|时间：2017-03-19 21:04:49｜人气：98 |
|Laura left her company at the usual time. She stopped at a plaza on her way home with a long shopping list from her mother. She spent two hours in that supermarket. It was only on weekdays. How long would she be shopping on weekends, maybe six hours? It seemed one-sixth of a woman''s life was whiled away in shopping or window-shopping. What else could she do if she was an ordinary woman with no ambitions? Malls are really open for ladies. How many males can be seen there unless in female company? However, if males could spend their time on these duties--duties for mothers, sisters, daughters, particularly for girlfriends and wives--there would be less rapists, robbers, and the kind in the whole world. Thank God for the fond hope. |
When Laura came out of the supermarket and opened her car door, someone grabbed her from behind, pressing a wet cloth over her nose. She took in a bizarre smell and blacked out. Her shopping bags fell from her hand onto the ground. The items in them scattered all over, some rolling under the parked cars. None of the other shoppers were in the parking lot at that time. And it was dark already.
When she came to, she found herself confined in a small empty space with clothes hanging all around her. She was gagged and bound hand and foot. Approximately an hour passed. Then the door opened and a guy stood in the doorway. She was in a walk-in closet. Seeing her awake, he gave her a lewd smirk, saying, “I can take out your gag and untie you if you don''t cry.” Laura nodded vehemently. The guy let her out into the room, and even let her go to the bathroom. When he escorted Laura back to the room, he shut the door behind him. Laura looked around. It was a room without any windows, a bare twenty-five watt bulb gleamed on the ceiling and the door was made of thick wood. There was no way for her to escape. There were two bunks at the far end. Two girls around her age sat on the lower bunk, staring at her. They said nothing. The guy came again and brought her some food. He put up a cot at the corner near the door for her. After she finished eating, the guy said, “If you''ll do what''s told, you''re safe here. If not, you''ll regret you''ve ever come into this world.” He gave a fierce simper, baring his teeth like a wolf. Laura had no idea what they would want her to do till the evening of the next day. She was taken to another room better furnished and adorned. There was a stranger there. A man of middle age. The guy who brought her here told her to entertain the stranger and pushed her into the room, then shut the door. She stood there, not knowing what to do. The stranger came to drag her to the bed, starting to strip off her clothes. She understood now what the entertainment meant. She gave the stranger a heavy slap on the face and rushed to the door and opened it, only to come face-to-face with the guy who was standing outside the door with his arms crossed in front of him. Seeing her dashing out, he said, “Hmmm. You need some lessons.” He grabbed her hair and dragged her into that windowless room, then beat her. Three other girls seemed frightened, recoiling to the farthest ends of the bunks, with agonized eyes fixed on Laura as if their memory of torment was jogged. Sure, they’d had the same experience before. After that, Laura was starved for two days. Besides her, there were four other girls under their control. In the evenings they would be called away to entertain guests. Gradually they began to speak to her, advising her to obey the guys while waiting for any chance to flee. Laura only wept till no more bitter tears came out of her swollen eyes. She thought of suicide, but loathe ending her life so young. Silently she prayed. Silently she called to her parents to come to her rescue. But fond hope could not change the cruel reality.
The guy came to ask her whether she was willing to entertain their customers. She had no choice but to give in if she wanted to live and flee when there was a chance. People in distress always live in hope. It is the hope that gives them the spiritual support to live on. Once she attempted to escape, but was caught before she could run very far. Then she was confined in the room and only let out when they wanted her to entertain a customer. Generally, there were four guys to keep watch over the girls by turns. “Today, only two guys were in the house. When a customer finished with me and was paying money to a guy, I stepped out of the room. Seeing the other guy was not hanging around, I dashed out. If I didn''t meet you, I''d sure be dragged in again.”
“We''ll get you home now,” Sally consoled her, then grinding her teeth on the gum, added, “We''ll get back to them later.”
“No,” Laura almost shrieked. “Some girl escaped and returned to her home, but a few days later, was brought back again. They want us to know that wherever we escape to, they can get us back.” She looked like a frightened rabbit.
“Okay. We''ll find a place for you to hide,” said Sally. Lois was looking at a map now. Sally moved to the end of the street to check the sign to see which street they were on. Once they got their bearing, they found their way to where they were familiar with. On the way home, Sally and Lois discussed where the safest place for Laura to hide was, but could not come up with a satisfactory one. “I think it''s best she stays with us,” Sally concluded.
“Okay, we''ll talk to Dad and Mom,” Lois agreed.
It was well after midnight when they got home. There were still lights on in the living room. Their parents and Tricia were up and waiting for them. They had called home on the way, using the cell phone. Mr. and Mrs. Lin consented to have Laura stay with them. She had to sleep on the other sofa in the family room where she would least possibly be seen. They had to play it safe since they suspected that the Black Panther was behind the kidnapping. Mrs. Lin apologized for Laura having to sleep on a sofa and having no room assigned to her. Laura was satisfied as long as she was safe. She didn''t care where she slept as long as no nightmares haunted her dreams.
“You are so nice to me, and so are all your family,” said Laura to Sally gratefully. “We were not even friends when we worked together.”
After a midnight meal, Sally took Laura downstairs to the family room. Alida was already asleep. Sally gave Laura her clothes and other things she would need. “I''ll buy you clothes and women''s things tomorrow,” said Sally and then bade Laura good night. When Sally was upstairs, Laura went into the bathroom to clean herself and then lay down on the sofa in her borrowed pajamas. Suddenly, Alida jumped up from her sofa and cried, “Burglar!” She turned on the light and gazed at Laura who was still lying awake. Alida said sternly to Laura with her hands on her hips, “Who are you? Don''t move.” Sally rushed downstairs when she heard Alida crying.
“She''s my guest, Alida,” Sally said. “Go back to sleep. You''ll know everything tomorrow.” Alida kneaded her eyelids with the back of her right hand and fell back on her sofa, mumbling, “Sorry.”
Next morning at breakfast, Sally told Alida something about Laura, skipping the part of the secret brothel. Mrs. Lin brought food down for Laura. She was not supposed to leave the family room and be seen by anyone outside the family. Sally promised to go to her home and tell her parents that she was found now. When Alida left for school, the sisters discussed the matter a little longer. They wanted to tip the police in that area, but they really did not know the exact location, not even the street name. Laura was ignorant, too, since she had been taken there unconsciously.
“You should not even call your parents. Your home phone line may be tapped,” Sally warned Laura before she went out. Laura knew the seriousness of the situation and would not try anything foolish. Sally went shopping first, humming a favorite song and chewing gum. When it turned dark, she glided smoothly to a halt before the house where Laura''s parents lived. When Laura''s mother was told the good news, she began to cry with happy tears, then smiled at Sally in embarrassment. She told Sally that when the police had found Laura''s car in some plaza they had notified them. “We knew something seriously wrong happened to her,” her mother informed, “but we had no notion that she was kidnapped and forced to do such things.” Tears rolled down her cheeks again. She begged to come to see her daughter or at least call her, but Sally was firm and explained the situation to her parents. At last they accepted the reality. At least their daughter was safe and sound.
When Sally came and left, she surveyed the surroundings to see if there was any suspicious car. None. Maybe, they didn''t find her home address yet. Sally put on a little disguise herself. She went a roundabout way before she returned home. She brought in a few shopping bags from her trunk and went to the family room, blowing bubbles all the way down. All day long, Laura had nothing to do except watch TV and talk to Mrs. Lin when she brought her meals. She talked to Alida, too, when she finished her homework. She was glad to see Sally with a bubble hanging from her mouth and peered at the contents in the bags. Besides clothes and other things she needed, she found some of her favorite magazines, which Sally had noticed when Laura had been reading in the cafeteria and bought for her. Most of the day Laura had to keep to herself, as everyone else had things to attend to.
“Good,” Laura brooded. “I came out of one confinement just to get into another confinement. I hope the danger will soon be over.”
“Do you remember how the four guys looked? Can you describe them?” Sally asked Laura two days later when she came downstairs to see her in the evening. She kept on chewing the gum.
“I''m afraid I can''t do that. They were so fierce that I hardly dared to look at their faces,” Laura replied, feeling sorry that she couldn''t help there.
“That''s all right. I just asked,” said Sally nonchalantly, then added, “You can write a letter to your parents. No return address. Give it to me. I''ll mail it for you.” She blew out a big bubble.
“Thank you very much. I''m really glad that I can write to my parents. But I don’t know the address here. You never told me before. You just dragged me inside that night when we arrived. So you can be at rest,” Laura assured Sally, pricking at the bubble before Sally''s mouth with the tip of her forefinger playfully. The bubble burst.
“No mention of anything here, nor our names,” Sally told her seriously, gathering the gum into her mouth and chewing vigorously. “We are dealing with a powerful group of people.” Then she handed her a letter-size pad, a pen and an envelope.
“How can they write back to me?” Laura asked hopefully, wishing that she could keep a regular correspondence with her parents.
“Tell them not to write back till we can think of a safe way,” said Sally.
“Hi, Laura.” Alida came downstairs to the family room. “Here''s some cake for you. Auntie Louise baked it herself.” She put down a plateful of cake on the coffee table.
“Thank you, Alida.” Then she turned to Sally and said, “Alida offered to teach me some karate moves. She said I can defend myself next time if anyone wants to kidnap me.”
“It''s good for you if you want to learn,” Sally encouraged her, a bubble getting bigger and bigger like a pink balloon. She kept at a safe distance from Laura.
“But--” Her voice trailed off slowly into thin air as though she suddenly forgot what she had in mind to share with Sally, but now wanted to retrieve it. The bubble exploded at last.
“But what?” Sally prompted her. Laura did not answer, but sat down on the thick fuzzy carpet behind the coffee table and began to write the letter while eating the cake. Alida went upstairs.
“But what?” Sally prodded her again. She could not take any kind of suspense.
“But can Alida--is Alida a bit too young--I mean, if I want to learn, I must learn it well, not like a Jack-of-All-Trades,” she stammered in a subdued voice, casting her sheepish glimpse at the stairs, afraid that Alida would overhear what she was saying.
Sally cackled, knowing that Laura had no faith in Alida when she offered to teach her karate.
“Alida was born in a karate family. She''s practiced it for more than five years now. If the four guys in that house were under fifth kungfu level, Alida could fight them alone. And you are just a beginner. She''s qualified to teach you and she knows how to teach, or she wouldn''t offer.”
Laura blushed a little for not trusting Alida. “Please, don''t tell Alida.”
“No. I won''t.” Sally went upstairs, leaving Laura to go on with her letter writing.
Next day after completing her homework, Alida began to teach Laura. She taught her only karate moves, skimming the practice of chi. In a conventional way to learn Chinese kungfu, one must learn how to exercise chi, and learn the martial arts, both at the same time. As Laura was not supposed to be a kungfu person, Alida, instructed by Louise, only taught her karate moves as in most karate classes.
“Salute to my life-thread spinners,” said Sam in the doorway when he came to their office and really saluted to the three sisters. The sisters couldn''t help laughing. Sam entered the room, closing the door behind him. He sat down on the sofa so heavily that it yielded a moan of protest. Then he began seriously, “I have some news for you.” He produced two tapes from his pocket and laid them on Sally''s desk, which was the nearest to him. “Listen to the tapes later. Late Sunday night, or I should say early Monday morning, according to the policeman stationed there--it was almost three o''clock in the morning--a van came and stopped before the house under surveillance. Four guys and four girls climbed out of the van and went into the house. Though he took pictures with an infrared camera, all showed just backs or profiles. Not much help. You can listen to the tapes later and get some idea of what happened inside.” He paused for a deep inhalation. “A security guard was found dead outside the warehouses in Piscataway the same night. He was lying face down in a lane between two warehouses when another guard came to relieve him. He was supposed to relieve him at twelve, but his car broke down on the way and a man coming from his office gave him a ride there. It was already two o''clock in the morning. According to the autopsy report, his death was caused by a poisonous needle to the head.”
“What''s the address of that warehouse?” asked Lois eagerly. She sat upright in her leather-upholstered swivel chair, eyes opened wide. The other two girls looked at each other knowingly, as if they shared the same brain wavelength and could communicate by it. Sally''s mouth was half open, a gum wad on the tip of her tongue.
Sam told Lois the address. “It''s the same warehouse Uncle Charles worked at,” Lois exclaimed. “So the cause of Uncle''s death is connected with the warehouses. I never thought of it before.”
“We sent more police cars to patrol in that area, I mean, to patrol more often,” said Sam.
“In that way, you''ll only scare away the killer. You''ll never find him there again,” commented Sally, reaching out her hand for the tapes, resuming the chewing of the gum.
“Then, what''s your advice?” Sam probed. He passed on the information to the sisters, though it was against the rules, because he knew they were authorities on such things as poisonous needles.
“After a few days, stop patrolling in that area as before,” suggested Lois. “The patrol police really can do nothing to those kungfu guys. After stopping patrol for a while, we''ll go there to check.”
Sam agreed. It was a better strategy. “Only if the killer is not scared away for good and will return to the place,” said Tricia, looking at Sam''s handsome face all the time.
Sam left. He was very busy. Another murder case landed itself on his lap.
“Though Uncle Charles and the guard were killed in the same way, probably by the same person, there was still a difference. Why was Uncle killed at home, not like the other guard on the scene?” Sally spilled out her skepticism.
“Maybe the killer tried on the spot, but didn''t succeed, because Uncle was not an ordinary guard. Then the killer followed him home. It would be easy since Uncle walked all the way home. The killer got up in the tree, waiting for a chance. Then the stranger came and he got the chance and the cover as well,” Tricia made her deduction, entwining a strand of her golden hair between her two fingers as if they were curling iron.
“Do you think the killer had a fight with Uncle in the warehouse area?” Sally asked.
“It''s a possibility, but no one can tell now since Uncle is dead. In my opinion, they didn''t have a fight, because the killer, using such a weapon, is not in all probabilities a master. He''s only some hitman working under a master. If they had a fight, the killer would have had no chance to follow Uncle home,” Lois voiced her conjecture.
“What''s important now is to find out what''s going on there and why they want to kill,” said Tricia.
The other two sisters nodded their agreement. Then they played the tapes one after the other.
At the beginning of the tape there was only TV sound, like commercials. Then girls’ shrill voices and men’s angry ones could be heard.
“Girls, go to the bedroom.” It was a new voice. After a while, the girls’ voices died.
“What brings you fucking here?” said a familiar voice. The guy was called Jack, who must be the one driving Frank''s car, originally living in that house.
“A bitch girl''s escaped. Fucking her. We''ve to desert that fucking place if we dun’t wanna go to fucking cage,” said the first voice. He must be one of the four guys, maybe, their ringleader.
“What''s her fucking name?” Jack''s voice asked.
“Laura. She came with fucking David once to our damned club,” answered another guy.
“We really dun''t need fucking kidnap her. She came to damned club only once. Girls like fucking fun. She really knew fucking nothing ''bout damned club and us,” said the Jack''s voice.
“Fucking Joseph''s afraid she might know fucking something ''bout David’s death. Dogshit.”
“Did the fucking big boss know the kidnapping?”
“Maybe not. Big boss too fucking busy. Joseph''s in charge of such fucking things. Fucking him.”
“Now we lost another fucking secret place. First, damned club; then, that fucking whorehouse.”
“Dun''t worry. We can find another fucking house. You know the new club, better than fucking old one.”
“Now no sonofabitch''s allowed to bring any fucking outsiders.” It seemed the ringleader''s voice.
“What about that escaped bitch girl? Fucking her.”
“We sent someone to check her fucking home. She''s not returned. Dogshit.”
“So she''s hiding some-fucking-where.”
“We still looking for her? Fucking her mom.”
“Joseph''s taking fucking care of it. I dun''t think we need the bitch so badly. Dogshit.”
After a while….
“You want turn this fucking house into your fucking business place?” Jack''s voice sounded eager.
“No. We''ll find another fucking house, better still in fucking New York. Convenient.”
“I''ll suggest to Sam to tail them when they move to some new place,” said Tricia between the conversations on the tape.
“Can we use the fucking girls?” Jack''s voice asked.
“No. Boss never fucking permit. But I dun''t fucking care if bitch girls wun''t tell Joseph.”
“Why fucking boss not permit? Everyone need that. Even fucking girls themselves.”
“Fucking girls already have too much of that. Boss said that would affect our fucking kungfu. That''s why we are still on fucking low levels, boss said. Even Don Quicksat, fucking him, is better than us, boss said.”
“Who''s that fucking Don guy? Never heard of fucking name before.”
“He''s some fucking Spanish guy, in the fucking old time, boss said. He fought bravely with fucking windmill, using his lance, boss said.”
“If we dun''t work fucking harder, boss said, to enhance our damned kungfu, we can join that fucking Spanish guy, like his follower Sancho. Boss said,” another added.
“What do fucking boss mean? Join the fucking guy in the old time? He want us all dead?” Jack sounded in panic.
“I dunno. Anyway, boss needs as fucking many high-leveled kungfu people as possible. You know the bitch trio. Ten of us are no fucking match for one of them.”
“Fifty, I would say.” Sally leaned back on her chair, looking down her nose at a swelling bubble.
Three days later, Sam called, saying that those people moved at midnight and the new location was in Flushing.
“We''re making a plan,” Tricia told Sam on the phone. “We''ll discuss it if you have time to come over.”
“I hope to be free this evening. Where shall we meet? At same place?” asked Sam wistfully.
“At our home this time. Four heads are better than two,” Tricia said with a sly smile, as if he could have seen it.
“Fine. See you then, sweetie.” He blew over a kiss through the line.
“Have it on my lips now. Hmmmmm,” Tricia giggled with a catching gesture of her right hand at the mouthpiece and then touching her lips with her fingers.
The sisters came home just as Sam stopped his car along the curb. They went in together. Mrs. Lin was cooking dinner. Mr. Lin would be back late. Alida was teaching Laura karate downstairs. The foursome sat in the living room. “What drink do you want, Sam?” Tricia asked from the kitchen.
“Coke, please.” Tricia took a Coke and three Sprites from the refrigerator and returned to the living room, giving each a can. Sam took the can, pulled the tab and popped it open. He gave a big swill as if he had just returned from the Sahara, thirsty for two days. He sighed with satisfaction. Tricia smiled at his eagerness and contented expression; then she began to tell him their plan.
“Since we can''t get any information from that whorehouse, which means that it’s useless to us, we want to make it disappear, not the house, but the people in it.”
“How?” queried Sam doubtfully, putting the empty can down on the coffee table in front of him.
“We''ll disguise ourselves as their patrons and arrest the guys secretly and keep them in a secret place. Then, get information from them. Even their boss won''t know where they are,” Tricia confided.
“That''s against the law,” said Sam, sounding as if taken by surprise.
“Okay. If you let the local police arrest them by legal procedures and put them into the local jail, you will probably see corpses next day,” said Tricia.
“It can''t be that bad,” Sam said incredulously.
“For a master, all the iron bars can be bent easily and as for the guards, or jailers, they can be as easily conquered with chi strokes from a distance, even before they can get a glimpse of the master,” Lois supplied.
“I never knew that. But I still can''t join in your plan since it''s against the law. Sorry. Not until I quit the police job,” Sam apologized.
“Who said there''re no good cops?” Sally sniggered at Sam ironically.
“So, what''s your plan to solve these cases?” Tricia eyed Sam.
“I don''t have any plan yet.” Sam''s candor sounded so innocent.
“Dinner''s ready,” Louise called from the kitchen. The sisters went to help set the table. Alida came up from the family room. Louise gave her a tray with dishes on it, which Alida carried downstairs for Laura and herself. She began to eat with Laura. They became friends now in spite of the age difference. Louise and the four young people sat down to dinner. Sam looked at the four dishes and a big soup bowl. One contained fried bean curd, cut thin, cooked with black mushrooms and canned baby corn. One was sweet and sour pork chops. The third was scrambled eggs with green peas. The last plate had a fish on it cooked in soy sauce. In the soup bowl Sam saw beef slices and vegetables like carrot, celery, cabbage, potato and tomato.
“Everything''s delicious,” said Sam, “but the sweet and sour taste on the chops is different from the taste of the sweet and sour chicken in the restaurant.”
“This is home-style. We use white vinegar while the restaurant uses cranberry sauce,” said Mrs. Lin. Then Sam took another piece of sweet and sour chop. He liked the sweet and sour flavor lingering on his taste buds.
Dinner finished. Sam patted his stomach, saying, “Are you satisfied tonight, boy?” This made the girls and Mrs. Lin laugh.
“You can come to share our meals whenever you like, Sam.”
Sally had a date with Henry Wong in a Chinese restaurant newly opened on Rt. 35. They ordered sweet and sour shrimps, fried chicken with rice, barbecue ribs and a soup called Eight Delicacies, which included abalone, sea cucumber and shark''s fins. He told her about his grandfather''s funeral. His grandfather died at the age of ninety-one. “It''s really bliss,” he said. “If I can live to that age, I will think God is especially kind to me.” He stroked his chin with his hand. His chin was a bit longer than ordinary, which denoted longevity according to Chinese face reading. His grandfather had such a chin. He inherited the genes. He was always proud of it. He was not handsome. Who could say a guy with a long chin was handsome? But he looked manly and sexy. And he was a nice guy. That''s more important. And he really loved Sally with all his heart and soul. That''s most important.
“My grandfather always said that if you wanted to live long, you should be content with whatever life bestowed on you and take everything easy. That''s his tact for longevity,” Sally quoted for him. He nodded his agreement. When the dishes were served, he let Sally touch every dish first. It was a Chinese etiquette to a guest and men used it toward ladies nowadays, particularly boys to their girlfriends.
When their eating process went only halfway, a beeper sounded. Henry took out his beeper and looked at the number. “My company beeped me. Maybe something''s wrong with the equipment. Sorry, I have to leave early. I''ll call you later.” He finished the food on his plate and left in a hurry. Henry paid for the dinner on his way out. So when Sally finished, she just left a tip on the table.
Sally went outside where two guys were waiting for her. They didn''t come near to assail her directly. They were holding some kind of cylinders and sprayed some misty liquid in her direction. When she took in the quaint smell and held her breath, it was too late. She went limp and sank to the ground in a stupor.
As she came to her senses, she felt herself tied tightly and her Stop-Motion Xue was jabbed. She was confined in a small dark space, maybe a closet. She found that she couldn''t speak either. It meant that they struck at her Mute Xue, too, afraid that she would cry out when she came to. What would these guys do to her next? Would they rape her? Would they torment her? It was really hard to forebode. How could she notify her family? Did they know by now that she was missing? Could they find her? Supposing she was on her own, she must think of some way to escape all by herself. She calmed down and maneuvered her chi, trying to break through the stricken xues first.
Next morning when the family gathered in the dining room for breakfast, Sally didn''t come down. “She must have returned late from her date last night,” Tricia assumed. It happened sometimes. She would come down later. So after breakfast, Alida went to school accompanied by Louise, Mr. Lin to the video store, and Lois and Tricia to their office. When she was back at home from school, Louise brought Laura breakfast and then went shopping. It was not until eleven that Louise came back from her shopping mission. After she stored away all the things, she went to every room to clean and put things in order. Sally was not in her room. Louise thought that Sally already left for the office. She just went about her housework.
When it was twelve and Sally still did not show up in the office, Lois called home. Louise answered the phone. “She''s not in her room. I thought she was in the office. I have no idea what became of her. Did she come back last night?” Anxiety was evident in her voice.
“Is her car outside?” Lois asked her mother. Tricia looked at Lois, trying to read from her face what happened to Sally.
“Her car''s not here,” Louise peeped out from the living room window.
“Don''t worry, Mom. I''ll take care of it,” Lois comforted her mother. After letting the receiver slip into the cradle, Lois told Tricia that Sally seemed missing.
“Do you know Henry''s phone number?” Tricia asked.
“No. I never asked Sally for it,” replied Lois. They had no clue where Sally could be. They had to wait for something to turn up before they could take any steps.