The dockside was surprisingly full when Beck arrived at where the body was being guarded by Sister Jones and an older nun he did not recognise. Around them a small crowd had gathered jostling, eager to see the dead enforcer for themselves and Beck had to squeeze and push his way through. “Quite a gathering, Sisters,” he huffed as he broke through, “Can’t you move them on?”
“We’ve tried, doctor,” the older nun replied, “but they just come back. It’s odd really, the Chinese here usually wouldn’t be seen gawping like this, but don’t detect much respect for this one,” she nodded to the canvas covered body on the quay. Beck bent and pulled back the sheet and the crowd surged forward as one for a better view, Sister Jones moved to push them back as Beck looked at the big, cruel face of the man who had kicked him around his surgery a few weeks earlier and felt a moment of shame at the prick of sour joy in his heart. “No, they wouldn’t have,” he said.
The nun looked at him quizzically. “His name is, was, Chang. He was an enforcer for the Bong Kong Tong and responsible for a great deal of misery in these people’s lives,” Beck looked around at the wall of faces, “Extortion, robbery, kidnapping, murder, even the odd spot of torture just for fun. No, I dare say the only people who will miss him are the rest of the cockroaches in the Tong.”
“So a list of suspects shouldn’t be too hard to produce then,” the sister said with a wicked edge of sarcasm that Beck found refreshing.
“Hah,” he laughed softly, “I would imagine the Sheriff…”
“Marshall,” the nun corrected him.
“Promotion. It’s Marshall Ortega now, Doctor.”
Beck smiled, “Well in that case I would imagine the good Marshall could throw a handful of rocks around here and hit a dozen people who wouldn’t shed a tear at Chang’s passing,” the nun nodded in agreement, “But wanting a thug like Chang dead and going up against the Tong to kill a thug like Chang are very different things. I can’t imagine any of these poor devils would risk the retribution on their communities, their families.”
Beck sighed, “Another gang? The Dragon Tong? Maybe the Fox Battalion?”
Beck pulled the canvas sheet back over Chang and stood up, the sister followed and he pointed at a hand-bill pasted onto a nearby mooring post, “The Fox Battalion. It seems we are to get our very own vigilante force.”
The nun read it silently before shaking her head, “I’ll have to tell the Marshall about this, such a call to criminality can not be tolerated,” she said quietly.
Beck raised an eyebrow in mock-surprise, “Well given how lawless things have become in this part of town, it was bound to happen sooner or later.”
“Surely you don’t approve, doctor?” she asked.
Beck stared at the poster for a second before answering wearily “No, not really, just no longer surprised,” Whoever was setting themselves up to fight the Tong would no doubt end up in his surgery, as would many others if the Tong decided to discourage any further attempts at standing up to them in their usual fashion.
She nodded and a moment of silence hung between them as they considered the ramifications of the poster and its message. “Well I must get back to the Town Hall and inform the Marshall of developments here. Sister Jones will stay with the body,” behind her the young nun smiled meekly at him, “and two porters have been hired to take the body to your surgery. When can he expect your report?”
Beck looked down at the body and ran his fingers through his whiskers in thought, “Tell him I’ll drop it off tonight, I have my rounds to do along with some chores to catch up on, but I’ll get it to him tonight.”
She nodded again and moved to turn away, Beck stopped her with a polite “Excuse me.” When she turned back he said, “You must excuse my manners Sister, but I neglected to ask your name.”
She smiled warmly and said “Sister Mary Eunice Agatha Arcadia Edwards, but you can call me Mary. Except when Mother Superior is around, then you’d be wise to call me Sister Arcadia; I’m afraid the Mother Superior has a rather jaded view of you Doctor. I don’t believe a word of it of course,” her smile became mischievous, her eyes twinkling, “The Marshall says you just have some bad habits, that’s all.”
Beck felt his cheeks redden as, with another quick smile she turned and pushed her way through the crowd. He moved back to the body and was busy collecting his thoughts when the chatter of the crowd was a brief cry followed by a loud splash. Looking over the edge of the quay he saw a Caledonian sailor splashing about and blustering about a broken arm to a rather shocked looking colleague who was rushing down the nearest steps to reach him. Beck turned to the now silent crowd to see what had happened and saw that everyone was staring at a huge Japanese man dressed entirely in black and with very conspicuous pair of swords. As impressive as he was, what caught Beck’s eye was the small, beautiful Japanese woman stood in front and slightly to one side of him. Jet black hair intricately framed her fine-boned face and seemed to blend into her silk kimono. Behind her two impressive black wings rippled and quivered in the breeze and in her hand she held the poster Beck had shown Sister Arcadia only moments before. For a moment their eyes met and Beck found himself wondering what her interest in the Fox Battalion could be before she turned and, along with her mountainous companion, walked off through the crowd as it parted to let them pass.
Beck watched her leave and stood staring long after the crowd had dispersed and the dunked sailor, fished out by his smirking companion, had returned to his ship.
“Doctor…?” Sister Jones’ voice broke him from his thoughts, “the porters are here.”