|时间：2017-03-26 20:53:53｜人气：92 |
|The girls were planning their next move. |
“Sam said that the FBI is closing in on the Black Panther. So the five men we caught in the warehouse were transferred to them,” Tricia said. She was tapping the eraser end of a pencil on her desktop, a habit of hers when she was at a business meeting that required serious thinking.
“Now our main task is to find out who the big boss of the Black Panther is,” said Lois. “He should be a master.” She didn''t look at her sisters, but turned her swivel chair to the cabinet behind her, seeking some files. She pulled one out, opened it for a brief scan and shoved it back, then pulled out another and pushed it back again after a glance at its contents. She repeated this several times, unable to find the one she wanted.
“Do we need to go to Chicago to check on the master brothers?” asked Sally, who was chewing gum and blowing a bubble alternately while blurting out some words at intervals.
“That''s my plan,” said Lois. “What do you think, Tricia? You stay here. Sally and I go. No need for all of us to go there.” She closed the cabinet door and turned round to face her sisters, her eyes on each of them by turns.
“That''s fine with me. I always listen to my big sister,” Tricia said archly and obediently, shoveling a bang of her golden hair back into place. Lois said nothing, just smiled.
“That''s fine with Sam, too,” said Sally, chuckling and stealing a glimpse at Tricia, then blowing a big bubble to hide her face behind it.
“What about Henry? He''ll be heartbroken,” Tricia counterattacked with a straight face.
“He''s away for his brother''s wedding. So no heart will be broken,” Sally grimaced, the bubble having shrunk into her nicely shaped glossy-lipped mouth.
On their arrival, Lois and Sally went to police headquarters in Chicago. They explained the reason why they were there. A lieutenant received them and said, “We got their pictures on a hidden security tape. They robbed a jewelry store two nights ago. We just got the warrant and are going to their place for the arrest and search.”
“Can we go with you?” asked Lois. The lieutenant knew their fame and said, “Glad to have you to help me. I was informed that these two brothers are kungfu people. It''s hard to catch them alive. Either they are shot dead or they escape. Before they moved to Chicago, they were in San Francisco. The police there wanted to bring them in for questioning, but they escaped. Chicago is such a big city. Only recently, we found their whereabouts. Now let''s go.”
Lois and Sally rode with the lieutenant in a car without any police sign. In fact, all the cars and vans that joined in the action had no sign at all. They wanted to take the brothers by surprise. It seemed that the brothers lived in an apartment building. It was harder to block their escape, but easier for them to flee. Plainclothes policemen dispersed to every corner around the apartment to be best able to block their escape. Lois and Sally rode the elevator to the eighth floor with the lieutenant and four detectives. When they knocked at the door of Apartment 802, they heard rustling noises inside, but no one came to answer the door. A detective picked open the door and rushed in with the drawn gun. Others followed him in, but they found no one inside. The place looked a mess, like someone left in a hurry. The windows facing the street were open. Lois ran to the windows and looked out. She saw two figures jumping and leaping from roof to roof. They were so swift and nimble that in a few minutes they were out of sight. Lois noticed the lieutenant and Sally standing by the windows, too. The detectives searched the rooms and didn''t find anything worthwhile. The plainclothes policemen surrounding the building only paid attention to all the exits, never raised their heads to look at the windows. “Where will they go now?” The question whirled in everyone''s mind.
“From the direction they ran off, I can conclude that their next stop is the Big Apple,” said Lois when they were back at home from Chicago. “And I can see that they love big cities, easy to hide.”
The three sisters sat in the living room, watching the news on the small TV. Their mother was in the kitchen cooking dinner. Alida was tormenting Laura in the basement with her karate teaching, as Laura put it. Suddenly an anchor''s voice attracted their attention. “A body was found in Central Park this morning. Some joggers reported it to the police. According to the ID found on the body, the man''s name is Joseph Hsu.”
Nothing involving the Black Panther surprised them now. “He''s wanted by FBI,” observed Tricia.
“That''s why he should die,” remarked Sally, with a wad of gum on the tip of her tongue, about to be filled with air. The next piece of news was virtually shocking to them.
“A man was arrested this afternoon under suspicion of drug dealing. He said he didn''t know he was transporting cocaine. His name is Frank Perez.”
An invisible bomb exploded among the girls, who were stunned and agape. Tricia was about to hold up a can of Sprite to her lips, but froze in midair, spellbound at the news. After a while she recovered. She called Monica, who was not in her apartment. Tricia tried her parents'' house and got her there.
“Hi, Monica. This is Tricia. Have you watched the news?”
“No. What''s on?” asked Monica in a curious voice.
“It''s about Frank,” Tricia quipped.
“What is it? Did he turn up dead?” she asked anxiously in a whisper. She doesn’t want her parents to hear the bad news, Tricia thought.
“Not that bad. He''s arrested,” Tricia revealed a little more. A sigh of relief came through the line. “What for?” Still eager.
“Suspicion of drug dealing.” Tricia gave out the last detail she knew so far.
“How could that be?” The voice sounded exasperated, a little louder.
“No idea. Will you go with me to see him tomorrow? It''s in Morristown.”
“I''ll meet you in the parking lot of the police station there.”
On the morrow they met in the parking lot. Monica came early and sat in her car waiting for her former roommate. She watched the entrance to the parking lot without even daring to blink her eyes. Tricia arrived a little later. Monica got out of her car as she saw Tricia pulling into an empty space.
“Sorry, Monica.” Tricia climbed out and as Monica approached she said to her, “I''m really busy on some murder cases, so didn''t have much time recently for Frank’s case. At least we know now he''s fine physically.”
They went into the building. Tricia knew a sergeant there and had called him beforehand. He arranged for them to meet Frank. When Frank came into the room where they were waiting, he looked fine, even gained a bit of weight.
“I didn''t do anything wrong,” he said to his sister when he was brought into the room.
“Calm down, Frank,” Monica appeased him. “This is Tricia, my roommate in college. She''s a detective now. Tell her everything since you disappeared.”
“I didn''t disappear. I just didn''t contact my parents.” He buried his face in his hands. His fingers slowly slipped into his hair as his head sank lower. “ How''s Mom and dad?”
“They are worried about you.”
“I am sorry. I didn''t do it on purpose.” He shut his eyes, reliving the nightmare from which he wanted desperately now to wake up. Who would wish to rot in the jail so young?
“What happened to you, then?” his sister prodded.
Frank often went to some bars in the evenings and on weekends. A guy of the same age befriended him.
“What''s his name?” asked Tricia.
“Everyone calls him Jack.”
Tricia knew whom he meant. As they became intimate, they drank together and sought pleasures together. Sometimes he came to the garage Frank had worked at before and took him to some expensive restaurant after work. He spent money generously. Frank envied him.
“You want to earn more money?” he once asked Frank, seeing the envious sparks in his eyes.
“Sure. Why not?” said Frank matter-of-factly. Yes. Everyone wants to earn more money. That''s the first rule in life. But some people often forget an important epithet before the word “money”: honest.
“Some big boss I''m working for needs drivers, not chauffeurs, just drivers.” He looked at Frank attentively.
“What would the drivers do?” Frank asked, showing more interest than he really had.
“They just drop some goods off for customers,” Jack told him casually, like it was an ordinary job.
“That''s easy work.” Frank wanted Jack to know that he could do things more difficult than that.
“You''ll get more money than now, but on some conditions.” He looked at Frank tentatively.
“What''s the conditions?” Frank was curious, but not suspicious.
“First, you should not contact any other people, including your parents and relatives.” He bent one finger in counting.
“Why?” Frank grew a little doubtful, but the wish to earn more money was stronger.
“They will distract you from work. The big boss dun''t like it.” He looked away from Frank.
“That''s no problem.” Frank imagined that he was driving in an expensive convertible.
“Second, you can''t go anywhere by yourself when you ain''t working.” He bent his second finger.
“What do you mean?” Frank was really not smart for such brain games.
“You''ll make friends among us. We''ll go everywhere together,” Jack promised.
“Deal.” They struck hands. Frank never gave a second thought to anything. A lot of money, all hundred-dollar bills, floated across his mind''s eye. The bills fell all over him as he was lying on a king-sized soft bed. A girl was lying beside him on the bed. He gave her half the money. But he could not recognize her face, because he didn''t know who she should be, an imaginary girlfriend. He tried to put on the face of a famous movie star, but it didn''t work. All the female movie stars had more money than he did. He wanted to put on the face of some pretty models on the commercials, but that didn''t work, either. He could never get in contact with any of them. Finally his sister''s face floated before his inward eye. “Oh, no,” he groaned. This was the face he was most familiar with. He had seen it almost everyday since he grew up.
“I''ll let you know when you''ll begin to work.” Then they parted.
On that Friday, Jack came to the garage and waited outside. When Frank finished work, they rode away in Frank''s car. Jack gave Frank directions while he was driving. He was so high-spirited that he sang along with the song drifting out from the car radio. He didn''t even memorize the route they were going. He just drove where Jack pointed till they reached a wooded area after almost an hour. They went on a narrow muddy path between the trees, then came in sight of a bungalow. They parked the car before it and went inside. It was made of wood, small, but cozy. “You''ll live here,” Jack told him. “I''ll come to see you from time to time.” Jack drove away in Frank''s car. Frank could go nowhere now since he was deprived of any means of transportation and had to stay here till these people thought of him. Left alone, Frank checked the new dwelling. He found that he had almost everything he needed: food in the refrigerator, utensils, bathroom stuffs, clean clothes, washing machine and drier, TV and VCR, a small cabinet full of video tapes, mostly movies, except one thing--a telephone. He would be a hermit now, a modern hermit.
The first contact he got from the outside world came three days after he was confined in this comfortable free-to-go jail. Two cars screeched to a stop before the bungalow. A man jumped out of a new Buick, the newest model, and came to the door. “Frank?” he asked when he opened the door for him. “You have work now.” He handed Frank a big fat envelope. “You are paid monthly. This is your pay for the first month.” Frank took it, peeping into the envelope and estimating that it might amount to three thousand dollars. Not bad. He put the money away under the mattress of his bed.
“What must I do?” he asked the man.
“Here''s the car. You must deliver it to the customer and leave it there.”
“How do I get back?”
“You follow us. We''ll give you a ride back.” He got into another car, an old Chevy.
Jack never showed up again. He got the delivery once or twice a month. For rest of the time, he enjoyed himself as best as he could in this secluded place. Whenever the assignment came, people would bring him all the necessities and his monthly pay. His job was always to drive a car to the customer--always the same make and model, the same color. He was not an inquisitive person. As long as he was paid, and paid handsomely, he didn''t care if he delivered the same car a thousand times over and over. When Frank got familiar with the delivery routes, the men dropped the car to him and drove away first. They would wait there for him or pick him up there later, then drop him at his nest.
Yesterday when Frank went through Morristown, he suddenly got a flat tire just before a garage. He thought to himself, “I''d better fix it here.” So he went into the garage to talk to the mechanic. He helped to take down the wheel when he felt something inside the tire. He rolled the tire into the garage and asked the mechanic to get the tire off the ring to see if there was anything wrong inside. When the tire was ripped off the ring, both he and the mechanic were stunned. They found small white plastic packages inside the tire. The mechanic knew instantly what this stuff meant and called the police. Frank had no idea what all these packages were. He just waited for the mechanic to fix his tire so that he could continue on his way. When police came, they discovered more packages in the other three tires and the spare tire. Frank was thus under arrest. When he was questioned, he said he didn''t know what they really wanted him to deliver. He was told to deliver the car. “If I knew what I was really delivering, I wouldn''t fix the tire in the garage and ask the mechanic to take the tire off the ring.” The mechanic made a statement to verify his confession. So the police believed him and went easy on him.
Tricia talked to the sergeant and vouched for Frank''s innocence. Later Frank was allowed bail. “It is not safe for you to go home,” Tricia told Frank. Monica agreed. “Come with me. I''ll put you in a safe place,” Tricia said to him.
Lois rented a single house in a secluded place for her forthcoming plan. They kept Frank in there, warning him not to show his face for anyone to see, for his dear life. Frank knew the seriousness of the situation by now. He was not stupid. He had seen sufficient killings, involving drug dealings on TV and in movies. He wouldn''t let these guys kill him.
Now it was time to put their plan into action. Lois rented a van and drove to Flushing that night together with Tricia and Sally. They were disguised as men. It took them an hour and a half to reach there and find the address. It was a single house on a side street just off Main Street. Convenient location for them, too. They parked the van in front of the house and leaped out. The door chime was heard when Lois pushed the button. After a while, a man opened the door. “Well, gentlemen?” He looked at them inquiringly. It was supposed to be an underground brothel. The men who came were either old patrons or recommended by some of the old patrons. Now, these three men were new. He never set his eyes on their faces before. He waited for them to say the code name of some old patron. From the look in his eyes, Lois knew that there must be some secret sign or password or something that they should respond with. Forget it! She thrust the forefinger of her right hand at the man''s Sleep Xue. As the man fell, she caught him and slowly let him down on the floor of the hallway. Sally was the last to come in and shut the door behind her. She stayed where she was, just inside the front door, beside the sleeping villain. She never forgot to put a gum in her mouth. Lois and Tricia went ahead to search for other guys. Tricia looked into every room downstairs while Lois went upstairs. “Who''s that?” a guy yelled out the question from the upstairs hallway and came forward.
“A patron,” Lois replied. She made her voice sound hoarse and masculine-like, but it was still a bit shrill. The guy stepped closer smelling a rat, just as Lois came up and poked her finger at his Sleep Xue. She found no one on the second floor. No patrons that night. Tricia came up as she finished checking the first floor and the basement and found no one else, either.
Then, they went to the third floor. It was an attic. They pushed the door open. Four girls were inside, some lying on the lower bunks and some sitting on the floor, smoking cigarettes. They didn''t even look their way and seemed indifferent to the two strangers.
“Where are the two other guys?” Lois asked. Now all four girls sat up and focused their eyes on them: woman''s voice coming from man''s clothes. That was something demanding their attention.
“Who are you?” one of the girls asked.
“We came to rescue you,” replied Lois.
“Rescue us?” another girl doubted. It seemed unbelievable to them. Good things never happened to them before. They dared not hope for any. They all stared with incredulity.
“Don''t tell me you are here doing such things of your own free will,” said Lois. Tears began to travel down the cheeks of some girls.
“Will you leave here with us?” Lois asked gently. The girls got to their feet. “Gather your things and come to the first floor,” Lois told them. “Where are the two other guys?”
“They are off duty today and gone out for merrymaking,” one of the girls answered. Lois and Tricia turned to descend. Passing the second floor hallway, Tricia picked up the other sleeping villain by the collar and dragged him downstairs, his shoes making a tad-tad noise on the carpeted staircase steps. Lois opened the inside door to the garage and pushed the button to open the overhead garage door. She went out, started the van and backed it into the garage. Tricia and Sally each dragged a sleeping thug into the garage. They opened the back door of the van and threw the thugs inside onto the van''s floor. The girls came down now. Tricia waved them to climb into the back of the van and sit along the sides. Sally got into the back, too, so she could be ready to react if anything went amiss. Tricia shut the van''s back door. Lois pulled the van out, halting in the driveway. Tricia pushed the close button of the overhead door of the garage and as the door was sliding downward, she ducked and leaped out. When she got into the front seat, Lois moved onto the street and the van roared off.
On the way Sally made it clear to the girls that they were still in danger of being caught and taken back by the other two thugs, so they must hide in a secret place till the danger was over. The girls agreed to that. When they reached the secret house, Frank was already asleep. It was three in the morning. Tricia went inside to open the garage door. Lois backed the van in. Tricia closed the garage door and opened the back door of the van, letting the girls out first. Lois got out of the van and led the girls into the living room. She cautioned them to keep absolutely quiet when they lived here. No noise to rouse any suspicion among the neighbors. This house had three bedrooms. Frank occupied a small one. The girls had to share two big ones, but better than four squeezed in the attic. The two thugs were put into the basement, still in profound slumber. Lois left the girls to shift for themselves for a while before they went to bed. She and her two sisters returned to their own home, saying they would come tomorrow.
Tricia and Lois went to the secret house after they returned the van to the car rental office. They brought a lot of food and other stuffs. The girls would put the things away. Lois and Tricia went down to the basement. They slapped the rogues awake and poked at their Null-Kungfu Xue so that they didn''t have any kungfu to perform. Frank was assigned the task of taking care of the two thugs. After they cleaned themselves and ate some food, Lois began to interrogate them.
“Who''s the big boss?” she asked.
“We dun''t know. We never see him.” one of the thugs answered. The thugs knew that they fell into the hands of some kungfu people, not police or the FBI. If they refused to answer questions, they would certainly suffer from tortures, the kungfu tortures, different from any torments in any other places one could imagine. If one''s Pain Xue was pricked, he would feel enormous unendurable pain from within, worse than being whipped or any outside torments. If one''s Itch Xue was jabbed, he would feel unbearable itching all over inside that he could not scratch. A story went back to the olden time in China. A magistrate, when he was interrogating a culprit, never beat him, but had his subordinates brush the sole of the culprit’s foot very lightly till he felt the itching on his sole unbearable and he would confess to everything the magistrate wanted him to confess. This torture was better than beating and more humane. So the thugs offered information to please her. “We only know Joseph. He''s the one we must obey.”
“Joseph''s dead.” Lois wanted to sound stern and menacing.
“A guy call hisself Billy Jiang''s coming to take his place. We listen to him now.”
Lois remembered him. He had played the role of a phony customer that reminded Lois later of the Wizard of Oz and lured Lois to his office, where she had got a cut on the arm with a poisonous knife. How could she forget him? Thanks to him, she got another girl''s arm, the color of the skin looking a shade whiter than her own. More beautiful? She had to wear long-sleeves now. “Do you know where Billy Jiang is?”
“No. He come to us. We dun''t even have him phone or beeper number.”
She could foretell that, Lois mused. For safety sake, Lois pricked their Sleep Xues again. Let them sleep the clock round when she was not here. Frank and the girls already introduced themselves to each other to save Lois the procedure. There was a TV in the living room and a VCR. Lois got some tapes from her father''s video store for them to kill the time. She didn''t want them to get bored and make some stupid fatal blunders. She warned them, too.
“Can I tell Sam about it?” Tricia asked. They were in their office now.
“No. Better keep it from him for the time being,” said Lois. Just then, there was a knock at the door. “Come in, please.”
The door was pushed open. Sam filled the doorway with his six foot three stature and one hundred and fifty-eight pounds of muscle. “Hi, girls.” He grinned his toothy grin with the greeting.
“Hi, boy.” Tricia smiled her artful smile with her breezy words. Sam laid two tapes on Tricia''s desk on his way to the sofa, on which he sank, causing a pathetic groan from its bottom. “Any news?” he asked casually.
“Nothing except on TV,” Tricia cooed.
“Any progress on the cases?” Lois asked Sam. She didn''t want Sam to ask more questions.
“Only more death, if you think that''s progress,” Sam sighed, pressing his finger and thumb on his temples and leaning back, only causing another groan from the old sofa.
“Are the five men still in one piece?” asked Sally. “It''s not easy to catch them. So guard them like treasures.” Her mouth was set in chewing movement.
“Yeah, in one living piece. You can be at ease,” said Sam, winking at Tricia.
“Fine. And Joseph''s in one piece, too, only in one dead piece,” said Sally scoffingly.
“How was he killed?” Tricia asked Sam curiously.
“The coroner couldn''t give any definite conclusion. My guess is something called Death Xue as you will put it.” He had increased his knowledge about kungfu now.
“So, Central Park is not the murder scene?”
“No. It seemed the body had traveled on a long journey and was dumped there.”
“Anything found that can be traced to the original murder place?”
“Nothing. The Black Panther is as sly as a fox. You can’t even hope to find a murder weapon for people who die in this way.”
“No,” Tricia agreed. “The murder weapon is the finger plus chi.”
It was lunchtime. Tricia and Sam left for lunch. “Let''s listen to the tapes,” said Sally, her cheek muscles twitched busily.
“Good.” Lois went to Tricia''s desk to pick up the tapes, then back to her own desk. She put a tape into the player. She could not fast-forward it when it was all gossip. Maybe, there was some important information between the gossips like some lucky garbage picker finding jewelry in the rubbish.
“You two supposed to be in your whorehouse. Why fucking you come here?” It was Jack''s voice.
“When we back there in morning, no fucking one''s in there, not even the fucking girls, like all vanishing in magic or taken by fucking vampires. Now we out of job. We dun''t have any girls.”
“You report to fucking Billy yet?”
“How we can do that? We even dun''t know where find fucking him.”
“He laid fucking ambush for the bitch girl, but one of his fucking men blinded by the girl''s hair, a long ponytail, it was said, whipped across his face. It''s unbelievable.”
“What become of the man? He''s blind and no more fucking use for big boss.”
“Never seen or heard of him since then.”
“It was rumored bastard''s killed and buried in the fucking back garden of boss''s place.”
“I feel we going downhill. So many brethren killed by hands of our own fucking brethren.”
“He''s fucking lucky. Bailed out and disappeared.”
“He really know fucking nothing ''bout us. We just use him to deliver our goods.”
“But boss''s rule is: better kill a thousand wrong bastards than let one slip by.”
“I''s afraid our future fate, either killed by police or by big boss.”
“Or the second boss, or the third boss.”
“You mean we have more fucking bosses over us?”
“Yeah, you right. And the fourth boss a woman. You like killed by a fucking woman?”
“How come we have so many new bosses overnight?”
“You stupid asshole. You got mosquito''s IQ. They ain''t new. They are old fucking brethren. Only come here recently.”
“Hello, may I speak to Lois?”
“This is Lois. Who''s calling?”
“I am Craig Pu, you remember? You came to my house once about my neighbor Michael Dong.”
Lois remembered the master living in Queens. “Oh, yeah, Master Pu. How can I help you?”
“It''s about Michael. He''s hiding in my house now.”
“Why does he want to hide? From whom?”
“From his big boss, he said. He joined some kind of organization when he was much younger. Now he wants out and afraid they will kill him.”
“Okay. I''ll come to talk to him.” Lois hung up. Can this be a trap? A trap set up in Master Pu''s house? Not unless he''s their brethren, too. But I can''t be sure. Lois went there with Tricia and Sally as backups. When they arrived there, it was already dark. Lois just used her cell phone to call Mr. Pu from her Mitsubishi. She didn''t want to go in, maybe right into some snare, if there would be a snare. “Hello, Master Pu. It''s Lois. I''m now just in front of your house in my car. Tell Michael to come out to my car. It''s dark. No one will see him. I''ll get him to a safe place.” She clicked off after Mr. Pu acknowledged that he got the message. Just one long minute later, a man ran out of Mr. Pu''s house towards their car. Sally opened the rear door and let him in. Then Sally retired to the far corner of the backseat and turned halfway to him with alert eyes fixed on him. She even forgot chewing the gum in her mouth. The car shot forth noiselessly.
Lois had rented an apartment for him in a quiet back street of New Brunswick. Now she went to drop him there. Once they were in the apartment, Lois told him to stay here without letting anybody notice him. She would bring him everything he needed from time to time till it was safe for him to leave. Then she asked, “Do you know who your big boss is?”
“I really don''t know, but once Joseph told me to drop an important package to a magnificent mansion in Long Island. I think it may be the boss''s residence, but I''m not sure.”
“Did you see anyone inside?”
“I just went as far as the guardhouse. Some guard took it and sent me away.”
“Why do you want out?”
“If I''m no longer of any use to them, or if they suspect I''ll let the cat out, they''ll kill me even though I won''t do that. But they trust no one. It seems as if you live with a cruel king or a tiger. You always fear to lose your life. When I joined, I had no idea what their doings were. And now--I''m really afraid. They kill people like mowing the grass, even their own people.”
“What are their doings?”
“They have different groups. Each group has different business, like one would be in charge of the drug trade, another in robbery and burglary, still another the secret whorehouses.”
“Which group are you in?”
“The one in whorehouses. It''s the house I live in, just near Master Pu''s.”
“How can you get out?”
“We are allowed to go out. The girls are not. Today''s my day off. They won''t begin to look for me till tomorrow when I don''t show up.”
“What if Master Pu can’t keep you safe?”
“I have to go back tomorrow.”
“How many girls there?”
“Three. And only two guys. Me and the other one.”