oriental treachery.”
Janah smiles, those old men, how do they know? She decided whatever she concluded would be speculation. It isn’t like she minds them knowing, they’re hardly going to call a press conference.
“What can I get you? Still hungry? Daphne would know. I’m going to assume the answer is yes. I want oatmeal, Daphne’s go it ready, just need to warm in the microwave.”
They eat silently, enjoying the quiet together, then Chan asks, “How much does Nishiko know of the two as one?”
Janah, “Everything. She has seen it.”
Chan nods, “A good sign, she suffers no illusion.”
“Very good. Can you explain how illusion is limiting?”
“She sees the two as one because she has no illusion about what can and can’t be in the world, no made up list of this is possible and that is not possible. She sees what’s there, not what she has been conditioned to think is there.”
Chan picks up the dishes and washes them, setting things out carefully on the rack in the sink, Janah dries and put the dishes away, they move to the tatami mats on the floor of the living area, sit cross legged facing the wall and are silent. Half an hour later, Nikko and I come in.
“Sis said Chan better drag by and see them while he’s out or there will be big trouble for certain daughters.”
Janah, “So we’re going there tonight.”
“That’s the plan. Sis wouldn’t let me cook. She wants to try a new deli she’s found, so it’ll be a mish mash of things to find out what everyone likes. I tried to tell her if it’s food, we like it. You know how she is.”
Janah, “And I know who’s exactly like her, thanks for the legs, Sis.”
Nikko, “That’s what Daphne told her when she left, that was a message from you, yes?”
“The three of us.”
Nikko pouts, “Best not to fill the mind of a dedicated young monk with girl foolishness.”
Janah and I laugh, Chan almost manages a minute grin. He likes his newest sister.
“Can we go to the dojang now? I want to learn from my brother.”
Chan, “And I from my third sister. Three sisters, Chan is blessed by his family. ”
An hour later, Daphne is explaining the dummies to Chan, we practice on them for a while. Chan knows the points intimately, the thing buzzes forever when he hits it. It is designed to buzz based on the power of the strike, hard hit, longer buzz. A tap would do nothing, a solid blow would generate a half second buzz, up to what Kim estimated a deadly strike would be in a 180 pound man, a three second sound.
After nearly an hour of kicking and punching, Nikko and Chan square off. I’m in stitches. Nikko kicks, Chan just stands there, whap, whap, fast, spinning, front, side, back. Nikko sweating and breathing hard, Chan hasn’t moved. Nikko changes tactics and tries a quick inside knife hand strike to his neck. Her hand bounces off like it hit concrete. He steps forward and puts his massive hand on her breastbone and gives what seems the slightest push. Nikko sails backwards on her butt across the dojang floor.
“Dang, floor must be slippery.”
Nikko, “Floor’s the same as always. How’s he do that?”
“I need some.”
“You have some, you just don’t use it as effectively.”
Chan and I roll out the practice mats, then he throws Nikko and me around for a while. We try from the front, grabbing and knife wielding attacks, from the back, trying to choke him, or hold our arms around him to pin his arms to his side. Nothing works, we find ourselves sailing over his shoulder or flipped up in the air, more like a gymnastics class than fighting on our part. Janah is in the weight room, watching the show between sets.
She intervenes, “Okay, you two have had enough. We have no injuries, you got a good workout, Chan got to play around. Now I’m going to spot him a couple of quick sets and we’ll get dressed and hit the Village Diner.”
Chan does bench presses, starting with ten reps at two fifty, then six at three hundred, finishing with a four hundred pounder. Nikko leans against the door seeing, not sure she is believing, the bar sags on both sides. He does two sets of squats, six reps with three fifty and two five hundred pound reps, Janah won’t let him do any more. A muscle pull would be a nuisance and she wants him in perfect working order on the trip.
He’d taken his shirt off during the short weight workout, Nikko just stared, he looks like a refrigerator filled with concrete, his arms aren’t bodybuilder shapely, more like two steel beams with cast iron skillets on the ends. His neck is as thick as his head and when he did the squats, the quads filled even the baggy pants of his dobok.
Nikko, “No wonder I can’t dent my brother. Nothing to dent,” she has her hands on his shoulders, then pokes his chest.
We shower at the dojang, a few minutes later in a booth at the Diner, Mini yelling from in back.
Chuck, “Hey girls….what, the posse’s growing? Who’s the big guy? “Hi, I’m Chuck,” he sticks his hand out to Chan. Chan shakes and nods.
Chuck, “Chatty, just like this one,” indicating Nikko.
“Chan is visiting his sisters for a while and he’s in need of your wonderful food.”
Chuck, “Ah, okay, earth to Chuck. I got it. He’s in street clothes, fooled me for a minute. Like usual, just tell Mini to make it up?”
Mini’s head sticks out the pass through, “Hey girls, who’s the best looking man in New York?”
Janah, “You Mini, none can compare.”
Mini, “That’s my girls, food’ll be right up, fries Daph?”
A few minutes later the table is covered in three plates of veggie omelet, fries, two turkey and cranberry on toasted wheat and a dish of fresh sliced strawberries covered in fresh whipped cream.
Mini appears, “How my girl,”
He kisses Janah, I’m on the inside, he leans over the back and snags my cheek.
“Those kisses almost make me want to go straight, Mini.”
“You got a good thing already, the best, besides, you’d kill me in a week. I couldn’t take the pressure.”
We explode in giggles, Mini eyes Chan, “This is the not so little brother from the temple. Son, whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”
He turns to me, “Strong?”
“Mini, I say with total respect, in your category.”
“He looks it. He gonna be around all the time? I feel better he’s here.”
He looks to Janah, “These three, you gonna take on al-Qaeda or what?”
Janah laughs, “Somebody else brought that up. No, our brother is visiting his sisters, he spent the morning tossing around these two. That’s why we need the calories. We immediately thought of you.”
“Keep it that way.”
He says to Chan, “I don’t have to tell you do I? You already know. Good again. Janah gets a bruise, Mini wants to know. With you two and fresh perspective over there, I think we got it covered,” looks to Janah, “he gonna stick around?”
Janah, “That’s up to Chan. He’s got time left where he is now. He’ll be leaving soon. We hope he comes to us.”
Mini, “So it’s okay to talk?”
“He’s our brother.”
“A friend of yours, with a niece, said to pass this along when I saw you. Said you’d understand the secondhand delivery. Told me through a close associate to tell you, anything you need, anything at all, anytime. Said he’ll be very hurt, you don’t come to him first.”
“Thank him. The same applies to him. You know where we are.”
“I’ll see he gets it.”
“Better. Funny, doesn’t remember much, sort of a haze. That’s good I think.”
“Probably for the best. And we’re invisible?”