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The Night of the Terror-cotta

Part 2

Sean faced the spears of two shaven-headed Chinese men, while a fat Chinese man sat on a throne, Miss Jade standing by his side. The fat man smiled. "You wanted to see me, I think? Oh, and please to drop your gunbelt to the floor, carefully."

Immediately Sean's hands went up and slowly, with one hand he undid his belt. "Well, since you asked nicely," he let it drop to the ground and promptly shuffled it over with his boot.

"Sean O'Malley," he bowed, "I'm a businessman, who works for businessmen and that is why I've come to you. Mr..." he trailed off.

"This humble one is called Gong Lee," he nodded his head. "A simple purveyor of simple pleasures. Miss Jade says you want opium." An expression of almost comic sadness appeared on his face. "This one wonders why you think our establishment would traffic in such a thing."

"Much obliged Mr. Lee," Sean said with a bow. "My employer often says that ' Pleasures are contagious, where there is one, others are not far behind.' I mer ely felt that a lady like Miss Jade who runs an establishment as fine as this wo uld know of other delights."

"Your employer must know such traffic is illegal, Mr. O'Malley. It is also the cause of much violence; such things are abhorrent to me." The fat man shook his head. "No, Mr. O'Malley. This one cannot help you. Further, I advise you to give up this foolish quest. Men die pursuing the profits of the poppy.

"I appreciate the helpful advice, my employer is well aware of the risks and the reward. Profits are to be had by all, very lucrative profits." Sean sighed, "but I understand and really do thank you for your concern. If you happen to know of someone who feels that riches trump risk, I'll be staying in town for a few days. Mr. Doyle is a generous man who abhors the word 'No.'"

"Mr. O'Malley," the fat man leaned towards him. "This one fears you misunderstand. This is a matter which affects all Chinese. If such a thing as you describe were to happen all would suffer. If opium spreads, your Federal governement would intervene, and even this place, where we please many and hurt none, would suffer as Chinese were attacked everywhere. Tell your Mr. Doyle this."

"I'll do that, Mr. Doyle isn't afraid of the Federal government, he has," Sean paused, "means of dealing with them. Money can cause blindness as well as prev ent suffering Mr. Lee." Flashing his winning smile, Sean added. "Like I said, I'll be staying in town for a few days to enjoy your amenities."

The fat man shook his head sadly. "I suggest you stay out of Chinatown, Mr. O'Malley. Return to Boston." He waved his hand and the wall started to close. "Miss Jade will escort you out momentarily."

Sean nodded politely and reached for his gun belt.

After a moment, the panel opened and Miss Jade beckoned Sean out. "This way, Mr. O'Malley." She turned and led him out to the lobby.

A little frustrated, Sean made his way back to the train. Entering the car, his spirits lifted to see an old friend there, A.J. Strebs. "Hey there partner, hated to start having fun without you." Sean tossed his bowler onto the hat rack. "No bites at the Jade Pagoda, but I did have a wonderful conversation with a Mr. Lee. Basically I'm not welcome back in Chinatown."

"You tend to have that effect on people, suh." AJ replied with a twinkle in his eye. "Jes means you're asking the right questions. Or the wrong ones, as the case may be."

"So what's our next move?"

Sean filled AJ in on how things went at the Jade Pagoda, "Number Six Chinese Goods is our next lead from Mac. Considering how things went earlier, I could probably stand to stir the pot a bit more. Mr. Doyle doesn't back down easy," he added with a grin.

"Word has probably spread about my business offer, further advertising never hurts. What do you think?"

"Sounds like if y' irked some folks with your initial inquiries, might pay you to have a bodyguard of sorts as you travel. Someone who might be able to pick up on some backroom discussions and the like."

"My very own shadow, I'm touched." Sean stood and brushed out the creases from his suit, "Let's go shopping."

Sean, as O'Malley, slipped out of the rail car and started off toward Number Six Chinese Goods. After letting him get a head start, AJ followed. He quickly realized that someone was already following Sean, a slightly built Chinese man.

The evenly spaced trio made their way toward Chinatown. Shortly after passing into Chinatown proper, the tail on Sean stopped following him and heading off down an alley more or less at right angles to his path.

AJ figured the move was one of two things. He was either setting up an ambush for his partner, or he saw he was being followed himself and veered off to throw off the scent.

AJ took note of as many physical features as he could regarding the pursuer and continued following Sean at a safe distance. He had his sleeve Derringer at the ready for any surprises.

The now reduced parade reached the Number Six Chinese Goods without further incident. Sean took a last look around and entered. AJ took up a position to watch.

The interior of Number Six was a cluttered mish-mash of exotic goods. A row of glass apothecary jars contained a selection of herbs and spices from the Far East, painted screens created nooks filled with furniture on which sat brushes and inks and other goods, a life-sized terracotta warrior stood at attention by a rack of silk robes, a bushel basket of what looked like dried fish rested on the floor near a small stone dog, and more. A wizened old Chinese man looked up as Sean entered, then went back, muttering, to his mortar and pestle where he was grinding some aromatic substance.

Sean paced about the shop's interior whistling an Irish tune while inspecting the numerous wares. Eventually he ended up at the old man, "Good day sir, tis a delightful shop you have here."

The man looked up, "Sssh!" and returned to his task. A moment later, he reached out, grabbed a small glass jar and poured the contents of the mortar into the jar. He sealed it with a cork stopper then looked at Sean. "Good day, sir. Welcome to my shop. I apologize for my rudeness, the oils are volatile in those spices, speed is of the essence."

"No offense taken, tell me, what purpose does it serve?" he said staring at the stoppered jar.

"It is a healthful tonic for those suffering from lung ailments. Also good for liver problems. What may I do for you, sir?" he asked.

"A man like yourself who deals with herbs and plants knows the importance of providing the cure for what ails people. I work for a businessman who shares a similar bent, and I am here representing him looking to form a partnership." Sean paused with a smile, "Perhaps you can assist me by letting me help you?"

"Indeed sir, what do you require? Ginsing tonic? Perhaps something from the horn of the rhinocerous, good for all masculine issues?" He leered.

"Useful all, I am sure. However, my employer is most interested something with greater appeal to the masses. We've heard many good things about the usefulness of the poppy seed," he commented with a raised eyebrow.

"Sometimes a useful medicament," the man acknowledged. He waited.

"And sometimes much, much more. Of course, in order to appeal to the masses it would need to be acquired in sufficient quantity for the demand. Someone who could do that would be a wealthy man," Sean speculated aloud

"Wealth is medicine only to the poor in spirit," said the man sententiously. "And why would you come to a simple trader in these goods," he waved his hand, "for such things?"

"Simple is not a word I would use for a man who possesses such know-how and application," commented Sean indicating his array of inventory in a similar manner. "A man of your ability and wisdom knows many things which happen around him, and all I seek is an audience to discuss business. Business which can be profitable in many ways. Perhaps you can make my presence and purpose known to any ears which itch with the desires I offer?" Sean punctuated with a winning smile.

With a respectful bow Sean turned to leave and added, "I'll be in town a few days taking in all its charms, I can be reached at the Hotel Grande Marche. I do hope we can chat again."

"All things are possible," said the man with a bow.

Sean slipped out the door and made his way to the Hotel Grande Marche where he took a room. He told the man at the desk that his baggage would be sent along shortly and went to his room. A few moments later, AJ joined him and Sean filled him in.

"Interesting." AJ said. "Course, you were being followed from the train to about halfway there, so someone already prolly knows you're not whatchu say you are."

"I prefer to remain positive," smiled Sean, "I believe they are merely waiting for the right time to contact me." With a hop Sean laid out on the bed and folded his arms behind his head. "They know where they can find me, what's your next move?"

"Keeping an eye nearby so I can maybe know where we can find them." AJ replied.

AJ slipped out and headed to a noodle shop a few blocks away on the fringes of Chinatown. As he settled in for an uncomfortable meal as the only westerner in the restaurant, Sean was seated in the hotel dining room enjoying a good meal on the government's dime.

AJ finished his meal, learning nothing of interest from the chatter of the Chinese who were also dining there. He paid his bill and headed back toward the saloon. The first blow came from out of nowhere as he passed an alley. The punch glanced off his shoulder and AJ staggered forward, then spun to see the man he had been tailing earlier and two other, much larger, Chinese men. The small man gestured the other two forward.

AJ popped his sleeve derringer and shot the first brute, who flipped backwards over the railing and landed in the dust. A quick second shot and the other large Chinese man joined the first in the dust outside the alley.

AJ moved closer to the small man gun aimed at him as he did so. AJ spoke in what he believed was the man's native language. "<You have one chance to tell me what this is all about unless you want to end up like your friends. Why did you attack me?>"

The man's eyes widened at hearing AJ speak in Chinese. "Our employer wants to talk to you, to know why you were following the other man today."

"<And who is your employer? Usually talking involves words, not fists. It's dishonorable to attack a man from behind.>"

"He says to bring you, we bring you," shrugged the man.

AJ moved the gun five inches closer and speaks with a bit more edge to his voice. "<Answer my question. Who is 'he'?>"

"<Gong Lee, the Jade Pagoda.>" said the man. "<Please do not kill me.>";

"<Then lets not keep him waiting.>" AJ said. He then switched back to English. "Lead the way. You try anything, you'll regret it."

The man thought, then nodded. He turned and began to lead AJ down the alley. AJ popped his derringer back up his sleeve and pulled his pistol keeping the man covered as discretely as he could, aided by the fading light

Sean finished his meal at the hotel restaurant and prepared to mosey over to the saloon. Walking down the sidewalk, he heard a voice from the alley, "Mr. O'Malley!" Turning he saw Miss Jade in the shadows half way down, beckoning to him.

Sean looked right and left to see if anyone else was present, and cautiously stepped into the alley, "Miss Jade, how are you this evening?"

"Mr. O'Malley, Mr. Lee would like to speak with you on the subject that seems to interest you so much," she said with a bow.

"A change of heart, has he?" Sean remarked. "Well lead on," he instructed

She bowed again and led Sean toward the Jade Pagoda.

"Ah, Mr. O'Malley," said Gong Lee from his chair. Sean had been admitted to the room in the same way as before, although this time Miss Jade had accompanied him into the small room to await the sliding wall. "Do sit down." One of the spearmen set his spear down and opened a gate in the small barrier. A chair was set up in the main part of the room facing the fat man.

"Thank you," Sean sat down and surveyed the room making note of where the spearmen were located. "I hope you have reconsidered my earlier offer," he said hopefully.

Mr. Lee shook his head sadly, "Mr. O'Malley, I asked you not to go into Chinatown and yet you went to Number Six Chinese Goods. This is very bad. What happened there?"

"I spoke with the proprietor there about this rather volatile oil solution which helped the liver, a fascinating proposition for me dear old mum. You know the penchant I have for plants and herbs," Sean stated matter-of-factly.

"Yes, yes, I do." He nodded decisively. Sean felt a pinprick in his neck; spinning around he saw Miss Jade lowering a blowgun from her lips. "And we must discuss it in more detail."

Feeling woozy, Sean turned and leapt for Lee. The fat man raised hand and yelped in Chinese, Sean landed one punch solidly before his eyes clouded over even as the two spearmen pulled him off Lee.

From the outside, the Jade Pagoda was much as AJ expected it from Sean's description. His escort led him into the foyer. A bustle of girls swirled around the entry way and his escort stopped. The girls slowed, recognizing the man and one began to speak, but the escort cut her off. "<This man speaks our langauge and would like to see Miss Jade.>" The girl snapped her mouth shut, then nodded and began to scurry off.

"<That's about all I would volunteer if I were you.>" AJ said quiety and simply. He was now doubly on his guard for a blindside attack or something similar.

A few tense moments passed, and then a petite and attractive woman came out from the back. "I am Miss Jade." She caught sight of the man and raised an eyebrow.

"<I have brought him,>" said the man. "<Though not as I would have wished.>";

"<No matter,>" said Miss Jade. "<The others?>";

"<Shot,>" he nodded at AJ.

"<You speak our language,>" she said. "<Welcome. Gong Lee would speak to you, Mister?"> She paused to let AJ provide a name.

"<This way,>" she began to lead AJ back into the Jade Pagoda. "<Send someone to collect the others,>" she called back.

"If it's all the same to you, Miss Jade, I've already been dishonorably ambushed by order of Lee-San. I'd like to request he come to me." AJ said, evenly, to Miss Jade.

"Mr. Lee does not come into this part of the house," said Miss Jade. "Since you have come this far, surely you would like to speak to him? And if we had meant you harm, we would have sent men with weapons, would we have not?"

"That means nothing." AJ said, and he pointed the gun level to her. "I don't appreciate your employer's methods. Take me to him, don't try anything."

Miss Jade calmly led AJ back into the Jade Pagoda, down a corridor and around a corner. She reached behind a vase and panel in the wall swung open to show a low passage. "Mr. Lee awaits."

"You first." AJ said.

"Of course," she stepped through and AJ followed. He was in a small room almost like a section of corridor. As they entered, one of the long walls parted in the middle and began to open. Where the wall had been was a low barrier and on the other side was a large and luxurious room, draped with silks. The centerpiece was a beautifully carved throne, in which sat an enormously fat Chinese man in silk robes. Just in front of him and on each side stood a large, well-muscled Chinese man in bloused silk trousers. At the corners of the barrier and the wall were two shaven-headed Chinese men, each with a spear which was grounded, point in the air as if they stood at attention.

"Mr. Arliss, this is Mr. Lee. Mr. Lee, Mr. James Arliss," said Miss Jade.

AJ bowed ceremonially to the man on the throne. "<You honor me with your invitation, Lee-San, yet you dishonor me by how it was delivered. Because of this, I must continue taking my precautions. Why did your men attack me?>"

"<You were involving yourself in a dangerous business and were an unknown factor. It seemed prudent to interview you from a position of strength.>" He frowned theatrically, "<You are more dangerous than we thought. But ... why are you here, Mr. Arliss? Both in my humble abode now and in the larger sense as well.>"

"<Protecting the interests of my employer. Why was your representative following Mr. O'Malley? Did you not think his offer legitimate? And did you really think he'd be sent alone to deal with someone with your influence?>" AJ said.

"<It is as I feared, then. Your employer, whoever he is is woefully uninformed. It is a good fortune that you came to me first. Good fortune for my people,>" said Gong Lee. "<Now, Mr. Arliss. Will you be kind enough to drop that gun? I do not wish to kill you nor do I wish any particular unpleasantness here, but it will be very difficult to go forward with you in that very threatening posture.>"

"<Tell your men to leave, so it's just you and I, and I'll drop the gun.>" AJ said. "<I could have killed you the second I walked in, you should know carnage is not what I seek either.>"

"<And I you, Mr. James," he waved his hand and from behind half a dozen of the silks stepped more Chinese men holding short bows and arrows. "<The gun, please.>"

AJ looks at the others. "<I die, so does he, you're not that fast. Ask your two friends in the alley...oh, I'm sorry, you can't. You really want to risk the man who pays you that way?>"

He then levels his eyes. "<You and half of them go down with me if they attack. You really want to risk that?>"

"<All men die sometime,"> he said philosophically as the two men standing by his chair stepped in front of him shielding him with their bodies. "<For the last time, the gun!>"

AJ glared at him for a long, hard minute before dropping the gun. "<Your cowardice shames you and your ancestors.>"

"<As you say,>" he said negligently. "<Take him.>"

Night of the Terror-cotta, Part 3
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