Captain Williams

Gang Wars: Chang Draws A Crowd

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.

“Sorry?”

“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.”

“Then who?”

Beck sighed, “Another gang? The Dragon Tong? Maybe the Fox Battalion?”

“Who?”

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.”

****{}****

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

*****{*}*****

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Chang was first encountered in Dr Beck’s surgery here.
2) The Fox Batallion’s notice was posted to the Ning here.
3) Aoi sees Beck here.

Gang Wars: The Fox Battalion

The morning air was harsh on his face, the light strong and somehow alien in nature. This, Beck thought, is what it must feel like to be a ghost, one of the deceased walking among the living in a world they no longer belonged to. Except he was not a ghost, he was not deceased and, despite the fact that every fibre of his body seemed to be screaming that the very opposite was true, he was very much alive. Only he wasn’t, was he. Was he?

“Doctor!” a strong hand clasped his arm and he spun round to find himself staring into the deep, grey eyes of Captain Williams, skipper of one of the fishing boats that worked out of Shanghai, “The harbour…”

“Hmmm?” Beck stared at the man from somewhere very far away.

“The harbour, you nearly waked off the edge!”

Beck looked down and with a start saw his feet were mere inches from the sheer drop of the stone harbour edge, the waves rolling and crashing against the wall a dozen feet below him. He stepped back, shocked at such a total lapse in his concentration.

“Ye Gods and little fishes, Doctor, pay more heed to your path, sir!” warned Williams.

“Yes… yes of course,” blustered Beck, “I… I’m a little distracted this morning, I fear. A body has been found by some of the night fishermen, you see.”

Williams let go of Beck’s arm and looked into the man’s eyes. He’d heard about his kidnapping at the hands of the devil from the sea and the state the rescuers had found him in and yet here he was, a mere two days later, up and about and tending to his patients. “I’d venture you have good reason to be, sir, good reason indeed but I’d be sorely grieved to hear of your untimely passing lest I am to add your name to the Roll of The Lost at Chapel, sir.”

Beck looked again at the drop into the sea, “Of course, sorry, yes. I’ll be more careful, Captain.”

“See that you do sir, the people here about need you whole and in once piece. One of my crew, an Oriental convert of good standing, told me how much you have done for his family and how grateful his people are, you should be proud Doctor, you should be very proud indeed.”

Beck had no words, nothing to offer the man back so he just nodded slightly and started towards where Sister Jones waited for him with the body dredged from the ocean.

“I shouldn’t worry too much about that body Doctor,” Williams said. Beck stopped and looked back at the Captain. “From what I hear the departed was one of the Tong’s thugs, a nasty piece of work by the name of Chang. It seems that the escalation in hostilities has claimed another victim, although I doubt many will mourn this one. Still, it will only serve to anger the Tong and that is never good for the poor, honest folks around here is it?”

Chang. The name rang like a bell in Beck’s mind and he found his fingers moving to his eye involuntarily. How long ago was it? A month? Six weeks? Something else the old seaman said caught Beck’s attention, “Escalation? You mean between the gangs?”

“Indeed I do sir, indeed I do. These past few weeks have seen an out-break of violence the likes of which, well suffice to say that in my sixty years I have never seen before. Warehouses razed to the ground, explosions felling buildings, murders in the streets, shipping and trade threatened and robbed on every side! The law seems powerless to intervene even as outsiders come in and commit the most heinous crimes imaginable at will. Is it any wonder the folks around here are turning to vigilantism? Why, I shouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t this Fox Battalion that took the law in to their own hands with this heathen brute.”

“I’m sorry, the fox who?” Beck’s mind was spinning with all the new information but he felt better for it, he was feeling grounded for the first time in two days. Here was something he could understand, here was something he could do somethings about. No monsters, no ghosts of the mind, battles between light and dark, just people, people being people.

Williams lifted his hand and pointed to a poster stuck to the side of a tall mooring pole, “The Fox Battalion. I can’t say I approve of their message or intent for as the Good Book says…”

Beck didn’t listen to the bible lesson, instead his attention switched to the bill and its very direct message conveyed in one short paragraph written in, of all things, Latin:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Greetings,

We, the repressed and downtrodden members of society call on the name of justice to take up arms to fight back by any means, against the scum and terror who would defile and cause depravity by selling opium and illicit goods, take our families in the dead of night to be sold on the slave markets, bring thugs into our cities to threaten, steal, and kill for their selfish goals. And what is the Military doing about this, The US Navy and coast guard has it’s hands tied, the English Navy is spread too thin, the US Military and Canadian Mounties are too busy with their own agendas, even the Steelhead Militia force cannot act! That is where we come in, and that is where we ask you, the lawful and honest Individual who wishes to see justice done, come to us, and seek us out if you are interested in joining our cause. Let me be clear, if you are some miscreant, lawless, or have your own agenda, do not bother to apply, for we want loyal, just, honest, law abiding, hard working, and hard fighting individuals, of any sex, species, or race. Break the binds of fear the criminals would shackle us with, and fight for your rights of freedom and justice! Contact Me by leaving a message at the predetermined location if you are interested.

Lt. H
Fox Battalion
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Well… things certainly had become more complicated since he’d left for Babbage six weeks ago…

****{}****

To be continued…
All the “Gang War” posts can be read on my blog here and over on the Steelhead Ning here.

*****{*}*****

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) Chang was first encountered in Dr Beck’s surgery here.
2) The Fox Batallion’s notice was posted to the Ning here.

Mutations: Chapter 7 – The Sum of Many Things

A night of deep, dream-free sleep saw Beck wake refreshed and looking forward to his day, even if he did spend much of his breakfast touching his head to ensure it was still on his shoulders. He washed and dressed with an almost cheerful air about him, perhaps it was being away from the dark sooty skies of New Babbage that did it, or maybe it was just spending a night in his own bed, however humble, that revitalised his soul. Whatever his mood could be attributed too, it saw a distinctly happy man all but skip downstairs to his surgery to prepare for the day ahead.

As he opened the door and crossed the threshold he noticed a folded slip of paper on the floor; nothing unusual in that as many of his patients left him letters and the like in such a manner so he simply picked it up and carried it over to his desk. He was idly opening it when he noticed another letter on his desk, this time an altogether different missive than he would expect. It was a short, polite and formal note from a Miss Rhianon Jameson of Caledon expressing her regret in missing him having speculatively called by whilst he’d been away in Babbage. He knew the name yet it was a few seconds before he could recall the face… close to his… through the smoke… wanting something… someone… oh God! It was the woman in the den, the one asking about The Scientist, and he’d sent her to him! His mood wavered as he wondered what she could want with him again and, if she’d been successful in her quest, what her connection with the Scientist now was.

He put the letter down, unsure how (or even if) to reply, and turned his now distracted attention to the first note still in his hand. He read it and immediately re-read it. It was from Li Fe’s father, was dated the very day he had left and, in a shaky hand and broken English, was begging him to come and help his wife who was out of her mind with grief over the loss of their only child.
Beck felt sick as the black emptiness he tried so hard to keep at bay suddenly throbbed deep inside his gut. He grabbed his bag and all but ran out of the door and into the narrow streets and alleys of the slums.

**{}**

It was late evening when he returned. He stared at his meagre belongings in his small, rotting room and wondered, as he often did, what his wife would think of the shabby state he’d let his life tumble into. He’d lost so much getting here and had so little to show for himself that he half-feared he would vanish into the gulfs of his life.

He caught himself, chiding his pointless self-pity into remission and reminded himself where he’d been all day, what he’d seen. Li Fe’s mother, Xan, had spent the last two weeks beside herself with grief and anger, lashing out at everyone around her. Her husband had borne the brunt of it as she blamed him for allowing their child to be stolen. Her family, Christian converts Beck had learnt, had watched her every minute of the day, fearing she would do herself an injury until, but a few days ago, her mood had calmed a little. She grew less wild, less frantic and her husband began to hope the worst had passed. And then her brother had been found murdered.

A fisherman, Chi Yun had landed after a two week trip with old Captain “Pastor” Williams and was evidently walking home when someone had attacked and stabbed him, leaving him to die in the filth of a slum doorway. The family expected Xan to take this badly and braced themselves, but instead of the breakdown they feared, Xan retreated within herself and remained there ever since. She had not eaten for two days and barely slept. Beck had been unable to reach her, it was as if she had pulled a veil down and vanished from view. In the end all Beck could do was mix a sleeping draught and advise that Xan be confined to her bed until her delicate emotional state improved. Her sister, a young woman who seemed oddly familiar to Beck, was caring for her and thanked the doctor warmly for his help. Beck accepted her gratitude with grace but each of her nods and smiles was like a knife-point in his belly: he was as much use to her as he’d been to his own wife and children. He sighed, rubbing his tired eyes as he sat down heavily in his worn armchair by the small fire. Deep inside him the empty feeling grew a little bit more.

**{}**

As Beck slept, snoring away in the armchair by the still-glowing fire, someone moved outside his surgery in the night-shrouded streets below. A tall, haunted figure took a brush dripping with black tar and began to scrawl across the filthy windows, leaving a message from his Lord to His new subjects.

He was coming and they would bow to Him. Oh yes, they would bow to Him and offer their heads.

****{}****

To be continued…

Links to other blogs and stories:
1) A “Steal Head” Story So Far recap can be found here.

2) All my “Mutations” posts can be read on my blog here

3) All my “Snatched from Steelhead” posts can be read on my blog here

4) All my “Steal Head” posts can be read on my blog here and on the Steelhead Ning here.

5) All my “Creaky Gloom” posts can be read on my blog here

*****{*}*****