Clark Reeper and the Hong Kong Opera
Folks like me always get into a lot of unsavory business. It's part of my line of work, I should say, for my name is Clark Reeper, and I used to be a bounty hunter, and killing bad men was how I made good money. My twin Colt Peacemakers sent more souls to Hell than I'd care to admit, and sometimes I think its sullied me for good, and I might as well admit that there ain't no good in me at all. But other times, I look back on my life and realize that maybe things didn't have to be the way they were, but fate just kind of set me up and forced me into them, not that it ain't my fault.
What I'd like to think is that all the killing, shooting, stabbing and destroying of outlaws, varmints, monsters and worse is behind me for good, and I'm a different man now. And that's true, in some way. I'm done with being a bounty hunter, and now run a successful dry good company. I'm the father of a twelve-year-old boy named Charles Green, and he's about the greatest thing in the entire world, and makes me glad I gave up bounty hunting for more peaceful pursuits.
He thinks I'm a hero and a man of virtue, and sometimes, I even believe that myself. But every so often, something comes around and reminds me that deep down, I ain't exactly a good fellow, and it's my love of Charles and his shy, polite and kind ways, that keeps me from sinking down any further.
This here story begins with me and the boy riding into Hong Kong, the great Chinese city that was owned by the British Empire as one of their Crown Colonies. Me and Charles were taking the Grand Tour, and we had been through Europe and Africa, visiting every place of interest along the way. Things had gotten pretty wild in some parts, but pretty amazing as well, and despite the dangers, I could tell Charles was enjoying it, and he was looking forward to seeing more of Asia.
Charles is a little fellow, short for his twelve years, and he was wearing a neat Norfolk suit, with a peaked cap over his curly hair and spectacles on his freckled face. He was never far from his beloved pet armadillo, a scaly little creature named Winston, who sat perched on his shoulder most of the time, or rested in his hands. I'm a tall, gaunt fellow, and I wore a dark frock coat and tie, and two six-guns under my coat. I had a downturned moustache and shaded my eyes with a crumbling Stetson.
Hong Kong didn't disappoint either of us. This was one of Her Majesty's most profitable colonies, and one of the biggest centers of trade in the world. Charles and I both hailed from San Francisco, but the crowded streets of Hong Kong were something else entirely. Rickshaws, smoke-spewing automobiles, and ox-drawn wagons fought for space on the crowded highways, while folks from all over the world crowded up the sidewalks.
There were Celestials of course, this being their country and all, but there were lots of British fellows, some sailors or lowly merchants, but others were the big shots, the Tai-Pans as they were called, who were carried about like kings of old in big rickshaws, pointing out where they wanted to go with their canes while holding another hand over their bowler hats. The place looked like someone had taken a bunch of London neighborhoods and dropped them in amidst the curved roofed temples and shops of the Celestials, and it was quite an odd sensation. Palm trees grew about between the lanes, and the heat was near tropical.
"Quite a sight," I told Charles, as we walked along the sidewalk, gawking like a bunch of hayseeds. "Figure this city was built between two countries, and looks so grand because of it."
"Oh yes, Mr. Reeper," Charles whispered. "It's amazing!" He had a small, dog-eared guidebook in his hand, his other holding Winston close to him, and he looked at the maps of the city. "We'll have to see Kowloon, to see the real Chinese section of Hong Kong. Oh, and we can take a boat to Macau, and see Portuguese cathedrals and all kinds of things there, as well!"
I whistled. "The Portuguese have a part of this city too? Anyone who don't?"
Charles shook his head. "I think it's mostly British. But in Shanghai, the Americans, Germans, French, British, and some of the Chinese have control over different sections of the city." He looked at his feet as we walked along towards a local hotel in the British section of town. "I wonder what that must be like, having large bits of your country owned by other people."
"Reckon the Celestials don't think too highly on it," I muttered. "Figured that's what the whole Boxer Rebellion, still simmering around a couple places now, was about – just people being fed up and willing to do anything to stop it." We had a run in with the Boxers back in America, but luck was with us and it ended all right, all on account of a Kung-Fu Master name of Wong-Fei Hung was helping us out.
By now we had reached the hotel, a large double-story brick building that could have been an inn or alehouse in some London corner. A couple of Chinese coolies were sitting inside the lobby, waiting to carry our luggage, take us around on rickshaws, or do pretty much whatever we wanted, and for a small price to boot.
Charles and I got our rooms and got our suitcases squared away, and then went out to see the city. I thought them rickshaws seemed a mite unstable, but Charles wanted to try them out, and I found that they was a decent enough ride, if a bit shaky on the turns. We saw all the big sites during the rest of the day, from the local temples and shops, to the big old British administrative buildings where they ruled the colonies.
But as we rode around, I noticed there was a tension over the city, like there was some big old argument everyone had agreed not to talk about, but it was still there hanging over everyone like a shroud.
At one point, our rickshaw was going through a particular rough looking part of town, and he saw a couple of fellows leaning around the smoking door of what seemed an opium den. They had scars on their faces, wore Chinese robes and bowler hats, and carried long knives on their belts. I could see the outlines of pistols under their robes, and soon as the man pulling our rickshaw saw them, he turned the car around, nearly knocking me and Charles out.
"Easy there, fellow!" I called, wrapping my arm around my boy's shoulder. "What are you so frightened of them folks for? They trouble-makers or something?"
The guy pulling our rickshaw looked back at me. "Very bad, sir," he said. "They are gangsters, ruffians! Triad Gang, under Mr. Wu. They are the biggest gang in Hong Kong, at least, until American Tong shows up. There is rumor of war between them."
"Tongs?" I asked. "The Hip Sing, by any chance?"
He nodded. "Yes! Hip Sing Tong, from New York City in America! They looking for more opium, more people to smuggle oversees and make to work for them in brothels and opium dens. Very bad. Much bloodshed and Mr. Wu's Triad. You know Hip Sings?"
"I know them." That was all I cared to say, but the Hip Sing Tong, and their leader, Mock Duck, had hired me out before, and that led to me getting in trouble with Wong Fei Hung and the Boxer fanatics both. Needless to say, I weren't exactly excited at the prospect of seeing them again.
Charles turned to face me. "Do you think—" he started to ask, and his voice was high with fear.
"Nah, you don't got to fret, son," I said. "We ain't nothing but a couple of Westerners touring the country. I'd doubt the Triads or the Tongs would want anything to do with us and I got no intention of stirring up trouble. You just focus on enjoying the Grand Tour, and we'll get on all right."
Problem was, even if we didn't want to rile up no one or cause trouble, things had a way of putting us right in trouble's path, and it would all start that very night.
We got back to our hotel an hour or two after sundown. We had been watching all them paper lanterns coming out, and seeing them shine all over the city was real pretty. Charles was mighty tired from being out on the town, and after getting some of that Chinese food for dinner, noodles and the like, he was ready to hit the hay.
We got back into our hotel and walked upstairs, Winston scampering along before Charles's feet, and then we walked inside to our room and got ready for bed. Charles changed into his pajamas and I tucked him in good, Winston curled up next to him. He read by lamplight for a little, and then his eyes begin to close and the book started drooping in his hands.
I walked over and gently took the book from him and set it on the nightstand, then slid his glasses off of his upturned nose. "You get some rest, son," I said. "Tomorrow we'll ride on that ferry out to Macau, and see all them Portuguese buildings you was interested in."
"Mr. Reeper?" Charles asked, his eyes still closed. "Do you ever think , things will go back to the way they used to be, with Mock Duck and Tongs and stuff?"
"I don't rightly know, son," I answered. "But I'll tell you this – in the old days, I courted things like that the way a handsome young fellow courts a beautiful lady. But nowadays, I stay as far away from it as I can. On account of you." I saw the corners of his lips turn up in a smile, and I leaned down and gave him a quick kiss on the forehead, then went over to my bed in the corner. I set my Colt Peacemakers down on the table, and slipped into my union suit for sleep.
I pulled the covers over myself and dreamt for a little of gunfights in dirty back alleys, saloon brawls in dusty rooms with broken bottles and bones, and deals made with robber barons, town bosses and men who might as well have been the devil. I dreamed about putting my guns in the dirt, and all the trouble that had caused me.
Some noise awoke me, a scuffle sounding like it was going on near where Charles was sleeping. I woke up with a start and reached out to grab my six-guns. I pulled a Peacemaker from the table and pointed it in the darkness. "Y'all best freeze!" I shouted. "Or I'll blast your goddamn heads off, don't go doubting that!"
My eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness, and I saw two Celestials wearing ties, vests, starched white shirts and straw boater's hats, standing around Charles's bed. The poor kid was awake and sitting upright, but one man had his hand over Charles's mouth, and the other had a curved Chinese dagger at the boy's throat.
"Son of a gun!" I hissed, cocking my pistol. "You put that blade down now or I'll put some holes in your head right quick!"
The cold steel of a pistols' muzzle pressed against the back of my head. "Do that and your die next, Mr. Reeper," a familiar voice whispered into my ear.
"What the hell do you want with him, Mock Duck?" I whispered.
The Tong boss stepped in front of me. "It's not him we want, but you." He folded his hands. Each finger had a large diamond ring, which matched the glitter in his diamond waistcoat. He carried a pair of revolvers in his coat, and held another in his hand. "Just like old times, Mr. Reeper – we pay you a sum of money, and you find somebody for us and bring him back."
"I'm retired," I muttered.
"I know. Which is way young Master Green over there has a snickersnee pressed to his throat." Mock Duck looked at the boy, and one of his hatchetmen removed the blade. Poor Charles tried to run to me, but they held him back. Winston let up snarling to defend his master, but Charles grabbed Winston and held him close before the Tong gangsters had an excuse to chop the poor creature up.
I looked back at Charles and felt my heart quaking. "What do y'all want me to do?" I whispered.
Mock Duck was quick about that. He pulled a folded paper, a crumpled photograph, from his coat and handed it to me. It showed a young Celestial fellow dressed in a Western suit with a high collar, and a thin moustache. He tapped his finger over the fellow's face. "This is Sun Yat-Sen," he explained. "He must be under the Hip Sing's protection."
"And where is he now?" I wondered.
"The Golden Dragon Triad Gang, run by the despicable Mr. Wu, has captured him, and keeps him under lock and key somewhere in Kowloon." He pointed to me with a ringed finger. "You will break him out and bring him to me."
I shook my head. "Look, Mock Duck, I don't want to cause offense, but I'm done with bounty hunting. You got plenty of other fellows, and they look like tough hombres. Why don't you send them."
"Because, you fool, you are a foreign devil, and if you rescue Sun Yat-Sen, then Mr. Wu will not suspect our involvement and there will be no need for war!" Mock Duck shook his head. "Mr. Wu sells opium to the Tong Gangs, but he is greedy and always wants to raise his prices. Now he will lose money from losing Sun Yat-Sen, and he will be forced to accept with gladness what the Hip Sing Tong hands out to him!"
"What does he want with this fellow anyhow?" I asked. "He don't look like no gangster."
Charles coughed and pulled his head away from the thug's hand. "He's a freedom fighter!" Charles said. "He wants China to be independent, and a republic! Away from British control, or the Boxers of the Qing Dynasty, or anything!"
The Tong gangster covered up Charles's mouth and forced him back down. I stood up and started moving towards him, wanting to buffalo the bastard until his damn skull broke, but Mock Duck stepped in front of me. "You son speaks the truth," he said. "And the Society of the Right and Harmonious Fist, the British authorities here in Hong Kong, or even his own supporters in the Revive China Society will pay handsomely for his head. And the Hip Sing Tong, not the Golden Dragon Triad, will receive that reward."
"Son of a gun," I hissed. "That's what you do, Mock Duck? Kidnapping?"
He shrugged. "It's how I keep brothels full," he muttered. "Now, will you do it, Mr. Reeper? Or should I begin remove Master Green's fingers?"
"Hell," I whispered. "I'll do it. Just give and the boy a chance to get dressed."
Mock Duck nodded. He and his gangsters walked over to the door, but they kept their guns trained on me and Charles. First thing I did was run over and hold the boy in my arms, and then I sat him down on the bed and put my hand on his shoulder. I looked into his eyes and saw that he was scared, and he even shivered slightly.
"Son?" I said. "I'm gonna go ahead and do what these boys want me to do, and I guess they'll take you with them, to make sure I don't go screwing up or nothing. But after I do this, I'll get you back, and you'll be safe with them. I trust them that much. So just don't worry, and keep Winston around you."
"O-okay," Charles whispered. He folded his hands and put his spectacles on. "But Mr. Reeper? Sun Yat-sen seems like a good man, and he only wants his country to be free and to stop being abused. If you help Mock Duck, he'll get turned over to bad men and they'll kill him!"
"He might hand him on back to his friends," I pointed out. "Well, if he can find a profit in it. But that's not our concern. I'll just do the job and get you back and then we'll move and forget all about it. Gotta go and see those cathedrals in Macau, right?"
He nodded slowly. "Okay," he repeated. "Please, be careful. And don't hurt anybody unless you have to."
"All right," I agreed. "Will do." We dressed swiftly, me holstering both of my six-guns and putting my Bowie knife in my boot, and then we walked out into the hallway, the Tong gangsters keeping their guns pointed at us the whole time.
Soon as we was in the hall, they grabbed Charles and pulled him away. I reached out, but he was down the hall and out of sight. Mock Duck and two of his Tong boys stood in front of me, Mock Duck grinning on like some sort of demon. I frowned at him.
"Let's get this over with," I muttered.
Mock Dock laughed. "I have dealt with many foreign devils, Mr. Reeper, but you can always make me laugh! Come this way, please."
They led me downstairs, and I saw they had a couple more Tong gunmen the owner of the inn covered with shotguns in the lobby, then they led me outside into a large automobile. I was shoved inside the back, and though I twisted around in the street and strained my eyes, I didn't get another look at Charles before we set off.
I leaned back in my seat. Another Tong man drove, and Mock Duck sat in the seat next to him, while two of his bruisers flanked me, their curved daggers in their hands. I reckoned I was supposed to get a good idea of what would happen if I suddenly changed my man. I looked out the window at the darkened, mostly deserted Hong Kong Streets.
"So," I said, trying to break the stifling silence. "What's this Mr. Wu fellow to you, Mock Duck?"
"He is a ruthless gangster," Mock Duck said. "The Triad Gangs were formed as rebel sells, to force the Manchus, the northern invaders, from our lands. But now they steal, murder, sell opium and run gambling houses. But they are very deadly, and will fight to the last if they are crossed."
"Sounds like you would be a looking a mirror if you stare at them," I muttered. "Weren't your Tong societies started just to help poor Celestial immigrants in Chinatowns back in the States? And now look at you."
Mock Duck didn't take kindly to that statement. He drew out one of his revolvers, pointed it straight at my forehead, and cocked it, while he scowled hard enough to peel paint. He smiled though, and took his hand off the trigger. "Heh," he said. "A foreign devil presumes to criticize me. I should find it hilarious, instead of insulting." He turned back in his seat.
We had left the main part of Hong Kong now, and were entering Kowloon, the Chinatown of China. Only Celestials were on the street, and there were a lot of them, even at this late hour. The paper lanterns kept the place illuminated, and the roads were full of passing rickshaws and wagons, while vendors on the street hawked their wares to anyone who would listen. I looked out the window at them, and stared at the flags and Chinese characters looking down at me, announcing the ownership of praising the powers of the Triad societies that ruled the blocks.
Then, we entered the Kowloon Walled City, and that was something different entirely. It seemed like a big old city, maybe New York, or Frisco, had been crammed together into a single town square, with buildings cut in half and set on top of each other to make space for everything to fit, and alleys and lanes twisting around in a way that made it seem like a mad man had designed them.
"The old British fort used to be here," Mock Duck informed me. "Now, those who wish to live outside of the law – British, Qing, or anything – make their homes here. The Triads rule these streets with an iron fist, and the police do not enter at all." He looked back at me. "A round-eyed man like you will draw suspicion. Will bring trouble on himself."
"Then why the hell you making me do this?" I asked. "You know I'll stick out like a hunk of bacon in a plate of greens!"
"You can handle trouble, Clark Reeper." Mock Duck raised his hand and the automobile came to a screeching halt. We were on a narrow alley, not enough room for the automobile to turn around if it had to. The doors were opened and I was hauled out to the street, the doors slammed shut behind me. I looked back at Mock Duck. "And maybe this trouble will lead you to Sun Yat-sen," Mock Duck finished, grinning as the automobile rolled backwards and sped off into the night.
I watched it go, and when the headlights had faded away, I turned back and walked down the alley. A homeless, toothless old Celestial man sat at the end of the street. He looked at me and I saw his eyes widen as he scurried away. I didn't bother following him. As I walked down the alley, I looked in the doorways of the smashed apartment buildings, looking into the round faces of nervous children, or the dead-eyed faces of their mothers, who had both seemed to have given up on life completely.
I ducked under a footbridge that somebody had built between two crumbling apartment blocks, and kept on walking down the alley. Back in the States, during the old days, I had been pretty good at tracking, and noticing folks sneaking up on me or preparing an ambush. When you was fighting Apache or Lakota, you had to get good at that, or else you got dead. It was on account of that, that I heard some footsteps coming up behind me.
I looked into a pool of moonlit water in a ditch on the side of the alley, and saw the reflection of my pursuers. There was five of them, and they looked like bad men, the kind would thrown down with a knife or a pistol for any provocation. They was fixing to get me from behind, and figure out what I was doing here. I decided not to give them the chance.
Moving as quick as I could, I pulled out both of my Colts and spun around, covering the Triad gangsters. "All right," I said, speaking loudly and letting them see the guns. "You boys hold your ground now, you hear? I'm liable to fill you with lead otherwise!"
They didn't move, just staring at me from hard eyes in the scarred, weathered faces.
"All right," I said. "Any of you folks speak English, then?"
They just stared at me, not saying nothing. One of them stepped forward, reaching into the folds of his white robe. I leveled my revolver at him. "Easy," I said. "Even if you don't speak English, I bet you what language this here Peacemaker speaks."
He froze and did nothing.
"Okay," I whispered, thinking quickly. "So, Sun Yat-sen mean anything to you?" I repeated it, but their dull eyes didn't even glimmer. "Sun Yat-sen," I repeated. "You know it?"
Something heavy struck me from behind, knocking me onto the alley floor. "What do you think you are doing, huh foreign devil?" a voice asked. "You walk into my city, you wave a gun at my brothers, what the hell do you think will happen to me?" A pistol butt crashed into the back of my head, ramming my face down into the dirt street.
My vision was a blur and all I could see was the paving stones in front of my face. I had kept a hold of my guns, and I was ready to start shooting something. I spun around, pointing both of my pistols at my attacker and firing.
He leapt backwards with equal ease, my bullets flying right over his head. The Triad behind me swung down his dagger, but I pointed one of my revolvers in his direction and blasted him dead. His four partners started going for their own blades and pistols, but I kept my fingers on the triggers and gunned them down before they could flash iron.
I came to my feet, and quickly spun around to see the fellow who had shot at me. No one was there, and I dashed down the alley, reloading my revolvers as I went. I got a couple of paces down the narrow street before a boot came out of nowhere and tripped me up. I fell head first onto the street, but now I was ready. I twisted about in midair as I fell backwards, firing at the fellow who had done it.
But he was ready too. He leapt out from his hiding place, an automatic in each hand, and he weren't at all what I expected for a Triad. This fellow was young and spry, with neat black hair and a white suit, vest and tie. He had an automatic pistol in each hand, and he blazed away at me as if he was standing at a firing range, and not throwing himself across a dark alley.
Bullets flew past me, one striking a revolver from my hand, the other grazing my lower leg. I came to my feet and fanned off the last shots of my revolver, but he kicked off of an alley and dodged each round, then landed inside an adjoining alley. I ducked there for cover.
"Son of a gun!" I shouted. "Who the hell are you and where'd you learn them fancy moves? The circus?"
"I am Mr. Wu, Mountain Master of the Golden Dragon Triad!" he cried. "And I learned in these alleys, and soaked them in blood!"
Mr. Wu had some fancy tricks up his sleeve, no question. He was a cool customer and I figured that as long as we kept tossing bullets back and forth, he had me at a disadvantage. I decided to change that. I dove forward, firing the last of my shots to drive Mr. Wu back, and then I stood up and charged him.
Like I expected, he saw an easy shot and took it, pointing both of his automatics at me. But I hurled my pistol right into his face, and the Colt Peacemaker is a heavy gun. It struck him in the chin and knocked him backwards, and I closed the space between us lickety-split. After that, I pulled my Bowie knife from my boot and slugged him in the face before sticking the blade before his eyes. He knelt down.
I let him stare down the length of the Bowie knife a while, grabbing my fallen pistols and holstering them, one after the other. "Lose them fancy automatics of yours," I muttered. He did, dropping them right to the ground. "Good," I said. "Mr. Wu, my name is Clark Reeper, and I ain't here to hurt you." I scooped up his automatics too, and put them into my coat.
"Is that so?" he asked. "Who sent you, American? The British? No, they do not care at all for the Chinese or those whole rule their underworlds. The Boxers, maybe? But no, they would never hire a foreign devil." He cocked an eyebrow and grinned. "Mock Duck! That sly devil, he is the one behind this, I am sure!"
"Shut your trap!" I yelled, raising my Bowie knife. "I don't want to hurt you, Mr. Wu, like I said, but I'll rough you up a mite if I think it'll speed things along." I looked down at him. "Now, who I work for, that don't matter none. What does is the whereabouts of a Mr. Sun Yat-sen. You know him?"
He smiled. "I'll lead you right to him," he said, standing up. "Just follow me, Mr. Reeper." I didn't like the way he kept cool, but I didn't have a choice in matters. I let him go in front of me, his hands on his head.
"You tell all of your boys to lay down their irons," I said, as we turned another corner in that dismal pigsty of a city. "Soon as we come in to wherever it is you got Sun Yat-sen holed up. You don't do like I say, I'll blast you down, don't forget."
Mr. Wu shrugged. "You think I'll give you trouble, Mr. Reeper?"
"Kind of counting on it," I replied.
"Hmmm. It seems you are a smarter man than I thought."
He led me down the streets of Kowloon, which curved and wound around buildings in various states of ruin, went up and down like there were hills and valleys under the pavement, and finally came to a large round structure that was stretched out over the road, a golden dragon sign glowing above the door.
Wu walked over to the heavy wooden doors and pushed them open with both hands. He looked back at me and waved his hands. "Come on," he said. "I'll give you a warm welcome." He headed inside, and I followed, going right into the den of the Golden Dragons.
Soon as we got inside, I knew I had made a mistake. It was a wide chamber, with a balcony running along the upper half of it, of red-paneled wood, kept spotlessly clean, where the Triad gangsters relaxed when they weren't out committing crimes. The Triads were sitting about on tables on both levels, and when they saw me and Mr. Wu walking in, they went straight for their weapons.
They grabbed up rifles, some stolen from Qing policemen or British soldiers, others purchased from across the world, along with pistols and shotguns, and aimed them straight at me and Mr. Wu. I kept my Bowie knife at Mr. Wu's back, and drew out one of my Peacemakers and pointed it at the Triads.
"You open fire, I'll carve my name into your boss's back!" I shouted. "He won't like that, not at all! So lay down your arms!" They didn't do nothing. "Tell them to drop their weapons!" I hissed to Mr. Wu.
He shouted something in Cantonese, and his men slowly lowered their weapons. They didn't drop them, but kept them in their hands at the ready. I was still nervous, but at least I felt a bit better.
"Okay, we're doing fine," I told Mr. Wu. "Tell your boys to bring out Sun Yat-sen, and now funny business. You understand?"
"Perfectly," he agreed. He shouted some orders in harsh Chinese, and two of the Triad boys dashed down one of the hallways. We all waited for a while, the seconds ticking by as they went to fetch Sun Yat-sen. After what seemed too long, they brought him back. He was a thin Celestial fellow, looking much like he did in his picture. His hands were bound behind him and there was a nasty bruise on his forehead.
I waved to him. "Easy, Mr. Yat-sen!" I called. "I'm a friend, just here to rescue you! Don't fret now!"
Sun Yat-sen shrugged. "I don't seem to be free now," he replied, in excellent English.
"Well, I'm working at it." I prodded Mr. Wu's back with my knife handle. "All right. Get him over here and get those ropes off of his hands. Then you can go, and we can go."
"Of course," Mr. Wu agreed. He stepped forward, and his men used their daggers to cut the ropes off of Sun Yat-sen's hands. The Chinese independence fighter walked forward a step, until he and Mr. Wu stood next to each other. Then he stepped forward again and he was next to me.
Mr. Wu shouted something in Chinese, and his men tossed him a pair of automatics. He caught them and turned to face me, pointing the guns in my direction. All of the Triad gangsters did the same, until me and Yat-sen was looking down the barrels of a couple dozen firearms.
Mr. Wu laughed. "You are worth a lot of money alive, Yat-sen. And even a lot of money dead, to the right people. It is to them I will sell you too. As for you, Mr. Reeper – you should never have listened to Mock Duck."
I knew what was gonna happen and what I was gonna have to do. I grabbed Sun Yat-sen and pushed him behind me, then kicked one of the nearby tables up and ducked behind it, as a storm of lead crashed all around us. I came up firing, fanning off one pistol and then the other. I shot the bullets out quickly, pumping lead into the Triads on the first floor, then running backwards as I grabbed Wu's discarded automatics and firing with those.
Putting out all those shots let me get some cover, and I was soon running backwards into the Kowloon street. I kept Sun Yat-sen onto his feet. "Come on, mister!" I shouted. "We gotta hightail it out of here!"
He pointed down an alley, and I followed him. Behind us, the doors to the Golden Dragon Triad's headquarters opened, and dozens of angry Triad gangsters surged into the streets. Some of them carried rifles, others carried spears and broadswords, and they were all looking for our heads.
"Is it true?" Sun Yat-sen asked, as we ran down the narrow alley. I tossed Wu's empty pistols behind me, and reloaded my own revolvers as fast as I could. "Is it true, what Mr. Wu said? That work for Mock Duck, the American crime boss?"
"Not on my own accord," I said quickly. "Mock Duck kidnapped my son. Says I gotta do like he says or he'll hurt my boy." We ran down the alley and turned the corner. I could see the exit to the Kowloon Walled City, the archway that used to be the entrance to the fort.
But sure enough, Mr. Wu had been thinking the same thing and blocked it off. He had put a couple of his Triad gunmen around the gates, long rifles in their hands. I figured we'd be riddled with led before we even reached the gate, and that we was good and screwed. I looked back to my companion.
"Well, Mr. Yat-sen, I ain't sure which way to go now."
Sun Yat-sen nodded. "I think I might have something." He pointed down a long, twisting alley that led to the wall, one of the towering walls that had once been the end of the fort, but was not the barrier to the city. Rope ladders swung down from the battelements, and steps had even been carved in the stone. "But, uh, do you have a strong stomach?"
"Cast iron," I agreed.
"Good." He took off running and I followed. The damn Triads must have heard our footsteps, because they was on us pretty quick. Rifle shots whistled over our heads, and I could hear their boots pounding over the dirty ground. I turned around and tossed a few slugs in their direction, but I didn't know if I hit any of them.
Then we reached the wall and started climbing up. Sun Yat-sen scrambled up a ladder, and I followed him. I leaned back and kept on firing, driving the Triads back before they could shoot us down. Sun Yat-sen reached the top first, and then grabbed my arm and hauled me up as well.
We looked down at the moat which surrounded the fortress and found it to be not much more than raw sewage. There was a big river of human waste, and I guess this was where the folks inside the Walled City tossed their leavings, their not being any outhouses in their little place.
"We dive down into that?" I asked. "You sure?"
"Only way," Sun Yat-sen agreed. He smiled weakly at me. "It is either that or go back to Mr. Wu, and I do not think he will happy."
"Reckon so," I said. I leapt off, and Sun Yat-sen followed. We splashed down in the filth and it was right nasty. I don't want to burden you with the particulars, but I'll just say it was sticky, smelly, and surprisingly warm, and leave it at that.
Sun Yat-sen and I splashed through the muck and waste, and finally came out on the other side. We both lay motionless, and I could here the Triad gangsters reaching the ramparts, and looking for us. One of them had the bright idea to light up a lantern, and I saw the yellow light floating down over the waste and the rubble and garbage-strewn outskirts of the Kowloon Walled city.
For a little bit, I thought they would spot us and gun us down, but I guess we was so damned filthy, that we blended right in with the dirty ground. The lantern passed over us, and the Triads stepped away. I started crawling forward, moving real slowly, and Sun Yat-sen crawled along with me.
He seemed like a good fellow, and it was on account of him that we had escaped the Triads, so I weren't looking forward to handing him over to Mock Duck to be sold to the highest bidder. When we were far enough away, we stood up to a crawl, and then broke into a run and we didn't stop until we had reached the winding road that led through the main city of Kowloon.
"Son of a gun!" I whispered, shaking my coat and wiping filth from my moustache. "Jesus! That was like examining a cow's hindquarters, but not as nice." I leaned against the wall and shook my head. "But I guess it was worth it. Now we're away from those Triads, and that's a relief."
"What now?" Sun Yat-sen asked.
I stared at him, not sure what to do. "Well, I guess I might want to turn y'all over to Mock Duck. I'm sorry about this, sir, I truly am. But he's got my boy, and I love that little fellow like nothing on earth. And even he spoke highly of you." I walked down the street and kicked at the gravel. "Ah hell, I don't want to hand you over to him!"
"If he has your son, I don't know what else you can do," Sun Yat-sen said gently. "Perhaps the Revive China Society will raise enough funds for my release. Maybe I will be turned over to them, and not the Boxer fanatics or the British."
"You think that's likely?" I asked.
He shrugged. "China has always been more than one man, but I think they will care for me enough to try. But the British government is very rich, and the Boxers will probably try and take me by force. I do not know."
Just then, an automobile came rolling down the nearly empty Kowloon streets. It was a little past midnight now, and most of the stalls, crowds and wagons and rickshaws had faded away. Only the occasional homeless fellow or drunk was out on the street. But this automobile came speeding up to us and stopped. The door opened, and a Tong gangster in a neat striped suit tossed a folded piece of paper into my hand.
"Hang on a second!" I cried, but he had slammed the door and stepped on the gas. The automobile sped away into the distance and lost itself around a corner. I stepped after him, but the auto was already gone. Then I decided to look at the note he had handed me. Problem was, the note was written in Chinese. I handed it to Sun Yat-sen. "You mind give this a look-see?" I asked.
Sun Yat-sen read it aloud. "Mr. Reeper," he read from the note. "You have successfully rescued Sun Yat-sen, but events have changed. I do not think Mr. Wu will be foolish enough not to suspect my involvement, and so we must end it. You are to kill Sun Yat-sen and dispose of the body, then hide in Kowloon until I send men to contact you, and turn your son over to you. If you do not do this, your son will die." He looked up at me. "Well, I guess your employer has changed his mind."
"Typical goddamn Mock Duck," I muttered. "Giving me my own death notice in a language I can't read." I shook my head. "Well, screw him. I ain't killing you, and I certainly ain't waiting around for him to come and find me to give me my boy back. He'd probably just send some men to stick a hatchet in my back and tie up a loose end. As for Charles…" I trailed off. If I weren't needed, then Charles weren't needed, and I didn't even want to think about what that meant for him. "No," I said. "Hell, no. I'm not letting that happen."
"What do you plan to do, then?" Sun Yat-sen asked.
I gritted my teeth. "Well, I'll go and rescue Charles, and then leave this city for good. How does that sound?"
"But you don't even know where he is," Sun Yat-sen pointed out. "And helping him sounds most difficult." He stroked his chin and thought for a little. "But I may have some idea. Our country is one that is besought on all sides by enemies -- Imperialist westerners, fanatics in our own midst who believe in peasant superstitions, and worse still. But the gangsters seem to be the most predictable, and of those who flee our country, and seek to send our countrymen to America in slavery, there is but one place to find them." He paused. "The American embassy, in the main city of Hong Kong."
"The American embassy?" I asked. "Mock Duck ain't exactly a model citizen, Mr. Yat-sen. What makes you think he'd be there?"
"Because that is where his business is run. He sends runner out through the city, asking for people to go to America. But once they arrive, they are sent to work as virtual slaves in the mines or railroads. If they are women, he does not even take their money, but steals them from the street, or the country, and brings them to America where they are dishonored are ruined. And he does it all with the aid of American authorities."
"Bribes them, then. Probably let's them get a nice piece of his profits," I said. "Yeah, I figured such." I frowned. "Well, that certainly is one the last places I'd think to go looking for him. I'm gonna go there and get my boy out." I started walking down the street, reloading my revolvers as I went. I had a singular purpose now, and there weren't nothing on god's earth that could distract me from it.
But Sun Yat-sen ran after me and grabbed my arm. "Let me help," he said. "The Revive China Society has people inside the assembly. We can sneak you inside and rescue your boy."
"You really want to do that?" I asked. "You don't even know him, and this ain't really your fight. I was you, I'd go on and hide somewhere, and forget this whole thing ever happened."
"You rescued me, Mr. Reeper," he said. "I feel I owe you something. And I do not like suffering or war on my account. I will help you rescue your son."
"Fine," I muttered, too angry to bother arguing. "Just stay out of my way when the lead starts flying, and we'll get along fine."
The two of us set off, Charles's safety foremost on my mind. The poor little fellow was in the hands of a real villain, and I needed to rescue him. I felt awful, because all my fault that Charles was where he was. The past was creeping up on me, and it had fixed on Charles to attack. Well, I decided I would give the past a good whooping, save Charles and get on living my life the way I wanted it.
It was around dawn when Sun and I reached the American embassy in downtown Hong Kong. The place was built like a fortress, with a couple of uniformed American soldiers guarding it, and a high wall and gate surrounding it on all sides. Mock Duck and I crouched in an alley, looking things over and wondering on our move.
Just then, a pair of Celestial workers were heading down the street opposite the embassy, and Sun Yat-sen waved at them. They smiled when they saw him, and headed our way, ducking into the shadows of the alley. Sun chatted with them for a bit in Chinese, and then they handed us their bags.
Inside each one was a neat tuxedo, the uniform of the servants who worked in the embassy. With these on, we could walk right on in through the front door. "Nice, Mr. Yat-sen," I said. "You are right handy! Kind of glad I didn't turn you over to Mock Duck."
He nodded. "I have many friends. In fact, when I was captured by the Golden Dragon Triad, I heard rumors that the great Wong Fei-Hung was coming to rescue me."
"Ain't that something?" I whispered. "You know Wong Fei-Hung? The great Kung-Fu man and master of the Shaolin Fist? I had a run in him back in the States, and seeing him in action, well, that was like watching a goddamn tornado tearing through the countryside."
"We met a while past, and he shares many of my hopes for China, and is also a doctor of some renown," Sun Yat-sen replied. "If he arrives, he will be welcome. But for now, the two of us must rescue your son."
We quickly took off the clothes we wore and slipped into the tuxedoes. Mine was a size too small, but I didn't notice too much. We put our own clothes in the bags and walked across the street to the embassy entrance. The soldiers at the door looked at us, and one stopped me, raising his rifle.
"Say their, Chinaman," he muttered. "You look a bit strange. What's your deal?"
I stared back at him. "Figure I'm a bit tall, is all," I muttered. "Nothing odd about that."
My voice, tinged with a little Western twang, gave them even more pause.
"Look, fellows," I said. "Just because a man's a bit tall, and maybe talks a bit different, isn't that any reason to treat him badly?"
While they was contemplating this, me and Sun Yat-sen stole inside. We walked past the guards and stepped into the main building. Everything was spotlessly clean inside the embassy, and there was a large lobby with a big bronze eagle sculpture hanging from the roof and swooping over the place.
Hallways extended to offices and living quarters in every direction, and I wasn't exactly sure where to go. Charles could be holed up anywhere inside that building, and there was no telling where Mock Duck and the Hip Sing Tong made their headquarters.
Luckily, Sun Yat-sen was a bit quicker on the uptake than me, and asked for directions. Another servant was passing by, and Sun grabbed his arm, and then whispered something into his ear. The servant looked around and answered in the same low tone.
Sun nodded to be. "The basement," he says. "The authorities of the embassy do not know what goes on there, but there are rumors. Supposedly, there is a tunnel to the docks, and underground is where Mock Duck takes his girls, and shipments of opium. That is where we will find your boy, I think."
"Sounds like a plan," I agreed. We found a staircase leading down and followed it. Soon enough we came to a metal door in the wall, and I shoved it open. Inside, large crates filled up most of the large basement, but there was another door built into the far wall, and I knew we was getting somewhere when I saw two Tong gangsters standing next to it, shotguns in their arms.
I walked straight over to them, holding tightly to my bag. One of the guards raised his shotgun. "Where are you going?" he demanded. "You are in the wrong place. Turn around right now!"
"Sorry!" I cried. "But me and this guy here, we're meant to be here. Mock Duck, he sent me something to show you." I reached into the bag, and the two guards leaned in real close to get a good look at whatever the boss was giving them.
I pulled out one of my revolvers and blasted them both. My shots rang out quickly, striking each thug between the eyes and lying him out flat on the wall of the basement. I quickly tied my gun belt around my waist and kicked open the door, pausing only to grab one of the dead man's shotguns, in case I needed more firepower.
Sun Yat-sen followed, and the both of us walked down the narrow tunnel, lit only by lanterns strung along the ceiling. Rats scurried ahead of us, and I kept the shotgun primed and ready in my hands. I wondered if anyone else had heard the gunfire, and if they might be coming to stop us. I didn't mind much. Anybody getting my way now would die.
The tunnel ended, going into a wider chamber, with a table, a few chairs, and more tunnels going off in different directions. A metal cage stood in the corner, and there were a couple Tong gangsters standing around, all of them armed to the teeth. I wanted to go charging in, but Sun Yat-sen grabbed my sleeve and hauled me back into the darkness of the tunnel.
"What are you doing?" I asked. "Let's kill these bastards and find Charles!"
"Hold on!" he cried. "Do not go in there and shed the blood of innocents!" He pointed into the corner of the underground chamber, where the metal cage was. I hadn't really looked at it before, but now that I did, I saw it was full of people.
Most of them were women, Celestial women, and they wore ragged dresses and were dirty and seemed sick. In the corner, mixed in with them, was Charles. The little fellow held Winston close to him, and though he was dirty, bruised and scared, he seemed all right. The women seemed to be taking care of him, and I saw one of them offer the boy a crust of bread, which Charles gratefully accepted, bowing and thanking her many times, and then asking if she would want some as well. The whole scene made my heart quake.
But Sun was right to hold me back. One of those girls could catch a bullet in the resulting gunfight, so I would need to be a mite sneakier to get them out. I looked at the Tong Gangsters and saw that they was ready to go as well, guns already in their hands. Something had put them on alert, but I didn't think it was me.
Before I could make nay more decision as to what to do, Mock Duck and a bunch more of Tong men came into the room. I could tell something up by the expression on Mock Duck's face, like he had inhaled a bit of that waste from the moat outside the Kowloon Walled City. He was angry too, shouting at his men in Chinese, and waving his dagger about.
Cursing, he pointed down to the tunnel where he had come, switching into English on occasion, as he was too angry to bother regulating his speech. "Go there, half of you! Hold them off at the docks! Kill as many as you can! We will do business in this town no more and find some other city!" He pointed down the tunnel that I guessed led to the docks, and off the Tong gangsters went.
Pretty soon, I heard gunfire echoing down the tunnel, followed by the screams of dying men. Mock Duck drew out a pistol and stepped back, trying to put as much distance between himself and the battle. The way it worked out was him putting his back to me and Sun Yat-sen.
I saw my chance and took it. I stepped out, pointed the shotgun at the back of one of the Tong gangsters and fired, spitting lead straight into his back. The others wised up quick, and spun around to deal with me. I moved in a semi-circle, pumping the shotgun, firing it, then pumping it again. One Tong man leapt for me with a drawn dagger, but I crashed the shotgun muzzle into his chest and knocked him down. I dropped the gun and went for my six-guns.
Mock Duck drew out his twin revolvers, but I was faster. I fired twice, grazing his hands and making him drop his guns. Then I walked up and cracked my boot into his chest, knocking him over. One of his thugs tried to come at me from behind, but I swung an arm behind me, pointed the revolver right at his forehead and took out his brains.
"Howdy, Mock Duck," I said, pointing the two pistols back at him. "Pleasure seeing you again."
"Curse you, Reeper!" he hissed. "All I wanted was to do a little business."
"Picked the wrong business, Mock Duck," I said, giving him another kick and knocking him to the ground. "Get the keys to that cage, and hurry or I'll see if some slugs in your face don't make you go any faster."
He reached into the pocket of his suit, and withdrew a single rusty key. He tossed it to me, and I tossed it to Sun Yat-sen. The Celestial revolutionary caught it and then ran to the cage. He quickly opened it, and let all of them poor women inside out. He patted them on the back, and pointed to the tunnel, giving them instructions on where to go in their own language.
Charles was the last one to get out of the cage, as he had been in the back, and he ran straight for me. I knelt down and embraced him, the revolvers still in my hands. "Hello, son," I whispered. "You feeling okay?"
He smiled at me, and I never felt better than seeing his grin. "I'm very well, Mr. Reeper," he whispered. "The women, who were prisoners with me, they were pretty nice, and made sure I didn't get hurt and that me and Winston got food, even if they didn't speak English." He stared at Sun Yat-sen. "Oh, hello, sir," he said. "I'm Charles Green, Mr. Yat-sen. I'm very pleased to meet you." Winston danced about our feet, wagging his little tail and looking up at both of us with his dark little eyes.
Sun Yat-sen smiled as he shook the boy's hand. "It is a pleasure to meet you as well, Mr. Green. Your father is a very good man, and did not turn me over to this horrible criminal." He sighed. "All of these captures and betrayals, this lack of trust and insatiable greed. Mock Duck and his ilk are turning this city into a bloody opera."
Mock Duck let out his breath in his hiss. "Go on and insult me!" he cried, adding whispers in Chinese. "Your parents send you to fancy schools, I make a living for myself in the streets of America!" He looked down the tunnel, and we heard more gunfire. Mock Duck pointed to me. "And you, foreign devil, laugh if you want, but the evil I have stirred will destroy all of us!"
"What are you going on about?" I asked.
He smiled and pointed down the tunnel. "Mr. Wu is on his way," he whispered.
The gunfire drew closer, and several of the Hip Sing Tong's fighters ran back into the room, pointing their guns behind them. Bullets were already tearing through them though, laying them out on the tunnel floor. Mr. Wu came running down the tunnel, leaping from wall to wall and firing all the while. For someone raised in the Kowloon Walled City, small spaces were always a plus. He leapt forward, diving between the two remaining Tong gunmen, then spun around and fired at them.
Mr. Wu's Triad gangsters followed, their rifles leveled at us. I raised my pistols, but then Mr. Wu stood up and pressed his automatic to my forehead. Charles was still right in front of me, and if any shooting was gonna happen, the poor kid would probably get hit.
"Ah, Mr. Reeper," Mr. Wu whispered. "It seems we have met again."
"Don't got no quarrel with you," I said, feeling the muzzle of his automatic. "I only stole Sun Yat-sen from you on account of this piece of trash here was holding my boy hostage, and would hurt him if I didn't."
"But you didn't kill Sun Yat-sen, did you?" Mr. Wu asked. "No, you like him as well, and you were willing to fight for him, as well as fighting for your child. Not that it matters, round eyes. You will all die."
I jabbed my pistol into his chest. "You want to see who's faster, Wu?"
"Oh, I have no doubt that I am the better gunmen," Mr. Wu said with a laugh. "But I do not wish you to die right now. All of you, you are coming with me to Macau, and there you will see my wealth growing, before you see yourselves die."
Mock Duck came to his feet. "Bastard!" he whispered. "You murdered my men! You will be damned to the furthest Hell!"
"And you'll be there to greet me." Mr. Wu's men grabbed Mock Duck and hauled him to his feet. They struck his head with a rifle butt, and he sank senseless to the ground. Sun Yat-sen dived for a fallen pistol, but he was grabbed and his hands bound again. Mr. Wu then reached for Charles.
"Don't you dare!" I shouted, bringing around my revolver to blow a hole in Wu. I fired, but he dived out of the way, and then his men grabbed me and forced me to the ground. I heard Charles crying out for me, and Winston squeaking in terror, and then I was hit over the head and didn't see anything else for a little bit.
When I woke up, I saw Charles sitting next to me on some stone steps, his hands bound behind his back. Winston sat on his shoulder, and Golden Dragon Triad men stood behind us both, pointing their rifles at our backs. I tried to reach for my revolvers, but my hands were tied behind me as well.
"Son of a gun!" I whispered, feeling the sun in my eyes. "They sure did bang me around good, didn't they? Ah well, I'll get over it. If I live that long." I looked at Charles. "You okay, son?" I asked, again.
"I think so," he whispered. "Oh, and Mr. Reeper, I guess we did get to see the Portuguese cathedrals." I looked behind my shoulder and saw the big cathedral towers looming over us, with their stained glass windows shining in the sun. We was on the steps leading up to them, facing a wide stone field, overgrown with grass. "This isn't really how I wanted to see them, though," Charles added softly.
"Don't you fret, son," I told him. "I'll figure a way out of this." I looked next to me and saw Mock Duck sitting there, glowering at the ground. "Mock Duck," I muttered. "This is all your fault! Why don't you lean on over so I can bite your dam throat out!"
"Hush, Reeper!" Mock Duck hissed. "If we are to get out of this, we'll have to work together."
Mr. Wu walked in front of us. Sun Yat-sen was walking in front of him, prodded along by Mr. Wu's pistols. Wu looked down at us and laughed. "You will get out of this, Mock Duck, you stupid American thug. You are all going to die. But first, I will let you see how much money I make by selling Sun Yat-sen, just so you are angry when you die!"
Mock Duck tried to stand up, but the Golden Dragon Triad men slapped him down and forced him back to the cathedral steps. Mr. Wu waggled his finger at Mock Duck. "Now, now," he whispered. "Don't you try and go anywhere. Just sit back and enjoy the show." He turned around and raised his hands. "Ah! I think the day's entertainment has arrived!"
A large number of people came walking into the wide square facing the cathedral. The ocean was visible behind them, so I guess they must have arrived by boat. They all came on foot, tramping up the grassy trail and walking onto the path. I looked them over, and it didn't take me long to realize that these were the folks who wanted Sun Yat-sen, dead or alive.
The ones who wanted him alive were the Revive China Society, and they was just a couple of young Celestial men and a few women, all wearing neat Western style suits. They waved to Sun Yat-sen and called to him and he waved they back. They looked like kids, more likely to be taking classes in some college than dealing with the criminal element here in Hong Kong.
The British had a sent a couple of their secret agents to negotiate their part of the deal. They were about a dozen of them, all broad-shouldered fellows in stiff suits and bowler hats, with bulges under their arms and at their waists. These were the kinds of men used to playing in the Great Game, men like my acquaintance Sidney Reilly, and shedding blood to keep the empire stable was as natural to them as swatting as fly, and caused them just about as much moral consternation.
Finally, there were the Boxers. These were the crazy types, the Society of the Right and Harmonious Fist, who believed in nothing but the divinity of the Qing Emperor, the slaughter of all Europeans, and a rather unfortunate belief that they was immune to bullets. A while back, they had tried to put that belief into practice and force the westerners out of China, but chagrining machine guns didn't lend itself to a victory. The Boxers were mostly dead and gone, but a few rogue groups fought on, like these ones. They wore rough peasant robes, carried large banners with Chinese characters, as well as loads of broad-tipped spears, broadswords, chains with blades at the end, and more. They looked real mean.
Once they was all assembled, Mr. Wu grabbed Sun Yat-sen's shoulder and pushed him forward. "Simple!" he called, then repeated it in Chinese. "You all make an offer! Winner gets to have him! Losers go home!" He looked down at the three groups. "That is all!"
The Revive China Society named a sum, then the Boxers named a price that doubled it. The British doubled that, and I could see the Revive China Society didn't have the money to play the auction game for long. They raised a little, but then the Boxers outbid them. I looked at Sun Yat-sen, and saw fear on his amiable face.
Charles leaned over and touched my hands with his. "Mr. Reeper!" he whispered. "We have to stop this!"
"I don't know what to do!" I whispered back. "My hands are tied and I can't reach my shooting irons! Plus, Wu's men have me covered!"
"Hold on," Charles whispered. He shrugged his shoulder, and Winston slid down his arm. The armadillo reached his ropes, and started chewing away at it. I smiled, watching Winston go quickly to work, but then looked up at the Triad gangsters. Thankfully, they hadn't noticed, but I didn't know how long that was gonna last.
Finally, the British named a sum that the others couldn't match. Mr. Wu nodded, and prodded Sun Yat-sen forward. He lowered his head and walked towards the British. Their leader walked over to meet him, drawing a revolver from his coat. "I may die," Sun Yat-sen whispered. "But the dream of an independent Chinese republic will last forever!"
"Then prepare to die," the British agent replied, leveling his revolver at Sun's head.
But before he could pull the trigger, one of the Boxers ran for him, swinging his broadsword wildly. He lopped off the British man's hand at the wrist, and then raised his sword over Sun Yat-sen's head. "No!" he shouted. "This enemy of the emperors and the people of China will die by our hand!" But before he could bring his blade down, the British secret agents produced pistols and sawed-off shotguns from their coats and riddled him with lead.
It may seem a bit stupid, them Boxers wanted to redden their blades in the blood of a man who was already gonna be killed, but these were the kind of folks to run straight into machine gunfire thinking the bullets would bounce off, so that kind of attitude was to be expected. Soon as the shooting started, the rest of the Boxers charged the British contingent, and the British opened fire on the Boxers.
Mr. Wu watched the brutal battle going on in the cathedral square and shook his head, realizing his potential customers were killing each other. "No!" he shouted, waving his pistols. "Stop fighting! You still have to pay!" Sun Yat-sen tried to get around the battle to reach his supporters, but he couldn't find a way through the whirling blades and blazing pistols.
But just then, I felt Winston's small hands reaching for the ropes tying my hands. He quickly undid them, and then I tapped Mock Duck on the shoulder. "We're gonna have to do this one together," I whispered, reaching for his bound hands. "You give me your word that you won't go stabbing me in the back, and we can all get out of this alive."
"I swear it," he whispered.
I undid the ropes, and then Mock Duck and I sprang into action. I stood up and slugged the Triad gangster behind me, while Mock Duck did the same. I grabbed the rifle of the dazed Triad and crashed the butt over his head, then spotted my and Mock Duck's pistols kept near the door. We dived for them, Charles running with us. "Mr. Yat-sen!" he called, waving his hands. "Come on! We'll get you out of here!"
He gratefully ran to us, and we all headed for the cathedral doors. The Triads were firing at us, but Mock Duck raised our pistols and shot back. Mr. Wu turned around and saw that he was caught between us, and the battling Boxers and British. He ran towards us, firing his pistols.
"They're getting away!" he shouted. "Stop them!"
The Boxers and British saw Sun Yat-sen running inside the cathedral with Charles, while me and Mock Duck covered them, and then they both ran over to get him, their rivalry forgotten. I looked to Mock Duck. "Best get something between us," I said, stepping back into the cathedral.
We grabbed the heavy wooden doors and slammed them shut, then pushed some old church pews to brace the doors. The Boxers were pounding away at the door, and the Triads and British were firing down through the stained glass windows. Charles and Sun Yat-sun huddled against the wall while Mock Duck and I fired back at the attackers.
A Boxer smashed his way inside, driving his broadsword through the wood, but I blasted him straight through the hole he had made. A British secret agent fired his own Webley at me, but I ducked back to avoid the shot.
"Ah Hell!" I whispered, hearing the pounding at the door. "We ain't gonna last long!"
Mock Duck fired his revolvers out through the growing holes in the door. "Then we kill as many as he can!" he shouted. "And I will personally put a hole in the head of Mr. Wu!"
"Mr. Reeper!" Charles ran to me, and pointed behind at the main stained glass window over the altar. "Something happening to the glass over there!" I spun around, and sure enough saw spiderlike cracks reaching across the window.
"What the hell?" I asked, cocking my six-guns and pointing them at the window. "How'd they got that high!"
But the glass shattered, and a single man leapt down and landed on the altar. He wore a simple blue peasant shirt and brown trousers, his hair in a long queue. He held a single staff behind him, and I recognized him immediately, along with Sun Yat-sen and Charles. "Wong Fei-Hung!" we all cried.
"I am here," he said, grinning.
Just then, the double doors smashed open, and the British and Boxers swept inside. But before they could reach Sun Yat-sen, Wong Fei-Hung leapt forward, and then he was on them. It didn't matter how many men were against him, because his staff spinning about like a hurricane, shattering teeth and bones, knocking blades and guns out of people's hands, and making them double over with pain. He moved faster than the Boxers could stab at him, faster than the British could shoot, and didn't let up until each one of them was laid out on the ground.
Mr. Wu dived backwards when he saw him, raising his automatics. But Wong just hurled his staff, and it struck Wu in the chin and knocked him down the steps of the cathedral. Mock Duck and I stepped over the fallen Boxers and British and ran over to Mr. Wu, kicking the pistols out of his hands. Mock Duck pointed his revolver at his face.
"No," Wong Fei-Hung said, picking up the staff and resting it on Mock Duck's skull. "No more bloodshed. Leave this land and return to America. We have had enough you."
Mock Duck snorted. "I want what's best for my people, same as you," he muttered, holstering his six-guns.
"Then leave," Wong Fei-Hung replied. "And do not return."
Mock Duck walked away, leaving us looking at Mr. Wu. He raised his hands and touched his bleeding face. Behind us, we heard the groans of the wounded Boxers and British. Wong gave Wu a quick crack on the forehead, knocking him out. Then he and Sun Yat-sen walked over to the Revive China Society, who were quick to come and welcome their leader.
"Muck obliged to you for arriving when you did," I told Wong Fei-Hung. "We'd be goners for sure if you hadn't showed."
"Clark Reeper?" he asked. "How did you get mixed up in this?"
I thought for a few seconds. "Long story," I finally said.
Well after that, Charles and I managed to get out Grand Tour back on track. We visited some of the more occupied cathedrals in Macau, and the big old buildings and temples in Hong Kong, but I didn't want to take Charles to see the Walled City of Kowloon at all, though we did visit the outskirts.
Sun Yat-sen and his friends in the Revive China Society decided to head out of Hong Kong after they had rescued him, and I didn't blame them. They was heading deeper into the countryside, trying to get their country ready for a revolution that would toss out the foreigners, and the monarchy, and make China a republic. I wished them luck.
Wong Fei-Hung headed off as well. He was passing through China, righting wrongs, fighting evil, and healing the sick, and he had much to do. I hoped I would bump into him again, but he told me he was getting older and more tired, and was wondering if everything he was doing was ever gonna do much good for his country.
"Don't go saying that," I told him. "You're a regular hero. They'll be telling stories about you from now 'til kingdom come."
Charles and I headed off as well, after resting up for a few days. We were taking a boat bound across the sea for the Japanese islands. Charles was looking forward to seeing all the temples and the mountains of that country, and I was pretty interested in it as well.
I guess that even if the past does come back to me, me and Charles will have each other, and that's what matters the most.