Kermit pulled his green Corvair into a space at Weng Metals. As he, Peter and Jody got out, Caine walked to meet them.
“Hi, Pop.” Peter grinned.
“Good...morning,” Caine told his son, and then gestured to include Jody and Kermit. “We are gathered. Shall we...beard the lion?”
“Let’s go,” Peter led the way.
In the lobby, Steven S. smiled imperturbably. “Mr. Shang awaits you. If you would follow me, please?”
Once more, the group paced the corridor to Shang’s office. The chairs were still set up for them. An additional chair was beside Shang, in it an attractive Chinese girl with an expression of studied calm. Shang stood and extended his arm towards the girl, a glitter in his shark-like eyes.
“Gentlemen, lady, may I present your ‘missing’ girl, my aide, Lucy Quang?”
Peter sat -- Jody followed suit, but Caine remained standing, as Kermit took a stance between the guest chairs and Shang’s desk, solemnly regarding the man who’d once kidnapped Amber.
Peter smiled at the girl. “I would like to ask you a few questions, Miss Quang.”
“Lucy, please,” She smiled back.
“Lucy, then. My name is Peter. These are my friends, policemen like me, and this is my father, Kwai Chang Caine.”
Lucy bowed respectfully from her chair. “I have heard of Kwai Chang Caine. I am honored to meet you.”
Caine bowed slightly. “As am I.”
Peter stepped in again. “First of all, are you all right? Are you well treated?”
“Of course I am. Mr. Shang told me you would ask these things. I am fine.”
“Do you want to leave with us? We can offer you protection from anything you might fear.”
“Why should I leave with you? I am not a prisoner. I may come and go as I wish, like any other employee.”
Something about her did not ring true, but as long as she spoke like this, there was nothing the detectives could do. “Are you sure,” Peter asked once more, “that you wouldn’t like to come with us? There are people worried about you.”
Shang cut in, “Asked and answered, detective. I will thank you not to badger my employee.”
Something flashed in Lucy’s eyes, but she calmly shook her head. “I am happy here and well-paid. I don’t wish to leave.”
At that moment the office door opened, and Amber strode in with Lo Si and the Quangs in her wake. Mr. Quang’s eyes cleared, and he no longer looked tired as he set eyes on his daughter. Mrs. Quang erupted in a string of shrill Chinese. Lucy cried out. Steven S. hurried after the group, babbling, “I am so sorry, sir. They insisted. They pushed past me and came on back...I tried to...”
Shang held up a hand, silencing the young receptionist, who bowed and departed quickly. He smiled at Amber, the cold, professional smile of a snake. “Welcome, Miss Adair. How good to see you again.”
Amber stepped back as though slapped. The Quangs took advantage of the moment to fly toward Lucy, who was now sobbing and crying out, reaching toward her parents.
Kermit caught the old couple and pushed them back toward Amber as a group of black-clad men streamed through the hall door. Shang pounced on Lucy, dragging her out a side door as she screamed and threw her free arm out, still crying for her parents. Daylight streamed in the side door.
Caine looked once at Peter, who merely nodded, and the Shaolin followed on Shang’s heels. Amber grabbed the Quangs and pulled them back down the corridor and out the front door. The others braced for a fight. Peter called out, “Lo Si! Follow Amber -- we’ll take care of this.”
The Ancient looked around at their adversaries -- all were tall young men with reach and strength. The little old man smiled. “I can teach these fools a thing or two.”
“What if some of them went after Amber?”
“Then,” he sighed sadly, eyeing one of the men in black, “I will go and make sure that did not happen. Pity.”
And he scampered for the hallway.
Peter dropped into a fighting stance. Jody followed suit, looking around to see who would be first. Kermit merely smiled at the two men watching him. It wasn’t a pleasant smile.
Suddenly, someone moved and the fight was on. Jody punched out at one man, aiming a roundhouse at another. Peter circled with another man, looking for an opening. Kermit watched warily as the two facing him waved their arms in the approved kung fu patterns. The moment one jumped at him, the ex-mercenary raised his gun and cracked it down on the attacker’s head, making a sick crunching noise. His would-be assailant went down like string.
“I haven’t had enough coffee yet for us to be playing this game,” Kermit told the unconscious man. He transferred his attentions to the other fellow.
Peter had one opponent before him, and another coming up from behind. Jody punched upward, snapping the head of one of her assailants back into the wall. He tried to hit her again, but one more snap and he went down, holding his head. “Peter, behind you!” She called as she spun to kick her other attacker in the groin.
Peter grinned at the man he was watching, then reached back with a snap-kick that sent the other reeling back. Without missing a beat, he leapt forward, landing on the man in front, hands flying in staccato blows. He didn’t blink, but punched up and behind, connecting squarely with the chin of the fellow behind him, who let out a cry.
It was over in a few minutes, and the three cops looked at each other.
“Nice teamwork,” Peter grinned. “Somebody call it in -- I’m going after Pop.”
Jody sighed. “I’ll call it in -- Kermit, go find Amber and the Quangs. Quick now, before I change my mind.”
Kermit was already out the door. Peter slapped Jody on the arm. “Thanks. I owe you one.”
“You owe me several,” she grumbled, but she pulled out her cell phone.
Kermit caught up with the small group as they reached the parking lot. Amber had taken the Quangs back to her dark blue Mustang, and Lo Si was rapidly conversing with them in Chinese. Amber looked over as Kermit joined them.
“Master is trying to explain what’s going on. You okay?”
His lips twitched in a lightning smile. “Oh, yeah. There’s a pile of unconscious henchmen littering Shang’s office. Caine went after Shang and the girl, and Peter went after them.”
“Did the henchmen hurt you any?” she demanded.
“No. What do you take me for, woman? You didn’t think I would let them actually hit me, did you? And ruin the fine tailoring of this suit?”
Amber laughed. It started as a giggle, but quickly overtook her, and she was howling, bent over with the laughter. The past several days had been too much strain, and now that something was funny, she couldn’t stop.
“Green Eyes, pull yourself together.”
She waved her hand and gasped out, “You ...go find Caine and ...Peter. We’ll ...wait for you here. Don’t worry. We’ll be...fine.”
“You sound like Caine on pot,” he grumbled, but took off at a lope, gun out and ready.
Amber couldn’t help it. She sat on the asphalt, holding her sides and laughing.
Lo Si took a long look at her and then turned back to the Quangs. “Young people,” he sighed in Chinese, and then resumed his explanation.
Kermit caught up with the Caines on the second level of the parking deck a block up from the factory. Caine was circling with Shang, the men completely focused on one another. Lucy, still terrified, stood shaking nearby while Peter watched his father, ready to help if needed.
Kermit walked carefully around to Lucy, draping an arm around her. He spoke quietly. “It’s all right. You’re all right now.”
She shivered, but didn’t pull away. “That man...Caine...does he know what he’s doing? Shang is the best, and he’s very powerful.”
“I think Caine can handle it. Come on, come over here with me. Shang is not going to hold you prisoner any more.”
“Are my mother and father all right?”
“Yes, they are. The Ancient is with them, and so is Amber. They’re waiting for us to come back.”
“I can’t go yet. I have to watch Caine defeat Shang.” Her voice was suddenly fierce.
“All right. Let’s just get well back from them.”
Shang smiled easily. “Kwai Chang Caine, you have no trouble besting those who work for me. I think, however, that I shall prove too much for you.”
Caine shrugged. “We shall...see.”
“You are Shaolin. I can keep you here for decades, circling, if I wish.”
“Ah, but you...cannot. Many more policemen are...on the way. They will take you...for kidnapping...Lucy Quang.”
Shang sighed regretfully. “Yes, there is that. Well, then, I suppose we must --” he flew at Caine, arms spinning in controlled patterns. As he landed, Caine spun with a high kick and a mid-level punch, connecting with the man’s chest and hip. Shang spun in response, arms striking and one leg kicking. Caine expressionlessly blocked as many of the blows as he could, taking only one to the shoulder. Shang danced back a step.
“You are better than I thought, old man. But now, I will finish you.”
Caine shrugged. “Perhaps.”
Shang lunged high into the air, spinning like a dervish; arms now bent paddles as he came slowly back down towards Caine. Caine actually smiled as he waited, waited, then jabbed out with one hand.
Shang tumbled to the ground in a heap, holding his stomach. He scrambled backwards, his smile only slightly dampened.
“Well, at least I still have one trick up my sleeve,” he winked roguishly. “You have not heard the last of me!”
He flung something at the ground. It flared upwards, exploding in smoke and sparks, and Shang was gone.
Lucy fell against Kermit with a cry.
Caine stood for a moment, staring at the place Shang had stood. “And we will be ready when...you return.”
He turned, and Peter stepped forward to clasp his father to him. “Pop, I thought you might be in real trouble when he started spinning like that! But you just...stopped him! How did you do that?”
Caine gave him a half grin. “Did you never poke a stick...into a...bicycle wheel?”
Peter laughed. “Come on, Pop. Let’s go back and take Lucy to her parents.”
Lucy flew from Kermit’s side to Caine. “Oh, thank you! Thank you, Kwai Chang Caine!”
Caine embraced her, then pushed her away gently. “It is not...I you should thank. There are...many...who brought us to this point. Detective Griffin...is one. Let us go...see your parents...and the young woman...who led us to you.”
Lucy nodded and followed him. Peter fell in with Kermit.
“Did you see? Did you see what my Pop did?”
“I saw, kid, I saw. Your old man is something else. Pick up the pace, Peter. I’ve got to get Amber moved into my place before she changes her mind.”
Peter stopped dead, staring after Kermit, mouth open for a minute. Then he hurried to catch up. “You gonna let her have us over for hockey nights? You can’t shut us out, man...it’s a tradition at her place. And what about...?”
“Put a sock in it, Peter,” Kermit chuckled, cuffing him. “You think anything I say would stop her having hockey nights? I shudder to think of her response to that little suggestion! Anything else...we’ll see.”
When they reached the others, Lucy began talking earnestly to Amber and Lo Si; her parents were touching her as if they would never let her out of their sight again. Jody came across the parking lot toward the group.
Lucy broke off her conversation long enough to envelop each of her parents in a hug. “But I have to go to the station with them and file a complaint.” She turned to face the others again. In Chinese, with Lo Si translating for Jody, Amber and Kermit, Lucy told them, “I’ve been in a secure apartment. The day I didn’t come home from work, there had been a loud argument just outside the room where we were all working. I heard someone say they would have to move everything, and got curious.” She hung her head for a moment. “There is too much of America in me for my own good.” Then, with a grin, she looked back up. “But that is who I am. Anyway, I went out to see what was going on, and Shang saw me. All I had time to see were crates of the white bars I worked on and some of darker bars, blue ones, which I’d never seen before. He had his men grab me, and the next thing I knew, I was in a nice apartment, alone. Shang came to see me, and he told me he had Mother and Father, and would hurt them if I did not do what he wanted.” She shrugged. “I agreed to his demands. I sat in that apartment with nothing to do but the calligraphy on the white bars someone brought me every day. In the evenings, I was allowed to watch television, and they fed me well, but...I could not leave, or even call anyone.
“Then, last night, Shang returned to tell me that people were looking for me, and I would have to tell you how well I was treated and how I was with him of my own free will, or he would kill my parents. What could I do? I agreed.”
Amber snapped her fingers. “Light and dark, fire and water! Light bars, dark bars, electricity and water! My vision in the warehouse -- that’s what it meant!”
Lucy turned once more to clasp her parents to her, then spoke again. “Once I saw that Shang had lied and my parents were safe, I knew I had to get away from him. Thank you all for finding me. And thank you, Caine, for defeating Shang and saving me.”
Caine made a small bow. “He has...escaped. But I think...you will be safe...from him now.”
Mr. Quang put a hand on his daughter’s shoulder and spoke to Peter in Chinese. Peter replied with a smile, and then translated. “Mr. Quang and Mrs. Quang are coming with Lucy while she makes her statement. Amber, would you be good enough to drive them? Three cops and two witnesses are enough for one car.”
Amber grinned happily. “Of course I will. We’ll meet you there.”
Mr. Quang stepped over to Amber, touching her hand with the first real smile she’d seen from him. Then he returned to place an arm around his wife, the other around his daughter.
Much later, Amber and Kermit sat side by side on his couch. Her list lay on the coffee table, and her bare feet were on his knees as she lay along the sofa, watching him through half-lidded eyes. “I have a feeling we’re going to have to talk about the furniture for quite some time.”
He leaned back his head. “Hell, Green Eyes, redecorate the whole place in Laura Ashley if you want. Just don’t touch my office.”
“Don’t say that -- not if you don’t mean it,’ she laughed. “Laura Ashley? Would I do that to you?”
“No -- that’s why I can let you do what you like.”
“So, we don’t need to waste time talking about furniture right now?” Her eyes lighted mischievously.
“Not at all. But what we do have to talk about,” he spun her legs front and pulled her against his chest, “is this bombshell you dropped on me. You can’t just tell me you’ve got a dark past and then leave me there.”
Amber nestled against him, tucking her legs up behind her. “Oh, all right. What I mean, Mercenary Man, is that...I ‘m a witch.”
Finis Behind Bars
What is Amber’s dark past?
Why does Amber need a lawyer?
Will Amber redecorate Kermit’s house in Laura Ashley or Martha Stewart?
Looking for answers to these and other questions? Stick around for the next exciting chapter in “Green Eyes: The Saga Never Stops!” here in Old Ping Hai’s Basement. Now, go adopt a koi or donate to the Tempw. We need the cash.