Timothy D. Tucker presents...
BREAK THOSE BONES WHOSE SINEWS GAVE IT MOTION
Tendrils of lightning pulsed through the dark sky. In that brief flash, millions of cold rain drops appeared to have halted above the outdoor night market and the glistening street reflected the celestial blade as if it were paved with broken mirrors. Then the night was shattered by an explosion of machine gun fire and the rain resumed.
Clenching his teeth, squinting against the gloom, Detective Sammy Yuen dove behind a shattered merchants stand just as a volley of bullets ripped through shelves of produce. Ignoring the pain in his side, Sammy gripped his .38 Colt Special in one hand and blindly squeezed off two rounds towards the gunman.
Ahead of Sammy, Wei Ming sprinted around the corner of a nearby shed, narrowly avoiding the bullets. The first slug bored through the night air, and the second ricocheted off of the metal siding and spun wildly into the darkness.
The relentless howl of the wind assailing upon industrial tarps and canvases, combined with the rumbling thunder, muffled the shots. Even if the night market security guards were at work in the area they most likely hadn't heard anything, so Sammy didn't expect assistance.
He would have appreciated some assistance however.
Ming was a big, physically imposing man, a "Red Pole" enforcer for the infamous 14K Chinese triad who looked every bit the part; flowing queue braided ponytail with bald spot, dozens of gangster tattoos etched across his body, the works. A career criminal, Ming was incredibly dangerous even in the best of times, but now he was about as approachable as a rabid dog and twice as mean. This was definitely not a job for one cop. But Sammy would not – could not – call for backup because this was personal.
He was hunting the man who had murdered his little brother in cold blood.
Ducking low, Sammy sprinted in between the maze of market stands towards Ming's last location. He put his back to the cold metal shed and willed himself to stop shivering, to push the throbbing pain to the back of his mind and focus on the task at hand. He swung low around the corner, gun raised.
But Ming was gone.
Further past the night market across an empty lot was a warehouse. Adjacent to the sloped concrete loading ramps and heavy roll up garage doors was an employee entrance door, half illuminated by a flickering bulb encased in a wire security cage. It was half open, darkness peeking through its threshold.
Sammy hurried to the entrance and crouched just outside the door. He listened for any tell tale signs of movement but heard only the incessant drumming of rain on metal, the sizzle and gurgle of water on wet pavement and in gutters and the hissing of the wind.
Sammy loaded two fresh bullets into his revolver and winced as he removed his leather duster coat. The right side of his dress shirt was stained with blood just below the armpit, a souvenir from Ming who had stabbed him inside of a massage parlor before fleeing into the night market. The pain sharpened slightly after each breath Sammy took and he was wet, cold, and generally fucking miserable.
A thin smile spread across his face.
He also felt more exhilarated than he could ever remember. Sammy kicked open the door and ducked inside, gun raised, once more cast into a deadly game of cat and mouse.
To the other cops in the HKPD Sammy was known as a tough, stoical hard ass with a penchant for violence. It was a reputation that preceded his police career and even as a kid growing up in San Francisco's Chinatown he would often find himself finishing fights his little brother started by running his mouth.
Sammy was a tall, wide man with a rock solid body and broad, stern face that regarded the world with a stone cold professionalism. Now inside the warehouse he regarded his surroundings with the uncanny grace of a predator stalking its prey. He kept his back to the wall, half expecting Ming to try and get the drop on him from the myriad pockets of shadows. To Sammy's right was a high wall of metal shelving filled with hundreds of cardboard boxes, no doubt stocked with counterfeited goods from the mainland. To his left were long shipping crates stacked in rows at least thirty feet tall with avenues wide enough for forklifts to pass between them.
Ming was at the far end of the second aisle, partly obscured in darkness, crouched low, sub-machine gun raised -
-Sammy threw himself to the floor as a salvo of bullets smashed through the boxes mere inches from where he had been standing. Just as quickly as it had begun the dry click of the sub-machine gun echoed against the pounding rain on the roof.
"Pokai!" Ming shouted and threw the empty gun to the floor.
Sammy struggled to his feet as Ming disappeared behind the corner. For several intense minutes they played a dangerous game of hide and seek, moving stealthily through the makeshift labyrinth of cartons and crates. Sammy eased along another avenue of containers, his eyes scanning the gloom and shadows for any signs of movement. There was a noise, a harsh scraping from above and Sammy did not even have to look up as he threw himself backwards just as a heavy wooden crate exploded against the ground right where he had been standing.
Overhead, Ming let out a cry of pure, bestial violence. He was enjoying himself as well, and that pissed Sammy off to no end.
"Hey pig, you still alive down there?" Ming called. More crates plummeted from the ceiling in a murderous rain. Sammy pressed himself flat against the wall of crates on which Ming stood.
"Of course you're still alive, you're a tough son of a bitch ain't ya'? Now your brother, he wasn't so tough! He screamed like a little bitch when I put my knife through his gut!"
Sammy closed his eyes and focused on Ming's words, he let them fuel him. Jackie had always found himself mixed up with the wrong people, and the more the two brothers drifted into their separate lives the less Sammy could fight his battles for him. After all, it was in terrible taste for a HKPD Detective to fraternize with a Sun Yee On gangster.
Even if that gangster was your little brother.
"What's the matter pig? I'm right here, come and get me!" Ming shouted.
Despite his boiling rage Sammy could not let this degenerate get the best of him. Ming didn't know his exact location, so the element of surprise was Sammy's best weapon. He holstered his gun, fought back the wave of pain in his side, and began to climb the wall of crates.
Halfway up the stacks of boxes the stab wound constricted against his body like a vice which threatened to yank him down to the concrete floor below. Sammy trudged upwards, hand over hand, ignoring the sleek wetness beneath his shirt and grinding pain against his ribs until he reached the top. He carefully peered over the top of the crates, glanced right then left and saw Ming on the other side of the platform, looking down into the next aisle.
"Come on you chickenshit coward, don't be scared." Ming ripped off his drenched wifebeater and spread his arms. "I'll send you to hell to meet your brother!"
When a clap of thunder shook the rafters of the warehouse Sammy levered himself over the edge on top of the crates and silently stalked towards Ming, gun drawn.
"Fucking cops think you run this town? This is 14K territory! This is my territory! If you're not gonna come up here then -"
"You really need to shut the fuck up." Sammy said coolly, his gun trained on Ming's back. To his credit the thug offered no sign of surprise as he turned to face Sammy. The ceiling lights were some ten feet overhead, the dim bulbs casting their makeshift area in a pale, dusty light. Wei Ming stood in the brightest spot, his bare torso rippling with toned muscles and decorative tattoos. His face broke into a humorless leer of a snake and he began to chuckle, a hollow, pitiless sound.
"It's about time you showed up," Ming said. He took a hesitant step towards Sammy.
"Not one more step asshole. Flat down on your stomach." Sammy cocked the hammer of his revolver, that cold sound deafening even over the roar of the rain above.
"What the fuck is this shit anyway?" Ming asked, seemingly more annoyed than anything. "Is this the part where you arrest me, get a nice shiny medal and promotion, all that bullshit?"
"This is the part where you shut up and get down on your stomach!" The crates beneath them shifted ever so slightly under their weight but Sammy kept his aim steady.
"Filthy fucking pig, You think taking me off the street will stop the 14K? I'm a Red Pole, and theirs dozens of other young soldiers just waiting to take my place."
"And I'll have dozens of bullets for them too."
Ming laughed again, such an unholy sound. "So this shit is about revenge then huh? Look, it's not my fault your brother was an asshole who couldn't keep his mouth shut, he had to be eliminated."
"Not another word."
Ming ignored him. "You know what officer, despite our...current situation, I can relate to you, I really can. We're cut from the same cloth, where loyalty, honour, and integrity still means something to men like us. You might not know it, but you and me, we're the same."
"You're a mouth breathing thug, I'm a cop, we're nothing alike."
"Oh I think you'd be surprised."
"Last chance, on your stomach, now!"
Ming crouched slowly, their eyes fixated on each other. He was almost to his hands and knees when his foot lashed out and struck the nearest crate to him, causing the platform to dangerously sway. The shot Sammy had lined up swerved wildly as he tried to keep his balance and before he could steady Ming launched himself forward like a bronzed tiger and smacked the gun from Sammy's hands. Sammy blocked his next strike with a clashing of bone on bone but was not fast enough for his follow up attack and was punished with a brutal palm strike straight to his stab wound.
An explosion of pain threatened to tear Sammy apart but he gritted his teeth and grasped Ming by the wrist, their footing becoming more precarious by the second.
"You don't have any idea what you're meddling in pig," Ming growled.
"And neither do you!"
Still clutching onto Ming's wrist Sammy fell backwards and placed his foot in the thugs stomach in one fluid motion. For a brief moment he was able to see the look of surprise on Ming's face as he kicked off, sending him plummeting over the edge. He landed with a sickening thud that cut off his scream.
Ming's climatic departure nearly caused the platform to topple and all Sammy could think about was the mountains of paper work awaiting him over the death of a low life triad.
When the crates finally steadied Sammy rose shakily to his feet and peered over the edge to the concrete floor where Ming lay, his body a twisted heap.
Sammy descended the crates cautiously, stopping every so often to relieve the pain in his side. He reached the floor and stood over Ming. To his surprise the thug was still alive, although for much longer Sammy couldn't say. The grimace of pain etched onto Ming's face contorted into a wry smile.
"Back pocket..." Ming croaked. "See for...yourself."
Perplexed, Sammy crouched beside him and without an ounce of tenderness rolled him over. Inside his pocket was a leather bill fold, most likely counterfeit.
Chique. Sammy thought.
He opened the wallet and felt his entire world nearly shatter. Under the silvery glow of the overhead lights the police badge gleamed. Next to the badge was a photo ID of officer Wei Shin Ming, and gone was the hard nosed visage of the man who lay dying at his side as his picture was that of a fresh faced and determined Hong Kong cop.
Ming continued to smile as if they were in the middle of some cosmic joke and Sammy couldn't even begin to fathom the punchline.
You might not know it but you and me, we're the same...the words echoed in Sammy's mind.
"The gwailo...Penderghast." Officer Ming whispered. "He knows..."
Sammy felt sick, a combination of blood loss and being beaten over the head with one shocking revelation after another. He might not have known what was going on but if there was one man who did it was most certainly Superintendent Thomas Penderghast.
An English national, Penderghast had joined the HKPD a few years after the Sino-British Joint Decleration and quickly rose through the ranks of the special Anti Triad Task Force. A shrewd and calculating man, he oversaw his precinct with the professional air of a corporate CEO.
His hand trembling, Sammy reached into his pocket and retrieved his phone. He dialed the direct line to Penderghast' office as the man was known for his brutal work ethic even in the earliest hours of the morning. The line rang once before the superintendents brisk English accent drifted from the other end.
For a moment Sammy said nothing, his breathing ragged and heavy against the line.
"Hello? Who is this?"
"I...this is Detective Samuel Yuen out of the Kowloon East Precinct."
"And what can I do for you Detective Yuen?"
"I'm here with a man named Wei Ming, a known triad affiliated with the 14K. Funny thing though is Ming here also happens to possess police credentials and even mentioned you by name. Would you happen to know anything about that sir?"
A pregnant pause permeated the line. When Penderghast spoke his voice remained calm, cool, and collected.
"Where are you?"
"Doesn't matter." Sammy retorted quickly.
"I want to talk to Ming right now."
"And I want some damn answers!"
Penderghast sighed. "I'm afraid you've complicated matters of an important investigation. Now if you and officer Ming would just come in we can discuss this and everything will be made clear to you, I promise."
"Well sir with all due respect you can take your promises and shove it up your ass. This two faced scumbag has a rap sheet a mile long, he murdered my brother, and this whole time he was one of us! Just how long has he been undercover?"
"Long enough for us to identify the Dragon Heads of four of the most vicious triads operating in Hong Kong."
"Bullshit, Ming was a Red Pole, he didn't just climb up their ranks in one night. You would have had every opportunity to pull him out once he got you the names of the major players."
"We we're building a case-"
"You were corroborating with them!"
"You are playing a most dangerous game detective," Penderghast said, ice in his words. "It sounds like you have your man dead to rights, I suggest you quit while you're ahead."
"No way Penderghast. I know people like you, you don't give a shit about this city or its people, you're just in it for the glory! No, I want the names of the other Red Poles. Somebody has to clean up these streets and so far you and your people have done a pretty lousy job at that."
Penderghast laughed. "So what are you going to do, take on the 14K all by yourself?"
"Looks like I'm off to a good start." Sammy said, staring over Ming's supine body.
"I'm warning you Detective, if you don't bring officer Ming in I'll have your badge, I'll-"
And with that Sammy hung up.
Ming writhed on the floor like some giant, broken snake. If the two of them had ever crossed paths before tonight in another life Sammy would've never knew, he had seen too many cops come and go through the academy to keep track. What he did know however was that sometimes this job attracted men who were worse than the criminals they were vowed to arrest. Officer Wei Shin Ming may have one been a good man, but now he was too far corrupted by the empty promises of the underworld.
Above head thunder pummeled the night sky and an even heavier rain cascaded against the roof. The chilled interior of the warehouse seemed to become colder, its walls restricting, suffocating. Sammy stood over Ming and placed his foot into his throat.
"Well asshole, looks like it's just you and me."