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View Full Version : Kungfu Masters, chapter 3



xlwoo
June 12th, 2012, 01:52 PM
Chapter Three
Robert Lin and Charles Pan were not natural brothers since they didn't share the same family names. Charles had learned kungfu from Robert's father, a reclusive master, who had died at a very old age five years ago. According to Chinese tradition, they were brothers-in-kungfu. Louise was a kungfu disciple of Robert's father, too. Louise's parents had come from Taiwan when Louise had been five years old. Her parents had been a close friend of the Old Master Lin. As her parents could not speak or understand English well, they had found it very inconvenient to live in America; therefore, they had returned to Taiwan, leaving Louise in the care of Old Master Lin. So Louise had become his disciple. Louise was only two years younger than Robert. They had grown up together and practiced kungfu together. Robert was handsome, five-foot-nine inches, strong though lanky, with glossy coal-black short hair combed backward, tanned skin and large brown eyes. Louise was beautiful, five-foot-seven inches, slender in figure, decent in behavior, with dark brown eyes and luxurious ink-black shoulder-length hair. Being together everyday, in the due course of time, they had fallen in love and gotten married. Charles was much younger than they. He had come to learn kungfu from Old Master Lin about two years after their marriage. When he had become the old master's disciple, he had been fifteen years old. His father had deserted his mother and him to live with a rich widow. They had moved to Florida. His mother had married another man, who had two sons, his stepbrothers, both older than he. The stepbrothers had often bullied him until one day he couldn’t endure it anymore and ran away from home. He had wandered in a mall, where he had met Robert Lin, twenty-two years old at that time. Robert had taken Charles home. The threesome had spent fifteen years together before Charles left to establish a family of his own and later had a daughter. The relationship between one another left nothing to be desired.
The news of Charles’s untimely death came as a stunning shock, a thunderbolt out of the blue. Robert was still working at the video rental store he owned. The store was always closed an hour later on weekend nights. At first Louise felt numb, her brain a blank. Then suddenly, as if awakened from a nightmare, she called the store. Mike, the only helper, answered the phone. “Mike, it's me, Louise. Tell Bob to hurry home. It's urgent.”
“Okay,” Mike said. Then he went to the rear of the store, found the owner and informed him of the urgent demand from his wife. Robert reminded Mike to set the alarm and lock the door before he left. Then he hastened to the parking lot, his white short-sleeved shirt tucked in his khaki pants. The store was located in a small plaza on the south side of Route 27, near Plainfield Avenue, in Edison. Pulling his car out of the parking lot onto the road, he headed south. In just a few minutes, he entered Highland Park and turned right into North Sixth Avenue. He parked his silver-colored Honda Civic at the curb in front of the house, jumped over a few steps onto the porch, and ran into the house. Louise was waiting in the living room, wearing a silver-gray cotton blouse and black slacks with dark shoes hugging her feet. Though she said calmly, “Charles is dead”, tears started to well up in her large beautiful eyes. She made no effort to stop them, the blouse wet on the front.
“When and how?” Robert couldn't believe his ears. The kungfu practice made him look younger than he really was, half a century plus seven years of age.
“Alida called about fifteen minutes ago, but Susan told me he was killed.”
Robert looked baffled at the distressing news. He curled the fingers of his right hand into a fist and hit the fist on the palm of his left hand. He couldn't remember Charles having any enemies or anyone who hated him enough to murder him. He didn't weep; he didn't blubber; he didn't even sob. The old master, his late honored father, had always said, “A true man never sheds tears, only sheds blood when necessary.” He didn't utter another word and turned to go out the door, followed by his wife. They got into their car and headed for the house of their brother-in-kungfu.
When they arrived, they saw groups of neighbors and other spectators in front of the house and near the backyard with media mingling among them. Vans and cars were parked along both sides of the street. Camera lights were flashing like lightning. A news helicopter was hovering above like a vulture about to swoop down on the prey.
They drove past the house, found a space two blocks away and parked the Honda. They got out of the car, each carrying a mask like the ones worn on Halloween night. As they approached the house, they put on the masks so that no one would know who they were. They didn't want the reporters taking their pictures. They pushed through the crowd towards the front door with flashlights all around. Several microphones were thrust before their masks together with various eager questions. They fended off the microphones with both their hands as if they were fighting away wasps attacking them. They reached the front door at last after some struggle with the media. Susan opened the door and they entered, taking off their masks. The detectives greeted them. Alida flew over and threw herself into Louise's arms, fresh tears trickling down her pale cheeks.
Before anyone else had a chance to open their mouths, Susan blurted out, “If I'm no longer needed here, I'd better go home now.”
“Since Louise and I are here now, I think you can go. We'll mail you a check tomorrow,” remarked Robert, looking at Sam, who gave a slight nod. Robert sent Susan home with many thanks.
Robert and Louise answered some questions put forth by the detectives and also exchanged opinions with them. Then Louise asked Alida, “What did you see and how was your father killed?”
“I saw them both fighting with chi. Dad was killed in the second round.”
“That's absolutely impossible!” exclaimed Louise in disbelief. “Your dad belonged to the Master Level and had skilful martial arts. No one could have killed him while fighting in the second round! Tell me something more detailed about the second round.”
“The stranger held out the forefinger of his right hand to Dad's chest. Dad was standing there, motionless, and in the next moment he fell on the ground.”
“So you didn't see your dad defending himself when the stranger pointed his finger at him?”
The girl shook her head. Louise made eye contact with her husband knowingly. Robert just nodded. Oftentimes they didn't need words to understand each other, as if they had the same special wavelength connecting their souls.
Both the detectives looked puzzled. They didn't know much about this fighting-with-chi thing, although they had learned karate in the police academy. It really took time and patience to learn chi. Sam was very busy and had no patience, either. Neither did Pedro, as long as he could do his job well enough. They didn't feel a need for it.
Robert explained to them, “Since they fought using chi, it means the stranger is a kungfu master, which narrows the list of suspects. Since Charles didn't defend himself in the second round, it means that something must have already happened to him before the stranger hit him.”
All of a sudden, Alida interrupted, “I noticed our dog was barking and suddenly fell dead.”
“Did you notice the stranger using chi to hit the dog?” asked Louise.
The girl shook her head again.
“Do you mean you didn't notice or do you mean the stranger didn't use chi to hit the dog?”
“I didn't see the stranger pointing any finger at the dog,” replied Alida.
The detectives looked bewildered again. Robert said to them, “I'll tell you later, if you allow me to know the outcome of the autopsy.” Sam promised and soon he and Pedro left the house.
Since there were no adults in the house now, the couple had to take the girl with them. They secured every window and door before they left the house. They put on the masks again, took the girl by the hand, walked out of the house and locked the front door behind them. The media approached the trio and surrounded them in a semicircle. They repeated all their habitual acts, no need for description. Robert picked up the girl and carried her in his arms. Louise went ahead, pushing through the crowds. Robert followed in her wake. The media followed them, swarming around them like a pack of wolves closing in on their prey. They began to run. They ran so fast that the media could not keep up with them and in a few minutes they vanished from sight. When the media went back to the house, the police had already left. Since the girl had left with two mysterious people, whom no one knew, the neighbors and spectators returned to their respective homes to snatch a few hours' sleep before sunrise. Now there was nothing for them to do and to remain stationed here would be a waste of time, so the media dispersed, too.
The helicopter overhead followed the threesome at first, but they ducked into some dark alley and hid somewhere. The helicopter searched for half an hour in vain and had to quit.


***


Robert pulled into their driveway and as he parked his Honda, he noted the hunter green Mitsubishi Galant that hugged the curb in front of the house: their daughter, Lois, was back at home. The threesome went in and saw Lois sitting on the sofa, munching some crackers with a can of diet Sprite in her hand and tapping her right foot on the carpet to the music playing on a cassette. Lois loved music. She had been taught how to play the piano when a child, but had later given it up. She had been employing most of her time in the practice of kungfu. It's not that she loved music less, but that she loved kungfu more. Kungfu made her feel special and secure.
When she saw her parents come in, she put down the can on the coffee table in front of her, glancing at the girl with a confused and quizzical look as if sensing something was different than usual. Alida ran over to hug Lois. Louise went to the kitchen to cook some noodles for everyone and Robert sat down on the loveseat, which was at a right angle with the sofa with an end table squeezed in the corner. Robert told his daughter everything he had learned about the sudden death of Charles. Lois couldn't help shedding mournful tears while hugging Alida.
She could still recollect how Uncle Charles had carried her astride his shoulders when she had been three years old and they had gone to a children's playground; how she had slid down a sliding tube, emerging to his smiling face and outstretched arms at the other end; how he had pushed her higher and higher on a swing-chair; how they had played on a seesaw, her end never coming down. It was like yesterday that when she had commenced the routine practice of kungfu, Uncle Charles had encouraged her by running alongside her to the end of the scheduled course or jumping with her over wooden walls, each higher than another. Before her grandpa's death they had lived in a much larger house with a bigger backyard, which was used as a kungfu practice ground with certain equipment and an upright climbing wall ten meters high. At first she had scrambled by the aid of a rope, but after five years of practice, she could ascend to the top just using the small footholds. Uncle Charles had always stood underneath in case she would have fallen. Before he had left to live on his own, he had taken the three sisters--Tricia and Sally had been adopted already--to a fairground. The three girls had spent a good part of the day racing each other frantically to each new ride they had come upon, not worrying about upset stomachs or dizziness. In fact, they had seemed to enjoy the uneasy feeling they had gotten after stumbling off a roller coaster, which had flipped them upside down, around, and over again, at least a dozen times. Lois had always been the daring one; she had loved the roller coaster and had continually challenged the other two girls to see how many times they could have ridden on it before feeling queasy. Tricia's magnet had been the whirling, colorful, double-decked carousel. Its beautifully handcrafted horses with gold-embossed hooves, richly colored saddles and long streaming manes were a source of endless fascination and wonder for her. The fun house had been Sally's “ride”; she had loved wandering through the house, staring at distorted reflections of herself in the shimmering, silvery mirrors, or finding her way through the confusing mess of mazes. The joy and amazement they had received that day had been an unforgettable adventure, which they enjoyed reflecting upon and laughing over for many years to come.
Now he's gone. He was the second closest kinsfolk to her, besides her parents. She could not stop her swelling tears and had almost used a full box of tissues to dry them before she recalled what her late grandfather had often said to the girls. “What's so special about the kungfu girls?” He often paused after the question, looking at them, letting his words sink in. “They never cry under any circumstances. Females tend to cry, but not kungfu mistresses; you'll be kungfu mistresses some day. Mark my words, young ladies.”
Lois Lin was a twenty-five-year-old private investigator, tall at five foot eight inches and slim, not as slim as a pencil, though. The pencil has only straight lines. She had a magnificent figure; where it should bulge, it bulged; where it should curve in, it curved in. Her long, silky midnight black hair tumbled in shiny waves down to her waist in a ponytail. She was extremely beautiful, with large, dark chocolate brown eyes, fair skin and a sweet smile. She was a younger version of Louise—a perfect creation of Mother Nature. She was a member of the Lioness Team, which was formed with two other girls, Tricia and Sally, younger than her. Their office was situated on Route 27, south side, in Highland Park, very close to their house. The two other girls had been orphans, and Robert and Louise had adopted them one by one. Tricia was twenty-three, five-foot-seven inches tall with shoulder-length golden strands like corn silk in mid-growth, and cornflower blue eyes. She had very white skin, porcelain-like, with a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her little snub of a nose. Sally was also twenty-three, but six months younger, with a stature of five-foot-six inches and short, thick sable-black hair and dark skin the color of melted cocoa. If someone put a stripped-naked chocolate bar on her skin, no one would notice it unless he was told to look attentively close. She had a large pair of caramel-colored eyes, and was, in her own opinion, just a teeny-weeny bit on the chubby side. So she always wanted to lose some weight, a few pounds, like this imaginary few pounds really meant a crucial lot to her, but at the same time she loved eating. Her mouth always kept busy. Tricia liked to joke with her. “It's lucky for you that you manage to keep your weight down, seeing as how you eat more than necessary.”
“Okay, okay. I'll take your advice and stop eating. Are you satisfied?” said Sally, holding up both her hands in mock surrender. Then she stared straight ahead as if in a trance and said dramatically in a stage whisper, “To eat or not to eat. That's the question.” She burst into a giggle and Lois and Tricia could not help but chuckle, too.
Each of the three girls had been taught kungfu from the age of five since the other two girls had been adopted before that age. The practice of twenty years, more or less, made them all experts in kungfu, which helped them a lot in their investigations and solutions of cases. Their team had cracked quite a few difficult cases and so earned the fame of “The Lioness Team” or another nickname, “The Dauntless Trio”. Their registered official name, “Lois, Tricia & Sally Private Investigation”, had sunk into oblivion. As work required, each of the girls had a car of her own. Besides Lois's Mitsubishi, Tricia had a navy blue Mazda 626 and Sally, a black Ford Taurus. Neither of the other two girls was home that night, since Tricia was in Staten Island and Sally in New York, both working on investigations.
The delicious aroma of the noodles cooking wafted from the kitchen to the living room. Everyone felt hungry, their appetite sharpened by the smell. “Midnight meal's ready,” Louise called from the dining room. Robert stood up first. Lois and Alida followed him to the dining room. Four steaming bowls of noodles sat on the table. Everyone sat down and attacked the inviting narrow white flour ribbons with chopsticks.