A Dr. Shadows Mystery
Teel James Glenn
The year is 1937. The Japanese have invaded and occupied Manchuria and the clouds of fascism darken the skies over Europe. The world totters on the brink of war. Never was there more a need for a hero and never had there been one like, Dr. Shadows, the granite man!
The (Almost) Dead of Night
“Okay, you pale white devil,” the Chinese Cyclops said, “I sink this shot and you owe me blood!”
Despite having only one good eye, Han Ku Lee was a wiz at the pool table. Owning a pool hall on One Hundred and Thirty First Street in Harlem meant the petite woman had a lot of time to practice her trick shots.
“Have a heart, Hank,” her opponent pleaded, “I already owe you any future children I might beget.”
She laughed. “I’ll have to wait quite a while to collect on that the way you behave.”
It was after hours at “Hank’s Billiards and Snooker Hall” and Hank was alone with her pool opponent. She was barely five feet tall, with short-cropped hair in a bob cut. She was dressed in a mannish three-piece pinstripe suit and wore a matching eye-patch over her left eye.
Her opponent was a muscular Caucasian giant, whose perfect proportions and pale grey complexion made him seem like a statue come to life.
“The game is pool, Anton,” Hank said with glee, “Its all a matter of deflection, working the angles, big guy. No mercy allowed!” She gave an evil little giggle and proceeded to sink the last three balls in a row across the green velvet with no seeming effort at all.
“You are as cruel, milady, as you are lovely,” the grey Goliath said with a wide smile then did his best to look the injured party. “Now that you have beaten me soundly, how about taking me pity on me and accompanying me out for dinner?”
Anton Chadeaux, Phd. was a globe trotting adventurer whom the newspapers had dubbed Dr. Shadows, the granite man, for his pale skin which was the result of years of herbal treatments in a secret monastery in Korea. His features were a chiseled matinee idol handsome that would have made him stand out in any crowd. The fact that he tended to wear only grey in suites or casual cloths in an effort to keep him from appearing un-healthy by contrast to brighter colors only added to the granite man alluisons.
When he was in New York of late he often spent his time with Hank.
They were an odd pair to be sure, each remarkable in their own way and more so when seen together: Hank, petite and pretty and Dr. Shadows, a muscular colossus in his smartly tailored grey suit and coat.
The pretty Chinese woman was about to quip in reply to his invitation when the phone in her office rang. She moved quickly across the closed hall to answer it. “Who in Sam Hill would call me at this hour?”
Dr. Shadows racked the pool cues and re-racked the balls while Hank spoke into the phone in rapid Cantonese. She slammed the phone down and raced back into the room, coat in hand.
“Dinner will have to wait, Anton,” she said. “I have to get down to Chinatown in a hurry. There’s an emergency at one of my restaurants.”
Dr. Shadows grabbed his own overcoat and fedora as he followed her out the door. When she turned to lock it, he said, “I have a Shadows Foundation car up the block, it’ll be faster than you grabbing a cab.”
“The Fu Wah restaurant on Mott,” she said when she jumped into the passenger seat of the silver grey coupe.
“I know it,” he said, “though I didn’t realize you owned it as well.” The powerful engine roared to life and he eased it into southbound traffic. “What’s the problem down there?”
“My manager, Su Ling, said there was some sort of tong trouble.” She adjusted the eye-patch over her left eye in a nervous gesture while she stared ahead with her emerald green good eye, as if to see all the way to the south of the island where the trouble was.
In response to her statement, the granite man reached under the dashboard and flipped a switch that engaged a siren. He pressed down hard on the gas pedal and the car leapt ahead like an caged beast. Dr. Shadows maneuvered the high-powered coupe through late night traffic on Broadway with casual ease.
“When did you get a siren installed?” she asked. Despite the urgency of their journey she grinned at the sensation of speed as the city sped by.
“Always had it,” he said with a grin of his own, “I just don’t like to be showy.”
In fact, the license plate of SFJ2 was enough to get him preferential treatment on the roadways of the city. The Shadows Foundation for Justice, which he had founded worked closely with the police and federal authorities. He knew he’d avoided many a speeding ticket just on general principles so had seldom had to use the siren. He had been deputized for services rendered by the mayor, who had also authorized the siren.
When they pulled up in front of the Fu Wah Restaurant in record time, Hank was out of the car before Dr. Shadows engaged the parking brake. The restaurant was a basement establishment and Hank jumped both steps down in a single bound and raced inside.
Once in the door, the situation in the restaurant was as clear as a museum tableau. Half a dozen patrons cowered against the walls while four masked men with cleaver-like hatchets smashed the furniture. Su Ling, the plump be-spectacled manager was being held at the back of the eatery by a fifth thug, a razor sharp knife at his neck.
“Stop now!” Hank yelled in Cantonese. When the masked destroyers failed to comply she produced a thirty-two-caliber pistol from a coat pocket. She held the gun aloft and fired a single shot into the wooden beam near the doorway.
Everyone in the room froze.
The masked man with the knife at the manager’s throat was the first to break the silence. “You pay tribute to the Jade Dragon for the defense of China!”
“You jackals aren’t collecting for Manchurian relief,” she spat at him, “you just extort hard earned money from working people for your own pockets.”
Dr. Shadows entered at that moment and stepped behind Hank. “He knows you can’t shoot without the risk of hitting an innocent,” he whispered, “looks like we have a Chinese standoff.”
Everyone in the room paused to assess the situation. Some of the patrons, and at least one of the masked men, stared in open-mouthed amazement at the sight that the two interlopers presented.
The tong leader decided that the odd pair, even with Hank’s gun, were no match for his henchmen so he ordered, “Hurt them!”
The four turned as one and advanced. The granite man stepped in front of Hank and said with no boast in his tone, “Hold your fire, Hank. I think I can handle them.” She knew he was right so she nodded.
He was trained in the ancient martial arts of Korea, from the same monastery that had healed his injured body with herbal baths that had resulted in his grey color. Hank took a half step back to let him have room, her pistol at the ready if he was wrong.
The first hatchet man came in fast, swinging his knife at Dr. Shadows’ head.
The grey Goliath pulled off his coat in a sweeping gesture, whirling it like a cape to envelop the attacker’s head. Dr. Shadows jumped and pistoned his right leg in a sidekick that sent the hatchet man rocketing back into the second attacking tong man. Both thugs tumbled to the ground in a tangled heap.
The third approached, expecting a similar assault by the grey giant, Dr. Shadows stooped and grabbed a chair that was overturned, grasped it by the legs and thrust the chair back into the charging man’s shins. As the man pitched forward in pain, the granite man yanked the chair upward to slam it into the man‘s chin. The Chinese bandit did an aerial back flip and landed on his face, out cold.
The sudden discharge of the gun behind the granite man made him jump.
He whirled to see the fourth tong man holding his beefy right arm, blood streaming from between his fingers. His hatchet lay on the ground at his feet, and he cursed vehemently in gutter Cantonese.
“He was going to kill you,” Hank said in explanation. Dr. Shadows nodded a thank you and turned his attention to the tong men’s leader.
Hank swung the smoking pistol to point at the two tangled men on the ground and ordered them “Stay down!”
“What’s it going to be?” the grey Goliath asked the leader who still held his knife at the manager’s throat. He spoke in perfect Chinese. “Let him go and you leave with your boys; harm him and you don’t leave at all.” Dr. Shadows spoke in a calm even tone that made it clear he was not bluffing.
“You will pay for defying the Jade Dragon!” the bandit leader said. He edged toward the interlopers, his blade still at the manager’s neck.
Dr. Shadows and Hank countered his movements to allow him to ease toward the door.
“Pick him up; we go.” The tong leader ordered his men. They scooped up the unconscious thug and all five backed out of the entrance to the restaurant. At the door, the bandit pushed Su Ling into the room and addressed Dr. Shadows.
“You are known, Ghost Healer,” he said using the Cantonese transliteration of his nom-de-guerre. “Your interference in this will not be forgotten.” The bandit turned and exited, slamming the door behind him in a final act of defiance.
The room was deadly silent for a long moment, and then the patrons began to all babble at once; the manager to whimper in delayed terror and Dr. Shadows turned o speak to Hank.
“I guess we’re not going to have Chinese food for dinner, huh?”
A Fateful Meeting
After Hank had calmed down the manager and the customers, she closed and locked the restaurant, giving the employees the next night off. She and Dr. Shadows then walked the short distance north of Chinatown to the Combination Club, the nightclub that he co-owned with Slugger Harris.
“It makes no sense that the Jade Dragon Tong should bother you, Hank,” the granite man said once they were seated at his regular table. “Everyone knows you do more to raise money for Manchurian relief funds than just about anyone.”
The Chinese woman had not let the incident dull her appetite. She spoke between mouthfuls of Veal Florentine from the Combination Club’s chef. “There are factions in the Benevolent Society that don’t like it; they feel that all collecting for any reason should be under their control.” She sipped at fruit juice between bites. She, like Dr. Shadows, was a teetotaler, a fact that made her gourmet friends squirm. “It is squabbling like that which causes China to be vulnerable to the Japanese in the first place.”
Dr. Shadows nodded his agreement; he was as passionate as Hank on the subject. It was one of their many shared passions.
“I’ve rousted a couple of those Tong jokers myself,” Slugger Harris added, “They ain’t so tough.” The former boxer was a little terrier of a man. He stood by the table, both in his capacity as owner-manager, and as a friend and associate of Dr. Shadows. He was one of the original members of the Shadows Foundation for Justice and a close friend to the grey Goliath. He also thought Hank was the cat’s meow.
“Their strength is in numbers, Slugger,” she said, “They are truly legion, like your Mafia.”
“Ain’t my Mafia,” he said quickly but with a smile. “I figure they and da Tong Monkeys is brothers under the skin.” Slugger was a world traveler, a former middleweight contender and spoke Korean and Cantonese like a native, but had never been able to leave his Brooklyn accent behind
“You have dat’ right, “ Dr. Shadows said, mimicking his friend’s accent. “Crooks is crooks!”
The three friends laughed. Then the granite man said, “It can’t just stay this way. The Jade Dragon Benevolent Society is almost eight hundred years old; they will not suffer to lose face like they did tonight. When word spreads that they took off with their cues between their legs, running from one woman and a white man, they will lose much of their power.”
“It will be all over like last weeks fish by tomorrow afternoon, Boss,” Slugger said, “Word travels like a brushfire in Chinatown.”
“Which is why I have to arrange to meet the Tong fathers tomorrow,” Hank said. “It has to stop here before it gets out of control and somebody really gets hurt.” She looked over hopefully at Dr. Shadows. “Will you back me up, Anton?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for all the tea in China, pipsqueak,” he said.
“Same here,” Slugger added.
She patted her holstered pistol. “Good, but I’m bringing junior with me, just for luck!”
Dr. Shadows thought, The council members of the Jade Dragon Benevolent Society are straight out of central casting for a Mascot motion picture serial.
It was mid afternoon, and the granite man and Hank stood in the great hall headquarters of the Tong flanked by six hatchet men, one of whom had a bandage beneath his shirt that marked him as the one that Hank had shot the night before.
Dr. Shadows studied the three Tong lords and searched his memory for all he had heard about them.
There was Wo Ping, a balding jowly old man who wore a traditional silk scholar’s robe. He scowled at Hank and Dr. Shadows, his sour expression a clear indication of how he felt about dealing with a woman and a Caucasian. He is hard line from all I’ve heard, Dr. Shadows thought, and very heavy ties to the traditional.
Dr. Li Fong was a wizened old man with a stereotype sage’s full head of white hair and long mustache who leaned on an ornately carved teakwood cane and seemed barely able to stay upright. They say he was one of Chang Kai Shek’s teachers in medical school,” the grey Goliath thought. I know he has been very active in fund raising for Chinese relief and in agitating against the Japanese.
The last member of the triad was Chung Lee Fu, who popularly went by “Leo.” Dr. Shadows had seen him at several nightspots in the city and even once at The Combination Club. He was younger than the others by half a century and built like an athlete. He runs a martial arts school and fancies himself a Wu Xia hero, Dr. Shadows thought, one of those movie tough guys from old China’s past.
Chung was completely westernized in a brown suit and spats in imitation of the round-eyed gangsters he had modeled his lifestyle on. It was all a very theatrical tableau.
“Lee Han Ku,” Li Fong began in cultured and well modulated Chinese, “you have been granted this meeting because of the work you have done on behalf of the community in the past but–”
“But be sure,” Chung finished, “your actions will be judged only for what they were last night.” He glared at Hank accusatively, but she showed no inclination that she was impressed or intimidated by the look.
“And you have been allowed at this meeting,” Li Fong said in unaccented English in direct address to Dr. Shadows, “because of your extensive ties within our community and the nature of your involvement last evening.”
The granite man inclined his head to acknowledge the courtesy.
“Enough nonsense,” Wo Ping said in a raspy voice in Cantonese, “Explain your actions, girl!”
Hank was dressed in a traditional chao sam dress and was doing her best to be diplomatic, but Dr. Shadows saw her bristle at the insulting tone of the order.
“Respectfully,” she said through clenched teeth, “it is I who am owed an explanation. I have always observed the proprieties with respect to your society, always helped our people here and at home in every way I can; why was the Fu Wah pressed for tribute and in so rude a manner?”
“Insolent wench,” the jowled Tong lord rasped. “You are not to question your betters.”
“Betters?” Hank began and began to step forward. Dr. Shadows quickly cut her off her outburst.
“Good fathers,” he said in flawless Cantonese, “we wish only to understand the wisdom of the benevolent society and the actions they took last night, not question it.” Hank shot him a look that was partly thanks and partly anger at being interrupted.
“Well played, Ghost Healer,” Li Fong said with a hint of a smile on his wrinkled face. “I see your reputation for understanding our people is well deserved, but this is a Chinese matter-”
“We don’t have to listen to this bleached outsider,” Leo Chung interjected. ”This is about Lee and her trying to stop our collectors.”
“But why?” Hank insisted. “I–”
“Because such impertinence from you to speak to us so,” Wo Ping said. “It is bad enough tradition is ignored by some–” he shot a sidelong glance to his to companions, “but our power in the community must not be challenged.”
Hank was about to respond, but Chung stepped forward. “We are the future of the Tong; here in this country, not some moldy old country.”
Wo Ping made an exasperated noise and rose. He stalked off to the back of the hall, threw open a thick oak door, and went through to the room beyond.
“Now is not the time for this,” Li Fong said. He shot a look to Leo Chung and inclined his head toward the visitors. “We are family and family sometimes have disagreements among themselves but make no mistake we speak with one voice outside this room.” There was sudden glimpse of a tremendous force of personality beneath his wrinkles.
He held up a hand. “Wait here,” he said in a calm voice. “I will calm down my council brother and we will conclude this meeting.”
He followed Wo Ping from the room. In a moment the raspy voice of Wo Ping and the controlled tones of the wizened Tong lord could be heard from the back room.
Leo Chung glared at the granite man and Hank who stood with as neutral a stance as possible while events swirled around them. He spoke the moment the older man left the room. “You know, sister,” he said, “you have had a free ride in our turf for too long because of your reputation as a bleeding heart for the old country.”
Dr. Shadows noticed that Chung made a point of playing to the Tong guards stationed around the room who had their eyes fixed, not on the two visitors but the young peacock. This young lion can’t wait for the old guard to die out, he thought. He is at the verge of a power play. Interesting.
“I don’t care what Old Ping or the Peking Opera Doc say,” Chung continued. “Let China take care of China we’re here for out piece of the American pie here and now. Stay out of Jade Dragon business.” He turned and walked past his hatchet men and exited the room through a side door, slamming it behind him in a dramatic gesture just as Li Fong came back through the doorway from the inner room while looking back over his shoulder. “I will send her in, Ping as you wish.”
“Have her close the door,” The rasped voice of Wo Ping ordered from the inner room.
Li Fong waved to Hank. “He will be reasonable in private, Miss Lee, I am sure;” he said in English. “He is a proud man and must save face under the eyes of the younger generation.”
She looked up at Dr. Shadows who nodded, then went past the old Chinese into the other room, pulling heavy door closed behind her.
“Last night was a mistake for many reasons, Ghost Healer.” Li Fong used the transliteration of Dr. Shadows’ name from the Chinese. He spoke in a restrained tone patently ignoring that Chung had left the room. “For the strength of our society is in its ability to blend into the fabric of the community, without arousing the interest of the occidental community by such rash and disharmonious actions.”
The granite man accepted the offered olive branch. “At the same time, you have been admirable in integrating with the greater city at large.”
“You spent much time in our country?” Li Fong asked. “Where?”
“Several years in Harbin City as a youth,” the granite man said, “as well as traveling extensively. I still visit Hong Kong regular—”
“Anton!” The door to the other room few open and Hank’s panicked face appeared. “Come in here now!”
Like a grey bolt of lightening, Dr. Shadows was through the doorway before the hatchet men could react.
The back room was a wood paneled study, lined with pictures and containing a large conference table and several comfortable chairs. Wo Ping lie face down on the floor in front of one of the chairs.
There was a hole the size of dime in the Tong lord’s right temple; he was very dead.
And there was no one else in the room but Hank.
The Evidence of Deceit
The granite man raced to the fallen form of Wo Ping, but when he knelt by the still form, there was no pulse. The old man ‘s body was still warm. He looked up at Hank and asked, “What happened?”
Before the Chinese woman could speak, the hatchet men and Li Fong burst into the room. They halted at the door, frozen by disbelief with what they saw.
“He was seated at the table in that chair, facing away from the door,” Hank said in a too loud voice. “When he didn’t answer me after a time I got angry and approached him the then, when I touched him –he-he just fell over.”
“Your vile act has offended and disgraced this Tong,” Li Fong tottered forward and yelled at Hank, his composure apparently shattered by the death of his fellow Tong lord. He pointed his heavy cane at her and ordered his men, “Seize her!”
The five Tong men made to comply with his command, but the Chinese woman produced a pistol from a thigh holster and pointed it in their direction with clear intent. The men hesitated.
“Stop right there,” she said with flint in her tone. “No one lays a hand on me and lives!”
“Hank,” Dr. Shadows said in a firm tone, “that’s not the answer.” He could see a look of animal panic beneath the surface of her eye. It frightened him a little, for this was an aspect of his friend he had never seen before.
“Foolish woman, do you think you will be allowed to escape after such an offense?” Li Fong said. “There is nowhere in this city you can hide from the Jade Dragon Society. Nowhere in the world our justice can not reach you and avenger our brother.”
“I didn’t do anything,” Hank insisted. “He was dead when I came into the room.”
“Lies will not save you, girl,” Leo Chung said from the doorway. He had taken in the scene with a glance and decided what needed to be done. “Get her!” The hatchet men moved toward her again.
Hank sprang at Li Fong and placed the barrel of her thirty-two-caliber revolver against his temple.
“Get back or I will kill a Tong father.”
Even Chung was cowed by this move and froze. He waved his men back.
“Hank,” Dr. Shadows said, “stop this. If we all just step back from the edge we can figure out what really happened—”
“No!” she said. “Look at the expressions on their faces, Anton, they’ll kill me here and be done with me.” There was a look of sudden regret on her face when she made eye contact with the granite man. “I’m sorry it has to be this way, but there is no other way.”
She backed slowly out of the doorway careful to keep the others in her line of sight. She pushed Li Fong into the room and jumped back outside, slamming the door shut and latching it.
The hatchet men ran to the portal, but could not break the lock. They applied their shoulders to the heavy oak door and by concerted effort, in a few minutes, were able to smash the lock to open it. When the reached the great hall Hank was long gone, but the men raced out in pursuit of her anyway.
“That dame is history,” Chung spat at Dr. Shadows. He drew his own pistol before he joined his men in the search. “You get in the way, Pasty, and so are you.” He instructed two of the hatchet men to remain. “Lo, Chen—keep the big sap here while I track down the frail.” The dapper Tong lord then left to hunt for Hank.
The granite man was too distracted to respond to the gangster’s perfunctory threat. He was confident that Hank would elude the pursuing thugs.
Instead he turned his attention to studying the walls of the inner room intently. The wooden panels were hung with photos of the council members at various stages in their lives and several delicate silk paintings of scenes from Chinese mythology. High on one wall he could see an air vent, but nothing else that seemed to offer a solution to what might have really happened in the room.
Li Fong followed Dr. Shadows’ gaze and understood.
“This room is our most private sanctum,” the old man said. He seemed to lean more heavily on his cane, his fury having drained some vitality from him. “There are no secret panels or hidden trap doors in this room as in so many of the moving picture stories you westerners seem to favor.”
He took a deep breath and looked to the body of his fellow Tong leader. “Now I must attend to arraignments for my fallen brother,” he said, “and you had best forget the woman; she is now a problem for the Jade Dragon Society to deal with and she has sealed her fate.” He turned and motioned to one of the guards.
“Fetch a litter to convey the honorable Wo Ping to my medical office; I will prepare him for the next life.”
The guard looked to his fellow, who nodded, his eyes fixed on Dr. Shadows with clear animosity. The guard that remained produced a knife and made sure the American could see he meant to use it at the slightest provocation. The first guard left swiftly and could be heard running across the floor of the great hall.
“Doctor Li,” the granite man gave a slight bow and said in his most formal Chinese, “I most respectfully cannot comply with your command: The woman Lee Han Ku is my friend. As you would not abandon Mr. Wo or any of your Tong brethren, I can not turn my back on her or her fate.”
The old Chinese locked eyes with the pale occidental for a long moment, not quite a battle of wills, but rather a recognition of comparable powers.
“Yes, this I understand,” Li Fong said. “Loyalty is an admirable trait.”
The guard returned with a litter and several other Tong men who set about to reverently place the body of the fallen leader on it. Li Fong continued, “This is a sacred Tong matter now, Ghost Healer, I will have no interference from you or the police.”
“You will not report this to the authorities?”
“I have said this is a Tong matter, Ghost Healer. We will find our own justice and it will be final.”
The granite man walked beside the elderly Tong lord as both followed behind the body in a solemn procession through the corridors of the Tong headquarters.
“Justice is the key word here, Doctor Li,” Dr. Shadows said. “The Tong has hundreds of years long history of fighting for justice for the people; you must continue that noble tradition.”
“And I will, Ghost Healer, by finding, trying, and executing the murderer of the Honorable Wo Ping, no westerner may interfere with that.”
“But you will not be upholding that tradition if you kill Han Ku Lee,” the granite man said with quiet determination. “Regardless of how it appears, I know she did not just execute that man. It is not in her heart or her character. Let me investigate to find out who did do this and justice will be served.”
The old man looked again at the strange grey giant beside him. “Your reputation for dealing with things of this nature is known to me, but I do not see how you can find any other answer but that she did it. We saw her enter the room,” Li Fong said, “and he was alive when she did. They were alone and she had the gun—”
“The gun!” The granite man exclaimed, his inspiration sudden and visible on his face. “I know how I can prove she did not fire the bullet that killed him!”
This stopped the Tong lord. He looked at Dr. Shadows from beneath hooded eyes. “How is this possible?”
“Yesterday, in the incident at her restaurant, Hank shot a bullet into the wooden beam above the door of the Fu Wah; if one of your men will carefully dig it out and bring it to us—being sure not to scratch it—I can compare it to the bullet that killed Wo Ping when you remove it. I am sure it will not match.” The old man regarded him with obvious suspicion.
“Each gun that fires a bullet leaves its mark on the bullet, “ Dr. Shadows explained, “from the rifling grooves within the barrel so the markings on the bullet that killed the Honorable Wo Ping will match only those fired from the very same gun. I will show you that they do not match the markings on the bullet in the Fu Wah.”
“That will prove only that she did not use the same gun,” the old man said.
“True, but I know she had only that one gun,” Dr. Shadows said, “If you will allow me to make this comparison—”
“Yes,” Li Fong said. ”If it serves the cause of justice, it will be done.” He turned to the guard. “Chen, go and do as he requests with great care. Join us in my office when it is done.”
“Thank you, Dr. Li,” Dr. Shadows said with a formal bow. “I am sure this will serve the cause of the right and this will bring honor to the Tong for that reason.”
They proceeded into Dr. Li’s office, which was located directly next to the Tong hall where the Chinese doctor removed the bullet from the dead Tong lord and placed in on a porcelain tray. Dr. Shadows sat while the old physician oiled and prepared the body for cremation.
“Will you not have a mortician prepare him?” the granite man asked with reverance.
“I see to all the medical needs of the Tong members,” the old man said with great pride. “We are as one, a family that is self contained from your occidental world.”
After a time, Chen returned with the bullet slug from the Fu Wah. Dr. Shadows examined it with a wary eye and was delighted to see that it was not too deformed for his purposes. He quickly placed the two bullets in a clamp arrangement he improvised on the Chinese doctor’s worktable. He compared the two side by side with the doctor’s simple microscope.
Li Fong stood by the shoulder of the grey Goliath while the two guards watched from the side of the room with anything but inscrutable expressions as they stared daggers at the grey giant. The silence in the office was like the silence of the tomb.
Dr. Shadows stared intently at both of the bullets for many minutes, adjusting the light from a desktop lamp several times as if he doubted the evidence of his eyes. The granite man sat back with a shocked expression on his face, his pale skin more so than usual.
“Both bullets match,” he said with quiet horror in his voice. “A bullet from her gun killed Wo Ping!”
Hide, Seek, and Destroy!
The guard at the outer door of the Tong hall was a young muscular Han in his twenties. He watched Lisplanarde Street, not the interior of the hall, so Hank was able to get close to him on the marble floor of the former bank by tiptoeing. She broke into a full-fledged sprint and felled him with a running rabbit punch, afterward going full tilt racing down the street, still not sure what she would do or where she would go.
She turned off Lisplanarde Street to Broadway, then Canal Street. The sidewalks were a mad jumble of Friday afternoon traffic. Most of the faces in the foot traffic were Asian, so Hank did her best to blend in even with her clothes disheveled from her flight. She moved down toward Columbus Park with the thought that the Tong men would not expect her to move deeper into Chinatown.
She forced herself to slow to a walk and pulled her eye-patch off, brushing her hair forward to partially obscure the scared hole where she had lost her eye ten years before to a Chinese warlord’s knife. She kept her head down and tried her best to not look like she was hiding, which would draw attention to her.
She needed time to think, someplace to hide and plan either an escape or counterstrike against the Tong. She had only her pistol in the thigh holster and a small amount of cash on her, not nearly enough to flee the city. The Tong men would certainly look for her at her billiard hall and her apartments above it. Both the restaurants she owned also offered no refuge.
“And they will probably watch Anton’s office on Seventh Street,” she thought. “Many in Chinatown know where it is.”
Hank drifted east toward the foot of the Manhattan Bridge and back up toward Canal Street where she hailed a taxicab. The thought of the Shadows Foundation gave her an idea that she acted on. “Evangeline Residence Hall, Eighteen Gramercy Park South,” she told the taxi driver. She slouched back into the seat of the cab and did her best not to make herself memorable to the driver. The thirty block drive north seemed to take forever.
The red stone edifice of the Evangeline Residence Hall was a multi story structure on the corner of the block across from the small fenced in private Gramercy Park. It had been built in nineteen twenty-six as a residence for single young ladies and had an impeccable reputation
“Good afternoon,” said the smartly dressed blonde woman behind the counter in the lobby of the building. “How may I help you?”
“Oh, yes,” Hank said, forcing herself to breath evenly and remain calm. “Can you tell me if Miss Chelsea Forrest is in at the moment?”
The woman looked behind her to the key/message boxes on the wall. She scanned them until she located the one with Chelsea’s room number. “No, I’m afraid she’s out,” the clerk said. “Do you wish to leave a message?”
Hank considered for a moment, knowing that time was urgent, spied a pay phone off to one side of the lobby. The Tong might or might not have men watching the offices, but she was certain they would not have tapped the phones yet.
“Maybe I will, Ma’am,” she said. “I’ll just make a phone call first to decide.”
She found a nickel in her remaining money and made a call, a number she knew by heart. In a moment, a female voice answered “Shadows Foundation for Justice, Chelsea Forrest speaking. Can I help you?”
“Chelsea, thank goodness,” Hank said.
“Miss Forrest,” Hank interrupted, “it is urgent that I see you. I am at your place with your dry cleaning.”
There was the barest hesitation on the other end of the line and Chelsea said, “Oh yes, Miss Johnson, I will come over and pay you in a few minutes if you can afford to wait?”
“Oh, that will be fine, miss,” Hank said in as official a tone as she could muster. “I can make my next delivery after that.” The fugitive Chinese hung up the receiver and sagged against the side of the booth.
“Thank you for understanding, Chelsea,” she whispered to herself. “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t understood.”
Chelsea lived at the residence, but had her office on the ground floor of the headquarters of the Shadows Foundation for Justice. Just across the park was a townhouse on Seventeenth and Irving Place, a block away that housed the Foundation. Anton Chadeaux and his mentor Hoon also lived in apartments above the headquarters offices. The last member of the group, Slugger Harris, lived downtown near the Combination Club.
It would not be long before Chelsea would be at the residence, but Hank watched the clock on the wall of the lobby that seemed to creep slowly along. The time seemed a very eternity.
The fugitive sat on a plush couch in a corner of the lobby, feeling vulnerable and exposed and as if at any moment Tong men might burst into the room.
Hank kept her hair over the missing eye as much as possible but the receptionist kept glancing over at her. If the fugitive was recognized as being a one eyed oriental or was noted as unusual, the well-trained woman gave no sign.
The Chinese woman knew that Chelsea would not race over to the residence; she would have to maintain an appearance of normalcy. Even knowing the reason for the delay the wait was excruciating.
When Chelsea Forrest stepped into the lobby, Hank breathed a sigh of relief. The Shadows Foundation member was an auburn haired pippin, not much taller than Hank. She had the bearing of a “get it done” person and came straight to Hank with a broad smile on her determined but pretty face.
“Miss Johnson,” Chelsea said. She had no idea what the trouble might be but continued the ruse, “let’s go to my room to get the dry cleaning, shall we?” Hank nodded and followed the young woman to the elevator cage. The two remained silent in the operator’s presence all the way up to the 12th floor.
The second the door closed Hank poured out the story of the Tong murder and her perilous escape.
“What a ball of yarn!” Chelsea said when the Chinese had concluded. “And Anton is still with the Tong?”
“Yes,” Hank said, “but I don’t think he is in any real danger or I would not have left him. They want me.”
“But if they think he can lead them to you—”
“I know Chelsea, it’s a risk, but I had nowhere else to go.”
There was an uncomfortable silence as Hank studied Chelsea’s eyes. “You don’t think I did it, do you?”
Chelsea smiled at the fugitive woman. “Hank, I may not know a lot of things about a lot of things, but I know if you were inclined to shoot anyone, you’d do it face to face with them in a room full of judges and stand the consequences.”
Now it was Hank’s turn to smile. “Thank you,” she said in a quiet whisper.
“Okay then,” Chelsea said cheerfully, “I’d better get back to the office in case Anton calls in.” She started for the door and stopped at her closet and removed a suit jacket.
“Just on the off chance we have a Chinese audience,” she said. She headed to the door with a final, “Stay here, I’ll come back as soon as I hear any news, or at dinner time, whichever comes first. Just lock the door behind me and don’t worry, Anton will figure it out. He always does.”
A Dark Spirit
At the Jade Dragon Benevolent Society headquarters, Dr. Shadows sat before the microscope in stunned silence. He stared at the lenses of the device with an uncomprehending expression. What he had observed shocked him to his core and he was even paler than usual. Could Hank really have pulled the trigger in cold blood on Wo Ping? he thought.
He looked over at the body of the corpulent Tong lord as Li Fong went back to preparing the body for a viewing by the Tong members. The mortal remains would be cremated in accordance with his beliefs.
In particular, the granite man looked at the wound on the man’s temple; there were no obvious powder burns, just a circular bruising around the wound.
It looks big for a thirty two caliber barrel, he thought, but even if it was, how could there not be powder burns if she pressed the gun to his head? He stopped himself proceeding along that line of thought. I can’t convict her like this—I have to proceed under the assumption she is innocent; I owe her that.
After his announcement that the bullets were fired from the same gun, Li Fong had looked into his eyes long and hard. “You are an honest man,” the Tong lord had said, “or you would not have admitted this to me. This means you are an honorable one as well. This I respect.” The old Chinese had gone back to preparations, leaving the granite man to contemplate what he had discovered.
Dr. Shadows leaned in one last time to look at the bullet slugs, hoping his first assessment had been wrong. He looked at each of the lands and grooves and they lined up exactly as they had before; a perfect match and a solid indictment of his friend. There was no doubt the two bullets had been fired from the same gun.
This time he also noticed something else; a wisp of fiber around the bullet taken from Wo Ping’s brain.
What the devil is that? he thought. He used tweezers to remove the fiber and placed it in a cellophane envelope, which he placed in his pocket for further study.
Li Fong finished his work and turned to the grey Goliath. “You will give me your word that you will step aside from this affair now, Ghost Healer, or I will not be able to release you until the woman is captured.” He removed his working apron and moved to stand beside the granite man. “You have said, by your own investigation, that Lee Han Ku has been proven guilty. I would ask you not interfere with the justice of the Jade Dragon Society.”
Dr. Shadows fought the urge to object to the flat out indictment of his friend and said only, “You have my word of honor that my only interest in this affair is and remains justice. I will not interfere with that.”
The Chinese doctor considered his words carefully, then nodded, satisfied with the statement. He turned to the two guards who stood nearby in tense anticipation. “This man is free to go by my command,” he said. “The Jade Dragon Society is sure he is innocent of complicity in the death of our beloved Brother Wo Ping.”
The two men looked skeptical at the command but bowed their heads in compliance to their lord’s wishes.
Dr. Shadows bowed as well. “I thank you for your fairness and grieve most sincerely for your loss,” he said formally. “And I bid you good day.”
It felt odd for the granite man to step into the bright fall sunlight of the street as it seemed an age since he and Hank had entered the Tong hall yet it was barely two hours. The whole event had an air of a bad dream to it.
It was real enough, however, as evidenced by the fact that he ran into a returning Leo Chung on the steps to the hall.
“Where do you think you’re going, Pasty Boy?” Chung challenged. The Tong leader was flanked by seven of his Tong hatchet men and all were in a foul mood.
“No luck catching a little one eyed girl?” Dr. Shadows said with a wry grin. He knew he was playing with fire, agitating the dapper gangster, but he was in his own foul mood and it did him good to how much his statement annoyed Chung.
The granite man’s barb struck home and Chung drew himself up, preparatory to fighting.
“Stop this,” Li Fong’s voice came from behind the grey Goliath. “I have given him leave of us; do not dishonor the memory of Wo Ping with brawling in the street.”
“This guy is in it with the lop-eyed dame,” Chung said. “I’d bet my last dollar on it.”
“You are as good at betting as you are at your wu shu fighting arts,” Dr. Shadows said, “if what I’ve heard is true about how limp they are.”
This infuriated the young Tong lord who took a step forward, but the older Chinese pressed the cane into his chest to stop him. “Have dignity,” Li Fong said. “He has proven the girl did the killing to my satisfaction and admitted it; he is not responsible.”
The younger man looked at him with contempt, but bit back any comment.
Dr. Shadows watched all the participants in the confrontation as he walked slowly away and rounded the corner from Lisplanarde Street to Broadway. He had not gone a block before he knew for sure that he was being followed.
To be expected, he thought, but I had not better lead them back to the office on the off chance Hank went there.
He walked to Canal, then toward the Manhattan Bridge and the border between Chinatown and Little Italy. He went straight to the supper club, the Combination Club that he co-owned with Slugger Harris. It was down a narrow alley on a cobbled street, a mere ten blocks from the Tong headquarters.
At only four in the afternoon, the club was not yet open for business, but Slugger was already on the premises supervising some deliveries. When he saw Dr. Shadows enter he handed his checklist off to the bartender, Mandy and raced over.
“Hey, Boss,” Slugger said, “I heard what’s goin’ on with da Jade Dragon. I was hopin’ you’d get in.”
“How did you hear?” The granite man looked around in sudden fear that he might have led the Tong to his friend. “Is Hank here?”
Slugger led his friend and fellow adventurer into the office and closed the door. “No fear, Boss. I got a call from Chelsea and she gave me the lowdown in the ‘lingo.” The lingo he spoke of was the mountain dialect of Korean that Shadows Foundation members spoke when they desired privacy. It was a dialect that even few in Korea spoke and so almost as good as code talking for privacy. All the members of the group were multilingual.
“How would Chelsea know?” Dr. Shadows asked.
Slugger filled the granite man in on Hank’s visit with Chelsea. Then Dr. Shadows, in turn, informed his friend of the developments after Hank’s escape.
“What a boiling kettle of fish!” Slugger said. The little terrier of a man paced back and forth in the office while Dr. Shadows went to his locker and began to change out of his suit. “It all sounds pretty airtight a frame, but since we know that Hank didn’t shoot the geezer—”
The granite man stopped in mid motion and looked at his friend. “I’d like to say we did, Slugger,” he said, “But I was there, I compared the bullets and I’m having a hard time keeping my faith that she didn’t do it. My heart says one thing, but my eyes, my mind, keeps saying something else.” He donned his bib-front leather ‘action’ tunic and heavy cloth slacks, in hopeful anticipation of some soul clearing action. He could not think which way to go next, saw no way clear to solve the mystery so dropped into his desk chair. Slugger could see he was despondent.
“Jeez, Boss,” Slugger said, shocked at the granite man’s statement, “I ain’t never heard you talk like that and we’ve been through some pretty tight scraps.” He seated himself on the edge of Dr. Shadows’ desk. “That little miss is counting on you to pull a rabbit out of a hat for her and so we gotta have faith.”
The grey Goliath looked at his friend for a long moment with an expression that went from dejection to elation in an eye blink. “That’s it!” he exclaimed. “A rabbit out of a hat! You are just the guy I needed to kick me in the hindsight! I’ve been thinking about this case all wrong.”
He jumped to his feet and paced the room while he spoke. “I’ve been thinking like a witness, not like a magician!”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m the last person in the world who should accept eyewitness testimony as factual!” he said. “Even my own. And in this case, ear witness testimony. I spent years proving what you see is not what you get!” He had a career as a stage magician while in college, and many of the principles of stage illusion he had learned had served him well in his career as a crime fighter and adventurer. In fact, he had first used the nome-de-gueere ‘Dr. Shadows’ as his stage identity.
“In creating an illusion,” the tall man continued, “ you have to consider the end result, the impression you want to leave on the audience and then work backwards on how to achieve it. And often the trick does not appear at all to be what has actually happened.” He moved to his desk again and began to write furiously on a pad.
Slugger hopped off the desk delighted he could inspire the granite man. “So what’s da plan?”
“Here’s a list of supplies; call Hoon at headquarters and have him bring them down here. I want to examine something I found on one of the bullets and I don’t want to tip the Tong if they are watching the Foundation building.”
“Ah, Boss, do I have ta speak to the Mountain Monkey?” Slugger made a face as if he’d discovered last week’s herring under the stoop.
Dr. Shadows ignored the question; he knew it was rhetorical. Ki Nam Hoon and Slugger had a long running verbal duel that would make a stranger conclude they were two words away from a fist fight, yet each had and would risk their lives for each other at the slightest provocation.
“Chelsea should stay near Hank,” Dr. Shadows said as he handed the note to Slugger. “She can keep a wary eye for Tong hatchet men.”
“Meanwhile?” Slugger asked.
“Meanwhile I need to check the architectural plans of the Jade Dragons’ meeting hall in preparation.”
“Preparation for what?”
“For my return visit,” the granite man said. “Tonight, during the funeral viewing, I have to break into the Tong hall to confirm my suspicions about how the murder was committed!”